With apologies to Bob Dylan for borrowing his album title, my most recent county collecting trip found me driving along long stretches of US route 61 in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri (revisited because I've driven parts of the highway farther north in MO, IA and WI). Over the last weekend in March, I visited 33 counties in four states, mailing 36 postcards. Three of the counties, Craighead and Mississippi (in Arkansas) and Panola (in Mississippi) have two county seats. Because my goal is to visit every county seat in the U.S., these counties required two postcard to complete.
For the most part, the trip was one of the more mundane drives I’ve taken during my epic quest. I didn’t spend much time exploring the rich musical heritage in Memphis or along the Mississippi River. I did drive past Graceland shortly before dawn on Friday morning and noted a cool “Crossroads” sign in Clarksdale where US 49 and US 61 cross. Thinking back, I should have stopped for a photograph. Here’s a link for anyone curious - Clarksdale, MS - Devil's Crossroads
Over the course of 4 nights on the road, I visited 4 Marriott brands (CY, M, FF, and AC). None were remarkable, though all were reasonable representations of their respective brands. The CY in Jackson, TN sits beside I-40 and, other than the Hampton Inn next door, is near nothing. Just a couple exit down the road is the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum. While it sounds like a great stop for train buffs, it’s a bit of a disappointment. There is a locomotive and a Pullman car on display as well as some artificial “historic” shopping streets complete with an “Old Country Store & Restaurant,” which was like a Cracker Barrel, but not as good. The place is more a tourist bus stop than anything else, but it did turn out to be a decent place to buy postcards.
Friday night ended at the Marriott Memphis East. I might have been better served by staying downtown, but the AAA rate was only $89, so I opted for savings over style. The property was fine. There was just nothing worth seeing nearby.
As with all my county collecting trips, each stop in the county seat involves two activities, mailing a postcard documenting the visit (town name, county name, date, and time) and taking a photograph of the county courthouse. Some, like both courthouses in Panola County, MS – Sardis (left) and Batesville (right) were not that impressive.
Others like the neighboring Tate County, MS were stunning. For more pictures from previous trips, check out my photo album The specified item was not found.
Because this trip covered counties on both sides of the Lower Mississippi River, finding places to cross was important. Between southern Missouri and central Mississippi, only 4 road bridges cross the river. From north to south they are
- Caruthersville Bridge carrying I-155 and US 412 between Missouri and Tennessee
- Hernando de Soto Bridge for I-40 from Arkansas to Tennessee
- Memphis & Arkansas Bridge conveying route I-55, US 61, US 64, US 70, and US 79
- Helena Bridge for US 49 between Arkansas and Mississippi
During my journey, I used all four. For the curious, this stretch of the river is about 150 miles long.
I collected my first county seat postcards from Arkansas and made my first Marriott stay in the state at the Fairfield Inn in Jonesboro. I’ve been lucky in my recent FFI stays to get upgraded to suites and this was no exception. Some locations call them “Extended King Rooms,” but they are similar to what one finds at a typical SHS where the desk area is separate from the bed and also includes a couch and a second television.
The trip almost doubled my postcard total for the year (from 37 to 73) and brought my overall count up to 1655. That still leaves just under 1500 to go. Here are maps of the relevant area (blue = collected, green = visited county seat, but no postcard, teal = visited county, but not county seat).
While not my most productive trip as far as output goes (it took almost a full day to reach new territory ), I did manage to complete another state—Tennessee. That makes 13 states finished with several others within reach (NM – 3 left, NY – 8 to go, AL – 14 more). I'm not liking the look of that gap in north-central Mississippi, so perhaps a return visit there will have to happen sooner rather than later.
If all goes as planned, next up is a weekend trip to NYC and the end of April. Each of the 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island) is in a separate county. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to all 5, but I’ll give it a shot. A week after that is a 2 day trip to Colorado, which looks like it will include one county in NM and my first postcards from WY. The following week, I’m off to Iowa and Nebraska. These three trips will fall within the current MegaBonus and will allow me to reach 24 nights.
May will be a busy blog month, so check back.