When starting in Northwest Arkansas, getting to Memphis is not the hard part. The most arduous part of our journey was getting across the Mississippi River. When the I-40 bridge over the Father of Waters is closed midday on a Friday, the experience put into context the barrier that the river was to the people trying to cross it in the centuries before our time.
It took nearly an hour to travel just a paltry ten miles. The GPS had us taking S Service Road followed by S Loop Drive followed by E Broadway followed by E N Service Road until we finally merged onto I-55 and crept across with the hordes of other travelers and tractor trailers hauling goods.
Since the slowdown took us through the lunch hour, we decided to stop in downtown Memphis for lunch and a little sightseeing. After the frustrations and many detours caused by the traffic situation, I was reminded of a couple lines from a poem of mine titled “They Still Write Love Songs in Memphis.” It appears in my collection Cardboard Heroes, released by Liffey Press in 2018.
After a quick walk and lunch, the things in those lines came true: “…words a friend once said / about Memphis and its propensity to make things right.” Our stop in the second largest city in Tennessee proved a welcome respite from the drudgery of travel.
We parked in a multi-level garage on the corner of Union Avenue and South 2nd Street. From there we acted like tourists with camera in hand and backpack over the shoulder and walked across to the famous Peabody Hotel. Only hotel guests are allowed to watch the daily procession of the famous ducks down the red carpet, but we were able to watch them in the fountain. I love places like that. They have this faded elegance like a mirror image of a time long-gone but that wants to be remembered.
We didn’t go far for lunch. Just a quick dash across the street, in fact. The downtown location of Huey’s sits just across 2nd Street from the hotel. Chrissi was looking forward to the famous chicken salad. Alas, they were out. So, she went with the World Famous Huey Burger with cheddar cheese, while I ordered the Bluez 57 Burger without the tomato, of course.
Goodness gracious. That was quite possibly the best burger I have ever had in my life. The bun was warm, buttered, and toasted. The meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Bleu cheese crumbles, onion straws, and lettuce. We had ordered some fried mushrooms with horsey sauce as an appetizer. I scooped some of this on the burger where it blended succinctly with the tangy Heinz 57 sauce and mayo. Flawless in its taste. Chrissi agreed. Best burger ever.
For dessert, we drove just a couple of minutes to The Cheese Cake Corner. More for the wife than I. But as we walked down the sidewalk to the shop, we passed this eclectic store of curiosities and collectibles called The Walking Pants. A wonderful shop that I could have spent the rest of the day in exploring the shelves to appease my own curiosity.
Memphis. A great place to stop on our trip. I look forward to the day we can go back and spend more time. Next time, we need to check out the National Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, the Memphis Pyramid, and maybe even get our blue suede shoes hopping with a stop at Graceland.