Some of our goals with this project are to go places we’ve never been, meet people we wouldn’t otherwise meet, and learn more about our vast and varied country. These last few days in Mississippi have offered opportunities to do all that. We’ve learned many valuable lessons and realized some assumptions we had were completely incorrect.
Memphis BBQ is Terrific
Upon learning that Memphis was the closest airport to our RV dealership, and knowing we had a couple hours to kill, several options for what to do immediately came to mind. Exploring what makes Memphis “The Birthplace of Rock and Roll,” visiting the highly regarded National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, and stuffing our faces with Memphis BBQ were all high on the list. However, our flight landed at 10:30 on a Sunday morning causing us to quickly rule out the first two options. We will explore them on our next trip, when we have more time.
Some quick research revealed several well known, historic, BBQ restaurants in Memphis. After reading numerous reviews, we settled on Corky’s, a Memphis favorite, first opened over thirty years ago.
To put it simply, the ribs were the stuff that BBQ dreams are made of…. fall off the bone tender, smoky/sweet sauce on half, dry spices on the other….Deeeeeeelish! (and yes, I realize that this subheading doesn’t actually fit under the title of this post, but it’s my blog, so whatever.)
You Can Find Good Sushi in Tupelo
When we imagined visiting Tupelo, we assumed we’d be faced with a pretty limited list of restaurant options; a couple BBQ places, some chain restaurants, and the usual fast food joints. And while there’s certainly plenty of those around here, we’ve found a surprising range of other options, including an Asian Fusion restaurant that received pretty high marks on Yelp. Given how much BBQ we’d already eaten, we decided to check it out and were duly impressed.
You Can Miss Out on Good Tupelo Sushi Because You Spend Too Much Time Hanging Out at Walmart
We have avoided Walmart for years because of their reputation for treating their employees like crap and leaving economic carnage in their wake. But, given our current situation, we don’t necessarily have the option to take our money elsewhere (thanks to Walmart putting everyone else out of business.) The reality is we need food and supplies to get us through the next several days as we make our way home, and we won’t have a rental car anymore, so we need to stock up before we hit the road. Plus, where else are we gonna get an 88 cent “chef’s knife”? (Note: Buying an 88 cent “chef’s knife” from Walmart is a spectacularly bad idea, but that’s a topic for another day).
In any case, we hadn’t set foot in a Walmart in years, so we stopped by Sunday evening intending to do some quick recon work. We then promptly fell down the rabbit hole. By the time we left, it was almost 8:30, which, in Tupelo terms, is basically the middle of the night. So, as a result of spending too much time wandering the bargain shopper’s wonderland that is Walmart, we missed out on sushi that night. Instead, we got pretty good Thai (again: who knew??) and sushi waited until the following night.
$49 Hotel Rooms are not Necessarily Terrifying
Speaking of limited options, the hotel market here in Tupelo isn’t exactly booming. Most of the options I found online seemed somewhat sketchy. But I found one on Tripavisor that got pretty solid reviews, and given that our options weren’t exactly overflowing, I figured we’d give it a shot. Sitting right near the highway, directly across the street from an extremely busy truck stop, I imagined a $49 hotel room in Tupelo would likely come decorated in crime scene tape from whatever terrible atrocity happened there most recently.
But… what do you know? $49 in Tupelo gets you a basic, clean, functional hotel room.
And the best part? Instead of police officers in the parking lot filming the latest episode of COPS, we found the front door zealously guarded by this rooster. He sat in front of the front door until we walked up, ambled around the side of the building as we walked in, then returned to his spot in front of the front doors, peering in on us as we collected our keys from the reception desk.
I have no idea what he was doing, but given what I had thought might greet us at this little hotel, I was pretty happy.
People in the South are Weirdly Friendly
Look, I grew up in the northeast where being “neighborly” meant “making no eye contact whatsoever.” Then I spent 14 years trying to put criminals in jail. If someone randomly starts talking to me in a public place, I automatically assume they are either a) trying to con me; b) trying to sell me something; or c) crazy. Those are the only three options on the table.
Enter Mississippi…. land of the freakishly friendly.
Everyone is nice… but not in a syrupy sweet way. They’re just friendly. They’re helpful. They’re courteous. They talk to each other. They talk to me. It’s weird.
But Folks Around Here Don’t Give a Crap About Being PC
Laura: “Wow, it’s really hot here today!”
Random Person From Here: “Sure is. Humid too! That’s just the way it is around here.”
Laura: “Yeah, well, we’re kind used to it being from DC. It’s always humid there in the summer.”
Random Person from Here: “That’s because of Obama.”
Laura: “Wait…. What???”
When I was growing up, I was taught that it was not polite to talk about religion, politics or money with strangers. You just didn’t discuss those topics with people you didn’t know… and even the ones you did know, you tread very, very carefully so as not to offend anyone.
Here??? Folks say what’s on their mind and they are not concerned about potentially offending you.
I’m not sure what they would do if we challenged any of the various comments we’ve received, but honestly, we’re just not interested in discussing politics or religion. We’re here to enjoy life and have fun. Therefore, we’ve just been using the old “nod, smile and change the subject” maneuver.
Not All Salesmen Are Trying to Sell You a Bridge
We’ve been at the dealership the last couple days living in the RV and learning to use everything. The paperwork is done, the checks have been signed. We are basically just squatters on their land. Yet, every time we walk into the building, someone stops and asks us if they can help us. And then they DO help us. Every minor problem we’ve raised thus far has been addressed and when we’ve asked for advice about what after-market items to buy or not to buy, we’ve been given honest answers — often: “save your money…. you don’t need that.”
This is a small operation. It doesn’t look like much – a big industrial looking parking lot sandwiched between a busy highway and a set of heavily used train tracks – but they know their stuff and they’ve been great to us. They clearly recognize that reputation and word of mouth are key and they are doing everything they can to make sure we are taken care of. It’s been refreshing, to say the least.
Is sleeping in a parking lot 100 yards from busy train tracks ideal? No. Is monitoring waste water tank levels glamorous? Certainly not. Are 88 cent “chef’s knives” effective? Not at all. (Seriously, don’t do it.) But who cares? We’re learning to adapt, we’re becoming more flexible, we’re meeting people we wouldn’t meet otherwise and we’re not stressing out about things that aren’t worth being stressed about. It’s exactly what we were hoping for.
Simply put, we’re having a great time and looking forward to the future. We’ll drink to that…even if we are currently stuck using plastic Solo cups!
*Featured image courtesy of Sean Davis on Flickr