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Rolling Further South for Winter

Updated on December 29, 2015

Rolling out of Nashville

Next Stop: Memphis

After a smooth ride through Tennessee, we rolled into Memphis as Jimmy Cliff sang "Many Rivers to Cross" on the radio. Soul Santa on the corner was clearly a good omen. The Captain and I had talked about it being impossible to drive through the south without getting lost in thought about all that's happened in the same woods that now line major highways. Passing a sign marking a state wildlife refuge made me wonder about the possibility of reincarnation and if, in fact, there were slave souls inhabiting protected animals and the irony of such a thing. This is a satisfying aspect of being on the road, time to let my mind wander at length - like mental journaling.

First things First

It was early in the afternoon when we checked into the Agri-Center RV Park in East Memphis. There is nothing here, besides hookups, in the way of amenities but it's large, quiet, and easily accessible. Mona, the camp host, loaned me her glasses to fill out the registration. In one of many such traveling coincidences, she told me that she had lived in Madison for a number of years but was originally from L.A. We enjoyed a California Girl moment before The Captain and I headed out to lunch. On the recommendation of our recently relocated friend, Erica, we bypassed all other temptations and went directly to the Double J Smokehouse and Saloon. We parked in the free parking lot of the Lorraine Motel (our next stop). Walking up behind the place, we could see the man tending the smoker out back. Inside, a few regulars sat at the bar and the bartender and waitress made small talk. We were the only other people there, being late for lunch and early for dinner. If you take Erica's (and now Jim's and my) advice and eat here, please do yourself the favor of getting an order of pork egg rolls. We followed that with ribs, pork, macaroni and cheese, slaw, broccoli and to go containers. The half we took back to the rv was inhaled at far too late an hour for optimal sleep comfort but I swear I'd do it again.

Stage at the Double J Smokehouse & Saloon

Good gig if you can get it - and Jim wanted it!
Good gig if you can get it - and Jim wanted it!

The National Civil Rights Museum

The museum is built around the Lorraine Motel, sight of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Having sen this scene in print and video countless times was no preparation at all for actually standing this spot. It didn't feel right to take pictures so I have none. If you are ever in or passing through Memphis, I hope you'll have this experience for yourself. Allow plenty of time. I would have liked another half hour. It was Monday and the museum is closed on Tuesday (as is Graceland, by the way) so we just took every minute we could get. Although it was closing time, those of us nearing the end of the exhibits were not rushed out. Plan on two hours. There is a tremendous amount of thoughtfully presented history in this multi-sensory experience - and experience is the word for it. From the slave trade to current events, the exhibits were made that much more meaningful in a space shared with children ranging in age from too young to understand to just old enough for the weight of what they were trying to process to begin to show in their posture as well as their need for increased proximity to their parents. The museum offers a Family Guide (available from the website) to plan for discussing and helping children to process what they will see, hear, and feel. No doubt, adults will benefit from this, too.

Still trying to get to a belly dance class

As you'll recall, my planned drop-in belly dance class in Nashville was cancelled. I had prepaid a class for Monday night in Memphis, had directions ready and The Captain was going to drop me off and wait. Here is another luxury of riding around in an rv; you have food, books, art supplies, a guitar, etc. and can be easily amused in any place you find parking. Well, it was dark and it was raining and the pre-Christmas traffic was what that is and we never found the place. Shout out to Liz at Memphis Raqs for so graciously refunding my class fee.

As a side note, I did not mention the incredible light display behind the rv park in Nashville. We were stuck in a huge traffic jam, in which Jael was so patient while trying to get us home, comprised of people paying $25 a car to drive through this HUGE light show. Once dropped off, we had a great view of it from the end of our campsite row. Well, darned if there wasn't a similar thing across from our place in Memphis. This must be a thing. Something to look for if you're looking for a light show anywhere near an rv park anywhere in America. Now I'm just curious.

The Dixon Botanical Gardens and Gallery

Sunshine and serenity 3 days before Christmas were found at The Dixon, which is situated in what is clearly a wealthy neighborhood. As we were jingling along, gaping at the gorgeous homes from the cab of a F-450 pickup with our little rolling condo attached, The Captain had the quote of the day with, "I'll bet they don't see much of what we've got goin' on around here." And he was very likely correct.

Local artist Martha Kelly's exhibit of paintings and prints alone would have been worth the visit. There was also, however, a stunning collection of Southern impressionist paintings. The grounds are gorgeous and on such a beautiful day, only something as exquisite as what this gallery had to offer would have been worth going inside. This was true even before we happened onto the Degas and Lautrec pieces that came as a complete surprise.

A Lovely Welcome

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There is a 6 a.m. yoga class in the Dixon garden pavilion, which I had every intention of attending. Jim was going to come along and sketch in the gardens and then we were going to go to Gibson's (another recommendation from Erica) for donuts on the way out of town. More on that later. Here's a hint: it might as well have been a belly dance class.

Along the Mississippi

Memphis has a gorgeous river walk and it is well-used by runners, families, lovers, and tourists such as ourselves. It was nice to see so many people out enjoying the warm day. Jim sat and did this gorgeous little water color while I walked and took a few pictures along the way.

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Of course, we walked along Beale Street

Before going to the river, we went to The Peabody Hotel where there are ducks in the indoor lobby fountain and are apparently trained to parade through the hotel lobby at particular times of the day. This is the result of a practical joke played by drunk duck hunters sometime a long time ago. It's a hoot and right on the beaten path so worth a look. Later, we took a walk down Beale Street. The music and classic neon signs seemed more a reminder of what was that a lure for what is. Seeing the studios and radio station and historical markers just made me wish I'd seen it all while the memories were being made; still, it's a good walk down memory lane. Sun Records, Stax Records, WDIA Radio, whatever trips your trigger, it's easy to find and well advertised and there's probably a tour. You can't miss it. Just get to Memphis and Memphis will get you where you want to go. We parked the rv in 2 spots of a public lot downtown (we paid for both spots), left it there all afternoon and into the evening, walked along less populated downtown streets and always felt perfectly safe.

Did I mention the Gibson store?
Did I mention the Gibson store?

Leaving Memphis, in the middle of the pouring rain

We knew there'd be weather ahead and weren't so surprised when the hard rain woke us up in the wee hours. At 5:00 a.m., Jim said, "Get up, let's go now!". And we did. No yoga, no Gibson's, just a goal of beating the storms forecast for Mississippi which we had to drive all the way through to get to our next destination, New Orleans. Turns out, his quick call got us ahead of some severe weather, including tornados that crossed paths we had crossed just hours before. Since we left without making coffee, Jim pulled into Dunkin' Donuts. I was having none of it, Gibson's or nothing. They appeared closed but as he pulled around to exit, there was an open drive-thru. Coffee in cup holders and a donut for The Captain and off we go, only to hear a horrible crashing, crunching, breaking medley that sounds as if something really expensive has happened. In fact, just one overhead donut light was broken and a few more or less minor pieces of the rv (including the bathroom pop-up vent, the refrigerator vent, and something to do with cable) were destroyed. We took it in stride, because you just have to, and moved it on down to New Orleans. This is another fact of rv'ing: sh*t'$ going to happen on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes it's going to involve alarms, sometimes it's going to smell funky, sometimes it's going to involve a leak (the source of which might never be found) and sometimes it's going to require emergency roadside assistance. We travel with plenty of snacks, including more chocolate than you'd think would be necessary. Trust me, though.

Just a little too low...


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