Days 76 to 84: Arkansas & Tennessee

We had a tough go on the way out of Oklahoma. PlugShare, the app we use to track down EV chargers, led us astray to a Harley Davidson dealership with a faulty unit in Tulsa, miles from the nearest options. This forced us to wind our way through the hinterland for a brief leg into southwestern Missouri. That turned a long day’s drive even longer, dragging us into the night through Bentonville, AR, home of Walmart. It felt like a pilgrimage; since so many chargers are in Walmart parking lots, we’ve killed a lot of time exploring their aisles across the country.

Late that evening, we made it to Dardanelle, a beautiful town surrounded by oak trees, and the languid flow of the lakey Arkansas River. A few nights in the country passed without much worth noting, and we headed to Cove Lake National Recreation Area for camping in the area’s montane forests. When it came time to head east once more, we marveled at the region’s spectacles—an enormous monastery in Subiaco, and a huge nuclear power plant in Russellville. (Seeing it helped us understand the “in case of nuclear emergency” evacuation instructions at our unassuming Airbnb.)

Memphis is on the far western edge of Tennessee’s parallelogram shape, butting against Arkansas and Mississippi. On the way in, we crossed the Mississippi River, with the city’s skyline—built by old Southern money—welcoming us at its banks. The next few days were a blur of Star Wars and impeachment hearings, but we made sure to eat well. A stop at Cheesecake Corner on our first night made a disappointing delivery-order experience better. Hampton loved the vegan BBQ at Imagine Vegan Café. Gary gorged himself at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. We drove around, listening to the radio go through Thanksgiving recipes, and made it to the fascinating Crystal Shrine Grotto (a concrete bunker in a cemetery dedicated to both Jesus and quartz). There was soul music, street art, and historical memory (especially the Lorraine Motel, where MLK Jr. was assassinated, now home to the National Civil Rights Museum).

It’s been a long while since our last photo compilations, but we were particularly struck by two of the artistic sights on our way. Paint Memphis, an organization that finds places in the city and encourages artists to produce “collaborative murals,” took over the abandoned Lamar Theater and its surroundings this October. Below are our favorites from the area.

From Memphis, we headed east to Nashville, racing across the state so we could make it to Hampton’s family Thanksgivings. While we hoped to spend more time in the Music City, we’re sure we’ll be back someday for the food, culture, and sights. Our time was short—we had cocktails and dinner at the Mediterranean/Southern fusion Butcher & Bee, and a phenomenal breakfast at Nashville Jam Co. Tegan wishes she ate as well as we do.

Next door to the delicious food, we found ourselves marveling at the House of Blues Studios complex. It’s so unassuming; the studios are a handful of houses in a suburban neighborhood, with the restaurant squeezed next door. They’re beautifully painted and surrounded with murals of artists (presumably who have recorded there).

Full and happy after Nashville, we headed on to Asheville, across the mountainous state line, for a pre-Thanksgiving rendezvous with Hampton’s sister Olivia and great pal Bella.

Follow our trip

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *