If you were following my blog this time last year, you know I plan a trip with my three best friends each year we call “Mancation.” This is our 9th consecutive year of traveling to some city with only a few objectives: Eat good BBQ, relax, explore the area and catch up with each other.
You can probably tell from the title and the smile on my face that this post is going to cover my favorite topics. I was like a little boy waiting for Christmas morning thinking about a trip with my buddies that allows me to eat BBQ in some of my favorite cities with the added bonus of visiting a National Park.
The original plan was for the Ohio crew to leave my house at 5:45am on Thursday morning. When Derrill arrived that morning with the rental Chevy Tahoe, I saw two people get out of the car. Derrill had secretly flown Rob up from Tulsa the night before so he could enjoy the “windshield time” with us on the way. Since our final destination was Hot Springs, Arkansas, it only made sense for Rob to meet us there so you can imagine my shock of seeing him walk in my front door that morning. The shouting and hugs of our 4-man reunion probably woke up the neighborhood!
After smooth 7 hour drive, we pulled into our favorite rib joint from our Nashville trip in 2016. Edley’s Bar-B-Que greeted us with the familiar smoky aroma that makes us all weak in the knees. That bad news was, they only serve their succulent ribs after 5pm. That was a miss on my part not to know that ahead of time. Their next two best menu items are their hot chicken and their smoked wings.
Since they didn’t have any ribs ready yet, I made arrangements to stop back on Sunday during our return trip to pick up 3 racks to be saved for a later date.
After lunch, we got back on the road to Memphis, TN. Memphis holds a tender place in our hearts because that was our destination in 2008 for our inaugural mancation. I am so proud of our group for making this tradition a priority. Rob had enough reward points to book a hotel room for us at an Embassy Suites in Memphis. This was by far the nicest hotel we have ever stayed for the night.
After 9 years of chasing great BBQ around the nation, we have found that our pallets have refined. We have admittedly gotten “snobby” in our taste and only want the best. Our favorite place in Memphis that first trip was a place called Central BBQ. We returned for dinner that night interested in seeing how it has stood the test of time. Everyone has an opinion and personal taste about ribs but we have found Central to be among the best dry rub ribs in the country. If you visit Memphis, don’t waste time eating what we call “tourist BBQ”. Places like Rendezvous and Corky’s are iconic rib joints and are not bad. They simply don’t compare to Central or a few others.
The next morning, we left the hotel and got back on the road to Little Rock, Arkansas. I had read ahead of time that the William J. Clinton Presidential library is in Little Rock. After a brief discussion, none of us had ever visited a presidential library and it could be an interesting stop for us. We love new experiences on our trips especially impromptu ones like this.
The library is situated along the beautiful Arkansas River. The building features an all glass exterior and boasts a Platinum LEED Certification. If you aren’t familiar with LEED, it’s a construction standard for making use of natural sunlight, collecting rain water, locally sourced materials and landscaping, etc. We paid a $10 entrance fee to do a self-guided tour.
Regardless of your political affiliation, this was an interesting look through history. President Clinton’s limousine along with secret service radios and headsets are on display. The second floor houses a replica of his oval office and no detail has been overlooked. Sadly, you can’t take pictures inside the oval office but for $14, they will take a picture for you sitting at the Resolute Desk made famous in “National Treasure II”. (I didn’t see any hidden compartments.) In my picture above, you can see Larry and Rob discussing world politics at the replica presidential cabinet conference table. If you decide to visit, I would allot 1 – 3 hours depending on your interest in political history.
Our lunch stop took us to Whole Hog Café in Little Rock. Overall, this place had the feel of a chain restaurant. They boasted 6 different sauces to douse your meat in but otherwise nothing stood out about Whole Hog. We wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to eat here. After lunch, we drove the remaining 45 minutes southwest to Hot Springs. I had booked a condo for us here months ago. Since we are not in Spring Break season yet, I was able to get this place for $245 for the whole weekend. That’s how regularguys travel! I can’t recommend this place enough.
The remainder of our weekend took place in Hot Springs, Arkansas which is home to our smallest National Park. Check back for my next post to read about our exploits in Hot Springs!