Saturday, September 26, 2009

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Downtown Riverside RV Park

We decided to stay several days at the new (since October 2008) Downtown Riverside RV Park, a city owned and managed riverfront park on the Arkansas River, directly across from the downtown Little Rock area and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center. The park, located off Interstate 30, is extremely easy to access, and once you are inside, security is 24/7, always a nice feeling.

RV and I have not had an opportunity to visit any of the 12 existing presidential libraries, and since Little Rock is where Clinton's Presidential Center is located, we were anxious to see the 3-level contemporary-styled library, located on a 28-acre city park. We found it extremely interesting and enjoyed seeing full-scale replicas of the White House Cabinet Room and the Oval Office, a presidential limousine, and an exhibit on the work of the United States Secret Service. A special traveling exhibit of gifts many U.S. presidents had received while in office was spectacular. The Clinton Center anchors the city's bustling River Market District, a premier destination for art, culture, live music, dining and nightlife. Next to the Center is the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in the renovated 1899 Choctaw Station.

From our riverfront campsite in North Little Rock we had a spectacular view of the Library as well as the Little Rock skyline. Some people jokingly refer to the architectural style of the Center and say it resembles a double-wide mobile home. You be the judge.

North Little Rock and Little Rock are very interesting from many historical perspectives; like the Trail Of Tears Historical Markers, Little Rock Central High, the Old State House Museum (the oldest standing state capitol west of the Mississippi River). The Arsenal Building, a National Historic Landmark and one of Little Rock's oldest surviving structures, was built in 1840 to protect Arkansas from Indian attack. It later became the birthplace of Army General Douglas MacArthur. There is just too much to see in a couple of days, so we will return one day, probably on our way to some other landmark.

From some of our past blogs, you may know how we love to find those local out-of-the-way restaurants that are packed every day, especially at lunchtime. You have to look for these little gems, talk to local people, and this time we found Kierre's Kountry Kitchen in Maumelle, AR. Inside what appeared to be a huge industrial warehouse we had one of the best blue plates we've had in awhile, and we both won the "clean your plate" award. We ordered from the blackboard situated on the side of the room. By the time we left, you couldn't get a parking space in their huge parking lot. Since it was RV's birthday, he splurged and had a huge piece of homemade chocolate pie. The restaurant we originally were searching for (Cock O'The Walk) was closed for lunch - (voted best Arkansas catfish restaurant for the last 16 years).

RV enjoyed his birthday, getting to do everything he wanted that day. We had planned a special steak dinner that night, but we were too full from lunch so we had a light dinner and we'll be having the steak tonight - on the banks of the Mississippi River. Did I mention we went to Flying Fish in Memphis for lunch for another bowl of their delicious seafood gumbo?

Once again, we are enjoying Tom Sawyer's RV Park in West Memphis, AR. We're still enjoying the barges going up and down the Mississippi River - and what beautiful weather!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


We arrived in Branson and enjoyed the scenic drive from North Little Rock, AR. When we began approaching the Ozark Mountain region the highway had about the steepest grade we have encountered so far - 7%, which is quite steep for truckers and some coaches. RV and our Allegro Bus handled the steep grade without any difficulty. Our 2-stage exhaust brake is an invaluable and necessary safety feature on rigs our size. (This device automatically slows the coach down when engaged; i.e., a steep grade).

Our campground turned out to be a place you would come to enjoy trout fishing on Lake Taneycomo. While we enjoyed the carillon concerts from the College Of The Ozarks, directly across the lake, 3 days was enough at Cooper Creek, and we were fortunate enough to move the coach over to a campground in Old Branson, close to Branson Landing. Although this is a city-maintained campground, Lakeside RV Campground is quite a value. We are lakefront, and thoroughly enjoy an abundance of ducks and geese, trout/fly fishermen on the shore, as well as 3 different floating docks in the lake, outside our door. Shopping, a marina and restaurants are very convenient.

