Blytheville, Arkansas is not your top-most tourist attraction.
In fact, when the lady at the hotel desk was trying to come up with suggestions as to where to do some sight-seeing, she couldn’t think of much …
“The National Park right outside of town,” she said (which was actually a state park). “But I haven’t been there.”
She shook her head sadly – not too much for miles around …
Then she brightened – “Wait, you could go to That Bookstore downtown. John Grisham hangs out there.”
Seriously? I mean, I’m not the biggest Grisham fan around, but I’ve read enough of his books that it would be cool to meet him if I didn’t have to go out of my way to do so.
Now – the clerk was on a roll … “and the Greyhound bus station, you can go see the Greyhound bus station.”
Well, ok then.
This was Friday morning and you’d expect a town to have at least some people around, but alas … we hardly saw anyone, well, except for the puppy.
And the bookstore didn’t open until later, so. so much for meeting John Grisham.
But I did read an article that Mr. Grisham wrote about this … I mean That Bookstore. When he wrote his first book A Time to Kill, he could find no one to buy it. No one. He had 5,000 copies and went from bookstore to bookstore attempting to sell it, but no one cared about an unknown author and an unknown publisher. But when he went to That Bookstore, the owner invited him in and even had a book signing for him. (He says it’s because he was a local boy from a nearby town and so she felt for him.)
He also went back for signings for the next several books (although he turns down signings at other stores). Then the whole book-signing thing got to be too big of a deal, so now he sneaks in the back door, signs 2,000 books for That Bookstore and goes on his way.
(To read what John Grisham has to say about the store, go here.)
Interesting story about this sleepy little town.
But we did not get to see the store with or without him …
An interesting thing about downtown Blytheville is the way they have their parking set up … each block had an indentation that you use if you want to park your car. Guess that saves you from backing out onto a busy street – (though the streets weren’t exactly busy.)
Or, actually Lambets, home of the wed rolls according to this sign.
In case you’ve never heard of Lamberts – they are a place that gives you a lot of food over and above whatever you order – all the time throwing hot, fluffy, fresh-from-the-oven rolls at you. Delicious! Servers wander around with the extra food – like fried okra and apple butter (not to be eater together – necessarily). So, you will not go away hungry. Knowing that – I ordered a salad – but whoa! That salad itself could’ve lasted me for an entire week!
Not my favorite food in the world (though the rolls are super good) – but a fun stop.
When Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, Mary wanted him buried back in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. The funeral train slowly made its way across the country to this central Illinois city. The 1,654 mile journey followed the route Lincoln had taken on his pre-election jaunt in 1861. Willie Lincoln’s body was also on the train (he had died in the White House in 1862 – at age 11.) Willie was to be buried with his father.
A legend is – rub Lincoln’s nose (you’ll see the shininess) and you’ll get good luck. When we rubbed it last time we were there – we promptly drove away only to be hit by a van who neglected to stop at a stop light. Kelli’s van was totaled, but thankfully no one was hurt.
So, I warned my fellow travelers – do NOT rub Lincoln’s nose, but they did and alas … we weren’t in any accidents but back home … just a short time later, my fellow travelers heard of a family member having an accident. Again, no one was hurt, however, the car is still in the shop … Not sure what it is about THAT nose!
So, yes, I’ve been to Lincoln’s house in Springfield before, but the others hadn’t, so we stopped by.
Unlike many of the presidential homes around the country, visiting Lincoln’s house is free. When Lincoln’s son donated the house … he made the stipulation that people would not be charged to visit.
Seems like every time I’m there, more houses on the street are dedicated to the Lincolns and set aside for the historical site. Including an exhibit that tells us what Lincoln ate. Which – I never really thought about.
So after being home for a day or two, I left again and headed southward. This time I was with a coworker and her mom.
We needed to go through Springfield and the others hadn’t been there before, so we made a couple stops.
Our first stop was at The Feed Store – for lunch, a quirky sandwich shop across from the Old State Capitol where Lincoln served. (You can see the reflection of the capitol in the window.) And no, I don’t mean he served lunch at The Feed Store, but as a lawyer in the capitol.
The Feed Store specializes in soup and sandwiches which are popular in the area. However, the quirkiness comes from the whole ordering/serving system. You stand in line and look at the menu. At the beginning of the line, a lady took our order and gave us a number and we found a seat. A friendly server then brought our food to us. Seemed like they complicate a simple process … and then the bill doesn’t have your total. So, you need to go to the cash register for them to add it up. Another added step.
Scottsburg is flat, dusty and dotted with empty store fronts.
But the downtown restaurant we ate in was indigenous.
When Deb asked for a gluten free menu, the server looked rather puzzled. Because Deb has to have gluten free, she explained further. The server disappeared and about 10 minutes later came back with the happy news that the judge from the courthouse is gluten free and “This is what he orders …”
After we ate, we walked around the square and let’s say, covered the town of Scottsburg to the extent that I don’t think any of us feel like we’ll need to revisit in the near future … a town clothed in “midwesterness.”
A town called Bell Buckle … people don’t know why – was it a cowbell and a buckle carved on a centuries-old tree as a warning to keep people out? Was it simply named after nearby Bell Buckle Creek? No one knows. But this little town (somewhere around 400 people) nestled in the rolling Tennessee hills … south of Nashville has quilts and quaintness in charming abundance.
And while there – don’t forget to eat at the Bell Buckle Cafe located on Railroad Square. There at the cafe, you’ll get some tasty down-home cookin’.
Interestingly, besides the antiques and knick-knacks and ice cream shops … Bell Buckle is also the home of a rather expensive boarding school of formidable brick buildings surrounded by manicured lawns and century-old trees – a school that’s been there since the late 1800s.
I’ve been to Bell Buckle a few times because “I know people.” So, if you’re down that way … take a few minutes to go off the highway and relax in the tranquility of Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
Or like me – you might just be lucky enough to know some people who live there …