MTTS: Day 10 – St. Louis, MO

IMG_8318Home again, home again…

MINI Takes the States was an awesome experience.  It wasn’t entirely what I had expected, but for the most part it was awesome.  Monday was our last day with MTTS.  MINI stopped for the night in St. Louis and after the evening event Brian and I waved good-bye to our new friends and returned home.  It was a bittersweet goodbye.  We’d had a great time… but we were worn out…. we were both happy to be going home.

We’re already discussing MTTS 2016…. if we’d do it again and how we’d do it differently.  Yes, I think we definitely do it again… MTTS was a great experience.  MINI people are just a happy, friendly group of people and MINI USA throws an amazing event…. that’s a recipe for AWESOME.

Things We’d Do Different

Start near St. Louis and follow MTTS east. – You notice we’re not even mentioning ‘going all the way’?  Coast to coast sounds awesome at first, but Brian and I were so tired after 6 legs of MTTS.  Getting in late every night and getting up early to leave with the pack in the morning… it wears on you.  It’s just too little sleep to be fun.

Skipping some Rise & Shines.  – It is really fun to line up with all the MINIs in the great locations that MINI arranges and take off with a pack of 500 MINIs and a police escort….. but it’s really early.  Most mornings we were getting up around 5:30 to get to the location on time and get lined up.  It isn’t as much fun to be in the back of the pack and you get better photos if you get there early.  I’m not sure how we’d choose which ones to skip…. I wouldn’t have thought the Texas Capitol Plaza would have been cool…. but the photo of Posh right in front of the Capitol is pretty cool.  I’d have skipped the Cotton Bowl…. but I didn’t know that until we’d been there.  This one will be harder to do.

Wander off on our own.  – This is another that will be hard to know which days to wander and which to stick with the crowd.  MINI does have some pretty great “surprise & dazzle” midday events…. and part of the thrill of doing MTTS is being with the crowd.  There is nothing like zooming into a little town with 300 MINIs…. the look on people’s faces is priceless…. but there were some times and places that I wished we’d had more time to visit and explore.  These weren’t places that we’d drive/fly back for an entire vacation…. but another few hours would have been really nice.

Things We Wish MINI Would Do Differently

Don’t get us wrong… MINI did an amazing job.  I was blown away by their coordination and planning.  MINI took amazing care of us while we were with them. There are just a few things that we think would be nice in the future.

Rallye Notes – Don’t bother.  Just tell me where we’re headed and let us decide how to get there.  Some of the roads that MINI chose to send us on were not the route that I would have chosen.  It took us a few legs to catch on to that.  I wish they would have just given us an address for the next events and let us make our own way.

Apps – Either make em work or don’t bother.  I know… I know… its a computer program…. they have bugs.  It just makes me insane when they don’t work.  The Trivia Game and the Photo Challenges/Boards were buggy.  Push notifications for the app would have been nice.   There were a couple of times when MINI sent us a notice, (traffic or accident) and we didn’t get it until late that evening because we hadn’t known that we needed to check the notices in the app.

MINI Tour Guides – Have someone at the Rise & Shine’s with suggested points of interest/restaurants/events for each leg of the trip.  (Maybe people from the local MINI Clubs?) They could help with driving directions if necessary (Google Map). I’m sure we drove right by interesting places because we didn’t know they were there.  You can’t always count on signs and billboards to let you know that something cool is right down the road.

Food – MINI, it’s great that you fed me as much as you did…….but you really didn’t have to.  There were a couple of times that I wish MINI wouldn’t have bothered providing dinner.  In Austin, for instance.  MINI said they would be providing food trucks… apparently food trucks are a huge thing in Austin… they were everywhere around town as we were driving to the evening event.  I was SO excited…… and then there were only 3 trucks…. only one with anything gluten free…. and it was cold pizza.  In St. Louis they did the food truck thing again and this time there were five trucks and MINI gave us each a ticket for one item from a truck… if you wanted more, you had to buy it.  That allowed for so much more variety and the food was HOT.  One of the things I enjoy about travel is getting a ‘taste’ of the culture.  I realize that it is massively expensive to feed 500 people.  I wouldn’t mind having more variety and options and having to pay for it.  The “ticket” system would be a perfect compromise for the people who are trying to keep to a really low budget…. Just eat what you can get for your one ticket… And those who don’t paying a bit more…. we could buy other items.

