The William J. Clinton Presidential Center
Another hotel breakfast, again OK. The hotel was good with a reasonable rate for a place so close to downtown. Out into the sunshine after checkout and it’s already very warm indeed. By midday it will be 90º F and not a cloud in the sky. This morning I’m visiting the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, or Library as they’re often called.
Never having been to one of these places before, but knowing of them, when Little Rock came into view during trip planning as a potential overnight stop on the way to Texas, I researched what was there. I discovered not only the apparently buzzing River Market area for nightlife but also the Presidential Center. One TripAdvisor review of the latter said “Go visit, even if you don’t like Clinton, this Library is very well done.” This seemed a good enough recommendation to me. And here I am.
I spent just under a couple of hours inside. I didn’t read all of the exhibits in great detail as much was devoted to specific policy initiatives, which not being American didn’t interest me that much. But overall the place does give a good view of Clinton’s achievements, at least to a non-US person. I’m not going to comment on the domestic pros or cons of his time in office but he was an influential world player when it came to global conflicts like Bosnia and Northern Ireland, significantly affecting the outcomes.
His claims of domestic success as laid out in the Center seem good on the surface but again I’ll leave it to others to pass judgement. I wondered beforehand about whether it would be mentioned, but the Monica Lewinsky scandal is not ignored. However there is little detail about her or what went on with her, or onto her dress. 😯 The references around the topic are about the impeachment and Clinton’s subsequent acquittal. It would be almost impossible to ignore those elements of his presidency when creating his Library, so the root cause gets a fleeting mention.
The Presidential Center was a good place to visit for me, I enjoyed it and learnt things. So for non-US folks I certainly recommend it. US citizens will of course make their own minds up on whether to visit based, I guess, on their personal political leanings.
On The Road to Dallas
Back outside into the hot sunshine and I head out of Little Rock on my way to Dallas, Texas. It’s about 320 miles and I could not find a non-Interstate route that wouldn’t take ages. Hence I’m on I-30 W, driving due west. The other issue of course was that with the Center visit I’d be setting off later than normal (at 12.30 pm actually), and not at the usual 10.30 or 11 am, so I’m kind-of late, plus it’s a long drive in miles.
The road’s not too bad from a scenery point of view. There are some rolling hills to negotiate and I drive through some heavily forested areas, which the road cuts through. It’s generally straight and fast though with a speed limit of 75 mph, with many folks driving faster than that. So it’s across the heart of Arkansas and into Texas. The temperature hits 94º mid-afternoon.
There are the usual problems with lane hogging again, especially by truckers. Or they decide to overtake when going uphill and only doing 2 mph more than the truck in front. I’m amazed there aren’t more accidents give the appalling driving skills I’ve witnessed so far on this trip by some truckers. I just try to keep out of their way; some of them are complete maniacs with no consideration of other road users.
The traffic density increases approaching Dallas, unsurprisingly, but I’m finding Google Maps to be incredibly accurate at predicting delays due to congestion, as well as arrival times. It seemingly calculates all the various sections of road where speed limits change. It’s also amazingly quick to re-route if you make a wrong turn or there’s an accident ahead. One time I was in a queue due to a truck stopped in the central median strip with a tyre blow-out, but Maps said to stay on the Interstate because it was still quicker than any alternative routes.
I arrive at the Hotel Indigo Dallas Downtown around 5.30 pm. After dropping my bags with the valet I drive a couple of blocks to a 7-11 I’d scouted out, in order to buy my breakfast. I know there’s a fridge in the room so I buy the next two morning’s food as there is no breakfast included in my rate here. Back at the hotel there is no parking on-site but there is a public multi-storey directly opposite, so it’s not too bad. As I walk back after having parked, it’s still very hot at nearly 6 pm, around 90º F. But there is also some really oppressive humidity making it really sticky, almost uncomfortable.
The receptionist on check-in is not very friendly and tells me nothing about the hotel’s facilities. Such as you can pay for breakfast in their restaurant. Or that there is a free minibus shuttle to take you anywhere within a 3 mile radius. I discovered this myself when I dropped my bags with the valet but it would have been nice for the receptionist to have mentioned it. The room seems OK as I walk in but on closing the curtains later it appears that I’m looking out across a back alley onto other hotel rooms directly opposite. What a weird layout.
An hour or so later I walk back down to the valet desk to get the shuttle to Deep Ellum, the entertainment district. No chance, I’m told. Despite these same guys saying earlier that all I needed to do was walk down, with no need to call ahead, and the shuttle would take me anywhere, they now say it’s a minimum 20 minute wait. There’s a college football game on and the shuttle is ferrying hotel guests to and from the stadium. With all the traffic around the stadium, the journeys are taking longer and the shuttle only just left. Why not mention this earlier? Dumbasses.
Adair’s Saloon and Trees Marie
So I ask one valet to call me a cab, which arrives in about 5 minutes. It only costs me $5 with tip as it turns out the start of Deep Ellum is not that far away. I’d decided to visit Adair’s Saloon at the west end of the district. Maps had told me it was a 12 minute walk but after 5 hours driving I thought a ride would be preferable.
It’s busy when I get inside, mostly with people who’ve clearly been to the football game, given their attire. The band, Trees Marie and the Heavy Hearts, are already playing and I have to weave my way through some dancing patrons to find a seat at the bar. There’s a limited menu unfortunately. I desperately wanted to try something other than a burger or ribs but I won’t get that chance tonight. So wings it is. Again.
I try a Lone Star beer, advertised as the national beer of Texas in the bar. Now this is not going to please some Texans but the beer is not very good I’m afraid. It’s tasteless liquid just like Bud and the rest of the mass produced beers. Later in the trip I was discussing beer with a guy and a barman in a bar. Both agreed that Lone Star is crap. Which is why the craft beer industry has taken off in the US. Some people want taste in their beer, not anodyne watery shit.
So I move on to drinking various local Dallas craft beers for the rest of the night. Not draft however, they’re all in cans, so I pour each one in turn into my plastic pint ‘glass’. My wings arrive and as per Mulligan’s they are absolutely HUGE again. There are only 6 of them but there must be enough meat on them than is on a normal whole chicken. Whatever a ‘normal’ chicken looks like in the US, I’m talking a standard UK size chicken. The wings are however very good and I do eat them all – just – but I hardly touch the fries I ordered as a side, with again not expecting the wings to be so large.
Trees Very Good, Y’Know
Talking of very good, the band is bloody good. Whilst Trees is tonight dressed like a kind of cow-girl, implying country music, I’d call them a rock band. Amongst a great set we get White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, Tom Petty’s Refugee and People Are Strange by The Doors. Now when have you ever heard that last song played live by a band recently? If ever?
Some drunk or stoned guy – recognise a pattern here? – who sat next to me at the bar at one stage turned to me and slurred, “Wow, they’re really good.” I agreed. They rocked. There were lots of other good tunes plus some originals I think. Really, really good music. Excellent in fact. They played until 10.45 pm whereupon I decided to take my leave as well after a long day.
I walked back to the hotel under the mass of freeways that dominate and criss-cross the city. It’s still steaming hot and humid, around 80º F at 11 pm. These roads on stilts are everywhere and still roaring with traffic at this time of night. There are no vagrants that I can see sheltering under any of the bridges, nor anyone else for that matter, and I feel quite safe on my 10 minute walk back to the Indigo.
Wow again. Another varied and very interesting day. A Presidential Library. A drive (and a long one at that). And a great band in a buzzing bar to finish things off. An exploration of Dallas and Fort Worth awaits tomorrow. Let’s see what it brings.