Thoughts & musing by me....

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#45 The One were I reminisce about Australia and the time I left my passport behind on a road trip…

Last year, in October 2013, I went to visit my friends Tye & Emma to attend their beautiful beach wedding on the Central Coast of Australia. The wedding was held on a Saturday on Terrigal Beach & Tye & Emma went on honeymoon with their little boy Austin, on the following Monday. Although some of Tye’s family were still around to hangout with and the guys were more than happy for me to stay at theirs while they were gone, I decided it would be much more fun to go on a road trip up to Northern Queensland to Byron Bay & visit my sister from another mother, Tanith (Tan) & her partner Kieran. As with Emma, I hadn’t seen Tan since my trip to Australia in 2012 and was desperate to catch up.
Rather than flying, I drove my hire car the 1000km over 8.5 hours, only stopping once because I’m hardcore, and only getting lost briefly when my iPhone decided to turn itself off just as I was travelling the remote back roads to Tan & Keiran’s house. Timing!
I spent a lovely 3 days/4 nights hanging out with them & even got to meet their niece Georgia who flew in from England the day before I left.
On the Eve of my return to Avoca Beach, bush fires broke out around the surrounding area that I was due to go back to. We watched the news somewhat concerned because I had to drive back through that area to get to Tye & Emma’s house to get the rest of my luggage & my PASSPORT which I had helpfully left at their house. Now you can probably see where this little flashback tale is going now. Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson about leaving one’s passport behind when I go off on a road trip. In Australia it worked out OK because I made it back to their house to collect my stuff, although driving into the bush fire area was a little disconcerting… everything in your being tells you to drive AWAY from the smoke not towards it.
But this time, in the USA, we weren’t driving back, we were flying. And I had completely forgotten this. Oops.
I realised my mistake whilst we were having dinner at Merchants in Nashville. I had only brought my drivers licence photo card (which ironically I had left at the hotel that night & had to go back & get if I had any hope of getting into any bars on Broadway). My heart hit my stomach when I suddenly remembered I’d left my passport on the dresser back in Pittsburgh. Now, I know you can travel in your resident country on just a photo ID card, and I’m pretty sure I just showed my ID card in Australia on a couple of internal flights. But this is America. Security is generally tighter. I decided not to worry & figured it would all be fine.
So Monday arrives, we get to the airport in good time, all is OK checking my bags & my ID appears to be accepted so I was all calm & chilled. Until we reached security. Hmmm. The security officer took one look at my ID card, looked me up & down & asked me for my passport. I very nonchalantly told him I didn’t have it as it was safely in Pittsburgh in case I lost it on my travels. He raised one eyebrow, spoke into his walkie talkie and told me to stand to one side behind him. Michael & Becky had already started to take off shoes & belts and were ready to go through the scanners when they spotted I’d been pulled aside. I perkily told them to go on through & I’d be with them in a minute, confidently grinning at the somewhat stern Security Guard & trying not to be sick at thought of being stuck in Dallas and possibly having to drive 1254 miles back to Pittsburgh alone!!
Another security officer came out to see me & asked if I had any other ID as they don’t ‘normally’ accept foreign ID cards & a passport is required to pass through security due to heightened security at this time. I quickly pulled out credit cards & my iPhone waving it at her saying all my documents where on that for proof of my flight & visa. She looked at me & said “Why y’all not printing anything these days, why you not have your passport?” She kept looking at my ID card then looking at me & back again, mumbling to herself. Trying not to be charmed by her full southern drawl, I quickly explained we had been on a road trip & I just hadn’t thought to bring my passport as I was sure I could use my ID for internal flights as passports were for international flights. She shook her head at me, tutted, took all my cards and wandered off. People were beginning to stare at me & I was now thinking, shit.
She disappeared for 5 minutes & came back, handed me my credit cards and looked at my ID again. She did this several times then asked me what year I was born. I told her, she looked at me quizzically, then shrugged at the other officer & gave me my card back and said “OK then”. Instead of keeping my mouth shut & saying thank you, I then said “Is it because I look a lot younger than it says I am?” Both security officers turned round, and gave me a ‘quit while you’re ahead look’ but then she said “well, yeah” and the other officer just nodded at me. I laughed & said my thank you’s and promised to make sure I carry my passport in future. Lesson learnt this time, I hope.

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#44 The One with American Music & Oddities Road Trip 2014 stats…

2914 miles travelled:
1660 driven
1254 flown

8 states visited:
Pennsylvania
West Virginia
Ohio
Kentucky
Tennesse
Missouri
Arkansas
Texas

5 cities visited:
Pittsburgh
Louisville
Nashville
Memphis
Dallas

9 towns visited:
Point Pleasant
Lexington
Franklin
Munfordville
Frankfort
Dyess
Loretto
Little Rock
Hot Springs

4 hotels stayed at:
Holiday Inn, Louisville
Union Station Hotel, Nashville
Holiday Inn, Memphis
The Joule, Dallas

26 oddities visited:
Cabela’s, Wheeling
Mothman, Point Pleasant
Hill Billy Hot Dogs
Churchill Downs, Louisville
Largest Sausage in The World, Highway 60
Daniel Boone, Frankfort
Makers Mark Distillery, Loretto
Child of the Corn
Stonehenge, Munfordville
UFO death site, Franklin
Legends Corner Guitar, Nashville
‘I believe in Nashville’ sign
Printers Alley, Nashville
Antique Archaeology, Nashville
The Bang Candy Co, Nashville
Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen
Red Eyed Buffalo
Souvenir Shack, Dyess
Johnny Cash’s childhood home, nr Dyess
Mississippi sunset, Memphis
Dylan the Waitress & Large Marge, Memphis
The Arlington Hotel, Hot Springs
Zoltar, Hot Springs
The Giant Eye, Dallas
Dealey Plaza, Dallas
The Projects, Dallas

6 museums:
The Mothman Museum
Civil Rights Museum
Graceland
Sun Studios
Johnny Cash Museum
Sixth Floor Museum (JFK)

9 bars:
Legends, Nashville
Tootsies, Nashville
Stage, Nashville
Roberts Western World, Nashville
Honky Tonk, Nashville
Club 152, Memphis
Rum Boogie Cafe 1, Memphis
Rum Boogie Cafe 2, Memphis
BB Kings, Memphis

24 live bands seen including:
Jake Maurer
The Willis Clan
Emily West
Jim Ed Brown
Charlie Daniels
Eli Young Band
Striking Matches
The Whites
Balsam Range
Def Leppard
KISS

2 big concerts:
Grand Ole Opry
Def Leppard/Kiss

11 local eateries:
Shakespeare & Co, Lexington
Merchants, Nashville
Loveless Cafe, Nashville
Union Station Hotel, Nashville
Movie & Pizza Company, Memphis
Central BBQ, Memphis
The Colonial Cafe, Hot Springs
Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcakes, Hot Springs
The Joule Hotel, Dallas
Y-O Ranch, Dallas
Nick & Sam’s, Dallas

41/50 state license plates spotted:

Arizona
Arkansas
Alabama
California
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin

Pretty epic trip by any stretch of the imagination.

Until next time….

