It’s Just The Big Dam Bridge….Get Over It!!!

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Day 110        September 27, 2014

Little Rock, Arkansas

A successful start to the day can often be measured by how quickly one’s dogs do their business. This was a very successful morning! And good thing, ‘cause we had to get to the start line of the Big Dam Bridge Cycling Tour.

The bikes are ready to roll. Heading out in the early morning for the Big Dam Bridge ride.

The bikes are ready to roll. Heading out in the early morning for the Big Dam Bridge ride.

The official t-shirt

The official t-shirt

While I walked the dogs, Mark tore the Space Shuttle apart to look for our bike helmets. Found ‘em! We were good to go!

Ready to rock 'n roll

Ready to rock ‘n roll

Waiting for the ride to begin

Waiting for the ride to begin

Lots of friendly folks waiting to start the ride

Lots of friendly folks waiting to start the ride

The entire ride was amazingly scenic and fun! And yes, we did actually ride over the Big Dam Bridge. I love that the Arkansasians have a sense of humor, and actually gave that exact name to their beloved bridge!

Mark's mid-ride selfie

Mark’s mid-ride selfie

Quick stop to take in the view

Quick stop to take in the view

Random scenery along the way

Random scenery along the way

The ride ended in the cool little neighborhood of Argentia, with free hot dogs and soda, and a live band. We got a couple beers from a little coffee shop/bar, and sat outside with some nice locals to listen to the band. (don’t judge…it was at least noon by time we started drinking beer)

Post-ride, a great local band playing in the street near the finish line

Post-ride, a great local band playing in the street near the finish line

@ The Joint for post-ride coffee and beer

@ The Joint for post-ride coffee and beer

I got the coffee

I got the coffee

Mark got the beer

Mark got the beer

Eventually, we headed back to the Space Shuttle. It was time to check on the doggies, take a shower, and go out exploring on foot.

Post-ride, back at the Space Shuttle, we were greeted by Trixie and Tiny

Post-ride, back at the Space Shuttle, we were greeted by Trixie and Tiny

We went back to the Clinton Presidential library to walk around and take more photos. And this time, we went inside. Besides the Presidential stuff in there, there was also a nice Dale Chihuly glass exhibit.

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Wedding reception @ the Clinton Presidential Library. Should we crash it?

Wedding reception @ the Clinton Presidential Library. Should we crash it?

Chihuly glass art @ the Clinton Presidential Library.

Chihuly exhibit @ the Clinton Presidential Library.

Chihuly glass art @ the Clinton Presidential Library.

Chihuly exhibit @ the Clinton Presidential Library.

Chihuly glass art @ the Clinton Presidential Library.

Chihuly exhibit @ the Clinton Presidential Library.

@ the Clinton Presidential Library

Mark @ the Clinton Presidential Library

View of the pedestrian bridge, from the Clinton Presidential Library

View of the pedestrian bridge, from the Clinton Presidential Library

Lunch break beer

Lunch break beer @ Boscos

Tired from the day’s activities, we spent the evening back at the RV park. We took a walk along the river, then settled in to cook dinner and do our laundry.

Evening walk along the river

Evening walk along the river

And once again, we met some fellow RV-ers who were amazed that all four of us had been living in the small Space Shuttle for so long!! We were getting close to the four-month point of our trip, and even we were amazed at how well we were all doing!

Is “The South” Making Me Fat?! I’ve Yet To Meet A Food I Didn’t Like!

Just like the sign says, it's "World Famous"

Memphis, Tennessee

Day 109      September 26, 2014

West Memphis, Arkansas   to   Little Rock, Arkansas

As soon as the sun rose, we got out of bed to watch the barges navigate up and down the Mississippi River. It was a classic American scene, and amused us for over an hour. But we couldn’t just sit there all day, ‘cause we were going to Memphis. The real Memphis. Memphis, Tennessee. Not the fake Memphis, West Memphis, Arkansas, where the RV park was.

Sunrise, as seen through the condensation on the Space Shuttle windshield

Sunrise, as seen through the condensation on the Space Shuttle windshield

River barges!

River barges!

Morning on the river

Morning on the river

Sun coming up on the river

And…here comes another barge

Such a great location for an RV park!

Such a great location for an RV park!

Graphic detail of concrete

Graphic detail of concrete

Memphis, well, especially the Beale Street area, was touristy, but fun!  And the people there were so nice. Trixie and Dax were especially popular with the peeps in Memphis, and were lavished with attention everywhere we went.

