This year with Evan working a couple of summer jobs and with us having bought a third car it seems we may not have an elaborate vacation if we take a vacation at all so we figured "what the heck" and we drove over to Mel's brother Steve's place near Fayetteville for the weekend.  It couldn't have been any better.

Russ and Berkeley were there and we almost never get to see them since they live and work in Telluride and always get busy during those seasons when we have time off.  I mentioned to her how impressed I was that she had enough 21st century know-how to check Amazon for a wish list when she drew my name at Christmas.  It seems that she actually asked Erin and Erin pointed her to that.  That's Erin for you:  working in the background to make things happen. 

The kids were actually kind of bored since all we did was go outside onto the yard under the big oak tree and sit on the swing and talk but that was the perfect thing for me.  We all did that most of the day until it got hot at which point we migrated inside and continued to talk.  And eat.  There was enough food there to feed an army and we did our best to eat all of it.  Finally, I got up and took the kids for a drive.  I used to drive highway 71 from home to Fayetteville about six round-trips a year and each time I passed a place called "Artist's Point".  It's right along a ridgeline that presents vistas on either side.  Right at the point there is a little souvenir shop that I've always wondered about and finally this weekend I drove up there and stopped.  After 20 years, I finally stopped.  It turns out they've been there for 50 years so I needn't have hurried.  They are the typical delightfully tacky souvenir shop selling jellies of all flavors, polished rocks, arrow heads, hillbilly knickknacks, fudge, divinity, and soda pop.  The whole store sits on stilts on a very steep slope so that the back window gives you an eagle's eye view of the valley with Lake Fort Smith at the bottom and dense hardwood forests in between.  It was great although I didn't buy anything.  My kids are finally getting old enough that they don't walk into a place like that and want a bunch of stuff.  Ironically, I find that I'm more willing to buy now that I don't have to; I guess I'm just getting sentimental now that they're growing up.  But they still didn't want anything – not even the fudge so we left empty handed. 

But, back to the porch swing:  it overlooks Steve's pond and is the most perfect place to relax – ever.  I could have stayed there a week.  We got up on Monday morning though and took a hike down the road to the end of his property and then up through the woods to the back side.  That was enough to wear me out – shows me just how out of shape I am.  We then got in the car and drove the 10 miles or so to Devil's Den state park and the kids explored the cave.  I elected not to crawl around in there – I've done it before and somehow it didn't have any appeal to me any more.  I probably should have gone in anyway for the bonding experience but they went together with Audra and that seemed OK too.  I stayed outside and babysat the dog Marcus.  Marcus the American Dingo or whatever.  He's nice enough but looks like he would just as soon eat a baby as he would his Alpo.  Apparently, last week he found a baby deer and dragged it up to the house alive.  So for a few days, they had an infant deer on their hands until they could get it to the rescue organization. 

Devil's Den was fun but it began to get hot so we went home to eat some more.  Finally we had to come home.  That's always a grim experience whenever we've been off having fun.  Steve's house is on such a pretty piece of property that you want to just stay there, swing, and eat watermelon.  But I guess you can't do that forever.