Modernity has nothing on the Buckstaff Baths. We have been to some super-dooper spas in our day, but this 1912 beauty, the only bathhouse on Bathhouse Row to be in continuous operation, was a true delight. We finally got into town today, found one of the 4, count 'em 4, RV parking spots in the entire historic district, and started to walk down the most lovely, magnolia-shaded boulevard. We reached the Buckstaff right away, before we'd reached the visitor center, so we went in to inquire about taking the waters. Turns out they have quite limited hours, so we just said yes, without a clue as to what the "traditional treatment" was, and were whisked (well, that's too speedy a verb) away up a 1912-era, hand-operated Otis Elevator to quite an experience.
We "took the treatment" before we knew anything about it. Afterwards, we went to the visitor center, which is in a lovely restored bathhouse. The pictures that follow are from there as, for obvious reasons, we couldn't take pictures in the REAL bathhouse ;-)
First, the dressing room attendant swaths you in a crisp white sheet, toga style, and very discreetly from the back. That sheet is great, as it's lightweight and the facility is NOT air conditioned.
Treatment 1: Soaking in a tub
The bath attendant (the 2nd person) scrubs you down with your own loofah and then turns on the Model T-era "turbine" to make a Jacuzzi-style bath at 104 degrees. Then she leaves you in this gargantuan porcelain tub with some cups of the actual hot water to drink to bring your body temperature up.
Treatment 2: The sitz bath
Absolutely surprisingly nice--the angle of this little tub plus the warm water really help the lower back relax.
Treatment 3: Gimme steam
An old-fashioned steam cabinet--which looked for all the world when it is occupied like a magician's box. I generally hate steam on my face, so this thing worked beautifully, even if we all looked funny.
Treatment 4: Get packin'
The packing table was where you get 4 hot towels (and this is an actual federal regulation--4 max) packed around you wherever you want 'em. Legs/feet, shoulders, and lower back were my choices. Then a cool towel and ice spring water and a 15 minute snooze.
Treatment 5: The "tickle" shower
Still not sure what the official name is, but my gal called it that. And I giggled for the entire 5 minutes.
I asked her how many people they can get through this finely tuned, almost 100-year process each day. She wasn't sure but she said she had bathed 53 one day and, "That's a lotta ladies." For sure. We tried not to think about how old everything was or how many bodies had been in the tub.... It was also surprising that we didn't have to sign a medical waiver, any kind of liability release, etc., etc. Hmm.
Treatment #6: Massaahhhhge
A 3rd person administers a hot oil massage for 20 minutes. I did not even NEED it by the end of the bathing--no driving knots in my shoulders!
The whole thing? $55 for 1.5 hours of history and relaxation.
We strolled down the rest of the row and visited the Fordyce Baths and Museum.
Then we found a former speakeasy owned by Al Capone for lunch. Lots of interesting stories, including how the young Bill Clinton played sax there. We assume that the 3rd floor brothel was closed at that point....
We have now been twice to the "jug fountains" all around downtown to refill on the delicious spring water. We'll hit the road tomorrow with 5 gallons!
Saturday we zipped over to Little Rock to see the Clinton Presidential Library. Gorgeous, LEED-certified building (in the shape of the "bridge to the 21st century) with some neat exhibits, but we had to stop reading the way-too-dense text. Truman's exhibits sure read as if they had been written by historians, whereas Bill's were clearly "spun." Ick. I mean, I voted for the guy twice and my eyes were rolling. I think that sizable group of non-fans would have apoplexy, but then again, they wouldn't be visiting, perhaps.
But we were glad we saw it. Can't imagine when we'll be back through.
And here's Bill's Oval Office reproduction:
Although this campground and those hot springs would be worth a detour off I-40 again some day! And there's Roadfood we didn't try--a BBQ place. Too much BBQ in KC ;-) So maybe there will be another visit....