Mom and Kim, May 2015, to Blythesville, AR

My mom lives in a little town in south-central Kentucky, and we were heading to Blythesville, AR for a book signing. As we usually do, we skipped the interstates and headed off across KY. And thus the fun began…



First stop, the little town of Guthrie, KY, population 1,469 at the 2,000 census. Yep. Could have been a town in one of my books. 🙂 We stopped to pee, as one does on road trips, in a tiny little convenience store across from the giant pink elephant. (Note that my mom’s job on these trips is to take pictures and record random book ideas that pop to mind when I see something interesting. And to stay awake.) She did stay awake, but she failed to get a picture of the pink elephant (I swiped the ones below from the internet). There was also a cow with pink glasses in the same town. No picture of that, either. But we did leave with a semi-fresh loaf of Amish-baked cherry (or maybe raspberry) cinnamon rolls. We hated to pee without buying something.

 cow with glassesPink elephant

Next up was Lake Barkley, Land Between the Lakes Recreational Park, the Kentucky Lake. We found a beach at Lake Barkley, as well as another bathroom 🙂 (and many, many picnic tables. I think that’s where old picnic tables go to die). We stopped long enough to touch the sand and take a picture. Growing up, I lived about 15 minutes from a similar beach/lake, and one of my aunts would take us swimming a lot during the summer (she worked second shift at the factory, so she had days off). I’d forgotten the smell of a beach like this one. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either, and I can’t figure out how to describe it. But it’s definitely not the same as an ocean/salt-water beach. This tiny stop brought back lots of good memories.

Lake Barkley


At Land Between the Lakes was a restaurant and marina. And one single picnic table. Below is the view as we ate lunch. It was really gorgeous. We bypassed the restaurant for a ham, turkey, and cheese wrap. We have a plug-in cooler that we take on these trips with us, and while on the road we usually opt for quick/cheap sandwiches for lunch. It saves both time and money, and since we splurge for the good meats it’s usually pretty good.

Land Between the Lakes


Chugging along, we decided to skip Kentucky Lake, and enjoyed the sights of many small roads and lots of …nothing…then finally headed into Tennessee. Our intent was to get to Reelfoot Lake (about an hour from where I needed to be Saturday at noon) and spend the night there. But I knew it was going to be tiny (When I called to ask about what there might be to do in town, I was told there was a Dollar Store, but there wasn’t a Wal-Mart. If we wanted a Wal-Mart then we would have to go twenty miles. And I am not kidding. Wal-Mart was what the woman thought we might want to “do.” Uh…no. I can do Wal-Mart right here, thankyouverymuch). So anyway, I knew it would be tiny, and we were making great time, so we decided to cancel our reservation. We’d stop at the lake (it’s known for having lots of eagles and good fishing), see what we could find out about eagles (I wasn’t certain if they were in the area this time of year or not), then be on our way. We’d be there about 3pm.

I also knew there was a correctional facility in the area (which was Tiptonville, TN), so I called The Mister—who has been to that facility for his job—and asked if he thought we’d run across it. I was driving, and my Mom couldn’t Google the information to save her life. The Mister informed me that although the only things in Tiptonville were a stoplight, the lake, and a prison, there was no way we’d “happen across it.” Bummer. I kind of wanted to see a prison. So on we went.

And here’s something I truly learned about the western most parts of KY and TN. They freaking look like the Midwest! I’m from KY, have lived in TN since 1993, and I had no idea. But seriously, over in that corner is nothing but flat land, crops, swamps, and …nothing!!! No rolling hills, and the greenery was even sparse. It actually made me a little sad because it wasn’t the KY/TN that I’ve always known. But hey, I learned something. And that’s always cool.

So continuing on, we’re following our GPS to Reelfoot Lake. As we’re getting close I see a sign pointing down a cross road. “Northwest Correctional Complex.” Really? I found the prison! Well, I found the sign to the prison. But I didn’t turn. We had a lake and eagles to see.

The GPS, I kid you not, took us down this tiny little road (past about six trailers and small houses), which turned into a single gravel road (there was a turnaround areas for buses???) into lots and lots and lots of trees. There was a sign at the beginning of the road also stating that this had something to do with Reelfoot Lake. Yet I saw no lake, and I was pretty certain that someone in one of those trailers would either be waiting for us with a shotgun when we came out, or might come in looking for us. And I thought we might actually die back in there if we had car trouble. My mother, who’s apparently grown used to me taking us down random roads on these trips, didn’t seem worried. (The first time I did this to her she called my dad to tell him good-bye just in case she never saw him again. And that road was FAR better than this one.) But the GPS said the road went on, so on we went. And it ended at this tiny little swampy area. I could see mud, and tire tracks. But no lake. No eagles. And I was ready to get out of there. Again…no picture. Maybe I should demote my mom.

So we left that road, and amazingly didn’t get shot, and I punched in the place we’d originally intended to stay. I figured it had to be close to the park’s office, right? Right! We passed lovely sections of the lake, a dude sitting out with a fruit stand (with lots of watermelons), and then the office. So we go in, ask lots of questions, check out the little museum (which is where I saw that owl which I included in the newsletter), and found out that eagles are in the area year round. We might not see them at the moment (it was early afternoon), but their nests are all around the lake and easy to spot. I asked “how” to spot them, and was given a map of where they are (see map below) and told, “They’re easy to spot. Anyone can find them.” So off we went, looking for the little green dots and circles from our map. There are lots of spots we should have been able to see a nest. Lots. Want to take a guess at how many we saw?

