Lingering in Memphis
I had second breakfast, of sorts, at Otherland’s Coffee Bar for a coffee & giant oatmeal-raisin cookie. It was a strategic move, being on my way to Downtown, Beale Street and the riverfront, as much as a destination in and of itself. The coffee was quite good; I would have been tempted to hang out longer had they not been playing a country-music-only satellite radio station.
I’m not sure what I was expecting of Beale St, but I was disappointed. It reminded me much more of State St on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus where I went to college than anything. Except the shops were famous, and all of the door-tenders were soliciting passers-by to come in and spend. Perhaps if I’d been there in the evening instead of mid-afternoon, or if I’d gone to a live music show I’d have a different opinion. I stopped at Dyer’s Burgers to get my grease fix (I’m glad I got the triple, because it was still small) and indulged in a strawberry shake.
Afterwards I lingered on the riverfront, paying a visit to the I-40 Visitor’s Bureau, before heading to Rendezvous for BBQ. My first impression of Rendezvous was “what kind of a hole-in-the-wall is this, with it’s only entrance on some back alley?” which was confirmed when the doorman double checked that I was double locking my bicycle. Then he suggested that I bring it inside, where he would personally watch it. My impression of Rendezvous improved drastically from there on. I had the half-rack of ribs with beef brisket, both excellent. The ribs were covered with a dry-rub, which I decided after a carefully scientific taste-test that I preferred as-is to adding either their sweet or their mild B-B-Q sauces.
Friday my new tires showed up, but too late in the day to think of setting off. Instead I tagged along with the crew from DeCleyre House to an indoor-trailer-park-themed rent party. There must have been close to ten camper-trailers in the large building. Other highlights were the live band and the photo-booth-trailer that featured a variety of masks and props with the camera’s view projected on a big screen outside. Hilarity ensued.
Saturday: said goodbyes, packed up and rolled leisurely for one last breakfast at Brother Juniper’s, but the big crowd at Brother Juniper’s caused me to stop at at CK’s Coffee Shop instead. I stopped by the Peddler again, but saw neither Giles nor Kelly either time–sorry guys, I tried, twice. I made a stop a grocery store and saw Bobby, the Peddler’s Chief Mechanic, and then finally made it to Java Cabana for lunch: a turkey-mozzarella panini & choc chip coffee. (It was nothing like Hard Times Cafe in Minneapolis.)
After finding my way to the Metal Museum (sadly too late in the day to spare an hour to explore it), I reached the I-55 bridge, and then took a gravel road that degenerated into a dirt two-track through some field that later turned to mud.
After cleaning enough of the pernicious stuff off that I could roll the bike again, I briefly considered stealth camping next to the river (dark had fallen), but the forecast of impending rain convinced me to escape the dirt road before it all became impassable mud.
I stopped for the night at Tom Sawyer River RV “campground” in West Memphis AR, about 30 miles for the day, but by 4AM I couldn’t take the smell of sewage any longer & left between lightning bolts.
I rode all day under gray skies to the National Forest south of Marianna AR, about 57 miles. Just as I was getting off the road to make camp for the night I heard that dreaded “hiss” of an inner-tube rapidly going flat. At camp I found a hole in the sidewall near tread but no foreign object. Hoping for the best I patched it, and crawled into the tent.
The next morning, Monday, the deluge started. At 10 AM I gave up and broke camp, slowly riding all 17 miles of gravel to Helena AR in the rain. When I reached the Delta Cultural Center I found it closed, but one of the employees let me in anyway, and hurried me to the radio broadcasting booth for the last 5 minutes of the live “King Biscuit Time” broadcast. I had my 30 seconds of fame on the air. (I believe it was the November 21st broadcast, but I haven’t verified this yet. The announcer, Sonny Payne, was a little hard of hearing from World War II, and heard my name as “John”. Still, pretty cool.)
From Helena I headed for “Uncle Henry’s Place” Restaurant & Inn, but found it closed. The rain had picked up again, and, after aborted attempts to stealth camp (too muddy) and find a church (couldn’t find the preacher’s house to ask permission) I wound up at a gas station and reconsidered my situation over a “double jumbo” (12-oz) cheese burger. Heading six miles back on shoulder-less, high-traffic, Highway 49 to the casino hotel seemed like my best option, when an equally bedraggled man sat down at the gas station’s cafe. In talking to him, DeLane proceeded to invite me over to his house, and I was soon loading my bike into the back of his pickup truck.
DeLane & his wife Mary Ann were two of the kindest people I’ve met yet. They offered me a shower, which I gratefully accepted, washed my thoroughly soaked and muddy clothes, fed me second diner, dessert, and then we relaxed around the table, watching Mad TV before I retired to one of their living room couches.
The next morning I tried to leave when the rain let up, but couldn’t find the garage where DeLane had let me park my bike for the night. Going back in to ask Mary Ann, she pointed it out, and then offered me a pancake breakfast. After breakfast I found my bike with a half-flat front tire, and replaced the tube I thought I had fixed at DeCleyre two days prior. Roy, one of the local farmers stopped by and helped me hold the bike up while putting things back together.
On my way out I saw Kevin, the owner of a small general store, again and I had to stop for an early second breakfast: country fried steak, mashed potatoes & green beans. Kevin said he had considered letting me stay in his store overnight, but thought my plan for Uncle Henry’s place sounded ironclad. All’s well that ends well, however. I’m truly overwhelmed at how kind the people of Lula MS are.
Finally rolling out about 1PM, I made it to Great River Road State Park (in Rosedale MS) in the dark, completely exhausted after 72 wet and windy miles. The next morning as I was leaving I learned the park was actually closed pending flood repair.
In Greenville I found Jim’s Cafe, where I was offered indoor parking, and had a turkey “dinner” including okra.
I finished off the day at Leroy Percy State Park, south of Greenville MS, where I took an actual rest day on Thanksgiving.