Clubs & Dealerships – MINI did an amazing job coordinating the whole thing and many of the MINI dealerships and MINI clubs were awesome.  Some of the dealerships and clubs need to think about stepping up their game for 2016…. It’s not like there is a MINI dealership on every corner… I wound’t mind driving back to MINI Sandia in New Mexico for our next MINI.  (We’ve also gotten AMAZING service from Dreyer & Reinbold MINI…. I’d be willing to drive to Indianapolis for our next MINI).  With a MINI, it’s not just buying a car…. it’s like adding a kid to the family.  Some dealerships get that… other don’t.  MTTS really gave the dealerships a chance to shine.  Some used it…. others….. 😦

Media – MINI’s photographers and media people were wonderful!  They were all so nice and fun…. they really made us feel like rockstars.  I wish MINI would have had two teams of photographers…. or a separate crew that was uploading all the photos… there was a huge lag between when the photos were taken and when they hit the site.  I know those poor photographers weren’t getting any sleep!  They were up late at events and then up later working on the photos and then later trying to get them on the sites….. Then they were up early to beat us all to the Rise & Shines.  (There was a definite lack of sleep all around.) They were all always so nice…. I don’t know how they managed.  (MINI!  Hire more next time and let some of them sleep!…… You guys should sleep some too, come to think of it….)

All in all, we had a great time on MTTS.  MINI did an amazing job.  Can’t wait until MTTS 2016!

MTTS: Day 9 – Memphis, TN

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We started out this morning in Dallas…. I’m starting to get confused…. We’ve stayed in four different Texas cities and everything is starting to run together.  I’m not the only MTTS-er who can’t remember where they’ve been.  When you meet new people you ask where they started and how far they are going… The long distance people are starting to look a bit dazed.  Too many early Rise & Shines following too many late Evening Owner’s Events.  I don’t know how else MINI could do it… there is just so much road to cover in a day and only so many hours… We need a Nap Day thrown in here and there maybe.

Today was probably our longest drive…. 488 miles.  I slept A LOT… thank goodness.  My mom wishes that I had slept that good in the car when I was little… maybe I would have, but she just didn’t drive long enough…. 100-150 miles… bam… I’m asleep.

We didn’t get to see many interesting things along the way today.  There was a lot of construction on the highway and we ended up taking a couple of creepy back roads (and we’ve been in the no-man-lands of New Mexico, and I say these were creepy….)

We finally made it out of Texas and into Arkansas around lunch time.  I’d swear that the moment we crossed the state line the humidity quadrupled.  That is something that I’ve discovered on this trip… I’d always thought that state lines were an imaginary kind of line… something drawn on a map and marked with a sign…. nothing tangible….. Nope!  Crossing state lines begin/end all different kinds of landscapes, languages and heat indexes.  Who knew!?photo 1

Since we got into Memphis in the late afternoon on a Sunday… and all the sights were closed… Our big thrill of the day was dinner.  My Father-In-Law loves… absolutely loves…. plans trips around… Corky’s Ribs & BBQ.  Now, unlike my SIL, I totally get my FIL’s food style.  If it’s food… it’s probably good…. if it’s different… we should try it.  Yep… I get that.  We tend to like a lot of the same foods too (not drinks, tho.. we totally disagree on coffees and wine).  So as Brian and I are scrolling through Google’s recommended places I came across Corky’s Ribs & BBQ…. Well… ribs are a very Memphis thing….. what the hell?

10577004_10152331244628668_4666225502343366721_nWe got a parking space right up front… apparently we just beat the rush… and Posh got a cute picture out front.  We sent that to Brian’s dad to make him jealous.

