Down to Memphis

Trip Start May 01, 2010
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Trip End May 29, 2010


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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brief visit yesterday morning to the Louis & Clark visitor center in Illinois, opposite the confluence. The staff at the center thought Cash looked like L&C's Newfoundland, Seaman, who accompanied the expedition. Unfortunately, because of flooding, the confluence is invisible. The two rivers have overflowed and it looks like a huge lake. So we headed downriver, stopping long enough to take a photo of the Gateway Arch and get some new maps from AAA.

We saw a sign standing in the middle of what appeared to be a shallow lake a mile from the river: "211 Acres For Sale." I wonder if it includes a REALLY big pump to drain the land.

We visited the “susse” (“sweet” or “cute” in German) river town of Ste. Genevieve. St. Gen, as the locals call it, is one of the oldest towns on the river and features some of the oldest preserved buildings. Notable are three houses built in poteaux-der-sole construction, which uses vertical logs resting on a sill atop a limestone foundation. Log cabins normally are built by stacking logs horizontally. Three of the five p-d-s houses in existence are in St. Gen. The 90-degree temperatures forced us to abbreviate our visit and we were off to visit the Cave Winery.

The name is a misnomer. They don’t make wine in the Cave, they just party there. We sampled five or six wines, bought a couple of bottles, and had a great conversation with the “vinista” minding the store. Then we were on our way south to Cape Girardeau.

The Cape is a pleasant river town, notable for Cape Rock, the site upon which a temporary trading post was built in 1733 by Jean Baptiste de Girardot. The advent of the steamboat in 1835 led it to become the biggest port on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis.

Our next stop was New Madrid, notable for two things: an earthquake that altered the course of the Mississippi, and a major Civil War battle. The earthquake was in 1803, about 13 years after the town was founded, and actually changed the river’s direction so that it now doubles back on itself, executing an almost 360-degree turn to the west and actually flowing north again for a short distance.

This bend in the river played a huge role in a Civil War battle some 60 years later. The Confederates held Island 10 in the northern loop of the river, and its guns prevented passage of Union vessels south from St. Louis. Union forces under General John Pope were able to capture New Madrid and cut a canal (see photo) across the narrow neck of the river’s loop, to eventually capture Island 10. The Union victory marked the first time the Confederate army lost a position on the Mississippi River in battle.

Speaking of Memphis, we completed our day’s journey south of the city, not far from Graceland.

Today: On down to Vicksburg for two days there.
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Comments

Josh on

Cave drinking, how susse.

Jim Brams on

Hope you two have already been in the Arch because if you haven't, it'd be terrible to be that close and not do it. Many years since I've been there but the Rube Goldberg vertical-horizontal elevators that take you up are fun but possible clausterphobic if you're so affected.

Dick Crockett on

Susse drinking by a susse couple, Josh. Wonder if Cash is getting any? Wine, that is.

Suzie Raeder on

I agree. The arch is something to see. Amazing.

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