Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Escape/Part 3 Memphis

April 5th, 2022 

The next leg of our incredible journey takes us to Memphis, TN. The big draw being Graceland until we found out the ticket prices. $76 American dollars per person to walk the hallowed grounds where Elvis walked. Not including parking fees, lunch and souvenirs. I'm sorry but I have a problem with giving that much money to millionaires. That's why you will hardly ever see me at concerts or pro sporting events. They really don't need my money. Plus, we don't like crowds.

Our next undisclosed location is the T. O. Fuller State Park near Memphis. I did not get a picture of our campsite but I did get a picture of my first mosquito bite of the year.

This park is okay except for the mosquito's and the smell. In the reviews which we like to read after we get to a place said it had an awful smell. Like sewage or manure. It only happens when the wind is right. Being that we planned on not being around the campground much, we decided to live with it. We planned on 3 nights here with lots of sightseeing since we have never been here before.

On our first day we went to check out the Memphis Zoo. We heard that it was pretty good and it was. They are one of only 4 zoos in America that have Chinese Pandas. The literature online says to allow 3-5 hours for the zoo and they were right.
The entrance was fancy. 
This was one of the animal enclosures. A good zoo will have large enclosures for the animals for their benefit. Being the off season there were hardly any people there. We loved it.

Monkey baby.
The zoo itself is quite large with many different themed areas for viewing the animals. We walked for what seemed like a death march but I am happy to say I survived. I wasn't sure a couple of times. I even told Lisa to feed me to the lions if I don't make it. We missed one area of the zoo and Lisa wanted to check it out. We were at the front so I said that I would wait for her there while she walked back. 

"How will I find you?" 

I said, "Just look for the buzzards."

While I was googling "Can a 100 pound woman fireman carry a 200 pound man", I felt like I was being watched. I looked up and saw this couple just staring at me.
I yelled "Hey! I am not part of the exhibits!" That did not deter them at all. About ready to get up and hobble over there, Lisa showed up and made friends with them.
It was a fun outing at the zoo. It really is one of the better ones we have been to. One more thing to add about the zoo. They have a small herd of Pere David's deer. These deer are nearly extinct and they are only found in captivity now. I have never heard of them before and for some reason we did not get a picture of them so I had to barrow one from the internet.
Not the cutest looking deer and not as big as Whitetails either. There is a sign at the entrance to leave all of your guns outside. So I am afraid Jim, you will not be able to add one of those to your wall.

On our way back to the campground we stopped at a state historical sight near the campground. It was called Chucalissa. This is where a group of Native Americans lived for hundreds of years. From 1600AD to around 500AD. Then they disappeared. They were mound builders and the central hut of the community was built atop a large mound.
The concrete wasn't there when they built it. That is so the mound wouldn't erode away. 
The village was very large and according to historians there were up to 1000 people living here. Very interesting the things we find on our journeys.

The next day we planned on going down to Beale Street in downtown Memphis. We have heard several things from different people that said you just have to go there before you die. On my behalf, I'm not sure if that is good or bad. We scheduled an informative bus tour and we got down there midwesternly early. So we walked the district on our own for awhile.
The district is about 4 to 5 blocks long with lots and lots of bars and jazz clubs. Being that the sun was nowhere near being over the mizzen mast we did not partake in any adult libations. So we just looked around at all of the jazz history that really didn't mean all that much to us. Sorry folks. I will add that Beale Street is the birthplace of jazz, soul and rock and roll. Big whoop! The thing that will stick out in our minds the most is the crazy person walking back and forth arguing and yelling at himself. That made me duck behind Lisa as we walked by. I noticed she was protecting her thigh.
Finally it was time for our bus tour. I will add again that we are not big music fans. It was a good tour with lots of information. I can't speak for Lisa but all I heard was stuff like this. "Someone did something there and someone else did something else over there." On and on for 90 minutes as we drove all over the city. The tour guide also sang as we drove.
The things I do remember from the tour was this.
This amphitheater is where Elvis made his very first public appearance. He only sang 2 songs because he and his band were new to each other. The crowd went wild and for an encore, he ended up singing the same 2 songs over again. Still the crowd went wild.
This is a statue of Johnny Cash. It stands out side of a church because that is where he got his start. The tour talked about others like B.B. King, Carl Perkins and Machine gun Kelly. (The gangster, not the rapper.) I'm sure they talked about others but I was busy trying to hang myself with the seat belt.

