On Monday, May 10, we woke up a little concerned about gas shortage murmurs. The day before we attempted to get gas on the way to Mark’s abode, but the station was out of fuel at most of the pumps. Hmmmm. On the way back to Petunia, we stopped at another station that had fuel, but only Premium. We went ahead and filled up there. We knew about the pipeline hack, but from all accounts, the shortage was created by crazy people running out and filling up everything they have with gas. It’s the toilet paper shortage all over again! (Over the next few days we even heard about people putting gas in trash and shopping bags. What the hell??!!) We decided to continue on our planned route and keep an eye on the situation.

We hit the road around 7 AM, anticipating a LONG trip. Typically we limit driving days to around 200 miles, but in order to make it to the next place in time, we were going to go about 400 miles. UGH!! Yes, it should be in all caps! We jumped on I-10 and hopped over to Mobile, Alabama, then headed north on US-45, crossing into Mississippi and passing through Meridian. We skirted Columbus on ALT US-45 and stopped for lunch at a Subway attached to a convenience store. We had to wait quite a while because the young lady was working alone. Her manager had to leave and staff another store alone because…again…they can’t find anyone to actually WORK!! While waiting, we talked to a truck driver who was hauling wood. He said they are working like crazy to keep up with demand, and that all of the mills he sees are full of lumber. He said he just didn’t understand all of the news about a shortage. A second hmmmm for the day.

Back on US-45, we continued north through Tupelo and Corinth, then crossed into Tennessee on TN-57 to our destination for the next few nights, Pickwick Landing State Park. After setting up, it was time to just veg for the evening. We were happy to see that, once we got away from the coast, there weren’t any lines for fuel or stations with pumps out. It was still concerning, though.

You know, for me there are three things that really hurt…ear aches, eye aches, and tooth aches. Tuesday one of my teeth decided to act up. The day before, when I bit down on something (not even hard, honest), one of my teeth felt odd. This morning it was sore, but not terrible. Ugh! Just hoped it would go away! With the filing deadline fast approaching, I had some tax work to take care of. In the afternoon we took a ride down to The Restaurant at Pickwick Landing (inside the hotel) for early supper. It was pretty empty with just one other customer at the time, but the service and food were good, except my green beans, which were way too salty. The view, however, was awesome out across the lake to the dam. The bad news, though, was the tooth was worse. Uh-Oh!

Back at Petunia, I was just getting back to work when my phone rang showing Uncle Wyatt’s number. I answered, but instead of he or Aunt May’s familiar voice, there was what sounded like a crazy person speaking an Asian language on the other end. I asked who it was a couple of times, then hung up. I was still trying to figure out how someone co-opted my uncle’s number when it rang again. This time, Uncle Wyatt asked me why I hung up on him. I told him because he sounded like a crazy person! He cracked up! Still playing practical jokes at almost 83! LOL! While on the phone, I got the number for a local dentist from Aunt May, then we made plans to meet the next day.

Wednesday I was back to my usual schedule, which meant laundry. But first, finding a dentist was the priority. I called three, including the one Aunt May referred, to no avail. Then I reached the office of Stacy R. Wilkerson in Savannah, Tennessee. I knew the moment the young lady answered the phone that they would figure it out. It was in her voice. After consulting with the doctor, they asked me if I could be there in 45 minutes. Absolutely!!! Turns out the tooth in question has already had quite a bit of work, which means that 1) we try antibiotics for a week and see what happens, and 2) if that doesn’t work, we pull it. Then after it heals, possibly an implant. Pooh! The doctor was really great, though, and so was his staff. I was in and out in about 30 minutes with prescription in hand. Oh, and get this…they gave me his card on the way out in case I needed him. The emergency number on the back is his CELL PHONE! Who does that these days??!! I headed over to Walgreens to get the meds, then to the Suds Your Duds Laundromat to get the chore done. Covid has changed this place since I was here a couple of years ago, and the chairs are sorely missed. The attendant said the owner will be putting stuff back to normal soon. I hope so. There were a few benches outside, but only one inside where it was cool. It took a little longer than planned, because a machine malfunctioned mid-cycle, but I was back at Petunia by 2:00 PM, and we headed over to visit with Uncle Wyatt and Aunt May after getting everything squared away. We visited for a couple of hours, then headed out to Top O’ the River for a catfish and shrimp supper. We’ve eaten there before, but didn’t realize it until later. The food is good, fried dinners, but the real winner is the slaw and jalapeño cornbread brought out first and served in abundance. MW would probably add the bowl of pickled onions to that list, too. After a nice meal, we headed back to their house to visit a little longer before heading for the hills.

It’s funny the things you remember from your childhood. As a kid, I saw Uncle Wyatt as the maverick; the tough guy; the scrapper; the one you weren’t quite sure about. He also had a sly grin that lit up his whole face, and you just knew he was almost always up to something. I’ve only seen him at the occasional family gathering, wedding, or funeral, until the last couple of years when we have come through Savannah to visit. When I hugged him goodbye, the smell of his cologne took me back. It reminded me of that laugh, his crazy side, and him joking around with my Dad, his other siblings, and us kids. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to bottle someone’s scent? I don’t think there is a more powerful trigger than smell, and it would make it much easier to pull up the little details. What a great thing that would be for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients?! (My Granddaddy Harrison used the old, yellow Listerine every day. Even now, 24 years after he left us, I get at least a dozen images of him every time I smell that version of the stuff.)

