Westward!

I’m not kidding, crossing the Mississippi on my motorcycle felt like a milestone. For a split second as I was riding beside the rusting bridges spanning that long expanse of water, I almost thought there should be fireworks, or pigeons, or a fanfare of some sort. Then I decide to just try to not be flattened by the four tractor trailers crossing the same bridge inches away from me. I did not get a picture.

I got a bit further today than I planned. I’m hoping that gives me more time to explore Northern Arkansas tomorrow. My cousin is meeting me in Eureka Springs tomorrow night, so there is a definite end point for tomorrows ride.

There’s a temptation to find a single story line to expand on in this entry, but I can’t. There were too many experiences in this first day, and I’m too excited to FINALLY begin that I am not ready to boil them all down and risk losing the real moments of the ride.

Today was more about mileage than touring. Georgia and Alabama were familiar turf for me. Mississippi was mostly new, but the route I took wasn’t the best that state had to offer. It also didn’t help that it was 90 degrees.

There was one brief tourist stop. Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Artsist who have recorded there include, but are not limited to; ‘Retha, Allman Brothers, Wicked Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, Waylon, Etta James, Clarence Carter, The Osmonds, Lynyrd Skynrd… Let’s just say if you don’t have a recording from this studio among your favorites you are probably sitting in your study listening to your amazing Baroque collection.

Anyway, while I didn’t get there at the right time to take the tour of the studio, honestly I wasn’t disappointed. The “stuff” doesn’t impress me. Yes, that’s Duane Allman’s guitar, and that’s the keyboard that you hear on “Do Right Woman”, … but it’s the stories that fascinate me. And, I juuuust maybe got to witness a story in the making right there in the lobby.

I walk in the front door that opens into the tiny lobby filled with pictures and records. A young lady asks me if she can help me, and after finding out I can’t take the tour, she offers me free reign of the gift shop. We chat for a bit about how she saw the documentary about the studios and then moved nearby to try and be a part of things. She plays guitar, but is still learning and loves being around the musicians that parade daily through the door. As she talked I found myself drawn to a corner with overpriced FAME stickers. Being a sticker collector I immerse myself in the evaluation. About that time a relaxed and friendly gentleman comes out of the studio. I eavesdrop (something I’m getting pretty good at as I travel solo) as he explains something to the effect of “I’m expecting an album today that I want you to listen to. I think if you start learning some of the style we may be able to get you in as a studio musician some day.” As the young lady tries to look non-challant while simultaneously not fainting, I introduce myself to the gentleman. He’s John Gifford, sound engineer. He seemed like a great guy, and as he exited for a smoke break, I paid for my sticker and congratulated the girl at the counter. The young lady could hardly swipe the credit card. Her voice shook as she told me “He has never said that before! I mean, I know it’s like seven or eight years down the road, but he just doesn’t say that!”

I don’t know. Maybe more magic from Muscle Shoals?

 

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