Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Every Valentine’s Day weekend we take a little trip. This year was no exception. It was also our first road trip of the year. Our destination was Memphis. Although we’d passed through Memphis a couple of times in the past, this was our first time actually stopping in the area. But first we had to get there…

We headed out on Thursday night. Our destination was the Comfort Inn & Suites in Urbana, IL. We were very familiar with this place, having spent the night there on our previous road trip two months earlier. After finishing our continental breakfast on Friday morning, we headed south. Our goal was Memphis. But being county collectors, we couldn’t take the direct route. That wouldn’t be efficient since we’d already done that route. Instead we picked up some of the rarer counties in Illinois. Before we left we had one quick stop to make. We made a pilgrimage to the Roger Ebert statue in Champaign. I had to dust a little snow off him.

We took HWY 45 and picked up Wayne County first of all. Then we had to veer off the road about a mile to pick up Hamilton County. Turning around and going back, we continued south on 45 picking up both Gallatin and Saline Counties almost immediately. From there we headed southeast into the Shawnee National Forest, picking up the hard to reach counties of Pope and Hardin.

At this point we set the GPS for the city of Metropolis – which celebrates its name with a Superman-themed town. Getting there proved to be difficult. The GPS took us a different way than what our Google maps had shown. In fact the roads we were on weren’t even on the maps. We never even found the road we were “supposed” to take. And that was a little disheartening because Metropolis was located in Massac County, which just happened to be the final county in Illinois that we needed to get to. At some point we entered it. But we wanted to get a picture of the sign. So we drove another four miles out of our way to find the one I knew was there. But we got it! Illinois marked our fourth completed state. Only 46 more to go! We then headed into town to see the Superman sights. In addition to Superman himself, there are also statues of Lois Lane and Kryptonite. There's even a Superman soda machine.

After leaving Metropolis we took the bridge over the Ohio River into Paducah, Kentucky – and McCracken County. We decided to stop for lunch at Flamingo Row. Try the burgers. They’re good. With our bellies filled we headed east to get a couple of bonus counties close by. We got Marshall County with ease. The next county proved to be a bit more difficult. It required a drive over the Tennessee River. And the bridge we’d intended to take had apparently been torn down. Thankfully we discovered that a new one had been built nearby. So we took it, picked up Livingston County, then turned around and headed back.

We headed west towards the small city of Lovelaceville. Its location is very close to an (almost) four-way county corner of McCracken, Ballard, Carlise and Graves. We picked up the other three and continued south on HWY 307. Along the way we picked up Hickman and Fulton Counties. Once we reached Fulton County we headed west towards the city of Hickman. From there we headed south, crossing into Tennessee and picking up Lake County.

We continued south on HWY 78 towards the city of Dyersburg. We picked up Obion and Dyer Counties on the way. We then stopped for gas in the city of Fowlkes. At this point we had to get off the main roads in order to pick up Crockett County. Once we crossed in we then headed west to pick up Lauderdale County and get back on the main roads. From there we headed towards the city of Brownsville. We ended up driving into Haywood County, and through the small city of Nutbush – birthplace of Tina Turner. Unfortunately it was too dark to get a picture of the “Tina Turner Highway” sign. But we were on it!

From there we headed straight to our hotel in Southaven, Mississippi – which is just south or Memphis. We picked up Tipton and Fayette Counties along the way. Our resting place for the next two nights was the Hilton Garden Inn Memphis/Southhaven. We ordered a pizza and relaxed in our room for the evening.

On Saturday morning we picked up a couple of doughnuts and headed over to one of Memphis’ top attractions – Graceland. Elvis Presley’s home is a must-see. There’s a general consensus that Graceland is smaller than people imagine. And while it is a good sized place, it isn’t the sprawling mansion that one might expect. Nonetheless it’s a fascinating place. And it’s stuck in time. The décor has remained unchained since Elvis’ death in 1977.

After leaving Graceland we headed south on HWY 61 for a little side trip. We entered Tunica County, and stopped in the city of Tunica for lunch at Church’s Chicken. While eating in the car, we continued south, picking up Coahoma, then taking a side road a few miles in to pick up Quitman county to the east.

From there we continued south. We did make a stop in the city of Clarksdale to take a picture of the “Crossroads” – the location where legendary blues singer Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for making him the great guitar player that he was.

After leaving Clarksdale we continued south into Bolivar County. Once we reached the city of Shaw, we got off the highway because the border for Sunflower County was only one block away. Once we got it we got back on the road and continued south, entering Washington County, where we stopped at the Jim Henson Museum/Chamber of Commerce for the city of Leland. It was pretty cool to see. And admission is free!

