Corona- As mentioned in the previous post, I realised it made way more sense to go to Corona, Tennessee as a stand alone day trip from Memphis mostly based on that virtually no data existed on Google about the place meaning there would be nowhere to spend the night with all my stuff.
I couldn’t have been more right.
I sped across the Hernando de Soto Bridge after a 2nd nourishing lunch in the city’s Cooper Young district at Imagine Vegan Cafe and entered West Memphis, Arkansas just on the other side of the Mississippi River. My mind recalled this place name but it took me a few moments. Why did I know the place name ‘West Memphis’ in the cultural shadow of Memphis proper across the river?
The notorious 1990s case of the so-called West Memphis Three that was a cause célèbre among the grunge set while I was in high school. I seem to recall shirts that read “Free the West Memphis Three” and benefit concerts helmed by the accused young men’s principal A-list champions Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Johnny Depp of 21 Jump Street. There was even a full length all-star album in support of the incarcerated defendants released in 2000 with the likes of Joe Strummer and Tom Waits. Three teenagers were accused of killing three boys in this city in 1993 in a supposedly satanic ritual and after being sentenced in 1994, served some 18 years in prison. Though they were not exactly exonerated, they were ultimately released. Thus the child murders were never solved and it is now widely accepted that the three then teenagers were wrongly convicted. Injustice piled atop horrific tragedy. That’s the sole reason this place registers in my mind.
I kept driving toward Corona which apparently made much more logistical sense to reach from Arkansas despite that it’s in Tennessee and my day of driving began in Tennessee. I ended up on a rural route and was beginning to question the efficacy of the Global Positioning System data being read aloud to me by Google Maps. I reached a point where the voice was saying to go right but I didn’t see a road that way and so turned left. As the road quality rapidly lessened, I realised this couldn’t be the right way and need to reconsider the other supposed route. A late model Mustang hurtled down the road toward me.
A man called out, “Hey boy what are you lookin’ for?”
“I’m trying to get to Corona.”
He saw my drive past his farmhouse and got in his car to follow me out of either boredom or curiosity or both. I guessed there wasn’t much happening out here.
He looks askance, “Boy that’s the ends of the earth out there. All off road. Why in the hell would you wanna go there for? Ain’t nothin’ out there but dirt and the lake.”
“I’m trying to go to every town in America called Corona. It’s a loose travelog idea I’m putting together.”
Skeptically, he gave me directions to the ends of the earth. He couldn’t have tailored his statement any better as The Ends of the Earth was my favourite book in my university days that sparked my imagination to travel ever further and wider as the post-Cold War order emerged in the late 1990s.
This place was even more remote than I’d pictured. I didn’t see an single person since the Mustang Man an hour before. Incongruously there was a very well kept home on the lake. There were no paved roads for miles and suddenly there was a neatly clipped lawn. I didn’t dare approach. Obviously I would be seen as an intruder judging by my earlier interaction.
This Corona was similar to Corona, New York in name only. It was less than what I had expected which was not much at all. It was green and wild. It was rural America.
After exploring all that this place was not, I needed to pedal back to the van and get back to a sealed road. Oh and of course I was running out of fuel.
I headed back to Memphis for the night in order to search for Corona, Missouri the following day. Surely the next Corona would have to be more substantial than this one?