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Published: September 21st 2021
We left West Memphis this morning at 8:45 and 77 degrees and found our way back onto the Great River Road. And it has occurred to me today what took me days to figure out last time we drove the river…it isn’t about the river. You can drive miles and miles and never see the river. It is about the towns along the river that depend on it for their sustenance. Many are very small. One was population of 41 and another 197. The homes are modest and many are not well kept, a good indication that poverty reigns in the Mississippi Delta. But the fields…well, they are rich. They are rich with dark, fertile soil that produces corn and soybeans and lots and lots of cotton. And the industries that support these crops are everywhere and very evident. The grain elevators and silos are around every turn, some new and sparkling in the sun and others old and rusty with the wear of years of life on the river. And all of them are located along the railroad tracks where the cars get loaded and the corps are towed to processing plants near and far. We
say many companies named Murray Gins. And it took us a bit to realize they were not talking about the gin that you drink, but the gins that process the cotton balls. With a name like Murry, you can pardon us for jumping to conclusions. (Our name is, BTW, Murray.)
In Sunrise, population of 198, we saw an operation where they had tons of semi-trailers piled high, one on top of another, ready for a tractor to attach to and to be loaded with containers that were sitting on train cars waiting to find their ultimate destinations.
Often, in these small towns, we saw rows of houses, the same exact houses, all built of the same materials and looking identical, lined up along the road and I wondered if they were not built by the industries that employed the local workers. Who knows.
After passing through a lot of small, struggling towns, we came upon Blythville. What a charming town this was. We saw many lovely homes in Blythville, homes of people with means. Beautiful elegant homes and well-manicured lawns and lush landscaping. I suppose if you are a land owner, this is where you would choose
to live. But who knows. My research tells me this is a town of 15K people and a center for the steel industry.
As we followed the Great River Road signs, we found ourselves in front of a “gateway” arch of sorts. It is located at the point where you leave Arkansas and enter Missouri. And when you see it, you know it is old. No truck would ever be able to pass under it, so they have provided go-around on both sides of the road for large vehicles. The sign says it was built in 1920, and that says it all. See photos.
We drove on and on and found we were running out of time to get to our hotel in Arnold, MO, so we crossed the river and headed up to the Drury Inn and Suites, our favorite privately-owned hotel chain, and checked in about 5 PM. Drury is great. The rooms are excellent, the beds very comfortable and when you check in, they give each of you 3 drink tickets for happy hour (5:30 – 7 PM). And the “snacks” are not just snacks. Tonight they offered us pasta alfredo, sauteed veggies, baked potatoes,
grilled chicken strips, potato and bacon soup, and salad. In addition you can wolf down loaded nachos. And in the morning we will have eggs, bacon and sausage, potatoes, and all sorts of breakfast foods. And all of this is free.
Today we started out in Arkansas, drove into Missouri, over to Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and back to Missouri before the day was done. We crossed the river twice and we crossed the Ohio River once. Tomorrow we head to Moline, IL.
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