It Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time

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I'm a very independent person. But sometimes not as independent as I think I am. For instance, I don't think my blinds have ever been cleaned without me paying someone to do it. And I can't replace a light fixture by myself. Or change a flat tire. Or survive a whole weekend alone at a bed and breakfast. Let me tell you about my weekend…

So two stars aligned this weekend, and this resulted in me hopping in the car, alone, with a suitcase, my Bible, and a laptop. I discovered some time ago that a Christian speaker with a small, but national ministry I've been watching was going to be in this middle-of-nowhere town in north Arkansas. AND I needed some time away from my crack called Internet to really knock out some pages on the book I'm writing. Initially a few friends were gonna go with me to see said speaker, but that fizzled out. So I thought, “I'll go by myself to this rural town in Arkansas I've never even seen in my entire life. I'll get my brother's GPS and go stay in a B and B and just lock myself in over the weekend and write, write, write!”  And it really did sound like a good idea. In fact, on paper, it was pretty close to brilliant.

So I drive and drive and drive all Friday afternoon.

I passed the town that boasts the locally famous diner Sparky's.
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This became the name of a diner in So Not Happening, though in that book the restaurant got moved to Tulsa. I actually didn't have a good eating experience here, so I don't know why I decided to honor them with a mention. They should totally pay me. In cheese burgers.

So anyway, I drove, drove, drove. And as I watched my cell reception bars dwindle, this is pretty much all I saw the last hour of the trip.
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Then I arrive in Jasper, Arkansas (population 488), where I'm going to stay.
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It reminded me of Northern Exposure.

Especially because if you look down the street, you see huge snow-topped mountains in the distance. I expected a moose to walk down the road any moment. The B and B was over the Ozark Cafe restaurant. I get up there, and the room is great. Truly. But the view?
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In their defense, people don't stay here to hang out. They stay here to have a bed when they hunt or fish. Or write a book without the luxury of wi-fi.

Except for the fact that the bed didn't have a level spot on it, the bedroom was really nice.
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I thought the bath/dining area was a smart combination.
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The only thing better than a dining room table within reach of your tub would be a mini-fridge.

The town was quite rural. But with metropolis little touches like this.
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I totally related to Emma's Museum of Junk. I think I'm gonna start calling my “linen closet” the same thing.

I'm guessing this is an old movie theater.
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Anyway, I check in Friday night and hit the road again to make it to the even SMALLER town, where the speaker is at. On that 25 minute drive, I didn't pass more than 5 cars. And I had zero cell phone reception. None. And my GPS, who I decided to call KITT, was USELESS. It's very, very curvy (like barf bag curvy) over there, and more than once KITT would say, “Take a left. TAKE  A LEFT!” And I'm like, “KITT, if I take a left, I'm going off the side of a mountain.”  And yes, I did say this out loud. Because when you go by yourself to Jasper, AR, you kind of get desperate for someone to talk to. Even GPS systems who want you dead.

Did I mention it's VERY rural in this part of the country? Like check out these people's back yard.
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So I get to the church. And it's tiny. But super friendly. (Like the pastor remembered my name the next day. My own pastor doesn't even know my name.)  Do the church thing. Go back to Jasper. To the “B and B.” And I'm exhausted. So no writing happens. I go to bed. And at 4 am…I'm still awake.  I could NOT sleep. First of all, the bed was some weird blob of memory foamness. And then I was the ONLY one staying at this place. And did I mention I didn't have cell service? And I was still thinking about the tub/table combination. And they had cable channels I didn't (no phone, but they have HGTV!), and it was kinda creepy. And I wondered if somebody came in to get me, would they toss my lifeless body over the balcony and into the collection of boxes below? And it's an ancient building, so it made lots of creaky noises. And there weren't blinds on the bedroom window that faced the box dumpster. And no matter what I did, I couldn't get to sleep. And at 2 am, I had the entire plot for a novel that was going to simultaneously change the world and make me rich and famous.  By 2:45 I had completely forgotten it. At 2:59 I sat straight up in bed and said, “Omigosh! It's Adam Lambert! Adam Lambert sings that one song!”

