Arkansas, Where Jesus Saved Elvis

Travel and design are two of my favorite things. I recently went on an incredible journey across the United States. I visited 19 states and drove 9000 miles (actually 8999) in a month.

I did research on a few “Mecca destinations” like the Florida Keys and Sedona, Arizona, but a lot of my trip was not too thoroughly researched. In the case of Arkansas, I’d say it was under-researched. The internet led me to believe there’d be adorable mountain cabin getaways where I’d want to sit enjoying the views and writing my memoir. I’m quite sure there are but my decision to not research Arkansas in advance resulted in a bit of disappointment. I learned from this trip that going to a city without reservations, for the most part, is okay but going to the country or small towns without can be an issue.

I drove through the Ozarks National Forest in Arkansas which was beautiful and reminded me a bit of the Catskill or Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. The only difference was that there was no one around for miles and miles, let alone adorable mountain cabins for memoir writing. To be honest, this city girl was a little freaked out with no cell coverage and no GPS for much of the 2+ hour drive. I’m all for nature and, at first, it was enjoyable but then as I continued on the twisty-turny roads not certain where I’d be coming out or when, I began to get a little nervous. As soon as I saw signs for a highway and had a signal again, I said “Hey Siri, Where’s the nearest city?”. Siri answered with “Fort Smith, Arkansas”.

Fort Smith sits on the banks of the Arkansas River and is known for being an important destination for outfitting 49ers in the Gold Rush of 1848 and 1849. When I asked my bartender at the Courtyard by Marriott what I should see while I was in town, he directed me to a “fun club” called the Electric Cowboy, which I did not go to, and a brothel museum called Miss Annie’s Welcome Center, which I drove by, but sadly it wasn’t open. He also told me about some street murals. I did check those out and enjoyed them very much. I especially loved the big guy with the small head walking out of a cell phone and the octopus with wings….tattoo inspo anyone?

Not too sad to leave Fort Smith but also grateful for the comfortable hotel and cool street art, I headed for Little Rock. My trusty bartender from Fort Smith suggested I check out the River Walk Market. Sadly, it wasn’t open; I’m guessing because it was midday midweek and 4,000,000 degrees with 400% humidity (actually 103*). After watching an artist paint a mural for a little while and marveling at her skill and tolerance for the heat, I found my way to a cool little club (with a/c) and enjoyed the kitschy décor. Maybe it was the Howlin’ Wolf talking, a whisky mule that I ordered and enjoyed, but as I sat there looking at the décor, it made me think I should dig out some of my kids’ art from decades ago and frame it. I bet it could be cool if framed and displayed well. That wasn’t meant as a jab to the club or my kids…I’m being serious. And I also love a good cowprint mixed in with pretty much any other décor style. Also, I’m kind of obsessed with the Jesus Saves Elvis painting. Can we please find a client or a friend who has a space where this would work?

People were friendly in Little Rock and I really loved the combination of Southern, modern and old world charm. Cafes were adorned with lush flowers and plants and the Capital Building and grounds were beautiful and impressive. From a design perspective, I’d say Little Rock was eclectic, which is my favorite type of design….. and also my favorite type of people. An eclectic person would proudly display that Jesus Saves Elvis painting. Where are you friends?