Arkansas & TennesseeJanuary 5, 2022
Continuing straight East, the road was taking us through Arkansas. The first night we found a pretty spot right on Arkansas river, in Ridge River Campground which was free. The park area was quite beautiful.
One thing about Arkansas… Is it always this insanely hot and humid? I can’t say I have ever been in a place that hot & humid before, it was unimaginable. Luckily, we were driving most of the daytime and only got to the camp spot at sunset, so the heat dropped a little.
The night descended, but the humidity stayed. Hundreds of lightning bugs lit up the air – a magical scene. We set up the tent with the fly on. Sure enough, in the morning all dew was down – as if it has rained hard all night.
Next morning I attempted fishing in Arkansas river but wasn’t able to catch anything on my bread bait. Whether I was in the wrong spot, or my shark-sized hooks were too intimidating for the little Arkansas fishies… I will never find out.
On our way through Arkansas the car problems persisted – the AC went out. Perfect timing! We found an auto repair service called Kittle’s Garage in Little Rock and brought poor Ёжmobile straight there.
The old man with white hair and beard gave me a Gatorade and took Ёжmobile for a spin around the block, and by a seamless swing of a magic wand the AC came right back, while the mechanic was at the wheel. What?! Great! The man came back and in a thick Southern accent I could barely decipher said: “Go on and get the hell out of Arkansas!” And so we did.
Next on our bay back to NYC was Tennessee with its vibrant music scenes of Memphis and Nashville. Both cities were clean but of the music scene we saw nothing, thanks to COVID. Everything was closed, and the only places open to exploration were city parks and empty streets. Thanks to Spencer in Memphis for letting us camp out on your lawn.
We were approaching Appalachian Mountains and found a perfect place to spend the night on the edge of Tennessee – a mysterious, enigmatic Jackson Island. It wasn’t exactly an island, but a peninsula in Rhea Springs reservoir. I can’t say the namesake was 100% the reason why we chose to drive there, but it was 80% for sure. July 3rd was on the calendar.
I have never seen a piece of nature occupied by so many campers simultaneously in my life. Numerous RVs with tents, barbecues, lights, portable showers… It seemed more like a camp megapolis in the middle of the lake.
We drove a couple of loops around Jackson Island trying to find a place to pitch the tent, which in comparison with everything else would have been absolutely lost. All in vain.
To summarize the experience: we found a tiny piece of land in between two giant tents and next to a parked RV with a loud generator running. It was 11pm. Here is the conversation between Jackson and a large white middle-aged woman, the owner of the RV & the generator.
“Hello! I’m sorry. Is this your generator?”
“Yes, what’s up?”
“Just curious, is it going to be running all night?”
“Yep, all night”.
Okaaaaay, off with you and your generator, and the entirety of Jackson Island, we’re outta here.
Party hard! COVID19? Haven’t heard of it!
We drove away and around and found a comparatively quiet place across the water from Jackson Island. It was full of trash (both literal and the human kind), but that fact was only discovered in the morning, after a man on the horse woke us up at 6:30am by riding in the water directly next to our tent. I jumped out, thinking we were under a strike and I wasn’t wrong! – the mighty middle-aged overweight white knight stopped his horse briefly so it could take a huge dump in the pristine waters… What a wonderful start of the day!
Luckily, the Smokies were up next. Perhaps, the people would be a little better over there?
NEXT: ASHEVILLE & GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK