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  • Thomas Curran

Searcy, AR to Clarksville, AR

A limping puppy, walking solo, mineral hot springs, the oldest bar in Arkansas, a storm like I’ve never seen and nearly 60 tornado touchdowns (somewhat) near me

April 20 to May 1

Wow. So much has happened in the past 10 days I feel needed to pour a glass of wine to get my mind wrapped around it all!! The reason it takes me awhile between posts is that I need to have good WiFi to upload photos to my iPad and then to the blog site. I don’t always have great WiFi and sometimes I’m just lazy and would rather watch Netflix and fall asleep than sit and write. So, here goes!

We ended up staying in Searcy for 3 nights so that Wink could heal up from his shoulder strain and the rain could pass by. We spent a lot of time at the local Starbucks where the team was so nice to us and rarely charged us for anything. One thing I haven’t shared is that I’ve been writing a book since about a month before I started my walk. I’m not going to share much at this point about that but know that it’s not a memoire of my journey, rather, I’m using my journey as a backdrop for a snarky murder mystery. There are plenty of well written trans-con memories out there and I just don’t want to write that story. That’s what this blog is for, right?

While we were in Searcy I met a very nice journalist named Sha who wrote a wonderful article about us for the local newspaper. Sha also recommended many things to do while we were visiting. One of those things was Art Alley in the downtown area. As many towns have these days, it was an alley that was dedicated to murals and street art and it was really well done. We spent a lot of time taking pics and Wink started to get annoyed that I was trying to make him pose for me but I did get a few good shots of him! Sha also recommended a cafe for breakfast on our way out called Chit, Chat and Chew. This place was owned by a couple of California transplants and I had the best breakfast burrito that had chorizo and eggs and hash browns and it was a monster! It was about the size of my head. The cool part of the morning we were leaving is that my 900 mile marker was pretty much in front of the cafe! I fudged the line forward a little bit so we could cross in front of the place. There were a few dozen people outside that wanted to talk and take pictures and they all crossed with me. It was a fun morning, no doubt. But we had miles to do!! On our way out of town we stopped at a cool outdoors gear shop called Beyond Boundaries Outfitters. I bought a hoodie that says Stay Groovie on the front. This is their charity organization that helps young adults with cancer. I’ve worn it almost every day. It’s awesome.

The next few days were fairly uneventful. The walks were long and straight but the scenery was quite beautiful. I’ve said it before in this blog – Arkansas is a beautiful state and, so far, the easiest walking state I’ve been through. So, although there wasn’t a lot to see or do, the flat, pretty terrain made the days enjoyable and easy. Wink wasn’t limping and I was feeling very confident that the few days rest and medicine had healed his muscles. In Beebe we stayed in a cheapo motel and did the same in Jacksonville. There weren’t many camping options in this area so I splurged on a few nights in a row in motels. The best thing about these two days was when I crossed from a dry county into a very wet one!!

The next day kinda changed everything for the following few weeks. We left Jacksonville late in the morning with our destination only 12 miles away. We were headed to Little Rock where my friend Courtney, who visited me in Memphis when she was in the area a few weeks back, was coming in. Our plan was to take a few days and go down to Hot Springs and chill out. About 2 miles into the day Wink started limping again. It was sudden and I could tell he was in pain. We stopped immediately and I checked his paws but saw nothing significant. There was a little itty bitty thorn in his paw but removing it did not stop his limp. I was so sad for him! I sat for over an hour trying to find a car rental company, truck rental place, Uber, Lyft, taxi…anything to help us get somewhere. There was absolutely nothing. Across the street from us was the Chamber of Commerce. So I went in there and found some help!! One of the ladies that was leaving a meeting offered to drive me and Wink all the way back to a town called Cabot so I could rent a van and get to Little Rock. I left my cart at the Chamber and set out to get the van. She was incredibly nice and stayed outside the rental dealership to make sure I was going to be ok. Ugh. This is not what I wanted to happen!!

It was early in the day and we made it to Little Rock early. I checked into our hotel and made an appointment for Wink to see a vet nearby. The vet did a lot of work on him and confirmed that he was having some muscle issues in his left shoulder. She gave me some new medicine and then told me that he needed 10-14 days rest. WHAT?? No way I could take that much time off!! I don’t remember exactly how I got word out about poor Wink but Melissa Zabecki called me almost immediately and offered help. Mel lives in Fayetteville near the border of Oklahoma which was generally where I was headed in a few weeks. She just so happened to be in Little Rock that day for work and said she had a friend near her house that would foster Wink for the time I needed to walk there! She knew him well and trusted him completely. He was a dog owner and trainer and was happy to take Wink in since he lost his dog somewhat recently. So, just like that, Wink was gone. It was incredibly sad. I was sad for him. He didn’t know what was going on and, suddenly, I was abandoning him. I knew he was going to be in good hands but, again, I was suddenly gone from his life. I got a little choked up just writing this. I’m also not good being alone and Wink was my partner on the road. For those of you that know me well, alone is hard for me. Although the act of walking is a bit easier alone than with Wink, I’d much rather have him by my side.

Courtney and I drove down to Hot Springs where we had a beautiful little AirBnb home on the lake. We cooked two dinners and breakfast and just relaxed. The day after we got there we went into town and to a place where you can sit in man made mineral “bath tubs”. These places were built a hundred years ago on top of the hot springs. IDK…it was ok. I was expecting climbing down some rocks in my skivvies and jumping in some sulfur smelling, hot bubbling water. Maybe there’d be a waterfall and a rainbow would appear and, if luck would have it, a drink would magically appear in my hands. No. If you want that, minus the waterfall, rainbow and drink, you had to go deep into the national park so we opted for the man made version. After our bath we strolled around downtown and came upon the oldest bar in Arkansas. Apparently Hot Springs was quite the gangster place back in the day. I imagine moonshine had a lot to do with that. This bar had served Presidents of the US and about every famous gangster you’ve ever heard of. (Wait, those are kinda the same thing aren’t they?)

