Kilometres Travelled: 431
Total States Visited: 11
Total Kilometres: 7,897
Almost as dramatically as the scenery, the people changed from state to state too - but one thing that never changed was their outward friendliness and, in our case, genuine excitement at meeting 'real Australians'.
In Little Rock, we stopped at the visitors centre; a delightfully restored house over a century old with white weather boards, large verandah and big shady trees. We got chatting to the proud local at the desk, who not only told us where to find a magnet (we learnt our lesson) but called us a "handsome couple" and that Sponge was "pretty for all the freckles". Egos suitably inflated from such surprise compliments, we went for a walk through the marketplace area (as recommended to us) and decided we really liked it; there was a very nice vibe to the city. And yes, we found a magnet.
After 2 uneventful hours heading east on the interstate, we finally crossed the Mississippi into Memphis! It gave a spectacular greeting from the bridge, followed by a spiderweb of freeways that left us a little disoriented and desperate to get out. We stopped briefly at a mall to find Sean some new thongs - a task harder than it sounds. In the one store with the one affordable pair of 'flip flops', our sales assistant must have been suitably intrigued by us; we saw him speak into his headpiece and moments later, another staff member approached us with a look of sheer wonder on his face as he learned we were Australian, and driving all the way to Florida. Crazy, man!
This sense of wonderment we seemed to evoke carried through to evening, as we set up camp in Chickasaw State Park. Sack was becoming especially good at making friends with the neighbours, and by the time Sponge had made 1 round trip to the toilet we were already invited over to our camp-neighbours for some beers around the fire. We spent the rest of the evening in the company of 3 very real and very local Tennessee folk, who were about our age. There were many moments of incredulity as we learned a lot about each other's countries and social habits (especially around weapons and gun laws), and many good laughs were shared. Nothing like learning from locals!