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#43 The One with a weekend in Dallas…

Day Seven. Much needed lie in this morning. We all wanted to just chill & make the most of our hotel suites before heading over to Dealey Plaza to find out about the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963 and to see where it happened. It happens to be where Michael & Becky met for the first time 11 years ago so it has special meaning to them. Just to explain briefly, Becky was working on a film crew covering the 40th Anniversary of the assassination & she interviewed Michael as he was over there visiting Dealey Plaza for the first time. He & his friend ended up interning for Becky for a few days & they stayed in touch on & off over the years before meeting up in London again years later.
Now Michael has always been a conspiracy theorist so it came as no surprise to me that he has theories on the JFK assassination too. I’ve had brief conversations with him about it before over the years but as we stood on the edge of Elm Street, he was in his element as he began to explain to me the events that took place on that fateful sunny Friday afternoon on November 22, 1963.
The President was on a tour of Texas, Dallas being the last of 5 cities visited over 2 days.
A motorcade procession was due to make it’s way through Dallas at approx 12:15pm that Friday afternoon. There were 16 cars, a dozen motorbikes & 3 buses that made up the procession. Three cars in the motorcade were used for secret service and police protection. The first car travelling in the front was an unmarked white ford with a hardtop containing various Agents/officers. The second car was a convertible and carried the President and his wife, Jackie Kennedy, along with 4 other passengers. A third car, a Cadillac convertible was following behind the Presidents car with further security.
Nellie Connally, the then First Lady of Texas, was travelling in the convertible with her husband, JFK & Jackie. She turned around to the President, who was sitting behind her, and said, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” to which the President responded “No, you certainly can’t” This was at 12.29pm. They were the last words JFK ever spoke. By 12.30pm he had been fatally shot.
Allegedly a sniper (later identified as Lee Harvey Oswald) shot at the President three times. Two shots hitting their mark, one of those two shots also allegedly following through hitting the Texas State governor, John Connally, who was sat in front of JFK.
All agencies are in agreement that a fourth shot was fired from somewhere in front of the Presidents car but missed it’s mark. The identity of that sniper is unknown. Lee Harvey Oswald on his arrest in connection with another fatal killing the same day, claimed he didn’t kill the President & was just a patsy. Oswald never made it to trial as he was murdered, shot in the stomach at point blank range by a local mob boss, Jack Ruby, as he was being transferred from custody to the County Jail two days after the JFK assassination.
Michael went into great detail about elements of the assassination that don’t make sense based on the findings of the 5 different reports into the investigation over the years. I can’t go into them all here or it will be the longest blog ever written but some of the more interesting ‘facts’ that seem to lend creedence to the theory that it wasn’t Oswald who shot JFK:
1) The Single Bullet aka Magic Bullet theory. The idea that one bullet killed JFK & injured Governor John Connally too. Allegedly one of the bullets fired from the Texas School Book Depository by Oswald, passed through JFK’s neck and then through the Governors chest and wrist, finally embedding itself in the Governor’s thigh. If so, this bullet travelled through 15 layers of clothing, 7 layers of skin, and approximately 15 inches of tissue, struck a necktie knot, removed 4 inches of rib, and shattered a bone. A magic bullet indeed. But this is the explanation the Warren Commision came up with during their investigation.
2) James Tague was a bystander injured by shrapnel from one of the shots. He explains his theory that it was in fact the Vice President Linden Johnson & J. Edgar Hoover who planned JFK’s murder & Lee Harvey Oswald was not the shooter http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/james-tague-hit-shrapnel-john-2777815
Michael further explained to me that in 2023, the 60th Anniversary of JFK’s murder, all documentation will be released for public consumption, unless of course some legislation prevents the release of the paperwork if it poses a risk to public safety. There are over 5 million pages of documentation in the reports. Over 50,000 of them haven’t been publicised at all. Interesting to say the least and worth looking into a bit more if you’re a conspiracy lover yourself.
After a heart lunch of sautéed vegetables & a Buffalo Reuben at
Y-O Ranch we headed back to the hotel for a chill out & then to the terrace pool on the 10th floor.
Too tired to go out & party we decided to stay in & watch a movie and order food in. We spent so much time pissing about trying to find Walk the Line on the TV & on demand/Netflix and then trying to order food on line, it was nearly 10.30pm before our food arrived & I called it a night after we ate as was too tired to start watching movies that late. The last 7 days had fully taken it out of us & we knew we had a big night out Sunday!
Day eight. Pool day. Cocktails started at 11:11am. By 1:45pm the sun was fully on us & we couldn’t take the heat, I mean 102F, the weather was making the news it was so hot. Even the Texan’s were complaining & virtually no one could be seen walking the streets. The heat would probably be OK if the humidity wasn’t so high, but there have been moments over the past week when I have literally had trouble catching my breath the humidity has been so high.
Anyways, after a relaxing afternoon we headed down to the hotel bar for a quick cocktail & chats with the lovely bar staff & Manager. At 5.15pm our driver Fernando came to take us to dinner across town to a steakhouse called Nick & Sam’s which had been recommended to us by a lot of people. Our drive over there was very luxurious in an Audi A8, and as we pulled up to the restaurant, I realised this was no BBQ joint, this was a high end restaurant. Feeling somewhat underdressed in just a cami top & shorts (we were going to a rock concert afterwards after all) we were seated in a lush corner booth & handed our menus. When you opened the menus they lit up which was cool but also very useful because the restaurant lighting was so low we were practically sitting in the dark. In fact when the waitress brought out the raw meat tray to show us the cuts of beef & seafood on offer, she had to shine a torch on it to show us!! I kid you not.
Becky & I decided to share the Prime Cowboy steak for $90 between us. It might seem a lot of steak, but damn, it was worth it. We were in meat heaven. With us all sharing sides of garlic mash, spinach & asparagus with a Marsala sauce, it’s the best meal I have eaten since going to Marco Pierre White’s restaurant last April. Michael also enjoyed his Mac & Cheese (bless the vegetarian coming to a steak house with us…again!). We all had a salad as a starter & they brought complimentary bread out as well as Melba Toast & Beluga Caviar so we were feeling quite spoilt.
The restaurant clearly specialises in wine & have walls and walls if bottles. There was also a cabinet with signed bottles of wine from George Clooney & David Bowie to name a few of the celebrity diners.
After another superb cocktail, we got a taxi to the Gexa Energy Pavilion to see Def Leppard & KISS. The heat inside the amphitheatre was unbelievable. It’s open air but we were under the covered part & I was dripping with sweat the whole time. Becky was pretty much in the same boat. I have no idea how it didn’t effect Michael as badly. Becky & I really struggled with the heat and there didn’t seem like enough water to drink! I was also pissed as a fart which didn’t help. As far as I can remember, the gig was excellent. Lots of pyrotechnics from KISS that kept making me jump! I have a vague recollection of being driven back through the Projects (aka ghetto) as both the Taxis there & back said it was a short cut to avoid traffic. Which was true. But one of the drivers also mentioned that we shouldn’t wind the window down as that’s a signal to the local drug dealers that you want to but crack. Lovely.
I also vaguely remember demanding an Orange Club biscuit from Michael (I bought some for him as a gift) as I knew he had some in their room. I may have eaten two as was having a proper chocolate craving as we hadn’t eaten dessert all week as we are always too full from our Entrées.
Our weekend in Dallas was fun & the hotel was amazing. It wasn’t as bustling a city as I thought it would be, but I’m aware the weather played a factor in that. Once again all the people we met were wonderful & couldn’t do enough for us. All in all this trip through the South has been pretty epic. In hindsight I’m glad we had to change our plans and didn’t carry on to Amarillo, Denver & Albuquerque because we would have been suffering from chronic exhaustion right now, instead of mild exhaustion! Most fun 8 days I’ve had in a long long time! Now we get to go back to Pittsburgh to make the most of my last 5 days here.

