So, we had a great time with the kids for five days and then we set out for Memphis, TN with a general idea of a route and some needs to make specific stops. Although we had little desire to face Nashville and its traffic again, it was clear that if we were going to get to a Camping World this trip it would have to be Nashville. That became our first planned stop and the first “casualty” of delayed planning. We needed to stock up on groceries and some other needs before we would be totally self contained. We made it to Staunton, VA, about 45 minutes from the house (by a direct route) and spent two hours there, plus another half hour for lunch. We were already half a day behind our minimal schedule before we had even gotten started.
After lunch we rolled down I81 past Roanoke until we got to a Flying J near Marion, VA. Nearby there was a private campground near Hungry Mother State Park (that is NOT a typo). This would not be my first choice of campgrounds, but I knew who had slept in our bed the night before and who was using the bathroom, so the upkeep of the campground was of little concern other than appearances. Do not go out of your way to stay there. I have no idea about the facilities in the park, but doubted we would find anything we could fit into, so gave it a miss.
The next day, Wednesday the 18th found us rolling along the interstate, 81 to 40 into Nashville, and we arrived mid afternoon. This gave us time to set up near the Camping World store. The RV Park we stayed at was, God help us, now a Yogi Bear Jellystone Park, something we have managed to avoid for all of our years of camping until now. Since it had been a decent park the last time we had been in the area in January, we checked in and found it quite comfortable, the only thing changed was the name and the signage (and the price). We killed the rest of the afternoon shopping for small comforts for Gee 2, a special soap dish for the shower, another small folding step for internal use, and items that are generally made for RV’s. Carol made a nice dinner on board and we thought about finding some music, as we opened the door we heard it, it was coming from a small pavilion in the Park and a trio was performing an uninspired mix of music, mostly country. They were not bad, just not polished. When we asked later, we learned that this was a pickup group that had not played together much at all. For the price, free, they were pretty good and we had had our music in Nashville.
Thursday the 19th found us starting out in familiar territory. We retraced our route from the winter of 2002 on to the Natchez Trace Parkway. This time the weather was fine and warm, hot even, and we slowly worked our way to the south of Tennessee along the Trace. We were surprised at the lack of bright colors. We have seen winter drab and early Spring along the way and sort of expected the summer would be a riot of color. Instead everything was lush green. As we worked our way south we discussed where to stop for the night. Just West of the Trace I noticed Shiloh National Military Monument and just east of that Pickwick State Park which had camping available. We decided on the State Park with little idea of what it was about. As we followed the highway signs for the park I realized we were approaching a large dam, this is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the dam serves to provide power, here is a retired turbine, and maintains a navigable waterway and flood prevention as well as providing a major recreational resource.
The campground (note not an RV Park) was quite lovely, but the sites were small and not really level as you can see from the amount of boards and blocks we needed even with our power levelers.
For our RVing friends in motorhomes, there are three or four sites that will accommodate a unit of 36 feet, maximum, and they are not particularly level. Don’t be fooled by the pull throughs on the map they are humpbacked and the utilities are on the wrong side, your door will open on the road. We drove into town for a look see and found a Radio Shack that had the printer I was looking for and a radio with CD player that Carol wanted for dining out, so we left town with more goods than we arrived with and less money.
The weather did not cooperate and we had reservations for Graceland RV Park in Memphis and plans to take a very convoluted route from Pickwick to Memphis so we got up early and left for Memphis. The route was northerly to TN 100 and then westerly on Tn100 until we turned South. There we gave up on scenic and braved the expressways into town following I240 to I55 to US 51 (Elvis Presly Blvd) within a couple of blocks we spotted The Heart Break Hotel on the corner of Lonely Street. We turned in on Lonely Street and found the RV Park at the end. This is a nice place, not particularly scenic, but quite comfortable. The Memphis locals were horrified that we would stay in such a rough neighborhood. We did not understand until we went shopping for wine. We found one place that had a “customer area” completely surrounded by ½ inch Plexiglas and the wine selection ran to Richards Wild Irish Rose (a product of Canandaigua Wineries, now Constellation Brands).
But I get ahead of myself. Our first full day in Memphis was to be Saturday and we traced down the Reform Synagogue, Temple Israel, far to the east of us, and made our way there for Saturday Morning Shabbat Services. Torah study was a shock, there were over 40 attendees and it was clear that this was a normal occurrence. The lox and bagels were special; although not being prepared we had eaten and could not partake. Rabbi Micah Greenstein led the study and it was quite wonderful. We went on to the congregational service in the chapel lead by Tara and Maury Feldstein. He had just been hired from B’nai Jeshrun and the service was quite a mix between the Reform we are used to and the more conservative of BJ. Also the music was very different. This is new to this congregation, fourth week, and they too are just getting used to it. It was a very warm service and we were very welcomed.
While in Memphis we did many different things. We walked Beale Street and managed to get into one club that had a bunch of old timers playing Blues that seemed pretty authentic to us. Most of the music we heard coming from bars was modern fusion. We went to Graceland, which was a short walk from our campground. I must say it is worth the trip. I am not exactly an Elvis fan, but he certainly accomplished a lot and, it would appear, he was generous in his support of many causes. Graceland is about as gaudy as you might expect.
This just makes it more fun because it meets expectations.