Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dollywood or Bust (part 2)


Breakfast:  Hotel - scrambled eggs
9am meeting with THIGH HIGH JEANS - Kerry and Ann (love them)
Memphis Temple - photos
Lunch:  Gus’s Fried Chicken (Mason, TN) - All of the franchises have their batter made in Mason and transported to the restaurant locations. No one outside the Bonner family name knows what goes into that magic mix, but it’s the batter and the method that makes it great. The chicken isn’t just dipped, but marinated, soaked in that secret mixture before it’s popped in the fryer. Vernon (a.k.a “Gus Bully”) ran the business until his death in 2007, still lovingly commemorated on a well-loved dry erase board with an impromptu down-home message: “Gus, Rest In Peace. We love you. 07-24-07.”

Another breakfast in the hotel lobby and just as delicious.  The day started with a delightful visit with THIGH HIGH JEAN owners Kerry and Ann.  They take donated jeans, add some flare fabric to the legs, and stick a quote on the leg.  I brought my own jeans and told them a little about my life and they take the info and find a quote to fit my personality.  Ali and Sandra bought adorable, ruffled, skirts with quotes that fit them each perfectly, it seemed surreal.  We chatted comfortablely for over an hour, laughter and stories came easily.  Ann latched onto Sandra and is her newest fan.  She insisted we eat lunch at Gus’s Fried Chicken and made a map with directions so we wouldn’t get lost, and she called later to make sure we made it.
            With sadness, we departed the great women and headed out to see the real Memphis temple.  It is a small temple with beautiful pink flowers and magnolia trees.  We took pictures, or course, and headed out on I-70 for a scenic route to Mason, TN for lunch with Gus - the Original Gus. 
            We flew past the tiny house-like restaurant, but made our way back easily since there were only two buildings around. It is the size of Sandra’s living room, paneled with wood and covered in linoleum.  The locals stared us down as we entered and sat at a round table near the kitchen and the white board stating “RIP Gus 2007”.  The menu contained chicken and...chicken.  We ate family style from a cafeteria tray - different chicken parts, wonder bread in a stack, cup of beans, and my new favorite coleslaw.  I saw my first Jerry Springer with our waitress - a man found out he was dating a man, not a 
            Hopped on the I-40 to Nashville with everyone in the world.  Holy traffic batman - a semi-truck thought it was a racecar and made us nervous for miles!  Our first stop was a bizarre   Mindfield Cemetery - Billy Tripp's life story since 1989.  Sandra wrote comments, where appropriate - the notes page - then we continued onward.  We searched for a non-existent  fruit stand, mocked Sandra and continued onto the Nashville Holiday Inn Express on Broadway.  It was nice, but definitely a step down from the Marriott.  We took a few moments to freshen up before heading out to the Blue Bird Café.
            The traffic caused the 13 mile drive to take over 40 minutes (and several heart attacks).  The Blue Bird Café sat unassumingly in a small strip mall on the outskirts of town.  We had a reserved table thanks to Sandra (a week ago).  Our concert by Walt Aldridge and Nate Barnes left us wanting hours more acoustic guitar and stories, the two girls seemed to be fillers.  We ate a delicious dinner as we enjoyed to perfect “ambinance”.  This café is known as many a musician’s kick start to fame, including Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks.  Walt has written many famous songs we knew and sang one about dads that made us all teary.  Nick is an up and comer dad, if he had a CD we would have purchased said CD.
            On our way back to the Holiday, we stopped at the Parthenon at the edge of Vanderbilt University.  It is built like the original, but this one was assembled.  We had another photo shoot, testing the lighting and the darkness.  The bugs swarmed and drove us away. We went back to the hotel and were almost lulled into a quiet night indoors, but finally we all shared one bathroom (for better and for worse) and took the Holiday Inn’s shuttle to the downtown lights.  Which happens to be one strip of bars and souvenir shops.  We were hit upon by older gentlemen and crazy people, because those were the only people around.  We ditched that scene and spent much of our time trying on cowboy boots.  No one purchased any boots (we all regret it to this day). We stopped and bought ice cream where famous people are shown in a wedding-style video playing in the shop.  We walked home after less than an hour on the town, worried we would be scared, but it was very safe...and hot.

