Monday, November 13, 2017

Sunset Capital of Texas?

After a wet and wonderful week on the Mississippi, on Wednesday we hitched up and headed home to Texas.  Some 282 miles later, we pulled into Rocky Point COE Park a few miles south of Texarkana.  It’s a beautiful park with tall trees and room for the dogs to stretch their legs. 

The sites are large and well-spaced. They have asphalt parking pads and gravel yards with cement picnic tables.  But our favorite feature is our view!

Every day has been special, happy hour in particular.  In fact, this park might be a candidate for the title of “Sunset Capital of Texas.” 

Early mornings have been beautiful, as well.

In addition to beautiful sunrises and sunsets, we have seen a lot of birds from our campsite.  There are a few American white pelicans here, great egrets, seagulls, and many, many cormorants.

We watch long strings of them skimming over the water, then lighting to fish where they spy dinner.

Another much-appreciated amenity of this park is a walking trail.  It’s quite overgrown in some areas and definitely needs some work.  

However, using our boy-scout skills we picked out the yellow  markers on the trees and managed to follow the trail all the way from our park to Piney Point COE Park.  Piney Point is only a mile or so away as the crow flies, but my Fitbit logged over four miles there and back.

The vegetation along the trail was lush, and we enjoyed the trip.

We will head for Hamilton tomorrow, happy that we have had a low-key, relaxing week here in far Northeast Texas at the end of this year’s trip.


Friday, November 10, 2017

And More Tugboats

Our time with the tugboats ended all too soon.  We miss seeing them gliding, ghostlike, up and down the Mississippi.  Often we didn’t really hear them so much as sense their presence.  The deep, visceral, thrum-thrum-thrum of their engines seemed to come up through the soles of my feet until my whole body vibrated to their music.  

They came in all sizes, shapes and colors.  Some of the little guys (with only one large diesel engine) remind me of the children’s books like Little Toot that we used to read to our kids.


Others like the Alix Anne Eckstein of Marquette Transportation or the Capt. Gregory Smith were enormous, and apparently had room for a number of crew.  

The Madeline and the Karen Ann were painted to match their barges.

Some, like the Sheryl, were probably named for wives, daughters or girlfriends.

Others, like the Jim Barton, seemed to carry the name of the captain.

No matter, day or night we enjoyed watching them all.

We look forward to returning to the banks of the Mississippi.  We’ll have to watch the level of the river, though.  This sign in our campground serves as a reminder what can happen when the Mississippi floods.

Long Live the King...and Memphis BBQ

Our sightseeing in Memphis continued.  On Monday we took riverboat tour on the Island Queen.  It was interesting to see Memphis from the Mississippi, and to hear the running commentary (including turkey gobbling and hoot owl calls) by our local good ‘ol boy guide.

We also visited "The Pyramid," which houses Bass Pro Shop and Ducks Unlimited.  You can see it on the skyline in the image above as well as below.

Inside are a plethora of exhibits of American game animals, predators and other critters.  There are also streams and a beautiful aquarium with native fish. 

And if that's not enough, there is also a luxury hotel and a restaurant with a view at the top of this unique elevator which raises through the middle of the pyramid.  Dinner at the top is the agenda for our next visit.

Then on Tuesday, we drove into town for some famous Memphis BBQ.  We had hoped to eat at The Rendezvous, highly recommended by our friend, Keyes Hudson.  Unfortunately, it isn’t open for lunch.  At the suggestion of my brother and sister-in-law, Allan and Jefflyn Jones, we opted for Central BBQ.  (Ironically, on our way to lunch we learned that Allan and Jef spent last night in Memphis, just across the Mississippi from our camp, neither of us knowing that the other was in the area.)  But I digress.  We had a really terrific slab of ribs, half sauced and half dry-rub.  And, one of the sides was their not-to-be-missed mac-and-cheese.  

We ended our sightseeing trips with a visit to Elvis Presley’s Graceland.  

I had expected something a little, well I guess hokey.  In fact, we almost didn’t go.  But I’m so glad we did.  It took me back to my teenage years, where my introduction to Rock and Roll was songs like It’s All Right, Heartbreak Hotel and Hound Dog.  In fact, the girls in this early publicity photo could have been me and my friends.

(I'm sure my Hamilton High School classmates will remember all those songs that spoke to our teenage psyches, and the records we bought and played, and played, and played until we wore them out.)

The tour isn’t cheap, and takes a good four hours if you see everything.  There is a visit to the mansion’s “public” rooms, a couple of which are shown here.

Media Room
Pool Room
as well as the Meditation Garden and gravesites.

There is a large complex that includes the Presley Motors Automobile Museum,

the Presley Cycles, 

Elvis’s Army Service,

And his Entertainment Career.

And he did, and the gold records testify to it.

The Entertainment Career section is filled with images taken from concert appearances and movies, and around every corner seems to be a viewing room with videos of his performances.  Music is everywhere.

Elvis's two airplanes, this one named for his daughter, are also on display.

I know what an impact Elvis had on the music I listened to, danced to, and will always remember.  However, I didn’t fully appreciate the influence he had on other musicians until I read some of their comments. 

The exhibits highlight all of that, and more.  Don’t miss it if you are in town.