Following another route change due to road closures we ended up passing through a town called Lava Hot Springs. After all this driving, we thought a warm soak sounded perfect and if your town is called Lava Hot Springs, you better darn well have some hot springs for us to sit in. Sure enough, there is a naturally heated mineral water river that fills man made pools that range from 102 to 112. The water is not treated with chemicals and moves at such a rate that it completely flushes all the pools each day. Unlike most of the hot springs I have been in there is nah a sulfur smell. The soak is just what my spine and muscles needed after the first 1,500 miles of our trip.
On our way back to the campground we stopped at the Wagon Wheel tavern. The Wagon Wheel is the same incarnation of a bar your father went to when he was a young man. The four patrons and a complete lack of ventilation mean you are hit with a cloud of smoke as soon as you open the door. There are ashtrays on every table. A small dance floor bordered with wagon wheels sits next to a small carpeted stage. Most of the walls are wood paneled, a few are textured plaster with wood accents. Miscellaneous liquor mirrors and neons flank most of the walls, approximately half of them are fully operational. After a single pint I am sincerely missing the Washington state smoking ban. My respiratory system is probably going to have to toughen up if we want to spend any time in the Texas honky tonks so I will consider the Wagon Wheel an act of conditioning. The banner out front advertises live music on Friday and Saturday. Karaoke was in play for our visit, and it did not disappoint. One patrons completely a capella version of “Red Solo Cup” while the Karaoke DJ was attempting to locate the his Garth Brooks song was definitely a highlight.
Lava hot springs is a gem. There is not a single chain business here, not a bank nor grocery store. Every business appears to be at a minimum regional and more likely completely local. The town is built around these naturally heated pools and summer river floats. We stumbled upon it via a last minute route change as we left Jackson, however it was a slice of Americana that we would make our way back in a heartbeat.