We are especially excited to visit Anna, my cousin, and Steve, her husband, who live in Hollister, MO, extremely close to Branson. Anna and Steve live in an absolutely beautiful home developed on land owned by the late Tennessee Ernie Ford. They have a lovely waterfall flowing in their designer backyard. Their home was as warm and inviting as their hospitality. We were so ecstatic to visit with them, enjoy their company, and be shown parts of the area we would never have visited. Areas like Big Cedar, Table Rock Dam, the new Branson airport, and Murder Rock. For family members who remember Anna's sons, Chris and Ben, it's great to hear Chris is a senior at Ole Miss (applying for Law School soon), and Ben, is serving our country in Iraq, in the United States Army. A side note: Members of the congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Branson, just baked and mailed Ben (in Iraq) approximately 30 pounds of various homemade cookies while we were here.

Trivia they shared with us: Lake Taneycomo derives its name from Taney County, MO.; thus, Taneycomo. By the way, each year 1,000,000 trout are released in the lake for fishing.

Some of the things we've done since we've been here is see the show voted #1 - called SIX (6 brothers); The World Famous Platters Show, Spirit Of The Dance, The 12 Irish Tenors, and a walking tour of the Titanic (an incredible experience). The performers in the shows we attended always recognized the men and women in the audience who were veterans and had served in the armed forces of our country.

We enjoyed Sunday brunch with Steve and Anna at Big Cedar, a huge resort developed by Johnny Morris, owner of Bass Pro Shops. This was one of the most beautiful resorts we've seen anywhere. Later in the week we made a trip to Springfield, MO, the Granddaddy of all BPS.

We had lunch at the College Of The Ozarks (Hardwork U), which was most impressive. Students who are unable to afford a college education can attend by working 15 hours a week, and one 40 hour week during the semester - we met the staff in their tremendous dining facilities, and learned a great deal about the college which has been in existence since 1906 and has approximately 1500 coed students, primarily from the Ozark area. It was such a wonderful experience for RV and I, we came back to their drop-dead-delicious Sunday Brunch with Anna and Steve, after we attended First Presbyterian Church with them.

An advantage an RVer has is to attend the shows at your own pace but if you keep going at a pace of some of the tour buses we see, you'll go home exhausted. Some of these people come in, eat 3 meals a day and see 3 shows (or more)... each day! Remember, this is not a vacation for us -it's a way of life!

We've been in the Branson, MO area for about 10 days, YIKES! and will leave tomorrow to return to the Little Rock, AR area where we have a reservation at the Downtown Riverside RV Park, a new waterfront campground on the Arkansas River, across from the Clinton Presidential Center.

Monday, September 14, 2009


First, let me say we did not go to Graceland this visit. We both had been there before, so we decided to set our sites elsewhere. One of the most enjoyable restaurants in Memphis is the Flying Fish, across the street from The Hotel Peabody. The restaurant came highly recommended if you like a variety of fresh fish. Sometimes, catfish is used in the same sentence as bar-b-que in Memphis and surrounding areas. However, this informal restaurant proved to also be an adoption center for Billy Bass plaques; that is, if any of you have any of those fish plaques in your attic you'd like to adopt out to a good home. Hundreds of them line the walls. The food is ordered at a counter when you enter from the street. If you want it spicy, you say "make mine snappy" and the kitchen employees go wild. They start yelling, "SNAPPY"; must make their day go by faster. RV had fish and I had a bowl of gumbo, some of the best I've ever had.
One of our best bar-b-que experiences was at Neely's BBQ restaurant, a 17 year old family owned restaurant in Memphis and Nashville (voted #1 ribs in Nashville and Memphis), featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Food Network with Bobby Flay, and others.

We spent a little time in downtown Memphis and just happened to be in the Hotel Peabody for the Duck Walk one morning. This has been a tradition in the Hotel since 1933. The ducks are only lucky for 3 months before they are allowed to retire. Maybe this would be a job to check out.

If anyone from the Memphis Chamber of Commerce is reading this blog, I just want to pass on that your city is scary when it starts getting dark. Many other cities are too; however, this one makes it really scary when they start checking you for weapons when you enter Beale Street. This is the reason we decided to check out the city in the daylight. In the sub-culture of RVer's this kind of information keeps us in our parks - no B.B. King, Beale Street, or Graceland except during the day.

