Mississippi River Byway to Memphis

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August 20th 2017
Published: August 21st 2017
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Today we worked our way down to Memphis along the Mississippi River Byway. We left the hotel at 8:05 and 77 degrees. This was the first morning that I came out of the hotel and took my sweatshirt off before getting into the car. And the temps even got up to 93 degrees before the day was done. It’s hotter up here than it is in Poinciana.

By the way, we had planned to win the Power Ball Lottery today, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oh well, maybe next Wednesday will be our lucky day.

So, we continued our drive south and the byway took us in and out of view of the river. At times we drove right along side of the water and at other times we were several miles away from it. And I came to be enlightened. This scenic byway is not just about looking at the river. It is about visiting the little towns that thrive along the river. Some of these towns don’t even allow access to the waterside, as these precious acres are utilized by the farmers, where irrigation is plentiful, and by the industries that use the river for transportation. So, once we understood that, we were less intent on seeing water than we were on seeing what and who lives by the water.

I can’t say that there is a lot of wealth in these parts. While occasionally we saw a few beautiful homes tucked back in the trees, for the most part, these towns are old and largely poor. We saw some neat neighborhoods with freshly painted homes and well manicured lawns, but we also saw neighborhoods with tiny dilapidated houses crying out for attention, surrounded by unkempt yards. The downtown areas were out of the 40’s or older. This is the heartland of America, and this is what it often looks like.

It took us a while to find the byway road signs, but eventually we got onto the official byway around the time we arrived in St. Genevieve. The main industry here appears to be the lime plant with its many chimneys spewing out clouds of white smoke into the sky, even today, on a Sunday morning. The entire area was filled with rail cars that carry this kind of product…the hopper cars, the ones with the valves underneath to allow for unloading grain or sand or, in this case, lime from the bottom.

We drove down to the riverside and found a pickup truck parked at the top of a ramp leading down to the water and it didn’t take long to figure out that they were waiting for the little ferry to take them across the river. It can hold maybe four cars and was supposed to set off at 9 AM, but the operator and his aide had not arrived by 9:15 so we chatted with the people in the truck, who were locals, and we learned a few things about the area. We took a tip from the this guy and drove further south to Perryville where we crossed the bridge into Chester the “Home of Popeye”. The creator of Popeye was E.C. Segar, a man who was born and raised in Chester. He actually did not create Popeye until much later while writing comic strips for a Chicago newspaper. Popeye was born when he needed a new character for the strip. But Chester claims to be the home of Popeye. They have a map that will take you through town where you will find statues of all of the characters in the Popeye cartoons. And there is a gift store with all sorts of Popeye stuff…hats, shirts, and all kinds of nick knacks.

From Chester, we drove south on the Illinois side of the river down to the next bridge and this road gave us more to see of the river. It also gave us miles and miles of corn fields in all stages of health, dark green soybean fields ready for harvest, potatoes fields in full bloom, and mustard fields where the yellow flowers are beginning to take over the color palate from the light green plants that give them birth. We stopped at one point to inspect a soybean plant and discovered that they grow in pods like peas. I didn’t know that.

We crossed back over the river to Cape Girardeau, in Missouri, and discovered a city with a wall. It’s a beautiful wall, too. The art work on this wall is incredible and there is no graffiti on it that we could see. This wall is made of cement and it lies along the riverbank, protecting the city from the floods. When the water comes up, they have a huge steel door that slides across the opening in the wall to keep the water out. The wall beside the door has high-water markings on it and the highest was in 2016. Check out the photos.

Soon we found ourselves in Arkansas, my old stomping ground. And we drove all the way to Memphis on the Arkansas side of the river, crossing over from West Memphis into Memphis right smack in the middle of the city. Our hotel was on the east side of town and we landed there about 20 minutes later and settled in for the night. Tomorrow we make a big push towards home.

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21st August 2017

Heading home
Have forgotten to ask if you saw any fresh corn on the cob. We did get some here two weeks ago direct from Iowa and the best ever. Fun reading where you drove today, as usual, but how close you are getting to home. The wall to ptotect flooding of Girardeau was interesting to read about. Not all river towns have done this, if any others. Enjoyed photos. I keep thinking about all the blogs you have written with so many glorious memories over the years. Am sure your own bed will be welcomed joyfully.
21st August 2017

Thanks for your loyal following.

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