Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Non-Arkansans grab a map of Arkansas and locate AR State Highway 7 or connect to this link. It has been named among the 10 most beautiful drives in the nation and in 1994 was dedicated as Arkansas's first National Scenic Byway. 

Besides it natural scenic beauty there are numerous historic sites and winds through two mountain ranges, the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. The highway runs 290 miles north and south, virtually state line of AR/MO and AR/LA.

However, to me, the most scenic section is Harrison to Russellville, perhaps Hot Springs, AR. This section is central to this blog. It is noted for every kind of curve, switchback, and winding a road could possible have.

In my younger years in Arkansas I have driven the sections of the route twice, and it is, indeed, filled with vistas of great beauty.  Our Nation's first national river, the Buffalo River, meanders through this region.

When looking for autumn touring, this is the road to take. Be sure you have lots and lots of time. This is the autumn bus tour in Arkansas. It is also a favorite of motorcycle tourism.

About every 10 years, AR 7's beauty is beyond description. These are the years the slowly cooling temperatures, sun and rain cooperate in the right proportions.

However, it is not the drive for anyone wanting to make time to anywhere. Herein lies my tale.

Again, my best friend (BF) and I were coaching an Odyssey of the Mind Team with a district destination somewhere south, like Clarksville (maybe). This trip was later in our coaching careers from the previous post.

Since the basketball team was having a less than spectacular season, a bus and driver were available. The driver always determines the course, and decided Hwy. 7 was the shortest distance between two points, despite admonishing wisdom from several experienced drivers, teachers and coaches.

Obviously, the driver was suffering from some delusion by taking a bus loaded with restless students on such difficult drive. Or perhaps he had some goal he wished to be able to tell in his retirement. (He does now!)

The bus reached to our destination,  despite some of us noticing the bus did not seem to be churning along correctly. There were funny sounds, but then we were not mechanics and attributed it to the bus struggling with the extreme inclines and declines of the mountains.

Most of the students' parents approved the motion sickness medications. The few who did not, were provided "barf bags" similar to airline provisions with strict instructions  for use.

We had one female student who could "barf" on command; it seemed to be some neurological or psychological response. She is now grown and married with children. I shudder to think what morning sickness was like for her.

After competition ended, we allow students to eat wherever they wished. We usually stopped the bus where there were clusters of fast food restaurants. BF and I wisely picked the facility where the least number of students chose. We later learned above-mentioned student had one of her episodes in the land of Golden Arches.

Then we proceeded to return the route whence we came. Gone was the hope the driver realized the error of his decision. In the winter months this is a dark, lonely and sometimes very dangerous,road.

About one-third of the way home in pitch dark of the night, with a chug, wheeze and burp the bus quit, in the middle of nowhere. No amount of driver inspection could find the problem.

There was stunned silence. Then a few adults and driver disembarked the bus and stood waiting for a vehicle to pass. It was not very late but dark with no sight of any homes.

Meanwhile, the restless occupants first cry is? "I gotta go to the bathroom," or less polite indication of the same need. Actually, the murmur arose from both adults and children.

A few flashlights were found among the occupants and the bus. We organized ourselves in two's and three's same sex.

First, a group of adult women, holding hands, like a chain, went down the rather steep mountain out of view of the bus. They found a relative level ledge where we could relieve ourselves without rolling down the mountain, along with all the "whatever relief" which I assumed did continue downhill.

Then each student(s) group had one adult who had already made the journey down and up to the nearly designated outdoor outhouse---really really OUTDOORS. There were more students than adults, so some adults, really got a '"in the dark of the night" cardiac workout.

Obviously, this became something of a game with the kids. Otherwise, they had to sit in their seats and talk or sing. We did not care which as long as they stayed in their seats.

A car stopped which happened to have a student on the bus. The bus driver explained our dilemma. The car went to the nearest place where a phone call could be made to the superintendent to send another bus and call every one's relatives, including the adult's contact, like my husband, that it would be nearly 6 hours or more before we would be home.

Before you wonder why we didn't use cell phones, this is in the late 80s and early 90s. Few persons owned cell phones. Further the towers to connect the phones were few and far between. Where we were located telephones might have been a luxury and population was sparse.

Also, the parents in the car following us stayed with us, until the substitute bus arrived. Also one female coach's son on the bus had a very high fever.  So we had a backup he needed to be evacuated faster.

Finally, some 3-4 or more hours later, a substitute bus finally arrived. I lost count of the "pee" trips up and down the mountainside but I bet there is a dead vegetation spot there should we ever find it again.

We finally arrived at the school around 5 a.m.

At this point BF and I decided we would no longer ride the bus, but use one of our personal vehicles. We were coaches, no chaperones. We coaches had our own "problem solving" experiences, not dictated by Odyssey of the Mind.

We figured we could handle our own barfing (I took Meclizine) and peeing. We knew how to find restrooms, not open air, that handled one or two persons at a time.

As for nocturnal scenic drives, forget it; as I remember it was the dark of the moon....and cold. I could not find the spot today if my life depended on it.

NOTE: Best friend said the previous post was to state finals, not Russellville. I have corrected the previous post.


Arkansas Patti said...

Now that was funny, especially since I wasn't in the bus.
You had me jerking out my road maps in the beginning for a lovely road trip down Hwy 7. Now I know to spend the night and not come back in the dark. I might just find that "spot".
Shoot, I was in Harrison the other day. Little did I know.
Thanks Carol, I will put that on one of my first trips. I have covered a lot of Ar, just not that road.

Lisa said...

WOW! You know you have a Best Friend when you still have her after all these tales. Love these posts! They are so funny!

Hope your feeling well.


Amber Star said...

Oh my gosh! I laughed all the way through your story. I remember some hair raising trips with other people's kids but nothing like yours!

We have been planning a trip to AK and I'm going to show this to hubby about Hwy 7. We will traverse the road in the daylight, thank you. :)

Lorna said...

Group trips are one of my phobias. Haven't done one since I spent about a mile of the trip with my thumb stuck in the passenger door.

CHERI said...

I can so identify with this on two occasions. One involved a break down by our church bus while helping chaperone a two-week youth tour. We broke down somewhere in NY I think it was....hot as blazes! Another situation involved a very needed bathroom break while vacationing with some high school friends 2 summers ago. Nature provided the weeds to hide the make-shift "trash can" potty. It also involved some hilarious pictures we took of those involved!!!!

Lisa said...

Thank you for your wonderful comment. I am planning on leaving this post up for most of the week. I thought I would change the date and play along some of the daily memes. I don't have a very large group of readers and thought this might be a good way to get people to learn about this thing and the stigma we face and the facts: Smoker or not Lung Cancer is a terrible thing for anyone to have to face...along with any lung disease.

much love and hope your feeling well. xoxo, Lisa

lakeviewer said...

Those kinds of adventures look so much better years later. I bet you were all p.o, and swore never to take buses again.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday.

Anonymous said...

This was the most funny post I have read today.

Kat said...

Definitely a memory making trip!


Nezzy said...

Oh baby, I know the scenic drive well and it's truly not one ya want to take in a bus (or a car) in the dark! That said, my sides are achin' from all the laughter readin' your great post!

Ya'll have a beautifully blessed weekend now, ya hear!!! :o)

Small City Scenes said...

Certaintly not a funfilled trip---but is any bus trip filled with children 'funfilled'? I am sure this bus driver has long retired and may have after this last adventure. I did find a dead spot on the side of a hill--hahaha!!! MB

Dimple said...

Another great story! And another that is funnier to read about than it was to live through!