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 CafĂ© - 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.