Wild traffic into the Holiday Inn Express Nashville - popcorn and cookies in the lobby, quick clean up
Dinner:  Blue Bird Café -  a music club in Nashville, Tennessee that opened in 1982. The club is famous for intimate, acoustic music performed by its composers. Walt Aldridge • Garth Brooks • Brooks&Dunn • Mary Chapin Carpenter • Kenny Chesney • Rita Coolidge • Cowboy Junkies • Billy Dean • Dixie Chicks • Melissa Etheridge • Art Garfunkel • Vince Gill • Patty Griffin • Nanci Griffith • Ty Herndon • Faith Hill • Indigo Girls  • Alan Jackson • Carole King • The Kindleys • Brandon Kinney • Patty Loveless • Kathy Mattea • Brad Paisley • Bonnie Raitt • Rascal Flatts • SheDaisy • Frank Sheen • Blake Shelton • The Sky Donna Summer • Sweethearts of the Rodeo • Taylor Swift • Pam Tillis • Keith Urban • Chris Whitley • Trisha Yearwood
We saw Walt, Rachel, Kathy , and Nick.  The men of the group were more involved, talented and story tellers.  Walt and Nick were comfortable joining in each other’s songs. 


We woke up early to beat the crowds to the Ryman.  We had a delicious hotel breakfast - eggs, cereal, and yogurt.

Two men beat us to the doors, but the doors hadn’t opened yet.  We were the first people in the doors.  Sandra signed up for a personal singing recording with the Ryman.  The acoustics are “second only to the Mormon Tabernacle” as they stated in their informational video.  Sandra was able to record a song with Joshua, where other musical geniuses have recorded. 

The auditorium first opened as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892. It was built by Thomas Ryman (1843–1904), a riverboat captain and Nashville businessman who owned several saloons.  It was used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts from 1943 until 1974, when the Opry built a larger venue just outside Nashville. The seating is a reminder of the auditorium's origins as a house of worship, hence giving it the nickname "The Mother Church of Country Music".

We went back to the strip to check out some famous places Sandra knows about.  We stopped at the Gruhn Guitar shop.  We checked out the guitars that cost more than my car and Sandra purchased a guitar strap and we all got some .50$ guitar picks.  Onto the printing press of old school printing - Hatch. 

If you follow music, art, and culture of the American South, sooner or later you're bound to run into the letters, images, and unmistakable "look" of Hatch Show Print. We're one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in America, and over the years our posters have featured a host of country music performers, ranging from Country Music Hall of Famers Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, and Johnny Cash to contemporary stars such as Garth Brooks and Wynonna.

We were so hot, it was time for some popsicles!  These were not your everyday popsicles, but special fancy cicles from Los Plantas.  The girls ordered lavender, rose petals, chocolate covered avocado - who knew?!  Then we say goodbye to Nashville.    With no plans for lunch, we decided to go easy and eat at a Tennessee staple, White Castle.  I ordered the sliders, turns out they are grilled in onions.  I made it clear I COULDN’T eat onions.  They were not happy about it and let me know that my burgers would be cooked on a grill made for a lesser grill.  The burgers were okay.  I drank Mellow Yellow that I thought was lemonade, and it made me ridiculously coo-coo the rest of the day.

An unexpected surprise was the treehouse in Crossville, TN.  This is a 6 story minister’s house built among  the trees.  There is a chapel somewhere around the 4th floor.  The builder ways he was told, by Jesus, that He wanted a church in the trees.  We climbed around, carefully, for almost an hour, among several other tourists...children.  Impressive.


Hello Pigeon Forge, Ali welcomes you and everything you stand for.  The drive through town was like a family style Las Vegas; packed streets, big animated buildings, lights, and hotels with fancy water parks.  It was a lot to take in all at once, but we did it with big smiles on our faces.  Sandra maneuvered us through town and finally into the Smoky Mountains. 

