The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs reminds me a lot of my house. It's old, charming, but needs a lot of work. Whereas I have made progress on my house, the Arlington doesn't seem to show much interest in improving. The rooms are small, not much larger than my bedroom. The bathrooms are very tiny and cannot fit more than one person at a time. The shower head was annoyingly at chest level and worse, unlike most hotels with short showers, it was as a stall and not a tub so to get under the shower I had to squat and could not just bend over. The worst part, though, is the inability of the rooms to block sound. Not only do you hear your neighbors, you can hear other rooms, people in the hall and noises from outside. (addendum: I walked around one night and found that you could hear the lobby band playing as high as the fourth floor). Not surprisingly my disappointing evening was made worse by a lack of decent sleep.
Wake up Friday, finish my book, shower and head out to breakfast. When I'm traveling alone and looking for places to eat, my rule of thumb is to eat at the third place I come to that looks interesting. My reasoning is that the closer to a hotel the place is, the more expensive, the busier, and the lower quality it will be. Places just need to be adequate to draw people. By walking a bit I stand a good chance of finding something special. I start walking and pass a crammed place which I'm sure is where everyone in the hotel is eating. Go further down the street and find a tiny place where the only patrons are a group of men holding hands in prayer. Then I run out of potential places. Head back and walk the other way. No breakfast places in sight. Despite being a touristy area, hardly anything is open before ten and there is an absolute dearth of breakfast spots. So I go back to the tiny place called Country House. The men's group is leaving as I walk in. I'm the only customer. I find out later in the meal that this is partly due to their failure to flip their sign from closed to open. Once they fix this minor oversight, a couple of other people come in. I order the spinach and artichoke omelet. This turns out to be an omelet stuffed with something very similar to the artichoke-spinach dip you can get at chain restaurants around the country for an appetizer. Scattered across the top of the omelet are fried jalapeno slices. It was surprisingly tasty as was the rye toast accompanying it. Not exactly a healthy start, though, and too odd for me to want to eat it again. A different food experience, to be sure.
Return to the hotel for the conference. More people have showed but only one other who I have met before. The majority of the people are locals, a first for this meeting. We had two excellent presentations in the morning. The first, by Bill Ross, was on spring training sites in Georgia. Very nice, thorough presentation. Fred Worth, somewhat infamous for his passion for baseball necrology, talked about his grave visits in Iowa and Texas complete with photos. This is surprisingly more interesting and less grotesque than you would expect. Fred has visited the gravesites of over 1300 people involved with major league baseball. He told stories of some of the more difficult ones he has been able to find and the trials and travails of his interest.
From there we headed to lunch. We ate at the Brickyard Grill. I had the Brickyard Burger. Fantastic, delicious burger. Half pound of meat, fresh, not some patty, cooked medium rare (perfect) with lettuce, tomato, raw onion, sauteed onion, cheese and bacon. Side of really good handcut fries with mayo on the side (my favorite way to eat fries). With drink the bill was eleven bucks.
The local flavor of the trip picked up in the afternoon with some amazing stuff. But you'll have to wait to hear about until the third part of BOILING OUT 2010!!!!!