Friday, June 2, 2017

Brookses in the Wild, Wild West (days 1-4)

Day 1 of National Lampoon's Southwestern Vacation Synopsis:

  • 6:25 am: Argue with Girl who wants to bring dog. Almost vomit thinking of bringing the dog because animals.
  • Clasp falls off Girl's bracelet she hasn't worn or thought about since receiving it in her stocking last Christmas but now she must have and cannot live without for 25 days.
  • Four people who are completely ready to leave look for apparently invisible clasp while bracelet girl packs clothes and stuffed animals and toothbrush and earrings and blankies and all the stuff she was supposed to get the night before. And changes out of her pajamas.
  • Leave at 7:10 am to head to Memphis. 
  • The brakes feel weird to Wife but Husband says it's just the new brake box he installed and Wife needs to calm down. 
  • Wife scowls at husband and returns to general nagging not specific to brakes.
  • Arrive Memphis in time for lunch at Central BBQ. 
  • Vow to never eat anything but BBQ ever again. 

  • Tour Civil Rights Museum - extremely moving and meaningful. I was overcome several times, particularly when first seeing the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. King was killed and while watching Dr. King's speech and seeing all three of the girls mouth certain passages they have learned as recitations over the last six years. Especially when he says his dream includes little black boys and little white boys, little white girls and little black girls holding hands, attending school together. I was grateful anew for New Hope Academy, and the way they strive to live out Dr. King's speech every day, how our family has been changed over the past six years and how the girls will have a totally different perspective than even my generation. They saw pictures of water fountains that said "colored only" and "whites only" and told some bystanders how the water fountains at their school say "Everybody Only" and my heart felt like it might explode.

  • Leave Civil Rights Museum in the rain.
  • Head to Little Rock.
  • Blinding rain. Blinding.
  • Nagging about driving. 
  • Ignoring of nagging.
  • Arrive Willow Beach, Arkansas at 5:00 pm
  • Camgpround is weird. Eerie. Pretty empty. And infested with millions of this bug:
  • Millions is not an exaggeration. 
  • For real.
  • Eat chicken fajitas prepared and frozen weeks ago and cooked in instant pot in 25 minutes. 
  • Way to go, Mom.
  • Venture out into Eerie Bug Land to play on playground and shoot baskets.
  • Play "Scotland Yard"
  • Find Mr. X in eight moves, which while not good, is "better than when you were Mr. X, Mommy."
  • Sleep. Deep and hard, for 24 more days await. 
Day Two/Three:

The campsite at Eerie Bug Infested Campground was amazingly level, which meant Preston didn't even have to unhook the camper for us to sleep, so we escaped that weirdness in record time. 

We headed straight to Little Rock Central High School where in 1958 a battle was fought over integration. I'd love to sit and tell you the whole story sometime, although I would never be able to like our knowledgeable ranger, Ranger Randy, did. When he learned Preston is a teacher he assumed history because history teachers always come and think they will be able to pass on some unknown nugget, but leave astonished at all they didn't know. He was excited to learn we were there because we actually want our girls to care about racial reconciliation, and we got to tell him all about New Hope. 

The tour lasted about two hours and is worth every second of your time. The highlight, or really the thing we all "felt" the most was the story of Elizabeth Eckhard, one of the Nine, who didn't get the message to meet at Daisy Bates' house, and showed up to face 300 National Guard members and 500 protesting segregationists all by her fifteen-year old self. She was excited to get to go to school at the beautiful high school and was anxious to make friends the first week. For girls this always means having the right outfit, so she and her sister had bought a  new dress pattern and fabric they really couldn't afford and spent a week sewing a new dress for Elizabeth. She ended up walking two blocks from bus stop to bus stop in front of the high school, being kept from entering by armed soldiers, jeered at and called horrid names and by the time she made it to this bench said she could have wrung the spit out of her dress. 

This is a replica of the dress they made. This whole experience really opened our eyes and sobered us. 

We drove about an hour south to Hot Springs, Arkansas, which had its heyday in the Gatsby era. And today, unless you want homemade soap, knick-knacks, fudge, ice cream or a "miraculous, healing bath" which you can still take in at least one functioning bathhouse or to drink the miraculous scorching water (which Preston was dared to do by his daughters so of course he had to but does not recommend it) you could skip this town. It does have two beautiful, old hotels the girls said reminded them of the Biltmore in Asheville. Also we ate lunch and parked our enormous camper situation in the Presbyterian Church Parking Lot, so shout to the Frozen Chosen of Hot Springs! 

When we left Hot Springs we headed to Crater of Diamonds State park where the state of Arkansas is running a racket. They bought a huge field and made up a story about it being a volcano crater and how about twelve people have found enormous diamonds and you can too if you just pay a fee and rent mining equipment and go dig in the dirt. But we did have a great time looking for diamonds and found some jasper and quartz (which got us all excited for a while because, hello, clear and shiny!). Ultimately we ended up in the pool until someone pooped in it fifteen minutes before closing, which sent us back to the mine field to find more nothings in the dirt. 

Day Four:
  • Wake up an hour after Husband wanted to.
  • He has to unhook camper in rain. 
  • Wife and children watch from indoors.
  • Husband is soaked.
  • Rain stops as we pull out of campground.
  • Wife find this hilarious.
  • Husband does not.
  • Drive towards Dallas. 
  • Arrive campground around 3:30. 
  • Campground has warning posted about chiggers.
  • Wife goes to Walmart and loads up on DEET. Not coconut oil or peppermint oil or geranium bracelets or even the OFF that smells good, but good old stinky DEET. 
  • It's currently raining.
  • When rain stops the girls are going to have to run 347 laps to burn off the energy in this camper right now. 
Random things: when we went to Europe three years ago the girls each kept a little scrapbook as we went along, which everyone still regularly looks at and remembers. So we are doing that each evening this trip, too, just in a small Dollar Tree organizer. 

I'm posting from my phone so sorry if there are grammatical errors and editing errors and photos are stinky but we are in a camper so this ain't no high class rodeo. 

One more thing: I'm not on FB or Insta so if you want to keep up with our trip you'll have to check here every few days. Wifi has been spotty so my intentions of posting every day are already shot on Day 4. Pretty much like all my intentions. Thank you, Lord, for grace. 

Grace to you,

Update: rain ended and we are out on a walk/scooter ride and counting SCORPIONS as we go. Texas, I don't know if I can love you when the evening activity is to count scorpions. 

But then we found the world's tiniest frog and I like you again.


  1. L-O-V-E Central BBQ. It's our favorite. Hope you got homemade pork skins for the road. And the diamond mine has been on one of our bucket lists for a couple of years but I can't imagine driving 7 hours, one way, just for that. :/ Happy trails, Brookses!

    1. We did not get pork skins! We will have to go back. It was so good. And the girls absolutely loved crater of diamonds. Great campgrounds. I just felt like I was played.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. P.S. I have too many aliases now. This is Valerie Mangrum, a.k.a., among other things, as Buyology.

  4. Love all things Texas EXCEPT scorpions. Pathological fear. ����


Share your own craziness here. We are all in this together. Let's laugh about it.