We rolled into Memphis on a clear day and could feel the vibe immediately. Our home in Memphis is the Tom Sawyer RV Park, located right alongside the Mississippi River in West Memphis, AR. Our waterfront site gave us a front row seat to watch a never-ending parade of barges. Throughout the day and night we listened to the hum of the barges as they passed. 

Luckily the water level seemed low—at least compared to the sign we saw in the park that indicated the water level had risen at least twenty feet in May of 2011.

Memphis is the home of the blues and there are numerous attractions celebrating music. We purchased a “Backstage Pass” which gave us entry into the key musical sites. First we visited Stax Museum of American Soul Music where Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Isaac Hayes among others cut their hits. It was fun to see the wall of records and Isaac Hayes’ 24-karat trimmed Cadillac Eldorado. 

The other big studio tour not to miss in Memphis is Sun Studios. Known as the “birthplace of rock and roll” Sun is the location where Elvis was discovered and where Johnny Cash recorded his famous songs including, “I Walk the Line.”

BB King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison all recorded in the studio that we were able to wander around. Steve even tried to sing (not really) into the original microphone used by the hitmakers. After visiting Sun Studios we we felt like we had a pretty good introduction to Memphis music.

You can’t come to Memphis and not visit Beale Street. This legendary lane is where all the music goes down. We kind of compared it to Boubon Street in New Orleans. However, during a pandemic, there’s not much going on!

We were able to see a little live blues music at BB King’s Blues Club and wander the street without the usual crowds. 

Memphis is a significant location in the civil rights movement, and we were eager to learn more about the historic events that have shaped our world today. The National Civil Rights Museum traces the history of civil rights from 17th century to present day, though the story is certainly not over. Events of the last year seem to be mirroring much of what we learned at this incredible museum.

The museum is located in and around the Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. As part of the museum tour we were able to see rooms 306 and 307, where King and his colleagues were staying. The rooms were set just as they were at the time of the assassination. You can’t help but have a deeper, more meaningful view of history when you visit places like this. 

A visit to Memphis would not be complete without a visit to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley.

The highlight is certainly the audio-guided tour of Elvis’ eclectic home. We saw it all including the jungle room, the racquetball room, and the meditation garden which holds the remains of Elvis and his family members. The best part, at least for us, was the lack of crowds due to the pandemic. Most of the time we were alone as we took our time wandering the grounds. 

A tour to Graceland includes more than just the mansion. They now have a large entertainment complex across the street which features his cars, boats, motorcycles, and airplanes. It also displays his gold records, adorned jumpsuits, and tons of other Elvis memorabilia. I must admit, if you aren’t a big Elvis fan, it’s a LOT of Elvis. But we enjoyed it!

Yes, Memphis BBQ is as good as they say and we made sure to do our research!  Central BBQ is one we can highly recommend. We’re now headed east to Nashville, the home of country music and you can be sure we’ll continue our research! 

Branson, Bentonville, and a Tornado Warning

We’re continuing our winter RV trip south by exploring some of the places we’ve always heard about but never thought we’d have the opportunity to explore. First stop: Branson, Missouri.  From Gary and Kristy’s house in Kansas City we headed to the southern most part of the state and based ourselves at Table Rock State Park, just outside of Branson. We prefer to be a little removed from the cities at this point. We have more room and it gives us plenty of space to social distance.  This campground was just the ticket. 

While at Table Rock, Steve got in some long runs in preparation for his marathon in Nashville in a few weeks. He really enjoyed the fall colors along the trail. We had one day of wet and windy weather but otherwise it was cool and clear. Branson, we found, is a lot like Las Vegas for families with a central strip packed with big attractions and theaters. 

While in Branson we took in two shows. First we got discount tickets to see Anthems of Rock. It’s not the typical country-western show you find here, but we knew the words to every song and sang along. 

We also attended the Dolly Parton Stampede, a legendary show that features 32 horses as the stars.  A little singing, a little comedy, and a lot of horsemanship made for a very entertaining evening. We kept saying that Dad would have enjoyed this one. 

One day we took a little road trip to the south and drove through Berryville, Arkansas. Steve lived in this little town when he was around six years old. He couldn’t find his old house but we did drive by the plant where his Dad worked. It’s now a Tyson Foods processing facility and the entire area smelled like chicken nuggets.

From Berryville we headed to nearby Bentonville and the home of Walmart. We’d heard that this was a happening area and we weren’t disappointed. If I had been fit to ride, we would have hit the many, many mountain bike trails in the area. Since I’m still in the surgical shoe, we’ll have to save that for the next visit.

