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Upcoming Chicago-Memphis Road Trip--Tips?

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Hello all--Finally, a road trip beckons! My intrepid travel companion and I are planning a Chicago-Memphis road trip starting the middle of next week. She is picking me up at MDW and we're heading south for a convention in MEM, with some road-tripping on both ends.

Our basic plan is to bail off of I-57 just before leaving Illinois and cross the Ohio at Cairo, heading toward Memphis on the east side of the Mississippi via US 51. I definitely want to make a side trip to go into the little discontiguous part of Kentucky--the little bit that is separtaed from the rest of the state by the Mississippi's bends and Missouri. Maybe also take a slight detour through Nutbush, to see the town that Tina Turner (and Bob Seger) were singing about!

Following our three days/four nights in Memphis, the return plan is to head down US 78/Future I-22 to Tupelo, pick up the Natchez Trace there and follow it until it's terminus west of Nashville (got to stop at the spot where Merriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) either killed himself or was murdered, depending on which story one believes, and then head back to Chi-town through Kentucky and Indiana by basically follwing US 41 or Alternate US 41 north, via Evansville and Terre Haute.

If anyone has any other spots anywhere near either part of this route that are absolute 'must stops', please share!


Edited by mga707
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I'm guessing that you've researched the Natchez Trace Parkway a bit and know what's there. You've already targeted the one thing I think of as a "must stop" and that's the Merriwether Lewis Monument. It's not a big thing but is exactly what I think a monument should be, simple, thoughtful, and sincere. In my opinion, hanging around it for a few minutes is good for the mind and soul. Beyond that I can only think of some "might wannas" depending on your interests. If you like really old American history, there's a fairly nice mound site at Wickliffe, KY, and there's a cool car museum in Tupelo that seems to pretty much get Elvised over. If you do get to Nutbush (Gotta do that myself someday.), you might consider going on to Brownsville for a look at Billy Tripp's Mind Field. Of course, if you do that, you'll have to decide whether to return to US-51 or head on to Memphis on US-70. Actually, there is a place about a mile from the end of the Trace that I might call a "must stop" unless you don't like eating. That's the Loveless Cafe. At Hopkinsville, KY, you'll be about ten miles from the impressive Jeff Davis monument.


Are you spending any time in Nashville? Got your Memphis time planned? Are you a really big Everly Brothers or John Prine fan?

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Thank you very much for all of the tips, complete with links. Much appreciated. Definitely will stop at the Loveless Cafe for some 'road food'! The Mind Field reminds me of the Watts Towers in LA! I'll be in Memphis for a convention, so my time will mostly be involved with that, but I am going to make time for some real Bar-B-Q! Have already done Graceland and Beale Street, but will hit the Stax Records site if I have time. As far as Nashville, the end of the Trace (and the Cafe) will be as close as we get this trip.

Thanks again!

Edited by mga707
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  • 2 weeks later...

Just wanted to post a quick post-trip update. Memphis and surrounding areas were great! Some of the friendliest folks I've ever run across. Drove through Nutbush (the store/Tina Turner Museum was closed as it was late in the afternoon), checked out the Mind Field in Brownsville (bizarre but very interesting), went to both Stax and Sun in Memphis (both great!) and even enjoyed a frozen margarita on a VERY hot afternoon (100 and muggy) on Beale Street.

One spur of the moment side trip that turned out to be an absolute five-star must-see, at least if one is interested in the blues or American music in general, is the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale MS, an hour south of Memphis along the legendary US 61. Located in Clarksdale's old train depot, it is an awesome museum. Superb! Next door is Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero blues club and restaurant, where a tasty soul food lunch was had.

On the way back to Chicago, we checked out Elvis' boyhood home in Tupelo MS, then spent an enjoyable afternoon cruising the Natchez Trace Parkway up to it's northen terminus just SW of Nashville. Pulled into the Loveless Cafe just past the end of the Trace at dinnertime, but the wait was over an hour so we kept going and wound up in Clarksville for the night. The next day we hit George Rogers Clark NHP in Vincennes IN (a one county switch to Eastern Time), did a two-lane drive up the eastern side of Illinois on State Route 1 up to Interstates 74 and then 57, and then got into the Chicago area shortly after sunset.

A most enjoyable road trip.

Edited by mga707
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