Your Fearless Leader has crossed the line this week. the state line that is, I’m in Arkansas. I’m escorting a tour for a group that requested some cultural and historical sites important to Native Americans. I’m visiting places that I didn’t know about or hadn’t taken the time to explore. I’m finding out, once again, there are lots of things to discover close to home.

We have visited laboratories where artifacts are cleaned, identified and stored. We made our way to Fort Smith, where I love to tell about the Visitors Center that is in a bordello. The starting place of the movie True Grit, the National Park here works to preserve the stories of the real Wild West-the cowboys, the outlaws and the Indians. We learned about the weapons of mass destruction of the day, and they weren’t guns or bombs, but European diseases that the Native Americans had no immunity to or resistance to withstand. It wasn’t in the people’s best interest to be hospitable as greeting the foreigners only wound up being a death sentence in so many ways. There are many ugly truths that didn’t make it into our history books… yet.

Crossing the state of Arkansas is always a good drive, with toll-free interstates that wind though miles of forest. Like most motorists today, our bus driver followed his GPS. I’m guessing that the “short cut” he took was supposed to save us time. But when the asphalt no longer had stripes and began to get more and more narrow and tree limbs were almost touching both sides of the bus, we had to wonder. Then when the pavement gave way to gravel and a creek was crossing the road, I had to think, this may be a first. We’ve never forded a creek in a bus before! The driver did get out and walk it to see what was around the next bend and fortunately it was the road we would’ve already been down if we hadn’t wasted so much time saving time on the longer short cut. It may have been the most memorable part of the day.

We rolled into Hot Springs, where the thermal water is free and 104 degrees. The city has public spigots that allow you to fill up your jugs for those folks that still want the healing powers of the magnesium rich water. I couldn’t help but notice a couple filling up dozens of milk jugs and loading them two deep in the bed of a truck. Curiosity got the best of me, and I ventured over to ask what I was missing. These folks drive to Hot Springs twice a year to get their water. They haul about 200 gallons of water home to, you guessed it, Oklahoma, so they can enjoy the water all year.

We will work our way to Mississippi following important sites along the various Indian Removal Trails. A motor coach trip can be a living textbook, with myths being debunked and truer truths coming out. Travel can mean far away, exotic destinations, but there’s plenty of fascinating things to see and do within a day’s drive of our home state, as long as you don’t take shortcuts.

Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or pb@goodtogowithpb.com.