Friday, March 9, 2012

Sitting by the Mississippi river

Yup, you can just look out the door of the Roulotte and there is the Mississippi. We are in the front row right next to the water and we have been watching tugs going up and down pushing all kinds of barges.  It is fascinating!
We are in West Memphis, Arkansas, which is just across the river from Memphis Tennessee.  Feel like we are back in Mississippi.
This is the heart of the blues and there is a good reason for it.  Folks are poor in this area and don't have much to show for their labor.

The RV park we are in is wonderful and so separate from the town.  A levee is between us and West Memphis, we are on the river side, so occasionally this is a flood zone.  Last big flood was in 2009 when the river flooded due to rain / snow melt on the Ohio River, which falls into the Mississippi here.  It is a gradual thing, so folks have time to prepare.  I am attaching a link of the RV park so you can see their pictures.  They are still working on getting all the sites in working order, takes time.

When we got here it was windy, but was not expected to last....famous last words.  It stayed extremely windy(25-30 mph) and then thunderstorms and heavy rain.  We spent about 30 hours just rocking and rolling, which made sense since rock and roll started here in Memphis also.  It was not a fun time.  I really have a problem when it gets that way.  I am always concerned that we might tip over.  Fred says we won't but he is still not able to reassure me of that.  Don't know how long, if ever, it'll take me to relax when we are in a strong wind situation.

So the really odd thing is that camped next to us are an Amish couple.  They are in their simple clothes, him in black pants, white shirt and black hat; she is wearing a blue skirt, blue short cape and white lace cap covering her hair.  They are from Indiana, according to the license plate on the trailer and pickup truck.  The model of trailer is a Carriage.  We have not been able to talk with them, or anyone else here, due to weather.  It is very intriguing and I hope we get a moment or two to chat, but not sure that is something they would really want to do.  Will let you know if anything happens.

We did manage to go tour Sun Studios.  Was really a fun tour, with lots of pictures and stories about the place.  This is where Ike Turner, Howlin'Wolf, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and of course Elvis recorded.  Lots of old equipment still sitting around for us to look at and wonder how they did it back then.  Was quite fun.

Can you name all four of these guys? (send me email if you want the answer)

actual mike used by Elvis!

Did find a really good BBQ place in West Memphis.  Place was not much to look at, cement brick walls painted blue, linoleum on the floor, a few pictures taped to the walls and a medium size TV stuck in a corner of the room.  About a dozen tables and no one else in the place when we show up for one of our late lunch / early dinner times.  Food was really good and we will go back.  It sure was hard to understand the guy at the counter though, real hard black southern accent.  Thankfully, we had enough experience with BBQ joints in Texas that we knew how it worked.  He did spot us for tourist, wonder that!

Tomorrow we head up to Little Rock to pick up Tabitha at the airport.  We are really looking forward to seeing her, we last saw her at Thanksgiving.   Before she arrives, Fred and I will tour the Bill Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.  Checking off another one on our list of Presidential libraries.

We will have a lot of stuff to do in Memphis with Tabitha, so we will be busy for this next week.
Stay tuned,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

museums, music, mansions and of course Inman

Well it has surely been an exciting time here in Nashville.  We have kept our selves pretty busy visiting some pretty interesting museums in Nashville.
First off was the Lane Motor Museum.  Jeff Lane is a guy who just loves old and odd cars, motorcycles, military vehicles and just plain unusual stuff.  Part of what made this an interesting museuem was that in addition to talking about the vehicle, tags also included historical facts about the country and or the company where they were made. Everything in the museum is in working condition and gets  used at least once a year, just to keep it going.  There were some pretty quirky things here, but sure fun to see.  If your into any of this, its a few hours to spend looking at the collection which continues to grow.

