Off the Beaten Path
We like to get out and explore on our own. One of our favourite side trips from Las Vegas was to Oatman, Arizona. They call Oatman a ghost town because it’s settled in the Black Mountains of the Mohave and once boasted a population of 3,500. That was in the gold rush days. Now about 100 people live in the old west throwback town year round and wild burros roam freely through the streets.
We decided on Collierville for our Memphis side trip. It’s about 25 minutes from the city and has a preserved town square. None of the historic buildings there has been altered since they were built in the 1850s or so. The insides are up to date and house cafes, shops and other businesses catering to the townspeople. This gas station gives you an idea.
It’s impossible to capture the town square from the ground. But their spirit is evident in this mural.
There are architects and lawyers and a coffee shop and clothing shops. A huge two-building store sells nothing but jeans and boots. High shelving in the jeans half is piled up with vintage radios. We’ve never seen so many at once. The rest of Collierville is a typical center of 40,000 or so but its town square has attracted national attention and historical preservation awards. Do not, I repeat, do not engage the proprietor of the Army Surplus in Collierville in conversation. Saying hello is too much. Skip it altogether unless you’re hard core into guns and army fatigues. She will trap you with long-winded, boring stories unrelated to anything you say. It wasn’t a browse as much as a hostage-taking. Once we freed ourselves (I finally just walked out!) a few steps away, Collierville showed its softer side.
In another part of the town, there’s a massive antique mall. We dropped in after lunch and as we left I told Derek that I couldn’t tell whether it was 1 pm or 5 pm. Normally, I never lose track of time so that was an unexpected little bonus.
We’re not hunters or gatherers, unless grocery shopping counts, but we couldn’t pass up visiting the Memphis Bass Pro Shop in a pyramid. It looks like a slightly shrunken Luxor Hotel from Las Vegas but it’s a former basketball stadium. When the team decided to move, Bass Pro snapped it up.
All Bass Pro Shops are huge but this one is a giant. Still, it’s not even one of the ten biggest in the US. Do you want a pond with live alligators? They’ve got several.
A floor to ceiling aquarium? Check. Boats and water to test them on? Sure thing. An upper floor for guns and ammo that contains a Walking Dead shooting game? You betcha. (We killed a lot of zombies. You’re welcome.) And how about a T-shirt? They have millions, including this gem. (That’s sarcasm, if it’s not obvious.)
Walking around a Bass Pro is like being in a foreign country where I don’t understand the language, but I find it fascinating. There are about 100 hotel rooms inside. You can spend the weekend for $200, a great price for being downtown. If you want to wake up inside a store with taxidermy in it.
Speaking of waking up, this billboard is for a Memphis morning show. The southern US feels familiar and welcoming but it’s signs like this that remind you, you’re far away from home.
On our way home, we took a detour to south of Little Rock to meet Derek’s old friends Kendra and Tim for lunch. What they’ve been through is incredible and they have a wonderful love story. We sat and yapped for three hours in the blink of an eye. And when we got home, we started looking up real estate in Arkansas. Seriously! It seems like an overlooked area for snow-birding if you like your winters mild but not intensely hot.
On our way out of Arkansas, as we passed by field after field of harvested cotton, we kept watch for a forgotten stem or two. A couple of times we pulled over in the pouring rain and Derek grabbed a few. They were droopy and soaking wet, so we laid them on the truck floor in the back and covered them with an old towel. We forgot to mention them at the border but I promise, no Boll Weevils rode along. With a little careful trimming, I restored them to their original look.
No one else has a flower arrangement quite like this one!
Thank you to all eight states we visited. We loved spending time with y’all.