Monday, March 26, 2012

Life on the Mississippi

Our westward migration took us from one music capitol to another; from Nashville to Memphis - country to blues. We camped on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, just far enough from the city to be away from the noise and light. We were actually in Arkansas at a campground which took a rare but admirable approach to their site plan, wherein the 5th-wheel trailers are in one section and the motorhomes in another. This way the 5th wheels are oriented so that their big rear windows face the river, and the motorhomes are oriented so that their big front windows face the river. All campgrounds with a view should be so arranged.

It was nice to sit by the river and watch the barges labor by. Most of these are actually many barges lashed together to form one enormous one. The largest we saw was 6 barges across and 9 barges long. So one big tugboat pushed 54 barges upriver!:

It was a quick drive to downtown Memphis from the campground, and we went in for music and barbecue, Memphis' other specialty.

Trolleys and ornate horse-drawn buggies carry passengers around the city streets:

We also noticed an abundance of showroom-shined American sedans and SUVs with giant rims and low-profile tires. They looked pretty silly - must be a Memphis thing. We walked around town...

...and ended up on Beale Street, the home of the Blues. Beale Street was hopping - like a mini French Quarter. Crying guitar and raspy vocals filled the air.

We went into B B King's blues club, his original establishment that spawned a series. There we ate pickle chips, pulled pork and BBQ ribs, which Nancy rated the best she's ever had. While we ate Patrick Dodd sang and wailed on his guitar, accompanied by his band, including his soulful keyboard player. Good stuff:

For a different blues experience, we stopped into Mr. Handy's Blues Hall (Juke Joint), where Dr. Feelgood Potts Band was playing some old-school Mississippi blues.

Notice the orange Home Depot 5-gallon bucket for tips. Dr. Feelgood is optimistic!

Not only did we sit in the shade of the awning, watching barges labor past on a hot afternoon, and suck down ribs dripping with barbecue sauce, but we got out for a good mountain bike ride. Tour de Wolf is a six mile mountainbike singletrack trail in Shelby Farms park, east of Memphis. It was a really fun trail for me, and a great one for Nancy as she grows and gains confidence in the sport.

Gentle hills meant that she could focus more on technique, gear shifting and picking lines. Turns out she's very good at picking a line when the trail gets ugly! Here she comes around a corner to find a series of diagonal roots, followed by a wood bridge over a mudhole, and she nailed it!

So, it was a great and relaxing few days in Memphis, on the muddy Mississippi. I leave you with this excerpt from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi:

"The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book--a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day."

No comments:

Post a Comment