After leaving Memphis, our next stop on our 4000 mile journey was Birmingham, Alabama. Josh had a training in Birmingham, so we would spend the next four days getting to know this town pretty well. Birmingham seemed to fit into our musical, historical theme that we had been journeying thus far so we were grateful for the option of having this as a stop.
Memphis was just too much to write about in one post so, as we embarked on our fourth day of our 4000 mile Road Trip, I begin my fourth blog entry. I promise I'm not planning on doing a blog write up for each day. Just for each town. Some deserved longer/more posts than others.
We woke up after a perfect nights rest in Memphis, we were all gitty because of the amazing day we had the day before! After eating breakfast at our hotel we took off to explore. This time we drove away from downtown to find the I <3 Memphis mural and the historically known Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Oh what to say about Memphis!? We fell in love with the Soul in this magical city. Maybe not right in the beginning, but definitely by the end.
After our peaceful nights rest (the one where people thought we were crazy for sleeping in the back of our car), we set out to seek coffee, of course. One thing I will say about Dickson, TN. is that NOTHING is open on Saturday mornings at 8:00am. Not even the local coffee house. So, we settled for some gas station coffee instead. Hey, it got the job done! The day before we had picked up some muffins from the grocery store in Dickson. So, with coffee in hand, and muffins in mouth we set off heading West, excitement stirring.
The drive was pleasant and easy. We arrived in Memphis around noon (ish) and immediately began our tours. Now, many of you who have been, or are from Memphis, know that some areas (just like any town has) aren't the best. Well, we had planned to stop into Graceland on our way there. The iconic residence of Elvis Presley. We didn't pay to go inside or tour the shops around, but we did stop in front of the house and take it all in. We had limited time and way too much to do! So, after soaking in Graceland, we took off towards downtown and after some wrong turns and the mistake of not turning around, we ended up in a not so nice area. It was an interesting beginning to our stay in Memphis. My expectations had been slightly altered due to this.
Soon after that small detour the town quickly began to redeem itself. Our next stop was the iconic Sun Studios. This may have been one of the most exciting things we had planned for our trip! I LOVE older music and the history behind it and so many of my favorite artists derived from this studio. I know I looked like a kid in a candy shop and while Josh may say otherwise he had that same excitement written on his face as well.
The establishment has done a phenomenal job of keeping this studio in its original state so that you really get the full experience when you visit. The lobby where you pay and get your tickets has some memorabilia and souvenirs. It also has a snack bar. However, with the crowds streaming in and out, it can get pretty crowded in there. So, Josh and I stepped outside and sat on the bench until our time slot. While waiting outside, the older shown car above drove by. It was the perfect moment for the location we were in and our walk down history lane. I had to snap a photo. I can only imagine this being a typical vision outside the studios windows during the age of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. My excitement was increasing even more!
The tour was exceptional and well worth every dime you pay. I learned so much. I had even done my homework beforehand and yet I still learned more than I could have imagined. The tour guide obviously loved his job. He was animated and knowledgeable. A great combo! It was so much fun. I felt like I had been mesmerized and taken back into a time where good music actually filled the radios.
After we left Sun Studios, it was hard to wind down from all of that excitement. Really, what could we do at this point that could possibly keep up with the greatness of Sun Studios? Well, Memphis had the ticket even though we didn't know it yet. Our trip from this moment on only got better! We drove around the town, took in the surroundings and then headed to our Hotel downtown. We took the long route and drove over the bridge into Arkansas (just to say we had been to Arkansas :) ) and then back over the Mississippi right into downtown Memphis. We were even more pleased when we pulled into our hotel and could see the water as well as nicely landscaped grounds all around. I was feeling a lot more comfortable after our mishap of wrong turns we experienced earlier in the day.
We checked into our hotel and while we had plans to go see the famous ducks at The Peabody we still had a few hours until then. So, we decided to walk on the Pedestrian bridge to Mud Island which sits in the middle of the Mississippi. The bridge was conveniently located right across from our hotel so really it felt like we were walking out onto our own personal pier. We strolled hand-in-hand, glancing out to the Mississippi. Once we got to Mud Island I was surprised at how big it was. Josh was very excited too! They had a replica of the Mississippi river and all the towns surrounding it which made up the entirety of Mud Island. Yes! We had to walk from one end of the replica all the way to the other (his moment of being a kid in a candy shop)! So, technically we have walked the entire Mississippi river.
