Thursday, March 8, 2012

Natchez Trace, Tupelo and Graceland

We spent most of the journey to Tupelo and Memphis on the Natchez Trace. Most pleasant, as no commercial traffic is allowed on the trace, the speed limit is 55mph; there are no shops or gas stations - just farms which must grow traditional crops like, cotton, rice, potatoes or for animal pasture. 

Along the trace ½ mile markers alert one to historical points of interest. At one, a burial mound there were lots of red ant nests in the area. Adele noticed a sea of beautiful wild flowers near the pathway and stopped to admire them and stepped right into an ant nest and boy do those little ants move fast – by the time she lifted her foot there were hundreds swarming, biting on her foot and leg driving her crazy. She then proceeded to do a dervish dance hopping about on one foot trying to get her shoe off, going crazy as those little *** are running up her leg while she shouts at them. They listen too, right? Everyone else is! Eventually, she gets them off and by now her foot looks like she has the measles, covered in little pin prick red spots. Adele sprayed her shoes with ant killer, wrapped them in a plastic bag and put them in one of the outside compartments. Since then she pays attention to where she’s putting her feet.
We passed Oprah Winfrey's birthplace Kosciusko, MS the town is called after a Polish General who volunteered to fight in the Revolutionary War; an engineer he fortified West Point and built bridges and public buildings. He returned to Poland fought in their revolution, was imprisoned and later released on condition he leave Poland; he returned to the US and lived here for the rest of his life. Intriguingly to us this is the only place where he is honored.

We stayed for two nights in Tupelo and toured the little shotgun house where Elvis was born and Adele had her photo taken with Elvis's second cousin (he had lots of cousins). The weather was beautiful 80F but the forecast was for a bad storm the next afternoon. The afternoon came; we tuned the TV and radio to the weather station who were broadcasting continuous storm, high wind and tornado warnings. Waiting and wondering is the difficult part, we were ready to head to a Hotel for the night and the safety of a solid structure.  Thankfully, Tupelo is never hit nor do we get any bad weather other than a huge drop in temperature. Lucky us! Sadly, many were killed in Indiana, Arkansas and Illinois.
On Saturday we traveled from Tupelo to Graceland in Memphis home of the Blues and where Elvis lived from age 13. To reach our RV Park we drove down Elvis Presley Boulevard turned right onto Lonely Street and parked RamblingRover behind the Heartbreak Hotel, Graceland between Hound Dog Way and Allshookup Lane. That night we caught the shuttle from the Hotel to downtown Memphis this being a Saturday night Beale Street was jam-packed with revelers and people heading for a Grizzly basketball game. We took a Trolley tour around town which cost us $1 after which we ventured further down Beale Street which remained busy and alive with music. For a while we enjoyed listening to a number of bands who were singing their hearts out; then we went to “Pig on Beale” for a traditional Memphis Pork Dinner (sorry Gerry), on our way back to the shuttle we visited a the 130+ year old Schwab’s department store – it was like stepping back in time, some of the goods for sale must be original 130 year old stock. Some items we spotted were: corn smoking pipes, men's stiff collars in many styles, belts that would circumvent the state of Texas, the largest we saw was for waist 82 inches. All merchandise was laid out on counters, behind which an assistant would stand long ago. Window photographs illustrated the “good old days” when ladies would queue/line outside the shop waiting for the doors to open for a ribbon or button sale.

Sunday was a day of Elvis pilgrimage for Adele, escorted by her dutiful husband. We were literally yards from the ticket office and entrance to the “shrine” and did (as Judy had suggested) the full tour which starts at the mansion. Elvis’s favorite colors were blue, yellow and green; most of the house is furnished and decorated in these bright colors. To the side of the house he had a trophy room containing his collection of platinum and gold records. Another building housed a racquet ball court which had a lounge for spectators and a piano (Elvis played and sang at this piano on the day he died); the ball court is now a museum for his costumes and more awards. There were some nice horses in a paddock behind the house - Elvis liked to ride. A beautiful meditation garden set around a fountain is the site of his grave and also those of his mother, father and grandmother. The garden has a plaque memorializing his still born twin brother – his cousin, whom we met at Tupelo told us that throughout his life Elvis felt guilty that his brother died before Elvis was born 35 minutes later.
Next, we toured two of his planes, one a large 707 size the other a corporate jet size – both elaborate with some gold finishing; then we went to the car museum and saw his pink Cadillac, his 2 Rolls Royce’s, motorbikes, the tractor he used drive down to the gate to greet his fans - the walls and pillars are totally covered with so many signatures it’s amazing. Another museum shows excerpts from his tours, a movie documentary and here his most elaborate costumes are displayed. 

Needless to say Adele had a heavenly, enjoyable day and is now an even bigger fan of Elvis after this pilgrimage to Graceland.

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