Good morning from Texas. Richardson, Texas just outside of Dallas,Texas on a chilly, cloudy January Friday. I'm sitting in Miranda currently located on the Tophill Lane and outside the home of Larry Maxwell and his lovely bride where Melanie is working at being trained to become the executive director of Global Collaborative Law Council.
We've had a great almost first week on the road.
Leaving Birmingham Sunday afternoon (6th) we traveled to Memphis, Tennessee and parked Miranda under the I-40 bridge in the Pinch District and in front of the Bass Pro Shop. We liked the location and the price of admission (free). A bit noisy, as you may imagine, being under an interstate, but very well-kept and safe (guards come by regularly 24-7).
On Monday during the day we rode around downtown Memphis on our bicycles, checked out the National Civil Rights Museum, had lunch at McEwen's (recommended) and coffee at Keough's (gingersnaps) downtown. Memphis has many streets with designated bike lanes and drivers are very respectful of cyclists, suffice it to say we felt safe tooling around taking in the downtown.
Before some of the other maybe more important details of our Memphis stay, allow me a moment to tell you of my short visit to my very first Bass Pro Shop. Since I have nothing to compare it to, your reaction to what I'm about to type may legitimately be, meh, they're all alike, but this one, located next to the mighty Mississippi River, seemed, at least to this observer, to be slightly over the top in many ways.
The entrance is fashioned after the old National Park lodges with giant beams and high ceiling and wood paneling. Once inside the Pyramid itself soars above you 32 stories. There's an elevator located roughly in the center that will take you (for a fee) to a restaurant and observation deck.
Ponds located throughout the main floor contain native fish swimming and boats for sale floating. The place is also a taxidermist's feast for the eyes. There are all manner of stuffed game for the hunter in you to dream about murdering..., I mean, killing for sport, if that's your thing. The shop contains everything you may need for hunting and fishing outdoor activities. And yes, there's even a duck museum, closed while I was there, but I could see from the outside antique decoys and antique boxes of shotgun shells and antique duck calls, hundreds of duck calls line the shelves.
But after all my distracted wandering and gawking and mouth-breathing-like gazing, alas, they did not have stocked that for which I had come. Black tank treatment. I was directed to several places in the store where I might find black tank treatment, but after several inquiries made to helpful employees, I finally was connected to someone who knew what black tank treatment was and knew, matter-of-factly, Bass Pro Shops did not carry any products to treat my black tank.
Funny, I mused aloud, you'll allow me to park my rig in your parking lot (for free, thank you very much), but it appears there's no RV section in your store. No sir, he said, we don't have an RV section. You're missing out, I told him. Missing out on some cash you could be taking in. Yes, sir, we are, he said, giving me the slightly annoyed look of someone who obviously knows more about the profitability of outdoor stuff than a van dwelling freeloader.
I left reasonable happy for the experience and my further understanding of a subculture I'd long attempted to forget about, but with no black tank treatment. The product wouldn't even take up much space on a shelf, y'all. Jus' sayin'.
Returning to Miranda, empty handed, Melanie and I retrieved our bikes from the rear compartment and cycled from our van along a promenade next to the Mississippi River and towards the National Civil Rights Museum which Melanie had suggested we visit. I should note there appear to be several points of interest along this promenade, including a pier-like structure high above the river with what appeared to be an observation deck overlooking the river. There's also a museum all about Elvis and B. B. King. I got nothing by way of further explanation or experience regarding those places.
Our trip to the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) turned out to be a bit of bust. I know what you're thinking. Damn you Donald Trump, and your government shutdown. But no, the museum was open to the general public. We didn't go in for another reason, a reason I'll allow Melanie to explain at some point, if she chooses. You see (minor hint) there's protest that's been going on for some time now out in front of the museum and, me and Melanie, we ain't no scabs.
From the NCRM we had a banking errand to run some mile and a half away. Along the way we ran into a treasure trove of murals causing Melanie to dub Memphis the mural capital of world. I'm really liking what seems to be a trend for cities to allow artists to paint murals around on large urban canvases. Memphis has talented mural artists.
We took Uber in to South Main Arts District on Monday evening for dinner, hoping to find our spot for watching the national championship game between our Tide and those other Tigers from South Carolina. I'd seen a restaurant that looked promising during our brief pass by the NCRM earlier and we took a chance we wouldn't need a reservation.