We met Rachel at the Dollywood cabin clubhouse.  Ali almost fainted with excitement.  Sandra helped reorganize the plans for the Dollywood tickets and we were on our way to The Beary Special cabin. We wound around the mountain roads until we arrived at our perfect weekend getaway.  We were giddy and excited.  We toured the cabin from top to bottom and loved every inch.  We unpacked the van, but we were starving so we picked pizza and headed out.  Sandra navigated us through the back roads to avoid the main street.  The pizza did not disappoint, HEAVEN!  We came home and spent a relaxing evening in the hot tub.

JUNE 29, 2012 FRIDAY

Ali could barely contain her excitement, for it was Dollywood morning.  We arrived bright and early with our VIP parking pass, feeling oh so VIP.  We were given lanyards to hold our ID; VIPs are offered free ice water any time we asked, and a G-BOT (Q2Q) to hold our place in line at the rides.  We wore our badges like royalty and looked down on the commoners.  With the weather over 100 degrees, we relished our theater breaks and our free ice water (which we later found out is offered to everyone).  Q2Q reminded us of our Dreamland Drive-in time slot.  We searched for food and found random too-hot-for-summer food and did the best we could.  We were led to our reserved seat section - VIPs.

The shows contained talent above and beyond the teenagers we’re used to at our Lagoon shows.  The show kept us glued even to the point that we gasped and some yelled “NO!” when the wrong girl kissed our main character (causing the audience to laugh).  There were no real lines (due to the heat) so we were able to ride all of the rides before noon!  Wild Eagle is the new ride, the only one of its kind with wings of people off of the track.  The other rides were your typical roller coasters:  Barnstormer, Blazing Fury, Daredevil Falls, Mystery Mine, Mountain Sidewinder, Tennessee Tornado, Smoky Mountain River Rampage, and Thunderhead.              Q2Q bleeped again for our next show, luckily we were VIPs because the Gazillion Bubbles Show was packed with families.  This show fascinated the audience and drew us in for an hour mesmerized with bubbles.  The lights and music drove the show forward.  Our favorite part included the 3 small children volunteered to participate.  One little boy kept reaching out and popping the bubble the Bubble master kept putting around them.  She finally made him put his hands in his pockets and then the other girl started to pop the bubbles too.  We laughed til our stomachs cramped and smiles hurt. It snowed bubbles - magical!  It literally snowed gazillions of bubbles.

Because of the lackluster lunch, our wet clothes (my wet clothes needed a belt), and the heat, we ditched out early and headed to The Old Mill for dinner.  The line contained families all bigger than our table of 5.  We melted into the waiting chairs, tired and exhausted, and slept until they called our table.  Perfect dumplings satiated us until our food arrived.  Heaven on Earth.  Fell into bed without much fanfare.


Dollywood take 2.  Because we had such a successful first day, we were able to relax and enjoy meandering the grounds for a short second day.  We hit a few rides between museums and photographs, but mostly tried to cool off in the 105 degrees.  The park bustled with families, much more than Friday’s trip and we weaved our way from the County Fair section to Dolly’s museum.  Yes, we’ve been in Dolly’s attic and tour bus!  Our shows today were outdoor shows and our energy melted every second we sat in the heat.  The first show was moved into the burger joint (wish I’d known about these burgers the day prior) and the fun acappella group singing and dancing.  Next, Dolly’s extended family performed some old favorites to a crowd of old and young.  Dripping in sweat we dredged ourselves into the air-conditioned souvenir shop. Overpriced trinkets call to us and win.

Lunch was across the street from yesterday’s dinner at The Old Mill Square Pottery House Café & Grill.  My salad satisfied my hunger and I would vote that it was my favorite meal.  We strolled by the stores, the candy store with the giant gummy bears and gummy worms drew us in.  We bought taffies of all flavors and fudge.  Mmmm.  It was lounge around time.  YES!

Dinner was leftovers...

We rented a movie from the Redbox - “Love and War’ and fell asleep before it ended.

JUNE 31, 2012 SUNDAY

Church @ 10am.  We took a wonderful drive through the backwoods of Pigeon Forge to church.  The ward was just like any ward in the world, I love it.  The testimonies in Spanish made me happy.  The spirit is the same no matter where you go to a testimony meeting, thank goodness.