I’d googled to see if the BBQ sauce was gluten-free and most of the things I’d read said it was.  I checked with the waitress and she said that yes, the regular sauce was GF.  I’ve never had a problem with any of the BBQ sauces that I’ve had before, but I’m trying to be extra careful to not get sick while we’re on our trip.  I ordered the Rack of Ribs (1/2 Wet & 1/2 Dry)….. I think I like the ‘Wet’ better, but the ‘Dry’ was good too.  I also got the Twice Baked Potatoes as my side… yum!  You’d have thought I’d have had them before, but I can’t remember every eating them….. I found the recipe and those potatoes will be showing up at a Family Dinner Night soon.  (So will Fried Pies, as soon as I figure out a good GF recipe for them…. I keep seeing signs all over the south for Fried Pies… and I want one SO bad!) Brian ordered the Loaded Potato and had plans to share my ribs…. he just let me order the giant meal so the waitress thought I was the cow!

After dinner we decided to skip the Owner’s Event and just get to the hotel earlier.  We’re having a great time, but we could use more sleep (napping in the car just doesn’t count.)  Tomorrow is our last day on MTTS… It’s be a wonderful adventure, but I’m ready to get home.  I miss my home and my family…. and I’m pretty sure my dog won’t speak to me and my cats have probably convinced my aunt to let them order pizza and pay-per-view every night…. it’s time to go home.

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MTTS: Day Eight – Dallas, TX

IMG_9266It was another very early morning when we rolled into the Texas State Capitol (Austin, TX).  Posh got a great spot right in front of the Capitol Building….. she’s gonna have the best scrapbook!

MINI once again provided excellent coordination and got everyone lined up nice and neat with a minimum amount of fussing.  MINIs like to snuggle together anyway… While the MINIs took in their surroundings, us humans roamed around the center taking photos and checking out all the other MINIs and shopping the “Boot Sales”  (If you didn’t already know… MINIs have ‘boots’ and ‘bonnets’ not ‘trunks’ or ‘hoods’).  I acquired a new shopping bag from MINI of…. Dallas? And some MINI gum…. I have no idea why MINI had it’s own gum…. they just do.  MINI USA and the MINI Clubs have been awesome about giving out fun MINI swag.  The sponsors are pretty fun too!  Peeps is a sponsor and they have a Peeps MINI… it’s so cute!  They keep handing us mini Peeps at the different events. I’m starting to get a collection of them!  We got a mini Lego MINI in our Welcome Bag… I’ll let Brian put them together…. I have no patience for following the directions with LEGOS.  I build castles… that’s about it…  And Banfield Pet Hospital has presents for the furry co-pilots too.

Today Value Service gave us safari hats after our trip through the Franklin Drive Thru Safari.  IMG_9359They’re actually pretty perfect hats for the Roadster.  I’ve got two other hats and a couple of scarves that I’ve been trying to make stay on my head for the last 3000 miles…. these have a nice floppy brim to cover the back of my neck and a strap to hold them on!

The trip through the Franklin Drive Thru Safari was more fun than I thought it would be.  If it wasn’t for MINI, I would have never (a) found the place, or (b) bothered to go… Brian and I are pretty spoiled with our St Louis Zoo memberships… it takes a lot to compete.  Probably what made it so much fun was sharing the experience with 400 other MINIs…. The Safari knew we were coming, but I don’t think the quite grasped how many of us there actually were…. Until you see 400-500 MINIs swarming down the highway, you just don’t get it.  We shut down the main road into town… we blocked up everything for two miles…. the police finally came to direct traffic…. We weren’t being bad…. there were just a lot of us!  The city police were very nice and they started directing people around us and soon everything got uncontested.  We almost skipped the Safari because of all the traffic, but I’m really glad we decided to stay.  (Not just for the cool hat..)  We’re in the Roadster… with the top down…. so we had an excellent view of the animals… and they had an excellent view of us!  

After the Safari we continued on to Dallas.  It was a much prettier drive today.  This part of Texas has more hills and trees… I was starting to go a bit crazy with the endless fields of nothing.  We actually reached Dallas fairly early in the day, so we had some time to look around a do some sightseeing.  I hadn’t planned anything in Dallas since I figured MINI would have an event and we’d go to that.  MINI did have an event… but it just wasn’t our cup of tea so we decided to wander around town for a bit.  Neither one of us is a big history buff, but we watched enough of the History Chanel to know the Dealey Plaza in Dallas is where Kennedy was assassinated.  We were too late to visit the Sixth Floor Museum, which used to be the Texas School Book Depository from where Jack Ruby allegedly shot JFK.  IMG_8186We were going to cross the street to see the Grassy Knoll, but one of the homeless guys was trying to be our “tour guide” and was starting to freak me out.  I grabbed Brian and drug him away.  The homeless guy started yelling, but I couldn’t tell if it was at us or at another homeless guy.  There were a lot of homeless guys yelling in the area… I’m glad it was a sunny afternoon and there were a bunch of other people around.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be down there later in the evening.