After our tour we drove over to the Bass Pro Shop pyramid. We were told that it was a must see so off we went.
This place is huge. There is a hotel there. There is a Wahlburgers inside and also a restaurant at the top of the pyramid along with an observation deck.
They also have animal mounts and fish tanks. Quite amazing.
Lisa and her classic mermaid pose. If you want to go to the observation deck it will cost you 8 bucks to ride the elevator up. Lisa and I flipped a coin and I won. It is a 300 foot free standing elevator. Once at the top you get a great view of the Memphis skyline.
It was dinner time and we really wanted some Memphis BBQ. What a fiasco that turned out to be. We googled the best of Memphis. The first one looked like it was in a sketchy part of town and there was no way we were getting out of the truck let alone eat in there. So we went to the next one. When we got there it was pick up only. Their website failed to mention that. So that was it for Memphis BBQ.

Our personal opinion of Memphis is this and it does not represent anyone else's. We found Memphis to be a filthy city. Garbage is a big problem there as they mention it in the news casts. They just dump it along the road ways or abandoned houses. Even Beale Street had graffiti every where. 

Now we can say we did it. One and done.  Where will we pop up next?

"Gladys! Get the guns, we are leaving."

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Escape/Part 2 Missouri

 April 3, 2022

Somewhere in Missouri

Our next super secret undisclosed location is not only super secret but also off the grid. We did not know that until we got there. No cell service at all. It was a long travel day for us.  7-8 hours. So in that time I invented a new travel game that I will share with you. Feel free to play it, along with the other popular travel games, such as slug bug, which is always a winner. Also the antelope game but that only works out west. 

My new travel game is called "Name that Dead Critter".  It goes like this. As you are driving along, the first one to name correctly the dead critter wins the point. You can play to how many points you want. Sometimes it can be very hard to identify a critter so it becomes challenging. We played up to 11 because Lisa started feeling sick from looking at all of the dead animals in different levels of decomposition. So I ended up winning!

Our next super secret undisclosed location is Mark Twain State Park outside of Florida, Missouri.

I can tell you our locations now because by the time the paparazzi reads this, we will be long gone. Now if you are at the bar playing trivia, this question may just come up and you will know the answer because I am going to tell you. "What famous american author was born in Florida, Missouri?" The answer is Mark Twain. Or Samuel Clemens. I kind of gave it away in my first sentence. I guess beer and blogging really don't mix.

So anyways, we were at Mark Twain State Park. They have three camp ground loops and we had one loop entirely to ourselves. Maybe 3 other campers in the whole park. Love the off season.

My travel agent Lisa has really been doing her homework on this trip. I thought there would be no way to top Sioux City but she did it. My socks are officially knocked off. 

Our first stop was the visitor center where they had Mark Twain's house that he was born in, inside it. It was on a Monday and I guess that is the day they are not open. Wah! Wah! Next we drove to Florida. The village, not the sunny warm state. There we saw the spot where the cabin once stood. At least we saw a picture of the cabin. Just as good.
There is not much left to the village. A few houses. It's not a place to really go out of your way to find unless you really want to. So we left Florida and headed to Hannibal, Missouri.
That is what Mark Twain fans are going to be familiar with. The old downtown is nice. A little touristy. They have Tom Sawyer's house, Huckleberry Finn's house and Becky Thatcher's. At least the houses that were featured in the books. Mark Twain had quite the life. He was quite the american adventurer.

We paid our fee to go into the museum which is two museums and 5 houses. They offer a military discount that brought our grand total to zero dollars. So we gave them a monetary donations as a thank you. We started in the first museum. There was a lot of reading there. You learn all about Mark Twain and his books. I could hear Lisa's eyes rolling in her head so we moved on. First house you go into is Huckleberry Finns house. A two room shack.
It did not look that nice back in the day. The next house was Tom Sawyers. Actually Mark Twain's. No really it was Samuel Clemons. They all three lived there.
That is the white fence he conned his friends into whitewashing for him. Everything has been restored. The tour takes you through the house.
Complete with the ghost of Mark Twain sitting at the table. However he did not live here as an adult, only a child growing up.
Another room with another ghost. Lisa and I were talking about the Tom Sawyer books and I had to admit that I only remember some of the high points since I only read these as a kid. Lisa hadn't read them at all. Across the street was Becky Thatcher's house. His girlfriend in the books.
The last 2 buildings of the tour are the law office where Mark Twain's father worked and the corner pharmacy where Mark Twain and his family lived for a short time. After that we walked the two blocks to the second museum that is included in your ticket price. There they have more history and the exhibits are more interactive and interesting for kids. Lisa loved it.
Three floors of stuff to look at. There is a replica of a riverboat wheel house. So it was my turn to play captain.

