February, 2020 – Texarkana, Texas

The trip northeast from Dallas to Texarkana was mostly along I-30 so the trip itself went very quickly and easily.  We arrived at our next Corps of Engineers campground, just shy of Texarkana, by early afternoon.  We had originally intended to stay just a week, heading into Arkansas the following week.  However, once we determined that the COE and state parks in Arkansas and Oklahoma did not open for the season until March, we decided to extend our stay for two weeks.  Since the site we were on had a sewer hookup, this was possible.  For the first week, the campground was mostly empty, although it began to pick up during the second week and when we left the campground was still about 20% full.  We also found out why the parks further north do not open until March and the weather the first week was cold and wet.  In fact for the first three days it rained at least part of the day and it was a cold rain.  Consequently we did not do anything but stay in the campground until the weather improved on Friday.  The only notable thing that happened was a mother dog who was obviously nursing puppies showed up at our neighbors camper.  They attempted to find the pups with no luck and it was assumed she had lost them from the heavy rains.  They took the dog with them when they left, which was very good of them as she had likely been abandoned in the first place.  There was also a white cat in the park that they left food for when they left.  Consequently, we got adopted by the cat after they left, even though we never fed it.  However, every night and morning for the next week there was this cat living under our truck that would come out for Kal to pet and to rub on my legs.  I am not a cat person since I am allergic to them, and refused to give it any attention.  This did not stop it from rubbing on my legs and following me around anytime I stepped out doors.  We did find out that it was a long time resident of the park, so we did not feel too bad leaving it behind.

The weather on Friday was not great, but certainly much better than the preceding three days, so we headed to Hope, Arkansas to check out the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site (what a name!).  President Clinton only actually lived in Hope, Arkansas for the first four years of his life before his mother and new step-father moved to Hot Springs.  However, he continued to have family in Hope and would return for summer vacations and holidays and considers Hope to be his hometown.  He was born William Jefferson Blythe in 1946, however, his father was killed in a car accident three months before his birth.  Consequently, his mother, Virginia moved to Hope where he was raised by his grandparents while she went to nursing school in New Orleans.  He spent his first four years of life living in a modest sized two story house with his grandparents, who instilled in him a love of learning and true equality between the races.  Even though Hope, Arkansas was a typical segregated southern town in the 1940s, his grandfather would extend credit to anyone in town at his grocery store, regardless of race,  The only drawback to his life there, as far as I could tell, was the proximity of a VERY busy railroad track just across the road.  Hope is the crossroads of seven railroad lines and is still a very busy and noisy place to live.  The NPS Rangers conduct tours of the house and we had our own private tour.  They have put a lot of money into renovating the house which was in sad shape and refurnishing it with 1940 period pieces.  It was a nice tour, however, it does not take very long to look into a six room house.  We were done in less than two hours and heading back to the campsite for the afternoon.

Saturday started out to be a very nice day with lots of sunshine so we headed into downtown Texarkana to watch their Mardi Gras parade.  We parked the truck well in advance of the parade along the street and walked a couple of blocks to the parade route.  As it turned out, the parade actually circled around and ended up on the other side of our truck.  So we were now stuck inside the parade route and would have to wait until it was over to get out.  At our location they had some music playing and kids were out in the grassy area playing football and other games.  It was fun to watch as we waited for the parade to start.  This parade reminded me more of other small town parades, as most of the “floats” were nothing more than cars and trucks with people throwing out beads and candy.  We weren’t interested in collecting any of this, so we pitched in and provided candy and necklaces for the little kids around us that were too young to be up front.  It was a lot of fun, even though by the time of the parade the weather had clouded over and became chilly.  Once the parade passed our location we had to wait until it circled all the way around so we could leave.  Thankfully there was a very nice Mexican restaurant close to where we had parked the truck, so we had a nice meal while the parade ended and the crowd cleared out.

By Sunday, it was absolutely essential that we got some laundry done, so we found a laundramat in Texarkana and got this chore taken care of.  Monday was another reasonably nice day so we drove back into Arkansas on the hunt for a nice hike.  Our first attempt was Historic Washington State Park, but once we got there we found it was just an old historic town that was completely closed up for the week!  So we decided to drive back to the west to check out Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  While we did find a hiking trail on the Refuge, we had already spent most of the morning driving around southwestern Arkansas.  So we ate lunch in the truck before heading out on the trail.  The trail wound along the side of Bridge Creek, until it looped around to the road.  However, as we approached the road the trail became a shallow creek due to all the rain the previous week!!  We thought about it since it was not far to the road, however, finally decided not to risk it and turned around to hike back to the truck.  Thus we turned a 1 mile loop trail into a 1.5 mile hike along the creek.  Not too bad, especially with the many interpretive signs along the trail.  However, once we got back to the truck the coming cold front had begun to move in and by evening the rain had returned.

We spent the next day in the campground as we returned to intermittent showers all day, so on Wednesday we headed north into Oklahoma to check out the Choctaw Casino in Broken Bow.  Unlike the Choctaw Casino in Durant, this casino is of modest size right along the highway.  Still it was nice venue to spend a couple of hours playing the slot machines.  The only problem with the casino was a power problem whenever they had high winds, which I would guess if fairly often.  After spending nearly a half hour waiting for a slot machine to reboot twice before I could cash out, our day turned around.  The very next machine gave me a major jackpot banking nearly $80, which is a lot when I am only betting $0.20-$0.30 at a time!  I continued to do well putting away $20 a couple of more times and $4 to $5 multiple times.  Kal even did alright managing to lose only about $20.  Consequently, for once we came out with just under $50 ahead for the afternoon.  After a nice congratulatory lunch at a local Pizza Hut, we headed back to the campground a winner.

Since the combination of the weather and the fact that it was over an hour to any other venue or park we were interested in, we spent the rest of the time relaxing in the campground.  As the weather finally got nice and warm on the weekend, we did get out for a two mile hike on a trail in the COE park.  While the first part of the hike was along paved roads searching for the trailhead, once we found the beginning point out by the entrance station, it was a nice easy walk winding through the forest back to our campsite.

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