Saturday, March 31, 2007

Graceland Trip: Day 03

Wednesday I woke up after 8 crappy hours of sleep. I sat on the porch swing of my cabin, ate a peanut butter granola bar and watched what I could of the sunrise. It was kind of hard to see since the Heartbreak Hotel was right in the way.

I took another walk to the Graceland gates to try to get some better pictures and I did (they're the ones in yesterday's post). Then, I packed up my car, checked my car, and checked out of the campground.

Before leaving Memphis, I really, really wanted to cross the Mississippi River. I headed north on I55 and crossed it. I thought I could get onto I40 east and cross the river again on the Hernando de Soto Bridge. Well, I never saw an exit for I40 east. I40 west I saw clearly. About 5 miles into Arkansas (yes, folks, Arkansas is now a state I've been to) I decided to turn around. This time I saw the right I40 exit. The bridge is pretty sweet. And, right after the bridge is the exit for the Tennessee welcome center. I stopped to see if they could tell me the quickest way to 72.

Here's some sites from the welcome center:



I should have asked what that pyramid is all about.




And for those of you interested, a nice crotch-shot:


Okay, so why did I take 72 west instead of 78 like I took getting there? Because I wanted to see the Shiloh Battlefield. It was a beautiful drive, too.


There's definitely a bit of that "in the middle of nowhere" kind of feeling driving that road.

When I got to Corinth, Mississippi, I stopped at that welcome center to get directions to the battlefield (and for a free diet coke). Ends up, the actual battlefield was like 22 miles away. It was already 11am or noon-ish. I decided to skip the battlefield tour since I already drove that extra 22 miles by crossing the Mississippi and settled for the interpretive center just about a mile away.


At first I thought this interpretive center was going to be cheesy. Nope, it looked like a lot of money was put into it. It was well designed, had a couple of films, and a few sculptures.





There's a quote right in the water to the effect that the issues that the Civil War was about have yet to be resolved. Interesting.

After the interpretive center, I headed for Atlanta. I made a stop in Tupelo (which I'm fond of exclaiming as tuLEPoooo!) for lunch at a Chick-Fil-A. But after that I just kept driving.


This time I skirted Birmingham. Whew!

My last stop was in Leeds, Alabama at the Wal-Mart again to use their facilities. On my way to the door, I noticed some postcards, so I bought those (and a pack of M&M's). I had to snap a picture of this:
I literally turned around in my car and was faced with that. It seemed in an odd place.

The rest of the ride back to Atlanta was uneventful. I got back before dark and after rush hour. How lucky!

Now, how could I take a 3 day, 2 night, and 885 mile trip and not learn something? This is what I learned:

1. Caffeine really, really does help. See my first post about feeling sleepy on the first leg of the drive.
2. All those stereotypes about the South are true. Not that every Southerner falls into them, but they do exist.
3. I'm too wild of a sleeper for a sleeping bag. I love to swish and there's no swishing in a bag.

T. Budnik

Friday, March 30, 2007

Graceland Trip: Day 02

I woke up around 8am on Tuesday after 10 hours of not-so-great sleep. Seems it doesn't matter if your cabin has air conditioning, you're still going to be hot. I ate a granola bar for breakfast, hit the bathrooms, and got ready for Graceland.

At 9am I set off on the 5 minute walk to the ticket complex. It was very convenient that the campground was located right next to Graceland parking. Not having to drive there and pay for parking saved me a couple of bucks. I got my ticket from the reservation window and got in line for a shuttle to the mansion.

As you wait for the shuttle, there's a wall painted with the Graceland gates that they charge you 21 beans to get your picture taken in front of. Needless to say, I declined the opportunity to get my picture taken in front of the fake gates. Instead, after I finished the tour, I found this photo booth and got a good enough picture for a thrifty $5.


Plus, I was able to snap this picture.


I would have taken pictures inside the mansion, but I didn't think that cameras were allowed. Well, they are, just not the flash. Shoot. I did buy some postcards of the inside and I tried to scan them all for you to see, but I still have scanner/printer issues.

