SPOT Messenger Map

Saturday, October 16, 2010


After spending the night at the Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park campground, I had to go take a look-see at these actual Shut-Ins. At this point, I still had no idea what a "shut in" was, but I figured for a state park it must be something other a bunch of cabins built by some in-bred reclusive clan. 

Turns out the phrase represents a geological feature where a river is severely constricted "shut in" into a narrow channel of really hard rock. It makes for an interesting landscape of multiple rapids, tiny waterfalls, chutes and slides. I spent a couple hours hiking the riverbank, cliffs and woods above it. 

Route A in rural Missouri - our first bit of true gravel 
I tried to make the run down to Memphis, but ended up spending a couple nights at a truck stop in southern Missouri to handle some issues that came up at work. As much as I'd like to ride all day, everyday, the reality is I have to still work for a living.

I'm thankful for the option to be out on the road doing this though. As long as the wifi is decent, I'm straight.

After a couple days at the truck stop, I'd had enough and needed to move on. I caught the Dorena-Hickman Ferry, apparently one of the last regular service vehicle ferries still operating across the Mississippi. Their web site says when you reach the landing, you can push a button to summon the ferry to come pick you up. Now how cool is that?!

Unfortunately, the ferry was already on it's way to the dock when I showed up. They don't have a landing of their own, so we had to wait for a local fisherman to haul his boat up the ramp before the ferry could dock.

Still from video - The ferry landing

Crossing the Mississippi - just me and 'becca
On the way down the ramp I realized another item needed to be added to my packing list -- tie-down straps. Thankfully, the Mississippi, though huge, is a pretty gentle river, so the there was no rocking or swaying on the crossing. Rebecca and I were the only passengers for the $5 15-minute ride.

The ferry lands in Hickman, Kentucky but I was soon on the road south into Tennessee. A couple hours south of Hickman, I passed a road sign announcing the Alex Haley Museum. What? I wondered if that was for the same Alex Haley I'm thinking of? The sign was pointing to the access road for a really tiny town. Since I have no idea when I'll next be out this way, I did some quick calculations and figured I had enough daylight to spare an 1 hour on this side trip and still make Memphis before night fall.

Alex Haley's tomb lies next to his Grandmother's porch
This turn out to be a very happy detour. The town of Henning, Tennessee was the boyhood home of that great African-American author Alex Haley. In this home that they've converted to a museum, Haley first heard the oral histories of his family from the grandmother, and great-aunties. Sitting on the porch with these ladies on summer evenings as they recounted their family stories as far back as they knew, to the man they called "The African". It was here that the first seed of discovering his "Roots" began.

The rest of the day was quick shot down route US 51 into Memphis. Even though I fought with myself about the entire way down there, I did actually go to Graceland. Well what can I say about Graceland?
It's interesting .. with fairly high kitsch factor. It is a MAJOR tourist attraction. They've got a super-streamlined process for separating you from your money while touring you through the mansion and onto the grounds.

I was most impressed by the details of all the civic charities and associations Elvis contributed to, mostly silently, while he was alive. Also impressive is the racketball court they've turned into a second trophy room 

Panorama of Elvis' lifetime sales awards
Roadside melons for sale
One thing I was not expecting, Memphis is a chocolate city. I can hardly find anyone other than African-Americans here. I don't have the sense they've been weathering the storm of recession very well though. Today I'm going to see if I can find the Lorraine Motel - 450 Mulberry Street


  1. This site is coming along real nicely! Imagine... I'm checking this every evening before watching the tv ;D.
    I'm entertained and it's just a cool and leisurely way of staying connected to you. Thank you.
    I'm enjoying your enjoyment! Ride safe. Have fun. Be you. Make memories. Come home.

  2. Hey Darren,

    What you're doing is really inspiring. I was hoping you would put up a video of your best Elvis impression while in Memphis.

    I try to check your site out every couple of days to see where your are at. Have fun and take care.

    Take care.