WE’D JUST returned from a three-hour haul back from Mountain Home when I had to break the news to our photographer, Arshia, that this month’s hometown destination—Hardy—was essentially the exact direction from whence we came. And she was going to need to drive there. Like, tomorrow.
“Honestly—I don’t mind,” she said with a shrug and a smile.
It was not the reaction I expected.
But the truth is, she doesn’t mind a drive. Maybe it’s because she logs quiiiite a few miles for the magazine on a monthly basis—she’s the only person I know who’s been to Lake Village, Bentonville and Jasper in the course of a month—but she actually looks forward to an Arkansas road trip. She turns off the radio. She opens the window. It’s quiet, she says—almost meditative. For a few hours, she just is.
It’s something I can relate to. Not so much the quiet part (I’ve got a toddler who’s fixated on Moana songs and a “chatty” 1-year-old), but the let’s-get-in-the-car-and-go part. I’m fine with the one-hour drive to Hot Springs for a pizza at Deluca’s. I don’t mind my monthly jaunt up Interstate 49 to my hometown of Rogers, particularly if I’ve timed it to catch the sun dip below the Boston Mountains. And I’m certainly OK with the two-hour trek up Scenic Highway 7—the same route that’s the backbone for this month’s cover story—to my beloved Steel Creek. In fact, I’ve been known to make it there and back the same day.
I didn’t tag along on the road trip Jordan writes about this month—because, you know, kids—but I was able to spend some time on the Sylamore Scenic Byway during that aforementioned Mountain Home visit. When we reached the byway, it was as if the mountains were taller. The White River was wider, bluer. I couldn’t believe I’d never, in all of my 30 years as an Arkansan, been on that road. Just when you think you know a place, when you’ve seen everything there is to see, Arkansas surprises you.
I hope this month’s issue will inspire you to be surprised, too. I hope you’ll forget the playlist, save the podcasts for later, open the windows and just be. Because when we live in a place this beautiful, it doesn’t really matter where you’re going.