This entry is part 23 of 29 in the series Coast-to-coast: San Francisco to Savannah

April 23, 2024

Coast-to-coast: San Francisco to Savannah (Part 23)

By Simon J. Lau

This morning we visited Christ of the Ozarks, a giant monumental statue near Eureka Springs. Towering 67 feet tall, this sculpture portrays Jesus Christ with outstretched arms, overlooking the Ozark Mountains.

The statue is part of The Great Passion Play complex, where you can watch a large-scale outdoor drama portraying the last days of Jesus Christ, including his crucifixion and resurrection. (I did not partake in this.) Despite not being religious, I thought it would be neat to see the statue and the surrounding compound. Besides the giant statue, there’s a small church, covered seating, and an actual section of the Berlin Wall nearby. The section of the Berlin Wall was unexpected but interesting to see.

Afterward, we stopped by Eureka Springs, a town with a history closely tied to the development Victorian-era spa towns and a hub for healing. The city gets its name from the believed “healing” properties of the numerous natural springs in the area. Even before European settlers arrived, Native American tribes revered these springs for their supposed medicinal benefits. In the late 19th century, Eureka Springs witnessed a surge in popularity as people flocked to the town in search of the healing waters. Consequently, the city experienced rapid growth, with grand Victorian-style buildings erected to accommodate the influx of visitors. Many of these historic structures still stand today.

This town is also quite hilly! In fact, many of the buildings are nestled into the hills behind them, and there’s at least one (very sketchy) sky bridge. It was only after I walked across that I saw a sign that read, “Unsafe structure. Pedestrian traffic, use caution.” Not surprisingly, that’s exactly what went through my mind! If you’re wondering, I avoided this sky bridge on our way back.

Today, Eureka Springs is a huge hipster hangout, and it definitely has a very progressive vibe. (I counted no fewer than three Pride Flags and a peace flag flying high throughout Main Street.) It was like walking around the Castro District in San Francisco! I didn’t expect to find this in a small town in Arkansas. I just assumed that these places would be very conservative (which is what I’ve mostly encountered). Nevertheless, this was a pleasant surprise and nice to see!

Also, parking here was hilarious. They had numbered spots and this old school “payment” method. There was no way to track time; you just pushed quarters and bills into these slots and hoped that no one would tow your car. Still, there was no attendant and no way to really check if you paid. For instance, if someone who paid earlier in the day left, you could take that spot, and there would be no way to prove the money in this slot wasn’t yours. Generally, everyone paid (including me), so it’s pretty lucrative from the parking lot owner’s perspective. No need to hire a parking attendant!

In the evening, we arrived in Oklahoma City. All I can say is that I hate this place. I’ve encountered too many unsavory individuals and witnessed too many negative incidents in just one evening to think otherwise. The most alarming moment was when four police vehicles pulled into the Motel 6 parking lot and began searching the premises for a suspect. While I wouldn’t deem this place unsafe (besides my housing in Lafayette, I’ve generally prioritized safety), these experiences have left a bad taste in my mouth. Thankfully, we’re only here for one night!

Finally, our route from Branson and Eureka Springs to Oklahoma City (338 miles or 544 km).

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