25 April 2016

The Birthplace of Jazz

Memphis TN

Hernando De Soto Bridge

The I-40 took us across the Hernando De Soto Bridge and into Memphis. We prefer to have space and vegetation around us when we camp and we found a gem just south of the city. You enter the park through a tunnel of green trees which are gorgeous and makes you think of coolness, but when we got out we are hit with a blanket of humidity. Totally understandable since it’s supposed to rain the whole time we are here. Looking online there were lots of sites available so we didn’t book. The birds chatter constantly all day long and the setting is very peaceful.

Lots of greenery - the road to the campground

The park’s name comes from Thomas O Fuller who dedicated his life to empowering and educating African Americans. This was the first park that opened to African Americans east of the Mississippi river and was originally called the Shelby County Negro State Park. It reminds you that we are in the South now and memories of the bigotry portrayed in Hollywood movies come flooding back. Thoughts of segregation aside, everyone is allowed into the park now and it’s a really nice place. One of the camp hosts told us a story of how he pulled into a campground late one night. In the morning when they saw him, the other campers put out their Confederate flags. He got their message and decided to leave, why would you want to be around people like that anyway? I don’t think they will ever live in harmony in this part of the world. The area where we are staying is a poor neighbourhood and the houses are small and run down but tidy. All the locals around here are African American, and we were the only Caucasians in the supermarket, even though they were extremely polite and helpful Lindsay felt uneasy. It turns out that there are murders in Memphis every day.

I had seen Campedium.com in the wireless networks when I had logged on. Having posted a few campground reviews on their site, I knew what it was. I sent an email to see if it was them but didn’t get a reply. Up for a challenge, Lindsay asked me what rig they drove. I had no idea, but if I had to guess I said – it would be that airstream over there. So he knocks on their door and doesn’t come back for an hour; a catch up is organised for the next night.

Sun Studios where Elvis recorded his first song

I wanted to photograph the Hernando De Soto Bridge; it turns out he was a Spanish explorer who was the first European to cross the Mississippi river around 1539. At the Chucalissa Indian museum we learned that he wasn’t a very nice person and left a lot of bloodshed in his wake. The best view of the bridge was from the roof of the Madison hotel. There is a bar on the roof that has a perfect view of the Mississippi River and they didn’t mind me setting up my tripod. There were too many clouds the night we went so the sunset was less than perfect and with thunderstorms forecast the following night there wasn’t any point in going back, other than to have a drink but we had drinks already planned with our neighbours.

Beale Street is the place to go for bright lights, restaurants and jazz clubs, so we checked out some of the local entertainment and tried their pork ribs which they are supposedly famous for. 

The McDaniel band at Juke Joint
Bright lights of Memphis

While I like Elvis movies because they’re fun, I wasn’t a huge fan, so I didn’t need to pay to go and see an old 70’s decorated house.


Catching up with Leigh and Brian was a lot of fun. Brian makes a mean Margarita with Tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Unbelievable good but lethal, so lucky we didn’t need to drive anywhere as Lindsay had two. They have a grand plan for their business and it will be interesting to follow their journey. If you RV in the USA, Canada or Mexico and need to see find a place to camp, check out their site at Campendium

Brian & Leigh

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  1. We loved Memphis -- we were there last fall, and also stayed at T.O. Fuller Park. As you said, it was a beautiful, peaceful green space and so convenient for exploring Memphis. Along with exploring the music scene on Beale (tame on a weeknight), we toured Sun City (an absolute blast) and the Civil Rights Museum (excellent, and very moving). I highly recommend both, should you ever return to Memphis. We liked it so much that we'll go back. Love your sunset photo of the bridge!

    1. Thank you Laurel, yes we heard yesterday that Sun Studios was worth doing. We will be back in early 2018 when we do the South East, so will keep both of those in mind. We just arrived in Asheville which I think is your hometown. The lady at our RV park said that two days isn't enough so we might have to come back here too. We are of course going to the Biltmore...not sure what else at this stage