We didn't need a reservation, had dinner and finished just as the game was beginning. We relocated to the bar area of the restaurant where a number of locals were eating and didn't seem much interested in the game that we'd requested be put on the television. Fine. The highlight of the evening was meeting some of the local folks and great conversations that ensued. The football, not so much. So, after the first half, foreseeing the Tide's demise, Melanie and I decided since Tuesday was a travel day, we'd make our way back to Miranda for a good night's sleep.
Little Rock, Arkansas
We left Memphis early on Tuesday morning headed for Hot Springs National Park. On the way we stopped in Little Rock, home to the Clinton Presidential Center. I know what you're thinking, damn that Donald Trump and his government shutdown. Poor Steven and Melanie, all they wanted to do was visit a presidential landmark. This time you'd be right. Closed..., well, except for the restaurant inside the center.
While Melanie worked, I made my way around the grounds of the center. The grounds are nice and, if we're ever back through Little Rock, I'll stop by for an inside perusal.
Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Melanie and I decided, before we began our travels, we'd do our research/due diligence for the particular area in which we wanted to park Miranda for work and/or exploring, but we'd try to refrain from making a reservation, keeping our options open as much as possible. This, as long was we were both comfortable with winging it.
Hot Springs National Park was no different. I looked at the National Park campground, found out, as best I could, that the park was open and the campground was open, but was not providing services. That means, in this case, what would have been a full hook up situation for us (water, electric and sewer) was not be available because of Trump's unnecessary government shutdown. Gulpha Gorge, regardless, doesn't take reservations, so we were taking a chance we'd have a spot to park Miranda anyway. I also knew what was available nearby, if Gulpha Gorge didn't work for us.
Upon arrival, we first went into Hot Springs, because we missed the turnoff for the campground, and did a minor bit of driving around and checking to see if the park offices were closed (yes, yes they were). Luckily, Melanie needed a post office visit and fortunately the town has RV parking near the National Park offices and the post office so we parked Miranda and got out.
Directly in front of our parking space was one of several places where the public can fill containers with mineral water from the springs. This particular outlet was warm water from one of the hot springs. The town's folk come to the spring outlets to get mineral water to take home and drink. I carry a 5 litre bag for filling up our RV water tank so I dug it out and made several trips back and forth and filled our fresh water tank up to about half full (15 gallons).
It was a great experience chatting with local folks and fortuitous for us since we needed a bit of water for our stay. I also carry a backpacking water filter for filtering drinking water from nearby creeks and rivers in case the campground has no potable water available via the tap.
We made our way to the campground and to our delight, there were only three other campers besides us and the campground volunteers. We were able to get a choice spot next to Gulpha Creek.
After a quiet night along Gulpha Creek and a relaxed morning drinking coffee, Melanie had some work related things to do so I took out my bike and rode into town to check out the scene a bit more intimately. The road into town can be a bit dicey on bike as it is at time busy with local traffic, but doable with all the proper cautions.
My morning ride took me up Hot Springs Mountain Drive to several observation points. There's also an observation tower at the top of the drive and it happened to be open. But, because of high winds and very cool temperatures, I opted not to go up. I met nice folks from Arizona, New York state and Texas who come to check out the views.
I rode back to Miranda at the campground, got Melanie's bike out and we went back into town for lunch at a local brewery and former bath house, Superior Bath House Brewery. After a nice lunch and a double IPA, we inquired of our server which of the bath houses in town she would recommend. One of her recommendations and her favorite, Quapaw, was closed for renovations, but she also suggested the spa at the Arlington Hotel and Buckstaff Baths. After inquiry at both, we decided on Buckstaff Baths.
Buckstaff is located in a great old renovated 1912 structure and offers traditional hot mineral springs bathing services. Melanie and I opted for the basic services and really enjoyed the experience. Recommended.
We took an easy Uber ride into town for dinner and then retired early as Thursday was a travel day for us. We made a brief stop in Hope, Arkansas for breakfast and a quick look at William Jefferson Clinton's birthplace. Then onward toward Carrollton, Texas where we will be all this week before heading to Austin next Saturday.
Steven and Melanie