We briefly debated rerouting our trip. But there wasn’t anywhere within a reasonable distance where we could escape the heat. “How bad can it be?” we asked each other.
The answer is “very bad.”
A Flat Tire, A Blow Out, And The Kindness Of Strangers
Leaving Montgomery and heading for Huntsville, we had a flat tire. The tires were just over three years old, with very few miles on them. They looked brand new. And in case you’re wondering, Eric checks the tire pressure every morning before we travel. But apparently, very high temperatures on highways can do very bad things.
AAA sent someone out to change our tire. Lucky us, a tire store was only six miles away. We replaced the faulty tire and got back on the road after a quick inspection of the remaining tires.
“Still want to take the scenic route instead of the interstate?” asked Eric. “Of course!” said I. Six miles down the road, I yelled, “What’s that sound?” “What sound?” “THAT sound!!”
This was not just a flat. This was a rip-the-treads-off blowout. The good part is that we were on a peaceful country road. The even better part is that the explosion didn’t damage the trailer or cause a wreck.
AAA sent someone out again. The same guy, from the curiously named Lucky 13 Towing. “I should have eaten my Wheaties this morning,” he grunted, as he struggled to jack up our trailer for the second time. And then his floor jack blew a seal.
It was now 5:30, and the tire store closed at 6:00. I called, and must have sounded a bit teary, because the woman said, “Darlin’, are you safe? If you’re safe, don’t you worry. We’ll take care of you.”
And they did. They do not do service calls, but the owner came out with a heavy duty floor jack, removed the shredded tire and replaced it with our spare. We cautiously drove six miles back to the shop, not trusting our remaining tires. Jeff, the owner, (who doesn’t usually change tires) stayed until 7:30, long past closing time, to take care of us and replace all of our tires.
It all turned out well, thanks to the incredible kindness of strangers in Warrior, Alabama. Should you ever have a flat tire or a blow-out, I highly recommend that you try to plan it near Warrior Tire Pros. I’m kidding, of course—although if you need new tires and are nearby, these people are great.
This was more than just a tire fix, though. Sure, they benefitted by selling us five new tires. But the owner didn’t have to come out to help us 15 minutes before the shop closed. He didn’t have to stay an hour-and-a-half after closing to change our tires in sweltering 103 degree temperatures. We would have bought new tires from them even if we had to head to a motel for the night and return in the morning.
This was one of those experiences that nourishes my faith in humanity.
Our stay in Huntsville was brief, made even briefer by our late arrival due to our tire adventure.
With only one full day to explore, we chose the Huntsville Botanical Garden. Even though we arrived near opening time, it was so blazing hot that we scurried through the garden, seeking respite wherever we could find shade. It’s a lovely garden, but it was crazy hot. We’ve never experienced anything like it. And as you know, we live in Florida now, so that’s saying something.
Click on photos for a larger image
We enjoyed our wooded, spacious, private site at Monte Sano State Park. If you ever stay there, choose a site on the perimeter (site #44, our site, was one of the best). The park offers water and electric hookups, mostly nonexistent cell coverage (the outer loop where we were staying offered the only chance of connection), and some nice hiking trails. It was so hot that the only trail we explored was the Japanese garden on the morning we were leaving.
Memphis, Tennessee: Take Two
We spent three days in Memphis in 2015 and had a fabulous time. We were very much looking forward to a return visit.
In 2015, we listened to blues on Beale Street, greatly enjoyed the Rock ‘n’ Soul museum, had a blast on a high-energy tour of Sun Records Studio, and were inspired by the excellent Civil Rights Museum.
Our visit this time was less inspiring. It was so hot that no musicians were playing outdoors on Beale Street. We had high hopes for the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, but overall, felt it lacked “soul.” The best part of the museum is the ten-minute film at the entry. The exhibits were not particularly engaging, and there was a mind-numbing amount to read. Guided tours would improve the experience immensely.
We did find a couple of other interesting small diversions that gave us a break from staying cooped up in our trailer with the air-conditioner running. And we found some excellent barbecue. We ordered enough smoked chicken and pulled pork at Central BBQ to have plenty of leftovers for pulled pork tacos and a couple of days of lunch salads with smoked chicken. We did our best to avoid cooking in the trailer during the heat wave.
Lesser Known Memphis Attractions
The Dixon Gallery and Gardens is a lovely little respite and offered us an entirely different perspective of Memphis. The gardens are a shaded mix of beautifully designed plantings with an appealing array of sculptures and seating areas. The gallery, once the home of philanthropists Hugo and Margaret Dixon, houses a very nice collection of Impressionist art that was part of the estate they bequeathed to Memphis.
I would really like to have that polka dot sculpture for our backyard. I love polka dots.
And we paid a visit to the giant shiny pyramid in downtown Memphis. The 32-story building houses an overwhelmingly large Bass Pro Shop, complete with a (fake) cypress swamp. We made a beeline for the Ducks Unlimited Waterfowling Heritage Center, where we spent an enjoyable hour browsing the excellent exhibits focused on the history of waterfowl hunting and wetland conservation.
We particularly enjoyed the hundreds of antique and contemporary carved wooden decoys. Fortunately for the waterfowl and for us, there have been some forward-thinking people, starting in the early 1900s, who realized that if they didn’t do something quickly about limiting hunting and preserving wetlands, there would be no waterfowl left at all.
Surviving A Heat Wave
Our Arctic Fox trailer has excellent insulation, and our air conditioner keeps us comfortable even in 100+ temperatures. However, the A/C runs almost constantly when temperatures are that high.
“Isn’t that noise driving you crazy?” I asked Eric. “Just ignore it,” he answered. Well, I tried. When I found myself giving our A/C the evil eye, I immediately repented, fearing that it might decide to croak since I wasn’t being grateful enough.
The reality is that it’s uncomfortable to travel in excessive heat. I had moments during the first three weeks of this trip when I questioned why in the world we had left home. Truthfully, we would have been much more comfortable at home, in a house where we can roam around freely with central air-conditioning. And the temperatures were 15-20 degrees cooler in north Florida than in Alabama or Tennessee.
But as always, I’m glad we persevered, especially now that we’ve made it to Wisconsin and are in cooler temperatures. Traveling is harder than staying at home, but it’s still worth it.
Where We Stayed
For this visit to Memphis, we stayed at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park. Our friends Pam and John stayed here years ago, and highly recommended it. Although the park is actually in Arkansas, it’s only a 20-minute drive from downtown Memphis.
Our site was on the banks of the Mississippi beneath shade trees. We loved sitting outside and watching the boat traffic on the river. Barges, tug boats, and sternwheelers passed by at all times of day and night. (The opening photo of a sternwheeler was taken from our campsite.)
The RV park offers full hookups, level cement pads, a nice little free laundry, and Verizon is decent. The views are absolutely delightful from the waterfront sites. There are several sections to the park. When I called to reserve a site, I specifically asked for a waterfront site in the shade. The newer section staked out in the blazing sun would have been unbearable in the heat. We were in site 74 and loved it.