Leftovers for lunch, except Ali and I didn’t have leftovers so we pulled over into a Subway (after trying a Chick-Fil-A who is closed on Sunday - I salute you!).  I wanted to take a nap and play games, but we had plans to hike, even though none of us  enjoy hiking.  We drove through the Smoky Mountains after a quick stop at the smelly information center.  The green mountains feel like Utah but look nothing like it.  After several winding one-way roads we found Grotto Falls hiking trail.  Water packed and workout shoes on we started up the trail.  The trail curved to and fro over rocks and tree roots.  Sandra swore at the world in her head refraining her urge to kill things while the rest of us stared at the ground wondering why we are hiking.  The waterfall had the potential to be amazing, had it been earlier in the spring perhaps.  The water quenched our thirst and our bitter feelings and we rested among fellow hikers in far better shape than ourselves.  My diadora indoor soccer shoes gave up the ghost about a fourth of the way down, it made for goofy down hiking.  I guess 18 years is a long time for a pair of shoes.
(View of Dollywood from the cabins)

A cold freezing shower kept calling my name so I complied, to the benefit of everyone in the cabin.  Sandra whipped up a royal dinner and we feasted on bread and pasta, yum!  We were slaphappy silly during dinner and the feeling never went away.  Ali slowly walked her way down the spiral staircase.  Showing her paisley, rubber, cowboy boots first then the pink sweatpants from Dollywood under a denim skirt from ThighHighJeans, and a thick torso covered in souvenir t-shirts.  Amanda and Sandra laughed until tears fell.  The staircase walk was followed up by a striptease of t-shirts until she made it down to the Sun Studios and denim skirt - quite a cute combo.  I took many photos of both Ali and the laughing audience. 

We played a rousing game of Clue, a game of strategy that failed me yet I won on an almost accidental effort.  (steph, in the cabin, with the VIP pass).  It was at this point we realized we had forgotten the mustaches purchased at Lamberts.  Then the night just became more slaphappy than it could possible have gone sans stashes.  We photoshooted around the cabin before talking ourselves into a night on the town of Gatlinburg (Tennessee’s Park City).

We piled into the family van with Ali at the wheel and stashes on our faces.  Downtown bustled with street performers and loitering people.  We had seen a sky ride that will take us atop the city and give a view of the nightlife.  So we headed directly to it but had some parking stress.  While waiting at a crosswalk, patrons crossing the street pointed and laughed drawing more attention from others and we were then the greatest attraction in Tennessee.  We found parking for $10.  As the parking attendant came to the window he gasped, laughed and walked away.  We exited the van and his wife came over to us, confused by her husband’s reaction, then also pointed and laughed.  Mine looked like snot, she said. 
We rode the ski lift to the top of the mountain.  Ali and I enjoyed watching the people’s slow reaction to our mustaches then seeing Amy’s then Amanda and Sandra’s, it really threw people for a loop.  “I mustache you a question” was on a shirt and we relished the phrase the whole night.  “I was going to say welcome ladies, but shall I say gentlemen...” was our greeting at the top.  How old are we?!  More pictures, more funny looks, and comments, then back to the city.  Ali and I had the “chu-man-fu” (Ali’s name) - hers black and mine grey, the rest had blonde random stashes.  At this point only 3 of us continued with the mustaches while we strolled the streets of downtown.  Even this late at night the air is muggy and hot.  It was our last night and we were reluctant to head home, but we were exhausted and called it a night. 


MMMmmm...sad face... our last morning in Tennessee.  I ate scrambled eggs at the cabin before anyone awoke.  We packed up the van and headed to The Apple Valley Farmhouse for breakfast.  We through our pennies over our shoulders into the wishing well, wishing our individual wishes then found our seats.  Again with the dumplings, it’s a miracle everyone doesn’t weigh 300 lbs+  I inhaled my French toast (off the children’s menu) and sat back stuffed and happy.

