Day One Of Our First RV Trip: Home To West Memphis
(Willie Nelson here) On The Road Again...
Well, the day we have been waiting for has finally arrived! Thursday, June 30 we begin our trek to a far off place filled with sand, sun, and water: Pensacola Florida! Nine days of travel, fun and just good times for all is beginning now.
8:00 AM We leave out and head east on Hwy 60 with our first planned stop being in West Plains, Missouri to fuel up. I am planning on 10 mpg but will not be surprised if we get less. The road is open and lies in wait of us. In my mind I hear Willie singing "On the road again" and it stirs my soul. My family is not sure what all I have planned for them on the trip only that we will be stopping in Huntsville, Alabama before heading on to Pensacola.
West Plains, Mo.
Home of Porter Wagoner, he of the shiny Country and Western suits back in the day! We pull into West Plains to top off our tank and grab a bite to eat. It is now 10:30 AM and we are actually ahead of my schedule! What a great beginning!
We stop at Casey's and fuel up. Well, well lookie here! We got about 8 miles per gallon on this first leg. Hope this is not a sign of things to come. Can't be, we're going to be heading downhill to the ocean so we have got to get better mileage than this at least on the way down, right? Right?
Okay, fueled up and we pull around the corner off the lot and go back and grab some people food while my wife walks the dog. Yes, the dog. We are taking our two year old Shih Tzu Chew Chew on this trip. Not too crazy about that but if it helps everyone else travel better by holding and petting the dog I'm good with that.
Gummy packs, Rice Krispie Treats and water bottles and we are back on the road once more, still ahead of schedule. Yee haw!
Let's take a short break...
As we are ahead of schedule we decide to stop for a bit and really stretch our legs at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas. I mean, we've been on the road for almost three hours so it is time to take a break, right?
We've been here before, last summer in fact. It is beautiful and the spring makes the air so cool and crisp. Everywhere else is 90 plus degrees but here in the park it is a cool 75 or so.
We walk up and down the path along the pond, looking at the ducks and geese while Chew Chew wanders along. Come on boy, you need to go pee!
Then we walk to the point where the spring itself comes out. It is huge and creates two different locations where the water is directed before coming together to make the pond. It then goes over a dam that must be over thirty feet to the bottom, creating a cool mist area that is popular with the tourists.
Time to get back on the road again!
Next stop, Jonesboro Arkansas
We get back on the highway and head towards Jonesboro on highway 63 which then joins with 412. This is the most twisting and turning portion of the trip, moving through the Ozark hills towards Memphis. Up and down, around blind corners all on a two lane blacktop road. But it isn't too heavily traveled and for the most part we have it to ourselves. The scenery is beautiful, stunning vistas of the hills filled with trees everywhere. Ah, I love the country!!
Then I notice that our gas gauge is falling precipitously. In fact, it is falling too fast for my comfort. I know we will make Jonesboro, which is our next fueling location but my oh my how we are going through gas.
Somewhere around Black Rock, Arkansas we finally run out of the hills and reach level ground. And here we find something new: flooded fields full of water and green plants. Has there been a heavy rain here? Is a nearby river or creek flooding the land? Nope, just a bunch of rice fields! Rice? Yep, rice is grown here and abounds in this portion of the country. My wife is surprised to find this but delighted to learn something new!
Finally, West Memphis!
By early afternoon we have arrived at Jonesboro and top off once more. Fuel mileage ain't what I planned it would be and I'm beginning to wonder just what this will end up costing us. The price per gallon is in line with my plan of $2.00 per gallon; here it is $1.94 so at least on this we are okay. But after tabulating this portion I find we got 5.5 mpg. Are you kidding me?!? Less than 6 mpg!! Oh no!
Oh well, nothing to do but keep going. On to West Memphis, Arkansas! Sister city to Memphis, Tennessee West Memphis stands on the western bank of the mighty Mississippi River. It is a small town that lives and breathes in the river's valley. We find the turn off and wind our way down to Tom Sawyer's RV Park along the banks of the river. It is a picturesque setting, relaxing even. As we arrived in good time we have several hours of daylight left so while the girls walk the dog, my son and I explore the area along the river.
Tugboats continually drive barges upriver then return downriver empty. Their speed is incredible as they push these huge barges, often topping a mile an hour against Ol' Man River's current. We walk downriver as my son noses amongst the rocks, ever searching for something special or unique. As we near the far end of the park he bends down and picks up a rock then shows it to me. I look, then look again. In stunned disbelief I ask him "Do you know what you've found?"
It's a fossilized sharks tooth. The tip is no longer sharp, having been worn down from traveling downstream in the Mississippi before finding its way onto the bank of the river some thirty feet or more above the current level, but there is no doubt what it is; none. His face lights up in a smile a mile wide, much like the river he stands beside. What a way to begin our trip!!
After running back (him, not me) to show Mom we decide there is time left to drive across the river and go to a place I had not told them we would go: Bass Pro Shops in The Pyramid of Memphis. At one time this was an arena for the professional basketball team the Memphis Grizzlies before it was abandoned. It was refitted last year by Johnny Morris of Bass Pro fame and now stands as one of the most unique shopping destinations in the country. There is water filled "ponds" inside with sample boats floating on them, docks and bridges connecting them together. Various areas around the outer edge house different items like shoes and clothes while the second level mezzanine has more shopping areas and a hotel. It truly is unique.
But the best part of this shopping mecca is a free-standing elevator reaching to the highest heights and leading to a restaurant and observation platform. The ride up takes some 90 seconds or more and is over twenty stories high. The restaurant has windows looking out over the river and city and on two sides there are doors which allow those firm in resolve to wander out onto a...
Are you ready? A glass deck. Yes, when you venture out on the platform you are standing on glass! It took a moment to settle in but the view! Oh, the view is spectacular! My son and I (the girls were shopping) could not wipe the smile from our faces as we looked this way and that, peering over the river and city, looking down at the ants which were cars and people.
Finally we decided it was time to go back down and get the girls, then head back to the trailer for some dinner. Everybody was happy and it could not have been a better first day on the road.
Well, one day in the books and it was a great one. We found a who knows how many millions of years old shark's tooth, crossed the Mississippi River, stood on top of a pyramid and lived to tell the tale. As we lay down for our first night in the trailer I wondered: what would the morrow bring?
As I closed my eyes and tried to sleep, a song was playing in my head. It was appropriate for our location and I murmured along with the singer as I drifted off to sleep.