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Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I'm happy to report we're alive and well and have surfaced in West Memphis, Arkansas. We arrived here last Friday after a good trip from Branson. Our last three days in Branson were kind of busy where we went to the see the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Ar, The Lettermen show at the Andy Williams Theatre, and the Pressley Country Jamboree. We had a great 10 days in Branson, but we were beginning to get "hitch itch", so we were ready to move to our next destination which brings us to where we are now, Tom Sawyer Campground in W. Memphis, Ar, which is right across the river and state line from Memphis, Tn. This campground is well known among RVer's and is very popular due to it being right on the riverfront. This is one of those campgrounds where one can be perfectly content to just stay in the park and do nothing. We've enjoyed the beauty and majesty of the mighty Mississippi since being here and don't have any major plans to do much else until we pull out Saturday. There is no shortage of activity on the river with countless barges being pushed by tugboats up and down the river as well as an occasional paddle wheeler. The campground has installed benches on the rivers edge and has been a popular spot for us. There have been several floods here at the campground, which is hard to imagine because the water level is at least 15 feet below the top of the bank. In fact, the last flood was so high they've erected a sign on the bath house showing the high water mark, some 12 feet above the campground  level, which would make it almost 30 feet higher than what it is now.
             Monday, we went out to dinner at Corky's Barbecue in Memphis that was recently featured on the Travel Channel. We thought we'd see how it stacked up against the "cue" back home in Shelby. Crickett had their chicken and I had their barbecue pork dinner. Let me be fair and say it was good, but to me it was not what I was expecting. The smoked flavor came through, but the meat was coarse and stringy, nothing like our cue back home. I'd give it a 6 on a 10 scale. Crickett said she wasn't blown away by their yard bird either, and she knows her chicken! A worthwhile experience, but in no hurry to go back. We've heard a lot of talk here in the park about Rendezvous Barbecue and may go check it out before we leave.  
         The plan right now is to leave here Saturday and possibly stop in Nashville for a few days and then stop a few days in Pigeon Forge before heading home. We've sure missed our family and friends and looking forward to seeing them all soon. 

Entrance into Tom Sawyer RV Park. Check out the young Tom Sawyer silhouette on the right gate.
Sign on the highway showing where to turn into the park.
Our first site, 99 right on the river for 3 nights.  We've had to move 2 more times to be able to stay here, but is worth it.

High water mark on bath house. One unusual feature of this park is the washers and dryers are free to their guests. Only park I've ever seen that at. Most get $2/ load to wash and $1/dry. We've got a washer/dryer in the rig so we don't have to worry about it.
One of many benches the park has installed on the river's edge. It's about 15 feet down the bank to the water.

I caught this paddle wheeler going down the river. I darkened the corners and softened the edges trying to make it look like an old photo.

Bet most of you folks out there in Blogger Land have never seen the sun rise on the Mississippi, so here's how it looks!

I took this shot to show the proximity of the campsites to the river. The riverfront sites are $40/night and the second row back, where we are now,  are $32/night. The river front sites have a large concrete pad whereas the second row is gravel.

If you look slightly left and above center, you can see what looks to be silos, which is actually a facility where they load grain onto the barges. Close ups of that operation will follow.

For those of you who don't recognize our back side, this is Crickett and I.  It don't take a whole lot to make us happy.  It don't get much better than this!

Pretty good sized tugboat pushing barges down the river.

This shot and the next two are panoramic shots I took while playing with the camera.

Panoramic view of our section of the campground. There are three sections in all.

The banks below the campground have been covered in rocks to help control erosion.

These shots were at full zoom. This facility loads grain onto barges. Notice how low this barge is sitting in the water at the rear, which is where the soybeans are loaded first. You can see  dust coming from the front doors  of the barge as its' being loaded.

Here, the barge is almost full and is sitting level in the water. Now, notice the difference of the height of the barge being loaded and the one in front of it. The one in front is empty and therefore sits much higher in the water. At the present river level they are loading the barges where they are drafting 10 1/2 feet, which means there is 10 1/2 feet below the water! Each barge is 195' long, 60' wide and 14' deep. They're loading 60,000 bushels of grain on each barge. Once loaded, they will be joined with as many as 30 other barges to form what is called a tow, where they will be pushed down the river to the gulf, where they will be shipped to markets overseas.  To me, it's an incredible feat for the tugs to be able to push and steer this mass, especially considering they are drafting 10 1/2 feet of water. They told me they load the barges to draft 12 feet when the river level is higher.

