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.

Memphis' Beale Street

Beale Street, named a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and “Home of the Blues” by Congress in 1977

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.

Lorraine Motel room of Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King’s room and balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis – chilling to visit

Lorraine Motel in Memphis

Lorraine Motel in Memphis with Civil Rights Museum next to it

View from Dr. King's room at Lorraine Motel

The view from Dr. King’s room. The shot came from the bathroom of a rooming house across the street

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?


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.


Wilmington, NC

We made it to the Carolina coast – 6 weeks, 2 days and 4080 miles from San Francisco

It's pretty cold in November on the NC Coast. They were calling it the Polar Vortex. Brrr

It’s pretty cold in November on the NC Coast. They were calling it the Polar Vortex. Brrr

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.

warm finally!

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.

DSC01898 DSC01899DSC01906DSC01974DSC02059

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.


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?


18 responses to “Are we travelers or tourists?”

  1. Gayle says:

    Aloha you two! Very quiet day at work so I got to catch up with you on this fabulous blog of yours!! 🙂 I LOVE IT! My niece and her new hubby Will are moving East August 1st so she can start the 2 year P.A. Program at Duke- SO exciting for them! *That’s where Dad trained as a medic before going over to England during WWII. Tomorrow marks 3 years since Mom’s passing…wow; I’m working at the Beach Hut, so I’ll actually feel close, since both of their ashes were scattered there.
    What’s next and when might you be back for another Kaua’i visit?! I have family and friends coming over throughout the Spring, so that will really be nice at my new hale in Kalaheo 🙂 Mahalo for the great stories and photos- and Aloha for now, Gayle 🙂

    • CarolSue says:

      Great to hear from you, Gayle. Miss you and your mom! We are in Costa Rica which is a lot like Kauai. Hoping to spend January on the island. Looking for a house sitting gig there. Put the word out, please. Enjoy that beautiful island and all your activities there. We are off to the rainforest this morning searching for scarlet macaws! Luv, CarolSue

  2. dear carol & phil, thanks for stopping in Key West…

    adding your unique energy to our lives

    delighted to see you and hearing of your adventures

    • CarolSue says:

      Dear Dale, thanks for your nice comments. We loved gathering at your house for a holiday celebration. It was delightful as were your guests and you two as hosts. Happy to see how good your life is. Hope to stay in touch. Best always, CarolSue

  3. Vicky Riddle says:

    Love reading your posts, always full of so many different adventures and wonderful experiences. My husband and I have been travelling for 4 years now, we sold our B and B in Cairns, gave our dog to the new owner, sold cars and everything else and hit the road. We have spent half our time in Europe and the UK and the other half in Asia, US, Canada and always back to OZ for visiting family and friends. We are going to Oahu end of March for a few weeks and then onto Fort Lauderdale where we are doing two caribbean cruises and then spending a month in Ft Lauderdale. We will then head down to Mexico and Costa Rica, we seem to be following in your footsteps. We are hoping to buy an RV and travel the US for part of the year which also sounds like what you guys do. If you were ever interested in going in partnership in an RV please let me know. Would love to try and meet up for coffee while we are in Ft Lauderdale if of course you had time as I think we will be there similar time to you in April. Keep enjoying yourselves and happy travelling.

    • CarolSue says:

      Hi Vicky, thanks so much for your comment. I love hearing about your travels. Sounds wonderful and I have some questions for you about where you have been. Would love to get together in Ft Lauderdale next month if our schedules match up. I will email you and let’s schedule. Happy Trails! CarolSue

  4. Laura says:

    Awesome post and photographs. Love your blog. It’s so inspiring to read your stories and imagine doing what you all are doing. I only wish you wrote more often!

    • CarolSue says:

      Dear Laura, this is a wonderful compliment. Thank you. It is truly fun what my husband and I are doing (I am writing this from Costa Rica!). I too wish I wrote more, but I don’t have the discipline and I’m too busy enjoying the traveling. But you are inspiring me. Best, CarolSue

  5. Aloha,

    We just got back home to Kauai after being in OR with our daughter for her Winter Break from Reed College in Portland,OR. We had a nice time, but SO glad to be back in warmer weather! After being gone so long and attempting to work remotely it takes awhile to dig through all the mail, emails & then get back to work. See the new website I have been designing for a couple of months now for a new Farm Market, Farm tour site, Farm to table food source, etc. We launched the new website last night & our first farm market will be coming up next Friday the 13th with 10 farmers that all grow produce on this one Kealia Farm across from Kealia Beach. Anyway, had to take a break & read your latest travel stories & look at all your photos of so many of the southern places I grew up and know so well. Hope to see you next time you are back on Kauai – Mahalo Nui

    • CarolSue says:

      Thanks, Carol, for the comment and the update on your happenings. Your new farm tour business sounds terrific. You may remember that’s how we met – with you working the market for the college program. Glad you enjoyed the blog and photos and got to go back in time. See you on Kauai – probably Jan 2016, after Europe and San Francisco with the kids for the holiday. Take care. CarolSue

  6. Steve Hoch says:

    Another GREAT post Carol. Loved all the pix baked in too.

    You are without a doubt….. travelers. A few tourist stops along the way doesn’t change that.

    Keep traveling and keep sharing!


  7. Di says:

    A-LO-HA! (EKK just started off with a bang!)

    LOVE your blogs!
    I especially enjoyed the music history reviews from Memphis and Nashville!
    And all the photos!
    Keep ’em coming…..I’m living vicariously….
    Hope we will meet up sometime soon!

    • CarolSue says:

      Diane darlin,
      Thanks for your comment. I am glad you enjoyed the music history. It’s timely for you since EKK, THE Hawaiian music event on Kauai, has just begun for the season. I am sure that you are there volunteering like we both did for many seasons. Say hello to everyone for me. I can’t wait to see you again. Tentative plans are to come to Kauai in January 2016 for a month, after spending a month with the kids in SF for the holiday. Think we could housesit for someone on Kauai in Jan? Luv to you and John from both of us!

  8. Marlene Hawthorne says:

    Aloha Carol and Phil
    Oh this brought back so many memories. My Husband Gene( he has been gone 13 yrs as of Feb 3rd) cousin Laura and I and friends Bill and Kathy Lucas took this similar Road Trip From Oregon Coast to East Coast. Portland OR to Portland Maine.Also took in Quebec Canada. Saw a lot of the places you were at. Graceland was a tourist place, but done tastefully. Memphis was great and the food was fabulous. Thanks for your stories you have a way with words and pictures. Have fun and enjoy. Our trip was the year prior to 9/11

    • CarolSue says:

      Marlene, good to hear from you. So glad that you, too, had a wonderful cross country trip. It’s unbelievable how much fun it was! Take care. Hope to see you in Kauai, probably next January, if all goes well. Luv from both of us.

  9. bill robinson says:

    Hello U2:

    Great job on letting us in on your travels. It’s so nice to travel along with
    the 3 of you and see the places that Jean and I have also visited and we say “we’ve been there”. Such fun. Take care on your adventures in South America. Call me when you can. Love = Bill & Jean

    • CarolSue says:

      Cousin Billy, good to hear from you, my fellow RVer. So loved visiting you and Jean on this cross country trip over there near Austin (a now-favorite place). Hope you guys get out there and go-RVing again. It would be a kick to meet up with you somewhere. How about next summer in Maine – or the mountains of Carolina??? Luv to you both

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