Before I get started on this, let me mention that most of the extra linked pages on the right side of the blog margin have been updated. I've listed quite a few new "Best of the Best RV Parks" that I've learned about. If you, dear readers, become aware of new RV parks that would fall into this category, please let me know in a comment. Also, please let me know if one of these parks doesn't measure up to its listing. Similarly, if you've found one of the favorite restaurant listings closed, please let me know that, too.
We are near Memphis, on the Arkansas side, parked at the Tom Sawyer RV Park on the bank of the Mississippi River:
|Dawn on the Mississippi. This was pure insanity; I usually never, ever get up this early.|
We're here to attend the annual gospel quartet show before we head northbound for the summer. On a previous trip, we toured Graceland and did the Elvis thing, so we're going to check out some other attractions and restaurants while we're here. The last time we were here, we tried downtown's famous Rendezvous for ribs and Gus's Fried Chicken and liked them enough to list them on our favorite restaurants page. This time, I was intrigued by a TV show that featured Dyer's hamburger place on Beale Street, so we went there to check it out. That's the joint where they fry the patties in 100-year-old grease! They claim to strain the grease every day but they never discard it and start over. They also season it by frying up some garlic cloves at the beginning of the day and, while I thought this was all pretty bizarre, it was not quite off-putting enough to keep me from trying it. Now I can already hear the collective gasps out there at the revelation that I would even consider participating in such an artery-clogging bit of gluttony as this, but give me a break--wouldn't you be just a little curious, too?
The burger patties are dropped into a vat of hot grease by the cook in the photo below:
This is what the burger looked like when served:
Frankly, I can't figure out why this burger is supposed to be popular. To me, it was just, well, okay. Tomatoes and lettuce are not provided (no, you can't have it your way). I had rather have had the patty cooked on a griddle, I think. And worst of all, the onion rings were the pre-frozen kind. For me, this is the kiss of death for an onion ring. I have yet to find a frozen one that was any good. The onion rings inside their little sarcophaguses had almost disintegrated, as expected, leaving only the fried batter ring from the outside. It was disgusting.
We walked around Beale Street a bit but found it a bit too touristy to hang around for long:
For another lunch on another day, we dropped into the nearby Blues City Cafe and tried their gumbo and a catfish/BBQ rib combo plate. The gumbo was outstanding and very spicy, just the way I like it. The combo was good, too, but the meal was way overpriced at $42 for one entree and one appetizer. Another black mark for restaurants in the middle of tourist hangouts. Beware!
Before we even reached Memphis, Dan, one of our readers and fellow bloggers (http://bge-journeys.blogspot.com), commented on our blog that he and his wife, Peggy, were parked at Tom Sawyer's RV Park in West Memphis and would like to meet us if that's where we were headed. We replied that we were, indeed, going to park there and that we would look them up! We're always delighted to do these meetups, and we were excited at the prospect of meeting Dan and Peggy. We found them to be a very personable, fun-loving couple of fulltimers with an unusual rig that I found fascinating. It is a large toyhauler fifth wheel, something that I really hadn't seen up close before:
But that wasn't the only guy-toy Dan had! He gave us an enjoyable ride to dinner in his roomy Freightliner medium-duty monster truck that he uses to pull his big fiver. There is absolutely no shortage of power in this big rig, for sure:
These folks are serious fulltimers, and we were astonished to see that their fifth wheel has an air conditioned garage in the rear that can convert to a bedroom! Here's a photo of the small Reeper runabout they keep in the garage and that takes them where the Freightliner can't go. Pretty cool, huh?:
In our conversations with Dan and Peggy, we became aware that we had been in the same RV park in the Rio Grande Valley recently but failed to meet up by one day; I'm glad we connected this time. We talked a good deal about where we were headed next, and they had some excellent suggestions that we will consider. Meeting good folks like Dan and Peggy is one of the many positive aspects of this lifestyle that we appreciate so much. And now, they join other bloggers we've met and are listed on the linked page, "Bloggers We've Met."
On another day, Sandy and I dropped in at the Cotton Museum in downtown Memphis. For many decades in the 19th and 20th centuries, the cotton trade provided the lifeblood for the development of Memphis, and this exchange building on Front Street was the nerve center for the cotton market in the old South. In the photo below, you can see the huge chalkboards upon which the prices of cotton in various world markets were posted after being received over a telegraph wire. The chalkboards were in use until 1978 when they were replaced by computerized displays:
This was an interesting tour, in which we learned a good deal about early Memphis through the interactive displays.
Next, we decided to go over to the Peabody Hotel and watch the famed parade of ducks as they leave the fountain in the hotel lobby and march to the elevator to go upstairs after their afternoon swim. This custom originated in 1933, soon after the hotel was built, and it was done as a prank. Someone thought it would be funny to put some ducks in the hotel fountain, and it became such a hit with customers that they continued the practice to this day. That was a good call, as the hotel lobby was packed with several hundred sightseers during our visit. Here's a photo of the fountain but, of course, the ducks all happened to be bunched up, swimming on the opposite side. Typical of my luck as a photographer:
It was a cute ceremony that included a lengthy narrative by the 'duck master' seen in the red tunic, followed by the ducks parading down the steps onto the red carpet in a single line all the way to the elevator where they were whisked away to their 'duck palace' on the top floor of the hotel. Here is a video that I pulled off YouTube:
We kept pretty busy going to several concert sessions during the week, and we continued to try new restaurants. One of them was the Half Shell, a rather forgettable (supposedly cajun) seafood restaurant that served perhaps the worst gumbo I've ever eaten. I couldn't help but marvel in the irony that I had had perhaps the best (Blues City Cafe) and worst (this place) gumbo ever during this one trip to Memphis. Amazing!
Dan and Peggy helped us salvage our restaurant quest by accompanying us to Memphis BBQ Company just across the Mississippi state line south of Memphis. This restaurant is one of their favorites, and we were especially fond of the ribs; we were able to take home enough leftovers for another meal:
And yes, the onion rings were fresh and hand breaded, as they should be.
Late in the evening, as we were leaving the convention center, the site of the concert series we were attending, we drove by Beale Street in downtown Memphis and noticed an ambulance and police cruiser standing by. It was a Friday night, and the street was jammed with intoxicated revelers, so I guess the first responders were staged there, ready for anything. Somehow, this struck me as a bit sad to think that an expectation of violence or injuries is almost considered normal nowadays in places like this.
The next day, we took Dan and Peggy to our pick of a restaurant, a tiny Japanese place named Tokyo Grill. It turned out to be one of those wonderful mom and pop places where the food was outstanding, plentiful and ridiculously cheap. I could hardly wait to include it on my favorites list:
We have delayed our departure from Memphis for a day due to a line of storms moving through. It's good to be retired so we can adjust our travel plans when needed for the sake of good traveling weather. We're heading farther north from here...stay tuned!
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.