I was looking forward to this day because Arkansas was in our sights. Back in 1998-1999 I lived in Little Rock for 7 months, working for the State of Arkansas on a project to bring their Child Support Enforcement computer systems into federal compliance. I had not looked forward to moving there, but I discovered that my uneducated perceptions of Arkansas were all wrong. It is a wonderful place and the people who live there are first rate. Where else do you find people who will let you into backed-up, rush-hour traffic on the interstate, just to be nice. I can tell you it isn't in Boston. Sorry, Scott. In Little Rock, I made some good friends whom I will always remember and with whom I hope to always stay in touch.
We left Douglasville, GA at 8:15 AM and half an hour later we crossed into the "Beautiful State of Alabama". That’s what the sign said. We spent a good deal of time in another tunnel of tall green trees. Somehow I want to think that this is not what Ike intended when he envisioned the interstate system back in the 50’s. But hey, a lot can grow in 60 years…and it did. Along the way on I-20 we met a lot of construction, but again, it didn’t slow us down much. And when the curtain was pulled, and we could finally see something, we laid our eyes on the Talladega Speedway. There it was, not far from the road, built on the old Anniston Air Force Base, just outside of Lincoln, AL. You can see in the photo I stole from the internet, that the runways are clearly visible still. Wiki says it is the longest NASCAR oval at 2.66 miles and the stadium seats 175,000. I didn’t see the movie so I won’t comment any further about that.
We moved on westward through rolling hills and when we crossed the state line into Mississippi, a beautiful highway turned orange. All I can think is that they must have used some of that southern orange dirt when they made the asphalt for this road, because when the road became bleached by the sun, the orange took over from the black. Weird. But all in all, through Alabama and Mississippi, it was a good road and it got us to where we were going, even though there were no rest stops, save the one at the Mississippi state line, and the towns were few and far between. We stopped at the Welcome Center in Mississippi (gosh that is easier to spell than it is to type), as it was noon time and the grounds were beautiful. We made sandwiches and I was happy that we didn’t decide to eat at one of the picnic tables, because one groundskeeper decided that noon time is a great time to do string trimming around the entire picnic area. Inside there were two rooms dedicated to Elvis, and we knew we were getting close to Tupelo, Elvis’ birth place.
We moved on. More orange road. And around 1:30 (we gained an hour) we entered Tennessee and the Memphis greater area, where we saw an “Intermodal Facility” . This place had these huge frames (about a dozen of them) loading boxcars and semi trailers onto and off of trains. It is here that Fed Ex has a “super hub”. And we could see why. Not only did they have the loading facility, but it was right next to the airport. Now when I see my tracking detail online, I will remember this facility.
Next we drove up to Graceland, but found it to be a VERY commercial enterprise and we left without seeing anything but the sign by the side of the road. Not at all what I pictured in my mind. We turned north and drove into the city to Beale St., one of the music centers of the world. We were not able to get onto Beal St. because there was a funeral going on for Silky Sullivan, owner of Silky O’Sullivan’s Bar on Beal Street. The street was closed and there were police cars with flashing lights all around the area. Check out the photos.
So we drove north to I-40, the road that will take us all the way to Sequoia NP in California. And we crossed the muddy Mississippi River into West Memphis, Arkansas. And the land got real flat, and there were farms everywhere with fields just harvested, and golden fields of wheat in the process of being harvested, and fields just planted and being irrigated to a dark brown by huge sprinkler systems as wide as the fields, swiveling around a pivot point. And we saw grain silos and green fields of young corn. It almost looked like Kansas, but it was Arkansas, my old home.
We settled for the night in Forrest City and tomorrow we will drive through Little Rock on our way to Oklahoma City. I hope the tornados don’t blow while we are there.