Two tows and tugs going in opposite directions.

 Close up of front of the tow. The flag is for the captain of the tug to be able to see where the front of the tow is. The bridge of the tug sits well above the barges, but is some 1200 feet, or almost 1/4 mile from the front.

These tugs are powered by multiple diesel engines. Some have as much as 11,000 horsepower. Check out the Memphis skyline in the background. The bridge you can see is the one on I-55 over the Mississippi.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Joplin, Missouri........4 Years Later

One of the more tragic disasters of recent times was the devastating tornado that hit the nearby town of Joplin, Missouri some 4 years ago. Since we're relatively close, we decided to ride to Joplin to learn more about that tragic event and see how the area has recovered. This story is so powerful and inspirational that I feel ill equipped to write about it, but will give it my best shot.
         It was May 22, 2011 when a category 5 tornado touched down in Joplin and left a path of death and destruction that was one mile wide and six miles long. This twister was to be the nation's deadliest tornado in 60 years. The funnel cloud was only on the ground for 38 minutes, but caused more destruction than one can imagine. There were 166 lives lost that day with countless injuries suffered by many others. The storm was so strong, the St. John's Hospital was lifted four inches off its' foundation and suffered such damages that the remains had to be demolished. There are countless stories about close calls including  Joplin High School that planned to have their graduation ceremonies at the school that Sunday, but decided to move it to a larger facility further away. That high school was demolished by the tornado at about the time the ceremonies would have been held and who can imagine how many more lives would have been lost there if it hadn't been moved. What made this trip more personal is when Crickett and I went to the site where the hospital used to stand, we encountered two delightful young ladies that were living in the area when the tornado touched down. These ladies were so friendly and seemed to enjoy sharing their memories with us of that terrible day. They told of many events affecting a lot of their families and friends. Their stories actually gave us chill bumps to hear about it first hand. I can't begin to imagine the grief and despair  this community endured, but through it all, have come back closer and stronger with God's help. They said virtually all the buildings we could see standing today have been rebuilt from the original ones, that were leveled.  The hospital decided to rebuild in a different location and to convert the original property into an Open Air Chapel honoring the lives and memories of all the people lost on that day. The structure that has been built is basically a roof with open walls and has a beautiful cross in the center of the roof. It's intended to be an area for reflection and meditation. The original cross with praying hands that once stood in front of the hospital has been erected on the property just below the meditation area. Cunningham Park is directly across the road from the former hospital site and was also in the direct path of the tornado. Today, it has been rebuilt and contains many plaques and memorials honoring not only the victims, but the untold heroes and supporters to help recover from that dreadful day. There was a beautiful sunset with the sounds of children playing in the park while there, which made it more special. This was truly a sobering day and one that we'll always remember.

          If you cannot read the print on the plaques, you can click on the picture to enlarge it and then click on the X in the upper right hand corner to return to the blog.  

Meet our newly found friends, Thelma Brazenly on the left and Shirley Giles on the right. These ladies were a delight to meet and hear their descriptions of that terrible day. Thelma told us her daughter and family narrowly escaped death by fleeing to the basement of their home that was totally destroyed.

Thelma, Shirley and Crickett

Statue in front of chapel with the inscription "St. John of God who loved those who suffered".

Large cross held by praying hands that was originally in front of hospital. There were 161 trees planted in the park, one for each life that was lost.

Beautiful Open Air Chapel

The remaining photos were taken across the road from the hospital site at Cunningham Park.  The descriptions of the butterflies protecting the children from the storm gave us chill bumps. The stories of the butterflies or angels made such an impact on the area that a section of the memorial is named the Butterfly Garden.  

All these plaques are placed under the frame of a structure resembling a house. It's meant to symbolize the acceptance of a lost home.

All these plaques are worth your time to read. They are very inspirational.

Mosaic Tile design in center of butterfly garden.

Pool where original children's playground once stood. It's built to honor the lives of the children lost in the storm.

New playground is visible in top left with butterfly garden and memorials in top right of photo.