Beale Street

Beale Street

Beale Street

Beale Street

Photo excursion on Beale Street

Photo excursion on Beale Street

Just like the sign says, it's "World Famous"

Just like the sign says, it’s “World Famous”

Fun streetscape and signage

Fun streetscape and signage

Fun streetscape and signage

Fun streetscape and signage

Colorful buildings and signs

Colorful buildings and signs

Tribute to W.C. Handy

Tribute to W.C. Handy

Just like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but different

Just like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but different

We walked around and took lots of photos, bought a couple more t-shirts, and had lunch at the Majestic Grille. Yet another awesome meal. We were gonna be so spoiled by all the great food we’d been eating.

More fun with neon signs

More fun with neon signs

The colors and architecture of Beale Street

The colors and architecture of Beale Street

Beale Street

Beale Street

Always look up....the ceiling in the Majestic Grille restaurant

Always look up….the ceiling in the Majestic Grille restaurant

Amazing ahi salad!!

Amazing ahi salad!!

Streetscape detail

Streetscape detail

Love these flags!

Love these flags!

Things we did NOT do in Memphis:  We didn’t go to Graceland ‘cause we’ve been there before. And we didn’t go on a tour of the Gibson Guitar factory ‘cause we didn’t have time to stick around town. If I owned a Gibson, we’d have made the time, but, I own a Martin, so we skipped it.

Tempting....the Gibson guitar factory

Tempting….the Gibson guitar factory

Our next stop would be Little Rock, Arkansas, where we checked into the Downtown Riverside RV Park. The place was full, but they gave us a spot in the overflow section. Perfect! You couldn’t beat the location of this place. It really pretty much was “downtown.”

Hello again, Arkansas

Hello again, Arkansas

As soon as we were settled into our spot, we leashed up the dogs and went on a big outing. We walked across the pedestrian bridge, which was right next to the RV park, and which landed us right at the Clinton Library. The library was even more beautiful and cool looking in person!

Pedestrian bridge by our RV park

Pedestrian bridge by our RV park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not just any old pedestrian bridge....the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge!

Not just any old pedestrian bridge….the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge!

Downtown Little Rock in the distance

Downtown Little Rock in the distance

Our first look at the Clinton Presidential Library!

Our first look at the Clinton Presidential Library!

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Weird red things in the fountain…??? Chihuly’s??

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

So many graphic angles to shoot!

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Mark and Dax, sniffing around the Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library

Near the Clinton Presidential Library, beautiful public art

Near the Clinton Presidential Library, beautiful public art

We continued our walk into town, and settled on having dinner at Cache, where we filled up on delicious tuna tacos and topped that off with whiskey bread pudding. The pups weren’t allowed on the outdoor patio, so we had to tie them to the railing next to us and keep our eyes on them to keep ‘em from getting into scuffles with other doggies walking by.

Part of our dinner discussion surrounded one topic. We’d found out that there was a big charity cycling tour the next day, The Big Dam Bridge ride. And even though we were still on deadline to get to Albuquerque, it was just so tempting to stay in Little Rock and do this ride in the morning.

After dinner, we walked all the way down to the convention center, where the cycling tour registration and registration packet pick-up was being held…just to check it out. And, of course, we ended up signing up for the ride! Our timing was just too perfect to pass up the opportunity!

By time we walked all the way back to the Space Shuttle, it was late and dark out. We were tired too, but instead of going to sleep, we spent the next hour scrambling to find where we’d packed our cycling clothes and helmets. Couldn’t find the helmets, and finally gave up looking and just went to bed. We’d have to wait until the morning to continue our search.

Random Advice From A Random Guy At A Gas Station

Brick and wires. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Brick and wires. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Day 108     September 25, 2014

Gadsden, Alabama  to  West Memphis, Arkansas

On the road again…this time, to Birmingham, Alabama…partially out of respect for its place in the history of the civil rights movement (which, by the way, could still stand to keep on moving forward), and partially just out of curiosity, since we were driving right by it anyways. Even if we just did a drive through, we were curious to see what Birmingham looked like.

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Brick and wires. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Brick and wires. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Back alley. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Back alley. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Photogenic downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Photogenic downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Lots of brick buildings in downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Lots of brick buildings in downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

A random guy we met at the gas station near downtown, recommended that we eat lunch at El Barrio. We did. And we thank “Random Guy at Gas Station” for turning us onto this place. El Barrio was jam packed, and no wonder, due to its fun decor and vibe and its delicious food! I had one of the best quesadillas I’ve ever had. This seemed to be a theme with us as we travelled across the south…the theme of amazing food!