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woodsboard:

Memphis, a night out on Beale, a short visit to Sun Studios and then a long drive to Dallas, where we spotted the Zombie response team! girlinabigwideworld

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#42 The One with 8 states in 6 days…

Day Six. Left Memphis to drive to Dallas via Little Rock. Tired at the thought of it, 9 hours on the road but I knew it would be just as interesting as the last 5 days, with Arkansas & Texas throwing up a few little oddities for us, I was sure.
We just drove past a pick up truck pulling a trailer with an actual porch attached. The trailer had ‘Wolf Pack’ written on it. I mean really. Wolf Pack *rolls eyes*
It was raining as we drove to Little Rock but nothing spectacular. Disappointingly. Michael & I are still praying we will see a Tornado but realistically it’s not gonna happen. We have been talking about doing another road trip from the Southern to Northern states so we would have to make sure we do it during Tornado season.
OK. Rain got worse. Michael said a Hailstorm could be a sign of Tornadic activity. I don’t think Tornadic is an actual a word but as I’m quoting him we will go with it. We didn’t get any hail. Tornadic fail.
Becky did have a giggle fit driving through the rainstorm though. Something to do with when Michael gets hiccups, it makes her laugh. And when he says YOG-hurt instead of YO-ghurt, same result.
We are all listening to a CD that Michael bought yesterday. ‘The Complete Million Dollar Quarter’. It features Elvis, Johnny, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins (dunno who he was) during the afternoon of Tues 4 Dec 1956. The four men got together for a Jam session at the famous Sun Studio, that we visited yesterday in Memphis. It’s literally the four of them jamming, singing & chattering. It’s a pretty damn cool recording if you can get hold of it and have a listen.
We ended up giving Little Rock a miss as Michael thought the area & restaurant we were supposed to be having lunch at (an old Bill Clinton hangout) looked too sketchy.
He decided we should stop at somewhere called Hot Springs instead. While we were driving along, some redneck jackass threw a soda can out of his car window and it hit the side of the Explorer. Now it’s very hard for me not to want gesticulate to these types of drivers but when they are clearly litterbug arseholes but I have to remind myself that he’s probably driving along with a shotgun on the passenger seat. Different worlds.
We arrived in Hot Springs & stumbled upon The Arlington Hotel & Spa. Quite a well preserved art deco hotel but in need of some TLC. Gone are the days of Al Capone staying there along with other notorious gangsters. I can’t imagine anyone with money feeling the need to stop in the town at all. Quite the little oddity (which we love) with a Waxwork museum which I wasn’t prepared to risk given I’ve seen both of those movies (you never know!).
We walked into one eatery, sat down & immediately walked out again as it didn’t seem as clean as we would have liked. A chap spoke to Michael further on down the street & said ‘so you didn’t stay at the restaurant?’ Michael said ‘yeah we left’ ‘Good decision!’ the chap replied. Good call. Phew.
We finally decided to eat at ‘The Colonial Pancake & Waffle House’ then go across the street to ‘Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcakes’ for dessert. Obviously I plumped for a Red Velvet Cupcake. Creature of habit. Turns out the bakery has been featured on the Food Network Channel a few times so I am expecting it to be good when I’ve recovered from lunch & can eat it. Michael informed me over lunch that Hot Springs is where Bill Clinton grew up, which explains why we took the detour there.
Because of the length of time we spent in Hot Springs, it didn’t look like we were going to get into Dallas until after 8pm but none of us were feeling like a big night anyway, road trips make you tired.
So getting close to Dallas we travel over the Ray Hubbard Reservoir, which looks more like some European Riviera in the late evening sun, with boats & yachts a plenty.
Becky started howling at this pick up truck coming up next to us, it had Zombie Response team stamped all over it, like some legitimate business. Whatever it was, the Dude driving it didn’t like us taking pictures of his truck & sped off. One can only assume there had been a Zombie emergency & he had gone off to save the day.
We arrived at The Joule in Dallas at 8pm as predicted. The valet service unloaded our luggage and we went to check in. As we walked to reception we were offered a glass of champagne so I thought we must be on to a winner here. Becky had kept the location & nature of the hotel a secret from us so we didn’t know what to expect. We went up to our rooms on the 7th floor. Walking into mine, I was greeted by a long hallway with mirrored closets that lead into the biggest bedroom EVER! I then noticed the palatial bathroom and was so excited I ran through to see Becky & Michaels room which was equally insane. Both rooms are controlled by a smart screen remote. We have Apple TV, iPods, the curtains open/close at a push of a button, waterfall/rainfall showers, dressing room, we even have doorbells!!! My mind is blown by the luxury.
We went to the pool & drank G&Ts for an hour, then came back to Becky & Michael’s room for room service as we were starving. When the waiter brought our food up, I felt the need to make it clear that I was laid on their bed purely because we were gonna eat together, just incase it look more suspicious because I had a bath robe on. The waiter said it was none of his business what the guests got up to and to carry on regardless. Cheeky sod.
Anyway, room service was expensive but tasty, so worth it. Am now back in my room, catching up on what everyone else is doing in the world. Off to bed to enjoy my fantastic accommodation & be refreshed for JFK/Dealey plaza tomorrow!

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#41 The One with History, BBQ and Blues…

