Our fourth year going to MINIs in the Ozarks started off much like the previous year, heading up the Saturday before MITO starts. This gives us over a full week in Eureka Springs which we very much enjoy.
Like the previous years, we decided to camp at the KOA which is just a few miles outside of Eureka Springs proper. While we tent camp we have a large tent complete with air mattress and electric blanket in case the temperature drops too low. Since the campsite has electricity this means we are good in our tent to well below freezing, although that does make you not want to go to the bathroom until you just can’t hold it anymore.
The week before leaving is spent checking things, making sure nothing needs to be replaced, and getting last-minute supplies like the fire logs we take to make starting campfires easy. It only took one time of dealing with wet wood trying to start a fire to stay warm when there was no other wood available and I decided to use fire logs to start all my fires. This is probably one of the most important time and frustration saving tools we have discovered so far.
The night before we leave I install Buster’s “hat”, that is what we call the box that bolts down to the rails on his roof, then we load it up with camping gear.
We left Huntsville on Saturday, October 19th for our approximately ten-hour drive to Eureka Springs. Virtually all our packing was done the previous evening so all we had to do was throw in the cooler, our clothes bag, and electronics in Buster and go. The trip up was uneventful other than once you cross into the mountains of Arkansas the leaves had started to change colors so the views were beautiful.
We arrived a little after 4 pm and checked in, ordered firewood which they deliver to your campsite and then started setting up the tent. We both double-checked the tent supplies so we didn’t repeat the tent disaster of 2018, The tent and everything went up fine, we cleaned up a bit and headed off to the Rowdy Beaver for dinner.
That concluded our first day and we headed back to camp and went to bed.
The weather was very nice, highs in the low to mid-60s, lows in the 40s, sun mostly out and leaves starting to turn those beautiful colors everyone wants to see in Texas but you can really only see in postcards and on TV. The only complaint I had about the weather was that it was windy which stopped me from flying my drone around camp.
Everything was just about perfect up to the Thursday MITO started when it decided to start raining. We had planned to do the drive on opening day but we decided against it with the weather just being too nasty. It wasn’t so bad you just couldn’t do the drive, in fact, many people did and said they enjoyed it, we just didn’t feel like driving in the rain where you couldn’t really enjoy the curves or the scenery.
It was packet pickup day and we went early, too early in fact. We showed up around 9 am and although there were there and set up for some reason, packet pickup didn’t start until that evening. It seems I got the times mixed up. The good news is they let us pick up our stuff anyway so we got our name badges, schedules, lanyards, and then started perusing all the free stuff such as stickers, pens, lanyards, business cards, etc. There certainly is a good side to getting there early.
We also managed to have a good conversation with several people there about turnout which was higher than last year even though we no longer had MINI of Little Rock as a sponsor since they had closed. We also heard a rumor that MINI of Little Rock might be back next year, possibly moving in with the BMW dealership there.
Friday was really the start of MITO and there were plenty of MINIs in town. Unfortunately, there was also a lot of rain so we did not participate in much on Friday.
Saturday is the big day in MITO which includes things like drives, the group picture, the MINI parade in downtown Eureka Springs, and the evening dinner party.
We decided to do the Elk Run drive which I had seen pictures from in previous years and always wanted to do. I never did because it is one of the slower runs and I typically wanted to be in the more spirited drives such as the Pig Trail. Since it was raining anyway this made the Elk Run the perfect drive.
We pulled out of the Ozark Mountain Hoe-Down around 9:30 am and headed out to the southwest. The scenery was very nice and there were some fun curves on the drive. About an hour and a half into the run we finally reached a field with some beautiful elk, a nice big herd grazing in the misting rain.
From there we went to Steel Creek Campground about 3 miles east of Ponca, Arkansas, off of Highway 74.
The campground has tent camping only, carry-in, to sites about 50-100 feet from the parking lot in a field not far from the river. While today was a poor day for it, the view was still amazing. The sheer walls of the hills rising up one side of the park were just breathtaking and one of the reasons I wanted to do this run. I can absolutely see us camping here for a couple of days.
Next, we headed to Jasper, Arkansas and had lunch at the Ozark Cafe. This restaurant is a wonderful old place decorated with signs of other places around the area mounted to the walls and ceiling. The menu is pretty much what you would expect and includes a lot of burgers, steaks, chili, and more pies and cobblers than I could count. Everything was very good as was the service.
We lined up down the street in the parking lot for what appeared to be a feed and hardware store, some of the employees came out and checked out the cars. The second part of the trip was a little less scenic and a little more of a sprint back to Eureka Springs to be there in time for the group picture. I had a smaller JCW decide to get a little jiggy in the four-lane section back to town and I think he was a little surprised that he couldn’t shake Buster even when the speed climbed. Finally, he gave up and moved over to the right, we waved as we passed.
Back in town, we had a little time to kill so we went to an antique store before heading to the photo. We went very early as I like for Buster to be right upfront for the photo. Since there had been so much rain they decided to line us up in the parking lot instead of on the grass like past years. While I completely agree with their decision, it made for a horrible picture compared to previous years although as usual, our photographer did a remarkable job.
I did manage to shoot some drone footage of the lineup so here is a peek…
<<< INSERT DRONE FOOTAGE OF GROUP>>>
After the photoshoot, we lined up for the parade. It seems there was some miscommunication with the local police as our escort showed up extremely late and seemed to not know what was going on. We did finally get underway and made a pass through town.
It seems there was another miscommunication with our police escort as he peeled off after the first loop when we were supposed to go through twice. Everyone broke up and headed back to wherever they came from except we went to the host hotel and met up with a large group of other people who didn’t know why we had made only one pass. A few of us got together and decided to make a second pass, Buster was elected to lead, so off we went on pass #2!
<<< INSERT VIDEO OF SECOND PASS >>>
With the day winding down it was time for us to head back to camp and call it a night.
After MITO was over and most all the MINIs were gone the weather again cleared up. A quick trip up to Inspiration Point to take a pano yielded the following image.
We stayed a couple more days and did some more relaxing before heading back home. As usual, we really enjoyed our time in Eureka Springs and with our friends at MINIs In The Ozarks.