Hardy Travelogue and the Need to See

The Hardy History Fence4/13/11 – Hardy, Arkansas

I’m sipping my coffee alone at the Corner Booth Restaurant and am completely entertained. My eyes are full. It is like 13 grandmothers pooled their old-timey-things collections and stuffed it all into an old traincar turned diner. I’ve thought about 20 times of taking a picture but I don’t think I can do it justice. If you ever are near Hardy, AR you have to come see this place.

I’ve been struggling to find the right word for this degree of americanic-stereotypic-un-ironic-overload-of-countryness… is there a word for that?

The booths, the only option befitting the name, are all wooden. The man across the way is wearing a “Grandpa” cap and grandma is wearing a purple leisure suit. The old guard behind me are talking about accidentally hitting deer in their trucks and hauling them off on the hood. Oh and now checking in on the happenings at Al Capone’s Garage across the way. The granny waitress, she is the only one for about 10 occupied and 15 open booths, is as cute as she can be in her white sneakers and kahki cargos and calls the regulars by name. Another train just came through adding its baseline to the country music and sounds of eats sizzling filtering in from the kitchen.

There are dolls, old signs and magazine cutouts covering the walls. Stained glass (real and fake) adorns the windows and hangs down in lamp form (all mismatched) with honest to goodness tassels on some. The voices of the old guard are fantastic – so comfortably reassuring in their gravely, gruff, soothing cadence. I find myself smiling and content to sit and sip and let it all wash over me.

I need to find a way to visit more places like this.


Present Day

… and I will.

But before I get to that and My Great Birthday Adventure to World Domination (and back), I finally need to write the travelogue on Hardy. Home of the Willburn Brothers, this small town was fabulous in its eclecticness.

Property Listings and Dead DucksI was there for a completely random reason. Business complete, on my wander down a fairly deserted main street at sunset I took a fair number of pictures, really it is hard to pick which ones to include here (yes, yes, I was IN the moment too I assure you).

How to decide between the “We have worms!” signs; the caged and plaqued Old Hardy Pump; or the Old Sharp County Court House whose cornerstone was placed “at evening shade in 1868”? History, alas is trumped by the real estate listing featuring, among the houses for rent and sale, a picture of begunned, camouflaged dudes posing in the back of a pickup with a pile of dead ducks.

So too will will those mallards stand in for the scenes I was too much of a sissy to take a picture of, like the gun, cammo and ammo store inside the grocery store. Yes. Inside of it. It was it’s own little glass windowed subsection complete with mounted heads and a black bearskin splayed out on the rusted tin roof. Bananas and haunting images of dead wildlife? Gotcha covered.

At the Country Kitchen (of course), from a lacquered table with embedded business cards and flyers, I ate the best fried okra and fried green tomatoes I do believe have ever had. The restaurant was a converted gas station and also sold barns. “Mouse Proof” barns according to the sign.

Old Hardy Hotel - Site of A Gruesome MurderSpeaking of signs, the one pictured was in a window on Main. “Site of a Gruesome Murder” with flower adornment? It totally makes sense when it is just up the street from “Goths R Us,” around the corner from a t-shirt quilting business and catty-corner to a dulcimer-maker.

Hardy, and small towns in general, are home to some amazing multipotentialites. By far my favorite business was the Sparrows Nest: Book Nook, Newsstand, Forensic Document Service (Court Qualified Handwriting Specialist apparently) and — wait for it — Appliance Parts.

You can’t make this up. I’m ever so pleased that I don’t have invent – I’ve seen it and can just tell the tale.

I would have loved to meet Louie but he was, according to the little sign on the door, at Choir Practice. Seeing as he still had Christmas bells painted on said door in April, I’m guessing he would have been too busy to talk to me anyway. If I do ever get the pleasure I must ask him for a replacement belt in addition to getting the signature on an old letter verified.

To See

I make jokes but really I am not poking fun. I am in awe. I was completely overwhelmed by the pure, unselfconscious Americana — so familiar and at the same time so foreign.

I was giddy with the joy of each new fun discovery and I smile as I flip back through the pictures. My heart goes pitter pat not because I captured it and shared it, the pictures simply make the unbelievable memory more believable for me.

Those pictures put me back in that time at sunset in that lovely, crazy place reminding me that there are infinitely more towns like Hardy which exist right now — just waiting to be discovered and freshly seen.

It doesn’t have to be not he other side of the planet. Interestingness is all around. Travel simply gets us to open our eyes.

The first of Chris Guillebeau’s big questions is: What do you most want to get out of life? I struggled with that for a long time before finally settling on:

To See

Eyes open wide, vision clear of the familiar, with a slight smile I want to be IN new places and SEE.

Might I capture what I see in some fixed form to be shared with others? Is that the answer to his other question: what can you offer the world that now one else can? Perhaps.

Do I hope you see my journey and are inspired to go explore your own backyards near and far? Yes. But we, individually, only have one chance through this great amazing Universe. So for as long as I am able I want to wander and take it all in.

For me, and me only, it is enough to see.

Adventure to World Domination (and back)

So we come full circle: I’m setting out to the World Domination Summit in 16 short days. I’m driving Stan the Tan Sedan, loaded with bike and camping gear, across and around this amazingly varied country of ours to see as much of her as I can before I leave for Italy (which I can still hardly believe I’m doing).

I’m starting with the GoRuck Challenge in Charlotte on my birthday — oh and no presents please, embracing the suck will be enough though I do have a charity water campaign going if you are so moved. Then I’m taking the southern route out to Portland for WDS and accompanying fun, spending a week to explore that part of the world, heading up to Seattle to tackle the STP, and then back again via the northern-route to take me through NYC to say goodbye (yet again) to my city.

Map of My AdventureI have a map, some intended, maybe, kinda-sorta, stopping points… but little by way of all encompassing plan — not to mention reservations — for the wide swaths of middle. I have some other projects that have been consuming my time and efforts — more to come on those soon — and so the trip remains largely unscheduled. If you have suggestions I am open: comment, email or tweet me! I’d love to not dine, coffee or beer alone, so meet ups are stellar.

I am excited and worried by being so loose but I know that I will figure it out. Through doing so I will leave myself open to possibilities and be ready to just see where the road leads.

To discover what is as of yet unseen, may you…


Jo Signature


PS – I’m quite serious about sending me ideas of waylay points and recs of things to see. Why do you travel? What do you really want to get out of life or why do you travel? I’d love to know.

PPS – Changes and big things afoot here at CBB – sign up for emails for the inside scoop.




  1. Hi again. 🙂

    I love how much we have in common as far as your thoughts and how you view things. A couple of my favorites… “the pictures simply make the unbelievable memory more believable for me.” Whoa. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I photograph things obsessively when I travel and it’s not really about sharing them but for me to remember. Love this!

    Also, “Eyes open wide, vision clear of the familiar, with a slight smile I want to be IN new places and SEE.” Absolutely beautiful.

    I’m very excited for your adventure to WDS and looking forward to meeting you out there and hearing more about it. It sounds like this is going to be a trip of a lifetime! Good luck!!

    • Thanks Dani! I’m honored and glad my words found resonance. It is amazing and oh so reassuring how people from across the country (and world) can have such similar views right? Even in unfamiliar places we find bits and people that feel so right and comfortable. Ahhh… the joy of travel. I can’t wait to get on the road!
      Keep taking those pictures for you and travel safe and well! We’ll be sharing beers and more stories ere long.

Speak Your Mind