Traveling parts of the US at winter approaches can be risky. Snow can create flight delays or hazardous road conditions. Add to that fewer hours of daylight and it gives me more reasons to curtail wrap up my county collecting travels for the year by early November. Back at the end of September, I reckoned I could make a trip to southern Missouri and northern Arkansas in November and still have a reasonable chance of experiencing good weather. It almost worked out that way.
I flew to St. Louis on a chilly Friday evening and rather than stay near the airport, I decided to spend the night closer to the beginning of my planned route for the weekend. The TownePlace Suites in Fenton, MO is typical for the brand. Nothing to write home about. In fact, there wasn’t much noteworthy as I drove through southeastern Missouri and into Arkansas. Oh I made plenty of stops at the various county seats along the way, there just wasn’t much to catch my interest. That was until I reached the city of Pocahontas, Arkansas. Stilling in front of the county courthouse, complete with a fence to keep visitors away (safe?), there is what purports to be a meteorite that landed north of town in July 1859. It even has a placard explaining the impressive details. Trouble is, it’s not a meteorite. Scientists have analyzed it and determined it is just a normal, earthly rock. I guess when it comes to boasting about unique attractions, science doesn’t count. Despite the fancy plaque and prominent display on the courthouse grounds, sometimes a rock is just a rock.
That evening, I stayed at the relatively new (opened December 2018) Courtyard in Jonesboro, AR. Decent property on the north side of town. The last time I passed through this way (March 2016), the only Marriott property was a Fairfield Inn just of I-555. Of the two, the Courtyard is much nicer, even if it is less centrally located.
Sunday turned out to be a lovely day for driving. I left before sunrise (easy to do this time of year) and wound my way through parts of Arkansas and Missouri finally ending the day at the Fairfield Inn near Fort Leonard Wood. There was still some fall color in the Ozarks and parts of my route wound through the Mark Twain National Forest, so the scenery was nice. Much like Saturday, there weren’t too many interesting sights to photograph along the way. I did spot this 12ft tall raven statue in the town of Ravenden, Arkansas.
Sunday night the weather changed. Instead of the warm sunny weather of Saturday, it was cold and rainy with snow coming later in the day. I came so close to completing this trip without having to contend with bad weather. Oh well, I could handle a little snow. The scenery in the Mark Twain National Forest was still great, but the rain and gray clouds made it seem less vibrant than the day before. By late afternoon, the snow arrived. While flipping stations on my satellite radio, I heard a few Christmas songs. With the weather outside so frightful, I found those tunes delightful (sorry, I couldn’t resist). I only had a few counties left to visit, so I continued on with my route, albeit at a slightly slower pace.
I had planned to be back at the St. Louis airport 2-3 hours ahead of my scheduled departure so I could grab dinner before my flight. The combination of winter weather and rush hour traffic in St. Louis messed that plan up entirely. Good thing I had allowed such a cushion in my schedule. By the time I dropped the car off and got through security, it was barely an hour until flight time. Still I managed to grab a quick bite and boarded the plane on time. Despite most of the passengers being seated for an on-time departure, the winter storm had delayed a couple dozen folks connecting from other flights, leading to a slight delay. Even after all them boarded, we would have been ready to depart roughly 20 minutes late except we had to wait for their luggage. From the time I took my seat to the time the boarding door was closed, over an hour had passed waiting for connecting passengers and their bags. Ugh! Thankfully, it was a non-stop flight home, so the delays just meant arriving home late. My biggest gripe was the lack up updates from the pilots and flight attendants.
Still, other than that flight delay, the trip was fine. I visited 32 county seats in 31 counties. Arkansas is one of those states where some counties have dual county seats. I visit both when such situations arise, as it did in Clay County on this trip. Here are the before and after maps. Much of the area visited on this journey I had never traversed before. I had passed through a few of the Missouri counties many years ago, long before I began collecting postcards from the county seats. More importantly, I filled in a big gap I had been meaning to address for a couple years. I'll do a more thorough explanation of the colors on the maps in a future post (for those who haven’t seen them before or may have forgotten).
Now that the weather is getting worse, my county trips for the year are probably over. I might be able to sneak in another county this weekend in Texas. If not, the next blog entry will be my Year in Review which I will post in mid-December.