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Our 2014 Family Vacation - Day Three Little Rock Zoo and Gone With The Wind Mill
Little Rock, Arkansas
Well, we're here. No traveling this morning, just a few minutes moving about town seeking different things to see and do. First up is breakfast. Another free breakfast provided by the motel. Not as good as the previous one, as the orange juice was warm and watered down, the waffles stuck in the waffle maker, and while there was biscuits and sausage there was no gravy. What?! We are in the South and no Gravy!?!? Say it ain't so, Joe! But it is, it is. But we shall persevere.
A leisurely breakfast and a later start to the day allowed us to miss most of the inner city traffic as we moved north towards the Little Rock Zoo. Being members of Springfield's Dickerson Park Zoo Friends of the Zoo allowed us to save 50% on our entry costs to this zoo. So, in we went full of expectations and anticipation. We headed to the left in order to view the Great Apes in this zoo. There were several Gorillas to be seen and an Orangutan or two. This zoo had large enclosures for their animals which more closely simulated the natural habitat of those who are held within. But immediately we met with a closure. The pathways were blocked and it appeared that the area was closed to the public. Disappointed, we turned and attempted to find another way to the Great Apes area.
After consulting the map we worked our way around and came in from the back side. There, we saw them. Majestic, noble and incredibly beautiful in their own way, we spent time watching the Orangutans and then the Gorillas. There was one older silverback alone in a large area, and a family in another. This enclosure held a male silverback, an older female and a mother and baby. It was spellbinding to watch these creatures as they went about their business, eating the food provided to them and climbing up and down the structures placed around their area. In particular I was struck by the intelligence evident in the older silverback's gaze when he looked my way. It is strange to feel unaccountably sad and tremendously excited at the same instant, but that is what I felt when watching the Gorillas.
We left the Great Ape displays and wandered about the zoo. I must say something here: there are pathways which intersect one another throughout the zoo, but in order to view every display one must almost travel around the zoo twice; there is simply no way to see everything on one trip around. The pathways and divided areas preclude this from occurring. So, we did the best we could on the first time around then consulted the map to see what we missed and went back for them.
There were bears, big cats, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, elephants, along with smaller animals such as birds, reptiles, and various mammals. We wandered to and fro, seeing, snapping pictures, and generally just enjoying ourselves immensely. There were four baby tigers in one enclosure with their mother and they were just like little kittens that weighed in at close to a hundred pounds. They stalked one another, pounced, rolled around snarling and biting one another in a rough and tumble play reminiscent of their much smaller cousins.
The first time we went through the big cat area we saw only one leopard, no cheetahs, two lions and five tigers. The second time around a black leopard was with the other leopard and a couple of cheetahs were out and about. The tiger enclosure had added water to a heart shaped pool and the young ones were playing in it. They would take turns sitting in the water while another one stalked and pounced on the one in the pool, then out they came running about chasing one another. It was amazing!
Our trip through the zoo took the better part of three hours and every minute was well spent. But it was time to move on to the next adventure.
The Old Mill in North Little Rock
From the zoo we headed across the Arkansas River into North Little Rock. We found ourselves driving along JFK Boulevard and turning right into a nice little neighborhood. We were searching for something straight out of a fairy tale, something from seventy-five years ago. We were looking for an old mill that was used in the opening sequence to the classic film Gone With The Wind. This mill was built in the early 1930's and was never a functioning mill, but it is made from rocks and concrete which was designed to look exactly like a real mill from the past.
After a bit of searching we found it, and it was unbelievable. Literally set in the middle of a neighborhood (which grew up around the mill, I suppose) and situated between two small lakes (or large ponds if you prefer) the mill is absolutely beautiful. Flowers, landscaping, water it has it all. It is free and open to the public and the public uses it. People come to have picnics, take pictures for weddings and just about any other excuse imaginable. We stood in awe in what appeared to be the exact place where the filmmakers some seventy-five or six years ago stood to capture that moment which is forever held in that immortal film about the Old South.
We wandered around the mill, crossed a couple of bridges made to look like logs and into the mill itself. Inside are remnants of old grist mill stones and stairs which will lead you up to a second level and allow you to have a view which is beyond words.
Back outside is a bathroom facility which has a plaque on the exterior wall commemorating the deaths of some troops which were in training during WWII and drowned while crossing the river in a boat. History captures your soul here and keeps it, allowing you to travel between the mid 1800's and the 1940's. If you allow your imagination to wander just a bit farther it will take you to a world which is no longer in existence, one which truly is Gone With The Wind.
