In our last week of Hot Springs, AR we didn’t have great weather. Storms and a cold front came through. We found a break in the weather enough to do some other trails in the National Park. We started at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, which provides a 360 panoramic view of the whole area. You could see for miles and miles. It’s hard to get a great picture up there, partially because of the way the barriers are constructed. And, you certainly couldn’t get a photo that could give the experience any justice. From there, we hiked down the trail that leads to the Promenade in town.
Since the Promenade goes behind bathhouse row we took a 30 minute diversion into the Welcome Center which houses a free 3 story museum of a bathhouse that had been preserved in their original form. Probably most interesting to me was some of the gym equipment (or should I say contraptions?) they had for the baseball players up on the 3rd floor.
In my first post on Hot Springs, I mentioned how the baths drew baseball to town. The baseball players liked to drink and they would use the baths to detox before practice. What I didn’t realize is they weren’t talking about any particular team – ALL the major league teams went there for spring training. The town had everything they needed – nightly fun, they could hike them up and down the mountain and get them in great shape, the baths, and the players all loved it. Hard to imagine all the big names in one place all out carousing together for weeks on end!
I can tell you that I understand how that hiking kept them in shape, hiking back up to the Mountain Tower is a great workout! The kind where you hope your husband doesn’t talk to you because you can’t breathe enough to answer and trying to focus on what he is saying is too hard on top of what you are trying to accomplish 😉
We also had an opportunity to visit the Gangster Museum, which we both enjoyed. We learned back in the days of prohibition, the town was a criminal’s paradise. There were never bank robberies there because it’s where the bank robbers met up and vacationed. The town had major mafia presence, and the police were basically all on the take. So much so that the area Madame (Maxine Jones) said in one of videos there that if she got new girls she would put them on top of her convertible and cruise them up and down Central Avenue for publicity. Names like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, Tom Dillinger, etc all frequented and spent a good deal of time in Hot Springs. The reason was clear – it was the biggest illegal gambling town in the US, dwarfing even Las Vegas.
The hot springs also made a great place to manufacture moonshine. Capone ran stills inside of a dairy farm operation. There is a statue in town dedicated to a park ranger who was murdered when he came upon some bootleggers. Whether that was related to Capone’s operation, it is not mentioned.
Interestingly enough, Madame Maxine was the downfall of that era for the community of Hot Springs. In those days, not only were the police on the take but also politicians. She was a feisty woman and wasn’t going to be told what to do. She often helped individual policeman and others in the community when they were in need of money, but she wasn’t going to let them tell her she had to do anything. So, she made a fair amount of enemies. One particular officer she had problems with, allegedly planted some “dope” (no indication of what sort) in her bedroom during one of their many raids. She turned into an FBI informant under Hoover’s term. As a result, they were able to confiscate all the gambling equipment in town. About 3 days later, the corrupt police returned the equipment about the minute the FBI left town. So, they had to come back and do it all again, this time setting it all on fire.
This didn’t just lead to the decline of the illegal activity, the economy took a huge hit. In fact, it’s only been in the last few years that the town has fully recovered and started to grow again. As a result, when I saw Maxine’s book in the gift shop, I of course purchased it. If you are interested in it, let me know and I will mail it to you when I am finished (first come). I am not far enough in yet to tell if it’s a good book that I would recommend. It is definitely written in the way she spoke and gives her version of some of the events that were happening during the high crime days of the town. I will say so far her prideful way of looking at things and the way she justifies her actions is a bit grating to me. However, she was a top Madame, I would not expect her way of seeing things to match my own.
Since we changed our travel schedule and missed our middle point stop in Atlanta, TX, our drive to Livingston was longer than we normally drive at 5.5 hours. I drove the whole way but had a great night sleep and felt up to keep going. I had also gotten invested with a podcast in which Joe Rogan had Jewel on the show and I wanted to finish listening. She had such fascinating and impactful things to share. It was an easy drive with not much traffic until we got 30 minutes outside of Livingston. There was some sort of accident that had us at a dead standstill for about 3.5 hours. We sat and talked to our oldest daughter, Ivy for most of that time which made it pass pretty quickly.
It was too late to try and go to the state park so we camped in the Walmart parking lot. In the morning, we got up and had some breakfast and went in to stock our groceries. It’s kind of nice to be able to take your house to the grocery store and skip some steps!
Getting to Texas was a very big deal for us because it felt like the culmination of a goal. It’s where we cement our lifestyle as something we are adopting seriously enough to claim a domicile in another state. Also, we have been talking about that for over a year now so it feels momentous. If you missed earlier posts you might wonder why we are doing it at all. Most RV folks claim a domicile in Texas, South Dakota, or Florida. All three states make it easy to be nomadic, you just have to figure out the details of which one works best for you. We were between South Dakota and Texas because both states do not require you to come back every year to inspect your vehicles. We priced health and vehicle insurance in both and that did not seem to have enough difference to matter. Both offer no state income tax and very low property tax.
The two things that sealed Texas were:
1) The gun laws in SD required we stay 30 days before you could apply for a license. The timing of the year would have kept us in SD after snow flew and we are not interested in driving this big rig in those conditions unless we absolutely have to for some reason.
2) We simply felt we would be in the south more frequently and Texas would be more convenient in our ongoing travels. We are prone to stay out of areas that far North from late September until April. Texas is more accessible year round.
There is nothing here in Livingston, but it’s where the Escapee RV Club is located so there are more things geared towards helping you through the process. The state park we are staying is the main attraction listed on trip advisor, and it is one of the nicer places we have stayed.
Lake Livingston is the second largest lake in Texas. The trails are pretty short, but there is one we can access directly from the back of our campsite. So far, we have only ridden our bikes all around the park and on some of the trails. It has a really large fishing pier with a nice cleaning station. There is also a nice no-wake area for kayaking, which we will probably get out and do at some point. I spent almost an entire day in the hammock reading and it was glorious!
This week it’s the business of becoming Texans. I have been on the phone this morning getting insurance for our RV, motorcycle, and Truck. After we have that we get the vehicles inspected and registered. We were relieved to learn they do not require us to pay sales tax again, so the cost of doing this part is much less expensive than we were anticipating. Then, we get our new drivers license. In between, we plan to just have a low-key time here enjoying nature.
Houston is only a little over an hour south from us so perhaps we will make a day trip down on the weekend. We go to Galveston when we leave here in about two weeks, and we are looking forward to seeing the ocean for the first time this year! Right now because of the moon wobble, the tides there are very low so I know someone who is going to be stoked about what that means for his metal detecting prospects!
We have no other reservations after that, other than we made some in Austin in December to prepare for when our son visits during his Christmas break. (We picked that location because it had the best price on flights) I imagine after Galveston we will head to Padre Island for a few weeks or a month depending on rates. It’s usually far more inexpensive to pay by the month, but everything is a trade off. We simply do not think that we only want to go 12 places in a year. However, there may be times it’s worth while if we like the area and would like to conserve some funds.