“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money”
State 34: Arkansas - March 17-20, 2018
We woke up in a Walmart in Greenwood, MS well rested and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, we visited the birthplace of Kermit the Frog, and we could wait not to see what adventures lie ahead today! Our first Item on the agenda was to drive Northwest to enter the 34th state on our cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home; Arkansas: The Natural State. I was very surprised by this motto! When one thinks of “natural states” places with low population and vast expanses of wilderness such as Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming are what typically come to mind. However, a quick google search revealed validity to Arkansas claim. Over 600,000 acres of lakes, 9,740 miles of rivers and streams, 17 million acres of woodlands including 3 national forests, and the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains are just a few of the state’s natural treasures just waiting to be explored. Will Arkansas natural existence inspire the Cross Country Couple to call the state our new home? We can’t wait to begin our week of exploration in Arkansas.
After spending the past 3 days exploring eastern Arkansas, today we head to Little Rock to tour the capitol. After parking Rosie, we made our way to the Arkansas Statehouse, and although I have never been to Little Rock, the building looked vaguely familiar. As it turns out, Arkansas' capitol building is designed as a scaled down version of our nation’s capitol. In fact, the resemblance between the two structures is so striking, the Arkansas Statehouse has been used to film movies scripted to occur in Washington DC! When visiting a statehouse, I expect to be able to ascend the external grand staircase, and walk straight through the front doors of the building. After all, when you enter your own home, do you do so via the front door or through the basement door in the backyard? With 33 capitol tours under our belt, we have wasted endless time wandering around the outside of statehouses playing hide and go seek with the visitor entrances. Once, we inadvertently entered via the Governor's private entrance, and had a nerve-racking run in with security! You can read more about that by clicking here.
Arkansas was the first capitol building we encountered which had a very good reason for not permitting public access through the main entrance. The front door of the capitol features six 10-foot-tall 4-inch-thick bronze doors made by Tiffany circa 1910. Arkansas purchased the six doors for $10,000, and today they are valued at $250,000! These doors represent a cherished heirloom of the citizens of Arkansas, and each day they are lovingly polished inside and out. The bronze Tiffany doors are only opened during Gubernatorial Inaugurations, and the annual Capitol Christmas Party. I am familiar with Tiffany lighting and jewelry, but I had no idea Tiffany made doors! Like all things produced by Tiffany, these doors were constructed with the highest quality representing a stunning work of art! Please see the pictures below of these magnificent doors, and I also included some close up shots from the inside.
I discovered the visitor entrance to the Statehouse well signed beneath the external grand staircase. The security guard at the door greeted us with a hearty and friendly, “Welcome to the Arkansas Statehouse”, and then directed us to the tour guides office. Normally, I would complain about being unlawfully searched and scanned on the way into the capitol building. However, I have no issues with Arkansas doing so, but more on that a little bit later! We were pleased to discover Arkansas offers tours of their capitol, and met up with our guide soon thereafter.
Our first stop was the Governor's Reception Room used for; entertaining special dignitaries, ceremonial purposes, press conferences, staff meetings, and signing bills into law. Connected to the reception room is the Governor’s office where he actually works. You would be surprised how many Governors don’t work in their statehouse. A large TV mounted on a cart sat in the corner of the room, which the Governor uses to Skype with other local, state, and national elected officials. The room features two fireplaces. Above one of the fireplaces is a portrait of the Governor preceeding the incumbent, and above the other was a picture of former Arkansas Governor; George Donaghey who oversaw the capitol’s construction. The center of the room is dominated by a massive conference table donated by Governor Donaghey, and above the table hung the most exquisite sterling silver chandelier. What a beautiful, functional and historical room! Please see the pictures below.
Next, our guide led up into the capitol’s central room where marble was clearly on the architect’s mind! I am an antique lighting aficionado, and in the center of the space hung an exquisite, 12-foot-wide, 18-foot-tall, 4000 pound chandelier suspended from the ceiling by a 73 foot chain! Portraits of four past governors hung on the walls of this prestigious space including former 2 term Arkansas Governor, and our 42nd President of the United Sates; Bill Clinton. Please see the pictures below of Arkansas' central room, and a painting of a very young Governor Clinton.
Our guide then led us into the Senate and the House via the observation balcony, and unfortunately neither were in session during our visit. Both chambers featured the most magnificent stained glass domed ceilings. Most noteworthy was the ceiling of the Senate featuring dramatic draperies cascading from the dome to help decrease acoustics. Please see the pictures below.
