Our big trip last summer was to follow the Great River Road from the source of the Mississippi in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to as close as we could get to the mouth in the Gulf. Those who followed our adventures last year know that we were cut off by Hurricane Harvey as we approached Memphis. Since the road between where we left it last year and Memphis was described as “forgettable,” we decided to pick it up again this year just south of Memphis (neither one of us is interested in Graceland).
Jean’s granddaughter is getting married in mid-April in SE Florida, so we set Sunday, 11 March as our departure date. Of course, the Weather Channel forecast heavy snow in Forest for that date, so we put it off until the following Tuesday. And, of course, Sunday was sunny and dry, and the heavy snow came on Monday, so we could have left as planned. However, Tuesday was sunny and the roads were clear, so off we went after too long a pause between trips.
Our first stop was to visit Gene’s brother Mike in Harriman, TN. Typically for us, Gene estimated five hours travel time, Jean guessed seven; in the event it turned out to be six. Unfortunately, it was all on interstates. We got a late start, but we still made it before sundown, which is good, because backing into Mike’s driveway can be tricky.
We spent two nights in Harriman, which gave us lots of time to visit. Thursday noon saw us on our way to Tullahoma, and an old friend of Jean’s. That is a relatively short trip and our new GPS got us to Bud’s house in good time. Another night of visiting and good advice from Bud, including the best, non-interstate route to Memphis. He even highlighted it on our Tennessee map.
Next day, we made a short side trip to get gas and adjust tire pressures (a long story), and then got back on the road. We stopped at a Bojangles for drinks. The motorhome won’t go through drive-thrus, so we parked and Jean headed in for the drinks. On the way, she stepped off a curb she didn’t see and fell in the drive-thru lane. She suffered some bruises, but also shattered the crown on a tooth. The restaurant called an ambulance which arrived quickly. The EMTs determined that she had only minor damages except for the tooth. They don’t do dental in the ER, but it happened that there was a dentist right next to the restaurant. We got there just after 12:00, only to discover that they closed at noon. The receptionists were still there, and they gave us the address of a dental clinic in Murfreesboro that stayed open late.
An hour later, we were at a big clinic with several dentists. Two hours later Jean had a new, temporary crown and we were on our way. We were now an hour in the wrong direction and far away from Bud’s route. Once we found our way out of Murfreesboro, Jean studied the map and got us back on the highlighted line a short distance south and west of Tullahoma.
We spent the night in a funky old campground in the middle of nowhere. It is interesting to see the range of setups in a campground. Some people are serious about their television.
The plan was to dewinterize the next morning, though the forecast called for rain. At midnight a fierce rain squall came through. About 3:00 there was a lot of thunder and lightning. But when we got up in the morning it was overcast but not raining. Dewinterizing (summerizing?) went smoothly, and after a long conversation with our neighbors, we headed down the road for Memphis.
Tennessee is a long, narrow state, and the road to Memphis took most of the day. The end of a long day found us at last in Mississippi, on US-61. Finally back on the Great River Road. However, we were a long way from the river. Northern Mississippi seems to be casino central. Toward the end of the day we pulled into a parking area for RVs and trucks and picked a spot. The map indicated that the casinos (three of them) were located on the river, but when we took a walk to try to see it, we came up short. A casino worker told us that the river is only visible from the upper floors of the huge hotels.
|The scene from our camping spot|
Next day, Sunday, we headed out to see the sights. We were in an area called Tunica, which has a river park so we headed there. When we got there the gate was closed because the park was flooded. So our first view of the Mississippi on this trip was a lot of muddy water in the trees and covering the road several feet deep. There has been a lot of rain and the Mississippi is in flood stage.
We headed in to the little town of Tunica. This is a pleasant-looking place with an attractive downtown. There is a broad boulevard along one of the main streets, with a gazebo and a weeping willow along with lots of parking. The other main street has a wide connecting street that gives a view of the county courthouse, flanked by two huge magnolias. I have decided to make a project of shooting old county court houses, so I started with this one. It is a little more modern, and the old abandoned court house (presumably) is behind it. I shot pictures of both.
After Tunica, we headed to Clarksdale, which rates several mentions in one of our touring books. The road was string-straight and lined on both sides with huge fields (at this time bare). It reminded us of crossing South Dakota.
After Tunica, Clarksdale was a disappointment. It is crowded and dreary, and the downtown was deserted on a Sunday afternoon. We finally spotted some cars and we hailed a man coming out of a music store. He pointed us to a small café that was open on Sunday. We followed his advice and went to Grandma’s Pancake House. The lunch menu was very limited, but we both had patty melts and very good French fries. Then we fled back north to the road that led across the river to Arkansas.
Crossing the river, we finally saw the proper Mississippi. We also saw extensive flooding on both sides. The river is very high. We stopped at the Helena Visitor Center and got lots of information about the River Road in Arkansas, as well as a recommendation for a state park with camping. Having failed to make connections electronically, we drove the twenty miles to take our chances in person. We arrived two minutes before closing and learned that they had two sites available (it is spring break for Arkansas schools). We were shortly set up in a good campsite right next to a lake.