A not so hidden agenda

The truth is we did not head out on our See Part of America Tour without a purpose. We have both a primary and a secondary aim. The first is to visit family and friends in Rhode Island. Second, are taking paintings that our friends have stored at our home to them in Ithaca, NY. For the last few years we have been considering selling our home and moving into a place that would be easier to manage in our golden (or in my case, rust filled) years. It’s unlikely we’ll actually get around to doing so, particularly since we have so much stuff to sort out. Moving these paintings from under the bed in our guest room will be a small start.

There are a lot of miles between Albuquerque and Jamestown, Rhode Island, and we chose to limit our daily dose of sitting and drive between 4 to 5 hours per day. We also thought we should increase our total sitting time by adding a hundreds of miles by not taking a direct route. We also want to keep to what William Leastheat Moon calls the “Blue Highways” when feasible. Blue highways are the roads that show up on maps in muted colors, frequently blue, as opposed to the major highways and interstates. The Blue Highways passthrough the smaller cities and towns and provide a view of the America that is not always visible from the main roads or the main stream media.

Leaving is our first opportunity to take some of those slower and more scenic roads. We added Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to our itinerary with an intermediate stop in Bentonville, home of Walmart.

A few miles east of Tulsa we stopped to visit one of the roadside attractions: the 50 foot high Buddhist deity (so described on the Roadside America web site) at the Vietnamese Chua Tam-Bao temple. The temple is peacefully situated along a quiet country road some distance from highways, though not so far as Hellen Gawn’s. Although we would have liked to tarry there we only took a few photographs to capture the quietude and contentment so we could have it available on our phones if we ever had need of it.

Eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas are quite beautiful, though there are many abandoned and decaying buildings and villages that serve as a reminder of the urbanization of the country. Only a few hours from Tulsa we entered the growing metropolitan area that encompasses Fayetteville and Bentonville. That area contains a thriving network of strip malls, franchise restaurants, and and instantly quaint establishments that illustrate the finest expression of modern life.

So much for my attempt at eschewing cynicism. There are many aspects of the economic development that have upgraded the quality of life for people in the area and we certainly did not explore much beyond the main road in the area. Let it be sufficient to say that the stereotypical view of a backward and poor hill people is not an accurate reflection of the population. If we were to repeat this trip I think I’d schedule a few days to explore the area. There are a large number of outdoor activities, including hiking and bicycle trails and many types of water sport adventures

In the midst of Bentonville is a development that exemplifies one of the best opportunities afforded society by an economic system that fosters inequality. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a good example of private investment in public infrastructure that would be difficult to finance with public money. The linked Wikipedia article shows how donations from private sources make the project possible and simultaneously there is criticism that the project does not generate sufficient tax revenues to satisfy certain elements of the populace.

The structure is too large and complex to adequately capture with photographs, but here are a few.

The museum includes a modular home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that had been disassembled in New Jersey and reassembled on museum grounds. We had been planning to tour Falling Waters in Pennsylvania on the way to Rhode Island but have been unable to get reservations on acceptable dates. Seeing one of Wright’s smaller homes provided a small taste of what we will miss. There are a lot of design features that make the construction interesting and intriguing. However, I cannot envision living in such a unit for more than a short time. I think the starkness and linearity would become tiring.

Photography of the building interior is prohibited, so I only have external views to share.

Our visit to the museum was somewhat truncated since Paula had a massage appointment in Eureka Springs in the afternoon. The collection is probably too large and to truly appreciate in one visit, and since there is no charge for admission making multiple visits over a couple of days would be appropriate.

I will leave off here and continue the saga on the next post.

3 thoughts on “A not so hidden agenda

  1. Lois September 12, 2021 / 8:34 pm

    Love your story and the sharing of photos, Charlie. Paula’s version too. It opens us to the America never captured by news or social media where I believe real change and reconciliation lies. Continue to discover these possibilities!


  2. Linnea Hendrickson September 12, 2021 / 10:07 pm

    I enjoyed this a lot, Charlie. That museum looks like something! I’m going to look for that picture of the two guys overlooking the waterfall. It is familiar to me. William Cullen Bryant and somebody else overlooking Kaaterskil falls? Or, maybe there’s another like it in New York somewhere. I used to hike around that area in the Catskills.
    I love the image of you hauling those pictures out from under your bed to deliver them to their owners.
    Interesting about Bentonville. I’ve never been a Walmart fan, but my relatives in the middle of nowhere in Upper Michigan were singing its praises. And, I had to say, after looking at the alternatives available in the small towns in the U.P. of Michigan the choices, selection, convenience, quality, and prices in Walmart were a big improvement over everything else. Even the chain restaurants were an improvement (sadly), over most of the little local joints — I’m sure there are some good choices if you have time to check them out — but we have found even checking reviews in little out-of-the-way places isn’t always a lot of help.


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