We felt badly for our eldest daughter who was back at home caring for our pets as she absolutely loves Gone With The Wind both in film and in print. She studied the author Margaret Mitchell and has even written some articles on her. We sent pictures back to her but wished she could have been with us for this moment; of all of our children she would have enjoyed this the most.
- The Old Mill and Gone With the Wind
Visit North Little Rock's old mill. Although it really isn't that old, it was featured in Gone with the Wind and delights Arkansans year round.
After leaving the Old Mill we headed back to the Arkansas River intending to visit the Maritime Museum there. We were unable to find the parking area associated with the museum so parked a couple of blocks away and walked along the river to the museum itself. When we arrived we found it closed for that day so were unable to do anything beyond look at the paddle wheeler housed there, which will take people out for a lunch or dinner cruise on the river; a WWII Tugboat; and a submarine which saw service in WWII and the Korean War. I would have really liked to have been able to visit it but the timing wasn't right.
After crossing the river we found our way to the River Market area, intending to eat lunch and do some shopping. We paid our fee to park and began wandering around, just taking in the sights. Outside were numerous vendors selling anything from fruits and vegetables to knick knacks and clothing. All were reasonably priced and tempting but we decided to eat lunch first then shop.
While walking along I detected a delicious scent, a scent of wood smoke. BBQ! But after wandering around there was nothing to be found. I spied a man coming out of a doorway on the building adjacent to the market and had an idea. I herded our family in the direction of the doorway, moved through and found I was right. Inside were a large number of eateries selling BBQ, pizza, Indian food, Thai food and just about any cuisine you can imagine. Smells competed with one another for the right to enter our olfactory detectors and they were all wonderful.
We wandered along, looking here and there for something to excite our tastebuds. After some fifteen minutes the girls decided on Eastern cuisine while Caleb and I headed for a pizza and BBQ stall. Caleb ordered a slice of cheese pizza with a drink and a bowl of ice cream while I chose genuine Arkansas pulled pork on a bun, chips and a drink. The servings were generous, the prices reasonable. The first bite of my sandwich was like heaven. The pork melted in my mouth, a subtle BBQ complimenting the flavor. I closed my eyes and savored it, until Caleb asked "Hey, what's your sandwich taste like?" I could not deny him a taste, and his reaction mirrored mine. "Wow! That's great! Can I have another bite?" So, good daddy that I am, I shared the sandwich with him while he alternated bites of pizza and BBQ.
Tina and Bailey had egg rolls and rice and were satisfied as well. After finishing my lunch I took Caleb back to collect his ice cream and told the owner that this was perhaps the best BBQ pulled pork I had ever had. A genuine smile appeared on his face as he relayed that it was always nice to hear that from a customer; that is what they strived for. Well, he hit the nail right on the head with this sandwich!
We went back outside and wandered the stalls again before Tina purchased some beautiful tomatoes, some pecan brittle (think peanut brittle with pecans instead of peanuts) and Bailey asked for some peaches. Again, the prices were good and the food even better. All in all, this was a truly wonderful interlude in our day.
- Arkansas Live Music - Arkansas Artists - Little Rock River Market
Little Rock’s River Market is a haven for great food, talented Arkansas artists, unique shopping and swingin’ Arkansas live music. Check it out!
Arkansas Game And Fish Museum
We headed back towards the river to visit the Arkansas Game And Fish Museum for a while. It is another free location and has some wonderful exhibits. Inside is a running stream complete with fish and turtles along with some mounts of various birds and mammals. There is even a little mock shack in the rear showing how the early people in Arkansas hunted, fished and trapped. Elsewhere is a wall full of old fishing lures featuring lures that look more like art than something to fish with.
We halted in front of a large window the height of the almost two story wall and gazed out towards the river. There was a variety of bird feeders there attracting numerous types and species of birds, including one of my wife's favorites, the Red Wing Black Bird. We settled on the chairs strategically located there and watched the birds, even adding a few species to the logbook there for visitors to help keep track of what birds come avisitin'.
We were getting pretty tired but I was intent on dragging my family to one more location not too far distant from where we sat.
Arkansas Museum of History
We headed west a couple of blocks, then south four more. I consulted my map and found I was lost. Not really, but what I was searching for was not where I was looking. After a couple of miscues we found the Arkansas Museum of History.
This museum is slightly different from others in that it constantly changes out displays. Currently it held a large Bowie Knife display, some pictures of turn of the century Arkansas and upstairs, a Native American display that was spectacular. We did not have the time to do this location justice and were forced to hurry through it but we took time enough to see some wonderful examples of art.
Outside the museum were several buildings dating back to the early 1800's and available for walking through if we but had the time to do so. Ah well, one cannot do everything one wishes to do in a single day in town.