Again with the winding back roads through trees and small towns to get to the airport, we still enjoyed the ride.  Returning the van took more time and energy than anyone would have thought possible.  Turns out the car rental place is just at the airport not at any of the addresses listed on-line, go figure.  We planted ourselves near phone charging stations and bathrooms.  I lost myself in Australia’s “Dance Academy” while others wandered aimlessly or slept.  We made it home without much fanfare. Whew.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dollywood or Bust (part 1)

Utah to St. Louis June 23, 2012
Delta - Ginger Ale and pretzels
Tracy and the ladies picked me up after a night of karaoke and partying.  Ali navigated her way through the St. Louis to Tracy’s home.  I get the couch in the Mickey Mouse room.  We all went to bed and while Amy Skyped Paul a cat jumped on me in my bed.  I gasped, jumped, and ran into Ali’s room giggling, making her giggle.  Then the cat startled Ali and I heard her giggling.  We were just too silly, but eventually we fell asleep.

St. Louis June 24, 2012 SUNDAY
Breakfast:  Hostess donettes - cinnamon, chocolate, and powdered
St. Louis zoo 9:30am
Lunch:  Boathouse Forest Park - Fries and Slaw, lemonade
The St. Louis Arch - Gateway to the West
Dinner:  leftover pizza and pasta
Relax at the pool

We are not really early risers but Kenzi the elephant was celebrating her first birthday and we didn’t want to compete for her attention.  The sun bore down on us even this early in the morning, but it did not squelch our spirits.  Tracy finagled our free passes and maps.  Sandra laid out our route and off we were (“like a herd of turtles”).  The zoo houses animals I’ve never seen or heard of before, some striped animals, all kinds of mountain goats, and gorillas.  This zoo impressed me with its beautiful grounds and animal enclosures.  The misters gave little reprieve, but we welcomed them when we finally ran across them.  The sun sapped our energy and we finally gave into the heat and rested in the souvenir shop while making plans to eat lunch at the Boathouse up the road. 
  --petting the manarays--

While on the waiting list, we sat in home made rocking chairs with sweat running down our faces.  Inside the restaurant was full so we sat outdoors.  I drank lemonade like a camel and ordered cole slaw and fries because that is all that sounded good.  We ate in silence because it took too much energy to eat and talk.  Eventually we regained ourselves and laughed like old times (meaning yesterday).  The nice waiter filled our water bottles with ice and water for our next adventure - The arch.

We drove around the arch a few times to find good parking and ended up back at the first lot we passed.  We strolled down the tree lined trail until reaching the shadow of the arch.  With cameras blazing, we captured the arch from every angle, in every light, with every pose.  We passed easily through the metal detectors and found the restrooms.  We signed up for a time slot and waited 20 minutes.  During that wait I people watched.  Tracy and I were intrigued by two uber tan girls in short, skin-tight white dresses.  We are pretty sure that one of them was a man (with better legs than mine).

Tracy waited at the bottom while we filed in with our colored tickets.  We entered a spaceship shaped like an egg to take us to the top of the arch.  It fit 5 people exactly, so it all worked out.  We took pictures of everything from our toes to the inside of the ship.  At the top of the arch we peered out the windows as the structure swayed in the wind.  The top of the arch only holds about 40 people, so it felt stuffy even though the view was magnificent.  The Museum at the base of the arch, circular in shape, started with the 1800s and moving out by decade.  We had done little more than walk around St. Louis, but I wanted a nap.  On our way home we stopped at Ted Drewes (a St. Louis tradition) for some frozen custard.  It was like being at Cafe Rio for the first time - stress.  I ordered my usual cookie dough, but it tasted much better!  We headed back to Tracy’s and prepped for some time at the pool. 

Tracy, her niece and I watched some teen-bopper tv about vampires and fell asleep during a movie.  It was a wonderful few days with Tracy Shorley in St. Louis.

June 25, 2012 MONDAY
Breakfast:  The Donut Stop donuts (yum) and juice
Goodbye to Traci
St. Louis Temple - photos

Tracy went out early (we left at 8am) to get us donuts for breakfast while we got ready and packed, she is so kind.  I got a text from jeani that mentioned that she heard about my dad and hope that he is okay. WHAT THE?!  So I called my mom and she told me my dad had passed out during church at the hospital. (Turns out he overdosed on his heart medication.)  We waved to Tracy as we drove away from her cute house.  She will be missed.

