More Barges Passing My RV Home

Thursday August 13th 2020

The storm front that was threatening all of yesterday finally arrived in the predawn hours. The wind started to roar and my RV home was buffeted back and forth. I just had time to get the windows and vents closed before it started to rain. I went right back to sleep, but there was plenty of evidence of a big storm this morning.

A bench made from a single log located on one of the large grass fields along the Mississippi River.

It was a fifty fifty kind of day. It started off cloudy and ended very sunny. As usual, the dominant weather characteristic was the humidity. Every walk around the RV park or even a quick trip to the riverbank resulted in dripping sweat. Thankfully, the temperature peaked below ninety.

Blossom of the day.

This was lawn mowing day around the park. One of the nice characteristics of the park is all the open grass. Today we paid the price with all the noise from the mowing equipment. They use a small riding mower around the sites, but a big platform mower towed behind a tractor for the open areas. Since I never saw both units at the same time, I think it was the same guy switching back and forth between the two pieces of equipment. It was an all day activity.

Tug pushing a set of barges six long by six wide.
Huge three engine tug pushing at least 36 barges down river.
One of the smallest barges to pass by today.

The barge traffic in the river was particularly heavy today. On previous days very few barges passed by during the middle of the day. Today it started early and continued all day. One of the early down river units was one of the biggest I’ve seen. It looked to be composed of thirty six barges with a huge three engine tug pushing them along. The challenge of turning to follow the bend in the river was particularly apparent.

Are these windmill blades?

Later in the day a northbound lash up finally gave me a curious cargo to wonder about. The front barge had thirty huge white cylindrical to flat parts. I think they were windmill blades, but they didn’t look like the ones I’ve seen on the road. I’ll never know for sure, but it was fun to see something to speculate about.

Cyprus trees on the far side of one of the ponds. The resident Great Blue Heron is hiding under the trees.
Cropped to show the heron.

Overall, today was another fun day hanging around my RV home.

Barge Watching and a Non-Shopping Trip

Wednesday August 12th 2020

The day began with full cloud cover and haze looking out over the river. It wasn’t a full fog, just the visibly manifestation of the high humidity. The clouds kept the temperature from climbing for most of the day. Right at the hottest part of the day around 4PM, the clouds gave way to some intermittent sun. The temperature soared. A day that was in the low to mid eighties most of the day ended in the low nineties.

I am really enjoying watching all the barges getting pushed by the campground. The small barges getting pushed down river can slip quietly by before you even know they are passing, but the big rafted barges heading up stream announce their presence long before they get near. The engines on the tugs give off a deep vibrating rumble as they strain to push the barges against the current. They churn the water so deeply that the wake is still producing new waves several hundred feet behind the tug.

I drove into Memphis this afternoon to visit the Bass Pro Shops in the Pyramid just over the I-40 bridge into the city. I was curious what I might find in the end of summer sale I saw advertised. There wasn’t much merchandise that interested me, but I got to watch the alligators get feed. One of the ponds on the store floor has some three or four foot alligators. The staff were feeding them with a long metal pole. Judging by how quickly they snapped at the pole, it is a good thing the girls hands were a long way away. The fish in the other ponds weren’t as interesting as the alligators, but were still more so than the merchandise. Overall, the visit was about a six on a scale of 10.

One of the buildings in the campground is marked with the high water level from May of 2011.

Laundry Catch Up Day

Tuesday August 11th 2020

The day began hazy and humid. As the temperature climbed the haze gave way to blue sky with lots of fluffy white clouds. By mid afternoon the clouds took over the sky in the form of storm clouds. Thunderstorms were in the area from 2PM on, but they didn’t produce any real rain or wind until after 6PM. It has been raining consistently since.

The resident Great Blue Heron.

I got caught up on laundry today. Ever since the pandemic began, I’ve been behind on laundry. Two things have been conspiring to make doing laundry difficult. First is finding acceptable facilities. I’m being a little picky on cleanliness and occupancy of the laundry facilities. The bigger issue is having enough change to feed the machines. It takes too much planning to acquire quarters. Some of the campground office/stores aren’t dealing in cash, so I can’t ask for change. I didn’t have either of those problems here.

The laundry is in an eleven by seven room behind the restrooms in the flood mobile facilities. There are two washers and two dryers and best of all they are free. It is not often that I find a free laundry in my travels. Many campgrounds see the laundry as a source of revenue or an opportunity to out source the headache of maintaining the machines. I showed my appreciation for the free facilities by doing three loads of laundry. Later in the week I may strip the bed. The blanket could use a good washing.

In between the laundry and the rain I continue to watch the traffic in the river. I still haven’t seen anything other than tugs and barges. There are lots of different configurations of barges and tugs from singles to massive strings of barges. The other surprise is the water level in the river. It has gone down several feet since I arrived here on Sunday. There was water all the way across to the far shore on Sunday. This morning there were sand bars in the area from the center line to the far side. I don’t know everything that goes in to a river level forecast, but the current forecast has the water level dropping over the next month or so.

