In northwestern Arkansas, the transition didn't occur until the 1990s, and it was met with much force and fight.
epic road trip along US Highway 71 from the Louisiana border to the Missouri State Line.
On game weekends for the University of Arkansas, there would be traffic jams two days before and the day after with thousands of fans attempting the trip. Eighteen wheelers and compact cars would vy for the same roadspace with often fatal consequences.
Grandma's House Cafe), from the Sky Vue Lodge to the Dairy Dream, with every manner of roadside motel and cabin available perched on the edge of the ridge for remarkable views into the depths of the Arkansas Ozarks. The tight right-of-way meant sometimes you came around a corner quickly as another individual was trying to turn in or out of a property. Treacherous didn't quite cover it.
The legend goes that a Walton is responsible for the twin ribbons of asphalt that run to the west of US Highway 71 between Alma and Fayetteville. The legend goes that Alice Walton lobbied hard in Washington for an interstate that would link Bentonville with Little Rock. When her vocal efforts failed, she encouraged several U.S. senators to come up to Bentonville for a visit. After a rather hairy ride up US 71, funding was quickly secured for the new link. Dubbed I-540, that stretch was constructed in the 1990s and opened in January 8, 1999 (another stretch that circumnavigates Fort Smith and Van Buren has been existence a lot longer, and remains named such today). In 2014, denoting its eventual inclusion into a new interstate plan, the entire Alma-to-Bentonville section was redubbed I-49.
But the change has come
A few places, such as Mountainburg's Dairy Dream and Winslow's Grandma's House Cafe, have managed to survive. The relocation of Lake Fort Smith State Park has brought some small amount of traffic to the area. And then there's Artist Point.
Artist Point originally opened in 1953, and has served generations of travelers with kitchy souvenirs, soap, locally produced crafts, neat artworks and directions on where to go for a truly Arkansas experience. I can remember stopping in many times as a child on trips through the area, looking at the Indian exhibit (because the words political and correct hadn't been married yet), checking out the teepee and having a slice of fudge while sitting on the back porch.
And sure, there were many places along the way that offered such accommodation, such as similar locations along Scenic Arkansas Highway Seven (particularly at the Cliff House Inn) and US Highway 65. But of all the places along US Highway 71, this is the last original spot offering the tourist experience.
Which is why it was our first stop when Hunter and I left from Lake Fort Smith State Park. I wanted her to see the view, sure, but I also wanted for her to experience something I used to take for granted... good, old fashioned hillbilly appeal.
Hunter carefully walked out and looked around. She looked through the wrong end of the pay telescope just to be different, and then glanced out at the north end of Lake Fort Smith (once Lake Shepherd Springs) far down in the valley. I told her about the waterfall about half a mile down from this point, but she declined, mentioning her hunger (our next stop was Grandma's House Cafe a few miles up the road) and indicating we'd better check out this place rather quickly.
And this room... has not changed much over all these years. There's still a crazy collection of taxidermy.
There are still Native American artifacts.
And there are cornshuck dolls and other assorted historical items.
The wood-and-glass and wood-and-chickenwire frames hadn't changed much, either. Pieces of petrified wood were openly displayed. And then there were cola bottles and old coffee cups and other memorabilia of this place, which I begrudgingly admitted to myself that might have come after I was born. They looked so old.
like bubble bath
and doughnut seeds.
To the right, out the window, one can see the
I noticed in the middle room on the counter, a candy cabinet with different confections, such as chocolate covered nuts and buckeyes.
And still, though there's no counter full of slabs any more, there's still slices of chocolate fudge offered.
And then we were gone, back on the road. This stop, which had born much significance in my mind, wasn't much for a child who has grown up traveling. Maybe when she's older she'll understand what life was like back in those days when the only air conditioning on the trip was 4-40 - four windows down, 40 miles an hour - and when you stopped on the side of the road when you had to... go.
Karen's Krystals and The Rock Cafe will do so well once it's come through.
But for this time, we needed to go. I had a child hankering for fresh tomatoes and beans, and I wanted some fried chicken and a gander at the pie buffet at Grandma's House.
If you're interested in visiting Artist Point, head north on US Highway 71 from Mountainburg or south from Winslow. It's located on the east side of the road.