Day five. After an excellent complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express (take note HIE Louisville, FREE & better than the one we paid for at your hotel) it was Graceland time.
Now, please don’t vilify me at this point but I’m generally not a fan of Elvis’s music. I think probably because half the time I only knew the cover versions of his songs, without actually knowing he was behind the originals. I really don’t like what Fine Young Cannibals & UB40 did to ‘Suspicious Minds’ & ‘I Can’t help falling in love with you’. Those and the hundreds of other cover versions definitely influenced my feelings towards his music. But of course once I finally heard & saw him perform during his ‘68 Special, I got it. I didn’t fall into crazed fandom but I finally understood his unique talent. I mean, don’t get me wrong, as a kid I enjoyed his movies that BBC2 would occasionally show during matinee time on a Saturday afternoon. I knew they were far from cool films even as a little kid, even Elvis knew that when he was making them, but I’ve always liked cheesy throwaway movies and for a kid who loved movies generally & was stuck in doors with their Mom on a rainy Saturday afternoon, it was perfect entertainment. Randomly I’m sat in reception in the hotel in Memphis writing this & Fine Young Cannibals ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ is playing in the background. You drive me crazy. I really don’t like Roland Gift’s voice. Probably why I didn’t like his Elvis cover, and likewise with UB40. Not my cup of tea.
Anyways! After the Sat Nav took us on one if it’s ‘detours’ we arrived at the Graceland complex off Elvis Presley Boulevard (see what they did there) and Becky & I both remarked that we were shocked that it was more or less in the middle of the City. I know I had visions of his home being further into the countryside. I suppose because that’s what I’d be used to seeing at home in the UK. Mansions aren’t normally found in built up areas.
We bought the platinum tour ticket for $37 each as that included seeing EP’s custom cars & his two planes. You have to queue for a shuttle bus to take you across to the house as the it’s directly across the highway from the Graceland complex, which houses more souvenir shops than Disneyland & the aforementioned cars/planes and various restaurants & Elvis Galleries etc.
The Shuttle dropped us off at Elvis’s front door. An older couple, from New York, who were stood next to me remarked on how small the house is (it’s not) and the woman said ‘it’s probably because we are used to proper mansions in New York’. At that point I turned around and said “Well I imagine it was pretty big for back in 1957” She said “I ‘spose”. No bloody “spose” about it love. Elvis paid £102k for it back then and still by today’s standards it’s a big house (Mansion is an incorrect description I admit). Bored of listening to their witterings we head up the steps to his front porch & entered Graceland.
I have to admit, his house is pretty damn awesome. You walk in the front door into the hallway with the stairs in front of you to the left. The upstairs is closed to the public. We speculated as to whether it’s just empty upstairs or not. I couldn’t imagine that all of his belongings would still be up there for no one to see.
To the right if the entrance hall is the living room. It’s mostly white and has a somewhat uncomfortable looking 15ft white damask sofa running down the right hand side. There are two stained glass panels dividing the room with Peacocks inlaid into them. Beyond them is another room containing a black baby grand piano, apparently one of many that Elvis owned over the years.
Moving down the hallway to the door second on the right, is a bedroom. This was Gladys & Vernon, Elvis’s parents room. It was decked out in purple & white and looked very luxurious. Going back down the hallway we entered the dining room opposite the living area and then right into a large kitchen. Very 70’s in there as that was the last time he had it decorated before he died. From the kitchen you head down into the basement, with mirror covered walls either side of the stairs (lots of mirrors in most of the rooms in fact) which had two man caves. One was clearly a TV & music room with a bar and all the furniture decorated in navy & yellow and the other was a pool room with patchwork drapes covering the walls.
Next is ‘The Jungle Room’ with its thick shag pile green carpet and wooden furniture and ornaments. A round chair with a large toy panda on it was Lisa Marie Presley’s favourite chair & presumably the Panda was hers. Leaving the room to head out of the house, the shag pile carpet continued onto the walls to the stairs. Michael & I went into ‘Get Him to the Greek’ mode and has our pictures taken stroking the furry wall. All we were missing was a Jeffrey.
Some of the outhouses had been turned into displays of Elvis’s awards. Rooms and rooms of them. There must be thousands. Then there were his costumes from his movies, even his & Priscilla’s wedding day outfits and the jumpsuits he wore during his last few years touring. The black leather outfit from his ‘68 Special was there and it was obvious that at least one of the jumpsuits was from around the time of his death as it was a lot bigger than the rest of the outfits on display.
When we reached the graves for him, his parents & grandmother and the memorial plaque for his stillborn twin brother, I admit I did well up a bit. It’s clear from the audio we were listening to that Elvis was a good man. Lisa Marie clearly worshipped him and I was surprised to hear & see how much humanitarian & charity work he was involved in. Whilst I still don’t get the fanatical fans, I do now understand the appeal of Elvis Presley.
The custom cars we saw were fantastic, Cadillac, Rolls Royce, Ferrari and even his own tractor to name just a few, all in pristine condition.
I took a sneaky video of some of them as their were too many for pictures. We bought a few souvenirs and then went to look at his two planes, a large passenger plane called the Lisa Marie (nicknamed The Hound Dog) and a smaller Jet Plane, The Hound Dog II.
Looking inside both planes it is a miracle to me how either of them even managed to get off the ground. They are so old. Inside the larger plane, there were multiple rooms with velvet furniture all covered in plastic to preserve them, 24 carat gold sinks in the bathrooms, a large 12 seater glass dining table with leather seats and even a big bed towards the back of the the plane. And of course, thick carpet everywhere. Elvis did seen to love his shagpile.
The jet plane had about a dozen leather seats in it, in yellow & lime. Gaudy much.
Graceland done, we headed to the Lorraine Hotel & the Civil Rights Museum. As we arrived we spotted it was next to Central BBQ, hailed by the locals for the best BBQ in Memphis and where we planned to have a late lunch after touring the museum.
The Lorraine Hotel is where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was shot in the neck by James Earl Ray whilst stood on the balcony of Room 306 on the eve of April 4th 1968. The motel now houses the Civil Rights Museum.
The museum chronicles the rise & fall of African American Slavery and their fight for Human Rights in the USA and the subsequent fight for Civil Rights after segregation forced the black community to live as second class citizens, unable to use things that we take for granted like the same restrooms, buses, schools as White Americans.
Young black students (with many fellow white students standing by them supporting their cause) fought for their rights with non-violent peaceful protests but were always greeted with violence and suffered many beatings at the hand of not only the white mobs who would retaliate with weapons of any sort, but the military too. The Freedom Riders were young black & White Americans who took to buses to drive across America in a peaceful protest they brought to the towns they drove through to raise awareness to their cause but often being met with violence from the aforementioned white mobs who would be awaiting their arrival. The military would intervene with these mobs eventually but not until the students had been dragged from the bus and many of them beaten to the point of hospitalisation. These mobs beat the women, black & white as well as the men. This was one time where the white American did not discriminate between race or sex.
When Dr King was killed, feared a massive uprising against of African Americans against the White population but with the exception of a few isolated incidents, only peaceful non-violent protests continued. The African American Community had no intention of letting the death of their now martyr mean nothing by resorting to violence & providing the Government with good reason never to award civil rights to them as Americans. Bearing in mind this is my potted history of the Civil Rights movement therefore it might be factually squwhiff as it was a lot to take in!
I certainly felt emotionally exhausted after visiting the museum. Especially as the end of the tour culminates in what was Room 307 with huge glass display windows in place of the walls so you can see into Room 308 (the room Dr King was actually staying in) and Room 306 which he was shot outside. From inside where Room 307 used to be, you could see the spot on the balcony where Dr King fell. I didn’t like that there was a picture showing the scene, with Dr King lying on the floor, someone holding a white cloth to his neck, and his staff & friends around him pointing to where they thought the shot had been fired from. As it turns out, the shot was fired from a bathroom in a building across the street, close to where the witnesses were pointing.
We decided not to go over to that part of the museum as it was late afternoon and we all wanted lunch.
We ate lunch at Central BBQ at the counter, supping Wiseacre beer and Becky & I shared a lunch of ‘slaw, BBQ beans, salad, pulled chicken & BBQ Ribs. It was lush! Definitely recommended if you love BBQ food.
We left the restaurant, scouted the car park for License plates for states we didn’t have yet (up to 38 now) and went back to the hotel via the legendary Sun Studio. This is where the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash & Jerry Lee Lewis recorded some of their greatest hits.
Snooze & shower then out to downtown & Beale Street. The Memphis equivalent to Nashville’s Broadway. But with the Blues.
We had been warned that downtown Memphis was dangerous & we should not wander off alone but I certainly didn’t feel like it was like that while we were there. To coin a Michael phrase, it was a bit sketchy but cool. We started off in Club152, where we were given out drinks in plastic cups. I thought this was because they didn’t trust the punters with glass like they don’t let you have bottles at gigs incase you throw them, but it turns out it was because you can take your drinks outside if you want.
We took advantage of this and walked down to Handy Park where we heard a band playing ‘Mustang Sally’. We watched for a while & them after a failed attempt at getting some pie at a diner, we went into Rum Boogie Cafe. Similar look & feel to Tootsies in Nashville. The band playing were awesome & we stayed for a while to listen.
We swung by a record store where Michael & I bought some old concert advertising cards then popped into BB Kings for a bit before getting a taxi back to the hotel. Memphis done. All in all, I didn’t love it. The stuff we did was fun but I genuinely think, and we all said it a one point, aside from Graceland & the one street of music clubs/bars, Memphis has very little to offer. It’s rundown & even the locals don’t seem to like it that much. Either way, we had a fun time but I doubt I would ever visit there again, unless it was for a night out on Beale Street because Live music is what it’s all about.

