11 April 2017 Little Rock, AR; Memphis, TN; Gulf Shores, AL; Pensacola, FL; Tallahassee, FL; St. Mary's, GA; Wildwood, FL; Ocala, FL.

     There is an enormous Bass Pro Shop in Memphis housed in an equally enormous and iconic 32 story mirrored pyramid. Not only is Bass Pro located in there but there are restaurants and even a hotel!!! This expansive 535,000 square foot pyramid houses so much more with features and experiences for everyone.

     Their wilderness hotel is called the Big Cypress Lodge and overlooks nearly 600,000 gallons of water with a cypress swamp with 100 foot tall trees. There's an 84,000 gallon alligator habitat and aquariums teeming with more than 1800 fish and Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Heritage Center's interactive ducks.  There's a 13 lane ocean-themed bowling alley and the nations tallest 28 story freestanding glass elevator. 

      The riverfront is delightful and beautifully landscaped with paved walking, running, cycling paths. We enjoyed getting a little saddle time there and were pleased to see so many of the Memphis residents enjoying the spring time outdoors.

     This is the stained glass ceiling over the Peabody's lobby bar where we savored Friday evening cocktails. The bartender put a tiny little yellow rubber ducky in my drink.
The Duckmeister of the Peabody Ducks
      A long time legend of The Peabody Hotel and the ducks were one of the reasons we wanted to visit Memphis. As we gathered with hundreds of others to enjoy the duck march from the fountain, down the red carpet, to the elevator, many asked the Duckmeister how the tradition began. Back in the 1930’s, the General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Tennessee sippin’ whiskey and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys in the beautiful Peabody fountain.  Three small English call ducks were selected as “guinea pigs” and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. So began the Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous.

The ducks condo is on the Peabody's roof and this is a view of the river from their vantage point.

     While in Memphis, we toured the National Civil Rights Museum located in the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King’s assassination. In the motel’s courtyard, there were video/audio “listening posts” that gave an overview of the museum’s history and why Dr. King came to Memphis. We spent quite a bit of time in the museum which was a very somber tour.  We were then directed across the street to tour other educational displays in the rooming house where James Earl Ray fired the fatal shot. 

 The exhibits chronicle key episodes of the American Civil Rights Movement and also addresses some of today’s civil and human rights issues. For me, it provoked a million thoughts and questions as I’m certain it did for others. Hopefully, it’ll serve as a catalyst for positive change. The displays and history re-telling was very poignant and sort of made me feel ashamed to being a Caucasian Southerner.  If you're ever in the area, hopefully this'll be on your bucket list. We had to choose this museum or Graceland and am so glad we made the right choice for us. Far more than most of us probably realize, the blacks have made a huge sacrifice for the progress they've made. I feel so proud of what they've become from what they were when I grew up in the '40's and '50's.

     We were hoping to enjoy some Memphis blues but even at BB King’s bar there was none. Plenty of the famed BBQ, though so we were singing the blues because there were no blues.

Beale Street Revelers
A strange facade just propped and standing on Beale Street

Beale Street, Memphis, TN

     On March 28, 14 very happy years ago, I said, "I do" for the rest of my life as Bill Bender's bride! He is, without a doubt, My Soul Mate/Kindred Spirit, and the most long-suffering and patient man on the face of the earth.

     Continuing easterly, we were entertained by our oldest, Chad, his son/our grandson, Zac, and their friends' beach house in Gulf Shores. Chad had loaded the table town with gigantic shrimp and crawfish. For Bill, crawfish was a new taste and experience. We gorged ourselves on the frustrations then on fresh grouper that our host prepared. We appreciated a very relaxing and laid back evening. What could be better than seafood in view of the Gulf.

Bill, Laura, and Chad

     No trip to the Panhandle would be complete without a stop in Pensacola. Our 
peerless friend, Tony, of Custom Canvas of Pensacola, let us stay in his parking lot---Ft. Pickens is sold out till August and other RV parks were way out of town in the boonies. His work is total perfection so he and Bill got along famously. We had a pleasant dinner with him and his wife, Annette. At the last minute we had dinner with friends, Andi and her husband, Tony. (Lots of Tonys!) Cousin Debby and her 93 year old mom took us to their favorite BBQ cafe for lunch.

                         93 year old Aunt Ruth and Cousin Debby
                                         (Aren't they cute!)

     About 10 years ago, we were wandering around Pensacola's downtown and Bill spied a barber shop displaying a sign, "Sorry, we're open." In the display window are products that are so thick with dust, there's no telling how long they've been there. We walked in and Bill sat in the chair of an elderly barber, Mr. Joe Brown who said he was 91 years old. Each time we're in Pensacola, Bill visits Mr. Brown for him to ply his trade. This trip, I was so afraid he would be no more but in we walked and there he sat dozing in his chair. He's as sharp as a tack and has a memory like a steel trip. In March he celebrated his 101st birthday. He's the oldest barber in FL but says there's one who's 105 in another state.  Cutest little man.