Memphis has a beautiful Victorian Village area close to the downtown area as well as a real trolley line. Their arena is called the Pyramid, named and designed since the city's name, Memphis, is derived from the Egyptians.

We are leaving West Memphis, AR and will be on our way to Branson, MO taking a westerly direction on I-40 and will spend the night in North Little Rock, AR. While there are a few things we'd like to see in Little Rock, we'll stay for an overnighter and get up early to drive to Branson. Hopefully on our return trip we'll have a chance to stop to see Clinton's Presidential Center and a few other sites in and around Little Rock, AR.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Several friends had recommended Tom Sawyer's RV Park in West Memphis, AR, and we're so glad we were able to stay here about 3 days. This would have been an ordinary park had it not been for the spectacular view of the Mississippi River. Huge river tugboats would push several huge barges at one time while traveling up and down the river. This place was so laid back that that's all we did....look at the "Mighty Mississippi" and watch the the barges. Our favorite part of the day was sunrise since we faced east, and as you can see, they were spectacular!

I forgot to tell you we are in catfish heaven. We are just beginning to see a little Cajun/French influence - the spices in the foods are changing. In one restaurant (Flying Fish in Memphis) they called it "Snappy". That meant, "It's going to be get ready."

We have to move on down the road, but the memories of the Mississippi River will always be vivid. In fact, I know we'll return one day. I just know it, especially when RV and I break out singing "Old Man River" as we drive down the highway. We have a new found appreciation for those people who live along the riverbanks of the "Mighty Mississippi".

Friday, September 11, 2009


We were exhausted after the 17 days we spent in Red Bay, and decided to spend Labor Day in Tunica, MS, approximately 15 miles south of Memphis,TN. We had been warned we would drive for miles seeing only farmland - mostly cotton fields. Then all of a sudden, there you are in the middle of little Las Vegas. We stayed in a very clean and level campground near the Hollywood Casino across the street from Sam's Town. We made the customary deposit, and met someone in the campground soliciting for the Memphis Humane Society, of all places. We purchased 2 vouchers for $10 that were actually worth $40, and could be used at any of the restaurants around town. We chose a steakhouse across the street called Mark Twain's Steakhouse. We actually thought we had been scammed, but it turned out to be legitimate and we had a great evening for less than half of what it would have cost us had we done it without the vouchers.

Down the road at Harrah's, Paula Dean has opened a beautiful new restaurant which is very impressive. We walked through her huge buffet restaurant, even though we had just eaten breakfast. When I say it was huge, it was HUGE - and it is opened 24 hours a day.

The visit to Tunica gave us an opportunity to see the Mississippi River and the Riverfront Park, which is beautiful. The site of the Riverfront Park has a museum about the river, its history, and even houses a very unusual acquarium, which is better than some of the other state acquariums we've visited. You can go up to the third story of the building where there is an overlook and you can see miles in either direction of the Mississippi River.

We decided to relocate to West Memphis, AR, on the other side of the Mississippi River, to a campground highly recommended to us called Tom Sawyer's RV Campground.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


If you've been following RV THERE YET since last year, you might remember how we make our annual pilgrimage to Red Bay, AL, home of Tiffin Motorhomes, the manufacturer of our coach. We make an appointment a year in advance and when we arrive we present them with several pages of service and warranty issues, adjustments and items we'd like added for our comfort....since this is our home. While the facilities provide water, sewer and everything you need, it is dusty and close quarters, so what you do is meet other people from all over the country - many of them full-timers like us, and you trade ideas and see what they've done to their coaches to make them more comfortable. On a daily basis, we are offered delicious fresh homemade country sausage, country thick sliced bacon, huge fresh farm eggs, and there's even a local restaurant owner that drives up and down the rows selling his famous bar-b-que. And I almost forgot the lady that sells fresh baked bread and the 90 year old farmer that sells fresh produce out of the back of his truck. All of these things add to the flavor of our annual Red Bay trip.