El Barrio

El Barrio

Trying to blend in with the crazy murals at El Barrio

Trying to blend in with the crazy murals at El Barrio

One of our favorites! Coffee oatmeal stout

One of our favorites! Coffee oatmeal stout

The rest of the drive across Alabama was uneventful. The only thing I noticed that was remotely remarkable, was the overabundance of shredded tire tread on the highways. I don’t know what’s going on in that state, but when dead tires outnumber regular roadkill…hmm…things that make you go “hmmm.”

We continued our drive west on Rt 78, briefly crossing into Mississippi before crossing back into Tennessee. And then we drove briefly through Tennessee, across the river, to Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park in West Memphis, Arkansas.

Hello, Mississippi

Hello, Mississippi

Hello, Tennessee

Hello, Tennessee

Crossing the bridge into Arkansas

Crossing the bridge into Arkansas

Hello, Arkansas

Hello, Arkansas

Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park was right on the river, which was uber cool, ‘cause we got to watch the river barges going up and down the river all evening long. Barge-watching proved to be quite a relaxing and hypnotic way to end the day.

Another Day, Another Ticket-Free Parking Violation

More chocolate goodies!

Chocolate heaven in Knoxville, TN!

Day 107         September 24, 2014

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee  to Gadsden, Alabama

On our way out of Pigeon Forge,  we went to see if we could get a peek at Dollywood. I mean, a peek from the outside, without paying to go inside. All we could find was the entry to a parking lot. I guess the likes of cheapskates like us weren’t welcome there, so we left.

Our actual first stop would be in downtown Knoxville, where we lucked into the most perfect parking space. Well, it wasn’t perfectly perfect, as it was in a 30 minute zone, but that had never stopped us before. I’m not condoning breaking the law or anything, but, when you have 27’ of vehicle to park, you often just take what you find, and take your chances. And hey, in almost four months, we’d only gotten busted once, so, whatever. We could afford another $45 parking ticket, so we took our chances.

So, the risk of getting a parking ticket was well worth the goodies that we found in Knoxville. We were parked right by the pedestrian mall, right out front of an amazing coffee and chocolate shop, right down the block from some really cool boutique shops.

First we hit the coffee and chocolate shop, appropriately named, “Coffee & Chocolate. ” Among other chocolatey things, we had a dark chocolate truffle that was to die for! The bacon truffle, uh, not as great, but still pretty darn good!

@ Coffee & Chocolate

@ Coffee & Chocolate

More chocolate goodies!

Deliciousness!

Yep, tried one of these jalapeno ones too!

Yep, tried one of these jalapeno ones too!

After checking out a few of the small artistic boutiques, we took a walk through the pedestrian mall, where we discovered the mid-day farmer’s market. And within the farmer’s market, we discovered the Good Golly Tamale food cart. 

We bought a few tamales to share…the “Classic,” the “Calabacitas,” and the “Vegan Soul.’ OMG! OMG! Best tamales we’ve ever had, and believe me, living in Southern California for so many years, we’ve eaten a lot of tamales. But no tamale I’ve ever devoured, could hold a candle to the tamales from Good Golly Tamale!!

How did tamales this divine end up in Knoxville, Tennessee??!! No offense to Knoxville. Knoxville seemed like a really great city. It’s just not the city, state, or region of the US of A that one would expect to find spectacular tamales!

Now the trifecta of our little downtown visit, was finding the coolest t-shirt shop, “Nothing Too Fancy.” Mark and I both love and adore, and live in, t-shirts, so this place was a bonanza discovery for us. Their t-shirts were all super soft, with awesome graphics by local graphic designers. It took a lot of self-control, but we walked out of there with only two t’s for Mark, and one for me. Seriously, I could have bought about 10 t-shirts, but I knew I didn’t really “need” them. Damn. I’m way too practical.

Having overstayed our 30 minute parking by at least an hour, we got back in the Space Shuttle and went on our way. No parking ticket, by the way. (smiley face emoticon!)

We stopped in Chattanooga to have a quick look around. Sucked in by the billboard advertisements, we purchased tickets to ride the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain. Glad we did! It was pretty cool riding up (and down) the 72.7% grade in this open-air rail car of sorts.

On the Incline Railway

On the Incline Railway

The view down, from inside the rail car

The view down, from inside the rail car

Nice views from the top of Lookout Mountain

Nice views from the top of Lookout Mountain

An old fort, turned park.

