An Epic Spring Break on US Highway 71: Day 8
Last year for spring break, my daughter Hunter and I set out along Scenic Arkansas Highway 7 and explored it from one end to the other to bring you all sorts of ideas on activities you can undertake with your family. This year we’re at it again, and we’re exploring US Highway 71, which runs from the Louisiana border to the Missouri State Line.
For the past week, we've been sharing a daily itinerary for adventure. You are welcome to follow along! And to share your experiences along the highway, please feel free to tag us with #SpringBreakOn71.
Sunday morning, Hunter and I rested. We got up a bit later than normal, and were thorough in packing our bags. This was our last day of the trip, and we had a few very important things to do—most notably, to reach the Missouri border. Our trip had taken us all sorts of neat places, but we needed to achieve our objective.
So we did that first. After loading our car, we left the Simmons Suites and drove north on US 71 through Bella Vista.
And, with very little pomp or circumstance, there was the Missouri sign, right next to a gas station.
We pulled in and got gas, and then I had Hunter stand by this sign. It was rather windy.
But that wasn’t the end of our adventure. We had a couple more stops to make.
The first of these was right in Bella Vista, and it’s something else. While I have been able to visit both the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs and the Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, I hadn’t realized Hunter hasn’t been to either. So she was really curious why I’d want to go check out a chapel in the woods.
At least, until she saw it. The Mildred B. Cooper Chapel is on the ridge overlooking a lake, and even with all the leaves down, it is a truly gorgeous sight. We even went in and sat down, and while Hunter quietly asked questions I answered those questions and took a few photos.
We left a short while later and dropped in at the Arkansas Welcome Center at Bella Vista. I didn’t realize it had a fossil on display.
I also didn’t realize it allows overnight campers, which was a new thing for me. After exchanging information with the good folks there, we were off to one of our two remaining stops, the Scott Family Amazeum.
Last time I came to Crystal Bridges, I think ground had just been broken for the Amazeum site. Yet here it was, a large cute building at the entrance to the grounds for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We headed inside.
I don’t think I was quite prepared for the Amazeum; read about our full experience here. There were a LOT of children participating inside. It reminded me very much of the Houston Children’s Museum and the Little Rock's Museum of Discovery.
There were exhibits everywhere, from dinosaur tracks and bones to a farmstead to a factory—along with plenty of cool Nickelodeon-themed play areas. There’s even a water play area, though Hunter and I both agreed early on we didn’t have time for that today.
We had just one more stop on our list, and it was a big one. Hunter and I started off by parking in the deck at Crystal Bridges, looking out and down as we descended INTO a piece of art (a gigantic spider!) and passed between its legs on the way in.
And now.for the really cool part of our Springs Break on 71 trip: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Just the appearance of this place is enough to cause Hunter to cheer. #crystalbridges #crystalbridgesmuseumofamericanart #bentonville #bentonvillear #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
We had two hours to explore one of the coolest museums in the world. That wasn’t a lot of time, and within moments I had already been coerced to agree to a return visit.
In one of the first rooms, one of the docents took Hunter’s hand and lead her over to paintings of meteors in the night sky. Another docent shared information about an artist who painted on those little paintboards you put your paint on when you paint.
This helpful guide talks with Hunter about the unusually depicted meteors in this lithograph. #lithograph #crystalbridges #crystalbridgesmuseumofamericanart #bentonville #bentonvillear #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
Hunter’s favorite piece is the famed nymph playing with a light ball. But she also noted details on frames and laughed a lot. A light display in a stairwell garnered a lot of her attention, as did a creature made of televisions and an interactive display where you can create your own collage art in the spirit of Stephen Morse by utilizing an interactive template to place the works of artists featured at Crystal Bridges on an imaginary wall and mailing that image to oneself.
Hunter is using an interactive kiosk to make a wall display reminiscent of one of Samuel Morse's works where he painted an image of a painting covered wall at the Louvre. #crystalbridges #crystalbridgesmuseumofamericanart #bentonville #bentonvillear #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
And eventually, we ended up at the place I’ve been waiting for us to visit since before I began this trip. I had a surprise for Hunter.
Are we there yet? Indeed, we finally are - at the Open Road exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. #crystalbridges #crystalbridgesmuseumofamericanart #bentonville #bentonvillear #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
We visited the Open Road exhibit, which is a special show covering the works of 19 artists who collected the pieces that made them famous from vehicles, some shot from the car and others from out of the car, all with the road as a key feature in the concept of their art. I was especially interested in the works of Lee Friedlander, who has especially influenced my road art.
As we approached the center of the exhibit, I overheard one of the docents quietly call out “hey, there’s our star.” Hunter was ahead of me and heard it too. But why?
In the center of the Open Road exhibit, there’s an interactive video room. There are chairs and maps and a large monitor. And on that monitor, which included a map showing where every contributor had sent in an Instagram or Tweet for the exhibit, was a photo…
See, when the exhibit was announced, I did research and found that images were being selected for this particular project on Instagram and Twitter. So from the very beginning of our epic road trip from the Louisiana border to the Missouri state line on US Highway 71, I used the hashtags #openroadtrip and #cbopenroad. And here they were, collected and shared.
She was recognized by the docent when we ebtered, and we watched spellbound as out entire journey rolled out onto the screen. #crystalbridges #crystalbridgesmuseumofamericanart #bentonville #bentonvillear #thehive #21cbentonville #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
One of the docents told me they’d been following us all week, curious to see if we’d actually come to the museum. They’d followed us through Fouke and Texarkana, Mena and Waldron, Fort Smith and Van Buren and Alma, Mountainburg and Winslow, Fayetteville, Rogers and Bentonville and Bella Vista.
And Hunter was enthralled. We sat down and watched the progression. A bar on the side of the monitor showed images from the past 24 hours, including Spark ice cream at the Walmart Museum and Hunter with a penguin from The Hive at 21c. Photos from our entire trip were flashing up over that map, which had just little dots all over it from contributors from around the world—and a slash mark over western Arkansas where we had made our mark.
Utilizing the hashtag #openroadtrip, Crystal Bridges is showcasing photos from all over America. That streak through Western Arkansas? Those are the Instagrams from our trip. #crystalbridges #crystalbridgesmuseumofamericanart #bentonville #bentonvillear #SpringBreakOn71 #openroadtrip #visitarkansas #us71 #openroad #epicroadtrip #cbopenroad #hondaroadtrip #arkansashighways
Eventually we got up and moved along to see the rest of the exhibit. But for that one moment, Hunter really felt like a star.
Our trip was lengthy and it covered a lot of miles. But it wasn’t unreachable. Every place we stayed on our trip was affordable. Many of the attractions were free and what wasn’t free wasn’t expensive. We dined sporadically and cheaply (except at The Hive, but that was our splurge). We went prepared for any sort of weather and any sort of experience, and we had a very good time of it.
That night, since it was so late, we stayed over at the Hampton Inn in Fayetteville, where Hunter swam with newly made friends in the pool and where we hit the sack before our regular bedtimes. We drove home the next day, somewhat exhausted but with so many memories.
Perhaps it’s time to make some memories of your own. You don’t have to wait until Spring Break or summer vacation. Choose a weekend this summer—or, take a weekend. Drive a highway. Go with no expectations. Do research if you wish, but leave time to stop when you’re on the open road, and don’t be afraid to explore places and things that might be unfamiliar to you.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the accounts of our adventure. If you’d like to read more about the places Hunter and I go and the things we observe (and eat!), please feel free to check out TieDyeTravels.com.