We had a blast exploring Mud Island and walking the Pedestrian bridge. I mean look at these pictures! Who wouldn't love taking a few hours to explore this? It was absolutely perfect for a sunny, fall afternoon adventure. Our next stop for the evening, other than taking a few minutes to get cleaned up and redressed for dinner, involved Ducks and Ribs!
When in Memphis, visit hotel ducks! At 5pm and 11am every day these ducks are walked to and from the rooftop to a fountain inside the lobby of the hotel. We didn't think that it would be as popular and crowded as it was, but, we went twice to watch this show and every single time there were just as many, if not more people as the time before. It was so much fun! I mean we went twice! It had to be somewhat exciting for that to happen. We got there right at 4:50 (ish) which was definitely a mistake. There was hardly any room to stand because of such a large crowd. The ducks were definitely celebrities. They even had their own red carpet. So, if you're planning on going to see these famous ducks I would recommend getting there earlier than 10 minutes til.
We had such a blast watching these famous ducks waddle around for a while. We even met some great folks who were also there to see the ducks. They informed us of how much they had enjoyed their stay in Memphis and even told us that we HAD to visit Rendezvous for their excellent ribs. Luckily, we had already planned our next stop for the evening and by the sound of our rumbling stomachs and the people who were ranting and raving over this excellent restaurant it seemed like we had made the right choice for dinner.
We headed right across the street, in the alley, to Charles Rendezvous. Known for it's Ribs and dry rub, Rendezvous was definitely an experience that could only strengthen our time in Memphis. We walked right inside, down a flight of stairs into a gem. I would've said "hidden" gem but I think it's safe to say that everyone who does any research on this iconic music town will know that Charles Rendezvous is the place to eat. And for good reason. Despite it's known fame of quality meats, this place has savored it's charm and local touches. We had an indescribable, delicious meal that only left us saying that we were going to come back for more. We were pleased and full now, ready to continue our expedition of Memphis.
We had been in Memphis for almost six hours and we had yet to see or explore the famous Beale Street. So, guess where we were headed next? You guessed it! The street known for it's blues and energy. I must brag on the downtown of Memphis. We had no clue what to expect before we came and it just had to be God looking out for us because we stayed right downtown and not only was everything conveniently located within walking distance, but we felt completely safe walking to and from all of our stops. So, we continued our walk from Rendezvous, just a few blocks, over to Beale Street where suddenly the town came alive. Crowds, loud music, laughter, and chaos lined the blocked off streets. It was as if we were being welcomed into a local street party that we had been missing out on for decades. We had a complete blast walking down these streets, soaking everything in, checking out the scenes before we stepped into the well known A. Schwab general store. This was a refreshing stop filled with random wonders. We found SOUL and even our blues names while digging through this gem.
I think it's safe to say we enjoyed our time on Beale Street. We still talk about it and how we would love to step into this wonderland some other time. It was really just one big party, filled with people from all over the world enjoying one common scene.
We had to stop through the Peabody another time on our way back to our Hotel. We wanted to attempt to capture the grandeur of it's inside. Filled with beautiful grand furniture, timeless wood crafting and marble, everywhere. We felt grand just walking through it's halls. Due to the crowd that was there for the ducks we felt it would be better to get our picture at a later time.
After our short distance walk back to our Mississippi Riverfront hotel we climbed into bed, exhausted from all of the history and fun we captured on our first day in Memphis. As we fell into our slumber I think it was a certainty that we were both dreaming of the excitement to come.
- Nashville Cont'd:
Our adventure had not ended in Nashville within just a day. Oh no! There is ALWAYS more to do in this vibrant town and we were finished yet, but our time was limited. Going into our second day of our 4000 mile road trip, I had already made up my mind on one specific thing that we would do while in Nashville. I am a huge, if not the BIGGEST advocate for Pancakes. Since I was young, pancakes were always my thing. So, when I found out Nashville had something called "The Pancake Pantry" I had my mind made up.