We stopped at Schnuks (local grocery store) for a styrofoam cooler and treats then a detour to the St. Louis temple on our way out of town.  Beautiful and bright! 

5 Hour ROAD TRIP - Tennesseans are horribly crazy drivers...
Sikeston, Missouri
Lunch:  Lambert’s Café - the “Only Home of Throwed Rolls” (70 years)

Lamberts is large and packed with people from all over.  The walls are covered in license plates of the states.  The line didn’t take long and we were seated in the back at a half-booth.  The young waiters were bringing food by every few minutes; baked beans, tomato pasta, green beens, black eyed peas, apple butter, and fried okra.  One fellow was in charge of the roll throwing, he plays baseball.   (notice Amy on her phone - this is what she looked like 24/7)  He calls out “fresh rolls” and people just raise their hands and he throws them a roll.  Now when I say throws a roll it covers distance - yards.  Ali raised her hand and was hit square in the chest with a HOT roll, but she caught it and we pointed and laughed.  Eventually we all had rolls (though I never raised my hand, nor caught a roll).  The rolls, covered in fresh butter, melted in your mouth. It was all you could do to not eat hundreds of them.  I did not enjoy my pieced meal of side dishes that I normally like.  They added too many things to change the flavors.  We filled up on all of the free food walking around with the waitresses. 
Arkansas (drove through).

Memphis Tennessee
The Loraine - Martin Luther King Jr. site
Marriott Hotel Springhill
A&R BBQ - Yolanda/Jolanda BBQ and Slaw
Walk through courtyard home

We made it to Memphis by 4:30pm, enough time to make it through the National Civil Rights Museum before it closed at 6pm.  We watched a 30 minute movie that brought me to tears and taught me info about Martin Luther King I didn't know or didn't realize.  The displays and design added to the experience and subject matter.  The tour finishes in room 306 of the Lorain Motel where MLK was staying to help the garbage men's movement.  He was almost my age when he was shot, I never realized how young he was while accomplishing so much.  We crossed the street to see where the assassin had been set up.  The forensic science of the 60s fascinated Sandra and me.  We read everything.  Again, the displays were fantastic - interactive.  The shooter was found through DNA - hair samples, car rental, secret identities, and Interpol.  Wow.

We checked into our Marriott Springhill suite and researched dinner options.  We wanted a true Memphis dinner, which means BBQ.  We chose A&R BBQ since it was just around the corner.  Yolanda welcomed us with a heavy accent, southern attitude and referred to us as "baby" more times than I will count.  I ordered turkey BBQ, which isn't just BBQed turkey so Yolanda finally told me she'd put "everything on the side" and I'd have to figure it out.  My meal came with a bun, chunked turkey, side of BBQ sauce, and a side of cole slaw.  I decided, "what the heck" and put it all together.  The combination is a masterpiece and I crave it to this day!  Yolanda was impressed.

June 26, 2012 TUESDAY
Breakfast:  Hotel - scrambled eggs, cranberry juice, yogurt/Cheerios
Graceland - Elvis’ home, stables, graves, museum of cars, gift shop, Lisa Marie plane, Hound dog II plane
Lunch:  The Arcade Restaurant (Memphis’ oldest restaurant 1919) - French Toast

Vacation mornings start before 8am.  We had tickets for Graceland at 9:15am.  We ate a delicious breakfast in the hotel - waffles, eggs, yogurt, juice... We parked up front and picked up our tickets and headsets before hopping on the shuttle to Graceland.  Elvis' mansion was not as ostentatious as one would expect.  We started in the "look room" with the 15 foot white couch, but nothing too different than a normal home, a dining room, his parent's bedroom, the kitchen (just like any 70s kitchen), and headed downstairs.  The basement had a tv room which had 3 televisions (because he learned that the president watched 3 news stations at a time), a pool room covered entirely with bright pleated fabric and up to the "jungle room" (covered in shag carpet).  The rest of the land was for trophy rooms and horse stables.  (The Preseley family is buried here in Graceland).  I learned a lot about Elvis, he was very generous and donated to Hawaii in creating the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and he had a twin that died at birth.
 We toured Elvis' car museum and airplanes - The Hound dog II and the Lisa Maria - with TCB on the wings ("taking care of business").  I understand the fascination with Elvis a bit more now.

