26 January 2017

The Farm to Arkansas

After leaving The Farm we beat feet for Memphis.  We had been advised of two items to check out there: BBQ and the Bass Pro Shop at The Pyramid.  

A note about camping in Tennessee: We found the Tennessee State campgrounds to be generally excellent.  Barring the T.O. Fuller State Park’s noxious location adjacent to a fecal waste treatment facility, the state’s facilities were well-equipped, well cared for, and fairy priced.  Kudos Tennessee.  Some of your northern brethren could learn a thing or two about accommodating outdoorsy-minded folk.  I’m talking to you, Wisconsin.

Climbing a tree chimney
Exploring the Tennessee woods
Our route west dropped down into Mississippi, so if we are counting states, that would make the 14th that we’ve visited on our meandering sojourn.  Along the way, Alexis  let us know from the back seat that she’d lost her fifth tooth of the Big Adventure.  

Somehow the Tooth Fairy has no problem with our nomadic roving household and always manages to find us on the eve of a lost tooth.  She left a note to let us know that incisors command a premium.  Alexis asked why the Tooth Fairy collects teeth.  “Maybe she doesn’t have any of her own, and she keeps looking for the right sized ones,” she mused.  

Reading the Tooth Fairy's note
So you can’t tell from this lame-o pic, but the Bass Pro Pyramid in Memphis is Humongous.  Seriously Humongous.  It reminded me of something you might see at Disneyland when I walked in, as the interior is a good mockup of a swampy bog thing, with huge trees.  And stuff.  Alligator gar fish as big as me.  Alligators bigger than me (live ones!)  They also had stuff for sale.  

We bought a plastic egg holder for our fridge.

We asked local Memphisians for BBQ recommendations and settled on a “traditional” joint in the downtown area, Tops BBQ.  The ribs were a hit.  The rest: meh.  It is by no means fair to judge an entire city’s take on a cuisine based on such a limited dataset.  Unfortunately as it’s our only datapoint for Memphis BBQ, it is therefore Tops BBQ vs whatever joint we put it up against when we get to Texas in the Big Adventure BBQ Showdown!

Now feels like a good time for a word on our travel regimen.  In general we try to keep our daily driving time to four hours max per day, and preferably not more than two.  Short hops rather than large swaths taken all at once.  And we always try for, but don’t always find, stopping places that deserve at least two nights stay, maybe more.  Places that beckon for deeper exploration, or tempt us in other ways to tarry.  Shorter travel days give us more time to enjoy our surroundings, and keep everyone happier.  Longer stays allow you to really develop a feel for a place.  Or sleep in.  Alternatively, breaking camp, traveling and making camp every day for a bunch of consecutive days covers a lot of miles, but gets old fast, and you never really get to experience anywhere that you’ve been.  Stop and smell the flowers, right?  We try.

Nevertheless, with Camilla’s 4th birthday looming, and our desire to spend it with the grandparents in Texas, we beat feet again, continuing our westward trek from Memphis, and stopping at Hot Springs, Arkansas, childhood home of Bill Clinton.

Throughout our Big Adventure we have sought out hot springs whene’er they laid nearby or within striking distance.  And so, auspicious it did seem that not only is Hot Springs, Arkansas a National Park, and therefore yet another score for our budding Junior Rangerettes, but it’s Hot Springs! 

It’s a unique town/National Park.  It is, in fact, the only National Park bisected by a city.  Water fountains on the main drag dispense steaming hot water direct from the springs.  Add a mug and cocoa packet or tea bag and you’re good to go.  There’s a century's history of people coming here seeking health or therapy in the water or its vapors, and a handful of venues for such to choose from.  Once upon a time, in its heyday, this was A Destination.  Today the town continues to cater to the tourist crowd, but not garishly so.  All of that aside, it is a very interesting and beautiful place.  Should your travels ever bring you to its vicinity, do check it out.  

A peek at an old-timey bath house
We were greatly saddened to learn, however, that none of the operating hot spring vendors (all operate under permit with the National Parks system), allow children!  Alas.  

Some travel notes: The National Park campground is first come first served, no reservations accepted.  Sites sport full hookups, and the weather in January, at least this year, is fantastic with highs in the 60’s.