Another really great museum is the Tennessee State Museum.  It is free and you will spend hours here looking at the extensive collection which starts with the most extensive Paleolithic period collection either one of us has ever seen.  This documents the "earliest known migration of prehistoric people to Tennessee".
You then move on thru the three floors to the history of life before the Civil War, Antebellum Tennessee and then the New South in 1900.  This is an incredible museum filled with real artifacts on every level.   We did not even get to the Military Museum section, which is across the street in another building.
This is a must see museum if you are in Nashville.

lock of Andrew Jackson's hair

We did attend an evening music show at the Grand Ole Opry, which was a live radio show that we the audience get to participate in.  During the acts, the announcer reads the radio commercials that are part of the show.  The show is divided into four sections and each section has its own host.  We saw "Little" Jimmy Dickens (91 years old), Jeannie Seely, Mel Tillis (73 years old) and Bill Anderson, some real oldies.  Each host then does a few songs and also brings out two other guests to perform. The feeling that you get is that country music stars are all part of a big family and the established stars really reach out to up and comers. It was lots of fun and we are glad to say that we got to do this.  If back in this area we would definitely do it again!

We also managed to find a restaurant that included live entertainment, which is also really fun to do.  Saw a local guy who was really good and made for a fun evening. Not sure if we will get another chance to do this while in Nashville, but most assuredly we will while in Memphis.

Then on to more mansions and plantations.  First on the list was the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's home. The house is beautiful and is still furnished with 95% of his belongings.  It was quite large and a prestigious home.  He and his wife Rachel are buried on the grounds.  Unfortunately, due to the tornado problem, we were unable to tour the grounds.  Staff made us go back to the visitor center, a tornado secure building, to wait out the all clear.  We were there for about 45-50 minutes, which was past closing time, before the all clear came thru and we could leave to go home to the Roulotte.  It was quite an experience, with lots of wind, lightning, heavy rain and even a bit of hail.  We were fine and no damage to the Roulotte or the Passat.  Hopefully we will be able to visit here again on another visit to the area.
We decided to visit Franklin Tennessee, which was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles during the Civil War.  It started about 4pm and continued late into the night.  It was almost hand to hand fighting with many, many Confederates dying due to one man's vanity.  General Hood, had been defeated in a battle the previous day, so he now decided he would stop the Yankees.  It was pure folly and basically a suicide mission which ended with bodies 4 and 5 deep on the ground in a few mile area.  The fighting centered around the Carter house and the Lotz house.  You can still see the bullet holes and where cannon came thru the wall.
Also here was the Carnton Plantation, which was turned into a Confederate hospital.  You can see the blood soaked wood floors where the doctors were operating.  Also there is a corner in one bedroom where amputated limbs were tossed and this is also a bloody section of the floor, still.
This must have been an incredibly horrific day in the area.
In order to protect the mansions, there are no pictures allowed inside, so I only have a few exterior shots.  I have to say, that again, the stories we heard at all of these houses, are part of the Gone With The Wind story.  Margaret Mitchell really took the stories from letters, journals and embellished them the story of Scarlett and Rhett.  The rest of it was the truth of what happened in the south and what happened to the people who lived here.

getting the story of the battle of Franklin, while at Carter House

bullet holes can still be seen in the brick at Carter house

Carnton Plantation

graveyard at Carnton Plantation

During all of our travels around this area, we continually see the name Inman.  In Franklin, we even saw a building with the name.  Fred laughs and says he must be a "southern redneck" after all!!
We are going to have to do some investigating into the Inmans in this area.  More to come on that at some later time.

What we also see here are enormous churches, sometimes one right next to the other, Baptist, Methodist..... Our tour guide earlier in the week talked of 4,000 member congregations.  We believe it, especially since the parking lots are also a big as one in a shopping mall for example.  We are in the bible belt and make not mistake, you can not miss it!

So what about southern drivers?  Well, not many of them know how to do a merge on the freeway...they usually approach way below the speed limit and will even stop to avoid having to merge...difficult.  They do not, however, speed here in Tennessee the way they were doing in Georgia.  Guess we all have our style.

On Tuesday we move on to Memphis.  Elvis and the blues, here we come!
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!