TN-AK State Line

Mosquitoes, rice, and potholes. That would sum up what Heidi and I have unanimously agreed (all two of us) is the worst State in our glorious country (wave your little flag, hand over your heart). Arkansas is full of mosquitoes, rice, and potholes – and nothing else.

Now I must give the state the benefit of the doubt and mention that we have only traveled across half of Arkansas thus far. Meaning… that if there is not one more pothole and not one more grain of rice, then the state is only half as bad as we are making it out to be.

But on to brighter things and better states….

Coondog Cemetery, AL

In Alabama, we stopped to visit the world’s only Coon Dog Cemetery. I know you were sure there were a couple others, but I’m here to tell you no. We saw the world’s only. There were over a hundred gravesites of coon dogs. The first, Troop, was buried in 1937 and the most recent one we saw was 1999. Quite a variety of both names and grave markers. Some made professionally in marble and granite, others were pieces of wood with an epitaph painted on, and still some were chunks of rock or cement with words of affection carved in. Troop, Old Blue, Ruff, Moma, Queen, Track, and my personal favorite Dr. Doom were among the deceased. This stop was quite a find, well worth going 20 miles out of our way to see.

Crystal Shrine Grotto, Memphis, TN

Our next big stop was at the legendary Crystal Shrine Grotto in the outskirts of Memphis, TN. Back in the 1930s, a Mexican artist named Rodriguez created this large cavern out of cement and crystals. It stands in the middle of a cemetery and resembles a large tree stump. Around it is a “stone” garden with benches, walkways, and landscaping all made of cement. Inside the grotto are a dozen or so murals and sculptures of the life of Christ. And my favorite part, a large plaque that says “The Most Beautiful Head in the World” and has an image of Jesus with a halo. Sorry Christopher Walken, title taken.

In Memphis we stopped on the banks of the Mississippi at Mud Island Park. There we saw a miniature scale model of the Mississippi River that you can wade in; and its waters are actually from the real river so it’s like you REALLY ARE wading in the river. Who comes up with this stuff?

One more slam on Arkansas. Last night we stayed in a motel in Newport, AR; the enthusiastic, chain-smoking front desk attended was quite excited to inform me that “We even have a continental breakfast” Oooo, I was mildly impressed – yes, partly influenced by that tone in her voice, you know, that tone a 3-year old has when he proudly announces, “I went potty all by myself.” So we wake up this morning, and head down to the lobby. Now I don’t know what you think of when you hear the word “continent”. I think of something big. This road trip, for example. We are traveling across the continent. 3000 miles. Quite big. Now I know when it comes to motel breakfasts, North America is not the continent they have in mind. Australia maybe, a decent size. But someone needs to inform the poor people of Newport, Arkansas that Key West is not a continent. The continental breakfast for the entire motel was as follows: 7 danish pastries, half a pot of coffee, and a pitcher of liquid meant to be some sort of orange juice substitute. People of Arkansas, hear my cry, review your world maps and realize that Australia is the smallest continent after which you can model your breakfasts.

Today we head on to Branson, Missouri to see the World’s Largest Banjo and Fiddle. Yes, we can hardly contain ourselves. Then this evening we camp in Oklahoma at a State Park. The game plan for tomorrow is to see the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas – yet another insane artist who was obsessed with concrete in the early 20th century.

1140 miles from home in the Ozarks,

William and Heidi

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