On Thursday we didn’t have too far to go, so we checked out the rest of Pickwick Landing State Park before hitting the road. With 1,416 acres, it is a beautiful place. Located on Pickwick Lake just south of the dam and lock, the park offers a variety of recreational activities including paddling, boating, fishing, golf, disc golf, hiking, tennis, and swimming. Accommodations include a hotel (with the previously mentioned restaurant) and cabins, as well as the campground. There are 48 wooded sites with tables, grills, and electric/water (14 with 20/30/50, 30 with 20/30, and 2 ADA with 20/30). There are also a primitive campground and picnic area on the north side of the lake with 33 sites. While the main campground is wooded and very pretty, the sites need quite a bit of work. They are very old with broken paving that is extremely un-level in most instances. For our site (33), it was easiest to put one side of Petunia on the pavement and the other on the gravel to get anywhere near level enough to start the leveling process. While we were there, we saw a group of people walking around taking pictures and conferring, and later found out they were from an engineering firm that is working up an improvement plan. The process is just starting, though, so it is at least a couple of years down the road. The bathhouses were clean and well-maintained. Once the sites are repaired, this will be a really nice place for both couples and families to stay. Counce and Savannah are nearby, and there is a lot to do in the area including the Shiloh and Corinth Civil War battlefields. For this visit in May, 2021, it was $80.75 for three nights for 30amp with water.

Squirrel…in the last week or so we were driving along after a heavy rain with small, low-hanging tree limbs smacking Petunia’s top. I was worried about the cell signal extender antenna, attached near the top of the ladder on the back left. We whacked the heck out of that thing before and broke the outside casing. In the old days, that would call for some duct tape, but now we have a new tool in the belt…Flex Tape. MW (Mr. Wonderful) climbed up there and wrapped that casing up good. This time it was hit hard enough to bend the mount, but it didn’t break the tape. My Dad2 used Flex Seal to redo his older RV roof, too. I’m thinking it’s probably a good idea just to have one of everything they make onboard, just in case.

Another nice surprise at the park were the birds of prey housed beside the Visitor’s Center. All were injured and are being taken care of until they can, hopefully, be released back into the wild. In addition to those below, there was an American Black Vulture that was, and I never thought I would say this, beautiful!

After taking a few minutes to check them out, we headed up to Savannah to pick up US-64 west, then caught US-45 north. At Jackson, Tennessee, we found a terrific spot for lunch, Rock ‘n Dough Pizza & Brewery. I’m SERIOUS…this place was AWESOME! It was too early in the day to sample the beer, but the pizza was off the chain! Oh, and we tried the pretzel appetizer, too. Yum!! They offer plenty of options from burgers and wraps to salads, grinders, and pasta, but did I mention the pizza???? We went with a 50/50 split of the Stallion and the Plants. Both were darned good, but the latter was the winner. (I never thought I’d pick just veggies over meat, but there you go.) There are five locations around Tennessee, so keep an eye out and absolutely STOP. After lunch we caught US-412 through Dyersburg, Tennessee, then CR-183 over to Reelfoot Lake State Park, our destination for the next few days.

As soon as we arrived at the site, I hopped out to start my job. We both have our arrival and departure chores, and mine include guiding MW in and getting Petunia level. We’ve actually gotten pretty good at it, if I must say so myself. In this case, I was going to need to use leveling blocks on one side, so I had him back up a little further in order to roll Petunia forward on the blocks. As soon as I signaled for MW to stop, the neighbor, who had been sitting in a chair watching, hollered that he needed to move forward. He then jumped up to come over and give me direction. I was doing my best to keep a smile on my face as I continued with my “stop” signal. Meanwhile, he told me to tell MW to move forward so that the rear stabilizers wouldn’t be over the concrete tire stop rail. Really?! I really am normally nice to strangers, but at that point I turned to him and said rather tersely, “I do this twice a week, EVERY WEEK! Seriously, TWICE. A. WEEK!” I did realize he was trying to be helpful, but dang, we aren’t new at this, and I don’t give off an “I don’t know what I’m doing vibe”. He returned to his chair, and I finished the set up. Later, after nice Talisa reemerged, he popped his head around and introduced himself, and everything was fine.

