I’ve always wanted to go to Memphis. It’s a hotbed of sights & sounds. The blues were born there & a lot of the major fashions seen in early rock & roll came from Lansky’s on Beale. Everything from zoot suits to the jive cats of the 70’s, they all came from a little shop at the end of Beale. A lot of major events took place in Memphis as well. Most notably the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis on April 4th, 1968. The Lorraine Motel has since been converted into the National Civil Rights Museum. And of course, the home of their most famous citizen, Elvis Presley.
The drive down to Memphis from home went well. We found several really cool places to stay along the way. One of which was Red Rock Canyon State Park in Hinton, OK. Neither of us had been to Oklahoma before, but it’s a beautiful state. One thing stands out in my mind about Oklahoma. They love their highways manicured. I have never seen such clean highways, and it seems as though they mow their lawns every single day. I never saw one unkempt lawn. Impressive to say the least. The bugs are something else in OK. I’ve only seen bugs that big in one other place in New Mexico. Once, when I went to the washroom, I got smacked in the face with a huge locust bug. It shocked me so much to be hit in the face which such a bug. I stood there in the doorway and watched as the locust hopped out the door and into the night. Devon was SO creeped out by the bugs that she refused to use the washroom alone. I don’t blame her. Red Rock Canyon State Park is a really beautiful park. You drive down a tricky, winding road into the park. You’re surrounded by red rock walls and the canyon itself is alive with vivid colours, trees, grass, everything jumps out at you. The park has several walks and hikes to enjoy. The canyon was used as a winter stop over for the plains indians where they’d bunker down and wait out the snow. It was also a landmark and camping area on the California Road. Settlers going west used this sandstone canyon for collection of fresh water and wagon repairs. On the west side of the canyon, along the California Road Trail, you still can see the wagon ruts. People even come down into the canyon to fish in the river. Though Devon & I were off put by the thick green sludge covering the river. Across from the river up on the hill side was a beautiful patch of St. John’s wort. Devon, being a plant nut, was eager to climb up the hill to pick some but the grade on the hill (cliff) was far too steep even for her. *Note to self: remember climbing gear when out on a nature walk.* This park is also pretty rare in that it offers campers the use of showers. Much needed when on the road. I know we appreciated it. After one night we were back on the road to Memphis. We would make it there in one day’s time.
Once we arrived in Memphis, we ended up camping at Graceland RV & Campsite located conveniently on Elvis Presley Boulevard across the street from Graceland itself. The trip down went a little faster than we thought, with us arriving two days early. We enjoyed camping out the first night after a long day in the car. The next day we went into downtown Memphis & checked out Beale Street. The first place we checked out was A. Schwab’s, the oldest establishment there, opened in 1876. With two floors full of oddities & trinkets, I quickly saw why this store has been popular for over a hundred years. Between the first and second floors is a balcony housing the Beale Street Museum. A mercantile shop, this was a fun place indeed. There’s a little bit of everything here. From clothes, to records, to all sorts of knick knacks. A family owned store for 136 years, their motto is “If you can’t find it at A. Schwab, you’re probably better off without it!” The floor boards were amazing. In fact, the whole building was beautiful. I still remember Devon walking out of the bathroom commenting on just how beautiful even the washroom was. The 100 year old wood was in brilliant shape. Beale is quite funky & truly the birth place of the blues. We walked along Beale for a while and checked out the store fronts. There’s a feeling on Beale that’s hard to describe. It feels like you’re surrounded by soul. Walking down Beale we stopped at Church Park on 4th, checked out the statute of W.C. Handy, then walked down to W.C. Handy’s house on 6th. The house is little more than a tiny shack, no bigger than a shed. It’s surprising to know that this is where the blues were born.
After Beale, it was on to Union Avenue where we went looking for Sun Studio. The record store is just as cool as I thought it would be. Sam Phillips brought the best out of local artists here. It was here in 1953 that Elvis came in to record two songs for his mother, “My Happiness” & “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” for $3.25. Sam Phillips assistant Marion Keisker discovered the young King and pushed Phillips to record with him. There was an exciting buzz inside, as if the energy of all the great music created there still lingered. We decided to forego the tour there, but I’m kind of kicking myself now. When you go inside the recording studio itself, you get to stand in the very spot where Elvis changed the face of music. After Sun Studio, it was down to the mighty Mississippi River to check out the size of it all. An incredible sight to behold. The backdrop of several books & movies, made famous by Mark Twain, the Mississippi is massive. Once an important cog in the cotton trade route, the Mississippi was used as stopping points for restocking troops during the Civil War. Remnants of some forts along the shore still exist. I’m glad we stopped to check out the river. It was truly a marvel.
After a long day of checking out the city, we found ourselves completely famished. With help from a friend who emailed us directions, we managed to find some vegan food at this cute hole in the wall called Imagine Cafe. Pulling up to the “restaurant”, the place looked more like a private home than an eatery. Once inside, it became clear that we were inside a restaurant. Waiting for our food, the smells coming from the kitchen were insane. I got mac ‘n’ cheese and a buffalo chick’n sandwich and Devon had a pulled “pork” sandwich.With our food in hand, it was back to our site for the evening. We were serenaded by Elvis as we ate dinner poolside. Turning in for the night, I struggled to sleep.
The next day, it would be Graceland.