So here is a "van-dwelling" update: the original freshwater system in the van sucked. It was a pressure activated pump-sink linked by a hose to a 6 gallon freshwater tank (bought at West Marine), which in turn was connected by hose to an inlet on the kitchen counter for refills (Click the November entries for pictures of it). The main culprit was the pump sink. The pumping motion makes it difficult to wash your hands or fill containers; in addition, the pumps tend to spray water all over the place. And the 6 gallon tank was excessive; I've never needed that much water at a time.
So, despite how much money and time that system cost me, I decided to rip it out and go for something simpler. As you can see ABOVE, I ripped it out, patched the holes with an old cutting board, and put in the simplest possible alternative: a water jug with an adjustable spigot. When I'm driving, I simply stow it under the sink where the tank used to live. When I'm cooking or cleaning, I take it out. That labor is worth it for how neat and efficient the jug is with its water dispensing. I highly recommend it, if you've got it in mind to build a sink in a van...
As for the travels... I left Nashville. There was an 80 mile detour when the GPS sent me 40 miles in the wrong direction (the road was not finished). Many foul things were uttered and curses directed at the lowly Magellan GPS. That threw off my schedule, so I spent a night at Natchez Trace Park in Tennessee, which is cut in half by Route 40.
ABOVE: As usual, I was the only camper present.
ABOVE: A pit in the camp lake below a dock.
BELOW: The next 3 pictures show a beaver dam that was blocking the hiking loop around Cub Lake. The ranger had warned me before I left, "Part of the trail is flooded... the beavers did it." But he didn't say just how flooded it was.
I'd never seen such a humongous beaver dam. Now I appreciate why in cartoons the beaver characters are always engineers, builders, or demolitionists. This dam was a work of art. There were HUNDREDS of trees cut down with the telltale pointed ends. The water on the reservoir side of the dam was several feet deep. It was probably 30-40 feet long and it took me 15 minutes to carefully navigate it.
I explored Memphis the next morning. I don't have any photos to show, though, because I wasn't in the mood to carry the camera around. Memphis has a beautiful river walk. The famous "Beale St" neighborhood, though, was very touristy, on par with that heinous "Fisherman's Wharf" tourist trap in San Francisco.
There were signs for "B-B-Q Ribs" everywhere and since I'd enjoyed BBQ chicken in Georgia, I decided to give the ribs a try. NEVER AGAIN. It was one of the most disgusting things I've had to choke down, rivaled only by the time in college I accidentally bit into a deeply moldy muffin. And I HAD to choke the ribs down because the cook was also the bartender and he was tending bar right in front of me and he kept asking if I liked it or not. The meat was BBQ-colored on the outside, but inside it was puddle gray. It had to be peeled like duct tape from the bone. What really made me gag were the presence of "smaller" bones, in addition to the ribs. These "smaller" bones must have been cartiledge; they were translucent, almost the color of latex, and were very difficult to chew. The ribs I could avoid easily, but these smaller translucent bones were hard to see in the restaurant's dim lighting. What the hell!
From Memphis I drove toward Little Rock. As soon as I crossed over the Mississippi into Arkansas, there was a perceptible change in the world. It all had a very 1970s feel, or at least what I imagined the 1970's looked like. Something about the colors... I can't explain it. The road quality is significantly worse as well, the bumpiest, most cracked interstates I've encountered yet. Still, in Arkansas you can camp at State Parks with hook-ups for just $9 / night, and you're allowed to sleep overnight at rest stops as well. I'm hoping to explore the Ozarks next.
But first I'm in Little Rock to watch the play-offs. Go Ravens!