Goal 1: Make it to the "Pancake Pantry"
Josh and I checked out of our hotel in Brentwood. Since we had checked in after dark the day before, we were pleasantly surprised when we began driving the country roads that surrounded the area. Beautiful fenced in homes on amazing acres of land, surrounded by matured trees. We enjoyed the scenery so much that we actually stopped through a few neighborhoods just to continue viewing. After checking out the beautiful homes and few quaint streets we headed towards town, taking a slight detour to participate in something a little touristy.
Pancake Pantry Detour:
"I believe in Nashville" Mural - 2700 12th Ave. S.
We had to get a picture with the infamous "I believe in Nashville" mural. Just to add to the moment, I must add that although it's not noticeable from the picture we were surrounded by construction crew workers who stopped and cheered us on as we posed for this picture op. I would highly recommend going when they aren't building something next door :)
Destination: Pancake Pantry:
After our brief detour we were back en route to find our "breakfast of champs." We were very lucky because when we arrived their was a parking spot on the side street located behind the restaurant. There is a parking lot located directly behind "The Pancake Pantry" however, you do have to pay to park there. Of course we had to wait in line, which by the time we were seated had wrapped around the building. Don't let that scare you, it goes very quickly, and is well worth the wait. We ate, drank coffee and left pleased. I had pancakes which were sweet and buttery. My day was made.
The Pancake Pantry is conveniently located right in the heart of Vanderbilt University which was a stop that we had on our list. It is certainly a different perspective to Nashville than just staying in the downtown scene and/or the Grand Ol' Opry. Vanderbilt is beautiful and we had a blast exploring it. And, if time allows, there's plenty of local shops around to check out.
~ Peabody School of Education: Being an educator you can't help but be in awe of the program over at Vanderbilt. Their credibility of having one of the best educational programs in the country is quite incredible. Of course I had to go and snap some photos of this moment. Education excites me!
After exploring Vanderbilt and the surrounding areas we decided to drive around and see what other mischief we could get in to. A few stops that were on our list that I highly recommend to others:
~ Music Row - Midtown - Not as touristy as I was expecting. Just businesslike - Fun to drive through. We did it a couple of times just to make sure we were soaking it all in - RCA B is also in this section. You can take tours, however we did not. We just snapped a few photos instead.
~ Grimey's used music store - Some great finds in this little place if you're into the whole music world. They also had a coffee shop attached, some books and even great helpers willing to show you were to find the greatest vinyls.
~ White's mercantile - A down to earth store with neat eclectic finds. Owned by an amazing musician, Holly Williams, who obviously has neat taste and wants to share it with others. Fun find of the day.
After some more exploring we worked up an appetite. We stopped in at Elliston's soda shop. If you are in Nashville you HAVE to go here! It was simply amazing and what was even more appealing was how they had kept the place in the same conditions as I expect it was years ago. The atmosphere made you feel like you had stepped into a locals wonder. Don't even get me started on their milkshakes!
After exploring some of the neighborhoods in the Belle Meade area we hit the road to Dickson, Tennessee where we would be camping for the night. Yes! We camped in the back of our SUV. Yes! We had planned this. In fact, both Josh and I were extremely excited about this particular night. Everyone we told thought we were somewhat crazy for attempting this but in fact, it was probably the best nights sleep we had on our entire two week, 4000 mile trip.
We had packed an air mattress and some blankets, so we rented a camping spot right outside of Dickson, bought some chicken and veggies and set up camp. Some of the fellow campers who were staying at the site came and asked us if we needed assistance setting up our tent. I guess they were getting worried when it began to get dark and we had not set anything up. But, in fact, we were all set! We put down the back seat, blew up the air mattress and stuck it in the back. Josh had made some screens for the windows that were magnetic to keep the bugs out, but would allow fresh air in. It was by far one of my favorite evenings of our entire trip. Josh made a campfire and cooked while I read. Then, we finished out our evening by eating a fantastic meal, playing checkers, and snoozing to the sound of rain hitting the hood of our car.
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We have been immensely blessed with many opportunities to see various parts of the world. We live an average, working life in Cambridge, MA but through our many opportunities have developed a passion to see the world. Our goal is to share with other desiring travelers different tips and experiences from around the world as we begin to check them off our bucket list. If anything, we hope to provide a little sense of motivation and adventure to those wishing to embark on their own journey!
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