We worked up a mighty hankering for vittles so we began to mosey on down to the Mark Twain Dinette. They have been serving good food since the 50's. With our bellies satisfied and our noggins overflowing with new information, it was time to leave Hannibal. Mainly because we started talking with a southern accent. One more thing to do. We had to walk down to the river. There was a river boat moored up there that gives tours and dinner cruises. Too chilly for us to be out on the water.
On our way back to the campground, Lisa had one more secret up her sleeve. She said there was a covered bridge near the small town of Paris. To Paris then! Sure enough, there it was. 
Completely restored. It was amazing. Idiots have not been out there and vandalized it or anything. Vehicles don't use it any more. They reroute the vehicle traffic through the river. Really? Why was there a need for the bridge at all then?
Not knowing the depth, we stayed on this side.

That is it for this leg of the trip. We have been to Florida, to Paris and everything in between. Time to move on to our next soon to be disclosed undisclosed location.

"Throw the cats in the truck Gladys, lets go!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Escape/Part 1 Sioux City

April 1st, 2022

 It has been planned for months now but hardly a word has been spoken. Those involved have been sworn to secrecy by threat of being relocated to Ukraine. So with a high degree of confidence that we just might be able to pull this off, we left.

We left, but not with our usual fanfare of streets lined with people and a police escort down main street. No we left quietly, so that we wouldn't draw attention and announce that our Super Secret Undisclosed Virus Free Location was now unattended. I was confident with the Russian landmines I bought from a friendly Ukrainian guy from the trunk of a Buick, that our SSUVFL would be safe.

Leaving on April 1st, April Fools Day, might deter some people that are superstitious, but not us. It was sunny and it promised to be a glorious day. Until we got to South Dakota (what is up with South Dakota?). There Mother Nature had her own little April fools joke to throw at us. We ran into rain that quickly turned into sleet and then into snow. Temps hung around 30 degrees. I have never been a fan of pulling our 16,000 pound camper on ice but we lucked out and it just stayed slushy until we were past it. Nothing else eventful on our first leg of the trip happened unless you count the fleecing we got at the gas pump. $105 dollars later, which used to cost $70. That was even without my usual truck stop hot dog that I cherish. Sacrifices must be made I guess.  We have one person to thank for that.

We made it to our first stop. You guessed it. South Sioux City, Nebraska. Our little journey took us into 5 different states in one day. MN, ND, SD, IA and NB. Not bad for our first real trip since the Covid hit.
We found our campground easily. It is on the banks of the Missouri River with the beautiful Sioux City skyline behind it.
The campground is Scenic Park Campground and it is open year round if you have the hankering for camping in a colder climate. This however is just a quick stop for us so that we can de-winterize and sight see. We are looking for much warmer temps. Temps here are in the 50's and low 30's right now.

We had a whole day of sightseeing planned for Sioux City. We have learned that it is a hidden gem along the Missouri River. All of the activities worth seeing are also free. How can you beat that? Or so we thought. First up was the Jolly Time Popcorn Museum.
Cute little museum filled with some history and nostalgia about Jolly Time popcorn. As kids growing up in the midwest and before all of the microwave brands, there was just Jolly Time. 

So if my brother-in-law Jeff, from the band Flint, A Spark of Hot Rock, is reading this, there is a place for you to go and look at old crap. Now I said that all of these activities are free. Free if you have will power. At Jolly Time they sell about 50 flavors of popcorn. You name it and they probably have it. So that cost us just over ten dollars to try some varieties. I picked caramel roll and Lisa picked key lime. Both were amazing.

Next stop was the Palmer Old Tyme Candy Shoppe.
They are also a candy company and they had a display of old candy making machines and also a huge variety of candy. Oh oh.
Candy machines lined one wall. All very old and they really looked unsanitary. The Palmer Candy Company is known for the Twin Bing candy. We have never had one or heard of it. I asked about it and lucky enough they had samples that you could try.
It was chocolate and peanut wrapped around a cherry fluff filling. It was very good. Again it was a free exhibit with a free sample. Win win. But in all reality, who can walk out of a huge candy store without buying something for your sweet tooth? The answer is us. 23 dollars later. We must have sucker written on our heads.

