Rocking With The King


That’s all right, Mamma, that’s all right with me…Elvis music played in my head for the next two days after our arrival in Memphis on Monday. We were able to snag a campsite at Graceland RV Park, situated right behind Heart Break Hotel, at the end of Lonely Street. The start of the Graceland Tour is just a short walk through the parking lot next door. Because of that, the RV Park is well secured 24/7 and everything is very well organized. Since it was mid-afternoon when we arrived, we opted to take the Boulevard into downtown Memphis, just twenty-minutes away, to check out the action and have dinner.

Downtown

Downtown

Being a Monday night, things were rather quiet. Some of the restaurants had entertainment, and staff on the street urging us in. We decided on the Jerry Lee Lewis Cafe where we stuffed ourselves with southern-style BBQ ribs, baked potatoes, coleslaw, and beans while enjoying the performance of an Elvis impersonator. He was one of the best we’d ever seen, sounding very much like the King. He switched gears for one song and brought Johnny Cash to life.

Jerry Lee Lewis Grill

Jerry Lee Lewis Cafe

Yummy Ribs

Yummy Ribs

 

"Elvis"

“Elvis”

At intermission we wandered down the street and poked into a couple of shops then headed back to camp. I wanted to take advantage of the good WiFi connection to get some blogging done.

Tuesday morning was devoted to the mundane domestic tasks that we could put off no longer, such as laundry, but the afternoon was spent doing the Graceland Tour. It’s pricey, and the last part of it, the little museums on a strip across the road from Graceland, all led us through gift shops, but Graceland itself was far from the tacky display that I’d envisioned. The house is grand, but not huge. It displays a simpler side of Elvis than the flashy one that appeared on stage. The main floor is tastefully decorated in the era of Elvis’s life and death, including dark wooden cupboards and harvest gold appliances in the kitchen. The lower level is, well, maybe a little eclectic.

Graceland

Graceland

Media Room

Lower level Media Room

Pool Room Ceiling

Pool Room Ceiling, folded fabric

Some things I learned about Elvis that I didn’t know before:

  1. He loved horses as much as he loved his cars. A couple of horses still graze in the pasture.
  2. He had quietly donated several million dollars to a large number of charities over the years, many of which helped improve the lives of his friends and family in his home town of Tupelo, Mississippi.
  3. He loved to play racquet ball.
  4. He had a beautiful Meditation Garden built at Graceland in 1960. It has since become the burial site for his mother, father, grandmother and himself, and a memorial for his twin brother who died at birth.
Meditation Garden

Meditation Garden

We walked away without souvenirs, not being Elvis fanatics, but we enjoyed the visit. It’s worth seeing once.

More excellent ribs for dinner at Marlowe’s down Elvis Presley Drive brought our stay in Tennessee to an end. The next morning we were back on I-55 in the direction of New Orleans.

Days 4 and 5 – Nashville Tennessee


Saturday morning was cloudy and cool again, a good day to be on the road again, heading towards Nashville. At the Tennessee Welcome Center we thought we should call to book a campsite. It’s a good thing we did. Our first two choices, the ones nearest the Grand Ole Opry, were already booked solid. Fortunately, KOA Nashville North had a spot with electric and water, but no sewer. It was twelve miles away from the Opry, but the shuttle bus was available. Jim had already purchased tickets for that night, so we took the site.

We arrived late afternoon (we were in a new time zone), giving us just enough time to hook up, make and eat a quick super and catch the shuttle bus. It cost us $35.00 and it took over an hour to get to our destination because there were other pickups along the way, but it was worth it to not have to navigate heavy traffic on the motorcycle. We had a bit of a walk from the drop-off point to the theatre, and our seats were way up in the nose-bleed section, which meant a few flights of stairs to navigate. After a day of sitting, it felt good to get some exercise and it was a beautiful night. I was glad that I had on comfortable shoes though, unlike one young woman on the bus who chose to wear five-inch heels, because they were “cute.” We had to wait for her to walk to the bus both going and coming.

Despite the distance from the stage, we enjoyed the evening. Large screens gave us a view of what we couldn’t see on the stage. It was mostly a night of old-timers, like 94 year old Little Jimmy Dickens, and 80 years old Jean Shepard. A few newer upcoming stars included Jon Pardi, One More Girl, and Charles Esten. I have to admit that while I enjoy all sorts of music, I am not a follower of Country Music Stars, so the names meant nothing to me. As long as I can tap my toes and clap my hands, I’m happy, and I did plenty of that. We almost missed the shuttle back because we got turned around when we got back outside and headed for the wrong parking lot! But the girl with the shoes saved us.

It was late when we got back to the RV, and cold. We had to turn the furnace on for a bit before climbing into bed.

In the morning my body was protesting the physical exertion and late night (arthritis has become a frequent companion) so it took some time for me to get going. Eventually I felt able to ride on the motorcycle. We ventured into downtown Nashville, which took us only about twenty minutes.

Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville

One of the many bars/restaurants in the downtown

Waiting for the Trolly Tour

Waiting for the Trolly Tour

The sun was hot and we soon had to strip off our extra layers of clothing. We bought tickets for the Trolley Tour and then walked up Broadway Ave and bought hot dogs from a street vendor while we waited the hour for our turn. We got off the trolley only once, to take a look in the shop of the Antique Archaeologists. I was interested to learn that the historic Fisk University was founded in 1865 exclusively for the education of Blacks. We roamed some more on Broadway Avenue, poking around in shops and listening to performers through the open windows of Honky-tonks before getting back onto the bike to return to the Opry House area for dinner at the Aquarium Restaurant where we ate sea food while watching all sorts of exotic fish swim by in the enormous round fish tank in the centre of the room. That felt a little weird, but the fish were friendly and fascinating to watch.

 

An hour later we were once again ready to call it a day.

Pigeon Forge and Deals Gap


Although I promised to tell you about Tarpon Springs in my next post, I’ve decided to leave that and Atlanta for future posts, and bring you up to where we are this weekend, since it may well be our last interesting stop. The days are counting down to the date that we need to be home, so there won’t be much more time for being tourists.

Yesterday, Friday June 8th, we arrived at the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee KOA campgrounds late in the afternoon. The day had been much cooler than the few days before and the drive was pleasant. But when we arrived here we were hit with more heat and humidity and high air pollution.  There is lots of traffic in Pigeon Forge these days. After a quick dinner in the RV we hopped on the bike and did a tour of the downtown area. This is my first time here. It’s not at all what I expected! There is an Historic Area where there is a beautiful old flour mill and an old fashioned General Store.  We enjoyed an ice cream cone at the Creamery, and took some beautiful evening photos in this area before returning to the main street.

Flour Mill, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Flour Mill, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Flour Mill, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Mill Power Dam

Mill Power Dam

Mill Power Dam

Main Street, Pigeon Forge is a  completely different world. If Las Vegas is Tinsel Town, then this has to be Tacky Town. There are no gambling casinos, but there are just as many lights and signs flashing everywhere. It could be a fun  place to spend the weekend with kids, or be a kid yourself if you have money to spare.  There is no shortage of go-cart tracks or entertainment halls, or flashy hotels. There is an area of carnival rides, and a House of Magic. Even King Kong can be seen watching over the strip.

Go-Kart Racing, Pigeon Forge

Go-Kart Racing, Pigeon Forge

Go-Kart Racing, Pigeon Forge

Go-Kart Racing, Pigeon Forge

King Kong Takes Pigeon Forge

King Kong Takes Pigeon Forge

It was an interesting evening, but today, Saturday was much more our kind of day. We were up early and on the bike by nine o’clock, on our way to Deals Gap. The bikers reading this will know what this is all about.  For those who aren’t familiar, Deals Gap is a stretch of road that claims 318 turns in its eleven mile length, a biker’s dream run. People come from all over the USA and Canada, just to do the “Tail of the Dragon”, as it is also dubbed.

The air was clear and fresh, as we journeyed along Hwy 441 towards Cherokee. Once out of town the road began to gently twist and turn beneath the tree canopy through Smokey Mountain National Park. It was exhilarating. You can’t really experience such a ride from a car or certainly a motor home, the way you can on a motor cycle, the smell of fresh air, the colours, the wind on your face. We made several stops to take pictures of the smokey mountain range and it was nearly lunch time before we reached Cherokee. There we took time to stroll through the Cherokee Voices Festival, chatting with various native crafts people who were demonstrating their crafts, before filling up both the bike and our stomachs in preparation for the rest of the journey. It was still another hour ride before we reached the beginning of our destination — Deals Gap.

Smokey Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Smokey Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Smokey Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Smokey Mountain National Park, Tennessee

On our Way to Deals Gap

On our Way to Deals Gap

Native Potter, Cherokee Voices Festival

Native Potter, Cherokee Voices Festival

Basket Weaver, Cherokee Voices Festival

Basket Weaver, Cherokee Voices Festival

Elder Potter, Cherokee Voices Festival

Elder Potter, Cherokee Voices Festival

When we finally reached Deals Gap and the beginning of the Tail of the Dragon run, we found ourselves among many, many bikers. Thankfully today, there were no fools riding, at least not that we know about. Sadly, there have been many lives lost on this route because of careless riders who want to see how fast they can do it.  The curves and road grades require respect. We took our time and enjoyed the ride.

Deals Gap

Deals Gap

Tree of Shame

Tree of Shame. Foolishness is not encouraged. These bikes didn’t make it.

Caution at Deals Gap

Caution at Deals Gap

Enjoying the ride on The Tail of the Dragon

Enjoying the ride on The Tail of the Dragon

We were exhausted by the time we arrived back at camp at five in the afternoon, but it was an amazing trip.