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Heber Springs, AR : Cutting Footlose

In tonight’s performance the role of Elmore City, OK will be played by
Heber Springs, AR

Reverend Shaw Moore: Were you drinking?
Ariel: No.
Reverend Shaw Moore: Smoking something?
Ariel: No! I wasn’t stealing, I wasn’t gambling, I wasn’t dancing, I wasn’t reading books I’m not supposed to! I am late!
~ From the Original Footloose

This morning was exciting! After hearing about all of the scary water crossings in Tennessee, making it across this morning’s was a relief. Not nearly as hard as it seemed before I took a deep breath and simply rode through it. Just one of the many metaphors for life that being on a trip like this reveals.

Today my destination is Heber Springs, AR. It sounds like a pretty place. My focus is on getting a place near the water views that it promises. I had the same desire when I headed to the Pickwick Dam. I have only been away from my family for a few weeks, but I miss them and I find that being near water helps me to feel more connected to the bigger picture. You would think living in Colorado I would feel land locked, but I rarely do. I think back of when I originally travelled across country to Kansas in 1996, with my friends Jill and Greg. We stopped at wonderful wine bistro called Remy’s Kitchen & Wine Bar in Saint Louis, MO. Dead broke, I still felt compelled to buy a t-shirt that said,  “Water separates the people of the world, wine unites them.” Ah, more road metaphors.

Perhaps my family in Colorado takes the place of my love of water. Perhaps they bring me the kind of peace that I feel when I am around water. Although, if you were a fly on the wall, watching me struggle to get Nya and Sophia ready for school each day, you might be hard pressed to see much peace in our routine. It is more likely the fact, that at home, my wife, Beth, who stole the shirt from me, still wears it 17 years later and will probably be wearing it tonight!

My mind wanders back to the task at hand. The road. I can see the rainstorm ahead, but I stubbornly avoid putting on my rain gear. Assuming I can beat it. It is by far the largest rainstorm of the trip so far. It precipitates my arrival into Heber Springs and forces me to take a break. I get off of the trail and onto pavement. Freezing, I role into a gas station to take refuge and fill up the bike and myself, lingering longer than necessary to try and wait out the rain. While I wait, clutching a coffee for warmth and I run into to local riders, James and Bruce. They had been out for a day ride when the weather forced them into the same gas station for shelter. They swear they recognize me from RoadRUNNER, but I am pretty sure they have me confused with someone else. Nevertheless, I pose for pictures and enjoy the moment of pseudo-celebrity.

After about an hour the rain lightens up to the point where riding is safer and I continue down into Heber Springs. This town is a great example of marketing, for very little of it has any view of water. I role into one of the last places in town with any vacancy and I am glad to get out of my wet clothes. After a hot shower I am ready for a beer and some dinner. However, this plan is quickly shut down when I learn that the town of Heber Springs has been dryer a lot longer than my clothes. Apparently, it is one of the 50% of dry counties that exist within Arkansas. 

I figure I am wet enough for the town and myself, so I set out to find some grub. I am careful not to stray too far since the thunder and lightening make it clear the rain has not entirely left. In town, I am greeted with signs reading, “Cars passing this point more than 3 times in an hour will be ticketed for cruising” and “All kids must be off the streets by 9p”

After passing the signs for a 3rd time and not wanting to be busted as a “cruiser,” I settle on the visually nondescript Las Playitas Mexican Restaurant for dinner. This completely violates my gustatory rule of “trying new things,” but it is close to the hotel and the rain has already returned.

As I chow down on the customary free chips and salsa found in most Mexican restaurants, I, unintentionally, eaves drop on the table next to me.  I listen as a teenage girl vents to her grandmother about the provocative behavior of some of her classmates; dancing and taking part in school plays seems to be their crime. The girl herself is dressed less like she is on her way to church and more like she is headed to a Justin Bieber concert, which makes me smile at the contrast between her words and her choice of outfits. I am reminded of my own wanna-be teenage girls, safely at home, still only 6 and 8. Oh the prices we pay for the sins of our own youth.

Despite the towns Footloose Vibe I have yet to make a “Kevin Bacon six-degrees connection” and suspect it is not coming soon. I eat quickly and head back to the hotel. The forecast for tomorrow morning does not look good, but the afternoon promises sunshine and some solid off-road adventures. I cross my wet fingers and call it a night.

Heber Springs, AR Welcome Sign
Heber Springs, AR Welcome Sign
Heber Springs, AR Detour
Heber Springs, AR Detour
Heber Springs, AR Fisherman
Heber Springs, AR Fisherman

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