Driving south from Illinois, we enjoyed a scenic drive past tarnished autumn landscapes overlooking quiet rivers and gleaming lakes. Before long the lands were flat as we entered Missouri , then Tennessee and the flood plains of the great Mississippi River and roared past miles of cotton fields, a few looking like a fresh snowfall while most were already rolled up into brightly wrapped bails.
We arrived at Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park in the late afternoon and enjoyed the first of many hours, sitting beside the river watching the barges go by and the sky change its cloud formations and colours. Often, large tree trunks or pods of tangled grass and branches, even floating buoys would whip by on the rushing currents. The barges travel during the night too so our dreams were influenced by the sounds of chugging tugboats.
Tom Sawyer’s tree house.
The campsites are beside the river so we have a fantastic view form our windshield day an night. First thing in the morning our barge-watch beside “Ole’ Man Riva” begins again.
Our week here was split between taking trips into Memphis, River watching and bikes rides. Everything was close so it was easy to juggle a day of various activities. Our weather was dreary and cool but in some ways complimented our visit to The Lorraine Motel and wandering by warehouses, hotels and bars that had seen better days. Memphis is rich with vintage neon, weathered advertising on time worn brick walls and the viridescence of aged metal.
We began our first outing with coffee and donuts at Gibson’s an establishment famous for over fifty years. Chris ventured in to a bacon-topped maple donut as I tucked in to raspberry filled beauty. Our guilt was deflected somewhat knowing that we’d already had our morning fresh fruit.
Our next exciting event, was to visit a car wash. While Chris cleaned the crud off the CRV, I had fun taking shots of the windshield. I was very pleased with the variety of abstract images that resulted.
Artists are never bored!
Standing in front of the balcony at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot produced a deep, indescribable sadness.
The roiling grey clouds above us, in some ways reflected our state of mind as we paid our respects to Dr. King, such an optimistic, compassionate and deeply loved man.
We hit our first Bar-b-que Restaurant, Central BBQ, sampling their “suthin-style” ribs, baked beans and coleslaw beside a fun mural in the Naive-Style showing both sides of the Mississippi and with Tennessee on one side and Arkansas on the other and highlighting the rich music history.
Back across the Arkansas Bridge we go for more barge watching and bike riding.
These Sweet Gum Pods are often under foot around the southern states. Like the Pinecones of Ontario, they are used by crafters, displayed in dried arrangements and wreathes and apparently make great eyes for snowmen. Each pod has 40-60 seed capsules, each containing two seeds. Their many nicknames include: gumballs, ankle biters, space bugs, monkey balls and porcupine eggs.
Graceland hosts 600,00 visitors annually. Parking is $20.00, entrance fees to the museum and home start at $30.00 and go up to $120.00. You do the math! The museums hold Elvis’s clothing, army uniform and many glittery performance suits, shoes, jewelry, beloved cars, awards, gold albums and much, much more. Graceland home tours include a wander through the graveyard where Elvis and family rest. Gates to the home grounds are open to the public free each day from 7-8 am. We decided to view “The King’s” porcelain “throne” on-line so our short visit to Graceland involved parking out front and peering over the stone fence.
We drove to downtown Memphis where the heart of many music styles beats. A lot of the decorative detail on the old hotels, theatres and businesses have been preserved or restored. By sheer luck, we entered The Peabody Hotel, three minutes before the ducks arrived. The sumptuous hotel has an almost one hundred year old tradition of ceremoniously marching five ducks, who live on the hotel’s plantation roof, across a red carpet and into a travertine marble fountain. The ducks play all day surrounded by hotel guests sipping cocktails, reading the paper and lounging in luxury until they are escorted out a 5 pm.
Watch a video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=520-3nCG2Gg
You would have loved it Kim!
After greeting the ducks up close, we viewed some of the Italian Renaissance details and vintage decoration around the Peabody Hotel and dined on their special of the day, fried chicken and collard greens. Our ancient waitress looked like she had worked there her entire life but she was still smilin’.
We took a brisk walk down to the river where we viewed a couple of Mississippi River Boats and the huge glass Bass Pro Pyramid. Then we had a stroll along the famous Beale Street, legendary for its bars and hangouts for many famous musicians of many genre; Blues, Jazz, Soul, Gospel and Rock n’ Roll.
Remind you a bit of Nashville Wend?
Have you been to Memphis Magoo and Patricia?
As you can see, we never tired of the barges, each carrying different cargoes and being pushed by a range of ferries and tugs, some as wide as six containers and others so long, they took over twenty minutes to pass by. Our weather improved each day so with more sunshine and warmer temperatures we enjoyed more outdoor time.
One grey day we popped in to Memphis for another feed of ribs grilled over a charcoal fire at the famous Rendevous Restaurant.
Too bad you couldn’t join us Dina and Mark!
Another morning, we had a fun breakfast at Arcade Restaurant with its old school soda bar and window booths. Beautiful 5 x 8 foot black and white photos showed Memphis in its heydays. Central Train Station stands across the street from Arcade and is currently being renovated . Creatively, the hoarding was decorated with numerous lyrics of songs about trains.
Just south of downtown Memphis, overlooking The Mississippi River stands the buildings and sculpture gardens of The Metal Museum. The property was formerly the site of a Marine Hospital opened in 1884. On display, are works of contemporary artists, metalsmiths; permanent displays and treasure-filled drawers; a working Blacksmith Shop and Foundry; and an array of metal sculptures around the museum grounds.
Live beetle posing as a metal sculpture.
Working Blacksmith’s Shop
Great view of the bridge and Mississippi.
American Beauty Berry, native shrub, S. US
berry, berry close!
JC Christy Want it Les?
After a bike ride and hike back at camp, I decided to climb up into “Tom Sawyer’s” tree fort. Great view!
Hellooooo Chris, Dixie & CC!
The Big River Bridge Trail over the Mississippi is a popular walking, running and biking experience. Our ride was a great adventure, looking up at the marvels of metal construction, across at trains passing on the bridge next to us, down into the river and opposite downtown Memphis. The crisp sunny day added a great vibe to our trip but numbed our ears and hands on hour trip to and from Arkansas to Tennessee.
We spent the afternoon packing up to head towards Ozark in the morning. Always time for couple more barges!
Eek! More barges!