Are we travelers or tourists?
What makes someone a ‘traveler’ versus a ‘tourist’? Whenever I read about it I get the impression that travelers are cool, but tourists, well, they go to tourist attractions. That was my husband’s reaction when I told him the next destination on Our Amazing Coast to Coast Road Trip….
“We are NOT going to Graceland, are we?”, Phil exclaimed as we drove into Memphis, Tennessee. “That place is for tourists!”
I had to find a way to win him over so I recited a quote from one of his favorite people, John Lennon. “Before Elvis there was nothing.”
Little did Phil know, I had a lot more “tourist” places lined up for us before we reached our destination.
“we’re going to graceland, graceland”
I’ve listened to Paul Simon sing that song many times. Elvis was a dreamboat to me back in the ’50’s. I can remember seeing his first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The 22 year old acquired the Graceland Mansion after promising his mother to buy her the biggest house in town. The year was 1957 and it cost $102,500. Elvis moved his parents in there with him.
We enjoyed our self-guided audio tour. The 14 acre property was beautiful and the decor of the house was frozen-in-time to his death in 1977. I’m sure glad we visited this “tourist attraction” and would recommend it to anyone who loves music.
Memphis music scene
Memphis’ famous Beale Street, on the shores of the Mississippi Delta, was a melting pot of musical styles. Many of the early white traders and merchants had their celtic music and ballads from their homeland. African Americans found refuse here and brought their rhythmic, beat driven music, and a blending began. The Blues were born.
B.B. (Blues Boy) King, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Robert Johnson and many others got their start on Beale Street. It was said that if you could make it here, you could make it anywhere. We enjoyed some fine blues and beer at the original B.B. King’s Blues Club and at other venues on historic Beale Street.
sun studio-Where Rock N Roll began
Sam Phillips loved Beale Street and the sound of the Blues. He didn’t have formal training in the recording arts – he just recorded what he liked. It turned out that he helped create new music. We visited his Sun Studio for a tour. Our young guide, a girl with purple streaked hair, be-bopped around the studio as she told stories and played original recordings of for us.
One story described how Rock N Roll began. Elvis hung around Sun Studio and played as a studio musician from time to time. One day he paid Sam $4 for a recording session of his own. For a time, nothing much happened that impressed Sam so he went on a break but left the recorder running. Elvis began “messing around”, he called it, with the song, “That’s Alright Mama”, giving it both a blues sound and a kind of wildness of his own. Sam loved it, recorded it and sent it over to the wild-man Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips of the radio show ‘Red Hot and Blue’. This is the station that teenagers in my era listened to under the covers so their parents wouldn’t know. The song was a sensation and Rock N Roll was born.
Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash all recorded here. As the story goes, Bono got the chills, Ringo called it Ground Zero, and Bob Dylan kissed the floor. One quote I read said “If music were a religion then Memphis would be Jerusalem and Sun Studio its most sacred shrine.”
A Great man down
A great man went down in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel. We visited the now-closed motel and the National Civil Right Museum that was erected next door. The museum chronicles key episodes of the American Civil Rights Movement with an aim to inspire participation in civil and human rights globally. It has an impressive collection of exhibits and educational programs. Well worth a visit.
The Grand ole opry in Nashville tennessee
How-dee!” I remember as a girl watching Minnie Pearl come on TV, with that price tag dangling from her hat, and make her trademark high-pitched call. My Mama and I would watch that program every week at our home in North Carolina. Mama enjoyed it so much that when I got the chance to see a real live Opry, well I had to do it for Mama!
Phil wasn’t very excited to go – it was another tourist attraction to him. But he was a good sport and graciously agreed to accompany me to the live show at the original Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. He warmed up to it a bit when he recognized singers on stage from a favorite movie of his, ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’.
More country music
The Country Music Awards were taking place when we rolled into Nashville but we were too late to get tickets. We got another dose of Country, however, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum is massive in size and in exhibits. My favorites were the exhibits showing the origins of this music genre, reaching back to the British and Scottish settlers playing their ballads and folk tunes. It also outlined the music contribution African American slaves brought into the south. The music moved westward with the people along with their banjos, fiddles, guitars and homemade instruments. It met up with cowboys and added its “western” component and then influenced and was influenced by the rise of rock n roll. The museum also has exhibits of some of the current country stars, many of whom we saw on TV the previous night on the CMA awards.