 Reelfoot map


Three hours of my life I spent driving around this wretched little town (actually, the town wasn’t all that wretched, but I developed a mood while there), and not once did we spot a nest. We called my aunt (the one who’d taken me and my cousins swimming so much). She’d been to Reelfoot several times. “Aunt Audra, how do you spot an eagle’s nest?” “They’re easy to find!” I told my mother to relay the message to her to “bite my ass.”

Really. My mom and I must be the world’s worst eagle nest spotters. These suckers can be eight feet wide, and we found none! But we saw lots of trees, though, and we drove by the little place where I’d previously reserved a room (and were glad we’d canceled), and learned what cypress knees are. See the picture below. Baldcypress tress sit out in the water (or swamps), and have little “knees” growing up around the base. Aunt Audra says that the knees are cut and sold. People carve things out of them, I think. Probably even sell the carvings at tourist shops. I don’t know. I only saw them in the water.

 Cypress knees

We stopped at several lookouts and enjoyed the water and scenery (the north end was very swampy and again, I was certain we might be heading toward our death), as well as lots of turtles, but I did leave disappointed. No eagle or eagle’s nest.

 2015-05-29 17.08.11Turtle






Oh, but after passing the guy with the fruit stand for the third time, my mom said, “I kind of want watermelon.” “Me, too!” I turned around, and in two minutes we had a small seedless watermelon. It was hot from sitting out in the sun all day, and wouldn’t fit in our coolor, so next stop was that Dollar Store I’d been told about. We got a Styrofoam cooler and ice at the Dollar Store, and I got renewed energy for the search. There was one more road we hadn’t tried for those eagles nests. It was not directly around the lake, and there were four dots down that one road. I headed for those dots!

I took a wrong turn, pulled over to check google as well as my GPS, and saw a road that would cut through to where we should be. Want to guess what was on that road? The prison!! You would not believe how excited I was. We drove right past it. Actually, we stopped at the gates and took pictures. This was the highlight of my day. There were prisoners in the yard playing basketball—something I’ve only seen in the movies—so I took pictures of them (with my mom’s camera) as if we were seeing a tourist attraction. (I’m a little ashamed of this behavior, but you have to understand how disappointed I was at finding no eagles.) And of course, when I asked my mom to send me pictures for this post, she sent me none of the prison! *sigh* I might have to fire her altogether.

We leave the prison (boy, was I ready to rub that in The Mister’s face!), and finally find the road. Again…tiny, one lane, mostly gravel. I am so thankful that I did not have car trouble on this trip. And again, no eagles nests. Oh wait…we did see birds all day long. A lot of those with the S-shaped necks. My mom kept making me stop so she could take pictures. Do you see a picture of a bird below? My mom is definitely fired.

I gave up. Declared that the eagles had won. And headed toward Blythesville. (My mom made the picture below at the park’s office. This was as close as we came.) I called and made a new hotel reservation, and asked if they thought they might have a knife we could use to cut our watermelon. The guy wasn’t sure, but he’d look.


We drove over the Mississippi River, into Missouri, then back down into Arkansas. I hadn’t realized it was a four-state trip! This excited us, too. It often doesn’t take much. And finally, about twelve hours after we left that morning, we pulled into Blythesville. The hotel did NOT have a knife, but I managed to find a serious looking pocket knife in my car. The Mister likes to make sure I have weapons on hand “just in case” (I also have a tiny little hand-carved bat in my backseat, though not made out of cypress knees), but this was the first time I’d had a need to use any.

My Mom went to work on the watermelon, and I (shamefully) immediately took off my pants. I’m not joking when you see me talk about that on Facebook. Pants get on my nerves (though I can wear yoga pants all day long). I was tired and hungry, and needed to be pantless. We had another sandwich for dinner (we were too tired to eat out at that point) and chowed down on some watermelon.

The next morning, after we headed down the road for the signing, it started pouring. We were under a tornado warning. Geez. I could get those at home, too! But the coolest thing happened. First of all, Blythesville is tiny. And apparently, on a Saturday morning when it rans, ALL THE PEOPLE go inside. So the ran passed, we find the bookstore (we’re very early), and then we drive around town for a bit. There is no one out! No. One. My inner horror writer came out big time (this place was creepy), and I was mostly convinced that something had come through and wiped out the town. I wouldn’t have been surprised to start seeing zombies shuffling about.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. I finally saw a few people, we had a cheeseburger from Wendy’s, and I headed back to the bookstore. The signing was a lot of fun. And Street Team member Cindy Tew came out to see me!! That Bookstore in Blythesville (the town is pronounces Bly-vul, by the way). If you’re ever in the area check it out. And tell Chris (the owner) that I said hi! Also…he has some of my autographed books on his shelves 🙂

 TBIB Signing

And that, dear friends, is how me and my mom enjoy our time together. 🙂 (It’s probably much more fun that this post might make you believe!)