With a gallon of gas priced nearly as high as a gallon of milk, city dwellers won't be taking many road trips this summer. But the cabins at Meeman-Shelby State Park offer an escape for Memphians looking to preserve petro.
Located in a heavily wooded area on the shore of the 135-acre Poplar Tree Lake, six vacation cabins offer all the features of typical hotel rooms (beds, linens, color TVs), plus complete kitchens with full-sized stoves and refrigerators. Each cabin has one double bed, two single beds, and two rollaway beds, a DVD/VCR unit, a stand-up shower, and a fireplace.
Grills and picnic tables are located outside the cabins, and guests have free access to the nearby pool. Cabin renters may also fish in Poplar Tree Lake without a state lake permit.
Cabins are open year-round, but guests are encouraged to book as far in advance as possible. During prime rental months (April through October), there is a five-night minimum stay requirement.
Pets are only allowed in one pet-friendly cabin, and there is a $10 charge per pet, per night. Though Fido can come along, be sure to leave the booze at home. No alcohol is allowed on state park grounds.
"We're 13,000 acres of everything but city," says park manager Steve Smith. "There's fishing, biking, boating, swimming, disc golf ... basically anything you want in a park except horseback riding. We don't allow that."
— Bianca Phillips
To make reservations, call 1-800-471-5293.
If You Build It
Wondering what to do with your spare time this summer? Why not roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty? If you've got some extra cash and an empty plot of land, you can build your own cabin.
Southland Log Homes, America's largest log home company, has a model cabin and sales office in Lakeland, and they offer build-your-own cabin kits.
You can choose from more than 30 floor plans or custom-design your own dream cabin. "You pay for the log package — the structure of the house — and we can ship it anywhere in the U.S.," says Nick Levin, sales consultant for Southland Log Homes.
Cabin materials run as low as $30,000, but the price varies depending on size and design. The logs come pre-cut and numbered, so building a cabin is like putting together a great big puzzle.
"Any person who is physically able to build a home can do this without having to measure and cut," Levin says. "The cabin goes up perfectly and with ease."
The kit comes with instructions, called a log overlay. "It's like a page-by-page blueprint," Levin says. "It tells you exactly what log goes where and what bundle the log is in."
You stack the logs and fasten them with "log hogs." which are screws that hold the logs together. You're responsible for electricity and plumbing.
Southland offers a home-planning guide on their website and includes a lifetime guarantee on all materials. They will build the cabin for you, but where's the fun in that? Especially when you can do it yourself and forever revel in your glory. — Shara Clark
For more information, go to southlandloghomes.com.
You Can't Lose in Wynne
At least two things have happened in Wynne, Arkansas. One of them was D'Angelo Williams, who cut and sprinted his way from Wynne to the University of Memphis on his way to the NFL. The other thing happened long before D'Angelo, and before Wynne became Wynne, for that matter. It is the geological feature known as Crowley Ridge. It pushed itself up through the Earth 1,000 years ago to demarcate the alluvial plain known as the Delta. Nestled among Crowley Ridge's gently rolling, lushly forested hills is Village Creek State Park.
Located an hour west of Memphis off I-40, Village Creek is an angler's, hiker's, history buff's, and horseback rider's dream. The park includes a stretch of the Trail of Tears, where thousands of displaced Native Americans passed on their way from fertile Eastern lands to barren Western reservations. The trail is cut deeply into the ground in the forest, which some have called the most dramatic and authentic spot along the trail. It appears much as it did nearly two centuries ago when the Indian Removal Act initiated the relocation. A rainbow of fish will practically jump into your boat from the park's two lakes. Horses are every bit as welcome at the park as their two-legged masters. Village Creek has 30 horse camps equipped with washing bays and stables, as well as many miles of horse trails. You can also visit the park's interpretive center, then hike or bike its trails.
Over-nighters can opt to camp, but 10 cabins are also available. They offer amenities ranging from screened-in porches with forest views to functional kitchens. You can even put rocks in your pillow to re-create the camping experience. Remember, you can't lose in Wynne.
— Preston Lauterbach
For more information, call 870-238-9406.
Try the Pie
There are so many wonderful reasons to visit Buffalo, Tennessee, an unincorporated strip of trees and truck stops off I-40 just east of the Tennessee River. For starters, there's Loretta Lynn's Dude Ranch, home to the queen of country music and all of her queenly memorabilia. Then, of course, there's the Arby's and the Pilot station and a mobile home that doubles as either a real-estate mart or a barbecue joint (or maybe both, it's hard to say). And the ... um. Okay, the fact of the matter is, unless your gas tank is empty, your bladder is full, or you're a big fan of Ms. Loretta, there's only one good reason to tour Exit 143: the Log Cabin restaurant.
Built nearly 100 years ago from 10-inch hickory logs and originally used as a private residence, the Log Cabin has been serving up monster-sized country breakfasts, juicy steaks, mouth-watering pork chops, and massive platters of deep-fried heaven since 1966. The vibe is friendly. The décor is fireplaces and animal heads.
Adventurous diners may want to forgo the Log Cabin's typical fare and go straight for the Southern exotica. The frog-leg platter comes with four pairs of impossibly crispy hoppers served with baked potato, white beans, and slaw. You'll want to order a tooth-achingly sweet side of baked apples to go with it. The Cabin's mountainous pile of perfectly fried golf-ball-sized chicken livers is also notable and pair excellently with baked apples and okra.
No visit to the Log Cabin restaurant is complete without dessert. The carrot and chocolate cakes are hard to resist, but you should. Likewise (if you can), the astonishing chocolate and coconut pies with their four-inch-high meringues. Order instead a modest slice of pale, unremarkable-looking buttermilk pie. Then try not to make embarrassing sex sounds as you devour it.
There's only one down side to visiting Buffalo's Log Cabin. They won't let you sleep there. And by the time you're done with the pie, you'll want to.
— Chris Davis
The Log Cabin, 15530 Highway 13 South (931-296-5311)