Monday, September 17, 2012

Wet Night in Memphis

One of the first things I do when I get into a motel room is put all my change into the spare ashtray.  All smoking rooms have at least two ashtrays, and I've even seen three.  When you're racing out the door in the morning to meet that eleven o'clock check-out time, as I was this morning in St. Louis (overslept, needed the sleep), it's much easier to dump the contents of the ashtray into your pocket than it is to slide all the change off the bedside stand, into your hand, and then into your pocket.  Saves one step.  Nice and tidy.  Perhaps I'm a bit anal, or perhaps just a bit over-careful.  At the rate I'm traveling, which admittedly is too fast, I cannot afford to leave a single thing in my room.  This means I must be organized and methodical.  The last thing I did before I left my room this morning was draw a map of my planned route.  I've been drawing maps of each day's planned route and taking notes to mark changes in the planned route.  The maps are cool documents, and one of them may show up in your mailbox one day.  But not today.  Today started out rough on account of stress.  Some mild anxiety to start the morning—I was in a rush and feeling behind on my work—and then I hit rainy conditions as I barreled out of St. Louis for Highway 61.  

Cape Girardeau is a pretty big town on the Mississippi river about halfway between St. Louis and Memphis, but I got off the interstate well before Cape Girardeau.  When I was dreaming up this trip, I thought that I would spend this day leisurely ambling along the banks of the Mississippi as it wended its way from St. Louis to Memphis.  That did not happen.  You can never really see the river from Highway 61 until you hit Cape Girardeau.  What you do see are a lot of pretty pasture lands among the rolling hills.  Dairy cows.  I stopped at a scenic overlook in small town called Bloomsdale.  A lot of south-eastern Missouri looks like this.  You can't see any massive pickup trucks in this picture, but I assure you that they're there. 
When you travel X-country, there are many different ways to track the changes you encounter.  You can track the changes in the terrain—flat lands, rolling hills, mountains—you can track the changes in the flora and fauna—today I saw a dead armadillo on the side of the road; first one I'd seen all trip—you can track the changes by looking at the obvious, outward political manifestations—some places are clearly packed with hard-core Republicans—and you can track the changes in the prices of things like gasoline and cigarettes.  In fact, gas prices and cigarette prices are two of the most loudly and boldly advertised prices.  They're right up there with hotel prices.  It is the habit of hotels along the interstates to hoist their prices high aloft so that tired drivers can view them from the road and decide if they swing $59.99 per night or just $39.95.  Tonight I ended up at a Super 8 for 45 bucks, which is admittedly more expensive than a Motel 6, this motel doesn't charge for internet access, there are some charming fake plants in the lobby, and there is a fridge in the room!  I'm living in luxury tonight.

Sometimes when you're traveling serendipity plays a big role in what happens.  When I planned this trip, I did not predict that this day of travel would be 90% overcast.  I probably imagined sun because sunny days are my ideal days, but sun was not what I got for most of this day.  But something happened when I hit Old Appleton, MO.  The sun came out, a little, and my mood turned for the better.  I felt behind schedule when I started the morning in St. Louis (and I felt behind schedule later in the day, too), but the charm of Old Appleton and good timing made me decide to stop for a more leisurely look.  Stopping probably had something to do with this bridge as well.  It spans a creek at the north end of town, where "town" means "quarter mile stretch of road with about 10 buildings."  Main street Old Appleton runs parallel to Highway 61. 

I obviously had to go onto the bridge, which was erected by H.W. Sebastian and Company, out of St. Louis, MO, in 1879.  Was it always pink? 

The bridge spans a damned creek.  I looked down.

I saw this big turtle surfacing near a pile of algae.  Planning this trip and this day, I could not have told you that turtle would be among the highlights, but there it is.  That turtle was the best part of my day.  A couple annoying highlights include the dude on the motor cycle near Cape Girardeau who was doing a wheelie for about two solid miles and a self-serve ice dispensing shack on the outskirts of a strip-mall parking lot in Perryville, MO.  It was a drive-up ice house, sort of like a do-it-yourself car wash, but in this case rather than insert your money and vacuum out your car for four minutes, you insert your money and dispense ice.  I didn't buy any ice, but further down the road I did cross this super cool bridge (and back again) from Cape Girardeau, MO, to East Cape Girardeau, IL.  For all you pervs out there, there is a giant strip club and porno superstore on the right-hand side of the road as soon as you cross into Illinois.  There is also a huge trailer park opposite the strip club.  I turned around in that trailer park.  There was a man smoking a cigarette in a lawn chair outside his trailer.  It didn't ask him how much he paid for it. 

And that pretty much sums up the better part of the day.  After Cape Girardeau I decided that I was too behind schedule for any more scenic jaunts.  I got back onto Interstate 55 for a while and headed toward Memphis.  I was in four states today: Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas (very briefly), and Tennessee.  Such is what happens in this corner of the country.  It seems that everybody wants a piece of the Mississippi river.  I'm gonna go get some #1 Memphis pit barbeque now.  UPDATE: on my way to fetch dinner a rent-a-cop rear-ended me at a red light.  I pulled into the bbq parking lot (place was closed), and the dude followed behind.  He told me he'd been putting eye drops into his eyes when he hit me.  He had his head tilted back, the dropper positioned and squirting periodically throughout our conversation.     


1 comment:

Horatio Sanz Fan Clubb said...

Where did you go for bbq in Memphis?