Using the Can-Am Spyder as a make-shift mule, several trips were made to haul our gear up the hill to our parked bikes at the Morning Star Lodge. Maps were consulted the previous evening, selecting a winding route through the Buffalo River basin toward Eureka Springs, AR. A section of highway 74 between Jasper and Ponca is especially technical and demanding with tight sweepers and 180 degree hairpins.
Three miles west of Eureka Springs on highway 62 we make our first stop of the day at Thorncrown Chapel, a 48 foot tall wooden structure with 425 windows and over 6,000² feet of glass. Sitting atop over 100 tons of polished flat colored stone, the chapel seems one with nature. Designed by E. Fay Jones, a student under Flank Lloyd Wright at the Taliesin Fellowship in Wisconsin, the chapel opened its doors in 1980 and has since drawn over six million visitors. Services are held Sundays but it’s open seven days a week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm – admission is free though donations are accepted. The chapel closes each winter for a couple of months as heating an all glass building is prohibitively expensive.
Our next stop is the Pea Ridge National Military Park, 22 miles west. Shedding our coats on a hot sunny afternoon, we enter the air conditioned visitor center where I view a 28 minute film in a small theater. The film is well made, with enactments telling the story of the Civil War battle that took place here between March 6 – 8, 1862. Despite being held in Arkansas, this battle, fought between 16,500 Confederates under Major General Earl Van Dorn and 10,500 Federals under Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis, was a fight for the state of Missouri. Politically neutral during the war, the battle of Pea Ridge was fought to ensure Missouri would not swing to the Confederates. Van Dorn’s offensive strategy was to quickly march his troops around Federal fortifications in the south but in so doing left vital ammunition and supplies behind. This proved to be a grave error, with the Union defeating the Confederates on the second day of battle. The Union suffered 1,349 casualties to 4,600 for the Confederates.
Besides the theater, the vistor center contains a museum and gift shop. The surrounding landscape is encircled by a seven mile self-guided tour road. The Military Park maintains the land today as it was during the battle of 1862 with the exception of farm homes and livestock, most of which were destroyed during the fight.
Continuing south, we leave rural Arkansas to enter the tri-city urban sprawl of Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville. Home to the University of Arkansas and Walmart, Fayetteville is the largest of the three with a population approaching 75,000. But the area’s overall number of inhabitants exceeds 450,00 and the number of traffic lights and suffocating congestion makes travel frustratingly lethargic. One benefit of the masses is the largest concentration of breweries and brewpubs in the state, with eight dotted around the area. Stopping at AQ Chicken House for some take out meals, we ride a mile north to Core Brewing Company to enjoy micro-brewed beers with our chicken dinners. Set in a row of brick buildings in an industrial park, their tasting room has ten tap handles at $3.50 / pint. A hodgepodge of bar stools line the bar with an amicable bartender pouring the suds. Outside, between buildings, a large wooden patio has several picnic tables and chairs. There’s no view to speak of, with the walls of two buildings, a parking lot and fence surrounding the deck. But it was shaded and we could have played cornhole if so inclined. Still facing a short ride to reach our motel, we limited ourselves to two pints: I had an oatmeal stout and a session IPA, each of which were excellent. I went in to settle my tab when I noticed a glass cooler loaded with canned six-packs, their Oktoberfest on sale for $5.00! Holy cow, what a deal!! One found its way into my panniers to be enjoyed later at the Super 8.