Sunset over Wal Mart

The end to a very special day.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


We arrived here in Branson Thursday, October 1 after a good and scenic trip from Columbia, Mo. where we stopped for an over night stay at Cottonwoods RV Park. We're finally out of the corn belt it seems. We saw plenty of corn on the way, but guess the terrain is too hilly and the soil too rocky for much agriculture use. We're staying at the Ozark Country Campground,about 3 miles south of town. The park here accepts Passport America, so we're getting a full hook up site for $23/night, which is a good deal and is a nice park. This is the same park we stayed at when we were last in Branson, about 5 years ago.
       Our first day here we drove to Springfield, Mo to look for a sewer hose fitting at  Camping World, but of course, they didn't have what we need. I think we can get by on what we have until we can find one somewhere down the road. While in Springfield, we decided to check out the Bass Pro Shop  store, which is their original and largest store. They claim the store is over 500,000 square feet and I can believe it. The store is on three levels and includes waterfalls, large fish aquariums, mounted wildlife, a museum, restaurants, and so much more. It's huge and we only saw a small part of it. All that walking worked up a powerful appetite and we had a perfect fix in mind. Lambert's Cafe is on the way back to Branson, in Ozark, Mo. and is one of our favorite eating establishments. They have 3 restaurants which are located, in Ozark, Mo, Sikeston, Mo. and Foley, Al. They're well known for their large servings and throwed rolls. Of course, we over ate while there, but it was sooooo good. We didn't even have any room left for one of their "hubcap cinnamon rolls"! If you've never been, I highly recommend it!
         We've been to three shows so far, Mickey Gilley, The Oak Ridge Boys, and the Texas Tenors, all of which were top notch. One of the things I like about Branson is that the shows cost much less than they charge on tour. It does seem like some of the old established artists are not here as much, or at all, and a lot of the shows here are "tribute shows". It's still a neat place to visit, but can be overly crowded in the summer season. The crowds are not too bad at this time of year and is a good time to visit. We also plan to see the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Ar. while here.

Highway 65 near Branson. As you can see, the area is very hilly

One of several water tanks that are illuminated  with neon around the graphics.

Entrance to our campground, Ozark Country.

Our camp site, C-11. It was a little challenging backing the rig onto the site because there's a wall on the lower side of the rig, but thanks to our campground host, we prevailed!
Parking lot at Lambert's. If you've never been, put them on your bucket list but be sure and be hungry before going.

This young lady is serving up one of their "pass around" sides, macaroni and tomatoes. You order your entree from the menu which comes with two or three sides and then they bring around the "pass arounds" consisting of macaroni and tomatoes, okra, fried potatoes and onions, and black eyed peas. Of course the hand thowed rolls are included in the meal. Thanks to our good friends, Lee and Mary for turning us on to Lambert's.

We were seated in the back section of the restaurant which is adjacent to the main dining room. The fellow with the red bow tie in the top right of the photo is throwing out rolls.

Here's one of the rolls I snagged! They serve them as soon as they come out of the oven and they're soooo good!

The servings are so large, Crickett and I decided to share a meal. They keep bringing out more and more.

Our entree was this center cut ham that was about 1/4" thick. We couldn't eat it all, so we brought it back with us and had it for breakfast.

The throwed roll guy who was delivering rolls to non-catchers.

How about some more fried taters?

Entrance to the Branson Belle Showboat that offers shows and cruises aboard a paddle wheeled boat on Table Rock Lake. It looked cool but was a little pricey.

We spotted this rubber chicken hanging from the back of a RV

We went to the Mickey Gilley Show that was very good. He had a health set back about 5 years ago when he fell and ruptured vertebrae in his neck resulting in some disability. It hasn't affected his vocal ability at all and still puts on a good show. He's had 17 number one hits in his career. He has put his theater on the market to be sold and will not be a regular in Branson any longer. He said he will be 80 in March but still plans to keep touring.

Inside Mel's Hardluck Diner in Branson which is decorated in 50 & 60's decor. One of the coolest things about the diner is that the servers are also singers and are very talented.

I spotted this couple who were trying to eat this huge sundae. They didn't make it!

Our server, Kelly, who was super talented. They told us most of the servers had worked at the shows in Branson but wanted to get away from them due to the demanding schedule. They have much more flexibility performing in the diner. 

Oak Ridge Boys Show.

Sign to restaurant we discovered near the campground. Some of the best Barbecue I've eaten outside of Shelby. This is one of those places the locals frequent but most tourists aren't aware of.

Hollywood Wax Museum across the road from the Star Lite Theater where we saw The Texas Tenors.

Texas Tenors who were a top 4 finalist in the 2009 America's Got Talent Show. They have become very popular  in Branson and on tour. Very good show.

They sang to this lady who they brought up out of the audience. Her hubby was given a camera and told to take pictures.

One segment of their show was devoted to the Righteous Brothers and Bill Medley. Their rendition of You've Lost that Loving Feeling and Unchained Melody were excellent.