Day Eight – August 10, 2004
Memphis, TN to St. Louis, MO
Day eight and the trip was still great. I don’t think I could have picked a worse time to visit Memphis, however, because we arrived right for the beginning of Elvis Week. This is an annual 2-week celebration of the life and times of Elvis Presley. There were Elvis fans everywhere, from just about every state in the country, who had gathered to worship their god: Elvis.
Since we had not booked tickets to see Graceland before leaving, it was very apparent that we were not going to be able to see the inside of Elvis’s house. That didn’t bother me much, though, because getting to Graceland was not on the top of the list for things to see on this trip. I did get to see the outside of Graceland quite a few times, however, since we had to drive back and forth to search for a geocache (which I wasn’t about to actually look for since it would have required me passing a pretty serious looking “no trespassing” sign, and parking under a “no parking or standing” sign in land adjacent to the Memphis International Airport [and in land owned by the airport authority]), stop at Walgreens, and eat supper.
I don’t think I’d ever want to live in Memphis. The entire city was very dirty – there was garbage all over the place: in the roads, in people’s yards, in parks – and it wasn’t really that inviting of a city, either. I’ll have to visit more of Tennessee sometime in order to get a stronger impression of the state, since all I got to see was the very extreme southwestern corner, where Memphis is located.
The visit we made to the Walgreens on Elvis Presley Blvd. was a pretty interesting experience. The store felt like much the rest of the city; much of the merchandise was thrown on the shelves with no apparent organization, and the floor was littered with boxes, both full and empty. The cashier who rang up our purchase was also simply hilarious, as well. First of all, it helps if you know she was in her 60s or 70s and spoke with a very southern accent. She took a personal phone call right in the middle of ringing our purchase up – to tell somebody on the other line about how her “godpappy” was doing. She also answered the phone by saying “mornin’ this is roar-grens”. In addition, instead of quickly ringing up everything we had purchased, she felt the need to look it over for a couple of seconds before putting it in the bag. I can just picture her saying to herself “hmm…I’ll have to buy me and my godpappy one of them before I leave the store today.” I almost fell apart a few times trying not to laugh, but I somehow managed not to.
We then ran into a construction zone, and subsequently a traffic jam, on the interstate getting out of Memphis. We sat – stopped – on the bridge going across the Mississippi River for about a minute. This was a little unsettling, since the bridge was constantly bouncing up and down from the traffic passing over it in the opposite lanes. We eventually made it across the river, however, and into the state of Arkansas.
We were still in the Mississippi River Floodplain, so the land here was very, very flat. There were, however, more trees in Arkansas than in Mississippi. There also appeared to be more farms in this northeastern part of Arkansas as well.
I wanted to at least make it to one city in Arkansas, so we got off I-55 in Dyess, AR, and headed for Jonesboro. We traveled on a very rural Arkansas state highway for about 20 miles until we met up with U.S. 63, the future Interstate 555. This road took us into Jonesboro, but I had seriously underestimated the length of this little jaunt off the interstate; it was almost 60 miles. We still had to make it to St. Louis today, and I had a little secret up my sleeve. So, long story short, we didn’t get to spend too much time in Jonesboro. But, based on what I did see of the city, it definitely seemed like a very nice mid-sized city.
We then came into Paragould, AR, and turned onto U.S. 412. This road took us into the state of Missouri, but, unfortunately, because the road is undergoing major improvements to make it 4-lanes, there was no welcome sign.
An interesting Missouri community we came to on this route, before making it back to I-55, was Kennett. The welcome to Kennett sign promoted the fact that this is the birthplace of Sheryl Crow.
We then got back on I-55 to go to St. Louis. Shortly after New Madrid, however, we turned onto I-57. You see, I wanted to be able to say I’d been to Kentucky, so we were going to take a little excursion. Getting from Missouri to Kentucky is unnecessarily complicated, however, since only a limited number of bridges cross the massive Mississippi River. At one point, on I-55, we were less than a mile away from the border, but since no bridges crossed the river, it was impossible to get to Kentucky.
We got off I-57 in Charleston, MO, and headed east on U.S. 60/62. We soon came up to a very neat bridge (look at the pictures below), which went across the Mississippi River. Consequently, this was also the border of Missouri and Illinois, and after we crossed the bridge, we were at the southernmost point of Illinois. Less than half a mile after crossing into Illinois, however, we turned right onto U.S. 60/51, and crossed a similar-looking bridge. This one went over the Ohio River – about a mile up from where it flows into the Mississippi. Once we got to the middle of the river, we had crossed into Kentucky. We followed U.S. 60/51 for about 5 miles into the small town of Wickliffe, KY. This was a very neat river community, selling basically nothing but genuine Kentucky cigarettes. I gawked at all the Kentucky license plates, and then turned around to go back the way we came.
Instead of going all the way back to where we got on I-57, however, I decided it’d be better to take Illinois Highway 3 from Cairo, IL to Cape Girardeau, MO – a distance of about 30 miles.
This route took us through the very historic city of Cairo, made famous by both Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and in the Civil War as the city right across the border from two slave states.
About midway along this very scenic route, we came to a three-in-one scenic overlook, historical marker, and rest area. Naturally, I just had to stop there; take a look at the pictures below.
We finally made it to Cape Girardeau (gee-our-do, by the way), the hometown of Rush Limbaugh, where we got back on I-55 to make the still-80-mile trip to St. Louis.
These 80 miles were very scenic, though. The interstate, in this section of the state, is surrounded by very high rock cliffs; the steep hills in this region had to be cut into to erect the interstate, so, subsequently, very old, red-orange colored rock was exposed. It felt more like I was in a western state rather than Missouri. The rock cliffs lasted all the way into the very southern suburbs of St. Louis.
We once again got to our hotel room after seven in the evening, so doing any sightseeing in St. Louis on this day of the trip was out of the question. Going to Steak & Shake (another restaurant I now wish would come to Minnesota) was in the question, though.
Have you ever wanted to know how they change the Walgreens signs? This is your chance to find out
Northeast Arkansas scenery
More northeast Arkansas scenery, and farmland
A Union Pacific train near New Madrid, MO
The flag set at the New Madrid Welcome Center
Scenery on the road to Illinois and Kentucky
A fascinating 5-in-1 photo; the Ohio River, Mississippi River, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri can all be seen in this picture, and I've neatly labeled everything for you
The same photo as above, only without the labels
At the rest area in Illinois
The Mississippi River near Thebes, IL - Missouri is on the other side
Another shot of the Mississippi River near Thebes, IL
First sign for St. Louis
A train comes above the interstate in Memphis
Jackson and St. Louis, two places I've now been to
Welcome to Arkansas sign
We had entered back into Hardee's (instead of Carl's Jr.) territory upon reaching Arkansas
First sign for Chicago
The bridge crossing the Mississippi River
Welcome to Kentucky sign (the bottom says "where education pays"
Illinois Welcome Sign
Illinois Highway 3 near Cape Girardeau, MO
Missouri Welcome Sign
The state of Missouri is perfectly shaped to use it on state highway signs
They named a road after Minnesota in Cape Girardeau, MO
Note: to see full-sized versions of any of the photos above, select the download feature above the picture. The photo will then be downloaded to your computer, and you can view the full resolution version of the picture (800 pixels in width).
Illinois Rest Area by Mississippi River