Memphis and beyond

IMG_868121 October

A travel day after our adventures in Asheville and Nashville. First, off to buy Phillip a sat nav after a long chat with hosts at B & B who even had to ask me about the trolley rides we had been on in Nashville as they didn’t seem to know about them or the sweet shop with the toy train running around the shop that was on Broadway.

I won’t say I was enamoured with Daisy Hill, very old fashioned furniture, no choices for breakfast, our bedroom was very cold – we were told it was because it was at the very end of the house heating that is run separately to the other guest rooms.

The owners didn’t seem to know much about the area although they had directed us to Tin Angel restaurant and also the Plantation house.

Casey Jones Museum
Casey Jones Museum

Long drive on boring I-40 to Memphis interrupted by a gas stop, a lunch stop at Panera Bread and a visit en route to the Casey Jones Railroad museum.

Casey jones funeral carriage
Casey jones funeral carriage

Casey Jones was a railroad engineer (train driver to Brits) who in 1900 managed to save all the passengers on a train when it crashed although sadly he lost his life in the crash.

The museum dedicated to him is a delightful little building housing many artefacts from around the time Casey Jones was alive including showing some of the 32 TV programmes that were made in 1957-8 dramatising his work as a train driver.

Replica of Casey Jones engine
Replica of Casey Jones engine
The Judge Milton Brown Railcar
The Judge Milton Brown Railcar

Included in the museum is his house, locomotive No. 382 which you can access along with a Pullman Car – the Judge Milton Brown Railcar – which was built in 1950 and ran between Chicago to Mobile for 8 years and to St Louis for another 9 years.  There were only ever 4 cars of this design made.

Return to I-40 for virtually the remainder of journey to Memphis passing a couple of cotton fields on the way – we must be in the Deep South now.

Check into Crowne Plaza and decide to visit a Chinese for an evening meal. The driver of the hotel’s free shuttle bus into town suggested we went to a particular restaurant as they thought it had just changed names from something that we thought it was.

Go in despite us being the only ones there. The food was good although the waitress didn’t seem quite all there. She brings over bill half way through our meal and says she is bringing it early as she might be busy later ( by then the restaurant was positively crowded with another three customers making 7 in total out of possibly 120 seats! ).

Lively Beale Street, Memphis
Lively Beale Street, Memphis

Walk down to lively Beale Street. A concert sponsored by a local Radio Station appears to have taken many of the kids off the street and into a park but nevertheless it was a great atmosphere down the street with some proper country music.

Back to hotel via bus on trolley replacement service – it’s been like that for over 2 years we are told.

There is one trolley running (we call them trams in the UK so we sometimes confuse locals especially as the US people say trams when in fact they mean cable cars.  Confused?)

22 October

Graceland interior
Graceland interior

Rooms left in the 1970s style they were in when he died, some of them very grand with expensive fittings, mainly in gold, but not garishly decorated.

Lots of memorabilia around including Gold and Platinum discs and costumes but always we are told about the good Elvis, not the fact that he had a few affairs, and one of the causes of his death was his drug habits.

I could write a blog in itself on the experience and share the photographs I took but am sure others have done so before me – perhaps one day I will.

Elvis' costumes
Elvis’ costumes

Elvis’ grave and those of his relatives are tasteful but it was difficult to get photos with shadows all cris-crossing the writing.

Elvis family gravestone
Elvis family gravestone

For once, a visit on a cloudy day might have been a better bet but we weren’t to know.

Elvis' Roller
Elvis’ Roller

Our ticket included a tour of his many cars, one of which he had bought only a few days before he died and his two aeroplanes.

After lunch we headed to the Cotton Museum, although only just got in before it closed for the evening, a fascinating story told in the former exchange with short videos and many artefacts.

Cotton Museum, Memphis
Cotton Museum, Memphis

Especially good was the children’s section.

After last night’s Chinese meal in a building without any atmosphere, we opt for a Brazilian at Texas de Brazil after a wait at the Peabody hotel where there is a wonderful lobby.

We were not able to see the ducks that promptly at 11am and 5pm walk through the hotel which even has a Duck Master.  As with most things on this road trip, there just wasn’t enough time to fit everything in.

No more meat, I am full thanks (well maybe I will turn it over later)
No more meat, I am full thanks (well maybe I will turn it over later)

Dinner was good, with an all you can eat salad and meat carved at your table.

We had been to another Brazilian restaurant a few years ago when we were in Salt Lake City and the format is not dissimilar. After collecting your plates and salad, waiters tour the restaurant with various cuts of meat and if you want more, you turn your disc to Green, if you don’t want more you turn it to Red.

Exhausted after a long day, we return to the hotel.

23 October

Mississippi Bridge with arches only on Tennessee side
Mississippi Bridge with arches only on Tennessee side

We head out of town and over the Mississippi into Arkansas in an effort to locate a cotton field that we can photograph, over the bridge that forms the state border the finer details of which have been finished by Tennessee but Arkansas decided to spend their share of the money on something else -hence the strange looking bridge.

No cotton fields seen nearby so we head back across the Mississippi for a visit to Sun Studios – a suggestion from Sarah.

Sun Studio - one of the icons of the music scene in Memphis
Sun Studio – one of the icons of the music scene in Memphis
A V Mittelstedt at the microphone used by Elvis, Jerry Lee Louis et all
A V Mittelstedt at the microphone used by Elvis, Jerry Lee Louis et all

Here we meet a couple from Texas whilst we are waiting for the tour, he had come here as a youngster trying to get on the music ladder but was turned away so he set up a recording studio himself.

If you come across A V Mittelstedt it is him.

The tour was excellent and charted the history very well from the very early 1950s up until they moved out to bigger studios in the 1970s.

Richard tries "the" microphone
Richard tries “the” microphone

Lunch nearby in a Woman’s co-operative type arrangement which was supposed to be good.

Yes it was good and it also allowed us to view craftwork prepared by locals for sale.

The forth activity today was a 90 minute boat cruise down the Mississippi on a paddle steamer.

Not a great deal of meaningful (to us Brits) commentary but interesting all the same.

Mississippi Paddle steamer
Mississippi Paddle steamer

There seems to be some rivalry between the states of Tennessee and Arkansas and our guide was definitely not from Arkansas!

By the time we had returned to land, the clouds – the first we had seen since we had arrived – had started to drop rain on us so a walking tour of the Victorian village was not really going to be possible, there will have to be a next time.

Back to hotel for a brief rest and out tonight to an arts event at the end of Main Street.

Main Street Memphis, art & craft evening
Main Street Memphis, art & craft evening

Lots of arts and crafts on display but nothing that particularly excited me except one or two pictures that would be too big to take home.

Opt for a meal in ONIX as most other restaurants full to capacity and ONIX can squeeze us in.

Onix restaurant, Memphis
Onix restaurant, Memphis

We are the only white people in a restaurant that probably seats 60.

All the waiting staff and the band (we have to pay a cover charge of $10 a head for the band) are black as well.

Some turnover of customers whilst we are there but they are all black as well but no one cared, no one stared.

The food was good, my special of fish and meat just hit the mark but the priceless comment by Sylvia before we went in “it looks a bit dark in there” will be remembered for some time – she was just referring to the lighting!

Walk back to tram towards hotel for our last night in Memphis.

Tomorrow, it is our long drive to New Orleans about which, of course, my blog continues in a few days time.

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