When I first visited Hot Springs, Arkansas in October of 2018, it was to finalize the real estate purchase of the "Twisted Willow Lodge." #twistedwillowlodge I got a chance to stay a few days and relish the euphoric sensation of my new endeavor of owning a vacation property.
Those first days were filled with new discoveries at every turn, a constant flow of affirmations that I was in the right place at the right time for me. Every person I met was over-the-top friendly, conversational, super helpful, and eager to welcome me to their historical city with what I have learned to think of as “Pride of Hot Springs.” Even today, I am still greeted with great pride and enthusiasm with each new person I meet "from these parts," but that particular weekend, it was concentrated in a way that I literally felt like I was walking in the hazy state of a dream. There were times when I had to stop and look around and reaffirm for myself that this adventure was/is real and that I wasn’t part of my very own “Truman Show.”
It was a full weekend. I closed on a Friday morning and immediately started interviewing contractors and suppliers for what would be a major interior/exterior renovation of the property (more on that later.) In addition, I started working to outfit an entire home with furnishings, textiles, supplies, appliances, etc. from literally nothing. Sunday evening, after a long, yet exhilarating weekend smattered with an ample supply of awe and glee, I sadly had to say good-bye to return home for work on Monday. Shortly before sunset, I took some last pictures of the property so I could capture the moment in time, (plus also so I could obsess about every detail later!) I collected my 6-month old puppy, Foster, and set out to make the 5 hour drive home to Keller, Texas.
As I pulled out of the driveway onto the 2-lane country road toward “town,” I was riding every emotion. I navigated the narrow winding road ardently aware of the sun setting softly in my rear view mirror, turning the entire sky vibrant colors of yellow and pink.
The drive on Amity Road to the main artery, Highway 7, or Central Avenue, that forms the bridges over Lake Hamilton and leads into downtown Hot springs, is a few short miles of complete country nirvana. As far as you can see, it is rolling hills, pastures with horses and cows meandering about, and tall, tall trees surrounding the road. In some places, the tree limbs actually meet over the road to form a sort of tunnel, and those are my favorite. A neighbor advertises “Fresh Eggs” on a homemade sign at the end of their driveway. A different neighbor mows his yard, sending the sweet scent of fresh cut grass toward me, which has the immediate effect of transporting me back to fond childhood memories. Down the road, and off into a pasture, I can see someone herding slow-moving cows with the help of a trusty and hardworking dog friend. Being mid-October, many of the trees have begun to change colors and therefore the thick greenery is thinning and mixed with soft oranges and bright spots of yellow.
The weather is perfect- not too warm, not too cool, and I rolled down my windows so that Foster and I could take in the entire experience through every sense. I watched Foster’s ears flowing in the wind as he actively sniffed the cool evening air, his eyes wide with excitement, and I knew exactly how he felt in every fiber of his being- this is LIVING!
At the juncture of Amity road and Highway 7, one direction is Hot Springs’ and the other direction is “home to Texas.” Immediately across Hwy 7, in the parking lot, is an unassuming food truck selling the best made-to-order catfish to go in these parts! The name says it all: Bubba’s Catfish-2-Go.
Intent on sampling every bit that this wonderful town has to offer, and not ready to leave quite yet, I pulled across the road, parked in the beat up blacktop parking lot, walked under the awning between the picnic tables, and to the window to order my first taste of local fare. After ordering from the simple- “Catfish-frog legs-fried meat pie” menu, I checked the sunset status and was absolutely, keenly aware, that at that instant, I was exactly where I wanted to be. I grabbed Foster from the truck and sat on the edge of the picnic table and together we watched the sunset make its final blushing exit.
The catfish was delicious. Fresh, large pieces, unique homemade tartar sauce. Served with a huge side of “you can’t bottle this feeling.” I’ve been back countless times. Always a great experience, but never like my first time on that perfect Sunday night.