Hot chicken and other Tennessee Eats
We heard the story of how a Nashville woman tried to get revenge on her man for his cheating ways by dousing his chicken with a massive amount of cayenne pepper. It backfired on her – he liked it and so did his friends and a famous Nashville dish was born.
We had to try it so we made our way to a strip mall to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and waited in line at the counter for our “mild” version of this fried chicken. It’s served on white bread with pickles to cut the heat. Well, I had to go back up to the counter and get me another dollar’s worth of pickles, it was that hot.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing cooking on that grill at a Nashville bar. We were at Roberts Western World listening to a cool band when it caught my eye. It was a fried bologna and white bread sandwich and it was on the menu for $3.75. Sure, this was a staple for me as a kid but to find it on the grill in a bar today sure surprised me. Would you eat one?
KENTUCKY BOURBON, HORSES AND A CHAMP
My Grandpa Crawford’s favorite drink was Four Roses whisky. When it was the North Carolina equivalent to “five o’clock somewhere”, Grandpa would pull the bottle out of the cabinet, pound on his chest and declare, “It’s time to get scratched by the briar”.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, from Louisville to Lexington in rolling hill country, is home to 8 bourbon distilleries, owing to its sweet Kentucky water and it bountiful corn. This is beautiful country so driving up to the distilleries for a quick tour and a longer tasting was an agreeable activity. Some of the bourbons we liked a lot and some not so much.
I saw that Four Roses bourbon was quite expensive so I wondered how Grandpa could have afforded it back in the day. My question was answered on our tour. Four Roses was only producing a lower grade blended whisky at that time. Today, however, the distillery is owned by the Japanese firm, Kirin, and the bourbon is of a very high quality. Most of it is shipped to Japan. I purchased one of the better single barrel bourbons for myself so I can toast to Grandpa whenever that briar scratches me.
How lucky that a race was on when we stopped at Churchill Downs. Who hasn’t wanted to see a Kentucky Derby? We had a beautiful day at the famous race track, though we didn’t see any outlandish hats. Phil placed a couple of bets but wasn’t lucky. What a treat to actually be at the Downs.
Phil loves Mohammad Ali. I never paid him much mind except to chuckle at his wild antics and bravado. But a visit to the Mohammad Ali Center in Kentucky gave me a new respect for him. I learned that Ali had a bigger mission than to just win fights. About the Center, Ali said, “I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.”
Ali has been distinguished with several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1998 he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work in developing countries. He was a torchbearer at the Olympics in 1996.
EUREKA! WE MADE IT BUT IT’S COLD HERE
The Polar Vortex had us cut short our time in the Carolinas, and completely forego our visit to Virgina Beach and the Outer Banks. It was simply too cold. But after a pleasant visit with my family in Greensboro, we made our Coast to Coast touchdown (for about 20 minutes) on the beach at Wilmington, NC. Then we scooted on southward in hopes of warmer weather.
Along the way, Charleston, South Carolina delighted us with shrimp and grits, cornbread, boiled peanuts, lima beans, moss-covered oak trees, swamps, 200-year-old mansions, and Phil’s first ‘gator sighting.
Established in 1733 beautiful Savannah, Georgia was a strategic port city during the American Revolution and American Civil War. Its downtown area, including the Historic District, the Victorian Historic District and it 22 parklike squares is one of the largest National Historical Landmark Districts. It lies on the Savannah River and is an important Atlantic seaport today.
We hugged the coast of sunny Florida, driving down the coast highway A1A through Amelia Island and historic St. Augustine. The beaches fascinated Phil with their variety of sand, some more fine and powdery than he had ever seen. He loved the abundance of shells and the critters. We stayed a few days on the coast in Cape Canaveral and toured the Kennedy Space Center. We almost got to see a launch, unfortunately postponed.
Since reaching Florida, our true destination on Our Amazing Coast to Coast Road Trip, we have explored both the east and west coasts, driven through the Everglades and spent time in the Florida Keys. (Plus we’ve taken 2 cruises out of Florida which I can’t wait to tell you about.) We have had a couple of cold snaps, but nothing like most of the USA, so we are pretty grateful.
6000 MILES, 3-1/2 MONTHS AND 15 STATES
It has truly been an amazing trip. In addition to all the destinations and “tourist attractions”, I got to see family and friends here in the Southeast which made the trip even more amazing. I hope you enjoyed my stories about our adventure. Leave me a comment, won’t you?Tweet