My sweetie and I alternate who plans Valentine’s Day each year, and this year was her turn. She’d been dropping hints for the past few weeks about what she had in mind… really vague hints that made it sound like we’d be heading out of town a good ways. Then slightly—very slightly—more specific hints, such as wondering aloud how far east we had to go before leaving the Central time zone. Now knowing what I know of her, I trimmed my list of guesses as to our weekend’s activities to two choices: she had booked us a weekend at a B&B somewhere, perhaps Heather’s Glen (where we’d already celebrated another big event); or she was yanking my chain in a big way and she had booked us a room somewhere in town.
So the time to depart arrives. We set out on U.S. 380 out of McKinney, heading east out into the boonies. Well, OK, that rules out the yanking-my-chain option. We picked up I-30 east out of Greenville, heading towards… where, Texarkana?? Outside of Mt. Pleasant, she informed me that no, we won’t be making it as far east as Texarkana… but looking at the map, there’s not jack squat between where we were and Texarkana. Pulling into New Boston, we left the interstate and headed north on Hwy. 8, which turned into Hwy. 41 and then U.S. 59/71 as we made our way into Arkansas. I took a look at our trusty road atlas. Nope, nothing stood out to me between there and… well, nothing stood out for a really long way. But before too long, she said that we oughta be there in an hour or so, and according to the road signs we’d been passing, that meant our destination was in or around Mena, AR. Sure enough, in Mena, we banged a left onto Hwy. 88, heading up the hills on the edge of the Ouachita National Forest when I finally caught a glimpse of a sign indicating what I (finally) guessed to be out final destination: Queen Wilhelmina State Park. (Going camping for Valentine’s Day? Not exactly—we had a room booked in the park’s 38-room main lodge.)
Now it’s time to check in. Turns out my sweetie had originally booked the room for Friday night (the 14th) but then realized that neither of us would be able to get off work early enough, so she called back 15 minutes after making the original booking and changed the reservation to Saturday night (the 15th). Back to check-in… when she announced her name, they looked it up and came back with words we didn’t exactly want to hear after a four-hour drive: “We were expecting you last night.” Shocked, my wife explained the whole booking and rebooking story, and we caught a big break—the woman, Terri, helping us check in just happened to be the one who my wife spoke to on the phone when booking the room. It turned out that Terri, after getting off the phone with my wife the second time, realized that something may have been miscommunicated and that one or the other of them misunderstood the date that had been agreed on. Just to be safe, she took it upon herself to book rooms on both dates separately—as soon as we were a no-show Friday night, she knew exactly what had happened. So after a brief moment of sheer panic on our parts, she let us know that another room (the second room she’d held just in case) was available and that we could have it. And a cute little room it was: a king-sized bed, a couple of slide rockers, a couple bits of furniture, and what would have been a great view outside our window had it not been for the ridiculously low cloud cover.
We had intended to do a little hiking after we got in, but the complete lack of visibility put the kibosh on that. So we just killed time in our room until dinner. And it was kind of interesting looking around the dining room that night—we were easily the youngest couple there, but we’ve tended to do things a little differently than us young’uns are expected to on many an occasion, this being one of them, so the disparity wasn’t all the unusual to us. Then back to our room to relax, then <censored so as not to offend your virgin sensibilities>, breakfast the next morning, and back on the road for the drive home.
OK, I glossed over at least one minor detail. You see, when we awoke the next morning, we discovered that temperatures had dropped into the 20s overnight, and combined with the rain and mist we’d been surrounded in from the day before, everything—roads, trees, cars, everything—was now covered in layer of ice and a dusting of snow (and we have the pictures to prove it). Alrighty then, hiking was out before we headed home. It took us the better part of an hour to chip enough ice off the windows to enable us to drive, but the weather further down the hill was nothing like it was at the top—the roads were completely clear, and not a drop was falling from the sky, meaning driving was a piece of cake once we got halfway down to sea level. But as the car started to thaw out more, big chunks and sheets of ice were flying off the car at 70 some-odd miles an hour, and I could just picture one of these chunks thwacking someone behind us, so we stopped a little ways into Texas to rid the car of the rest of the ice.
All in all, an absolutely wonderful weekend, even with the weather. I was with my sweetie, hours from where anyone we knew could find us, with nothing to distract us but each other. Sure, a beautiful vista would have been nice, but it also would have been a bonus. This is what Valentine’s Day oughta be about—not just buying a whole mess of jewelry or flowers, but doing something that actually requires a little thought and a little understanding of what would be special for the both of you. (That being said, it should be noted that I bought her jewelry. Ahem.)