I only enjoy adventurous travel with a few people, but my brother, Dan, is one of them. We travel well together, because we can change plans last minute, make no plans at all, and get pulled over on a famous Central Tennessee parkway then laugh about it while forging ahead to find an alternate route.
Upon leaving Nashville during our week-long adventure south, we received a recommendation to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile scenic route we had never heard of and spent all day learning to pronounce (turns out, it’s “Na-chiz” if you talk like a true Southerner). Though we already had plans to see Memphis later that afternoon, the Parkway seemed well worth a three-hour detour along the way.
We knew time did not allow for a drive down the Parkway’s entire Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi stretch. However, we had hoped to make it farther than the 30-mile marker, where a park ranger waited with a warning to exit the Parkway and promise to fine us if we did not oblige. According to the ranger, we had been violating a federal law by driving our 12-foot Penske truck down a road that prohibits commercial vehicles. While the ranger’s mustache and thick Tennessee accent made the entire experience worth it to these New York-bred travelers, his reaction to Dan’s dark beard and long, California blond hair gained him the quote of the week. Without even saying hello, he kicked off the conversation with Dan by exclaiming, “Damn, son, you look like a rock star!”
After our early exit off the Parkway, we headed toward Memphis for lunch at Blues City Cafe on Beale Street. An old friend met us for both a reunion and personal guided tour of downtown, which we appreciated receiving from a local Memphian. Best of all, it showed us the true images behind Marc Cohn’s famous “Walking in Memphis” lyrics. On the way out of town, we stopped by Sun Studio where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and several other famous artists recorded throughout the mid-late 1950s. It’s clear that the locals love their city, and even those who don’t intend to live there forever keep Memphis largely in their hearts. The city has soul, and it comes out in the blues music and locals’ passion for food.
With Memphis resting on the border of Arkansas, we found no reason why a trip to Little Rock shouldn’t gain a place in this week’s places to see. So, after leaving one old friend in Memphis, we set off for Little Rock to stay the night with another. We spent only enough time in the city’s downtown to snap a few photos, but had a knee-slappin’, fiddle-playin’ good time within the brick walls of a residential home along Little Rock’s outskirts.
Though we didn’t explore much of the city this night, we realized taking a break from the road to sip homemade beer and wine with friends adds as much exploration and excitement to traveling as any other beautiful landmark along the journey.