Think Outside the State

American Tale: My 50-state Adventure

Tag: Mississippi River

Helena, Arkansas: Downtown on the Mississippi

For the second stop on our Spring Break adventure, we headed down the river to Helena, Arkansas.  We stayed at the Best Western in West Helena, then drove into town the next morning.welcome to arkansas The very first thing Mom and I both noticed were how nice and welcoming everyone is!  Our first stop was the visitor’s center, were we met Gloria and Dawna (hey y’all!).  They gave me the low down on EVERYTHING that could be done in Helena.  One of my big planning mistakes, it seems, was coming on a Monday: ALMOST everything was closed.  No matter, we found a whole bunch of things to do, and we had a great time.

mainmain street garden blog malco The town itself is filled with history, from being a stop on the Underground Railroad, to being home to a major Civil War battle.  They are the only downtown on the Mississippi for 300 miles, and they are working hard on restoration/preservation of the beautiful historic buildings they have.  We drove downtown, and were lucky to find The Delta Gypsy!

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They have high-end, beautiful products, from many different suppliers.  We were greeted immediately, and after talking to the owners for a short time, found out that they are opening a bed and breakfast this summer in Helena Arkansas, the Allin House.  Mom and I drove by the building they are renovating for it, and I have to say, It’s going to be gorgeous!  I will definitely be revisiting Helena in the future, and giving them a call! After our little stop shop, we started to hit some of the important sites of the town.  From the Levee walk (with it’s beautiful mural of influential people) to the River Park (where you can watch tug-boats pushing their barges up and down the river), the impact that being on the Mississippi has had on this town is evident.

river park boards6 After spending time on the river, we drove to the Confederate Cemetery.  It was breathe-taking, and I know I speak for my mom and myself when I say that the unknown soldier’s graves broke our heart.  Cemeteries are a place where time stands still, and this beautiful hill on the edge of Helena really created that atmosphere.  The Confederate Memorial was at the very back of the plots, and up on a hill, separated.  The drive is beautiful, the stonework of the graves is amazing, and the history itself if thought-provoking.  Mom took a specific liking to two of the grand angels, in the lower section of the cemetery.

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We stopped by the Pillow-Thompson House (which, of course, was closed on a Monday), Battery C, and then Fort Curtis.

pillow thompsonfort curtis battery c Though this isnt a picture of the “actual” battery, my favorite thing about this site was the view of the town, and the Mississippi River.  Of course, mom and I took a TON of pictures up here.  It was a major site of a very important battle in the Civil War, and the victory won Eastern Arkansas for the Union.  There are a lot of different information podiums and replications on the battery itself. After visiting these sites, our last stop was to talk with the Dana Chadwich, who owns and runs the Edwardian Inn, a gorgeous bed and breakfast that has been in Helena for many years.  The house was built in 1904 by a successful business man, and has been a private family home, an apartment building, an alcoholic rehabilitation center, among other things.  It has been wonderfully preserved, and walking the halls seems to take you back in time. edwardian Helena is a small, history-rich town, filled with wonderful people and wonderful sites.  It may not be your first destination idea for Arkansas, but you wont be disappointed if you choose to visit!  This stop was Mom’s favorite, and it has definitely made it high on my list. Up next is Oxford, MS, coming to you soon!

Memphis TN: Riverboats, Ribs, and Elvis

I have visited Tennessee quite a few times, but for my “50 by 30”, we’ll use my most recent trip.  I had never been to Memphis before, and the prospect of our first stop being there on this huge road trip was enough to have me re-routing our trip.

We drove the 9-hour journey on Saturday (April 4th), and arrived in downtown at dinner time.  We mostly drove around, soaking in the sights, when we happened upon their oldest restaurant, The Arcade

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After dinner, we went drove around some more, and spent the night at the Days Inn in West Memphis, AR.  The room was nice, but the area was a little rough looking.  It’s right across the bridge from Memphis, so it’s a great place to stay on a budget.

Sunday morning was Easter, and Mom and I went to church at the Midtown Church of Christ.  The people were welcoming, the sermon wonderful, and I would definitely recommend it!

After a quick lunch of snacks in the car, mom and I jetted over to the Home of the King: Graceland.  Here are a few pictures I took in the house, but the rest of them can be seen on my flickr account.

At Graceland, you buy your tickets at the building across from the actual estate, and you take a bus across the road and up the the very front of the house.

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The mansion is beautiful, and you are given an iPad and headphones that give you a audio tour (read by John Stamos) through the Presley house, going room by room.  It’s a little hard to work with, and after struggling for several minutes (I had far too much around my neck to be able to explore properly) I ditched the iPad and wondered around with my camera.

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The upstairs is off limits, in respect for Elvis’s preference to not have people in that private area, but the main level gives insight into the kind of life he held.  The dining room, kitchen, “wilderness” room (I’m not actually sure of the exact name of that room, a side effect of disregarding the iPad), the music room, and the bedroom on the main floor are all gorgeous, and beautifully furnished.  The bottom two rooms are not handicap accessible, but are quite the sight.  One is a media room, with multiple televisions, records, and bright shades of yellow, while the other is a darker, more relaxed pool room with fabric lining the walls and ceiling.

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At the back of the house, there is Vernon’s office, a Racquetball court, and a large memorial for the Presley family.  Overall, it’s a beautiful, historic home, and definitely worth the visit.

My planning abilities cannot make more hours in the day, and since we were headed to Arkansas on Sunday night, we had to scoot to Memphis River Boats in time for our 2:30 sight-seeing cruise.

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We had an AMAZING “narrator”, who referred to us as his history “class”.  As we spent an hour and a half out on the chilly, slightly damp riverboat, the narrator put all the pieces together for us about the history of the Mississippi River.  He kept the subjects changing, and held everyone’s attention the entire time, and constantly had us gasping in surprise and laughing at his jokes.  
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I wont give away any of his stories, but I will tell you, whether of not you enjoy history, I would highly recommend this experience.  It isn’t cheap, but to really get an understanding of Memphis, I think you have to realize the impact of the Mississippi River on it’s culture.

On the way off the boat, we had a chance to chat with him for a moment.  I hadn’t caught his name, but when I told him about my travel plans, he recommended his favorite BBQ be the restaurant that represent Tennessee.

And that’s how we found ourselves on Beale Street.

Our guide had recommended The Blues City Cafe, where we started off the their Gumbo Fries, and mom and I split the “Best Meal on Beale”, which was AMAZING fried catfish, ribs, slaw, and beans.  We finished off the meal with apple dumplings and ice cream, which was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious.  I was so excited about eating that I didn’t use the camera to take pictures of it, but simply snapped a quick picture on my phone before digging in.

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After we finished our dinner, we took a few pictures, packed up Walt (my Ford Focus) and headed on to Arkansas.

In less than 24 hours, we soaked in as much Memphis as we could get.  Shout out to our Waitress from the Arcade, Kaitlyn, and our Waitress from Blues City Cafe, Vette.  A huge thank you to our narrator, I’m currently searching for your identity!  A large part of the reason I’m embarking on my fifty state mission is the amazing people we have met along the way.

The next state on our list, Arkansas, will be posted soon, but for now, I hope you enjoyed seeing our time in Memphis.  Feel free to comment below your favorite thing about the city, whether it’s something we did, or something we missed!

Blessings and Happy Weekend!

Meg