Once we left Leland we headed west, crossing the Mississippi River into Arkansas and Chicot County. From there we went a few miles inland before heading south on HWY 65 through the city of Eudora, followed by the Louisiana state line. We only spent about 10 minutes in Louisiana. But we managed to go through two Parishes. Louisiana doesn’t have counties. They have Parishes, which are the virtual equivalent of counties. And once we crossed the state line we found ourselves in the Parish of East Carroll. About five miles to the west we crossed into (You guessed it) West Carroll Parish. From there we briefly drove through the tiny town of Kilbourne before heading back north back into Arkansas.

After we got back into Arkansas we headed west on HWY 52 and crossed into Ashley County before hitting the city of Wilmot. From there we headed north on HWY 165. We picked up Drew and Desha Counties along the way. Once we got to the city of Dumas, we took a side trip a few miles to the west to enter Lincoln County. We turned around and headed back though Dumas. Eventually we turned north, crossed the Arkansas River and entered Arkansas County. Once we were a few miles south of the city of DeWitt, we took a side trip to the west to pick up Jefferson County. We had to weave through some very dark, rural roads to get there. But we did. I got out to take a picture. Then I planned to run back across the bridge to take a picture of the Arkansas County sign on the other side. And I almost forgot to set foot in Jefferson County. Thankfully my fiancée reminded me that I needed to move forward about 10 feet before I sprinted back across the bridge. Rest assured, I did.

From there we more or less headed back to our hotel. We went north and east, picking up Monroe, Phillips, Lee and St. Francis Counties along the way before we got on I-40 towards Memphis. We had one final stop however. As we approached the city of Midway we got off the interstate, went a mile or two north and crossed into Cross County – our final new county of the day. Feeling quite satisfied we stopped for a late bite to eat at Memphis Barbecue - which ironically is in Horn Lake, Mississippi, just south of Memphis. After a long day of driving we retired back to our hotel for the night.

On Sunday morning we left our hotel around 8:00 and headed into Memphis for a couple of quick sights before beginning the long drive home. The first stop was Sun Studio, where Elvis himself made his first recordings. Several other prominent artists have recorded there over the years. The studio wasn’t open yet. In fact the streets were eerily barren. Does everyone in Memphis go to church on Sunday mornings? I don’t know. But the whole downtown was a virtual ghost town. I was able to take my time and take pictures while standing in the middle of the street.

From there we drove a few miles to the Lorraine Motel, the sight of the assassination of Martin Luther King. The motel has since been converted into a Civil Rights Museum. But the exterior of the Motel remains unchanged. Like Sun Studio, we had the run of the place, as there were literally no other people around. It was very surreal. Apparently a woman was evicted from the motel in 1988 when it was converted into a museum. She’s been protesting ever since. Although her sign was there, there was no sign of her.

After leaving the Lorraine Motel it was time to go home. We had a little over 10 hours of driving to do. Of course we also had a few more counties to reach. We started off by getting on I-55 north. But instead of following the interstate system all the way home, we got off near the city of Gilmore and headed northwest on HWY 63. A few miles later we crossed into Poinsett County. Shortly thereafter we turned north onto HWY 135 and drove through the small cities of Lepanto and Rivervale before crossing into Craighead County. We continued north on HWY 139, drove through the tiny city of Black Oak (while singing a few lines from “Jim Dandy,” and wondering how a rock group could hail from a city of just 231 people) and crossed over the Missouri border and into Dunklin County. We continued a few miles further until we reached HWY 412 near the city of Cardwell. From there we took a left turn, drove a few blocks, crossed the St. Francis River, and found ourselves back in Arkansas again – and Greene County. This was to be our last new county of the trip. At that point we put home in the GPS and headed north. Our commute ended up being a couple of hours longer thanks to an ice storm in Missouri (which caused about a dozen accidents on our highway) as well as a snowstorm that covered nearly all of Illinois. Thankfully we missed the brunt of it. And the roads were relatively cleaned off by the time we drove through.But it was nonetheless a rough ride.

We arrived home at 9:55, watched the mid-season premiere of “The Walking Dead” and went to bed. Our first excursion of the year netted 47 new counties. So what’s next? Well we have a little trip planned for late March/early April. We’ll be heading to Universal Studios in Florida. And since the trip is by car, there will be new counties to pick up along the way. We’ll see you there!

                                                NEW COUNTIES - 47
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2016 - 47
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1312

7/17/17 UPDATE: We recently realized that in putting our county list together, we had inadvertently failed to include two counties that we had previously entered. On a summer, 2014 road trip, we went to Disneyland in California (Orange County). And upon leaving Disneyland for Las Vegas, we entered Riverside County as well. So even though it says 1312 total counties in this post above, the actual number at the time was 1314.

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