Not Big on Beale Street

Memphis 11-23-2015Our family generally headed north to St. Louis instead of south to Memphis, but I suggested that Curator Jessica fly out of Memphis on the chance that I might drive home to Florida for Thanksgiving towing a ski boat for Kid Adam. I haven’t had a chance to check out the boat’s motor and make the trailer roadworthy, so I’m sticking to Cape for Turkey Day.

About the only thing I remember about Memphis is that Dad always warned me not to honk my horn in that town because the noise ordinances were so strict the cops would ticket you for being overly horny.

Mud Island was closed

Memphis 11-23-2015I had hoped to show Miz Jessica Mud Island, but it was closed for the season. We didn’t have a lot of time before her plane left, and we were already down in the Beale Street area, so we elected to park at the Beale Street Landing and walk up to the street known for the Blues and W.C. Handy for a quick bite to eat and to soak up the ambiance.

Let me say I was less than impressed. She and I split a sampler platter that contained some onion rings that were so tough you couldn’t bite your way through them; nachos consisting of a few dry threads of pulled pork BBQ glued to taco chips with plastic cheese, and two nondescript chicken wings.

I had REAL barbecue at the Dixie Pig in Blytheville the next day. Instead of Beale Street onions that could be used for shoe leather, The Pig made theirs with Texas sweet onions that were tender and as sweet as eating an apple.

I felt like a rube

Memphis 11-23-2015I don’t like places like Disney World because they have no soul. I feel the same way about modern Key West. I preferred it when it was a scruffy Navy town with pawn shops every other door and full of disreputable types who had let social gravity sweep them to the southernmost part of the continental U.S.

I know I didn’t give Beale Street enough time, but walking around there made me feel like a rube. I don’t like feeling like a rube.

Reflecting on the Real World

Memphis 11-23-2015I felt much more at home when we hit our parking lot just as the sun was going down and the Mighty Muddy Mississippi River was reflecting in a window. Ahhh, back to the Real World.

It’s that time of year again

Buy From Amazon.com to Support Ken SteinhoffEverybody is getting all excited about Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Overspend Wednesday (I made that one up), so I’m going to join the din.

If you are going to shop Amazon anyway, please go to my blog and click on the big red ‘Click Here’ button at the top left of the page (or, this one). That’ll take you directly to Amazon with a code embedded. If you buy something, I’ll make from four to seven percent of your purchase price without it costing you anything.

Think of it as being your painless Christmas present to me.

Licking the Arkansas Arch

Jessica Cyders at Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9935When Curator Jessica made her initial pilgrimage from Ohio to Missouri last December, I convinced her that every first-time visitor to St. Louis’ Gateway Arch has to lick the stainless steel icon.

She was a mere child of 29 at that time, and gullible.

Not falling for it at the state line

Jessica Cyders at MO - Ark arch 10-31-2014_4265When I asked David Kelley of Steele, Mo., if the old concrete arch over U.S. 61 at the Missouri – Arkansas border was still standing, he said, “Yep. It’s still there. It’s only eight miles away, let’s go see it, then go down to the Dixie Pig in Blytheville for lunch.”

U.S. Route 61 is the official designation for the highway that runs from New Orleans, past Memphis, past Cape Girardeau and St. Louis, ending up in Wyoming, Minn.This section through Arkansas was once a dirt trail called the North-South Road, and was in such poor shape that it might take as much as a full day to cover 15 miles.

Highway 61 called the Great River Road because it parallels the Mississippi River a good part of its run. It also answers to the name “Blues Highway” because of the path it takes through Blues country.

Now that she’s put 30 birthday candles in her back pocket and done several thousand Steinhoff Road Miles, Curator Jessica is older and wiser. She wasn’t falling for the old Lick the Arch trick twice. She did agree to risk death by posing under the arch so you could get an idea of its scale, roughly 15 feet high and 20 feet wide at the base.

Almost a lick

Jessica Cyders at MO - Ark arch 10-31-2014_4267I didn’t realize until I was editing the photos that she DID fake an almost-lick for the camera. I guess that’s close enough.

The arch was created by the Mississippi County Road Improvement District in 1924. Check out what the National Registry of Historic Places says about the arch and what Arkansas highways were like in the first quarter of the 20th Century. It’s a fun read and will make you appreciate modern roadways.

I love this part: The location of the arch on the directly south of the Arkansas-Missouri state lines had a somewhat strange economic effect. Highway 61 runs primarily north to south, but at the state line the road runs east to west for a distance of approximately one-half of a mile. The state line is located directly north of the section of  highway.

A lower gasoline and cigarette tax in Missouri led to a concentration of businesses on the north side of the highway. At one time there were as many as fourteen service stations lined up along the “line”. Along with the service stations came several nightclubs and small gambling houses. The area around the arch became known as “Little Chicago” because of the type of activity that went on there. A long-time resident of nearby Yarbo, Arkansas, once said of the arch, “It was a good place to go while the wife and kids were in church.”

Click on the photos to make them larger.

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