All in all, Hot Springs was very nice and relaxing despite the fact that I was missing my boy terribly. He’d been chained to my hip for over 900 miles and now he wasn’t there anymore! See you soon buddy!!

I made it back to Little Rock and headed out nice and early. It was a rough day. I was walking without Wink for the first time and it was hot and maybe I was a little hungover from a few days of too much wine. I had a contact about 25 miles ahead and was to be hosted at their house. Late in the day I was exhausted and something didn’t feel right about my direction. Turns out that I had made a wrong turn based on bad information I had written down about their location. I had to backtrack about 3 miles where they came out and picked me up. I set up my tent at the Adam’s family residence. There house was small and they had three children so I opted to sleep outside. I played basketball with the kids, ate some pizza and key lime kool pop pie and defended myself against a billion mosquitos. I think every mosquito in Arkansas were gathered in their yard for a convention or something. It was crazy! But I did get to play with their pet raccoon!

The next morning I was up and out before the sun was fully up. I had a very long day ahead of me, about 26 miles, and didn’t want to have to rush. My destination was Movie House Winery in Morrilton. Lindsay had stayed here on her journey across the US and connected us. I absolutely loved Sherrie and Ken and Sherrie’s son Kyle. They had a guest room and hot shower and we drank wine and beer and laughed. That night we went to dinner at a local Mexican food place that was really good! I could have stayed there for a year, no problem at all! But, I had to get to Wink! Sherrie and I had a bit of time alone in the morning and talked about life and kids and my journey and hers. I enjoyed that moment although it didn’t last as long as I would’ve liked. For the following few days Sherrie checked in on me often and, with a new storm coming in soon, offered to help shuttle me around. Great family.

I left the next morning very excited. I was going to hit my 1,000 mile marker in about 5 miles and I was pumped! 1,000 friggin miles! I couldn’t believe it. 1/3 of the way across the country. That mile marker came about 100’ past the city limit. I did my FB live post and talked a lot about how I was feeling and missing Wink. I was so sad that he wasn’t there to be with me. He’ll have his 1,000 mile marker moment and we will def celebrate for him then! Damn I miss that guy right now writing this! I get him back in 4 days!! I walked a long day until I finally got to a town called Atkins. I didn’t have a place to stay and there were no hotels and all the land was private so I strolled up to a church (it was a Sunday) and met the pastor Brian Ryals. I asked for permission to camp behind his church and he said yes. They were preparing for the 6 pm service as I set up shop out back. I decided to attend his service and was really happy that I did. His message was relatable and I enjoyed it. They had 3 baptisms and a lot of singing. Brian was quite good on guitar! I had another night of mosquitos buzzing around outside my tent and at around 3 in the morning a little puppy came sniffing around. I got up and unzipped my tent and he just sniffed around. We talked for a few minutes before he left for something more interesting. It was kinda nice to have a puppy moment that night!

I got up early and had coffee with the pastor. He was in the church getting ready to go out and do his other job which was school bus driver. He’s been doing that for 27 years! I had a short day ahead of me so I stopped at the Atkins Cafe and had a nice (free, again) meal (thank you Atkins Cafe) and a lot of coffee. My destination was Russellville which was a pretty big town. I smelled horrible. Horrible. I had taken a “cowboy shower” the night before but I just stank. The weather during this time was low 80s and humid with mild showers every now and again. I don’t like to stink. A lot of you know that about me. So, motel it was. I needed a shower.

The weather forecast for this week was miserable. Day after day of forecasted thunderstorms. The next morning my plan was to walk as far as I could before the storms came through and then call Sherrie from the winery and she would come get me but the storm never fully developed throughout the day. I just kept walking. Clarksville was 26 miles away from Russellville. Although I had no intention of going all the way there I eventually just got there. Today was the first of many times I will cross over the Arkansas River and it was one really long bridge! Just on the edge of the river is Arkansas Nuclear One power plant and it kinda loomed next to me all day. It definitely rained throughout the day but it was so hot out that it felt pretty good. Right about the time I walked into town it really started to come down. By the time I was in my motel room we were under tornado warning. This was just last night and it was insane. I have never seen rain and wind and lightning and heard thunder like last night. Local news kept covering tornado touchdowns in eastern Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas (which is where I was), southern Missouri and southeast Kansas. All in all there were nearly 60 touchdowns last night with the closest being in Boone County which was just to the north of me. At one point I called the front desk and told them I was from California and had no idea what to do in this situation. They told me where the nearest shelter was but said that, in this part of town, I wouldn’t hear the sirens so I should keep my TV tuned to channel 5 and listen for the warning there. So with that and the intense pounding going on outside my window, I suffered in the sleep category last night. Needless to say, no tornado hit the town I was in so I am grateful for that.

I’ve walked 8 straight days and it was raining this morning so I took today off. I walked to Walmart and got a few things, did laundry, cleaned Alexa and have been sitting in my room writing and watching AG Barr’s Senate hearings. Wow, that was fun. Tomorrow I am walking. I don’t care if elephants and whales are falling from the sky, I am walking!! My destination is another winery!! Wouldn’t you walk, too?? I’ll be at Chateau Aux Arc tomorrow night where I am going to camp right in the vineyard and then it’s two days to Fort Smith and Wink!

I’ll try to be more consistent with my posts but you can always keep up with my daily stuff on FB and IG. I post to both of them almost daily. Cheers for now and much love!

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© 2020 by Thomas Curran

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