Saturday March 8, Memphis TN
Memphis is not on our tour schedule for 2014, we plan to visit longer in 2015. Today Memphis just fits nicely into our travel schedule en route from Ste Genevieve, MO to Vicksburg, MS.
Our B and B in Ste Genevieve, Inn Ste Gemme Beauvais, offered an excellent breakfast this morning. Last night we chose from among the eight entree choices so our breakfast could be ready for us this AM. I had the fruit (baked apple slices nicely spiced), an oatmeal that was not Quaker Oats from the box, French toast stuffed with a cream cheese and spices combination and topped with a fruit sauce, bacon, OJ, and milk-with refills. Chris had a home made sweet bread, 3 cheese quiche with spinach, bacon, OJ, and coffee. Very nicely done.
We were on the third floor of the B and B. It goes back to 1848 and is the oldest continuously operated B and B in MO. Unfortunately, it had a fire several years ago but has been restored. The beautiful chandelier was saved and still hangs in the dining room. Railroad tracks run behind it but the trains did not wake us from our sleep.
After breakfast we toured the Bolduc House built around 1792. This building and several others in town feature vertical log construction, instead of the usual horizontal construction process. This process stems from French Normandy and Ste Genevieve has the most (and best) examples of this rare construction style.
Many of the earliest settlers came from Quebec. The rich farm land bottoms along the Mississippi River attracted them. The hills just west of town have been mined for lead since the 1720s and were another drawing card. Bolduc was both a mine owner and a merchant. The last Bolduc family member died in the 1940s and the building and lands were purchased for historical display.
Besides being a historical town, Ste Genevieve is the site of a lime mine and manufacturing facility. We were told that at times the white lime dust provides a thin coating on stationary objects. We were spared the opportunity to observe this. Mining tunnels are under the town and air shafts periodically stick out of the ground.
The morning was turning drizzly and blustery so we headed over to IL to continue our drive along the river. We took a ferry instead of driving miles to a bridge. On the way to the ferry we passed the three mile long levee and dike. The original town site was flooded in the 1785 and the current site is located on higher ground. This did not prevent floods in 1973, 1993, and 1995 from doing great damage so a levee system was finally constructed. Now they just worry about flash floods from the creeks leading to the Mississippi.
The Ste Genevieve-Modoc ferry seemed even less sturdy than the one we took over Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas last fall. We did make it across the mighty Mississippi without incident, though. On the IL side, we drove south along river flatlands edging the timeworn hills of the Shawnee National Forest.
We passed through Chester IL. This town is the birthplace of the cartoon character “Popeye” and the town is in the process of creating a trail with several statutes. Since this is river territory, Chester is one of many areas where barges load and unload their cargo onto trucks or trains.
Our initial thoughts had been to drive back roads all the way to Memphis. But the day was still gray and we switched back to the MO side and Interstated (a word??) it most of the way to Memphis. At the AR welcome center on I-55, the staff person informed us that the Interstate was closed completely to southbound traffic down the road and gave us directions to a detour.
So we were back on two lane roads, US 61 again, and visited more small towns. Snow has been covering about 50% of the fields and the warm weather has created fog banks as the snow has been melting and evaporating. Fields not covered in snow are wet or under water.
Once back on I-55, we came upon a major back-up for northbound traffic. The backlog was for miles and hundreds of trucks were moving inch by inch. Finally we reached the Memphis area and the snow disappeared completely.
Dinner tonight was supposed to be at a barbecue place we had researched before we left town. It did not take reservations. I called when we arrived to inquire as to the best time to arrive to avoid long lines. But best laid plans… It was an hour wait when we got there. We were hungry so we decided to try another place. Another hour wait. Third time was a charm, no wait, good food. Well at least downtown Memphis is not deserted.
Ed and Chris 9:15 pm before daylight savings time kicks in