US 70, Day 5: Hot Springs, AR - Jackson, TN



Before setting out today, I took a bath. The Majestic Hotel has its own mineral baths. You check in, put your valuables in a locker, then go into a room to disrobe. There are separate facilities for women and men. After disrobing, an attendant gives you a sheet to wear and escorts you to your tub, which is in a curtained-off partition. The water is drawn at 100F. The tubs are huge, and give you lots of room to stretch out. The attendant gives you a scrub down with a loofa mitt (which is yours to keep), and leaves you to soak for about 20 minutes. The tub has a whirlpool device to circulate the water. No soap is used. You get a couple of cups of the hot mineral water to drink.

The steam cabinet is next. Although they give up to 2 minutes, I got out after 1. It's about 140F in there. Next come the hot packs. Hot towels are wrapped around you, and you lie down for another 15 minutes. After that, you shower off. I also opted for the massage, which takes about another 20 minutes. The whole process takes a little over an hour. I have to admit it sure relaxed me. This whole process has been basically unchanged for a century here. Fancy baths, of course, go back to the Romans. The total price came to about $40.

The water comes from the hot springs that are in Hot Springs National Park. The land has been owned by the federal government well before the establishment of the park service. In the early part of the 20th century, a big industry grew around it. Bathhouse Row is a line of palatial bath houses built below the springs. Only one is still operating; another is open as the National Park's visitor center. The baths were seen not just as a way to relax, but to stay healthy as well. The advent of immunizations and antibiotics, along with the rest of modern medicine, started killing off the business in the 50s.

For those that want to drink it, you can buy souvenir bottles. There's a free faucet where you can fill it at one end of Bathhouse Row. There's also a drinking fountain, if you want to drink 140F water.

On the road again. US 70 merges into I-30 to go into Little Rock. No US 70 reassurance markers are posted. I-30 has two-way frontage roads along both sides, and is quite busy. One thing I noticed is that Arkansas doesn't seem to fence their freeways. Even in rural areas, Arizona puts a barbed-wire fence along the right-of-way. But even in this congested area, there's nothing on I-30. Were you really, really stupid, you could just stroll right across.

In Little Rock, the old route of US 70 branches off as US 70B (business). In North Little Rock, US 70 exits at the other end of the business loop and rejoins its old route just below the I-30/I-40 junction. From here on out, US 70 parallels I-40 fairly closely all through Arkansas and Tennessee.

There are a couple old iron bridges in eastern Arkansas, including a draw bridge! I don't think it's been opened for decades, though. It's very narrow -- I had to wait for a semi truck to clear it before crossing. A new bridge is being built upstream.

The landscape is slowly becoming greener and more forested, with some swampy spots.

In West Memphis, US 70 merges into I-55 to cross the Mississippi. The bridge was built in 1949 for US 70, and I-55 was overlaid later. It's four lanes, but a bit narrow and wide loads are prohibited. I stopped at a small park at the foot of the bridge on the TN side and explored it a bit. One thing you don't notice in your car is how much the bridge bounces under all those trucks.

I've been getting pictures of myself next to the state line "Welcome" signs using my camera's timer, but this one was a challenge to do safely. It's along I-55, which is narrow and has very heavy traffic. I ended up taking the picture from a road on the north side of the highway, with me in the foreground and the big "Welcome to Tennessee" sign in the background.

I-55 exits and US 70 goes straight ahead into Memphis. I did take one side trip down US 51. I stopped by Elvis's place, but he wasn't home. Actually, Graceland closed at 5 and I just missed it. I pondered staying at the Heartbreak Hotel (really!) or the Days Inn offering a guitar-shaped pool and an all-Elvis TV channel, but decided to move on.

Getting back to US 70 was a bit of a pain. Not only was I dealing with rush hour traffic, but also some really bad signage. I took I-240 back up, but getting on was a problem. There's a construction project going on, and the I-240 onramp is completely unmarked. Then, US 70 is not marked on any of the signs on I-240. I got off and fished around a bit on the local streets until I found it.

US 70 winds around the downtown area a bit then heads out into the suburbs. US 70A splits off at Brownsville. I stopped for the night in Jackson, TN. I found a motor court along US 45 near I-40, the Traveler's Inn, which is owned and operated by an American named Raju. (I should have asked if he had any leftover curry -- it smelled really good.)

I drove 347 miles today, for a total of 2018.

Next day: 8/28
Previous day: 8/27
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