From the Editor: Escape to reality

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This past Saturday was quite the debacle. After cruising in and around Mexico for seven days, Gideon and I were ready to get off that ship.

Don’t get me wrong — the cruise was great. It was gluttonous and carefree and all about instant gratification. If we wanted a four-cheese pizza at 2 a.m., we could have it. I don’t know about you, but 24-hour pizza is exactly what I think about when pondering what heaven is like. Everything about the trip was an escape, as it should be.

But I realized Saturday morning that Gideon and I don’t necessarily need an escape. We already live in a town where tourism is pretty popular. Call me crazy, but I’d say living in Eureka Springs is better than cruising to Mexico. See, I’m not a summer kind of person. I prefer mild weather and love the cold. I’m also incredibly fond of the small-town atmosphere that makes our little town so special.

The whole time we were on the ship, Gideon and I obnoxiously bragged about the place we call home and encouraged everyone to visit. For me, more tourists make Eureka Springs even better. I love taking off on foot from my apartment on a busy Saturday and seeing so many people shopping and eating downtown.

It’s a delight to see people discover all the small things that exemplify our town, from the art to the street musicians to the many colorful parades. You never really know who you’re going to run into on a Saturday here, and I think that’s so exciting. Especially for a small town. Especially for a community on the fringe of much larger cities where there’s tons to do.

All this was on my mind Saturday morning when our ship was due to make its final stop in Galveston, Texas. I tossed and turned all Friday night, dreaming of my cat and my town and my cat. I kept waking up, peeking out the window, realizing it was still pitch black out and going back to sleep, or at least trying to.

Finally, it was morning. I was ecstatic. I shook Gideon awake and told him we were going home. Our cruise director’s voice floated in over the intercom telling us that would happen much later than we expected. The fog was too heavy, he said, so the port at Galveston had temporarily closed. He instructed us to wait in our rooms or to go get breakfast.

Gideon and I got breakfast. Nervously munching on a croissant, I asked Gideon how long we’d be waiting. It was an 11-hour drive home, one we didn’t want to start in the middle of the afternoon. Gideon said it shouldn’t be too long. I didn’t believe him and ordered another croissant to nourish my worried soul.

We went back to our room. The clock kept ticking, and disappointing announcements kept coming in. Around 11 a.m., the ship began to move. We were in Galveston an hour later but didn’t leave the ship until 2 p.m. I was relieved. Maybe we’d get home sooner than I thought! I felt optimistic that the customs line would move fast. We had all been told to have our information in hand, and Gideon and I certainly did. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how many people were leaving the ship. There were probably more people in line than there are in Eureka Springs.

An hour and a half later, we were standing next to our car. We got our luggage inside, and I set the GPS to Eureka Springs. Gideon pointed out that we probably wouldn’t arrive home until 3 a.m. and said we could stop by my mom’s in Texas, which is more or less a halfway point. “No,” I said. “Let’s go home.”

So we did. Through Houston and Dallas and lots of tiny towns in Oklahoma, I listened to Willie Nelson and thought of being back in Eureka. At 2:30 a.m., we passed the sign I had been longing to see all day.

“Welcome to Eureka Springs,” it said.

I didn’t know it was possible, but that felt even better than 24-hour pizza.

• • •

Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.