Monday, August 9, 2010

A Big Hunk O’ the South

Day 4 of ‘merica Road Trip:

We got up early and reluctantly left New Orleans. It was such an amazing place, our favorite so far. We swung by the Super Dome on the way out to get the appropriate sites checked off the foreign boys list of things to see. Another beautiful sunny day: We took loop 610 to I10 West so that we could hit I-55 North that would take us to Memphis. We hit the Mississippi border but decided to opt out of seeing the Welcome Center. We let Francesco drive since we wouldn’t be going into any major cities for in a while. Somewhere in Jackson we got pulled over, Mississippi because Franco “took too long to change lanes with his signals on” and the police officer was “worried” Franco was falling asleep at the wheel or something. Now this cop had the thickest accent I have ever heard, I was struggling to understand him. He looked at Amy’s and Franco’s IDs for a really long time, asked all of us stupid questions like “do you have any drugs?” and “have any of you ever been arrested” and then let us go. Mississippi sucks. We stopped in Grenada to eat some food, get some gas and change drivers. The boys were amazed by the way everyone talked. We stood out a little but thankfully we wouldn’t be in this stupid state for much longer.

We were happy to be in Tennessee. We stopped at the Welcome Center and played around a little. The Welcome Center had this amazingly random structure that reminded me more of playground equipment than a memorial. We stretched our legs and got some tour brochures with coupons Graceland and info about cheap hotels but not for too long since we were basically in Memphis and excited to see Graceland. Originally when the boys and I were planning the trip I asked them what were their top things to see and places to go and both had Graceland in their top three choices. Sam is a musician and thus is a music fanatic. Honestly, it was not one of my top choices of places to go but I was curious and later, glad we saw it. As we drove in the city it started to drizzle a little. We played what Elvis Presley songs we had to get pumped up.

Graceland was very lively which we discovered was because it was Elvis Week. Apparently Elvis Week is a big deal in Memphis, it’s when the rest of the country’s Elvis lovers and aficionado pack up their trailers and head over to Graceland to get their Elvis fix. Sam and Franco are apparently big Elvis fans. They were giddy with this piece of Americana in front of them. The thing people don’t seem to mention about Graceland is that it costs a lot of money. There are different museums and tours but most of them cost like $50 a person minimally. Paying for information about Elvis’s life when Amy has internet on her phone with Wikipedia didn’t seem like it was a good use of our hard-earned money. We walked around and checked out the landmarks, the Lisa Marie plane, the mansion, etc. Interesting fact about the mansion: it’s tradition to write on the outside of the wall. There was a big crowd of people writing on the wall near the entrance of his mansion. We almost walked up to the mansion thinking it was okay but were stopped by a loud and overly aggressive security lady. We popped our heads in some gift shops and listened to some Elvis impersonators do his songs on a sad little stage in the parking lot. There are so many Elvis impersonators I began to have a difficulty recognizing real pictures of Elvis because every image of him looks fake. We headed over to the Heartbreak Hotel, partially for the kitschy touristy value but also so Amy could buy stamps. It was an Elvis fanatic’s dream, very cheesy with a heart-shaped pool with a tile crack down the middle. The gift shop was out of stamps and sent us to this trailer in the parking lot that was yet another Elvis gift shop. Amy got her stamps and the kind old woman working the counter gave us advice on where to go in Memphis.

We took I-55 into the downtown area. The gift shop woman told us to head towards Beale street and that’s what we were going to do. The drizzle had been constant while we were experiencing Graceland but as we drove into Memphis a beautiful thing happened all at once:the rain stopped, the clouds opened, that song Walking in Memphis came on the radio just as we saw famous Memphis-Arkansas I-40 bridge. I made Amy open up the moon-roof so I could get a shoot of this strange road-trip miracle but it didn’t come out the way I had hoped. We parked on 2nd and Peabody and walked around a bit. The gift shop woman told us to take the Main Street trolley because it only costs a dollar it functions as a delightful way to see a lot of the downtown area. This was great advice. The whole trip probably took a little over 30 minutes but it was fun. Downtown Memphis is very clean. You can tell at one point it was very industrial but over time had become more commercial. I wondered what it looked like before the Recession because there were a good amount of abandon old factories and buildings. We finished our ride and we saunter down Beale Street in search of some good ol’ Memphis barbecue. We were torn between two places but settled on one over the other because it seemed to be a little cheaper. In retrospect I wish we would have gone to the other place since the place we decided on specializes in BBQ pork (I don’t eat pork) and we experienced the worst service ever. We were in there for over 2 hours! They only had one guy waiting on the whole restaurant. Amy and I kept daring each other to start waiting tables but we were afraid they might actually hire us and we still had a lot of driving a head of us. The food was alright I guess, nothing to write home about, nothing like our meals in New Orleans. If we had more time we would have stayed and watched some local live music. Beale Street reminded me a lot of Austin’s 6th Street, lots of bars, restaurants, and live music.

Before we left town we had to go see the famous Sun Studio. My friend, Mike’s grandparents use to own the building and lease it to Sun Studio back in the day or so he tells me. It was a beautiful little studio. It was closed to we creeped around peeking into the windows and taking pictures. It was weird to think about all the music history that had been recorded right here at Sun Studio like Howlin’ Wolf, Little Milton, B.B. King Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis. This was another landmark that excited the boys.

We had to get on the road if we were going to make it to Nashville at a decent time. The sun was setting as we were at Sun Studio. I drove us out of town on I-40 into the darkness. I wish I could tell you what the landscaped looked like but again it was way too dark. We stopped somewhere between Memphis and Nashville for gas and sustenance, by that I mean doughnuts and soda (yum). I was losing some of my travel mojo and thus not being as fun. When we finally got to Nashville I went to sleep while the others drank and played around. Because of our budget and the randomness of finding a hotel kind of late at night, we had to compromise on our accommodations and settle on one king-sized bed for all four of us to sleep in. Thankfully I got to sleep on one of the edges. We had another big day coming up and the long driving was starting to get to me.

For Amy’s Blog

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