When your apppointment time arrives, you leave your parking area about 6:30 a.m. every morning and return to your parking space at 3:00 p.m., the end of the shift for the technicians. Each day you report to a specific bay (there are about 60 bays) and whatever needs to be done will be accomplished before you leave. A huge lounge is on site where coffee and comfortable seating is provided. Animals are allowed on leashes (since many RVer's have animals), and it gets lively sometimes. You sometimes spend hours in the lounge so you meet people from all over. Many people decide to get new coaches, refurbish old coaches, etc., and you can make arrangements to go through the factory where the 2010 models are in production. A bright spot for us is that you meet the people in the community and enjoy all there is to love about this small but special community. The cost of living doesn't compare to most places we travel - a delicious lunch is usually at the Piggly Wiggly, or Swamp John's for catfish dinners, and you meet people who can take care of just about anything you need on your coach, from beautiful finished carpentry, expert diesel service, to state of the art electronics. You might even meet someone who knew Tammy Wynette, from the Red Bay area, and certainly knew someone who wrote songs for her.

Since we were going to be in Red Bay on Labor Day, I had looked forward to the festivities which would be held in the Coon Dog Cemetery (liar's contest, buck dancing, bar-b-que); however, we had an opportunity to leave on Saturday, 9/5, after our coach was completly detailed - inside and out - (and all our service items had been compleeted), so we headed northwest to Tunica, MS, a town less than 20 miles from Memphis, TN. and we will recuperate and take life a little easier before we head toward the Branson, MO area.


Even if you might not have had prior law enforcement experience, does the name "McNairy County" ring a bell? Well, after we left Shiloh, we were within a couple of miles of one of the most legendary lawmen in America, Sheriff Buford Pusser, the man who became the target of many assassination attempts - one of which took the life of his wife, Pauline, and left him emotionally and physically scarred. He became the subject of 4 "Walking Tall" major motion pictures.

His home in Adamsville has stood still in time, a brick ranch exterior with the short shag carpet, pine panelling and original furnishings and momentos. Some of his law enforcement career included being shot 8 times, knifed 7 times, fought 6 men at once, sending 3 to jail and 3 to the hospital, destroyed 87 whiskey stills in 1965 alone, killed 2 people in self-defense, served 3 consecutive terms as McNairy County Sheriff. The remains of the Corvette in which he died, is stored in his garage at the house.

We left Buford's house and went to downtown Adamsville to the Saw Meal Cafe, famous for hometown cooking, before we headed back to Red Bay, AL via the Pickwick Lake Dam area.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shiloh National Military Battlefield - Pittsburg Landing, TN

RV and I are firmly planted on the airstrip in Red Bay, AL for the next 3 weeks, but while we are calling this home with about 150 other RVer's getting service, maintenance, etc., we have to get away for some fresh air. We had been told about Shiloh being close (we covered about 200 miles today) and I had no idea of the significance of this battle of April 1962 in the Civil War. This battle cost both sides a combined total of 23,746 men killed, wounded, or missing - more casualties than America had suffered in previous wars. Shiloh is considered America's best preserved battlefield and features 156 monuments, 217 cannons and over 650 historic tablets. The Confederate Commander, General Albert Sidney Johnston was mortally wounded, the highest ranking Southern officer killed during the war.

The families of the soldiers from Tennessee who were killed at Shiloh (who had the most to lose in this battle) petitioned to gather their dead for a proper burial.
Union Commander General U.S. Grant ordered all Confederate soldiers (1,728 Confederates) to be mass buried in a series of 5 trenches, believed to be the largest of the five known mass burial trenches, and the Union soldiers were removed to be buried in the National Cemetery on site. Although the hallowed grounds are preserved and kept by the National Park Service, there is still such a sense of sadness. The day we visited the flags were also flown at half mast in honor of Senator Edward Kennedy's death.

After visiting Shiloh, we visited Savannah, TN, a short distance down the river, which was U.S. Grant's headquarters during this battle. This town is so beautiful and has preserved many victorian houses built in the beginning of the 1800's.

Also, this area played a part in Indian history - the Shiloh Indian Mounds (a National Historic Landmark) as well as the path of the Cherokee's "Trail of Tears", followed by the Lt. Bell Treaty Party on their trek westward to Oklahoma.