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#41 The One with History, BBQ and Blues…

Day five. After an excellent complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express (take note HIE Louisville, FREE & better than the one we paid for at your hotel) it was Graceland time.
Now, please don’t vilify me at this point but I’m generally not a fan of Elvis’s music. I think probably because half the time I only knew the cover versions of his songs, without actually knowing he was behind the originals. I really don’t like what Fine Young Cannibals & UB40 did to ‘Suspicious Minds’ & ‘I Can’t help falling in love with you’. Those and the hundreds of other cover versions definitely influenced my feelings towards his music. But of course once I finally heard & saw him perform during his ‘68 Special, I got it. I didn’t fall into crazed fandom but I finally understood his unique talent. I mean, don’t get me wrong, as a kid I enjoyed his movies that the BBC2 would occasionally show during matinee time on a Saturday afternoon. I knew they were far from cool films even as a little kid, even Elvis knew that when he was making them, but I’ve always liked cheesy throwaway movies and for a kid who loved movies generally & was stuck in doors with their Mom on a rainy Saturday afternoon, it was perfect entertainment. Randomly I’m sat in reception in the hotel in Memphis writing this & Fine Young Cannibals ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ is playing in the background. You drive me crazy. I really don’t like Roland Gift’s voice. Probably why I didn’t like his Elvis cover, and likewise with UB40. Not my cup of tea.
Anyways! After the Sat Nav took us on one if it’s ‘detours’ we arrived at the Graceland complex off Elvis Presley Boulevard (see what they did there) and Becky & I both remarked that we were shocked that it was more or less in the middle of the City. I know I had visions of his home being further into the countryside. I suppose because that’s what I’d be used to seeing at home in the UK. Mansions aren’t normally found in built up areas.
We bought the platinum tour ticket for $37 each as that included seeing EP’s custom cars & his two planes. You have to queue for a shuttle bus to take you across to the house as the it’s directly across the highway from the Graceland complex (which houses more souvenir shops that Disneyland & the aforementioned cars/planes and various restaurants & Elvis Galleries etc.
The Shuttle dropped us off at Elvis’s front door. An older couple, from New York, who were stood next to me remarked on how small the house is (it’s not) and the woman said ‘it’s probably because we are used to proper mansions in New York’. At that point I turned around and said “Well I imagine it was pretty big for back in 1957” She said “I ‘spose”. No bloody “spose” about it love. Elvis paid £102k for it back then and still by today’s standards it’s a big house (Mansion is an incorrect description I admit). Bored of listening to their witterings we head up the steps to his front porch & entered Graceland.
I have to admit, his house is pretty damn awesome. You walk in the front door into the hallway with the stairs in front of you to the left. The upstairs is closed to the public. We speculated as to whether it’s just empty upstairs or not. I couldn’t imagine that all of his belongings would still be up there for no one to see.
To the right if the entrance hall is the living room. It’s mostly white and has a somewhat uncomfortable looking 15ft white damask sofa running down the right hand side. There are two stained glass panels dividing the room with Peacocks inlaid into them. Beyond them is another room containing a black baby grand piano, apparently one of many that Elvis owned over the years.
Moving down the hallway to the door second on the right, is a bedroom. This was Gladys & Vernon, Elvis’s parents room. It was decked out in purple & white and looked very luxurious. Going back down the hallway we entered the dining room opposite the living area and then right into a large kitchen. Very 70’s in there as that was the last time he had it decorated before he died. From the kitchen you head down into the basement, with mirror covered walls either side of the stairs (lots of mirrors in most of the rooms in fact) which had two man caves. One was clearly a TV & music room with a bar and all the furniture decorated in navy & yellow and the other was a pool room with patchwork drapes covering the walls.
Next is ‘The Jungle Room’ with its thick shag pile green carpet and wooden furniture and ornaments. A round chair with a large toy panda on it was Lisa Marie Presley’s favourite chair & presumably the Panda was hers. Leaving the room to head out of the house, the shag pile carpet continued onto the walls to the stairs. Michael & I went into ‘Get Him to the Greek’ mode and has our pictures taken stroking the furry wall. All we were missing was a Jeffrey.
Some of the outhouses had been turned into displays of Elvis’s awards. Rooms and rooms of them. There must be thousands. Then there were his costumes from his movies, even his & Priscilla’s wedding day outfits and the jumpsuits he wore during his last few years touring. The black leather outfit from his ‘68 Special was there and it was obvious that at least one of the jumpsuits was from around the time of his death as it was a lot bigger than the rest of the outfits on display.
When we reached the graves for him, his parents & grandmother and the memorial plaque for his stillborn twin brother, I admit I did well up a bit. It’s clear from the audio we were listening to that Elvis was a good man. Lisa Marie clearly worshipped him and I was surprised to hear & see how much humanitarian & charity work he was involved in. Whilst I still don’t get the fanatical fans, I do now understand the appeal of Elvis Presley.
The custom cars we saw were fantastic, Cadillac, Rolls Royce, Ferrari and even his own tractor to name just a few, all in pristine condition.
We bought a few souvenirs and then went to look at his two planes, a large passenger plane called the Lisa Marie (nicknamed The Hound Dog) and a smaller Jet Plane, The Hound Dog II.
Looking inside both planes it is a miracle to me how either of them even managed to get off the ground. They are so old. Inside the larger plane, there were multiple rooms with velvet furniture all covered in plastic to preserve them, 24 carat gold sinks in the bathrooms, a large 12 seater glass dining table with leather seats and even a big bed towards the back of the the plane. And of course, thick carpet everywhere. Elvis did seen to love his shagpile.
The jet plane had about a dozen leather seats in it, in yellow & lime. Gaudy much.
Graceland done, we headed to the Lorraine Hotel & the Civil Rights Museum. As we arrived we spotted it was next to Central BBQ, hailed by the locals for the best BBQ in Memphis and where we planned to have a late lunch after touring the museum.
The Lorraine Hotel is where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was shot in the neck by James Earl Ray whilst stood on the balcony of Room 306 on the eve of April 4th 1968. The motel now houses the Civil Rights Museum.
The museum chronicles the rise & fall of African American Slavery and their fight for Human Rights in the USA and the subsequent fight for Civil Rights after segregation forced the black community to live as second class citizens, unable to use things that we take for granted like the same restrooms, buses, schools as White Americans.
Young black students (with many fellow white students standing by them supporting their cause) fought for their rights with non-violent peaceful protests but were always greeted with violence and suffered many beatings at the hand of not only the white mobs who would retaliate with weapons of any sort, but the military too. The Freedom Riders were young black & White Americans who took to buses to drive across America in a peaceful protest they brought to the towns they drove through to raise awareness to their cause but often being met with violence from the aforementioned white mobs who would be awaiting their arrival. The military would intervene with these mobs eventually but not until the students had been dragged from the bus and many of them beaten to the point of hospitalisation. These mobs beat the women, black & white as well as the men. This was one time where the white American did not discriminate between race or sex.
When Martin Luther King was killed, feared a massive uprising against of African Americans against the White population but with the exception of a few isolated incidents, only peaceful non-violent protests continued. The African American Community had no intention of letting the death of their now martyr mean nothing by resorting to violence & providing the Government with good reason never to award civil rights to them as Americans. Bearing in mind this is my potted history of the Civil Rights movement therefore it might be factually squwhiff as it was a lot to take in!
I certainly felt emotionally exhausted after visiting the museum. Especially as the end of the tour culminates in what was Room 307 with huge glass display windows in place of the walls so you can see into Room 308 (the room Luther King was actually staying in) and Room 306 which he was shot outside. From inside where Room 307 used to be, you could see the spot on the balcony where Luther King fell. I didn’t like that there was a picture showing the scene, with Luther King lying on the floor, someone holding a white cloth to his neck, and his staff & friends around him pointing to where they thought the shot had been fired from. As it turns out, the shot was fired from a bathroom in a building across the street, close to where the witnesses were pointing.
We decided not to go over to that part of the museum as it was late afternoon and we all wanted lunch.
We ate lunch at Central BBQ at the counter, supping Wiseacre beer and Becky & I shared a lunch of ‘slaw, BBQ beans, salad, pulled chicken & BBQ Ribs. It was lush! Definitely recommended if you love BBQ food.
We left the restaurant, scouted the car park for License plates for states we didn’t have yet (up to 38 now) and went back to the hotel via the legendary Sun Studio. This is where the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash & Jerry Lee Lewis recorded some of their greatest hits.
Snooze & shower then out to downtown & Beale Street. The Memphis equivalent to Nashville’s Broadway. But with the Blues.
We had been warned that downtown Memphis was dangerous & we should not wander off alone but I certainly didn’t feel like it was like that while we were there. To coin a Michael phrase, it was a bit sketchy but cool. We started off in Club152, where we were given out drinks in plastic cups. I thought this was because they didn’t trust the punters with glass like they don’t let you have bottles at gigs incase you throw them, but it turns out it was because you can take your drinks outside if you want.
We took advantage of this and walked down to Handy Park where we heard a band playing ‘Mustang Sally’. We watched for a while & them after a failed attempt at getting some pie at a diner, we went into Rum Boogie Cafe. Similar look & feel to Tootsies in Nashville. The band playing were awesome & we stayed for a while to listen.
We swung by a record store where Michael & I bought some old concert advertising cards then popped into BB Kings for a bit before getting a taxi back to the hotel. Memphis done. All in all, I didn’t love it. The stuff we did was fun but I genuinely think, and we all said it a one point, aside from Graceland & the one street of music clubs/bars, Memphis has very little to offer. It’s rundown & even the locals don’t seem to like it that much. Either way, we had a fun time but I doubt I would ever visit there again, unless it was for a night out on Beale Street because Live music is what it’s all about.

