Arkansas and Tennesee

16th - 21st October 2011

In Arkansas, we'd arrange to visit our friend and professional fishing guide, Davy Wotton and his partner T-Bird. However, our visit to her home took T-Bird completely by surprise. When we called from the local Wal-mart for directions to their house, she greeted us, somewhat shocked, with the response, "Am I supposed to be expecting you?". Despite not having been pre-warned by Davy and being taken unawares by our visit to Flippin, T-Bird welcomed us with open arms. This was all the more amazing when it was taken into account that we had only previous spent an hour or so with these friends, three years earlier!

Despite our suggestion that we should stay at the nearby state park, we were invited to set up camp on Davy and T-Bird's driveway and as soon as this was sorted, we set about preparing a dinner for all of us, to give T-Bird chance to recover from the shock of our arrival. Once Davy got back from a long day of guiding on the river, we all enjoyed our dinner together.

That night we were surrounded in our makeshift camp by the aviaries of a selection of birds from Davy and T-Bird's menagerie, which included turkeys, pheasants, chickens, ducks, two dogs, tropical fish, two snakes and a tarantula! Early next morning, at 4 am to be precise (and every five minutes thereafter), one of their roosters decided it was time for us to be awake. Later we were visited by their resident ducks, which had decided our RV was inconveniently parked between their pond and their food and created a high speed duck-underpass beneath our truck. Perhaps, before nightfall, we'd move Harvey-the-RV around the corner, a little further from the noisy rooster. This might stop the ducks getting oily backs too!

Next day was Davy's day off from guiding fishing trips, yet he generously offered to take us out on the river to fish. With Davy's guidance, Phil was landing trout in no time at all.

Below the dam the water flowed quickly, so the fishing method was a new one for us. The boat was held bow upstream into the current with a weight of chain dragging along to keep it in line with the flow of water. Meanwhile the motor was run slowly in forward, to slow the drift of the boat downstream, while everybody cast their flies in search of trout. Once we'd drifted quite a way downstream, we'd motor back up to the dam and start our drift again.

The fish came thick and fast, undoubtedly due to Davy's expert knowledge of the water. Their two Jack Russell terriers were obviously old hands on the boat and seemed as keen to search for fish as the anglers!

Launching the boat near Bull Shoals Dam

Davy Wotton guiding Phil in the art of fishing at Bull Shoals.

T-Bird waiting to cast her line.

Phil's first Rainbow Trout of the day......

.......and a Brown. We soon stopped taking fish pictures, when they kept on coming!

It was lucky T-Bird had warned us to take warm clothes along. By the time we got off the water, there was a definite change in the weather, with the approach of a cold front! It was great to get back to the house and enjoy the warmth of the real wood fire!

The next day Davy and Phil had hoped to take another fishing trip but we awoke to cold and wet weather, which killed off the enthusiasm for spending time on the river. Still, it gave us chance to spend more fun time getting to know our friends better.

After dinner that evening we were introduced to Sheba, a rather slinky member of the family.

Despite her snake phobia, with the aid of a couple of bottles of Corona beer, Christine managed to get to know Sheba and even handled the amazingly strong reptile, a python, on her own, without screaming!

We were going to be back on the road and our friends back at work the next day, in fact T-Bird was guiding on the river for Reel Recovery, a charity offering fly fishing trips to cancer sufferers. However before we hit the road, our friends were only too happy to tie Phil quite a few flies to take on his travels. Luckily we said our farewells that evening as our Davy and T-Bird were out of the house long before we were up!

Finally we emerged into the cold, wrapped up warm and headed to the town of Mammoth Spring. Here Davy had shown us a couple of good fishing spots on the Spring River. Here Phil fished for a couple of hours, arriving back at the RV half-frozen and with one wet leg. His waders had sprung a leak! As luck would have it we were headed towards North Carolina, where he'd bought them, maybe they would be able to help.

In the meantime, we were off driving all afternoon to the border of Tennessee. Finally after negotiating Memphis in the rush hour, which unexpectedly seemed to be remarkably quiet, we holed up at the only RV site we could find nearby. This was located at the "Agricenter", which seemed to be an agricultural fairground, probably exceptionally busy when a show was on but luckily for us pretty quiet that evening.

Another gift from Davy and T-Bird, we enjoyed a quail dinner in our RV that night. This was probably the only quail dinner being eaten in the camp ground that night! It was a first for us, as we'd never eaten the little birds before but they were delicious!

Having had enough interstate driving over the last week, we picked a back-roads route across Tennessee. Our route took us past the amazing Shiloh National Military Park. This beautifully landscaped park was the site of a major civil war battle, with many thousands of casualties.

Davy tying flies for Phil

Quails for dinner

Shiloh National Military Park.

Our next objective was Lynchburg, a town dominated by the Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whisky Distillery. We were stunned on our arrival when we signed up for the free tour of the facility at the crowds of people on the tours.

The tour with our very entertaining guide took us first to the charcoal burning area, where the Distillery made their own filtering charcoal. We visited the company's own spring, source of all the water used to make their whisky. From here we were taken to the distillery itself, where cameras and cellphones had to be switched off due to the risk of fire from the high alcohol content of the air inside the buildings.

Ironically the distillery was located in a dry county and had only received special dispensation to sell their products in the gift shop. No free tasting was allowed!

On leaving the distillery, we headed to a nearby state park named Old Stone Fort, where we spent the night before heading on into North Carolina.

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