The tour was great. I loved the Jungle Room, all of the mirrors (there's a stairway of mirrors that is freaky to walk down), and the multiple tvs all in a row. I was disappointed with the kitchen, though. I figured a King would need a larger kitchen.

Along with the mansion tour, I got to go through several other exhibits. I saw Elvis's planes, cars, and most important, his jumpsuits. Oh the glittery, bedazzeled glory of those stage costumes! I'd have to say that was my favorite part of the entire thing. Of course, to get out of all of these side exhibits, you have to exit through a gift shop. There were more gift shops than exhibits and they all contained pretty much the same stuff. Being my thrifty, always-thinking-about-moving self, I made it out with a bunch of postcards. (A lucky few of you will be receiving one in the mail shortly.)

I spent about 2-3 hours at Graceland (time was really hard for me to tell since I was in the Central Time Zone, but kept my watch set to Eastern Time). I walked back to my cabin, ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and hit the road to see what Memphis had to offer.

I ended up at the Gibson Guitar Factory. Because I couldn't quite see how to get into the parking garage and had to circle the block like three times, I was late for the 2pm tour of the factory, so I had to wait for the 3pm one. I grabbed my camera and walked around a bit.

Here are some of the highlights:








And, as promised, I found something FedEx:


The greatest picture of them all:
Because, if you're going to the FedEx Forum to see a game, it's only right that you should be able to drop off your package there, too.

By the time I was done walking Beale Street and the surrounding area and taking pictures, it was time for my tour of the factory.

Here are the highlights:



It was a pretty sweet tour. Let me tell you, a lot of work goes into those guitars. They're so particular about their guitars that they only hire women to do some jobs and only men to do others. (I'm not sure if I agree with this discrimination, but whatever.) I really couldn't tell you about the beginning of the process because it was too loud to hear the guide. I think I love factories. There could have been a widget factory and I would have been there signing up for the tour.

After the tour, I headed back to the campground. It was dinner time. Now, before I got to Graceland, I was set on getting me a peanut butter and banana sandwich--Elvis's sandwich--but when I checked in, the woman told me that Marlowe's BBQ restaurant down the street would pick me up in a pink limo and take me there for free if I just gave them a call. I dropped the peanut butter and banana sandwich idea fast (and this is partly because I had eaten a couple of peanut butter sandwiches along the trip and the granola bar I ate for breakfast was peanut butter). So, once I got back to my cabin, I called them up.

First, let me tell you that pink limo was sweet. It was an 1985 model. It had the cushiest blue velour seats and when it started to rain on our way back to the campground, the front passenger window leaked.

Second, on our way into the restaurant, one of the campground ladies asked me if I was alone and if I wanted to join her and her husband. Sure! I said. I had dinner with Judy and Bill. Because I thought it would be rude to take a picture, I've memorializd them with this drawing:
This was part of the appeal of the campground: camper camaraderie. Judy and Bill were great. Very interesting people. Judy was a hoot. She dared me to order the breaded okra. And I did. It was good, too. On the way back when we stopped in front of my cabin, she read my bumper sticker and exclaimed, "Alaska girls kick ass! This tart has had us fooled!" (She was quick to pick up on my good girl persona.)

One day, I'll be retired and traveling. And that day, I'll invite the lone traveller to join me for dinner. People like that restore my faith in humanity.

Once back at the campground I wrote postcards and then headed out to the Graceland gates to snap a few pictures before dark. On my way there, one of the pink limo drivers (for there are a couple of pink limos) pulled alongside me and told me not to be out--it's a dangerous part of town. I told him I was only going as far as the gates (like really a block away) and he said, "Okay, but I want you to be back my dark." Really, old man? Because how are you going to know? Do I look like an idiot? But, I think this protectiveness is a Memphian thing, for it was not the first time I had encountered it. On a side note, Elvis Presley Blvd. wasn't that bad. The part of Birmingham I drove through was worse.

I concluded my walk and wasn't able to get any really good pictures because it was too dark and cloudy. I then hit the shower and went to bed.

