Memphis But No Time for Graceland

Soldier's Monument at the Gettysburg National Cemetery

My thanks as always to all those that visit here and for your words of praise.

I’m in Memphis, Tennessee tonight at a truck stop along Interstate 40 after running a load of footwear from Dexter, Maine to Mabelvale, Arkansas, a little community just southwest of Little Rock. I dropped my trailer early last night at a Dillard’s Department Store Distribution Center and then spent the night in nearby Benton. While here in Memphis I’d love to visit Elvis’ Graceland but there’s no time this trip to venture the less than ten mile distance. Where would I park anyway?

As I drove into Little Rock yesterday, along southbound I-30, I crossed the Arkansas River and could see a short distance to the east the Clinton Presidential Center.  Set along the banks of the river within a park setting the building is a bit unique with a large section elevated above the ground. As much as I tried I really didn’t find the architecture all that impressive. But the huge and even dramatic First Pentecostal Church nearby more than made up for it.

First Pentacostal Church - Little Rock, AkAfter picking up loads today at two different locations in “Clinton Country” I’ll be on my way tomorrow to Hammond, Indiana just south of Chicago. My cargo includes Black & Decker appliances, as well as baby walkers and high chairs made by a local Arkansas company, all bound for Sears and K-Mart.

I’ve certainly seen my share of the northeast and especially the New England states the last few weeks. Twice in twenty days I’ve been as far north as Maine. The only two states in New England I have yet to see are Vermont and Rhode Island. Sooner or later I suppose I’ll make it. It’s amazing how quickly one can travel across several states in so short a time in the east and you gotta love those New Englanders and their distinct accents!

During those trips I’ve come within 50 miles of the Big Apple and slightly further from Boston. As for N.Y.C., I’m saving that adventure for a week from Saturday when Mercedes and I will be visiting one of my best friends from Seattle there. I don’t expect a lot of hospitality while in New York however, but at least I won’t be driving into town in a big rig. Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity soon to take in the sights in historic Boston as well.

Speaking of historic places… in addition to my recent visit to our nation’s capital, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit two Civil War battlefields with Mercedes. For a long time, since first seeing Ken Burn’s 1990 outstanding documentary series on the war, I’ve been a bit of a Civil War buff and have read several books on the subject. I especially enjoy visiting these historic places with someone else whose interest, patience and curiosity are the same as my own.

On Sunday August 26, after my week-long furlough in Washington, D.C., while on our way from Falls Church (Virginia) to my truck parked at our Richmond terminal, Mercedes and I made a spur-of-the-moment stop along I-95 at the Fredericksburg battlefield. Located halfway between the Union capital of Washington and the Confederate capital of Richmond, the town was of high strategic value during those dark days. We spent a couple of hours there roaming the historic markers of what remains of the battlefield, as well as the tranquil National Cemetery where many of that battle’s dead are buried. During one single day in December of 1862 there were 18,000 casualties at Fredericksburg, among them four Generals, two from each army. It was disappointing to learn that much of the original field of battle, where many soldiers fell, is now occupied by homes and other buildings built as the city prospered and grew.

Then, just last Saturday, I stopped along Pennsylvania’s I-81 and parked the truck at the state’s “Welcome Center” on the Maryland border. Mercedes made the 90 minute drive up from Virginia and we headed for Gettysburg about 40 miles away. Quite unique from any other historic area I’ve had the opportunity to visit. Gettysburg is big and the open battlefield is preserved with numerous markers, monuments and statues spread across a number of square miles. All however are easily accessible by car. Many original buildings, still with their battle scars, remain in the area and are used as residences by Park Rangers to prevent vandalism.

We arrived mid-afternoon but wanting to take in the sight on a tour bus, and really not having enough money to do so, we decided to put off spending much time on the battleground. Instead we took the shuttle to Dwight Eisenhower’s nearby farm which the President and former five-star General bought following his retirement from the military in 1950. Just 18 miles from the Presidential retreat “Camp David,” Maryland, and adjacent to the Gettysburg battlefield, the home and it’s surroundings are, to my way of thinking, ideally situated with an incredible and wide ranging view of the distant mountains. What a beautiful and peaceful location for retirement! I especially appreciated walking through the house where “Ike” and Mamie’s original furnishings and accessories were, just the same as when they lived there.

Later Mercedes and I visited one of the two Gettysburg visitor centers and walked some of it’s streets as we made plans for our next visit. A highlight was a walk through the National Cemetery and seeing where Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address, the spot marked by the Soldier’s National Monument pictured at the top of this posting. It’s a nice little town and worthy of a couple of days to see all that it offers. My goal while I’m “long-hauling” it is to visit every major battlefield of the Civil War and as many Presidential Libraries as I can.

Keep those emails coming. You’ll hear from me again soon, and thanks again for stopping by. May your travels be safe and as enjoyable as my own!

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