Brian and I also checked out the Old Red Museum.  It used to be the courthouse, but now IMG_8176it is a museum.  I didn’t want to pay $8/person for tickets.  The architecture is amazing, but we just  looked around the first floor for a bit.

On our way back to the car (I was starting to worry about Posh all alone with all the yelling homeless people!) we stopped to look at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza… it’s kinda ugly.  I just don’t get it… it’s kinda like a LEGO…. but boring.  IMG_8197
We also stopped and visited the Dallas Farmer’s Market… I am SO jealous of their Farmer’s Market!! Why is our’s not this cool?  Ugh!  Brian and I picked up a gluten-free brownie (mine, all mine!), some yummy red grapes for our lunches and a jar of apple cobbler jelly to take home and share at our next Family Dinner Night.  I think it will be killer served warm over home-made vanilla ice cream!  (I’m gonna have to serve something pretty awesome to get the family to sit still through all 2000 MTTS photos…..) IMG_8171

For dinner we decided to try In-n-Out Burger.  We don’t have them in Missouri and I’ve heard my Sister-In-Law rave about them.  Now, my SIL doesn’t really like anything… I can count on one hand the things that I know she likes….. so I was thinking that these must be some freaking awesome burgers.  I checked online first to make sure I could eat them and was super excited to discover that they were very gluten friendly.  They even have a button to press when you order to tell the cooks that you have an allergy.  It took em a bit to find the right button, but they got our order in and were super nice.  I even heard one of them call back to the cooks that they had a customer with a wheat allergy and to change their gloves and utensils.  WOW!  IMG_9370

Brian and I both got a Double Double ‘Protein’ Burger (the “protein” part means that they wrapped it in lettuce instead of putting it on a bun).  I got cheese fries too…. The fries were safe from cross contamination because the fries are the only thing they fry.  Yay!  The burger comes wrapped in lettuce and then wrapped in paper and then in a little paper sleeve… all of which is necessary to keep the juice and sauces from getting everywhere.

So…. it was good.  Not amazing… but it was good.  I still don’t understand my SIL.  *sigh*  I was ecstatic about the care they took to make sure it was safe for me to eat, and it was a good hamburger…. It tasted a lot like a Steak-n-Shake hamburger.  I wish Steak-n-Shake would take that much care in ensuring gluten-friendliness!

 

 

 

 

MTTS: Day Seven – Austin, TX

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So far as I can tell, Texas roads are either “OMG, we’re gonna die,” or “OMG, kill me now.”  When we are in the city the roads loop around in undecipherable patterns and when we are out of the city…. the roads go on forever.  I’m kinda over driving in Texas…. and I’m not even the driver… Brian does all the driving. Mostly I nap and take photos out the window… sometimes I ask him odd, random questions…. he tries to ignore me, but it’s a pretty small car.

We left Lubbock, TX this morning and headed to Austin, TX.  We wandered off from the pack pretty early.  MINI’s directions were a little convoluted and we gave up and let Google Maps lead the way.  We weren’t the only ones with that idea… we had a nice little collection of MINI’s that we motored with for most of the way.

It’s pretty fortunate that we’ve packed our own lunches… today we might have starved to death.  We stopped at a picnic area and had a quick lunch.  There were GIANT grasshoppers in the picnic area and I don’t like hopping things…. we got back in the car pretty quickly.  Around two o’clock we saw a bunch of other MINI’s stop for BBQ… Glad we didn’t have to wait that long!

IMG_8032We met up with the MINIs again in Brady, Texas…. which is apparently the Heart of Texas.  Metroplex MINI was waiting with a big sign and MINI USA took photos of us all.  The photographers have been nice about snapping a photo for us using our own camera too.

