The Healing Waters of Eureka Springs
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The Healing Waters of Eureka Springs
If you‚Äôre driving along route 62 through Northwest Arkansas and don‚Äôt venture off the main highway, you will only catch half of Eureka Springs. Depending on one‚Äôs bent, it‚Äôs the best half or the worst half.
Along the highway, the businesses seem to cater mostly to Christians and bikers, but they share the space in peace and harmony. Many establishments sport slogans like ‚ÄúFamily Owned‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúBikers Welcome‚ÄĚ to entice their chosen clientele.
Touristy as this area is, there is an refreshing lack of chain hotels and restaurants. For the most part, Christian lodge-type motels such as ‚ÄúJoy Motel‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúThe Land-O-Nod‚ÄĚ line the road alongside biker bars with designations like ‚ÄúThe Iron Horse‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúRider‚Äôs Rest,‚ÄĚ coexisting side by side, just as God intended. The entertainment choices look painful and cheesy -- the Ozark Mountain Hoedown and the Pine Mountain Jamboree among the fare. But lo, we did not attend, so we shall abstain from being judgmental.
It‚Äôs easy to see why the bikers love the crooked and steep byways of the Ozark hill country, but the Christians come for the vision of renown racist Gerald L.K. Smith and his Christ of the Ozarks. This very large, garish monument to our Lord and Savior has spawned its own little hamlet of Christian attractions. These are, but not limited to, the Great Passion Play, the New Holy Land Tours, Biblical Bathrooms (with coke machine), the Museum of Earth History (with its creationist approach), the DinoStore (wait, what?), Our Daily Bread Deli, the Sacred Arts Center, Gerald L.K. Smith‚Äės grave (at the foot of the tacky 67‚Äô Jesus statue, of course) and, our personal favorite, the round rock worth over 1000 dollars.
If you choose to explore off the highway, down the main street of the old town things take a dramatic turn for the different. Lovely Victorian Era homes and turn of the century storefronts line the narrow lanes.
Along the way we lingered at the various mineral springs that gave the town it‚Äės name, each boasting its own healing power. The Basin Spring alone claims to have healed ‚Äú90% of the cures in Eureka Springs.‚ÄĚ
The pinnacle of the town is the Crescent Hotel, billed as ‚ÄúAmerica‚Äôs Most Haunted Hotel.‚ÄĚ Granted, this is a pretty spooky place, but we had spent the prior night on their website scaring ourselves silly with the stories conjured up by prior guests. Perhaps the tragic accident during its construction was enough to curse the premises, but when the hotel took a stint as the Baker Cancer Cure Center with Norman Baker at the helm, its fate was sealed. Baker was a former vaudevillian with a magic elixir, no medical degree and a fondness for experimental surgery. We could only assume that many of the apparitions are the haints of unlucky patients that suffered under his ‚Äútreatments.‚ÄĚ We took a look around, got creeped out and decided not to stay. We like our sleep.
The not-haunted Palace Hotel and Bath House seemed more up our alley. The rooms are grand and opulent, but more importantly the bath house harkens back to when Eureka Springs was called ‚ÄúAmerica‚Äôs Medicine Teepee.‚Äú During the Victorian Era, the Palace was widely acclaimed as the best equipped bath house in the state. We elected to ‚Äútake in the waters.‚ÄĚ
The Palace‚Äôs mineral baths employ the original claw-foot tubs in painted wooden booths on the same spot that they have been for over one hundred years. The warm waters seeped in to our pores to cure what ailed us. After a relaxing soak, it was on to the eucalyptus steam in wooden barrels. The kind where your head sticks out the top like in the old movies. Sweatboxes. Veronica found it a bit off-putting at first, but relaxed once she figured out she could release herself anytime she wanted to. Once the initial freak-out subsided, she begged to be left in as long as legally permitted. The toxins not soaked out by the baths were left in puddles at our feet. The opulent pampering was completed with clay masks and luxurious Swedish massages. Oiled up and unbelievably relaxed, we slithered further on down the hill.
We stopped in at the Eureka Daily Roast on Spring Street, run by Jim and Janet Fyhrie. The Daily Roast was a great place to hang out and watch the shenanigans that flitted by the large windows facing the main road. They make a mean frothy latte and the company was superb. The locals popped in and out for a bit of gossip and shared the latest happenings for our eavesdropping pleasure.
Some more strolling up and down the steep streets and we were ready for dinner. We chose the romantic Devito‚Äôs, home of ‚ÄúNational Award Winning Trout Dishes,‚ÄĚ in the heart of town. This beautiful eatery has a garden terrace that literally hangs off the side of the mountain. Not the place for the acrophobic. Our waiter, one of the many ‚Äúgray ponytails‚ÄĚ that live in Eureka Springs, was wonderfully attentive and (yes, we‚Äôre going there!) groovy.
Besides the Christian, biker and gray ponytail contingencies, Eureka Springs has recently become known as ‚Äúgay friendly.‚ÄĚ Ironically, we learned this from publicity for a video released by the American Family Association of Tupelo, Mississippi ominously titled ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre Coming to Your Town.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThey‚ÄĚ meaning ‚Äúthe gays.‚ÄĚ From what we‚Äôve read, the DVD is basically a how-to on assuring that ‚Äúyour town‚ÄĚ isn‚Äôt taken over by homosexuals who are apparently hell-bent on coercing you to divorce your wife and forcing you to gay marry. One would think that mayhem would prevail in the streets of Eureka Springs, but instead the people choose to get along just fine. It seemed that the campaign to keep the town from becoming ‚ÄúThe San Francisco of Arkansas‚ÄĚ had backfired a bit.
Could it be that controversy was lurking beneath all of this peace and harmony? We decided to take in some nightlife to see if melee may lay under the surface. We spent some time at a biker bar, a rock & roll club, a karaoke lounge and checked out some great traditional hillbilly music at the New Delhi Deli. Each place was a inspiring mixed bag of humanity. Christians ventured down from the highway, gray ponytails smiled warmly and flashed peace signs, bikers shared a beer with a lesbian or two. Lions laying with the lambs. Dogs and cats living together‚Ä¶
Maybe the healing waters conquer all.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com