The first day of the Billgrimage I covered Little Rock and Hope. Next stop was mine and Bill's hometown, Hot Springs. I realize not everyone has a passel of friends and relatives they can stay with so I played the tourist and stayed in a hotel. Not like this was the first time I've stayed in a hotel in Hot Springs. Let's face it, you don't always want to bunk with the family.
The hotel I chose was a bit of a controversial one, as it turns out. Being from Hot Springs I never thought about staying anywhere else except the Arlington. It also makes an appearance in the Billgrimage Passport as the place where Bill Clinton had his high school prom. I felt I was killing two birds with one stone. The Arlington is a very old hotel with a few quirks. The rooms are small; some have not been renovated to their full potential; and you actually have a real key for your door that's a bit of trick to use. I think the good far outweighs the bad. I like the old-school key, the lobby bar is a great place to sit and have a drink and listen to jazz pianist John Puckett who has been playing the piano in Hot Springs for as long as I can remember. It's also within walking distance to parks, shops, and restaurants.
I knew what to expect upon arrival and was actually quite pleased. My room was awesome.
They even gave me room on the front with a great view down Central Avenue.
Upon my return to Tennessee, I was telling people where I stayed and they were shocked! Apparently there are many people who have been to the Arlington who have had a less than stellar experience. Not just that they were disappointed, they were appalled! They cringed when I suggested that the rough edges were part of it's charm.
In the Arlington's defense, the people I spoke with visited many years ago when the hotel was under a previous owner. Still, I would caution potential guests that if they get to their room and it's scruffy, just politely ask for another one.
There is not a lot in Hot Springs that is an "official" site. The house that Bill grew up in is still privately owned and those poor people have to deal with tourists all the time.
There is the high school Bill attended that isn't a high school anymore.
And McClard's Bar-B-Q. The president used to have McClard's flown in to the White House and probably jumped started McClard's mail-order business. It really took off after Al Gore invented the internet!
I grew up eating McClard's BBQ but haven't had it in years. How long? This was the first visit when I have been old enough (or without disapproving relatives) to order a beer.
For me this plate of BBQ was like madeleines to Proust. This is the BBQ by which all other BBQ is judged.
Hot Springs really deserves it's own post. If you plan a trip there, schedule it when the horse races are in town and spend a few days. That's when everything gets hopping!
It was time to head north to the last city on the Billgramage, Fayetteville. It's a city that also deserves it own post. It's where the Clintons were law professors and where I went to college.
A view of Old Main at the University of Arkansas.
I stayed in the Chancellor Hotel which was a bit of a step up from the Arlington.
Northwest Arkansas has seen a boom in no small part to the corporations based there: WalMart, Tyson Foods, and J.B Hunt.
The Clinton House Museum is close to the University of Arkansas Campus.
When I arrived at the house, it was being refurbished. I got to the front and a woman with a paint roller in her hand yelled through the door, "Come on in! We're repainting but it's free." I squeezed my way past the drop cloths and furniture that was pushed in the middle of the room. The people didn't stop painting but still gave me a few tidbits about the house. The Clintons were married in the room that was now being painted a blue-gray.
Hillary's wedding dress was thankfully spared a drop cloth.
The kitchen cracked me up! Just like I had dropped in on a neighbor before they had a chance to tidy up.
Is this not the cutest thing ever!
When I finished looking around, I apologized for interrupting the painting and asked if someone would stamp my Passport. An overalled gentleman kindly put his brush down to go look for the stamp. Since everything had been put away it took him a bit, but he finally came out of a front room and with a laugh said, "Found it! It was in Bill and Hillary's bedroom closet." I told him it was my final stamp and he said, "You're done?" Then he called to his co-workers in the other room, "Hey ya'll she completed her Billgrimage. Give her a hand!" He looked at me, "You get a prize!" He rummaged in a cabinet and got the coveted William Jefferson Clinton pin.
Having traveled pretty much from birth to the White House, I do have a renewed appreciation for his accomplishments. Early on I don't think any of us doubted that he would be president one day, although my grandmother always thought "Hillry" was smarter. Who knows, maybe there will be another Clinton in the White House and we can all go on a Hillgrimage!