Lake Life

& Such

Boy Scout Troop #398 meets at the Cedar Creek Bible Church from 7-8:30 p.m. each Tuesday. For more information, call (903) 498-5725 or (903) 498-3830.
Cedar Creek Art Society meets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the last Thursday of each month at the Mabank Volunteer Fire Department. A $3 donation per artist is asked.
Cedar Creek Domino Club meets each week on Wednesday at the Mabank Volunteer Fire Department. For more info, call (903) 887-6549.
Cedar Creek
NAR-ANON meets at 8 p.m. on Thursday at 715 S. Hwy. 274, Ste. D in Seven Points. (903) 432-2405.
Cedar Creek Narcotics Anonymous meets at 8 p.m., Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, at 715 S. Hwy. 274, Ste. D in Seven Points. (903) 432-2405.
Cedar Creek 49ers Club meets every Thursday for fellowship and dancing. Doors open at 6 p.m. The club is located off Arnold Hill Road in Seven Points. Call for more information, (903) 432-3552.
Cedar Creek Lake Kiwanis Club meets at noon each Wednesday at Seasons Restaurant in Mabank, except the second week of the month, when the club meets Thursday in conjunction with the area chamber of commerce luncheon.
Cedar Creek Optimist Club meets every Tuesday at noon at the Dairy Queen in Seven Points. For more information please call Danny Hampel at (903) 778-4508.
Cedar Creek Republican Club meets every fourth Thursday. For more information call (903) 887-4867.
Cedar Creek Rotary Club meets at noon each Friday at Vetoni’s Italian Restaurant. For more information, call Dee Ann Owens at (903) 340-2415.
Cub Scout Pack #333 meets at the First United Methodist Church of Mabank the second and fourth Monday at 7 p.m. For information, call Mary Harris at (903) 451-5280 or Tonya Capley at (903) 498-4725.
Disabled American Veterans Chapter 101 meets the second Monday of each month at the Senior Citizens Center on Hwy. 31 in Athens.
Girl Scout Troop #112 meets at the First United Methodist Church in Mabank on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. For more info, call GeriLeigh Stotts at (469) 323-7943, email,   or (800) 422-2260 or visit
Girl Scout Troop 2667 meets every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Aley United Methodist Church. For more information, please call Suzann Smith at (903) 887-3889.
GriefShare Recovery support group meets at 7 p.m. each Tuesday at Cedar Creek Church of God, located at 142 Rodney Dr., Gun Barrel City. Call (903) 887-0293 for more information.
Gun Barrel Quilter’s Guild meets from 10 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Tri-County Library in Mabank. For more information, please call (903) 451-4221.
Henderson County Retired School Personnel meets at 2 p.m. the second Wednesday each month at the First United Methodist Church of Athens. Call (903) 451-3585 for info.
Kaufman County Republican Women’s Club meets the third Saturday of each month at the Farm Bureau Insurance Company, located at 2477 N. Hwy. 34 in Kaufman. For more info, call (972) 287-1239 or (903) 880-6770.
Kemp Kiwanis Club meets at noon each Thursday at La Fuente Mexican Restaurant in Kemp. For more information, please call Dr. Jim Collinsworth at (903) 887-7486.
Lake Area Council of the Blind meets at 6 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month at West Athens Baptist Church.
Lake Area Democrats Club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the Library at Cedar Creek Lake in Seven Points. Email   for more information.
Mabank Al-Anon Family Group meets at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays at Mabank First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. Families of alcoholics are welcome. Call (903) 887-2781 for info.
Mabank/Cedar Creek Area Lions Club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Tri-County Library in Mabank. Call (903) 887-5252 for info.
Mabank Garden Club meets at 2:45 p.m. at the Tri-County Library on the third Tuesday of every month (different times in May and December).
Oak Harbor/Tanglewood Crime Watch meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at the R.T. Beamguard Community Center in Oak Harbor.
Rainbow Girls, Masonic Youth organization meets on the second and fourth Saturdays at 10 a.m. at the Cedar Creek Masonic Lodge. For more information contact Donna Dean at
Roddy Masonic Lodge meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Monday each month. Call (903) 887-6201 for info.
RootSeekers meet at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of the month in the Tri-County Library in downtown Mabank. The public is welcome to attend.
Southeast Kaufman County Senior Citizens Center Board of Directors meets at 1 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the center, located at 300 N. Dallas Street in Kemp. For info, call (903) 498-2140.
Suicide Survivors Group for those grieving the loss of someone by suicide, meets every Monday at 6:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Mabank.
Tamarack Ladies Club meets at 11 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month at the TLC Hall.
TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) meet at 6 p.m. each Monday at the First Baptist Church of Mabank. Contact Gaye Ward at (903) 887-5913 for more info.
TVCC Singles meet at 7 p.m. each Monday in the Nutrition Center at TVCC, located off Park Street near the Athens Country Club. This is a support group for singles of all ages and is supported by TVCC. For more info, call Hilda Anding at (903) 675-7270.