Hanging Around My RV Home

Monday August 10th 2020

The hot and humid weather has settled in. It was in the upper nineties with enough humidity for the temperature to feel like 106 according to the TV weather talkers. One nice thing about being along the Mississippi River is the breeze. A few degrees of cooling comfort came along with the breeze off the river.

My RV Home with the Mississippi River beyond.

Today was dedicated to finishing the set up tasks associated with a new location and a few chores around my RV home. The day began early with a lot of the RVs around me leaving early. Starting before 7AM I heard all of the ones that drove by on the loose gravel roads. My windows were open since I turned off the AC when I got tired of waking every time it cycled around 2AM. At least I got a few hours of solid sleep.

Pond behind my RV Home.

The RV park was well occupied last night, but there were only four or five other campers in my part of the campground by noon. Later in the day more RVs started to arrive. There are more here tonight than there were Sunday night. I didn’t expect this park to have as many on nighters. The proximity to Memphis makes it a good location for a two, three or more night stay to see all the tourist attractions. Maybe pandemic cautions are keeping others from doing urban tourist things like it is me.

Multi barge load heading up river.

In between chores I took a couple of walks around the park and wandered over to the river front to watch the tug boats do their thing. So far I’ve only seen tugs pushing barges and a couple of solo tug boats. I haven’t seen one recreational boat or live aboard private vessel go by. The Mississippi, at least in this area, is very much a working waterway.

Single barge load heading up river to Memphis.

A Short Moving Day

Sunday August 9th 2020

Today was a moving day. At a total distance of about 15 miles I won’t even call it a travel day. It still had all the packing and setup of a travel day, but none of the traffic and navigation issues associated with a long travel day. Packing and set up in the mid 90’s temperature with high humidity still weren’t fun.

I moved from a campground on the interstate northwest of Memphis in Arkansas to a campground a little southwest of Memphis, but still in Arkansas. I’m trading the sound of trucks on the interstate for the sounds of tugboats on the Mississippi River. I’m at Tom Sawyer’s RV park in West Memphis for the next week.

Site 64 at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park.

I’ve heard a lot about this park and wanted to experience it for myself. It is located on the wrong side of the levee on the side of the Mississippi River. Since it isn’t protected by the levee systems it floods just about every spring. This spring was no exception, the park was flooded. It is dry and well landscaped now. They seem to be ready for flood events as the restrooms and laundry are on wheels and other structures are elevated.

Tug pushing a full load of barges heading down river past Tom Sawyer’s RV Park.

The Mississippi river is a couple hundred feet from my RV home. I have a clear view of the river. It is very active. I’ve lost count of the number of tugs pushing barges I’ve seen so far. I’m looking forward to what else I might see pass by in the river.

Touring in Eastern Arkansas

Saturday August 8th 2020

The reprieve from the hot and humid weather is over. After nearly a week of cooler and drier than normal weather it was back to normal today. The temperature was in the low 90s with high humidity by the end of the day.

Soybeans ?

I took a drive to explore the area today. This is clearly the Mississippi River valley. It is very flat and low ground that probably flooded regularly before the levee system along the river was built. Today it is full of cultivated fields. I recognized some of the fields with corn, but most of them are filled with crops beyond my limited recognition. I suspect some of them are filled with soybeans, since that is a common crop in this area.

The rest of my day was spent reading and watching the PGA golf tournament on TV. The coverage followed most of the golfers for the entire round. They were on the air from 1PM to 9PM in this time zone. The commentators were trying hard to make a lot of lesser known players sound interesting for much of the day. T was something to watch.

It looks like this is going to be a long hot night. The power management system in my RV home just shutdown the power because of low voltage. One leg was reading 108 volts and the other was at 116 volts after the shutdown. The power in this RV park isn’t good enough for all the rigs trying to run their air conditioners. Once I turned off the AC it seems to be allowing the power to flow. Running the air conditioner on low voltage will damage the appliance. Hopefully, I’ll have enough airflow with the windows open and the fan on in the bedroom to sleep. I’m moving on tomorrow anyway.

Post Travel Day Recovery

Friday August 7th 2020

Today was basically a travel recovery day used to get acclimated to a new location. Last night it took a little while to get used to all the traffic after being away from roads on the Arkansas River for two weeks. This campground is on the side of busy Interstate 55 with an active train track somewhere in the area too. While I slept all night, I suspect it wasn’t a deep sleep. I was very slow to get going this morning.

My main accomplishment for the day was making a few more reservations. I made another four weeks of reservations at three different places. There is still a gap of a little more than two weeks in August that I haven’t booked to keep a little flexibility. I’m still bouncing back and forth between going through Tennessee or Mississippi as I head for Florida. I’m going to stay in the Memphis area for another week after I leave here on Sunday. Then …

A little color in the campground.