Friday I got a bit more work done in anticipation of the filing deadline while simultaneously making Chili For A Crowd, a recipe from Peg Jones that is awesome! The weather was breezy and just about perfect, so we walked around the park. At one point I kept hearing this buzzing that sounded like a bunch of bees/hornets, so I was on the lookout. Turned out to be a drone flying overhead that the birds weren’t too happy about. Back at camp, we hung out waiting for the arrival of our friends Lori and Jimmy Grimm. They’ve previously been introduced here, so I won’t repeat, but suffice to say I was pretty excited. We were visited by a group of three mallards and one brown duck several times during the weekend. The first time, they just walked up and one sat down about 10′ from where we were sitting. People might just be feeding them too much! The Grimms arrived in time for dinner, followed by hanging out and catching up. When it got a little buggy, we headed over to check out their place. (I definitely recommend something for mosquitos and other flying pests at this place!)

Lori and Jimmy have been talking about getting a travel trailer for quite a while now, and it finally happened. This is the first of what I hope will be lots of weekends together. They have a Heritage Glen travel trailer named Myrtle that is considerably larger than Petunia (31′ fifth wheel, 1 slide). The bedroom is in the front (from the outside) and set up much like ours, but they have the one thing I would love…a closet slide out. (I’m making a list in case we ever get another one!) The seating area is in the back with slides on both sides, and the kitchen is near the middle beside the door with a peninsula counter. It’s a LOT of space, for sure. They’ve taken her out a few times before now, but son Ben went with Lori to do the setup since Jimmy typically works late. This was the first time he actually backed that big thing into a site, and he did it like a pro! (Although he did note later that he prefers the arrival with everything already done. LOL) It is always nerve-wracking knowing that all of the other campers are watching and you are new at it. (In fact, on Sunday when the mass exodus began, we watched this guy towing a boat try multiple times and for more than 30 minutes to get it backed into a difficult spot. His buddy was yelling directions and not really helping too much, so he finally threw up his hands and parked on the grass along the edge of the road.)

Saturday morning was my day to cook, so it was breakfast bowls with spicy sausage, eggs, grits, and cheese. They are easy and yummy for camping and gave me a chance to crank up the Blackstone. By late morning Lori’s son Ben and crew arrived to hang out for the day. It was good to see them and amazing to see how big the kids have grown. They certainly got a lot of use out of the playground. Later MW and I headed out to take a drive around Reelfoot Lake in hopes of seeing eagles. We drove along the Levee Road and in to an overlook, but no luck. We did scare up a huge flock of pelicans, though! We also took a road into a really swampy area at the north of lake, which was pretty cool. A boardwalk too us out to an overlook for a great view of the amazing cypress trees and lots of water lilies.

Lori and crew were off exploring the Visitor’s Center, but returned shortly after us. The Ben Grimm crowd checked out the catfish restaurant down the way for dinner, but we were treated to homemade corn tamales (Lori gets them regularly from a friend) with roasted veggies…amazing! Later Jimmy made a Dairy Queen run (about 5 minutes away), but MW and I stuck with the angel food cake and strawberries that Lori brought.

Sunday morning Lori and Jimmy cooked bacon, sausage strips, and pancakes, including a chocolate keto version that was pretty darned good. We visited and watched the Sunday morning exodus until it was time for them to pack up and leave. I’ll admit to being sad the weekend went so quickly, but we will see them again soon, I’m sure. We relaxed outside until it got too stuffy, then I spent some time getting caught up and doing final tax filing. Before bed, we did a little pre-flight in preparation for our planned LONG drive down to Louisiana in the morning.

Reelfoot Lake State Park is a little different, but pretty cool with a really interesting history. In 1811/1812, a series of bad earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a short while, basically flooding a forest. After the river returned to its normal path, the 15,000 acre Reelfoot Lake was left behind. The ecosystem is totally unlike anything else in Tennessee, and is home to mostly wading and shore birds, along with eagles. January and February are prime American bald eagle seasons with thousands of the giant birds descending on the shallow lake. In the fall, hundreds of white pelicans migrate through. There is no swimming in the lake, but boating and fishing are big. There are occasionally canoe and pontoon boat tours offered, too. Other activities include the Reelfoot Eagle Festival in February, hiking, bird watching, and the Museum and Nature Center. The park is actually spread out in multiple sites around the lake, so there are lots of opportunities to see different environments. Accommodations include cabins, meeting rooms, pavilions, and two campgrounds. The Airpark North Campground has 14 RV sites that accommodate up to 35′ units with 30-amp electric and water, plus another 10 primitive, tent-only sites. A bathhouse with hot showers and a dump station are there, too. This campground is pretty remote, near a boat ramp, and would be a great location for a quiet fishing trip. The South Campground has 86 paved RV and tent sites with 20/30/50-amp electric and water. There are three bathhouses onsite, but one was closed during our visit. One had hot showers, restrooms, laundry area, and dishwashing area. The other had hot showers and restrooms. Other amenities include a boat ramp, fish cleaning house, pavilion and playground. (A recent storm had taken down several large trees, so there was cleanup going on in sections of this campground during our visit.) Nearby are a restaurant, boat rentals, and bait sales. Also note, Reelfoot isn’t too far from Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee, which would be a great place to take the kiddos. (We went there on one of our prior visits.) This stay in mid May 2021 cost $131.22 for four nights.

That’s it for now. Next up…Texas, The Niece, and Dr. Pepper. See you on the path!


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