24/3/17. Stephen was up early on Wednesday morning to go cycling – so that he could tick off another state as “cycled in”! (Sad I know, but it keeps him amused.) He had plotted a route to follow that was mainly on the main cycle route in the city alongside the Arkansas River.
The first bit (getting to the river) was somewhat complicated but after that it was straightforward. However, because he had omitted to download a map of Arkansas for his Garmin and then left his phone (which had a map) in the hotel room along with his room key, he was unable to find his way to the river. (Christine was asleep in the room and he knew better than to wake her!)
As a result he thrashed around in an area of very nice houses (perhaps where the Clintons lived as up and coming lawyers/politicians before governors’ mansions and White Houses were the order of the day) before giving up and returning to the hotel. Still it was a pleasant enough ride and, being quite hilly, got the blood flowing.
When he returned Christine was up, so breakfast and packing were completed and then we set off eastwards. The countryside on that side of Little Rock was a complete contrast to the western side. It was dead flat – the Arkansas delta – and, apart from a stretch of swamp that reminded us of Louisiana, rich farmland.
Eventually we reached the Mississippi, which forms the border between Arkansas and Tennessee, and Memphis. Not being big music fans, Memphis didn’t have any particular attraction for either of us although the thought of seeing Graceland had a certain appeal – until we read in the guide book that it cost $40 each – not that much appeal!
We pressed on through the seemingly endless eastern suburbs of the city until we were back in open country and eventually reached Big Hill Pond SP where we were the only campers.
The weather had been much cooler all day (high teens rather than around 30 only the previous day) and by the time darkness came it was decidedly nippy. We both climbed into our sleeping bags for the first time for many nights – we have been using sheets only and pulling the sleeping bags over us as a sort of duvet in the coolest part of the night.
A few days earlier Stephen had mentioned that he fancied seeing a Civil War battlefield if we passed near one. Well, we were within 20 miles of Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing which was the scene of a major battle in 1862 and is now a National Park, so we hightailed it there.
The visitor center shows a 45 minute movie reenactment every hour which was very well done and informative. Then we followed a 13 mile driving trail seeing the various places mentioned in the film where the battle ebbed and flowed. It was excellent! And, even better, it was free! Apart from a few preserved farmers’ fields, the whole battlefield is and was covered in trees and shallow but steep ravines. Fighting must have been very difficult. There were more than 3,500 men killed and 16,000 wounded in two days of fighting.
We spent about 3 hours there so it was well into the afternoon before we were on our way again. The country was getting wilder and prettier again as we headed for another state park (David Crockett this time!)
Friday was a day of driving through pretty landscapes heading north east as we had a yen to visit Kentucky. There was no good reason – just a desire to say we had been there! We stopped just before the state line in yet another state park (Standing Stone) and, for once, early enough for Stephen to go for a short bike ride before dinner. That’s Tennessee ticked off as well now!