Explore other meanderings, scenic byways and roads less traveled over at Travelin’ Magpie.
Follow this trip via Mapquest or see highlights, photos & check-ins for this trip via Foursquare.
Part One: Traveling Northbound from Texarkana to Lockesburg
We moved around the world when I was growing up due to my Dad’s job with Alcoa, the aluminum company. There was time inside the U.S. (from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Wenatchee, Washington – that’s the state) as well as overseas (Jamaica and Suriname, formerly Dutch Guiana in the Northern part of South America).
However, my family is from Arkansas, and eventually the call of my adoptive home state led me to choose to live here for the very first time when I left home for college. As a kid, though, I was fortunate to spend summers in Arkansas with my grandparents – one set in Mena and one in Texarkana. This necessitated family members driving me up and down Highway 71 for various portions of my summer. Often, De Queen was the meeting point for me to be handed off.
Suffice it to say that Highway 71 holds a special place in my heart. Every mile holds something memorable – something that speaks to my childhood or my adult self. Ironically, my parents currently live in my Dad’s childhood home in Texarkana (the Southernmost point in Arkansas on Highway 71), and we live in Rogers near the Northernmost point of the highway in Arkansas. This means that I regularly drive the four and a half hour trip between the two, and with great enthusiasm. It’s a treat to ride along when my husband drives because I can stare out the window and daydream, but when I drive it, I take my time and meander and stop at the places that speak to me.
I thought I’d do a multi-part post on some of the things that make Highway 71 special. If you have the chance, drive it or another one of America’s slower roads and discover some of the towns and people that move at a pace not driven by minimum interstate speeds or wireless access. You’ll be better for it.
The Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism has a great list of scenic byways if you need inspiration. Oh, and as you drive – play the Highway 71 song and/or album (give it a listen here and grab it on iTunes) by 3 Penny Acre – Bernice is from Mena, and the band calls Fayetteville home.
Texarkana to Lockesburg
Heading North out of Texarkana toward Ashdown, I’m always glad to see an old barn tourism ad (read more about this interesting marketing practice here: Advertising Barns: Vanishing American Landmarks).
Moving into the outskirts of Ashdown, I was recently fortunate to stop and bend the ear of a country veterinarian and beekeeper (perhaps you already read about my odd penchant for old men). I noticed a number of beehives in front of a home with wood-carvings for sale and thought they might also have hives for sale, but it turned out “Doc” was able to keep them there and sell his honey to Highway 71 travelers. He drove up just as I pulled over to ask questions (I’m committed to eventually beekeeping) and we visited for quite a while – yet another reason the drive takes me longer than most.
Doc does build and sell hives and set-ups (“nukes,”), and has recently had requests from Highway 71 travelers from as far away as Austin, Texas for as many as 60 hives. However, he said he would rather set up “young people like you” and preserve interest in hobby beekeeping. He was intriguing, and it was time well spent. Hopefully I’ll be able to update on our own beekeeping efforts in the near future.
Approaching Lockesburg near the junction for 234 to Alleene, there is an old abandoned building that intrigues me. On the northern side of a building, an old “Groceries” sign still hangs. Over more than a decade, my husband has listened to me harp about my great desire to have it. One of these days, I’m going to stop and dig deeper to see if the owner would indulge me. Disclaimer: if it ever comes up missing, it wasn’t me! I would never abuse a Highway 71 relic by thievin’ it.
Entering Lockesburg itself, there’s a really cool painted but abandoned house. In fact, it’s something like the home I picture in A Painted House by John Grisham (born in Jonesboro, Arkansas – you’re supporting your Arkansas authors and brethren, right?). It’s just one of the many homes with character along the way, but it always jumps out at me.
In Lockesburg proper is cool place by the side of the road called Jim’s Boot Repair. I have yet to be heading up Highway 71 with a pair of boots in need of resuscitation (hope springs eternal!), but Jim has been smart enough to diversify, and the front porch of the establishment is dripping with plants that say they want to come home with me.
We haven’t made much progress on our Highway 71 journey in this post, but there is so much to see. Every single one of our old state highways is full of treasures, and it’s a pleasant change of pace to slow down and soak them in. In fact, every state has such a wealth of offerings – I can’t imagine enough time in a lifetime to explore it all. I’ve spent sufficient time in the past on my soapbox regarding place-bashing. More on Highway 71 in the next post. What’s your favorite old highway to meander along?
Aunt Gayle says
Well, I know that highway quite well also….feel like I have been on it now that I read your posting. Good job. I too, meander around and have often been greeted in the past by Daddy and my brother saying ‘Bout time you got here”. That used to bother me but now I realize it is just another of those old Southern sayings. Why rush when there is so much to see and do along the way? That applies to life, as well as highways and byways. Love,
I love 71! We moved a lot growing up and one of the moves was from Fayetteville to Arkadelphia- so very similar to you, just a little bit of a shorter distance. I had friends that I wanted to visit so we drove up the old way all the time between the two cities. I have to say that I was sad when 540 went in just because I loved the DANGER sign every time we neared Mountainberg (adrenaline junkie even as a child…) and then the breathtaking views. I went to Lake Ft. Smith recently just to drive the old way. Progress is good, but I have to say that it’s sometimes at a cost.
You HAVE to get that sign. You HAVE to look into it.
I used to work in downtown Rogers and every day for eight years I would drive past that old laundromat (you know the curve in the road by the railroad track? Yes, that one) and see it’s gorgeous old “laundry” sign. I wanted that sign. When they closed the laundromat, I kept thinking “I should find out who owns it and see if I could have that cool old sign.”
I didn’t. It’s gone.
I loved the old Cave Springs Library sign, too. When I lived in CS, I would drive past it, too, and think the same thoughts. After my lost-sign incident in Rogers, I did it. I went to City Hall and asked for it!
No, I didn’t get the sign. BUT I was pleased to know they were already all over it themselves, planning to put it in their museum. I am a-o-k with that.
So the moral of the story? Do it, find out how you can acquire that sign. It will be a forever real-life story in your home.
It’s waiting for you to adopt it. 🙂
Oh, Lyndi – I adore you!!! Loved your rallying of the troops about the sign too. You are my favorite (just don’t tell the others).