Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cape Girardeau to Reelfoot Lake

Cape Girardeau to Reelfoot Lake (out of order)
Tuesday October 12, 2011

Post out of order - sorry - I posted this with photos and lost it when the computer system at Tom Sawyer kicked me off the internet. Know this may be confusing but such is life on the road. 

Up early and loaded the blog, drank coffee, ate a little breakfast and we were ready for the Rush Limbaugh Self Driving Tour!  The things you can get at a visitor center! Ben listens to Rush most days for about an hour so since we were here it just seemed like the thing to do!  We saw his family law firm, his high school, his childhood home, his college, and the radio station where he first worked.  We ended the tour in down town Cape Girardeau and it was very interesting. The flood walls were decorated with murals depicting the history of the town and one part was the Cape Girardeau Wall of Fame… many individuals on it Mark Twain, Walter Cronkite, Harry Truman, and more. The flood walls are probably 20 feet high and continue for several miles. There are heavy steel doors that open somewhere along the water front. A sign says they are built and maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers.  Rush is depicted on the Wall of Fame too. 

 Rush Limbaugh Childhood Home

Flood Gate in Cape Girardeau

We left Cape Girardeau by crossing back into Illinois and heading south to Cairo. This lower part of Illinois seemed like a forgotten land. There were levees, a few adult movie stores, strip clubs and bars right after the bridge across the Mississippi and from there to Cairo a few farms and national wildlife refuge. There were two or three very small towns with no operating businesses but nothing else until we reached Cairo.  There have been many towns along the Mississippi that seem to have had better days; but Cairo is the worst we have seen. Signage at the city limit says population 3,000. The town appears to have been at one time at least 2-3 times that.  Most buildings very dilapidated; windows boarded up; piles of rubble; very few open businesses, and men standing around on empty lots. The old Customs House from the 1800’s was still standing and the tour book said it was being restored by a group of volunteers. We saw no signs of life around it – no cars or people at all.  There was a small grocery, a gas station, a bar or two, and a couple small caf├ęs but we did not get out to check on any of them. 

Example of Buildings in Cairo IL

Our purpose in coming here was to go to Fort Defiance State Park where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers converge.  There was an old park sign pointing off to the left as we came to the area where two bridges crossed the rivers – one to Missouri over the Mississippi and one over the Ohio to Kentucky.  The grass had not been mowed, the road was in poor condition, the grass was overgrown in the area that had been a campground –obvious because of the electric posts – they are usually 2 feet high but here the poles must have been 4-5 feet high with the outlets at the top! We passed a children’s swing set with vines growing on the swings that had obviously not been used in a long time.  We continued to the confluence where a metal and concrete building with a deck for viewing had been built. We climbed up to get a view and what a view it was!  There was no one around at all.  Just as we were leaving another couple arrived; the guy (from Texas)  told us he had grown up in a small town north of Cairo and coming back here to see the area as it is today was very sad for him.

 Mississippi and Ohio join right behind my head

We drove out of the “State Park”? and lucky for us we were going to Kentucky since the bridge across the Mississippi to Missouri was closed – there were numerous trucks and repair vehicles out on it. There were numerous barges lined up in the Ohio ready to start down the Mississippi. The most tows we have seen on the river so far. 

 Barges and Pushers in the Ohio

As we entered Kentucky we stopped in Wickcliffe for a post card since we were only going to be in Kentucky for 40-50 miles and this was the largest town – maybe 100 people. The farms were small but the crops the same – corn and soy beans.  We followed small state routes swapping back and forth always following the one closest to the Mississippi. The road stayed well away from the river for most of the way through Kentucky but went down to the river at Wickcliffe where we observed dry docks for the river tows.  In Columbus we stopped under a tree near a church and ate a picnic lunch. Jane walked about ½ mile down the road to the small post office and bought some post card stamps. Killed two birds -got the stamps and a little exercise!

We kept noticing garages and other out buildings on farms with unusual rather unusual coverings. Finally it dawned on us they were using the barge coverings for a roof. Whether they were purchasing them new for their construction or using ones that were no longer suitable for protecting the cargo on the barges we do not know. 

The third small town in Kentucky was Hickman. Hickman had a flood wall and a small ferry that could have taken us back to Missouri for $30. There was a large Bunge Elevator here that was very busy – huge trucks were coming and going quickly. They were driving up to the huge round elevator to unload their crops for reloading onto barges for travel up or down the river. There were farmers harvesting in most of the fields with machinery that loaded the trucks for transport – this must be the height of the harvest season.  We were surprised at the size of the fields in this area. This town was also past its prime. 

We continued on following the GRR through rural Kentucky until we reached the Tennessee State line. Tennessee will have the same GRR signage but in brown instead of green!  Soon after we crossed into TN we saw the huge Northwest Correctional Facility – in a rural area with nothing else around. All of a sudden we saw fields of cotton – some harvested and some not. There were also some fields of a red grain yet to be harvested – we thought either millet or milo.

Soon we came upon Tiptonville and Reelfoot Lake. We walked around their museum and observed two eagles that are kept one because it had lost a foot – other one we do not know. The eagle is a regal and free bird….sad to see it having to live in captivity. 
 Eagle at Visitor Center

Not far past the museum was the campground with maybe 1/5 of the sites filled. It is a lovely campground and we have a spot looking right out on the lake. The shoreline is ringed with cypress trees each with numerous knees all around. It was very cloudy and the wind was picking up. Jane took photos right away although the light was poor thinking it might get worse…. We have been expecting rain all day.
 Right behind our campsite at Reelfoot Lake

Luck held until about 7:30 when it got dark and a steady rain began. This gave us time for a long walk and time to cook and eat dinner. Tonight we are debating driving down the GRR in TN or in AK. Neither state has the road close to the river unless we drive toward the river to small towns much like the ones we saw today in KY.  Our plan is to stay the next two nights in West Memphis at the Tom Sawyer RV Park right on the Mississippi.  We have several sights and restaurants to visit in Memphis so will stay two days. Sleeping tonight with the rain on our metal roof should be great.

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