Lunch, researched before hand, was at the Arcade Restaurant (diner) - the oldest cafe in Memphis (open since 1919).  I ate french toast, enjoyed the quaint ambiance, and noticed that the police are fed by many of the local eateries.  It is a hotspot for films:

           Scenes from Mystery Train, Great Balls of Fire, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, Elizabethtown, Walk the Line, and My Blueberry Nights, just to name a few, have all been filmed in the restaurant. At one time, even Elvis was a regular. The South Main Historic District, the whistle of the trolley, and the Arcade Restaurant... it doesn't get any more Memphis than this!”

We hurried quickly to Sun Studio for the final 1:30 tour. This was the beginning of so many great things, a one man run operation that changed the world of music.  The tour included snippets of music recordings and interviews.  The end of the tour ended in the recording studio that is still in use today.  The original acoustic tiles and floor are still used and we were able to use Elvis Presley's actual microphone (which we were warned had germs of many people, so don't lick it like others before chose to do).  The studio is understated, to say the least, but I loved the stories of the Fab. 4 - Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl).  We stopped back at the hotel before our walking tour.

Self-Guided Walking tour of Memphis
 - The Peanut Shoppe since 1959 (only 7 left of 200)
- Beale Street
            Beale Street was created in 1841 by entrepreneur and developer Robertson Topp (1807–1876), who named it for a forgotten military hero.  In the 1860s, many black traveling musicians began performing on Beale. On December 15, 1977, Beale Street was officially declared the Home of the Blues. 24 years ago (1988)during Memphis in May, Rarecas Bonds ventured from his neighborhood at Pontotoc Street onto Beale Street where he got caught up in the excitement and began doing back flips at his friends' urging.  The Flippers.

The Peanut shoppe was run by an adorable Palestinian couple.  They told stories and recommended many items and eateries.  We meandered down to Beale Street and did some trinket shopping.  I was constantly distracted by the little boys doing back handsprings down the street.  Apparently they are famous for their flips.  

Next was the Peabody ducks.  The walk was smelly, moist and smelly.  We almost stayed at the Peabody for $500+ a night, but we decided to just visit instead.  The lobby and building were fine and immaculate with 5 little ducks swimming in the center fountain.  The duck master talked to us about the history of the ducks and their tradition of exiting on the red carpet at 5pm.  It was cute.  

- The Peabody Hotel/ Ducks 1886 - present
            The Peabody Ducks march to and from the Grand Lobby daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in a time-honored tradition dating back to 1933. In 1940 Edward Pembroke, a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey wild animal trainer, became the hotel's first Duckmaster. For the next 50 years he "mastered" the ducks as they marched into the lobby fountain to the sound of John Philip Sousa's King Cotton March

We took our walking tour back home to pick up the van.  Our hope was to make it to a mini replica of the Mississippi River on Mud Island, but it closed before we arrived. Sad.  We took the opportunity to drive around the area and enjoy the gorgeous homes of Harbor town (the Daybreak of Tennessee).  Onto the Crystal Shrine, which Sandra refused to disclose anything more than that about it.  Turns out it is also called the "Jesus Cave" because it houses several varieties of the Manger scene and other stories amidst crystal quartz made into stalactites/gmites.  This homemade shrine is 30+ years old.  It is in the middle of a cemetary and is surrounded by rock formations and beautiful landscapes.  The bugs drove us out, so we hopped in the van and drove to the Memphis temple via GPS.  Turns out the GPS took us to a regular church, not the temple.

Dinner was on Beale street at the Blues City Cafe.  I ate chili and tamales, which doesn't sound southern, but tasted southern (put a little "South in your Mouth") - delicious.  This trip revolved around good food!  The night life was music and neon signs, so we enjoyed the lights and the "flipping boys" for a bit and took photos from the parking garage before heading home to the hotel.