Monday, June 23, 2008

SPAMALOT and Arkansas

Thursday after work I drove to San Antonio to see SPAMALOT. I've wanted to see it forever and was thwarted last November by a strike, so I figured I'd at least see the touring company. I saw that they would be coming to San Antonio and soon after bought a ticket. Traffic getting down there wasn't as bad as I thought it might be and I got to downtown San Antonio about 6. I parked in a garage and brought some of the newspaper to the river walk. I was looking for a place where I could see the "river" while drinking a beer and reading the paper, but I was seduced by the Coyote Ugly. There were a number of people there, but still it was pretty dead. There were only two bartenders, so not a lot of dancing on the bar and such. I sat at the bar and read the paper. About 7 I went to the theater, but they weren't letting people in yet. I was reading the paper in the lobby when a guy I know from the HOG chapter said hello. We chatted for a bit until they let us in. My seat was pretty good, relatively close and unobstructed. I really enjoyed the show, which reworked Holy Grail and added a couple bits from other Python stuff, most notably "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," which I was glad not to have on permanent repeat in my head. One of the big things they added that the original Python never had was a good-looking female character. I did, however, think they had a little too much self-awareness, although the audience participation was fun but must have been prearranged to some extent. I was slightly disappointed that the historian wasn't killed. Also, I was a little unsure of "You Won't Succeed on Broadway," not sure how they got away that number. I thought the delivery of the "She's got huge... tracts of land" line was a little off. I definitely liked looking at the hot women dancers in scenes like Camelot.
Friday morning I left the house about 6:30, but there was more traffic than I was anticipating. It was worst where it always is, downtown, at one point coming to a complete, feet down stop. After I got out of town I made decent time up I35. I did have some trouble getting my left ankle comfortable. It was bothering me from the very start and I almost thought I should just turn around, but I eventually managed to get comfortable enough, helped some by a new Harley product, the Folding Heel Shifter. My route after getting off the interstate was, as usual, somewhat circuitous to add Kaufman, Rains, Delta, Lamar, and Red River counties before crossing into Oklahoma. In Oklahoma I got into mountains (so to speak) and woods, which made for good twisty riding, good scenery and entirely bearable temperatures. When I crossed into Arkansas and into Fort Smith, I was pretty disappointed at how crappy it seemed. I rode through town to the convention center, which was fairly contemporary and decent by comparison, to the actual rally site. I had a guy standing there take my picture in front of the ABCs of Touring banner, parked, and went to check it out. I took a quick stroll through the vendors, went inside to take a dump and look at a schematic map of the city which told me nothing I cared to know, and then went on my way, having spent less than half an hour with any official part of the HOG rally. I had thought about having lunch in Fort Smith, but I didn't see any place I wanted to eat and just headed to my camp ground. When I got there it wasn't hot, but it was humid and the air was still, so I was uncomfortably warm unpacking and setting up camp. Once I changed into shorts and a short sleeved shirt I felt much better. My camp site was pretty much on the bank to the reservoir, right next to the boat launch, which made for a lot of traffic. The site wasn't very close to the bathroom, which was somewhat of a nuisance, but it was in a less dense area, so fewer neighbors than some other sites. After I had set up camp I took a run to a nearby tiny convenience store hoping to pick up some beer, only to find I was in a dry county (Yell). Back at camp I was sitting at the covered picnic table when it started to rain, then let up for a little, then rained some more before the sun came back for a little while before setting. The rain didn't bother me since myself and all my stuff were under cover and I didn't have to be out in it. I had dinner and read the newspaper until it got dark, then went into my tent and read my book until falling asleep. It was initially too warm to be in the sleeping bag, then I woke up cold in the night and got in, but later I woke up too warm, and had to unzip and be partially covered.
Saturday morning I got up and found some papers strewn about, and then realized that they had been under my sack of food, which had been dragged about 10 feet away from the picnic table where it had been. At first it didn't look like anything had gotten into my food, the drawstring was firmly closed and there didn't appear to be any holes in the bag itself, but when I opened it it was obvious that something had gotten in. A PBJ sandwich was the most damaged, but almost everything had some marks. I threw out anything that was obviously compromised, which was more than half of what I had. I had a breakfast of two oatmeal packets that didn't look like they'd been gnawed or clawed. After breakfast I rode to Mount Magazine State Park nearby to go to the highest point in the state. As the whole park is quite new, the buildings were all new and they spent a good bit of money on them. I stopped in at the information center before going up to the lodge on top of the mountain. The lodge was really nice, very contemporary with a huge number of windows to take advantage of the view, but still having an old lodge feel. I checked out the restaurant, intending to return for dinner, before heading across the street to the trailhead to the actual high point, Signal Hill. It was an easy hike, not very steep and maybe a quarter mile long. Even stopping to take a few pictures and sign the registry it only took about a half hour round trip. I left there and headed for Mena, the start of the Talimena Scenic Drive in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The ride there was pretty nice, wooded twisty roads, but the Talimena itself was gorgeous. It winds along the top of mountains, so there are vistas right and left. Fortunately there was very light traffic, so I could ride as I wished, which made it lots of fun. I stopped at Queen Wilhelmina SP, checked out the view before blindly heading down the trail to lovers leap. I didn't have any water or anything with me, which of course was pretty irresponsible, but I hadn't planned on hiking on this trip. The trail took me about 20 minutes to get to a wooden deck overlooking the forest and hills. I didn't think it was much better of a view than I'd seen elsewhere, but it wasn't bad. I was hot and sweaty when I got back to the lodge and drank from the water fountain and cooled off in the AC. Since I wasn't in Texas, it didn't take long to cool off and continue riding, which felt really good. On the way back to camp I took a detour to get a six pack of beer at a place the clerk the night before had told me about. I don't know what the liquor laws are like in that area, because this little convenience store was in the same county (Logan) as a couple others I went into that didn't have beer. I went back to camp, showered and changed shirts and went back to the lodge on Mount Magazine. The menu wasn't as sophisticated as some parks lodges are, surprisingly only a couple of fish dishes considering that fishing is a major hobby and tourism draw in the area. I had the pork chops which were good with mashed red-skinned potatoes, which was delicious. Back at camp I drank my warmish beer and started a fire using some logs that had been left there. They had obviously been there for a while because they seemed like they were water logged, but eventually they did light, but once the small stuff burned the logs just smoldered. I would have played with the fire for a long time but was too tired and put it out and went to sleep.
I woke up at about 5:30 Sunday morning, packed, ate some pop tarts I'd bought, and was on my way about 6:30, and the boats were already streaming in. I rode some really nice roads, which are fun but don't make for good time, to Hot Springs where I picked up some bigger roads, and more traffic. I burned down the interstate to Texarkana, getting off onto a US highway and adding Cass and Marion counties to my roster. That part wasn't real bad, but I could definitely feel the day warming up by 11. The ride through Tyler was a complete nightmare. It was over 90 degrees around noon and traffic was terrible, even on the "bypass" road. It was terrible, almost every light was red. I stopped outside town for gas and a Snickers ice cream bar, which helped, but I really didn't want to be riding in that heat. I pushed on and thought about stopping for dinner near I35, but didn't see anything I wanted and I'm not familiar enough with the area since so much stuff has been built recently. I jumped on the interstate and booked it home.
I got home and started watching the coverage of the drag race in Englishtown and was very sad to hear about Scott Kalitta's death. It's really terrible to have another on-track death in the sport. There are always big explosions and fires in funny car, but deaths should be more rare than they have been. One thing I hate, though, about these situations is everyone who says "it's the way he would have wanted it." It may be true in some cases, but I really hate the expression and the presumption it embodies.

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