Unless you’ve been to Bentonville, it’s hard to put into perspective the experience of visiting Arkansas’s fastest-growing metro area. Located in the foothills of the Ozarks and bustling with business and entrepreneurship, this once sleepy little town with a population of no more than 30, today still feels like a modern-day version of the movie Pleasantville, with its white picket fences and pristine neighborhoods surrounding the heart of Bentonville’s community – its historical Downtown Square. In the 1880s the square served as a watering place for livestock. In 1901 Bentonville shipped one-half million bushels of apples from it bounty of apple trees, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau at that time accounted for the largest number of bearing apple trees of any county in the United States. Eventually the city of Bentonville expanded around its Downtown Square and today more than 45,000 call this community in Northwest Arkansas home.
There’s history in Orange Beach. We could tell as soon as we drove into this surprisingly unexpected corner of the Gulf Coast. Its location is right at the point where Alabama and Florida connect. If you’re not careful you could end up crossing state lines without even noticing. We did and for a moment it felt like we were driving right back into Florida after having bid farewell to the Sunshine State just a few minutes earlier. If you have ever driven the entire length of the Sunshine State, you will appreciate why the thought of being back in Florida after having just exited the state would be more than a little nerve-wrecking. Luckily for us, we were in fact in Alabama.
Austin is weird, and they are proud of it. Our neighbor to the north is home to the massive annual event that is SXSW, and each year, it is the place to be for anyone who is even remotely interested in technology and the wonderous possibilities of the future. I was there this year as an #HOUSxSw Ambassador on behalf of Station Houston and Houston Exponential representing Houston’s strong community of creators and innovators. If you’ve never been to Austin and are not familiar with the phrase “Keep Austin Weird,” the month of March during SXSW might be the perfect time to get familiar with this quirky part of Texas, which also happens to be the state capital. There is never a shortage of things to do in Austin, but during the massive annual event known as South by Southwest (SXSW) you can multiply your options by a couple dozen points of interest.
Los caminos de la vida no son como yo pensaba. Como los imaginaba. No son como yo creía. The journey of life is not how I thought it would be. It’s not how I imagined it. It’s not what I thought it would be. This song came on the radio at one point while we were driving along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago before the end of 2017, and it put everything into perspective. The last time I really listened to the lyrics of Los Caminos de la Vida by La Tropa Vallenata I was headed to the cemetery in the funeral procession for my father. I remember thinking then, that life is too short to not do the things we want to do. I wanted to bring my father to the Grand Canyon. He left before I ever could. His passing was one of those things in life that hit me like a ton of bricks. I never imagined his time with us would be cut short, or so soon. And yet it was.
You can do a lot of things in New Orleans. The one thing that will take some effort on your part is not having a good time in the Big Easy. Especially around Mardi Gras season. As the locals will say, laissez les bons temp rouler. Let the good times roll! We were in the Crescent City just a few weeks ago, right before all the official Mardi Gras festivities began. Although, in truth, sometimes it is hard to tell when Mardi Gras is happening or not in New Orleans. I mean when we were there we went to at least four different parades and observed and heard at least another half dozen taking place around us. I think my favorite was the Mardi Gras parade dedicated entirely to pets. Yeah, as in perros y gatos decked out in Mardi Gras garb and riding floats along one of the main roads of the city with their owners tossing beads to onlookers.
Enchanting. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think back to the three magical days we spent in Sedona – welcoming the new year and officially saying, “Hasta la vista, baby” to 2017. It was everything we expected and more. The beauty of the red mountains staring at us from every direction, the quiet and peaceful sounds of crystal clear water cascading down Oak Creek. The picturesque drive to get into Sedona was full of excitement, revealing one beautiful scene after another as we hugged and curved through majestic mountains to arrive at our final destination. We were literally at the edge of our seats with anticipation to arrive at this peaceful oasis.