Current Location: Fayetteville, AR

Today, Melanie and I decided to take a trip to the local mall.  Although we weren’t completely sure on the directions, I sensed that we were nearing our destination when we saw a store called “$1 Jewelry Galore.”  “Here we are!” I exclaimed, “high end shopping at it’s finest!”  We went into the mall through a Dillards, and I figured that so far, things were looking good.  Then we entered the rest of the mall, and I noticed that something seemed amiss.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I scanned the area for an escalator.  There wasn’t one.  I realized that this mall packs all of it’s brilliance into just one floor.  Suddenly, I felt like all of those years playing Mall Madness had turned out to be a waste, but then again, Ty wouldn’t have seen her life flash before her eyes in Clueless if that mall had thought to contain itself to only one level.

We walked around the shops and saw many of the typical mall staples.  Sears, Bath & Body Works, Banana Republic, The Razorback Shop.  I was glad to see that one as I had been in the market for a new razorback for quite sometime, and it was nice to find an entire storefront dedicated to their sale.  Forget dogs and cats, the real ace in the family pet industry is the razorback.  You just can’t go wrong with a wild boar whose roots trace back to 16th century America.  That’s right.  Before there was a George Washington or a Declaration of Independence or an angry mob of men dressed as Indians throwing tea into a certain harbor, there was the razorback.

Unfortunately, as many of you might have guessed, The Razorback Shop was not filled with a hearty selection of feral pigs, but instead turned out to be a one stop shop for all things University of Arkansas.  The town of Fayetteville is in a very serious long-term relationship with the University of Arkansas.  They’re in love.  And they want everyone to know about it.  Restaurants feature signs urging people to “Go Hog Wild,” and most items for sale around town come in red, white, or razorback.  The University of Arkansas hometown pride is palpable in Fayetteville, and now that I think about it, the main street that’s devoted entirely to bars and nightlife doesn’t seem so out of place after all.

After looking around The Razorback Shop for a while and realizing that we had enough hog glassware as it is (being none), we walked towards the food court as it was getting close to my 1:00 lunch time.  It was on this particular mission that we came face to face with a hurricane simulator, right in the middle of the mall.  Huh?  A hurricane simulator?  In a mall?  In Arkansas?

A couple of things struck me as odd about the presence of the hurricane simulator.  The first being that I had no idea what the point of a hurricane simulator might be.  I already knew that I didn’t want to find myself standing in the middle of a hurricane.  Thanks chamber, but I figured that one out on my own.  Hurricanes are not a fun place to be stationed.  Got it.  The second thing that felt weird to me about the chamber situated in the middle of the Arkansas mall is that Arkansas doesn’t contend with the threat of hurricanes.  It’s nowhere near the coast!  Just to verify this theory of mine, I double checked it with the all-knowing Wikipedia, and sure enough: “While being sufficiently away from the coast to be safe from a direct hit from a hurricane, Arkansas can often get the remnants of a tropical system which dumps tremendous amounts of rain in a short time.”  Tremendous amounts of rain. Big deal, Arkansas.  Take that complaint to Louisiana or Mississippi. I’m sure it will evoke tremendous amounts of sympathy.  Maybe that’s the point of the chamber, “wow these winds are strong. I’m glad that I don’t live somewhere like this!”  Next thing you know, there will be a whole series of chambers in the Northwest Arkansas Mall.  A tsumani simulator, an earthquake simulator, traffic, smog, profanity, burglary…  “wow,” everyone will say, “the rest of the world blows.”

It goes without saying that I paid the $2.00 for a turn in the chamber.  It was awesome.  Awesome if you think that getting pelted by the sting of 150 mph winds is your idea of a good time.  After leaving the chamber, and on the verge of passing out from my experience, I still had no idea which purpose the hurricane simulator was intended to serve.  If someone is thinking about going out in seek of a hurricane to experience, I doubt that a chamber will serve as a deterrent, and it’s not a good experience on it’s own – probably because as I already suspected, it’s not fun to be trapped in the middle of a hurricane.

Tonight, Melanie and I are going to meet my dad for dinner, and then tomorrow, we all head over to the Walmart museum to see a historical recreation of the original store.  Talk about the true “American Experience.”  After that, my trek will take me to Indiana and around the Midwest for a couple of days.  Stay tuned for future adventures!