                                         93 year old Aunt Ruth and Cousin Debby
                                               (Aren't they cute!)

      And the wheels keep turning as the road stretches out before us. Continuing south, we wanted to spend some time in Tallahassee since I’m an original Floridian and Bill’s an immigrant. Hope Trumpy doesn’t ship him back to NY. Tallahassee, with its rolling hills and canopied roads lined with moss-draped oaks, it doesn’t look like the rest of FL. This area is often referred to as the Real Florida. It’s missing a multitude of condos and parking lots. Instead, large swaths of unspoiled forests and bear-crossing signs are seen, with a few grand old Southern mansions for flair.  Regardless of where we go, we always wind up in the hoods—and most especially when we’re on our bikes—but we never saw a poor or neglected area in Tallahassee. Folks in the southern part of the state rarely find their way up here. That’s too bad for them but not for us, as the Big Bend region is rich with history, culture, wildlife, geological features and miles of rivers and forests begging to be explored by foot, bike, or canoe. If  you’re patient you can spot 372 of the 497 species of birds residing in or visiting FL.  We took a bike tour from Tally to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and that was an exquisite treat.

 Westcott Building/Epps Hall

    Tally is a town steeped in tradition and it bears a Muskogean Indian name meaning “old fields” or “old town.”  It’s main claim to fame is that it’s the home of FSU whose has the most picturesque campus in our nation. We strolled past the red-brick architecture, sculptures, and green spaces.  We stopped at the Westcott Building, the oldest site of higher education in FL. Prior to the university becoming co-ed in 1945, it was Florida State College for Women. My mother graduated from there in 1931 and I went into Westcott believing that perhaps she took some classes there and I wanted to walk where she walked.

                                    Sue Evelyn Hanshaw Lane
                                                 Class of 1931

     Her sorority house and the sorority are nonexistent today at FSU. It was founded in 1898 and is active in other universities. Throughout the campus are stone benches on which to relax and contemplate the universe under giant oaks draped in swaying Spanish moss. 44.3% of Tally’s population holds a Bachelor’s degree or higher, making it the most educated city in FL.

    Stained glass window in the capitol's dome

       Entrance to the Capitol

  The Capitol with its candy striped awnings

   The year-round mild temps, rolling hills dominated by massive live oaks, vast tracts of protected forest, more than 600 mi of trails, five rivers, 20 lakes and miles of uncluttered coastlines attract those yearning for a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, paddling, birding or viewing other wildlife. What if you didn’t have to distinguish between what was work and what was play? What if there was a place that allowed labor and leisure to coexist.  That place, most likely, is Downtown Tallahassee. 

     We began our tour at the Capitol Complex, which included the original historic capitol and the new 22 story capitol. The old capitol has been restored to its 1902 grandeur with a stained glass dome and candy-striped awnings and stands as an icon at the front of the new  capitol.

    If Tallahassee attracts you like a magnet, it’s with good reason. The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, located there, is home to the After world’s most powerful magnet, capable of producing a magnetic field one million times more powerful than Earth’s field.  The spot from which all land surveys in the state are based is located in Tallahassee’s Cascades Park.    

     After poking around Tallahassee's museums, galleries, and bike trails, for a few days, we moved on with St. Mary's, GA, and our beloved trawler, in our cross hairs.  Excited!  Our 6 months of RV-ing has lengthened to 11 months because we're repositioning our boat northward but now we can resume our 6 months here and 6 months there.

     Last time we switched modes of transportation, we said we'd purchase duplicates of things and not do a total move everytime. There are just certain things that you HAVE to move back and forth and with the boat on the hard, we were scrambling up and down a step ladder off the transom till we felt like gerbils on their exercise wheel.

     Better nate than lever--while in St. Mary's, we had a REAL celebration of our 14th anniversary 11 days late but it was worth the wait. Really wanted an April wedding date but couldn't wait another week. Told Bill we should just claim April 8---like the sound of that but, the engineer that he is, said, "No. That wouldn't be accurate."  What a straight shooter and what difference would less than 2 weeks make anyway. He's my BFF.


     We're closing out our land cruising season tonight. We're in Wildwood, FL, at Alliance Coach to have a few things attended to and we'll also store her here for the next six months. It's been a lovely cruise. Our two land cruising season have netting about 21,000 miles. I'm planning next years' and it's going to be a stop-and-smell-the-roses land cruising. I'm the boss!!!  I want to dawdle and relax. Bill's a hit-the-ground running kinda guy.

     You'll hear from us next from upon the water!

Bill and Laura



Lee Eyer said…
Got ur e-mails. Cool beans trawler! Am terrible about corresponding BUT I am here & enjoying ur blog. Keep in touch!

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