Today, I finished the long drive from LA to Nashville, a distance of 2000 miles (3600 km). It's a little further than driving from Cairns to Melbourne, on the coast road through Brisbane and Sydney. Doing that in four days didn't leave much opportunity for exploring off-interstate (unfortunately). I would have loved to dive off into New Mexico or Texas, or just about anywhere. Instead, I made the most of the places I stopped. Last night, that was Fort Smith, AR.
After the relatively dry expanse of the western states, it was instantly refreshing to come over the Arkansas River. Fort Smith sits in a loop of the river, and has a long history. I met lovely people here – I mentioned yesterday the staff of the Central Discount Pharmacy, and after that post I went out to the Fort Smith National Historical Site, where I've set a small scene from my next book. The sun was going down and the visitor centre was closed, but that was fine with me. I was just there for the riverside of the park.
On my way there, I happened to meet a wonderful group of primary school teachers celebrating the retirement of one of their members. They were looking for someone to take a group photo, but we were soon talking and it was lovely then to chat with them. They embodied the generous hospitality I've found in the south, and after travelling on my own for a few days, they really lifted my spirits. Thank you, Lana, and all your group!
After that, a short walk over the hill took me to the bank of the Arkansas River. At sunset, despite the proximity to the interstate and downtown, it's a tranquil place, inviting reflection and quiet. There's a moving monument for the Trail of Tears. I sat there for a long time, thinking about what it might have been like to leave the home you love for a horrific journey to an unknown place. How would I feel if I could never go home? It's too awful. And yet, these things are still happening in our world. Twilight lingered there for a long time, and then it was dark, and I went back.
Tomorrow, I have most of the day in Nashville for research, time for a breather from highway driving, before flying to New York in the evening.