And did you know at 3 am you can watch reruns of Modern Family? At at 3:30 there are at least three channels simultaneously running infomercials for Girls Gone Wild. (I'm not sure, but I think I saw one of our principal's on there.)  And I knew by 4 am that I would NOT be staying the whole weekend and getting lots of writing done. Because it's hard to achieve lots of writing when you can't even accomplish a little sleep.

So I got up that morning and went to the cafe below for breakfast. Which honestly was the most awesome part of my trip. As part of my B and B stay, I could order anything I want. (For someone obsessed with food, do you have any idea what kind of sick thrill this gives me?) I got an omelet the size of my table.
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It was supposed to have onions and sausage in it. And it did. Like WHOLE sausage patties. With the egg just flopped over it. It was like an egg blanket for a whole roll of Jimmy Dean.  And at least half a red onion. I kinda ate around that. And the cafe was a place where “everybody knows your name.” I wanted to stay there longer. It was some great people watching. There was one table of about 10 folks, age 20 something to 70 something, clearly not related, and they were regulars, as they sang happy birthday to the waitress, who they knew by name. I really wanted to know what their connection was. I was gonna ask the waitress, but I didn't get a chance to. So I decided they had all probably seen Big Foot in the surrounding hills, but nobody believed them, so they had made a club who met over breakfast every Saturday morning. Except I didn't hear them talking about Big Foot. But I did hear one guy talking about his prostate.

On my way home, I saw the remains of what used to be Dog Patch USA. If you were a child of the 70s or early 80s you might've heard of this place. It was an amusement park in the middle of nowhere (though a beautiful part of the middle of nowhere), and most kids who lived in Arkansas went at least once. It was supposed to give Disney a run for it's money. I don't think Disney had to even speed walk to keep up. Here it is before:

And after:
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That picture really doesn't do the decay justice. I didn't even know what I was taking a picture of until I got home and Snow Loving Holly told me. It's so depressing to see things from your childhood decay. Like theme parks. And the elasticity around your eyeballs.

So I fearlessly went on a road trip by myself. Then I not so fearlessly returned. No writing done. But I did get a firm picture in my head for the setting for my next YA series. And I spent some quality time with Blackie the Honda and KITT the deadly GPS.

Northern Arkansas–a great place to hunt. Or hide a dead body.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 22 comments
Nicole O'Dell - February 21, 2010

The tub/dinette combo was classic! 😉

Sorry you got no writing done…here’s to a new week!

Amy - February 21, 2010

That was hilarious! I love saving the best for last! 🙂

Madison - February 21, 2010


Madison - February 21, 2010

I totally think that GPS’s are evil so dont feel like your going crazy cause your not!!!

Micah - February 21, 2010

I’m totally a Dog Patch veteran, but definitely preferred the much classier Magic Springs. Haha!

Jenny B. Jones - February 21, 2010

It’s sad, isn’t it Micah? Have you seen it lately? This pictures truly do not do the decline justice. It’s just rows of shacks about to cave in. It’s awful. Made me sad.

Madison, it was a good thing i had directions printed off!

Amy, thanks, girl!

Nicole, yes, here’s to a new week. In my own bed. With cell service.

Salle - February 21, 2010

Don’t knock Jasper…they have some great canoe rental places….Now you know how i felt growing up in Clinton…a little bigger but same hometown feeling! lol

Jocelyn - February 21, 2010

I love living in Arkansas.

Ruth - February 22, 2010

Oh this post cracked me up – I needed that this Monday morning. The tub/dining combo was hilarious!

Jenny B. Jones - February 22, 2010

Sal, it is beautiful over there. Or would be if it was spring. And I’d love to go back when I can get on the water. And not have to spend the night.

Jocelyn, the funny thing about AR (or probably any rural state) is that you can be in a developed area (I live 20 minutes from Ann Taylor Loft, for crying out loud), then drive a few hours and be in a national forest that lasts for 2 hours of nothingness.

Ruth, I still think the mini-fridge (which they had) would be better by the tub.