Bright lights fade in the ‘Natural State’
Leisurely drive through Arkansas more restful than frantic hustle of Branson
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer
ARKANSAS–It turns out bright lights and neon are much less rewarding than dawdling along winding two-lane blacktops through wooded hills.
A planned week-long trip to the bright lights of Branson, Mo., in early June wound up being a week-long trek through rural Arkansas scenery.
ArkansasSprings.jpg (222461 bytes)Having visited the Big Bend area and New Mexico last summer, this reporter and wife Shirley were considering where to go this summer when we “won” a stay in Branson by filling out a card at the annual Tarrant County Home & Garden show.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
A postcard for Arkansas' theme, “the Natural State,” Blanchard Springs emerges after passing through a cavern it carved out 200 feet below ground.

That’s “won” in quotes, because the actuality was, of course, nothing near what was promised. The whole Branson package was a lure to get unsuspecting couples into a high-pressure time-share sales talk.
Neither of us had ever been to Branson, so we figured, “Why not?”
To avoid a long drive, we decided to break the trip up into two days, with an overnight stay in Little Rock (neither of us had been there, either).
Heading east on I-30 Sunday afternoon, we got to Little Rock, checked in and drove around town for about 30 minutes, seeing the sights and finding a restaurant.
Monday morning, we toured the state capitol, which looks like a 7/8-scale replica of the Texas capitol on the outside.
Inside, the Arkansas statehouse features marble stairs, marble and granite columns and very friendly people. (It just so happened there was a statewide election the next day to fill some of the offices we looked into.)
Back in the car, we started heading north, dropping from a four-lane divided freeway to a two-lane blacktop once we got off I-40.
If you’ve never driven in Arkansas, be prepared to spend most of your trip between 45 and 50 mph – which will be fast enough, when you have a crumbling rock wall on one side and 1,000 feet of nothing but air and treetops on the other.
Occasionally, the state will warn you the road ahead is “crooked and steep.” They’re not kidding.
On the way, we saw another first for us – a “runaway truck ramp,” which is a dirt turnoff running uphill, just in case an 18-wheeler loses its brakes on the way back downhill.

BransonFire.jpg (158108 bytes)
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Branson's downtown shopping district features a lakeside fountain display. On the hour, music plays (Creedence Clearwater Revival's “Up Around the Bend”) and jets of flame combine with the water for a brief show.

