2021 Tampa RV Supershow

RV shows and rallys are where RVers learn about the latest new products, swap stories about time on the road, and connect with others who share the passion for road living. The Florida RV Supershow, held every January in Tampa, FL is the big daddy of all the shows, so it’s been on our agenda since we bought our first rig. The 2021 show was probably not as big and crazy as in the past due to the pandemic, but we still enjoyed the experience.

For five days we had full access to the Florida State Fairgrounds and the over 1500 RVs and hundreds of related-vendors. There was roving entertainment, fair food, and lots of opportunities to learn, shop, and gawk.

We toured big, million dollar Class As, truck campers, lots of fifth wheels, and even camper vans. No, we didn’t buy a new RV, though we looked at plenty!

We did, however, buy a bunch of stuff to make our lives on the road a little easier.  Here are a few of our fun finds, including a sign for the rig, a new rug, a garden flag stand, a new Garmin 890 RV GPS, and a new travel journal. Not pictured is a new Blackstone griddle which is still in the box, but sure to produce some great dinners in our future.

We also participated in our first RV rally during the show as part of Lippert Scouts. Lippert is a major RV and marine component company, and we are part of their Lippert Scouts ambassador group. Along with about 20 other Scouts, we camped on the grounds of the show, had easy in and out access for the entire time, and met a bunch of other fun, like-minded people. 

Being part of the group really enhanced our experience and we loved the nightly campfires. Around the fire we shared ideas for living on the road, campgrounds to visit, national parks to explore, and strategies for navigating in a big rig. We now have a group of friends from around the country who completely understand our current way of life.

The show and rally required masks inside and outside, had hand sanitizer available everywhere, and limited the number of people inside each rig at a time. We were careful to follow all the protocols and are feeling great. We know there is a risk to traveling during the pandemic and the risk is increased by attending events like this. However, we are determined to stay active and continue our explorations, with as much care as possible. So far, so good.

And the verdict on RV shows and rallys? We’re already planning to attend next year’s show, hopefully again as part of Lippert Scouts.

Thanksgiving and Whiskey

You can’t come to middle Tennessee and not visit Lynchburg and the Jack Daniels distillery. After leaving Nashville we drove south about an hour and a half to the little town that is home to the country’s most popular whiskey.

The town itself is tiny, with a square lined with shops that sell Jack Daniels souvenirs. The official Jack Daniels store is housed in the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store. There’s no hardware sold there…only more Jack Daniels stuff. Steve bought, what else, but a hat.

The tour itself took us into the actual distillery to follow the production process. As we walked through the beautiful grounds we learned about the production of the special charcoal that makes this whiskey so smooth. The whiskey is filtered through the charcoal before it is put into toasted oak barrels. Did you know that Jack Daniels has its own fire brigade to protect the 92 barrel houses that dot the nearby countryside?

We learned that when Jack established the distillery back in the 1860s, he chose Cave Spring Hollow, the current location, to take advantage of the iron-free, mineral rich water in the spring. The water has turned out to be one of the ingredients that makes Jack’s whiskey so good. We met Jack at the spring and took some photos. The Jack Daniels distillery registered with the federal government in 1866, making it the oldest distillery in the U.S.

After the tour we were treated to a tasting of six Jack Daniels products including the traditional Old No. 7, Gentleman Jack’s, and several of the newer, flavored varieties. Of course we walked away with a few bottles to enjoy at home!

The day started off wet and rainy but we ended up with clear skies and cool temperatures. It was a perfect day to explore this cute little town.

On Thanksgiving morning we took the short drive from Lynchburg to Lawrenceburg, TN and set up camp at the beautiful David Crockett State Park. The campsite was the perfect place to enjoy our socially-distanced Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey, stuffing, and of course, our first homemade Jack Daniels pecan pie!

The park has some nice trails and historical information that we got to explore. Davy Crockett and his family settled here in 1817. An old mill, a lake, waterfalls, and historical stuff makes it easy to hang out for a few days.

This week I was cleared for regular shoes and am no longer wearing the surgical shoe that has been plaguing me. We commemorated the occasion with a short 1/2 mile hike on the nearby Trail of Tears. Seemed appropriate. My foot is still swollen and sore if I’m on it much, but it is getting better.

The other feature that drew us to this area is the nearby Ethridge, home of the South’s largest “Old Order” Amish settlement. “Old Order” means they have no modern conveniences, no cars, no tractors, no electricity, and no running water. We did learn that they have a lot of kids!! We toured a portion of the community, which has approximately 250 families. You can stop at most farms and buy their wares including fresh eggs, preserves, hats, rugs, furniture, saddles, caskets, and a bunch of other things. We bought a few yummies and really enjoyed our short but cordial conversations with the community members we met. They don’t believe in having their photographs taken, but we snuck in a few of the countryside.

We’re continuing our trek south and should be on the gulf coast within a week. We’ll share more updates as we have news to report.

Memphis

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!