The Observer, Aug. 2 

Eureka Springs. What a town.

When the Hells Angels and the Bandidos rumbled last week up there — and we're not talking about the sound their motorcycles make — they chose to do it in front of the Gingerbread House Antiques store. “I saw the Fiesta ware platter first!” one was heard to shout before the knives flicked out.

Sadly, the constant vrooms from the motorcycle gangs drowned out the news that the four Eurekans on the town's MENSA team had just returned victorious from the genius group's 2007 CultureQuest Superbowl.

But the Angels and the Bandidos rolled out of town on their Hogs, the state troopers charged back to HQ in their Dodges and the drug-deal scoping helicopters returned to their hangars in time to let Eureka focus on its next big event: A downtown parade honoring a racing dachshund.

Eureka's Mayor Dani Wilson proclaimed Tuesday as Oscar Pryor Wiener Day in honor of Karen and Tom Pryor's dachshund, a competitor in last weekend's 2007 Wiener Dog National Championship race in Kansas City. Oscar didn't come in first, but, as they said at the race, all the dogs are wieners, and Eureka's pride is not diminished. Flying Dog Beer will be served at the parade's end, at the Pied Piper Pub.

Never a dull day up there.

But dull is inevitable these days if you have the misfortune to be traveling Interstate 40 between Memphis and Little Rock. That was where The Observer got stuck last weekend, en route to Little Rock from Tennessee. Only hours before we'd been living the serene, uncluttered, sweet-tempered good life at a camp in the woods of the Cumberland plateau. Now we were screaming the bluest of expressions at Whoever Is In Charge of Interstate Traffic, That Truck Up Ahead and Everything Arkansas.

Then we got moving again. Down the road a few miles, just after we'd gotten back up to 45 mph, we looked across at the westbound traffic.

Talk about dull. Talk about boring. Talk about tedious. The traffic hadn't come to just a dead stop. It was full surrender. People had abandoned their cars and were standing in small groups chatting here and there. Some folks, cell phones plastered to their ears, paced. Families had spread blankets on the ground. A child clutched a huge stuffed animal. It was a picnic from hell. A scene from “Le Weekend.” We thanked goodness we were out of the picture.

It's harder getting out of Arkansas than in.

Being something of a Harry Potter geek, The Observer spent the waning hours of last Saturday night standing in line to buy the final chapter of J.K. Rowling's boy wizard bildungsroman, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Books-A-Million in North Little Rock was a Potterpalooza, packed to the gills and hot as hell from what seemed to be a bum air conditioner, the store full of people who might have been in costume – or maybe they just dress that way (whatever the case, we haven't seen that much sweaty velvet since Meatloaf made his last appearance in Little Rock). While a lot of fun, the scene made us a little sad. Chances are, unless Rowling cranks out another one, we'll probably never see so many people so excited about a book again in our lifetime.

Finally, the clock struck midnight and we got our tome. Book in hand, bleary-eyed but excited about the prospect of another few days spent in Harry's company, we started back to Chez Observer. Once we steered the Mobile Observatory onto the freeway, we had to inquire of Spouse: Which do you think is more dangerous behind the wheel — a drunk, or a book nerd in Harry Potter glasses and a homemade wizard hat, driving 70 miles per hour while trying to read by dashboard light?

The Observer had a point, Spouse said; New Year's Eve had nothing on Pottermania when it came to on-the-road peril. Mouthing the words to a protective charm, we Muggles motored carefully on.



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