day 7: quincy, il – memphis, tn

departure: 08.14, temp: 5c

it was a cool but bright start to the day in quincy.  we crossed the bridge back into missouri and took highway 61 south for the short jaunt to hannibal, home of mark twain.  everything in the historic part of hannibal, and i mean everything, is dedicated to the cult of twain.


as it was too early in the day for a beer, we climbed the 244 steps up the bluff to the historic mark twain lighthouse for a view down over the mississippi.


most of the shops were not yet open, and we had the town pretty much to ourselves at that hour of the day.  we picked up coffee in the oldest coffee shop west of the mississippi and walked the main street (mostly antiques and trinket shops, all with names referring to characters in the twain books), then crossed over the two sets of rail tracks to the river’s edge.  the town seems to not make the best use of its waterfront.  there is a picnic area on a patch of grass but it’s wedged between the sets of tracks, a small harbour for a few boats, a garden with few benches, and the dock for the steamboat that takes tourists for short rides on the river.

it was time to beeline for memphis.  as the guidebooks indicate that there are few views of the river from the great river road along this stretch, we carried on down the 61 and connected with the Interstate 55.

let me interrupt here with a word about traveling through the heartland of america at this particular point in time.  there are two things that have dotted the road our whole way down thus far:  election signs and roadkill.  so far, trump signs far outnumber clinton ones.  but we are more amazed at the number of positions up for election at other levels:  senators and governors, commissioners, sheriffs, treasurers and administrators – the list seems endless.  and then there are propositions and amendments covering a diverse range of issues.  ballots must be as long as my arm.  we have seen disappointing little wildlife to date.  well, little that has been live.  but roadkill aplenty.  in the north, raccoons, porcupines, skunk, and as we headed south, possums, wild turkeys, foxes, even something that looked like an armadillo, and lots of deer.  along the I55 in missouri, there must be a deer hit every 5 minutes.  the road was actually littered with them.  radio insurance ads specifically offer coverage for deer collisions.  thankfully, as most deer are bigger than our car, we made it through without incident.

the I55 sped us straight down through missouri and arkansas, to the I40 across the river into tennessee and downtown memphis.  we arrived in the city in the late afternoon, just in time to see the march of the ducks at the peabody hotel.  the lobby was packed for the daily parade.  we ordered cocktails in the bar and secured seats a bit of a distance from the fountain.  it’s a short show – when the ducks are ready to go, they really go.

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we had a great chat with a couple of well-traveled ladies from montana and washington, finished our cocktails (dirty martini for me, mint julep for irene) and headed over to the neon strip that is beale street.  this is the musical heart of memphis – at least for the tourists – with dozens of clubs offering an array of live music.  we had dinner at the blues city cafe (ribs and catfish) and went in search of music.  we caught a bit of a show by a tribute band (mostly johnny cash and buddy holly), picked up some cds of stax records artists, and landed for the rest of the evening in the rum city cafe blues hall juke joint listening to the memphis blues masters featuring queen ann hines (you can find videos of them on youtube).

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we finally called it a night and headed out to find our hotel, the memory lane inn and suites near graceland.  it was a surprisingly good room – a huge space, clean and recently refurbished.  i was asleep before i hit the pillow.

arrived (hotel): 23.00, high temp: 18c, traveled: 692km

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