Brian and I wandered around town for a bit and checked out a couple of the shops.  It was nice just to be out of the car and stretch our legs.  People would come up to us and ask what was going on… MINI has invaded Texas…. It was the cutest takeover ever.  I love watching people realize that a hundred or so MINIs have just swarmed their town…. Surprise, confusion, curiosity….. glee!

Brian finally lured me back into the car with the promise of ice cream.  I’ve been craving ice cream in the worst way….. but when we find a shop the ice cream looks all crystal-y….. I dunno, just not smooth and creamy…. I know, I know… I am super picky.  We found a cute little shop and since we nearly died getting across traffic I figured I’d better not be difficult about a few ice crystals.

We finally arrived in Austin and made it to our hotel… early in fact…. so now we’re waiting until time to go to this evening’s event.  MINI has arranged for food trucks and live music.  I’m a little nervous about the food trucks…. I’m hoping I can find something safe for me to eat.

At any rate, it should be an early night… We were up really late with the Drive-In Movie last night and we had to get up really early to leave this morning….. I did NOT want to give up my nice Holiday Inn pillow.  We’re at a Candlewood Suite tonight…. which is part of the Holiday Inn/IHG family…. they’re pretty nice and considerably less expensive…. but their pillows don’t stack up to the Holiday Inn or Hampton Inn pillows.  I may have to ask for another couple of pillows before we settle for the night…. Brian steals them from me!

 

MTTS: Day Six – Lubbock, TX

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Today was our first actual day with MINI Takes the States. We woke up really bright and early to meet up with the other MINIs at the dealership. There were a lot of bleary eyed MINIs in the parking lot this morning…. I don’t think MINIs are naturally morning-types. Their human counterparts roamed around and foraged for coffee and breakfast. MINI provided breakfast burritos, but Brian and I passed, choosing to stick with our Cliff bars. We had a very long drive ahead of us today and we didn’t want to risk tummy upset. (They appeared to be McDonalds burritos and I’m not positive they would have been gluten-friendly even without to flour tortilla.)

Everyone roamed around and talked… Lots of photos were taken and introductions made. Many of us have been following/planning with this group on Facebook for months… It has been exciting to finally meet (in the real world) some of the people that we’ve been talking to for so long. Brian and I met another couple that started their trip almost a month ago. We’ve been following their adventure online. They are going all the way across the county with MINI and throwing in a bunch of extra stops before and after MTTS for a total of TWO months travel! IN A MINI!! Maybe that’ll be me and Brian some day! (I have a photo of the four of us, but my computer won’t connect right now, so I’m blogging on my phone… Love my iPhone!)

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We’ve been interviewed twice about our MINI… It’s so cool! I hope I can find the video!

As we left MINI Sandia (ABQ) this morning we drove through a crowd of people and out onto the highway where the police had blocked the roads. Superstar treatment!

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MINIs streamed out onto the highway and zoomed into the hills of Albuquerque.

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It was all very exciting at first… The sight of hundreds of MINIs caused a stir among the other cars… First looks of confusion then smiles as we passed. But as Albuquerque disappeared behind us the open roads of the plains stretched out before us boredom set in. The speed limit is 75… So that makes things more fun for the drivers… for a while…. I napped for a while… Played on my phone… When I had signal (which wasn’t very often) and quizzed Brian on his thoughts on alien life. Then Brian suggested I take another nap. Hmmm …

We finally arrived in Roswell, New Mexico shortly after noon. MINI had made arrangement for us to visit the International UFO Museum & Research Center. Brian and I breezed through fairly quickly. Most of the displays are news articles and documents relating to the Roswell UFO crash. I’ve been there before with Dad and I enjoyed reading the papers and looking at all the photos… Brian had been in the car too long and was in no mood for reading.

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We found a quiet spot for our picnic lunch and had just begun to eat when another lady sat down at a table near us…. And started ranting and yelling…. Not at us…. And I’m pretty sure she wasn’t on a phone either…. One too many alien encounters, maybe? I dunno. We stuffed our lunch in our mouths and got out of there pretty quick.

After a quick stop at Target to restock our picnic supplies (and get me a bit of chocolate) we were on our way to Lubbock, TX.

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At the Texas-New Mexico State Line Metroplex MINI of Dallas was there to welcome us to Texas.