Next stop was called the Trinity Heights. I think it may have been Lisa's favorite. (This is Lisa and it was NOT my favorite). This is a Christian park and the highlight of it is.....wait for it...... the 30 foot tall statues of Jesus and Mary.

They also have many areas with other statues for inspiration and many areas just to meditate and pray if that is what you were wanting to do. It covers many acres of land and is really impressive. One of the other main draws, as if that wasn't enough, is that a wood carver carved a life size version of the last supper. It took him seven years to complete but it was truly amazing.
Again this is a free activity and to keep it free for us, we stayed out of the gift shop. Even though I really wanted a Jesus bobble head for the truck. Another sacrifice made to afford fuel. They do ask for donations so I did reach into my pocket and gave in. Jesus was smiling down on us today.

Since this is on the Missouri River, we went to the Louis and Clark interpretive center. Very good dioramas and an interesting movie that helped explain the expedition. We wanted to learn more about it before it got rewritten. 
President Thomas Jefferson explaining his part about the expedition.
Lewis and Clark telling us all about it also.
This is Sergeant Charles Floyd explaining his part of the expedition. Now this is something new to us and it plays an important part of history around here.  He was a 21 year old woodsman enlisted into the expedition. He died 3 months into the trip and he was the only one that didn't make it. He was buried in the bluffs above Sioux City. He made quite an impression on Lewis and Clark and they thought a lot about him. Lastly we have a few words from Lewis' dog named Seamen. 
I just threw that one in because Jim just loves dog videos. He was a Newfoundland. They have some bronzes out front so I got a picture with one of them. Also free except for a small donation.
If you didn't know better, you would think I was one of the original members of the expedition. I mean with my charisma and looks. Not to mention my stamina and outdoorsey stuff. Next door was the Sioux City Visitor Center inside a big river boat named the Sergeant Floyd. Have you heard that name before?
It was a working river boat up until the 1980's when they hauled it up onto shore and turned it into the visitor center and river boat museum. Lots of history inside of it and you get to go up all three floors. At the top is the wheel house with the controls still inside. Lisa really loved that. I could not get her to stop ringing that infernal bell.
It went on for hours and hours. She then got a picture of me as captain.
If that doesn't give kids nightmares, I don't know what will. There was a Sergeant Charles Floyd memorial on the bluff where he is buried so we took the short drive to find it. 
I have driven by that for many years and never stopped. Now we have and we know the history of it. It was a very informative day and best of all I got to spend it with my better half. She took a photo to commemorate the fun filled day.
Being the ever critical person she can be, she said she didn't like it. I said wait, I can do better.
Sioux city did not disappoint. Now off to our next fun filled location.

I have to add a segment called Pop's corner. So sit down children while I dole out a healthy helping of common sense. It's been 2 years since we were on the road and I have heard that camping has changed due to the pandemic. New people are enjoying this activity which is great. There's room for all of us. 

Fulltime RVing is when mostly retired people sell their houses and move into an RV and travel the country and enjoy their retirement. But there are other so called fulltimers who I really wouldn't call fulltimers. One class is the people who are down on their luck and have no other choice but to live in a dilapitated RV. They are easy to spot because they look like meth labs and who knows, they could be. There are a few of those here in Sioux City and it is kind of sad in a way.

The other type of fulltimers are the construction workers. they have money because you can tell. They have new fifthwheels, usually toy haulers to haul motorcycles or ATV's with them. They also have jacked up four wheel drive trucks with obnoxiously loud exhausts. Round and round they drive in the campground circling for I don't know what reason. They gather by someones truck with thier hands in their pockets drooling over it until the owner then says, "Wait until you hear it!" Vroom, vroom, vroom it goes and they are all just giddy about it. Dumbasses.

Our last night in Siuox city, our neighbor decided to let his diesel truck run all night long. I didn't notice it until I got up at 4:33 am when I heard it. Lisa said she was up at 1:22 am and heard it and looked out the window and saw the lights on. Finally at 7:30 it turned off. Don't people have the common courtesy for other campers? We have 4 possible theory's. 1. He was drunk and passed out in the drivers seat when he got home. 2. He committed suicide and there is a hose running from his exhaust to the camper. 3. It's a GMC and he was afraid it wouldn't start in 30 degree temperatures. And finally number 4 which is probably the correct answer. He's a dumbass.

"Pack up Gladys, lets get the hell out of Dodge! Onto more super secret undisclosed locations."