On Halloween morning, we left camp a few minutes before sunrise. The sun looked like a pumpkin. The morning was unusually warm as we said goodbye to the four Boy Scout leaders we’ve been traveling with. They were boiling a pot of diced apples with cinnamon. As tradition demanded, I (Michael) bobbed for one successfully. Memphis was our goal. 54 miles. That’s a big day for us, especially since we had to arrive by 5:30 to meet our ride. We were happy to see the Memphis bridge by about 4 pm. With achy muscles, we tossed all our gear in the back of Eric’s truck and loaded his trailer with the Grummans on the bottom and the Mohawks on top. He drove us downtown to his neighbor’s business. She was in the process of moving locations to a store one block away and offered that we spend the night in her store. The old store was full of great artwork. The artist, Madison, paints vibrant chickens. Madison and her friend stuck around for a while and chatted with us about the must-sees of Memphis. Apparently, we were right in the thick of things. Everything she mentioned was within walking distance, including Beale Street, the happening Halloween spot.
It didn’t take long to understand that we were about to have a great night in Memphis. We all dressed up in our best River gear, met with the Boy Scout group again, and went to dinner as a giant group of Huckleberry Finns. It was a great group costume. We went to one of the best Barbeque joints on Beale, thanks to Eric. There, a Johnny Cash tribute band sang rock, country, ballads, and blues. Dave had a great surprise waiting for him at the restaurant. His parents made the trip from Georgia to surprise him the day before his birthday. The night led to various shenanigans, including the Boy Scouts singing some embarrassing karaoke tune in their costumes. We also saw a dueling piano show full of ribald lyrics to dance and laugh to.
We took the next day off to ease the muscles and relax our minds. The entire previous week, we’d been averaging over 50 miles per day, much of which was fighting the wind. It ended up being worth it for a day off in a fun town. Monday night, we headed over to the house of the parents of Dave’s friend. They were possibly the most hospitable people we’ve met along the River. Our crew was incredibly happy to be in their company and they seemed to be beaming to have us in their house. We feasted on a huge meal of chicken, pasta, biscuits, and salad, all topped off with a creamy key lime pie. We dined outside by their fire and later smoked excellent cigars and sipped on our drinks of choice. We stayed the night there, going to bed after fun, engaging conversation and a dip in the hot tub. We headed out (although we could have spent a week with them) early in the morning to grab the last of our groceries and hit the River. We ended up with venison and trout, harvested from the Tennessee wilderness by Eric.
We will be back to Memphis in May. Pete and Karen (the gracious homeowners) gave us an official invitation to join them for a famous barbeque festival. It can’t be missed and we are all eager to maintain a relationship with our new friends.
Now, I sit under Mega-tarp with rain funneling down its creases. Everyone has gone to bed but the fire warms my still-wet back. We managed to cook some great pizzas over the fire tonight- onion, pepper, mushroom, cheese. Sure, we spent some of the best days so far in Memphis, Tennessee, but it’s always good to get back into a tent with the tap of the rain, and sleep like we earned it. Then again, one more night with Pete, Karen, and Eric couldn’t hurt.