WHAT ARE THE most famous names in American aviation?
Orville and Wilbur Wright, of course, and next would be Charles Lindbergh who made the first flight across the Atlantic and became an international hero.
I did not know that four years before his historical flight to France, Lindbergh made his first night flight right here in Arkansas.
This little nugget was made known to me by the Navigator who suggested that seeing the historical markers at the site would be a worthy Arkie Road Trip (Navigator, being a schoolmarm, had read in an actual book that at Lake Village — waaaaaay over in the Arkansas Delta — there was reputed to be a historical marker and a monument at the very spot where Lindbergh made this flight).
Lindy was ‘barnstorming’ his way across country toward Houston, Texas, April of 1923 (no other date given), when he developed engine trouble and landed in a field outside of Lake Village in Chicot County. The field was formerly a golf course, and the clubhouse was sometimes used as an inn.
The aviator fixed his airplane and offered the landowner a flight. Nope, he wasn’t interested. Lindbergh did give rides to a number of local people, and he accepted an invitation to spend the night at the clubhouse. After dinner, he noted that it was a very clear night and the moon was exceptionally bright. He decided to see the place from the air, and again he offered to take the owner up.
This time the man said ‘okay.’ They flew over the town and Lake Chicot and the nearby Mississippi River for about 15 minutes, and then landed without a problem.
And that was Lindbergh’s first night flight.
The Arkie Road Trip.
There’s no way of getting around this — it’s a four-hour haul across south Arkansas: Nashville to Prescott to Camden to Monticello to Dermott to Lake Village. Loretta, my trusty talking Garmin device, led us there.
We found the official Arkansas Welcome Center at Lake Village and they told us that we were actually very close to the flight site. We grabbed a sandwich, then drove up the narrow old river road. It never strays far from Lake Chicot, an oxbow lake that once was the channel of the Mississippi River.
Almost hidden between modest houses was a lot bounded by a low hurricane fence. Not much parking space. Several unlocked gates. There was a tall granite oblisk which noted Lindburgh’s flight.
And crumbled behind the oblisk were the ruins of the clubhouse.
And between the oblisk and the highway was a black metal historical marker which told a bit more about the event.
So, we made a four-hour drive to Lake Village, and spent a good 15-20 seconds taking pictures for Facebook and reading the inscriptions.
Then it was back on the road. There was something else we were looking forward to: A stop at the White House Cafe in Camden. This place has been around forever. It is several buildings linked together in an old part of town. At one time they bragged that they had practically every brand of beer in the world to wash down their famous Mexican dishes and steaks. Now, I don’t think their libations come from farther away than St. Louis.
The Navigator and I have made several previous stops at the White House. You’ll recall our Arkie Road Trip to Arkansas Post, site of Revolutionary and Civil War battles. You’ll recall our Arkie Road Trip to the WWII Japanese Internment Camp at Rowher. You’ll recall our Arkie Road Trip to see Civil War battle sites at Poison Springs and Jenkins Ferry.
What? You don’t recall. Well, those trips had something in common — a stop at the White House on the way home.
The owner of the White House recognized us and asked us where we’d been that Saturday. Wow, the Navigator really must have made an impression on the previous visits!
We yakked with the owner and her other customers for a bit, and we split an order of nachos. We got back on the road with hopes of getting home not too long after dark. And we would have, too, except that we saw a sign pointing down a narrow gravel road to the ‘Seven Devils Wildlife Management Area.’ Neither of us had ever heard of it, and that was precisely why we took a 30-minute detour.
Seven Devils was a serendipity (pleasant surprise). We’ve had a number of serendipitous encounters with people and places on our road trips, and we’ll probably have a bunch more.
One of my rules now, is that the road home must go through Camden. With a stop at the White House.
ANIMAL CRACKERS. In the tall dead grass of a pasture just north of Mine Creek Nursing and Rehab Center, recently, a magnificent Bald Eagle defended some kind of hidden carcass from other carrion-eating fowl. The white head and tailfeathers are stunning. The wingspan is incredible. Hard to believe that some people like to shoot at our National Symbol.
HE SAID: “Be strong in body, clean in mind, lofty in ideals.” James Naismith, inventor of basketball
SHE SAID: “It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it.” Amelia Barr, author
SWEET DREAMS, Baby