An old fort, turned park.

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

Statue in the fort/park

Civil War memoria in the fort/park

Downtown Chattanooga

World of Beer in downtown Chattanooga

Climbing wall on the exterior of this building in downtown Chattanooga

Climbing wall on the exterior of this building in downtown Chattanooga

On our way out of town, we took Rt 59 south, to Gadsden, Alabama, where we spent the night at the River Country Campground. All in all, we’d had another great day…coffee, chocolate, tamales, t-shirts, railway rides…pretty much a perfect day!

From Quiet To Crazy…All In A Day’s Travels

Still not tired of photographing the old cabins.

Great Smoky Mountains

Day 106     September 23, 2014

Townsend  to  Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Just down the road from our campground, was a little enclave of needed stuff…a self-wash RV washing center, and a coffee shop. So after dumping our tanks and doing our laundry at the campground, away we went…to just down the road.

We got Fiona nice and clean and shiny, and then rewarded ourselves with the best ever iced coffee and iced mocha from The Artistic Bean. Seriously, especially the iced mocha…best ever in the world! Nice people there too.

The entire rest of the day was spent exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We did a bit of a whirlwind driving tour, stopping to take in the scenery and take pictures, but knowing that we still had to meet our deadline to make it to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in nine days.

Like the sign says...on the loop road @ Great Smoky Mountains

Like the sign says…on the loop road @ Great Smoky Mountains

Cades Cove Scenic Loop

Cades Cove Scenic Loop

Singing group in the little church on Cades Cove Scenic Loop

Singing group in the little church on Cades Cove Scenic Loop

Church detail

Church detail

On the loop road....

On the loop road….

On the loop road....

On the loop road….

I was hoping to see a cyclist do this trick...

I was hoping to see a cyclist do this trick…

On the loop road....

On the loop road….

On the loop road....

On the loop road….

On the loop road....

On the loop road….

Trees starting to change color. On the loop road....

Trees starting to change color. On the loop road….

On the loop road....

On the loop road….

Cabin detail. On the loop road....

Cabin detail. On the loop road….

Cabin detail. On the loop road....

Cabin detail. On the loop road….

On the loop road....

On the loop road….

On the loop road....

On the loop road….

Mark & Old Cabin. On the loop road....

Mark & old cabin. On the loop road….

Still not tired of photographing the old cabins.

Still not tired of photographing the old cabins.

On the drive up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee, we were met with narrow roads, hair-pin turns, and strong winds. It was a bit nerve-wracking in our big tall vehicle, but the beautiful view from the top was worth it.

Driving up to Clingmans Dome

Driving up to Clingmans Dome

I'm in Tennessee....

I’m in Tennessee….

Flip side of the sign...I'm in North Carolina....

Flip side of the sign…I’m in North Carolina….

Great views on the walk up to Clingmans Dome observation tower

Great views on the walk up to Clingmans Dome observation tower

Great views on the walk up to Clingmans Dome observation tower

Great views on the walk up to Clingmans Dome observation tower

Great views on the walk up to Clingmans Dome observation tower

Great views on the walk up to Clingmans Dome observation tower

Great views on the walk up to Clingmans Dome observation tower

Great views on the walk up to Clingmans Dome observation tower

The Dome...Space-Agey architecture

The Dome…Space-Agey architecture

I think this is why they call them the SMOKY mountains...lots of cloudiness...

I think this is why they call them the SMOKY mountains…lots of cloudiness…

Overcast, but pretty

Overcast, but pretty

Walkway to the top of the tower

Walkway to the top of the tower

Love the views!

Love the views and the cool clouds!

Walking back down to the parking area

Walking back down to the parking area

One last view before we go...

One last view before we go…

As it was getting dark, we drove back down the mountain, to the Gatlinburg side. Wowza!! What a difference from the Townsend side. The Townsend side was calm, quiet, and almost rural. This  side was tourist-trappy and Vegas-like…..bright lights, touristy shops, hotels, people everywhere…crazy shit. None of this made any sense, until we found out that Dolly Parton’s Dollywood was nearby. Ah…that would explain everything.

It was dark, and we were tired, so we drove straight through town and checked into the closest campground, the Pigeon Forge KOA.

Free Food At The Mercedes Benz Dealer!!!

