2020 Heartland M-3385
2020 Heartland M-3385
Little Rock is the capital city of Arkansas and while it is geographically located in the center of the state, it's intersected by the Arkansas River and is a port city that receives heavy maritime traffic. Little Rock has a modern Downtown area comprising a nucleus of ultra-smart skyscrapers lining broad avenues and some superb cultural offerings with an abundance of first-class museums, art galleries, and theaters.
It's a city that caters for and encourages outdoor activity too, with a seventeen-mile-long river pathway, the Arkansas River Trail, for walking and cycling. The Big Dam Bridge, a three-quarter of a mile long, twin-laned bridge over the river is also reserved just for non-motorized activities. Once a year, the city closes its streets to form a twenty-six mile loop starting and ending in Downtown for the Little Rock Marathon. It's an event that attracts more than ten thousand runners plus a multitude of spectators.
Yes, the marathon takes over the city, but if you're not a fan of running or sports, you may well be thinking of heading out of town while it's on. So why not get together with a group of like-minded friends, then hit the highway and take a music-oriented weekend RV road trip from Little Rock to the Talladega National Forest in Alabama?
Take the I 40 eastbound out of Little Rock and after two hours of uncomplicated driving, you'll be in Memphis. Even if you're not an Elvis fan, Gracelands is a must-see once in your lifetime and so is the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. You won't even need to go out of the Memphis city limits to find a campground; you can pitch up in the T.O. Fuller State Park. On the last leg of your road trip to the forest, time it right and you'll even be able to attend one of Alabama's biggest music celebrations. There are three things which add up to make a great time and that's good friends, good music and an awesome road trip, so what are you waiting for?
After you've spent a day or two in Memphis, head east on the US 72 to Muscle Shoals. If the name made you think twice, don't worry, it's not a conglomeration of Baywatch-style lifeguards, but the name of a rural community in Colbert County, Alabama. Muscle Shoals is around a three-hour drive from Memphis and is a place that has its roots well and truly in music.
At a tin shack recording studio in Muscle Shoals such famous names as Wilson Picket, Bobbie Gentry and Elkie Brookes, as well as the Osmonds, committed their voices to vinyl. It's a spot so important to music it now features on the list of National Historic Places.
That's not the only reason to stop by Muscle Shoals though. The town hosts one of the biggest blues music festivals in Alabama, the W.C. Handy Music Festival. Named after the father of the blues, W.C. Handy, the festival is a three-day event spread between Muscle Shoals and the neighboring town of Florence, Handy's birthplace. It's one long celebration of blues and something so special that if you attend you'll remember it for the rest of your life.
The T.O. Fuller State Park campground is the perfect place to pitch camp in your RV when you're visiting Memphis. It's inside the city boundaries on the edge of McKellar Lake, less than seven miles from Gracelands and around ten miles from Beale Street. If you want to take a few drinks then catch a cab back to your rig, it won't cost you a fortune.
The campground has plenty of campsites, around eighty-five, some of which can accommodate RVs up to eighty-five feet. Each one is fitted out with all the camping paraphernalia you could want like water and electricity hook-ups, picnic tables, grills, and fire rings. There are shower rooms and a laundry too so you'll be able to head out for a night on the town without cramping your style.
During the daytime, you and your friends can take a swim in the park's huge pool. The park does charge a small admission fee for using the pool, but that's discounted for anyone camping there so it works out to be just a few cents and won't break your weekend road trip budget. You and your friends can also get some exercise at the park. There are around eight miles of hiking trails all graded between easy and moderate so nothing too taxing if you have a hangover after a night out on Beale Street.
Roll into Memphis with some old Elvis songs playing to get you and your friends in the mood for this amazing city. You'll be shocked at just how many words to the songs both you and your rig buddies know. Leave the RV in the campground and be ready to make a day and night of it. Start by snapping off some Instagram-worthy shots of you and your friends next to one of the city's Elvis statues before strolling up Elvis Presley Boulevard to visit Gracelands.
After ogling Elvis's enormous and luxurious mansion, head to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. It might be hard to believe that more than one superstar resided in the city, but there's an almost endless list of inductees ranging from Aretha Franklin to ZZ Top that you'll find there.
There's an on-site museum too full of artifacts and memorabilia that belonged to some of the many artists. When you've finished star gazing, don't think that's all Memphis has to offer. Head to Beale Street, it's the liveliest street in Memphis and crammed with bars many of which stage live blues music every night. It's buzzing from before dusk to just around dawn so be prepared for one long, non-stop party.
Beale Street also hosts numerous events throughout the year so depending on when you're there you could find yourself watching a St Patrick's Day Parade, a wine race or an art crawl. If you're making your road trip in May, make sure your dates coincide with the Beale Street Music Festival. It's a huge three-day event with four stages, more than sixty live acts and something well worth driving from Little Rock for.
On this RV road trip from Little Rock, you'll arrive at the Talladega National Forest with your ears ringing from all the good music you heard on the way. While it's true that good music never dies, you'll probably be more than ready for a day getting back to nature. A day where there's no noise, and you'll have the chance to contemplate all the incredible sounds you heard while you were on route for your weekend road trip from Little Rock to the Talladega National Forest.
Pitch camp in the Payne Lake Recreation Area and you can spend the day paddling in a canoe, hiking the Chinnabee Silent Trail or catching a catfish to grill up for the last supper with your friends before heading back to Little Rock. While you're doing that, why not start planning your next music-oriented road trip together, but forget the blues and go for hard rock instead.