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MINI didn’t have anything planned for our evening in Lubbock, but a group of MINI enthusiasts had organized a meet up at a drive in theater. I’ve been wanting to go to a drive in forever…. Especially since we got the Roadster,so I pretty much whined and begged until Brian gave in and said we could go. The movie doesn’t start until nearly his bedtime… I promised to only stay through the first movie…Rise of the Planet of the Apes!!!

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MTTS: Day One – Eureka Springs

We hit the road today… off to join the other MINI’s on the MINI Takes the States Road-Trip.  MTTS officially kicked off in California this morning, but we’re just going to meet up with them in Albuquerque, NM.  We’re doing our own little rallye adventure on our way to Albuquerque.

IMG_7223We stopped for lunch at the Parachute Inn Restaurant in Walnut Ridge, MO.  Since our family runs a little airport we thought it would be fun to visit other little airports within easy flying distance and say hello.  Walnut Ridge Airport is also home to the Parachute Inn which is a restaurant inside an old 737.  IMG_7211

The food was pretty basic; hamburgers, fried catfish, french fries… nothing amazing, but it was good.  It’s not like we were going there for the food…. we wanted to have lunch in the plane.  Inside it’s a regular 737 with about 1/3 of the seats removed and half the remaining seats turned around backward to make benches.  It was something different and quirky to do… I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to do it again, but I could see kids getting a huge kick out of it.  The food was good… a little slow… our french fries arrived after we’d finished our hamburgers, but they were nice and hot and the staff was all very friendly.  If you are looking for something unique to do and passing through this area I would recommend stopping…. I wouldn’t go way out of my way to visit… but if it was on your way it makes a fun little stop.

After lunch we visited with the people at the FBO and talked airports for a while.  They were super nice.  If you’re a pilot I would certainly recommend visiting.  Then you could have lunch at the restaurant!  They also have a museum on-site, but Brian was ready to get back on the road by then, so we didn’t get to check it out.

10514591_10152316096683668_4776309272802332004_nWe planned to spend the evening in Eureka Springs, AR and wander around in the historic district.  By the time we arrived I would have happily spent the evening snoozing at the hotel, but Brian knows (from experience) that if take a nap and skip dinner he’ll have a sick whiny-baby on his hands at 3 am.  Our hotel suggested a couple of restaurants that would probably be good for gluten-free and Brian and I chose FRESH: Farm to Table.  It was a really cute little place at the far end of the Historic Loop.  The food was really great!  Gluten Free Italian Pizza for me (about half way through Brian snatched my pizza and gave me his risotto) and Scallops and risotto for Brian.  For a restaurant that serves locally sourced, hand-made and all that I would have expected them to know more about which meals were gluten-free and which were vegan (I over heard them suggesting a chicken salad to a vegan at another table….).  Oh well, hopefully that is something they’ll work on.  The food was really good!

After dinner we roamed around town for a bit.  Most of the shops were beginning to close, so we just peered into the windows and checked out the natural springs around town.  Comparing Eureka Springs to Hot Springs, AR, I liked Hot Springs better.  Hot Springs had more art galleries and rock and crystal shops.  Eureka Springs seemed to have more of the generic tourist shops… stuff you can find anywhere.  Hot Springs also has more springs right along the main road that are easier to see.

I’d read about the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs…. it’s supposedIMG_7254 to be super haunted.  Brian and I opted to skip the ghost tour and take the self guided tour around the hotel.  I didn’t spot any ghosts…. nothing showed up on my camera either.  😦  The Crescent Hotel is interesting for a walking tour, but I am glad we didn’t stay there.  It is an old hotel and it is really showing it’s age.  The floors have dips and the stairs lean…. that made it creepy…. not the ghosts!

We finished up our tour of Eureka Springs by checking out a couple of the springs around town.  I, of course, started us out with one that was at the top of a million steps….. more or less.  Brian picked a nicer spring that was in a little cave.  We got a bit of time when there was no one in the cave and I got to play IMG_7244around with the camera and the timer for a bit and got some fun photos.

I’ve enjoyed Eureka Springs, but I prefer Hot Springs.  It was fun for the day, but I don’t think it would keep us entertained for a whole weekend.

Now for a good night’s sleep and on to more adventures tomorrow!