Instead we toured the Walmart Museum and learned about the founding and subsequent growth of the world’s largest retailer. The museum is in the location of the original Walton’s 5 and 10. Steve particularly liked Sam Walton’s old truck, which Sam drove until his death in 1992.

If you are ever in Bentonville we highly recommend you visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Established by Walmart heiress Alice Walton, the world-class collection of art and the stunning architecture rivaled most of the museums we visited in New York.

My favorite piece was the Georgia O’Keeffe Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1. which I later learned was acquired by Walton in 2014 for $44.4 million.

We left Branson and continued our trek south. As pitstop on our way to Memphis, Davidsonville Historic State Park in Arkansas was a fun choice. Again, there were very few people around and we could explore the adjacent historic park on our own.

Davidsonville was the site of Arkansas’s first post office and courthouse. The townsite was established in 1815 and abandoned within 15 years in favor of more readily accessible locations along the Black River. Today there are two “ghost structures” that indicate the location of the original post office and courthouse, along with an interesting interpretive walk through the historic site. 

The real fun at Davidsonville occurred around midnight when we were awakened by our weather radio alerting us to a tornado warning in our area. We were invited by the ranger to wait out the warning in the visitor center and it only took about 30 minutes to be back in our beds, safe and warm. No tornados, no damage, just a false alarm, but it made for a little excitement!

Our next stop is now Memphis, so stay tuned for the next blog featuring the blues and a little Elvis.

Escaping the Cold

Yes, it gets cold in Arizona, especially in Prescott.  We’ve fled just before the first cool spell of the season and we don’t plan to return until it’s warm again.  After being home for about six weeks, we’re back on the road and are heading south…eventually. 

You can do a lot in six weeks! The previous blog post highlights a few of our Arizona and Mexico adventures. I also mentioned that another foot surgery was in the works. As soon as we came off the road in September we paid another visit to Dr. McAlister at the Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute. I’ve been hobbling around ever since my lapiplasty surgery in May.  It became apparent that the pain in the ball of my foot was not going away and the surgery had not relieved the pain. 

Dr. McAlister confirmed what I already knew: another surgery was in my future. After an MRI, ultrasound, and several x-rays it still wasn’t clear what was causing the pain but I’m still blaming high-heeled shoes. After an in-and-out procedure, I had a torn ligament repaired, two neuromas removed, and two osteotomies (basically straightening of my toes with pins). I’ll be in a surgical shoe until Thanksgiving and hopefully back on the bike by Christmas. Fingers crossed!

Now back on the road, our first stop was McDowell Mountain Regional Park, north of Fountain Hills, AZ to escape a cold front. We were lucky to have Russ and Shelley visit and bring us dinner one evening.

Steve also got in some mountain bike riding with some buddies from Mesa Public Schools. Thanks to Steve Hogen and Shawn Lynch for coming out to see us!

Once the weather cleared a bit we headed towards the midwest to visit family in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. After a quick overnight stay in Albuquerque we spent the night with Sam in Denver and got in a good Mexican dinner with Sam’s brother and sister-in-law, Lorenzo and Janice. It was fun to catch up!

Across Nebraska we drove with the goal of making it to Elkhorn and Steve’s brother’s house by Halloween. We made it just in time and had a fun few days moochdocking in the Green’s driveway. We saw all five of the Green kids, saw Nathan play a few games, and enjoyed the time together. 

While in Elkhorn Bob started feeling super lethargic, threw up and then the next day had a seizure. We rushed him to the vet and after two days of tests he was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease. He’s doing great now with the help of a daily dose of prednisone. It was a little scary for a bit but thankfully the awesome Dr. Opdahl at The Pet Clinic in Omaha got Bobby all fixed up. We were all very relieved and he’s doing so much better.

We couldn’t come to the midwest and not make a visit to the see the family in Iowa. We spent one night parked outside Sandy and Jerry’s house in Corning, Iowa, and it was just enough time to have a party in the garage with all the cousins. We ate BBQ, made s’mores, and toasted to Grandma Green. Though it was a short visit it was wonderful to see everyone!

Heading south we next stopped for visit with the Kansas City Greens. Gary, Kristy, Hudson, and Brynn welcomed us with great food, a little Cornhusker football, some shopping, and lots of love to the puppies.  We’ve decided that Mia has lost her sight so she is getting extra attention these days too.

We’ve had great weather the entire time we’ve been in the midwest but it’s supposed to get cold this week. So, it’s time to head eastward and southward with planned stops in Branson, Memphis, Nashville, Montgomery, and the Gulf Coast. Eventually we’ll end up about 90 miles north of Cuba. Even with the COVID pandemic we are staying as safe as possible and feeling great. So stay tuned for more updates and highlights.