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#40 The One with Dylan the Waitress & Large Marge…

Day Four. Well. Where to begin. It seems our trip is showing no signs of dullness or mediocrity. Not that I expected it to be by any stretch of my imagination but I also didn’t quite expect some of the things we have encountered today. Every time we think we are going to do something run of the mill or ordinarily touristy, it turns out to be anything but.
This morning we said goodbye to the wonderful Union Station Hotel staff. I was pleased to see on checkout that they had discounted my room so 5 star accommodation turned out not to cost as much as I was expecting. Result. I even got a last “Y’all come back now” from
one of our Valets. I insisted he say it to me because I just love the Southern accent.
On our way out of Nashville we stopped off at ‘Antique Archaeology’ which is a vintage/retro Americana store owned by Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz who are antique & collectibles ‘pickers’. The duo travel around the United States (and sometimes abroad) in their Ford Transit van, buying (aka picking) various treasures they find in people’s garages or homes, either for resale, for clients, or occasionally their own personal collections. They are the stars of their own reality show ‘American Pickers’ on the History Channel. The stuff they have in the store varies from old matchbooks, vehicles, bikes, leather jackets, microphones, toys, and so on & so forth. It’s quite the treasure trove. We turned up at 10am just as the store opened, beating the crowds & spent a good while just browsing the store before buying a few bits & bobs as souvenirs. We popped next door to The Bang Candy Company for some marshmallow treats, which turned out to be foul so I don’t recommend wasting your time or money buying them. Finally we hit the road for a town called Dyess, on the way to Memphis, as we wanted to see Johnny Cash’s childhood home.
Well, if I’d have known the strangeness we were going to encounter…
Our journey to Dyess was relatively uneventful. Couple of pitstops at various Gas stations & a slight detour to see Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen for a picture with the big red eyed bull outside and a browse round the tacky souvenir shop (we all bought something though haha) and we finally arrived on the outskirts of Dyess. We spotted a sign pointing the way to Johnny’s former home. Now, we foolishly (I say we, I try & stay out of the directions as much as I can because a) I don’t trust Sat Navs, they tend to be useless far too often in my opinion & b) I try not to get in the middle of Becky & Michael getting frustrated with the aforementioned Sat Nav) decided to follow the Sat Nav rather than this sign, and ended up turning off Route 77 onto an old dirt track leading us between what appeared to be a combination of rice fields & cotton fields. About 3/4 along this track, we came to a T-Junction & the Sat Nav, unsurprisingly, seemed to lose interest in directing us any further. At this point I did chip in and said I thought we should turn left back towards Dyess as the house couldn’t be that far from the town. Bearing in mind in my usual fashion, I had no idea what I was looking for. I don’t like to look at pictures or research places I’m going to visit, I prefer just to rock up & be surprised or underwhelmed rather than have expectations of what something will be/look like.
We drove into Dyess just after 4pm, quickly realising this was another Ghost Town. The town square, well the town half moon, was deserted. The town hall was shut, the cinema appeared to be under going some sort of renovation (paperwork in the window suggested as much) but it seemed sort of eerily stuck in a time warp with ‘Gone with the Wind’ & Boris Karloffs ‘Frankenstein’ posters on the billboards outside. Even the local insurance offices & cafe were shut. We eventually saw a car pull up to use the gas station & an attendant come out which made me less inclined to think we had walked into some ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ or ‘Children of the Corn’ scenario where we could try & leave town but find ourselves inextricably driving round in circles, stuck in some kind of supernatural time loop, unable to leave Dyess FOREVER. Stephen King has a lot to answer for when it comes to my over active imagination. Though Michael agreed he had been thinking the same thing.
After a few photos (the town might have been creepily quiet, but it was pretty) we hit the road again, attempting again to locate Johnny’s old house.
Driving back up to Route 77, we stopped at a Johnny Cash souvenir store, which had cleverly been disguised as what I can only describe as a shack. The Hillbilly Redneck kind of shack that one would normally associate with ‘Deliverance’. Now there was some apprehension from all 3 of us regarding approaching this store. I mean, people round these parts own guns, and don’t take kindly to strangers. But common sense suggested, it was a souvenir shop, so one would assume the proprietor would be pleased to see punters walking into their store. Taking the bull by the horns I hopped out of the car & marched up to the front door, calling back to Becky to take a picture of me going in, incase anything went wrong, eg Hillbilly Redneck comes at me with a shotgun & this might be the last living picture of me. Drama Queen, me? Never.
I opened the door & was hit by the overwhelming stench of stale air, damp clothes, dust and general oldness. This place had no windows & looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in decades, if ever. It was crammed with junk but there appeared to be a few shelves with food on at the back and two shelves stacked with old faded dusty framed pictures of Johnny Cash & Elvis Presley, plus what seemed to be an assortment of new Johnny Cash T-Shirts on hangers. No one appeared to be manning the store so I called out ‘Hello’ a few times until I heard someone acknowledge me & start shuffling their way forward from the back of the store. I was relieved at this point that Michael & Becky had now entered the store behind me. I looked to my left and out of the shadows shuffled the oldest wizened man I’ve ever seen. I was happy to see he was empty handed. No gun.
There was an audible sigh of relief from all three of us & we quickly explained we were lost trying to get to Johnny’s house. The store owner helpfully informed us of the correct directions & it quickly became clear that visitors were a rare occurrence. He enquired as to where we were from & in response to finding out 2/3’s of us were English, told us he used to be married to a German woman until she ‘quit him’. I told him he was probably better off, as Germans are horrid anyway. He seemed to agree. He told us he was 90 years old & had done his time fighting in the war (I assumed he meant WWII) and that he had built this place from scratch. l don’t remember much else of what we talked to him about but I know he gave Becky 3 marbles stating they used to belong to Johnny. Becky & I both paid him $25 for a t-shirt each as we felt like we couldn’t just leave empty handed. He seemed very grateful as he then said he had something for us. He rummaged around behind the counter a while & produced two little teddy bear statues and gave them to us. We thanked him for his generosity and left.
His directions turned out to be correct & we found Johnny’s house. If we had turned right at the previously mentioned T-junction when we got lost the first time, we’d have come to the house which was only 1/4 mile down that dirt road. C’est la vie.
Unfortunately it turned out that the house/museum was still being renovated & was not due to open until the Autumn. It wasn’t an entirely wasted journey though as it was cool to see it. I was surprised how isolated it was but Becky told me that when people were encouraged to settle out this way, they were given a house with 40 acres of land so that explained why the properties were so far apart. And the surrounding countryside was beautiful so all was not lost.
The remaining drive to Memphis was uneventful & we arrived at the Holiday Inn on Union Avenue later that evening. Bit of trivia, Union Avenue is featured in a line in Marc Cohen’s ‘Walking in Memphis’:

