Day 4: Goodbye, East

Current Location: Russellville, Arkansas
Miles traveled today: 508
Miles traveled so far: 1207
Cities traversed: Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock
Significant Milestone: Crossed the Mississippi River
Roadkill Observed: armadillos (TN), turtles (AR)

What really struck me today was a sense of the land. Tennessee is a vast and beautiful collection of stony hills and lush woods. There were dogwoods all along our path for another day. Even in the rain, TN is lovely. As we rolled into Memphis and things flattened out, the sky brightened until some blue could show through, and by the time we walked to the river the clouds were mid-westy with marching cumulus.

I studied the satellite map last night and was awed by the twisty arcs of the Mississippi. I’ve never navigated that river, but I feel I know it well after reading Jonathan Raban’s Old Glory. Right around Memphis he was fished out of the river and completed his journey on a barge tow, at the insistence of the captain, due to the treacherous nature of this river.

And she did not disappoint. Like milky coffee, seething with boils and the prongs of submerged trees, I wouldn’t dare sail on anything smaller than a paddle wheel steamer. We got a good look at the broad vista from downtown along the rail tracks. Later, crossing the Hernando de Soto bridge I couldn’t see much with all the fine iron girders of not one but three bridges.

Once on the Arkansas side I was struck by how dead flat it was, and how there was no ‘urban’ – right across the line from a major city. Memphis sits up on a bluff, but the Arkansas side is flood plain and more flood plain, and it continued like that for scores of miles inland.

Take a look at this satellite pic, and notice the swirls and whorls of the current and former oxbows. This river has written herself into this land for longer than we know. It wouldn’t pay to underestimate her willingness to change her course.

ribbons and scrawls of the mighty miss

Here’s a sampler from today, to give you a feel for the road.

watercolor highway
The Mighty Mississippi
Lovely Downtown Memphis
click on this for a larger view. It’s worth it.
Elvis Lives!

3 thoughts on “Day 4: Goodbye, East”

  1. Hey there, travelers! Loved the glimpse of the muddy miss, and your meditation on rivers. Seems like you’re having a great trip! Hope when you leave today you mutter, lip curled, handsome brow wryly furrowed a la Elvis, “Thank you vurry much…”

  2. Hi there,,,,Many memories of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers….I wonder how many of the bridges you have driven over my brother worked as project engineer or manager in later years. The tales he used to tell. One I remember is how when these big rivers were flooding the barges would break loose and great lines of them would come spinning down the river end-to-end sweeping the breath of the river until they wrapped themselves around the pylons of whatever bridge he was working. And Captain Hook who they snuck up on and welded his hook to the deck of a tender boat. If you pass over the Black River Canyon bridge take a picture. I think its in Colorado but not sure.

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