Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reelfoot Lake to Memphis

Reelfoot Lake to Memphis
Thursday, October 13, 2011

Up early and away from the campground by 9. The rain was steady all night but stopped sometime early this morning. Our TN flag was round tightly around the flag pole this morning and small waves were lapping at the shore – there was s stiff wind all night and it is still blowing quite hard.

 Our Campsite as it dried out...
We stopped along the shore to view birds and the cypress trees and then headed back towards Tiptonville. We passed through Tiptonville and crossed over the levee to see the Mississippi. Tiptonville sits on a small portion of higher land and has been spared from most flooding through the years. It was interesting we drove right on the levee for several miles and the river was quite different here. This area is right to the south of the New Madrid Meander – if you look at a map you will see there are several very significant loops in the Mississippi through this area. The one near New Madrid is the most significant. The graphic below shows all the changes in the river over the years.  There were huge sandbars here particularly on the west side. The current was running very fast and from the channel markers the navigable channel was not very wide. A tow of 3 empty tankers with a pusher tug was coming upriver against the current. It was interesting to watch him from this vantage point.

 Graphic indicates changes in river flow
Tow we watched from levee top
There are significant crops planted which would have been flooded if the water topped the levee. It was obvious it had done that in the past. Here there are no flood walls just the levee. Tiptonville was a small town but seemed to be doing OK.
The GRR passes through primarily farmland – the crops have changes slightly – soybeans continue and cotton has replaced corn as the prominent crop. There are a few fields of corn but they are by far the minority.  Huge bales are prepared right in the fields as the cotton is cut, and the cotton separated from the plant and it is compacted into a large bale weighing 16,000 pounds. I know that sounds like a lot but the bale was huge – and we got that information later today at the cotton museum. This was a change from the last time we saw cotton being harvested and placed into large metal train car type vehicles.

 Huge Cotton Bale

We passed by Dyersburg – the home town of Emmitt Kelly (sorry no photos JoAnne) ,Carl Perkins birthplace in Tiptonville and  Alex Haley’s birthplace in       .  It seems every town has its’ claim to fame and if we stopped for them all I am not sure we would ever make it to the end of the GRR!  We did stop for lunch as we came into the outlying areas before Memphis. It may have been in Millington but it was Sparky’s BBQ. They had lots of cars and the best in the area sign on the wall so we tried it. It was good and I believe the French fries were made from freshly cut potatoes….very good.  

Mr. Brit did such a good job – he really is worth his weight in gold in cities…we picked out the places we wanted to go and he took us directly to both the Ornamental Metal Museum, the Cotton Exchange and then to Tom Sawyer RV Park on the banks of the Mississippi in West Memphis.  Mr. Brit has a bit of a problem when there is construction but he just recalculates for a few minutes and finds an alternate route.
The Ornamental Metal Museum was very interesting – begun by a group that Ben belonged to years ago when he was in metal fabrication work and now their artistic side was of interest to us for his silver work. A special exhibit by a silver and pewter artist was fascinating.  Their permanent displays were mostly cast iron but some were quite unique. They were located on the bank high above the Mississippi. Their gardens were lovely and they were preparing for a wedding this weekend. It will be a very nice setting for an outdoor wedding.
Pewter Box

Ornamental Balcony - this was to be site of wedding
We then went to the Cotton Museum located in the Cotton Exchange on Union St. The history of the cotton industry was well presented in video and interviews from a variety of folks very involved with cotton production, selling, and speculation.  Until the advent of computers changed the way cotton was sold this exchange was still the primary location of cotton sales. Memphis was THE center of the cotton trade for many years – cotton made the city of Memphis in years past. There is still a very active cotton trade in Memphis but it is done via computers and not the physical trading done in the past. The museum did a good job of helping us see what the industry had been in the past and how it has changed to keep up with the world today.  It is obvious China is a huge impact on this industry today.

 How the Cotton Exchange worked in days gone by

Ben wanted to see Beale Street to determine if he wanted to come back. Jane spent a little time in Memphis at various Nursing or Red Cross meetings in the past so had seen it. We drove by and will come back tomorrow.  We headed for our campground in West Memphis. Jane had researched this site and it was everything it claimed to be.  We crossed the levee and drove down onto an area just above the rip-rap (stones) to form a wall at the edge of the Mississippi. We have a site on the first row looking over the river. We are probably 50 feet from the river and can sit right outside our Sprinter and watch the river traffic.  Of course most of those camping here are in the huge RV’s but we are used to being a tiny vehicle among the biggies- just glad we are not having to drive them on the road!
 Us among the Huge RV's
This campground is planned for closing up and moving most of their infrastructure when it floods. Their office, restrooms, and laundry are all on wheels –so when the water comes they just hook them up and pull them out.  The wooden steps into the bathroom were new so I imagine they were out for the flooding last spring.  They have gravel roads with concrete pads at most sites and the electric hookups are high and easily disconnected. They seem to be prepared to get out as much as they can leaving things that can withstand the water.  They are probably 75% full so guess it is a good business.  What is it they say location, location, location!  It is a perfect location. Oh and the other thing is their laundry is free – I have never seen that before at a campground…so tomorrow or Saturday before we leave we will do our laundry!
A quick run to the closest Wal-Mart to fill our shopping list and we thought since in Arkansas – we also stopped and bought take-out fried catfish and okra for dinner. Yum – Yum.  Not the healthiest diet today but sure was good. 

 Tonight Ben has 30 HD channels on his home-made antenna.  Since we are the last site the internet signal is weak but I will walk down closer to the office and upload the blog tomorrow am. For now I am going outside to watch the traffic on the river. There are interesting lights on the boats at night and the skyline of Memphis is just to the north.    

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