Please see the additional pictures below of our visit the Arkansas Statehouse.
After the conclusion of our capitol tour, we went downstairs to Arkansas Treasury Office for the Cross Country Couple's; "Can’t Miss Attraction" for Arkansas; Holding $1,000,000 in cash. Apparently back in the day, Arkansas had a history of corrupt public servants, so the state constitution declared tax money must be kept in the State Treasurer's vault so the public can personally visit to attest the money is still there. What began as a safeguard against political corruption, has evolved into a tourist attraction complete with a free photo.
I have previously held a 1000 oz. bar of silver weighing 65lbs and worth $16,456 in Key West Florida. I have also held a 400 oz bar of gold weighing 27 lbs worth $517,824 at the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa. Today, Lori and I will have the opportunity to actually hold $1,000,000 in cold hard cash in our bare hands! In case you were wondering, one million dollars in 100 dollar bills weighs 32lbs, and it is not as much money as Hollywood visually portrays in movie briefcases.
As I was standing in the Arkansas Treasurer's vault with Lori holding $1,000,000 in cash, two things were running through my mind. First, I found myself reflecting upon the time I cultured a dollar bill in my Microbiology class, and discovered cash is disgustingly dirty. I desperately needed some hand sanitizer! The 2nd thing I found myself thinking about is all the wonderful and meaningful things money cannot buy; empathy, inner beauty, intimacy, true love, confidence, close knit family, self-esteem, happiness, gratitude, inner peace, character, loyalty, talents, truth, world peace, purpose, wisdom, honest politicians, friendship, respect, common sense, clear conscience, purpose in life, integrity, good friends, a long life, open mind, trust, patience, stroke of luck, good night sleep, happy memories, good work ethic, positive attitude, good karma, humility, good reputation, justice, emotional mastery, mindfulness, manners, respect, love, and health. How cool is it that the most important things in life are totally unrelated to money? Above all else, the number one thing money cannot buy is time. Time cannot be bought, sold, stolen, or bartered! Time is the most valuable resource in the world, yet it is also the most wasted. Most do not truly understand the value of time until one day we realize time has run out. Time cares not your race, religion, sex, disability, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status. Time just marches forward!
The greatest gift you can give yourself is mastery of time, and I not talking about the ability to jam as many tasks as you can into a single day. I am talking about not mindlessly going through the motions of life to a point where life entirely passes you by. I have learned to be cautious of those who tell me do something simply because it is the way things have always been done. Does this sound familiar? You are supposed to go to college (go into debt), get married, (go further into debt), buy a home (go even further into debt) have children (go forever into debt) so you can POSSIBLY one day retire and then die! There are a lot of powerful entities who have much to gain by enslaving you in a cycle of debt. I have also learned to be exceptionally wary of those who financially gain by telling me how I should live my life. For example, banks collect interest off your debt, and the government collects taxes off your wages. However, the banks can’t collect interest if you don’t take out loans, and the less you work, the less the government collects in taxes. Living life debt free and as a minimalist are effective strategies to starve the beast. The net gain of having less expenses is needing to work less resulting in more free time to live life in the manner you choose, such as going on a year long cross country road trip to discover America and find a new home.
Although a minimalist mindset provided the means for my cross country journey, listening to the regrets of my dying patients in the nursing home where I worked provided the motivation, which you can read more about by clicking here. I could have waited until retirement to see America, but my father, my stepfather and both of my grandfathers died before the age of retirement. I said, “To hell with societies expectations and their version of the American Dream”. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we never know when our time is up. As for me and my wife, we choose to live each moment of our lives to the fullest each and every day.
Around this point in my internal reflection, the Arkansas Treasurer tapped me on my shoulder and asked for the state's million dollars back! While I am certain there are procedures in place to prevent theft, it was nice to partake in the experience without having state troopers with assault rifles watching my every move. Now I understand why the Arkansas Capitol searches people at the main entrance. We have visited 34 state capitols on our cross country journey, and holding $1,000,000 in cash was certainly the most memorable experience thus far. The Cross Country Couple gives the Arkansas State Treasurer 5 stars and two big thumbs up for creating a unique attraction drawing people into the capitol building to learn about state government.
After departing the Treasury office in the Statehouse, we drove across town where we found a Walmart to spend the night.