Road Trip Route: Philly to Little Rock (Part 3)
Nashville, TN to Memphis, TN
All you need to get from Nashville to Memphis is three hours and Route 40. Seriously. It cannot get any easier. However, if three hours in the car already has you Googling for a pit stop, never fear. Jackson, TN is a little more than two hours from Nashville and only one hour from Memphis.
Samuel T. Bryant Distillery
Now, don’t think our stop in Jackson was totally by chance. Having done some reading about road trips from Nashville to Memphis, we were struggling to find a good stop that wouldn’t add too much extra time. Jackson is directly off Route 40, so there was very little additional time, and the Samuel T. Bryant distillery seemed like a good chance to compare Kentucky bourbon with Tennessee whiskey. Their operating hours have expanded since we visited, but they were extremely accommodating and opened that Monday specifically for us. Our opinion on hard liquor was still as hesitant as it was in Kentucky, but they do offer some fruity and other interesting options that you probably can’t find elsewhere. Worth a stop if you’re looking for a break between Nashville and Memphis.
Jackson isn’t a huge town, so, depending on when you visit, the options may be limited. (We were there at 10:30 on a Monday, so not prime eating time. However, lucky for us, Backyard Bar-Be-Cue opens at 10:30 and it was a match made in Tennessee heaven. Enjoy their quick service and myriad of options before driving the last hour or so to Memphis.
Memphis a great town and there’s too much to fit in this one article. Visit the My Favorite Things: Memphis page to check them out.
Memphis, TN to Little Rock, AR
The entire point of our road trip was to get to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. Only two hours outside of Memphis, we only visited Little Rock for the day and were back in Memphis for dinner time. While this was the most efficient way for us to see Arkansas on this trip, there are plenty of other sites across the state that I can’t wait to visit another time.
Little Rock Central High School National Park Site
Because I knew the Clinton Library would take up a good bit of our day, I wanted to get the other sites and eating lunch out of the way before we headed over. Besides the Library, the most important site on our itinerary was the Little Rock Central High School National Park. Little Rock High took center stage during the national fight over segregation in the late 1950’s when segregationists and the governor of Arkansas tried to block nine African-American students from attending the formerly all-white school. This incident is a key part of the fight for Civil Rights in America and it’s shameful to visit Little Rock and not honor the bravery of these students and so many others who helped force desegregation. The high school still stands and, depending on the time of year, the Park Service offers guided tours. Because we visited during their Spring Break, the school was under minor construction and the tours were suspended. Even if you can’t take a tour, visiting this small, but impactful exhibit is a must-see – plus its free!
(Read more about our experience at the NPS in my Stories from the Road about the Little Rock Nine.)
*If you’re feeling inspired after the exhibit, there is a statue of the Little Rock Nine on the grounds of the Arkansas Capitol Building. Drive around back and you’ll see a grouping of statues on the a sloping hill.
The Flying Fish
Atlas Obscura deserves all the credit for this find. If you’ve ever wondered what people do with those ridiculous signing bass fish that they bus on infomercials, then the Flying Fish is for you. They claim to be the home of the first Billy Bass Adoption Wall, where they will trade you a basket of catfish for the animatronic fish that you no longer want. This place is real and it is not only eccentric, but the food is pretty good. Go for the whole experience, including having people stare while you try to take a selfie with the one of the walls of adopted Billy Basses.
William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum
Not far from the Flying Fish (although potentially not walkable), the Clinton Library overlooks the banks of the Arkansas River and sits right on the edge of the University of Arkansas campus. When we visit the presidential libraries, I do my best to keep my own politics out of the experience. People tend to doubt I can successfully check my bias, but my focus on experience over ideology is clear in the fact that the Clinton library is one of my least favorite libraries. The library felt light on information and exhibits and even taking the tour didn’t spice things up. Choosing a thematic organization rather than true chronological timeline hurt the visitor experience, in my opinion. However, these things are subjective and if you want to see all the libraries, then Clinton is a necessary stop whether you love it (or him).
While Little Rock was our ultimate destination, that doesn't mean we didn't have a full itinerary for our return trip! We head back through a different part of Kentucky and, eventually, end up with some of favorite people in the great state of Virginia.