The last 20 miles into Branson is modern freeway, and once in town, we found our check-in spot without too much trouble.
Like the Las Vegas “strip,” Branson is built along one two-lane street, chock-a-block with theaters, hotels, restaurants, go-kart tracks, miniature golf courses, museums and more theaters, all featuring huge garish signs – many of them newfangled animated signs showing the star in residence performing.
There are actually three side streets that enable you to get from one end of the strip to the other without having to endure the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the strip, and the city actively encourages visitors to use those routes, marked in red, green and blue.
The old downtown area contains numerous antique stores and shops, and features a shopping district very similar to the Louisiana Boardwalk in Bossier City, complete with a dedicated trolley.
For us, walking through the downtown shopping district was one of the more enjoyable parts of Branson, particularly the huge fountain right in the middle, which provides a water-and-fire show on the hour.
Everybody offers discount show tickets, although the discounts are rarely more than a buck or two off the face value, which can range from $30 to $150 each.
We saw two shows – Jim Stafford (best known for his 70s novelty hits, such as “Spiders and Snakes” and “Wildwood Weed”) and young Chinese acrobats from Shanghai, which was our “free” show for enduring, uh, participating in the time-share sales talk.
To be fair, commercial Branson did give us a couple of highlights. We toured the Titanic museum, which was very interesting and well-executed, and we went go-karting, which my wife had never done before.
Going into the Titanic museum, you are handed a card identifying you as one of the passengers or crew aboard the doomed ship. Before you exit, you can check a list of names to see if you lived, or more likely, died.
Actual artifacts from the Titanic and its sister ship, the Olympic, are presented, along with scale models and some full-size sets, such as a typical third-class stateroom and a first-class suite.
As you walk through a replica of the ship’s bridge, the temperature falls quickly to make you aware of how cold it was when the “unsinkable” Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in April, 1912.
Visitors can poke their hand in a bowl of 28-degree water, to feel what the passengers felt when they entered the North Atlantic.
After two days, we were both burnt out on Branson, and we headed back south, intending to spend Wednesday night in Hot Springs.
A sign offered a side trip to Blanchard Springs Caverns, which turned out to be about 60 miles east.
The trip gave us a restful ride through flower-dotted valleys to the little hamlet of Mountain View (billed as the “folk music capital of the world”) and to Blanchard Springs Cavern.
Blanchard Springs is a “living” cave, as it continues to grow and develop, and features its own bat population. The underground river that carved out the cave rises to the surface as a picturesque waterfall.
Heading back south, we passed through Shirley, which enabled Shirley to have her picture taken next to the Shirley Elementary sign.
Shirley has the singular honor of having the most crooked main road through town that I’ve ever seen – there’s no speed limit, because anything over 15 mph is suicidal.
Once back on the main highway, we made good time through Little Rock and back onto I-30 for the quick drive southwest to Hot Springs.
We spent all of Thursday exploring Hot Springs, starting with the famed “Bathhouse Row,” where the ill, infirm or merely rich and famous came to bathe in the natural hot spring water, which bubbles out of the ground at 143 degrees.
Area rainfall doesn’t affect the water flow – carbon dating shows the hot water has been percolating through the ground for more than 4,000 years.
Hot Springs can technically claim to be America’s first national park, as the area around the springs was set aside as a federal reserve in 1832, some 40 years prior to Yellowstone being named the first national park in 1872.
(The national park surrounds and includes the original downtown area; most of the modern city lies to the south.)
One of the original members of “Bathhouse Row,” the Fordyce House, has been carefully restored to its early 1920s glory, and serves as the Hot Springs National Park visitor center.
Visitors can see the extra-large tubs where men and women (who were segregated to opposite sides of the house) could soak in the mineral-rich water, then finish with a steam bath and a massage.
Only three of the original springs are still open to the air – more than 40 others have been sealed off to prevent pollution.
The easiest spring to reach is also one of the first to be discovered. It bubbles out of the mountainside about 50 feet above the street and trickles down into a man-made pond in a small park just off the main street at the north end of Bathhouse Row.
A visitor who sits on the concrete wall around the pool can feel the heat without needing to stick a finger in the water, and steam can be seen wafting up from the waterfall as it tumbles down the moss-covered hillside.
That steep hillside is capped by a 200-foot observation tower, reached via a one-way road or by any of three walk-up trails – if you’re up to walking a half-mile straight uphill, that is.
While in the observation tower, we saw some rain clouds heading in from the southwest, and we were able to make it back to the hotel just as it started sprinkling.
(Sadly, as we returned home the next morning, we heard that rainstorm had spawned deadly flash flooding a few miles southwest of us, killing more than 20 campers.)
Both Hot Springs and Branson are communities that make a living off tourism, but Hot Springs, to us, seemed much more relaxed and laid-back than the frantic three-card-monte hustle of Branson.
We’ll probably go back to Hot Springs in the future, but after a week of driving in Arkansas, it was nice to get back to the wide, flat and straight roads of Texas.





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