Favorite Day: Saturday!
Remember when Saturday was fun?You would wait all week to wake up early for cartoons, no school and a day filled with just doing whatcha wanna. When did it become the day to do all that boring stuff you didn't have time to do during the week?
Having cool Saturday wheels helps. Mine is a turquoise blue V4 1967 Saab station wagon. My friend Jennifer Sagely Clement's ride is a retro-style cruiser bicycle with a basket on the front for her dog, Molly.
Also having a Saturday Posse is a good idea - like-minded friends, kids, grandkids, dogs ... whoever is willing to sing along. My Saturday partner is usually my sweetheart Vernon Atterberry, and sometimes, if we are lucky, our grandson Trystan. So today ride along with us on our happy day.
Wake up early. OK, so I know I have lost some of you on that one but really, the cartoons don't last all day.
Saturday clothes are de rigueur. I never leave home without my trusty magic bag that contains a wonderful old quilt, sketch pads, sidewalk chalk and, depending on the time of year, a swimsuit; or an extra jacket and hat. And most important, my digital camera and a tripod so I can use the timer and run around to be in the photos I am going to take of this crazy fun day.
Vernon is a devoted coffee drinker so often we will head straight to the Mecca of all things bean, Starbucks. I drink a vente green tea with an infusion of some exotic hibiscus elixir recommended by my favorite barista, Paul Riddle.
Hit the farmers market earlyWith caffeine flowing in our veins, we head downtown to the Fort Smith Farmers Market. Oh how I love the smell of goat cheese in the morning. Again, accessorize. Bring your own non-plastic bag to hold your purchases, all the cool kids do.
It’s really not about the produce. It is about the people. You will enter a land of passionate individuals inhabited by the Bee Man, the Tree Man, the Tamale People, the Purveyors of Humanely grown fresh eggs and goat cheese, all ready to tell their tales if you are ready to listen.
I get serious advice on vegetable and ornamental growing, as well as cooking advice: “Stir fry, stir fry!”
I even use the market as a Berlitz language class as many of these fine folks are from lands far away. I have been trying to learn to say “good morning” in Hmong for about three years. Don’t laugh, it’s harder than it sounds.
You may even want to try my version of paying it forward, a little thing my friends call “the farmers market fairy.” Simply pick up a few extras of whatever is the rarest treasure at the market this week – first ripe tomatoes of the season or a big bundle of zinnias – and very quietly place them on the porch of your special, still-sleeping friends. I love this part of the day.
HEAD FOR THe hills!
Remember, we got up early so we still have time to catch a hike before lunch. So hop in your version of weekend transport and feel the wind in your hair. My drive of choice is Old Highway 71 with its funky junktique shops and roadside “who knows what those people are selling” stops.
Just head north from Alma and get your Mario Andretti on. Let me say I have traveled the legendary road to Hana in Maui where rental cars are not allowed to drive and 71 can match it curve for curve.
To earn your lunch, turn your race car into the Lake Fort Smith State Park. This great park offers boat rentals, camping spots, a swimming pool and cabin rentals. The visitor center is a super place to bird watch or, if you are lucky, there will be one of many ranger-led programs. Vernon and I never miss a good ranger program and a chance to get out and practice our nature skills. He has a ranger badge from the Grand Canyon and I can make a whistle from an acorn thank you very much.
Take your walking stick as this state park contains the western terminus of the Ozark Highlands Trail.
After that fine hike we are ready to hit the road to Grandma’s House for lunch. So your grandma lives in Boca Raton and hasn’t cooked since fondue pots were popular the first time around? Well, have I got a new grandma for you. Just north of Mount Gaylor tower and the former site of Burns Gables Restaurant and its famous huckleberry pie is a new reason to make that drive for pie.
Elaine Bowlin, owner, cook and your new grandmother, rises before dawn to hand-craft some of the best “real food” I have ever eaten.
Open Thursday through Sunday, Grandma’s House Cafe offers a breakfast with homemade biscuits, cream and chocolate gravy, sausage, eggs made to order, bacon, old-school fried potatoes and more.
Lunch is our plan today, as I have my name on a piece of chocolate pie. On any given day you can choose from butterscotch, chocolate, cherry, pineapple, coconut, peanut butter or apple – even sometimes the rare raisin pie or oozingly good cobblers like blackberry or peach.
Suspend your notion of cholesterol and allow your foodie out to play. Today, Elaine may cook you the best fried chicken you have ever eaten, pork roast so tender you’ll slap your momma, okra, green beans cooked with bacon, brown beans with ham, cornbread, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade rolls – you get the picture. Come hungry and stick your head in the kitchen and say hello to Elaine, who is the kind of cook who loves to feed hungry people.
Catch the sunset in a relaxing place
Buttons busting, full as a tick, head back down the hill and if you have not picked up a child yet, now is the time. They will not want to miss the 2 p.m. Critter Crunch at the River Valley Nature Center. The park guides have turned feeding time into a looking-through -your-fingers scary, fun-filled event. The most dramatic creature would seem to be the rattlesnake but let me tell you, the fish feeding is not what you remember from grade school. Think “Wild Kingdom.”
The nature center has many more truly fun exhibits and programs from archery to canoe and kayak rentals in fair weather. You can check out a fishing pole at the center and even buy bait to take to Wells Lake, which is right outside, stocked with trout, bass and catfish.
Take a nice stroll around the lake or a more challenging hike on the trails up to what Vernon and I have named Deadman’s Hill.
Or maybe here is where that blanket you packed earlier comes in handy. Bring out the books and sidewalk chalk and stake out a spot on the grass as you watch the sun set over the lake.
Hey, thanks for coming along with me on this great crazy fun day!
I can’t wait for our next Saturday.