Volume Three (Tennessee, Arkansas)

Howdy all. Tune in to our intrepid travelers, as the six hippies and their '67 and '70 campers make their pilgrimage to Graceland...
After leaving the company of Uncle Joel and Tuscaloosa, we headed up the road to Memphis, to visit the King. (or at least his house). We turned 1000 miles of our trip along a small Alabama highway, and, soon thereafter decided that food was in order. We pulled off the 2-lane highway at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, and went in to buy vegetables. Ah, nothing like being in a parade. The employees at the front actually called some of their friends to the front over the intercom, to come check us out. Heck, we weren't even dirty yet! They proceeded to gawk, and we of course smiled, and bought our wonderful sandwich fixin's, which we ate in the parking lot. That, of course was even better, as then the people inside *and* outside the store could observe our proceedings. Ah, fun for everyone...
Later that afternoon, we arrived in Memphis, and went to AAA to take care of a few things. I gave Neil the "Hell on Wheels" award, for leading me across several lanes of traffic on more than one occasion, to make a quick turn. Nothing like being following someone who's lost in a BIG city...
At AAA, we put our money into travelers' checks. We had 2 separate funds- a food fund and gas fund. Everyone contributed equally to those, and then kept out some spending money. Having done that, we knew we would always have money to at least drive and eat, both of which were necessary for the trip.
Graceland was next, although Neil, Jennifer, and I were too overwhelmed to actually go inside (I won't say whether it was the King, or his pricetag that did that...). We instead proceeded to get lost in the very *bad* section of Memphis, which adjoins Graceland. Nothing like young hoodlums throwing things at your mobile of happiness. I guess we just weren't quite putting out the right vibe. Happily, we made it out unscathed, picked up our counterparts, and headed for a little state park outside town. As ugly clouds gathered overhead, we picked a campsite near the bathhouse, and focused on dinner. Alas, it seems that our flying bloodsucking insect friends had plans for us for dinner as well. I have never seen air so thick with mosquitoes in my life. Even after dousing ourselves with copious amounts of repellant, we were still being eaten alive.
Luckily for us, a fierce thunderstorm came along to chase away the bugs. I guess they can't swim too well, because they all seemed to disappear in the downpour. After a futile effort to set up the tarp, we decided to call it an evening, and retreated to the busses for an early night.
The next day, the bugs and rain were gone, leaving us a pleasant morning for driving on. Neil had been to Hot Springs, Arkansas before, and wanted to return to dig for quartz crystals, which are highly indigenous to the area. So, off we went to the boyhood home of Mr. Bill Clinton himself.
Arriving late in the day, we procured food, and headed for an Army Corps of Engineers recreation area on Lake Ouachita. We arrived, and as we scouted for a site, a fellow living in a schoolbus invited us to share his site. Over dinner, we learned that he was going to the Rainbow Gathering, as were several other folks that stayed in the area. We were going that way later, so we shared stories until bedtime.
Quartz Crystals are highly popular in various forms of jewelry, and are really cool in general. They are, uh, crystal clear , and have clean edges and smooth faces. The sizes range from 1/4 inch to several inches, and a huge vein of them is sitting under Hot Springs. Everyone but Jennifer and me left to go to a pay mine, but we had a hot tip from the locals about a free spot, so we headed off to find it. This was Nellie's (my bus) first chance to tackle muddy dirt roads, and she loved it. The spot was down a side road off a small paved road. It was obvious no one had been there in months, so we sat down and basically picked the crystals up off the ground where rain had cleaned the loose dirt off them. It is amazing to see the thousands of shiny points of light lying on the ground. We picked up some excellent specimens, and then went to catch up with the rest of the folks downtown at the park.
We arrived at the park, complete with its public hot spring, to find many other hippies all hanging around. It seemed that Hot Springs was quite the place for us traveling types to meet up. We met folks from all over the country, and proceeded to hang out there for the evening. Well, we actually stayed there for the next 2 days, having a couple locals show us other spots for digging crystals, hiking, and swimming.
Finally, though, we knew it was time to head on, as New Mexico was calling us. Join us next week as we visit the UFO museum, and rebuild an engine in Albuquerque.... Happy Friday everyone!