Evangeline Denmark - February 22, 2010

I’ve been to Dogpatch USA! I think I even have a picture of me there.
I’m thinking the tub/dining room combo is something I need to implement in my own house. I’ve thought about feeding the kids in the tube before, just to save time on clean up, but why not the whole family?
My mom occasionally goes to cabins or B&Bs to NOT write. If you ever need an accomplice, give her a call.

Natalie - February 22, 2010

The bathtub by the table is high class! Pretty much the whole trip looks high class 😉 This post made me laugh so much. When I was in college, my bff and I went to Gatlinburg. The brochure said “Hot Tub in room” so we were thinking SCORE. But when we got there, we realized the “hot tub” was a heart shaped bathtub, in the corner of the living room, surrounded by mirrors. Uh…

Jennifer A. - February 22, 2010

This is HILARIOUS and that is why the Lord sent you on this trip. This is obviously the research you need for a future book.

I wouldn’t base your inability to write at a B&B on this experience. Actually, I’m frightened of the idea of calling this a B&B. But if you ever do decide to go the route of killing someone and hiding a body (fictionally speaking of course) – you may want this to be your setting.

The view is classic! I don’t think I’ll ever complain again about any kind of view from a hotel window.

Jennifer A. - February 22, 2010

Also, your cell phone service experience is similar to one I’ve had.

Years ago my hubby and I went to Anchorage, Alaska and then drove 2 hours to Seward for whale watching. We had rented a mini-van that only had a radio. So as we started our twisting, turning adventure through the mountains I put the radio on “Scan” to find a station. The radio “scanned” for the entire trip! No music ever came through that radio, but Ben and I were able to sing every camp song we’d ever heard in our lives.


Danica - February 22, 2010

Next time just come see me!

ashley - February 22, 2010

As I read this post, I kept thinking what food would I place on this table so that I could eat it and sit in a bubble bath at the same time??? Something with gravy, definitely.

Erin McFarland - February 22, 2010

Now I know FOR SURE that Arkansas is on my destination list!! 🙂 The Dogpatch USA graveyard is a little creepy… but that omelette looked awesome! I will travel far and wide for good food. And Emma’s Museum of Junk?!?! Golden. I bet there’s a priceless Picasso lounging around there somewhere. As always, awesome, hilarious post… totally needed to laugh after scrapping the beans off the floor that my kids decided they didn’t want for dinner! So glad i found your blog!! And I am terribly curious about the novel that was stirring in your brain with all that rad visual inspiration around you… especially the view from your B&B window… i’m thinking horror with a Hitckcocky feel 🙂

Cathy West - February 23, 2010

Um. Wow. Now that I’ve stopped laughing long enough to see the words I’m writing, here’s a thought. Next time you want a writers retreat, call me. Come to Bermuda. It’s warm. (Please ignore the mass expanse of gray cloud hanging over the ocean and the fact that I can’t feel my toes right now). And we have really nice accommodations. I can’t guarantee a cooked breakfast, but isn’t that what restaurants are for?

Dana - February 23, 2010

This is so funny. I just discovered your books and website…. I will for sure be reading your next blog!

Joe McClung - February 24, 2010

Have a great day at Dogpatch USA!

Ohhhh Jennifer, the things you missed NOT growing up in North Central Arkansas….Been to Jasper several times, it reminds me of Mountain View a lot.

Gina - February 26, 2010

What an adventure! And what great stuff for fiction, though I’m aware it was not. I just went across town to a hotel to write and cranked out 10,000. Hotel a little third-world luxury, but nothing note worthy to report! But I’ve done the creepy hotel thing before, nothing with the bathe and dine combo though!

And your no cell phone service has got me thinking about my two week cross country road trip BY MYSELF trip this summer. Will have to remember not to stay in any out of the way places!

Angie M. - February 27, 2010

Hey Jen, after reading you went to Jasper, i had to read your blog. Our family goes to vacation in Boxley and it is pretty much the same way….desolate. The way my man likes it. Seeing the DogPatch pic, i’m sad now. I loved that place! Anyway, I just wanted to say i am glad you made it out alive, didn’t have to shoot anyone with a bow/arrow, meet anyone with green teeth, or find yourself floating facedown in the Buffalo. Proud of you. Go in the summer, the swimming is great.


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