Tomorrow, I'll recount my travels back to Atlanta.

T. Budnik

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Graceland Trip: Day 01

Hi-oh! I'm going to take a cue from KBezzie and do this thing in installments. One because there's a lot to tell and two, because I've got a couple rolls of old fashioned film being developed.

Sunday night I got off of work relatively early, but it still was too dark to check my car. I had to wait until Monday morning. I checked the air pressure of my tires (including my spare) checked my oil and other fluids. And, I checked my coolant. Get this: cold, I was about two inches under the fill line. TWO INCHES. Last Tuesday I got an oil change and they talked me into a coolant flush. Um, hello? These grease monkeys can't fill my coolant to the fill line? I ended up driving to an auto parts store and bought some coolant. This is something I didn't want to do because I hate having chemicals lounging in my trunk and it's not like I'm living in a house with a shed in which to store them. But, incompetence is incompetence and I've still got to call up those grease monkeys and let them have it.

That put me about 1.5 hours behind my planned departure time. And, my first couple of hours I wasn't feeling it. By the time I got to Leeds, Alabama (about 20 miles out of Birmingham) I was feeling that sleepy feeling I got all the time in my literary criticism class--not a good thing. There are Wal-Marts-a-plenty in the south, so I stopped at the one in Leeds, used the facilities, bought a Subway sandwich, ate it in my car, rested my eyes for about 10 solid minutes (a hot car isn't the ideal place to nap), cracked open one of the Diet Pepsi's I packed and hit the road again.

Much better. Until I saw a sign for highway 78. Oh, I'll take this exit, I thought. It took me into Birmingham, but was okay since there were a lot of signs telling me I was staying on 78 west. I had to take a couple of turns to stay on it. And then the signs stopped. Bah. I stopped at a BP to top off with gas and give me an excuse to ask for directions. I walked into the gas station to find the clerk behind a plate of glass. Bing! Birmingham, at least what I drove through didn't look very friendly. It looks old-old and run down like no one cares. The dingus behind the counter didn't know where 78 was, but could tell me that we were on the Bessemer Super Highway. That was enough information. I consulted my map, did some turning around and found myself finally on 78 west which took me right through Mississippi and to Memphis.

Mississippi wins the award for the best welcome centers I've been to. Why, you may ask. I'll tell you: they offer you a refreshment. Would you like a soda? Or coffee or tea?

All for free? I asked in disbelief. I'll have a Diet Coke! Granted, these weren't full 12oz sodas. They were more like large Dixie cups (no pun intended).



(It's getting increasingly difficult to tell people that no, I would not like them to take a picture of me because I have a thing for self portraits. Some smoking chick offered her picture-taking services when took this.)

From there, it was happy sailing. I wasn't drowsy and I was getting into the road trip mood. I arrived in Memphis just in time for rush hour. Seems I have a knack for this. (Remember when I first came to Atlanta, Mom and I hit rush hour.) No problem, though, I just read my map at red lights, turned around once, and gave a big friendly Alaskan smile and wave to people so they would let me change lanes.

In order to get to the Memphis-Graceland RV Park, you have to go down Elvis Presley Blvd and turn onto Lonely Street.


You go past the big hotel on the left.


Then you'll see the sign.


You'll have to park in front of the office while you check in.


I did all that. And was sooooo pleased to see that my cabin actually had air conditioning. If you don't know, it's HOT here in the south despite the fact that it's only late March.

Here's what my cabin looked like from the outside.


When I was trying to get a good picture of my cabin, I got this shot. Check it, a ghost got right in front of my cabin.


And here's what it looked like from the inside.





I didn't do anything that first night besides call my credit card company back because they saw some strange charges--the charges I made for gas along the way. I also read up on some sites to see and then went to bed in my sleeping bag.


Man, I'm so glad I sprung for the sleeping bag with the patented Jerky Pocket, because I got hungry in the middle of the night!

Tomorrow: Graceland, Gibson Guitar Factory, and dinner at Marlowe's.

T. Budnik