2017: Hot Springs

Bad Tourist

April 27


We had one more day to spend in Hot Springs, so we returned to downtown. I had a plan for one kitschy tourist activity, after we started off with a nice breakfast at a local restaurant with good internet reviews. Well, we all know what good internet reviews are worth. Maybe The Pancake Shop has good pancakes -- I didn't try those -- but they sure didn't have good scrambled eggs. Blech. I should have know it was an omen for the whole day.

We left the car parked near the restaurant and walked around the big bend in the town's main street toward Tiny Town, something I'd found (again) on the internet. Tiny Town is a large model-train village that was crafted over 68 years by one local man and is now kept going by his son.

The place was a lot further away than it had looked on the map, and it was getting warm out in the sun. After a good walk we finally spotted the place across the street from us.

We were the only people there, so the old woman who sold us the tickets gave us a private tour. A very, very chatty private tour. I begin to use my camera as an excuse to get away from her, leaving poor Mike defenseless against the never-ending chatter.

The place had very poor lighting, perhaps to showcase all the tiny lights built into the model. I would have preferred a chance to examine the place on my own without feeling rushed, but Granny's yakkety-yak was driving me to quickly take photos so we could just get out.

The model had a lot of detail, and I'm sure it took a lot of work to build (although 68 years seems a bit much). But it wasn't very polished; everything had a crude quality to it. To be fair, the whole thing is supposedly built from scraps. A small sign on one side bragged that a 'skyscraper' in the model is the most expensive bit at $4. Well, I guess you get what you pay for.

Theater. Airport. Bridge.

Just as we were leaving, Granny suggested another tourist trap, er, attraction down the street a bit: an alligator farm. Well, why not, the day had been sooooo speshul so far. We did decide to go back to the scene of the breakfast crime and fetch the car this time. On the way Mike couldn't resist a photo of this parking-lot booth with a confounding sign: "For Sale, building only".

The alligator farm looked acceptable from the outside, if a little touristy. We went into the gift shop and paid for our tickets, which included a piece of bread to feed to the pet goats.

Things started to go wrong almost immediately when I stepped into the goat pen and was stampeded. Full-sized goats were jumping up on me like Great Danes with hooves. Mike had to come in and rescue me before I got knocked down and trampled. Don't they ever feed these animals?!?

The rest of the place was pretty dismal. Young 1-ft alligators piled on top of each other in six inches of dirty water. Morose lemurs under spotlights in small cages. Two scruffy-looking wolves in a 15x20 gravel pen. A beautiful but lethargic mountain lion lying on a bare wooden platform, staring with deadened eyes through the mesh. And a pen littered with unmoving alligators, underneath a sign stating they were best suited to "making purses, billfolds, and shoes".

A very, very sad place. As I was about to leave, a snaggle-toothed fugitive from the movie "Deliverance" walked by me and said, "Wouldja like to hold one?"

"Um, no, I'm good," I mumbled. We fled. I needed a bleach shower. Instead, I later cleansed myself by writing the worst reviews I could possibly compose on Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor. I hope Granny enjoyed her commission.

When we got back to camp, I went down to the dock on the Ouchita River to try to replace the unpleasant images with memories of the tranquil beauty of the water and the RV park.