"I saw the ghost of Elvis, down on Union Avenue
I followed him up to the gates of Graceland, and I watched him walk right through”

We checked into the hotel, freshened up & headed on out for dinner. Our taxi driver was chatty & told us about the Harbourside area which was a nice place to go and chill-out, eat & watch the Sunset so we took his advice & he dropped us off opposite the Mississippi River & then we sought out a restaurant for dinner. We plumped for the Movie & Pizza Company and we sat drinking local beer, chowed on some deep fried Mac n Cheese bites, pizza & buffalo wings, chatting & drinking, enjoying the warm evening weather.
Unfortunately it turns out that Memphis has a taxi problem. In so much as you can call as many firms as you like, none of them will turn up, no matter what they say! After 1.5 hours waiting, we took up the offer of a lift home from our sweetheart of a waitress, Dylan, named after Bob Dylan and she very sweetly drove us back to our hotel in her very beat up, falling apart car that she fondly referred to as Large Marge. Dylan once again confirmed to us what fabulously friendly people Southerners are. As we got to our hotel she didn’t want to take the $20 we offered her, but we made her take it anyway. We said our thanks & goodbyes & headed off to bed calling it a night hoping for a less eventful Day five!

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#39 The One with Moonshine for breakfast…

Day three. Tired this morning after last nights shenanigans but I was of the opinion that a hearty southern breakfast over at the Loveless Cafe would sort us out! On the way I popped into the Ryman Auditorium (very famous Country Music venue) to pick us up some tickets for the Tuesday night show at the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry was established in 1925 and is considered by most to be the home of American Music. Up & coming & established artists alike grace the famous stage & stand on the wooden circle (if you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about) and sing to a very appreciative & adoring audience. To say I was excited about going is an understatement having watched the ‘Nashville’ cast singing on that stage week after week.
Tickets bought from a fabulous little old lady at the ticket office, at a discounted price because they weren’t the best seats for “someone clearly excited” as me. And of course I charmed her with my English accent.
We made it to the Loveless at around 11am and I excitedly had my picture taken with the genuinely world famous neon sign. Luckily it wasn’t too busy despite its popularity & we got a table straightaway. We were served by a friendly waitress called Dee who tried to pull off an English accent every time she spoke to us. 10/10 for effort.
Becky & I decided to go for hair of the dog & ordered drinks with a side of Moonshine - served in a souvenir mason jar (mason jars are a thing in the south). Pheeeeweeee!! Moonshine is a dreadful as they say it is. Paint stripper much. It’s actually made from corn mash & is just vile. This was the neat stuff at about 70% proof. I poured a bit in my coke and drank that but couldn’t take more than a sip of the actual shot of it. Never again.
Breakfast consisted of complimentary biscuits (fluffy scones to you and me, out of this world!) with blackberry, strawberry & peach preserves. The peach was lush so have bought some as a gift for myself and also for Phil & John as I know they will appreciate it being Jam lovers.
Michael ordered a side if French toast for us all and I ordered myself Country fried steak (kind of like a schnitzel but way better) with gravy (weird white sauce stuff but really nice) scrambled eggs & hash casserole. Hash brown casserole as far as I can tell is Hash browns mashed up with cheese & some sort of Mayo type sauce. It’s good anyway. I managed to eat about half what I was served & half a slice of French toast then wanted to lay on the floor and slip into a food coma. I apologised profusely to Dee for being a lightweight when she came to clear our plates, and promised her it was delicious, I’m just not used to the large portion sizes. Epic breakfast, great cafe, ticked off my bucket list. Be sure to go if you ever visit Nashville, it’s a little gem.
After a trip to the gift store it was back to the hotel to drop the car off and then a short walk in the increasingly baking heat, to the Johnny Cash Museum. Fascinating view into the legends life. There where a lot of his personal letters donated to the museum by family & friends. Reading them you can entirely see what a stand up good guy he was. Writing to his friend Ted Freeman (aka Fenrod) he talked about his sadness & disappointment at the loss of his good friend Martin (Luther-King), his joy at the recent birth of his daughter Kathleen, stating he really rather likes her already so they are going to keep her. He mentions all the places he has been touring across America & it’s clear from his writing the passion that burns within him for his music and how blessed he feels.
They museum had a film & audio running of him on a loop, reciting his Raggedy Old Flag ode to the Stars & Stripes. It’s quite moving & I sat and watched it through three times (it’s only 5 minutes long). I would never have been classed as a fan of Johnny Cash before I visited Nashville but I always appreciated his talent & contribution to Music, but now I really quite love his songs too.
After the museum, we went for Milkshakes at Mike’s Ice Cream Parlour on Broadway and went for a general walk around, looking in a few stores including a Cowboy Boot store. We popped across to Rocket Fizz, a huge Candy Store and as we walked up to it, we saw a man kind of staggering down the hill, with a TV set ON HIS HEAD!! And by on it, I mean IN it. He seemed to have cut a hole in the bottom and was using it like a Darth Vader mask. Now bearing in mind it was 90F on Tuesday & it didn’t appear this guy could see out of this thing, it’s no wonder he was staggering. I quickly took a few amazed pics of him & we scuttled into the store to avoid him further. Odd.
We continued our walk up through Printers Alley (a tad on the seedy side), also spotting a Google Earth car recording the street maps. We walked back to the hotel via the Grand Ole Opry gift store. I bought a sticker to put on my suitcase & a few other bits, along with a Team Deacon Nashville raglan/baseball shirt. I know it’s cheesy but I don’t care. That walk back to the hotel was a killer, the heat is crazy out here. Snooze & chill time for two hours was seriously needed.
Headed across to the Grand Ole Opry for 7pm and when we got there it became obvious I’d failed on the ticket front by getting balcony seats as I entirely forgot that Michael is terrified of heights. He handled it relatively well though & only looked like he was going to vomit once or twice.
The show itself was outstanding. 8 acts all on for 15 minutes at a time, singing 3 songs:

Everyone was superb with the exception of Eli Young Band who I found to be average with no stand out songs. The lead singer was far too arrogant for someone with a middle of the road, mid-range voice. Most of the young girls in the audience seemed to disagree though. The Willis Clan are a family of 6 siblings (plus 6 younger ones joined them on stage for their last song) local to Nashville, who were all adorable & all clearly very talented. They performed an interesting ode to Jeremiah The Bullfrog, who it actually turns out was a toad! It was a little cheesy but they are kids so it can be forgiven.
It was an amazing night & I would recommend anyone who goes to Nashville to squeeze a show in as it was the highlight of our week so far.