@ KOA in Townsend, Tennessee

@ KOA in Townsend, Tennessee

Day 105       September 22, 2014

Wytheville, Virginia  to  Townsend, Tennessee

The morning, once again, went to the dogs. Our campground had a huge fenced in doggie play area. Trixie and Dax had it all to themselves. Oh the joys of chasing a tennis ball! There was a lot of driving to be done today, so after doggie play time, we got on the road.

Heading south on Rt 81

Heading south on Rt 81

Heading south on Rt 81

Hello Tennessee!

The Space Shuttle was due for a scheduled service appointment. I had found a Mercedes Benz dealer in Knoxville, Tennessee that was able to do our service in the afternoon, so Knoxville was our target.

The peeps at the dealership were super nice, and they had a finely stocked customer lounge. While Fiona was getting serviced, I feasted on freebies…mini Peppermint Patties, cookies, coffee, other miscellaneous candies. They also had a fabulous wifi connection, so I was able to get a few blog posts up and running. And, as usual, Trixie and Dax got lots and lots of attention from the employees and from the other customers.

As far as service appointments go, this was a pretty nice one! The only disappointment was that, ‘cause the service was completed so late in the work day, they didn’t have time to give Fiona a bath. Damn!

We docked for the night at the KOA in Townsend, Tennessee, right next to the Great Smoky Mountains. We’d have to wait until the next day to have a look around!

@ KOA in Townsend, Tennessee

@ KOA in Townsend, Tennessee

Nice campsite, right next to the river

Nice campsite, right next to the river

Sticky Green Thingies, A Civil War Battlefield, And A Broken Heart

Breakfast in New Market!

Breakfast in New Market!

Day 104         September 21, 2014

Luray to Wytheville,  Virginia

I wish Jim had warned us, but he hadn’t. And so, we found out on our own, that there’s a lot of grassy sticky stuff in the landscape around his house….grassy sticky stuff that sticks to dogs like glue. And although it didn’t take but about a nanosecond before Trixie and Dax were covered in this crap, it took us a good 20 minutes to get the shit off of them.

Trixie, with all that sticky shit on her. Not a happy camper. Wouldn't stand still for a photo.

Trixie, with all that sticky shit on her. Not a happy camper. Wouldn’t stand still for a photo.

Once the doggies were cleaned up, we all drove to New Market to have breakfast at the Southern Kitchen.

Breakfast in New Market!

Breakfast in New Market!

Southern Kitchen, just like the sign says

Southern Kitchen, just like the sign says

Classic breakfast joint

Classic breakfast joint

And then we visited the New Market Civil War Battlefield. I grew up in Virginia, so I kind of hit overload on Civil War battlefields a long time ago. But, I’d never been to this one before, and it was scenic and had an interesting story behind it. Plus, the dogs were allowed on the battlefield, so they had a nice walk too…without a bunch of sticky green grassy shit attacking them!

@ New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

@ New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

View of the valley from New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

View of the valley from New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

@ New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

@ New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

@ New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

@ New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

@ New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

@ New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

Once we said goodbye to Jim, he headed back home, and we headed down to Harrisonburg, home of James Madison University. I’d graduated from JMU, and hadn’t been back there in 30 years. I knew the campus had changed a lot over the years, but it was still pretty shocking to see the growth of the campus and of the town.

H-Burg!

H-Burg!

One of the newer buildings @ JMU

One of the newer buildings @ JMU

My old dorm

My old dorm

The Quad. Where is everyone? Back in my day, this place would be packed with kids playing frisbee and playing guitars!

The Quad. Where is everyone? Back in my day, this place would be packed with kids playing frisbee, playing guitar, and blasting music from the dorm windows!

In all honesty, the “growth without soul” broke my heart a little bit. So, I went shopping to lift myself back up…shopping at the JMU bookstore for a new JMU sweatshirt.

With me rockin’ my new sweatshirt, we drove through the old part of downtown Harrisonburg. That part of town had changed as well, but not so much as to lose its character, and that was great to see.

I think this is where the old HoJo's used to be. ??

I think this is where the old HoJo’s used to be. ??

Downtown Harrisonburg

Downtown Harrisonburg

L&S Diner!! Still going after all these years!!

L&S Diner!! Still going after all these years!!

When we left town and headed south on Rt 81, I wondered if I’d ever be back….maybe in another 30 years!

Goodbye, Harrisonburg...

Goodbye, Harrisonburg…

Beautiful sunset as we head south on Rt 81

Beautiful sunset as we head south on Rt 81

We drove until it got dark, and then spent the night at the Wytheville KOA , where we virtually had the place to ourselves.