Day 1 of our vacation is finally here! The folks arrived at the house around 7:15. We immediately began hauling our two weeks worth of belongings out to the driveway for loading. We launched our two-car caravan at 9:30, but not before we had a chance to say goodbye to Scott & Erin, Weasel & Family, and Neighbors in the driveway.
The first highlight of our trip was in the town of Poteau, Oklahoma, and that can only mean one thing – The Tallest Hill In The World! You would think that with an attraction like this to hang their hat on, that the Poteau Chamber of Commerce would have signs & billboards promoting it for miles around. You would be wrong. We don’t know exactly where Cavanal Hill (the official name of the Tallest Hill In The World) is located, or how to get there, so we watch carefully for signs & directions as we drive through Poteau. We still never see any. We’re practically all the way through Poteau, and we decide that we need help, so we stop at a convenience store for directions.
Sure enough, the clerk confirms that there are no signs for Cavanal Hill anywhere within Poteau. However, she gave us some very good directions for how to get there, which included backtracking through Poteau several miles, and we found ourselves on top of the hill about 15 minutes later.
It is a very impressive site to behold at the top of Cavanal Hill. A “hill” is categorized as a peak that is less than 2000 feet high. Cavanal Hill tops out at 1999 feet. The neat thing about Cavanal Hill is that the town of Poteau and the surrounding area is nowhere near 1999 feet. It is as though this hill springs up out of the middle of a prairie. We enjoyed lunch at the top of the hill beneath a shelter, took a few pictures, and then hit the road.
South of Poteau about 30 miles is the town of Hodgen. About the only thing this town has is a “Tote-A-Poke” (a chain of convenience stores in this part of the state). We had to pull in to use their facilities, and this is when our day took an unexpected turn. After everybody had piled back in the vehicles, I turned the key on the minivan, and there is no response except for “click, click, click”. Uh-oh.
This situation set us back 2+ hours. We ultimately ended up jumping the minivan, driving back up the road to Heavener, and replacing the battery at O’Reilly. Since we had no tools with us, they were very helpful and assisted us with replacing the battery. Dad gave Roger (the fellow at O’Reilly who helped us) a couple of packages of venison summer sausage as a “Thanks” for his tremendous customer service, and we were on our way.
We decided to drive east through the Ouachita National Forest in Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas. This was a very nice drive, and we ended up having a picnic dinner on the banks of Lake Ouachita. (This is in addition to us driving through the Ouachita Mountains and passing the Ouachita River. What exactly is a “Ouachita”?)
We left Lake Ouachita at 7:00. To say that we were behind schedule would be an understatement. We still weren’t halfway through Arkansas, and we had hotel reservations in Jackson, Mississippi! The driving was pretty smooth, at least until we hit Hot Springs. We somehow managed to get lost in Hot Springs, but I am going to blame it on a lack of highway signs. When we finally pulled over and tried to assess our situation, we realized we were nowhere near where we thought we were. We got our bearings and got back on the road. About this time, we saw another traveler who was obviously more lost than we were (map out & driving 5 mph through the exit ramp), so I have no problems blaming somebody else for our navigational problems!
We pulled into Pine Bluff for some coffee & ice cream about 9:30, and pulled out at 10:00. We had over 200 miles to Jackson ahead of us, and most of that on two-lane highway in Arkansas and Louisiana.
We checked into our hotel in Jackson at 2:00 a.m. For some reason, the kids were all awake for the last hour of the trip, so we showered them up, and then put them in bed. We were all in bed by 2:45. Yikes – What A Day!
About 11:00 p.m., Marissa (3 years old) sighed from the backseat, “This is the hardest day of my life.” It was definitely a very long day, but we don’t have any more days like this scheduled until the trip back.
Mallory (7 years old) is the official shutterbug of the group. She took 122 pictures today on an old digital camera of ours. I would hear things from the backseat such as, “Oh! That was just the cutest horse in the whole world! I’m so glad I got a picture of it!” Of course, that picture was taken from a moving car, as were about 110 of her 122 pictures. I hope she can keep up her photography enthusiasm throughout the trip!