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08/14/2001 Entry: "Ride West--Day One (Monday, Aug. 6)"

Begin: Atlanta, GA
End: West Memphis, AR
Distance: 411 miles (19126-19537)

Left Atlanta under cloudy skies at around 8:30 am this morning, just a little later than I had intended. I took 75/85 south to I20 west all the way to Birmingham, then 78 West all the way to Memphis. The news about the likely arrival and projected path of hurricane Barry had me cranking out the miles to stay ahead of the storm. I beat the weather to Memphis, but it looks like Memphis won't be beyond Barry's reach. Unfortunately, it seems that tomorrow is going to be a very wet day in Memphis and on into Arkansas. I hope that the weather report turns out to be wrong. But, rain or shine, I'll be on the road tomorrow.

When I came up this way before at Christmas 1999, it was with Lou, my folks, and our dog Jack in a rented minivan. Just over the border into Mississipi, we ran into a cold front and the temperature dropped over 40 degrees in less than five minutes. From that point on, we were driving in an ice storm. That storm continued all during our trip to and from Memphis, so I never really got to enjoy the drive. Highway 78 is a pleasant and pretty ride, surpisingly so given how little there is to see along the way; just some glimpses of granite hills and elevated rail lines over watery fields. I stopped in Tupelo at the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum. About what you'd expect, only fewer disciples. I picked up some Elvis stickers for my helmet and a Birthplace of Elvis refrigerator notepad for my friend Ann, but there was a surprising dearth of really good schlock. I couldn't bring myself to pay the entrance fee to see the museum, however. Back on the bike, I continued up Highway 78 and took it all the way into and through central Memphis, where it becomes a surface street crossing through some pretty gritty industrial areas. After checking out the hotel prices in downtown Memphis, I decided to cross the bridge into Arkansas and get a room at the Comfort Inn. Later, I headed back into Memphis and had an excellent dinner at Automatic Slims--just across the street from The Peabody Hotel--bowtie pasta with mussels and shrimp in a tomato and fennel sauce.