After settling into the Best Western, a clean hotel with a beautiful pool, very friendly staff, and great breakfast we went into downtown Hot Springs to walk around and find a place to eat dinner. We settled on the Grateful Head for pizza, sitting in a gorgeous green setting out back that made us forget we were in a busy downtown area.
We then worked our way down Central Avenue, the main street, enjoying the cooler evening and local beer.
The next day we stopped by the National Park visitor center, housed in one of the refurbished bath houses built in the early 1900's so that tourists could take advantage of the thermal hot springs. We walked along the Grand Promenade, tasted some of the thermal spring water at 140° in a water fountain, and gingerly stuck our fingers into hot water bubbling up out of the ground. The area was preserved in 1832 before the concept of national parks existed and officially became a national park in 1921.
Our next stop was the Quapaw Baths and Spa, where we tried out the various thermal spring water baths with temperatures ranging from 95° to 104 °.
Ready to get back on the bike and continue our trip east, we left Hot Springs at 7:30 am hoping to beat the worst of the heat and humidity plus potential thunderstorms. Once again we used our Butler Motorcycle Map to help us choose a route, heading south on AR 128 to take advantage of the winding, curving 2-lane paved road shaded on both sides by trees.
We then let the Garmin choose the route to our hotel in Natchez, Mississippi on a variety of 2-lane, 4-lane, and divided 4-lane highways. We crossed into Louisiana, our 5th new state, at the aptly named Junction City, which straddles the state border and has two city governments, one for each state.
Today's trip took us along curving roads through forests and then into more open farmland. The elevation dropped to under 100' above sea level while the humidity continued to rise.
We turned east and crossed the Mississippi River from Vidalia, Louisiana into Natchez, Mississippi and checked off our 6th new state.
We spent 7 hours traveling today and were lucky that the temperature never rose much above 90° and that the clouds never transitioned into thunderstorms. At the Roux 61 seafood and grill restaurant just up the road from our hotel in Natchez, we skipped the fried alligator appetizer and shrimp and alligator cheesecake. Mike enjoyed a blackened hamburger, I had the special fried catfish with crawfish étouffée, and both were absolutely amazing.
Tomorrow we continue southeast to the Gulf coast in Alabama, and plan to walk on the white sand beaches, wade in the Gulf, and enjoy seafood before we continue our trip north. Here is our route from Durant OK to Hot Springs