October 23 and 24, 2010 – Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee
From Russellville, AR to West Memphis, AR (right across the Mississippi from Memphis, TN) is flat, flat, flat Delta land. No hills, just flat fields of rice, cotton and other crops with few farmhouses in sight of the interstate. Crossed many good sized rivers way larger than what they call a river out west, all heading inevitably to the Mississippi.
We stayed two nights at Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis; about 7 miles from downtown Memphis. What a nice park!!!! Thanks to Cheryl and Bill (again) for recommending this one. The sites were huge and although we did not get one that faced the Mississippi, the campground itself was right on the river and we were within yards of the riverbank. The workers were really nice; they pick up your trash at your site in the mornings and it costs nothing to do your laundry in laundry rooms clean as a whistle with really new, modern frontloading washers and dryers. Worth the $30.00 per night charge for sure.
We walked around the campground, watched the huge barges being pushed by equally enormous tugs saw lots of bluebirds and killdeer. We did not launch the boats because the campground did not have a boat ramp to the river and more importantly, it was located on the dredged channel of the river which was churning with weird eddies and currents. If we had been on the other side of the river, we would have considered it because the other side was calmer and too shallow for the barges with large sandbars bisecting the river. The moon was full tonight – a little different venue from the last full moon we saw rise over the Grand Canyon. Even at night the barges travel up and down the river. There were 21 different containers all being pushed by one big tug; three abreast of each other and seven in length. Pretty impressive.
Awoke on Sunday to the promise of rain with dark clouds threatening overhead. Sure enough, almost as soon as we got into downtown Memphis, it started to pour. We went to the Visitors’ center and again, this lovely older woman made great suggestions about how to travel through Tennessee on US 64 rather than Interstate 40. She promised nice towns, quaint courthouse squares and interesting history. We took the monorail to Mud Island where they have a Mississippi River museum complete with a Riverwalk that is really neat. It is a replica of the Mississippi from Lake Itasca (origin) through New Orleans and you can “walk” the entire river. There are informative placards placed along each section of the river with all of the river tributaries shown as well. Unfortunately, it was really raining hard so we only walked a short portion although I would like to come back and spend time seeing this. The museum was also quite well done with simulated river boat parlors, union gunboats and confederate gun batteries. There was the sound of these various venues so you really felt as though you were at the location at the time. There was also a simulation of what it is like to be on a big diesel tugboat pushing the barges and that was fascinating. There was a screen showing the river while you stood in the wheelhouse and listened to the chatter between the captain and the shore communicators.
We went to Beale Street for ribs and pulled pork but were a little disappointed by “Pig on Beale” which had been heavily advertised as the best BBQ joint on Beale Street. Of course, that’s what they all say. But, while the ribs and pulled pork were good, they were dry. Apparently, they cook them that way in Memphis and then you just add the sauce which makes them more juicy. Then, you are supposed to buy their sauce, which, by the way, was really good.
We were not disappointed by the Ducks in the Peabody Hotel. The legend is that the owner of the Peabody Hotel was an avid duck hunter. One day, after shooting a number of ducks with his friends, they decided to have a drink at the hotel and put the dead ducks in the fountain to keep them cool. Apparently, one of the ducks was not dead yet and began flopping about. A crowd gathered and the Peabody’s owner realized that he might be able to make a buck by having real ducks in the fountain. Since that time, at 2 and 5 p.m., these mallards are marched (by a trainer) into the lobby where they promptly launch themselves into the fountain where there is ample food and a place to rest. There are now three Peabody hotels in different cities and all have the ducks in the fountain. The hotel itself, though, is the epitome of southern gentility rivaling any of the most elegant and sophisticated hotels in the country in my opinion. The flower arrangement topping the fountain where the ducks were, was absolutely stunning. The hotel lobby has a lovely bar and overstuffed sofa seating arrangements that beckon for a “sit-down”. There is an attentive bar staff that is on hand if you want a drink and they serve fine Tennessee whiskey – what else? There is a player piano playing wonderful music that even Bob liked. In short, or long, the atmosphere was so “southern”. Made me want to order a mint julep and don my antebellum gown.