Walking around the campground today I observed another change that I attribute to the pandemic. There are not a lot of planted flowers in the campgrounds. I’ve noticed the absence of flower gardens at many of the campgrounds I’ve stopped at this summer. Campgrounds usually have flowers planted around the office and other buildings. Some even decorate the area between sites with planted flowers. This summer I’ve seen a lot of empty planters or bare dirt ground. Not being familiar with the campgrounds, I couldn’t be sure, but I stayed at this campground in the summer of 2018 and remember multiple flower gardens. This year they are empty. I suspect it is a question of cost or available staff to maintain the beds. The other possibility is timing. The whole season was in question when the flower beds should have been planted.

Travel Day to the Memphis TN Area

Thursday August 6th 2020

Today was a travel day of about 150 miles to the Memphis area. Since Maumelle Park has a 3PM checkout time, I took my time getting ready to leave. I also didn’t do as many tasks the day before travel as I usually complete. That was a mistake. I had plenty of time to do everything, but doing all the packing, the driving and the setup during the day takes a lot of energy. I’m very tired tonight.

I departed around 1PM. It is much later time than I usually hit the road. The only stop I made on the journey east was for gas about halfway to my destination. Traffic was heavy on Interstate 40 and the road conditions seem to deteriorate as I got closer to the Mississippi river. The road passes over a number of creeks and rivers. The transition from road to bridge and back are very uneven. It can really get the motorhome into a porpoising action until the shocks can regain control.

Site 33 at the Memphis KOA.

My destination for the next few days is the Memphis KOA. It is actually in Marion Arkansas. This is the same location I stayed at in the summer of 2018. I was even assigned the same site. It isn’t as nice as campground I departed, but it will do for the weekend. I’m still working on reservations for next week and beyond.

Last Day at Maumelle Park

Wednesday August 5th 2020

The weather forecasters weren’t kidding when they forecast bellow normal temperatures. I woke up this morning just before sunrise to close a few windows in my RV home. The temperature was in the sixties. Today’s high temperature was a little over eighty once the sun broke through the high cloud cover late in the day. Tonight is forecast to be similarly cool.

I said goodbye to the local Great Blue Heron.

This is my last full day here at Maumelle Park on the Arkansas river. It is hard to believe I’ve been here for two weeks. I’ve really enjoyed my stay. There is the right mix of relaxation, easy hikes and action on the river to watch. This was my second visit and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find a reason to stop here again.

I found the Amazon Locker at the Wholefoods store easily this time around. The part for my water pump was waiting in the same bin as my last pickup. I thought for a moment that I was going to have difficulties picking up the package. Just before I went to scan the bar code on my smart phone to open the locker my phone shutdown. The battery management hardware in my old phone decides out of the blue that there isn’t enough charge in phone battery and shuts down my phone. Usually I have to put it on the charger before it restarts. This time I got lucky and it restarted right up with about 80% battery life remaining. I’m going to have to put more effort into upgrading my phone. It’s almost five years old, so it’s time.

Calm water on the river.

Similar to yesterday, there was very little breeze today. The river was very calm. It seems to draw family fishing trips when it’s like this. Tonight there were several families along the banks of the river in the park. They all had lines in the water trying for an illusive fish. On the hotter, breezier nights there aren’t nearly as many people along the banks of the river. Tonight they even had some comic relief. Three adults with an old plastic peddle boat and an electric trolling motor attempted to cruise around in the river. The three people almost swamped the boat with their weight and the motor didn’t have the horsepower to move them. They got out fifty to one hundred feet from the boat launch before they decided to fight their way back to shore. The combination of peddle power and the motor got them back before anyone ended up in the river, but it took forever. When I left the show they were trying to decide which of the three was going to stay on land. This is the kind of entertainment I’m going to miss at this park.

Catching up on Grocery Shopping

Tuesday August 4th 2020

My sleep was interrupted last night by the arrival of a new neighbor. It isn’t unusual for people to arrive late in the ten to midnight range. This is particularly true at RV parks along the highway, but destination places like this don’t usually get late arrivals. In this case a trailer from Missouri arrived near 2AM last night. It pulled into the back in site next to mine. They weren’t particularly noisy setting up but voices carry and tend to wake me up. The occupants got up late and left early in the afternoon. Just another one of the odd things you see in campgrounds around the country.

Today was a resupply day. In my attempt to minimize my trips to the grocery store it had been seventeen days since my last excursion into the maze of food. I still had plenty of things in the freezer, but the stuff that makes it a meal was starting to get low. I was out of OJ and bread, getting low on Milk and butter substitute and generally needed lots of little deserts. The nice modern and relatively large Walmart wasn’t very busy. It also wasn’t very well stocked. Some of the stocking issue was the same not keeping up with demand problem I’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, but there also seemed to be a different focus on the volume of product stocked. For example, the amount of space allocated for water wasn’t anywhere near as large as at other Walmart stores. Every store is different and I get some entertainment from comparing and contrasting them.

Upstream bound tug and barge.

The weather today was the first of several days with below normal high temperatures. It seemed to draw a lot of people out of the city to the enjoy the river this afternoon and evening. There were several family picnics going on this evening in the day use area of the park. Along the banks of the river a number of family were fishing (not catching). Overall it was a nice evening along the river.