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#38 The One with the Worlds Largest Sausage lie…

Day Two. After a quick breakfast in our hotel, we drove over to Churchill Downs with is were the Kentucky Derby is held. The derby is the longest running annual sporting event in American history, held on the first Saturday in May. The first ever race was run on May 17 1875. The idea for the race was inspired by our very own Epsom Derby but runs at 1/4 of a furlong shorter than our own race. The race typically last around 2 minutes but is still heralded by Americans as one of the greatest events in their annual sporting calendar. It’s a very grand building so I can only imagine what it must look like filled with people in their very Sunday best. Sadly we weren’t able to get through to get a closer look at the racecourse as it was shut for the day, so we just took some pictures outside & hopped back into the Explorer and headed up state towards the Kentucky State Capitol: Frankfort.
On the way to Frankfort, we stopped to see The Worlds Largest Sausage on Route 60. This is a blatant lie. Not only is the Sausage not a real sausage, it’s actually just a Propane tank with a sign on it outside a sausage factory. To say we where underwhelmed is an understatement. We had a good giggle taking pictures with it all the same.
From there we travelled down Route 420 (sniggering about The Grateful Dead when we saw it…) to Frankfort to visit Daniel Boone & his wife Rebecca’s grave. They were interred together at a beautiful cemetery on top of a cliff overlooking the breathtaking view of the quaint Kentucky town in the State that Daniel founded.
Daniel Boone was born in 1734 and died in 1820. He was an American pioneer whose adventures (read exploits) made him one of the first heroes of the United States (think Davy Crockett). He is famous for his explorations of Virginia & his settlement of that area which later became Kentucky.
We were the only people visiting the cemetery it seemed so it was very peaceful & as I mentioned, the view was quite spectacular so we stayed for a good while, making the most of the cooler air thanks to the windy weather, that was giving us some respite from the Southern midday heat & admiring the view.
We got back on the road with the intention of driving straight to Nashville via Elizabethtown (love that movie) but & as we did so, Becky spotted that we could swing by the Makers Mark Bourbon Distillery over in Loretto…so we did.
Baking heat by the time we got there & not having enough time to join a tour of the distillery (Michael & I don’t like Bourbon so it was no great loss to us, we were just relieved not to be taking part in the inevitable tasting session!) we had a quick look around & then went into the gift shop. Becky bought a bottle of bourbon & went to get it ‘dipped’. This is the process of dipping the neck of the bottle into a vat of hot red wax to seal it to get the famous red wax onto the bottle. Becky was suited up with an apron, heat protective gloves & eye shields for the task as the temperature of the wax is something like 420F! Don’t get that in your eye!
Hitting the road again we decided we would give Elizabethtown a miss in order to get to Nashville at a reasonable hour as I wanted to head over to the open mic night at The Bluebird Cafe. The Bluebird is featured heavily in the ABC hit show NASHVILLE which I am obsessed with so I didn’t want to miss out.
Becky managed to persuade us Brits, despite our better judgement, to stop off at Munfordville, home of the ‘world famous’ (most overused incorrect statement in America!) Kentucky Stonehenge. I kid you not. The marketing material basically states why go over to see the original ‘crumbling’ Stonehenge in England when you can visit this brand spanking new one on a suburban housing estate in the wilds of Kentucky!! It’s not even life size!! It makes the Stonehenge mock up on ‘Spinal Tap’ look impressive. Oddest attraction I have seen on this trip so far. And don’t get me started on The Garden of Gethsemane recreation…I didn’t mention that to Becky in case we had to go look at that too!
We made another very quick pit stop in Franklin, at the location of an alleged UFO caused death, of a US Airman who was pursuing said UFO in his plane. Wikipedia says: The Mantell UFO incident was among the most publicized early UFO reports. The incident resulted in the crash and death of 25-year-old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas F. Mantell, on January 7, 1948 while in pursuit of a UFO.
If this kind of thing interests you (aka you believe) then it’s quite fascinating. The marker itself was literally just stuck in the parking lot opposite a Cracker Barrel store so we drove by it before we realised that was it. Somewhat underwhelming as with the worlds largest sausage but interesting none the less, even for a skeptic like me.
We finally arrived in Nashville just before 5pm. Well what we thought was 5pm until I realised we were in a different time zone. It was actually 4pm. Which was great because it meant we could relax for a bit before heading over to the Bluebird.
But first, this hotel. W O W. Union Station Hotel on Broadway, Nashville. Incredible. Made more incredible as they upgraded us so we had rooms together & gave us free wifi (hence all the Instagram & blog posts since we arrived)
Becky did us proud booking this place. The architecture is beautiful, the staff are friendly & can’t do enough for us, the rooms are beautiful and well equipped. And the bed is the kind of bed you don’t want to ever get out of. Ever.

The hotel website states:
Long before it was a historic hotel, Nashville, TN Union Station was a key center in America’s economy and culture. Opening on Oct. 9, 1900, to great fanfare, the building’s imposing Gothic design – featuring lofty turrets and towers – was a testament to U.S. ingenuity and energy. During railroading’s glory years, the station saw characters such as movie starlet Mae West and Mafia kingpin Al Capone – who was escorted through here on his way to Georgia penitentiary. Other fascinating facts surrounding our historic Nashville hotel include:

Construction began on Aug. 1, 1898
Station officially opened on Oct. 9, 1900

The track level once held two alligator ponds

The Train Shed was the largest unsupported span in America, housing up to 10 full trains at once

Officially opened as a hotel in December 1986

Re-dedicated on October 9, 2007 after an $11 million dollar renovation

Link to the site here should you ever decide to visit Nashville:
http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bnaak-union-station-hotel-autograph-collection/

Anyways. Our first night in Nashville. We excitedly (well I was excited) taxied over to The Bluebird Cafe which was a 20 minute drive to East Nashville in a very stinky taxi with a very unfriendly taxi-driver, whom I assumed must not be local due to his lack of southern hospitality. We got out of the taxi only to greeted by a not very long queue at the entrance but then a gentleman told us that it would be at least a 2 hour wait. Disappointed is not the word. Under normal circumstances, I’d have waited as I so desperately wanted to have a night there but it wasn’t fair on Becky & Michael and there is no way we could have stood for that long in the humidity. 6.30pm and still 86F, sheesh. So, quick photo op outside & then back in the taxi. $30 for nothing! Pffft.
Instead we went to Broadway which is the main club/bar strip (approx 3 blocks long). Starving as not eaten since breakfast, we popped in for dinner at ‘Merchants’. Best restaurant on the strip, of course. We got the best seats in the house (corner window booth) so we could people watch as we ate. We had a sharing starter of Tater Tots which where quite nice (I’m not as enthusiastic about them as Michael & Becky) & then I had beef brisket, cornbread & coleslaw. Couldn’t eat it all but I really wanted to! Incredible food. Awesome waiter. Great atmosphere. Stuffed & happy.
There was some difficulty ordering beer as I, like a dope, had forgotten my ID but they agreed to let me have one. Phew. We walked back up to the hotel via Ernest Tubbs record store, grabbed my ID, freshened up (so hot out there) and walked back down the hill to our first bar ‘Tootsies’. We met one of the singers Jake Maurer at the end of his set and Michael accidentally ended up buying one of his autographed CD’s so I took this as an opportunity to grab him for a pic as he was cute. He then went back on stage & played ‘Wagon Wheel’ for us, which along with ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ seems to be our #AMORT Song.
The rest of the night was a succession of Miller Lite’s, bars & some great Country music. I can’t describe how quite literally all of the bars have live music, young & old musicians alike. The walls of these establishments are covered with memorabilia and photographs of the people who have played or drunk there. It’s the most incredible place and was such a fun night. I think Nashville is my spiritual home: Good food, Good Music, Good People & Sunshine #Perfect

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