Sunday, 6 September 2009

Road Trip: Tennessee, Part 2

The drive to Memphis was fairly uneventful, although finding our way around to a motel was a bit of a difficult prospect. Before we even got to our destination we found ourselves humming "in the ghetto" more than once, especially as we searched for a motel. The coupon booklet lead us to a chain that we had visited before; previously we had had a good experience, staying in a fantastic motel that was well set out and had many good points.

This iteration of the chain was, well, shall we say, slightly lacking by comparison... But no matter, it was a room with two beds and AC, shower etc, and who cares that the included breakfast was the worst on the whole trip? We were in Memphis, and we were here for one thing and one thing only: Graceland.

Graceland was really easy to find, and we had already decided in advance that we were going to purchase VIP tickets so that we could see everything that it had to offer. We had no other plans for Memphis, and from what we had heard it definitely wouldn't hurt to put all of our eggs in one basket. It was a rainy day when we set out to the former home of Elvis, but the VIP tickets meant that we went straight to the head of the queue for buses that were going across the road from the Graceland visitors centre to the house itself (our guide, on hearing that we were from Liverpool, informed us that one of her best friends in the world was the 'fifth Beatle'; we were just happy to be recognised as being from the UK, something that not many people had understood the first time that we had spoken to them, or the second for that matter), and so we were out of the rain fairly quickly.

If a timeline of photos taken against time was laid out for my trip, then by far and away the greatest concentration of images would come from that one morning spent walking around Graceland: considering that one of the prevailing images in my mind of Elvis is his Vegas residency, I expected Graceland to be a bit gaudy. Instead I found a perfectly preserved, tastefully decorated mansion from the 1970s. I knew Elvis previously from his music, but this was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the man, and the sort of style that he had, and what came through - from the audio tour and from the way that the house was furnished - was that he was a man who loved his family and his friends, and would go out of his way to make them feel as comfortable and at home as possible. Considering that today we see so many "celebrities" on television with their hangers-on and false friends, it was really beautiful to see in so many exhibits and pictures just how close Elvis was to his friends, and that they really were his friends as well and not just out to make a quick buck off of his celebrity.

By this point we were a week and a half into our trip, and while the constant travelling around hadn't become a feeling of normality yet, the surreality of what we were doing had faded somewhat. Graceland and its many exceptional exhibits and snapshots of one of the greatest icons of the last century in some ways helped me realise again that what Dave and I were doing was something quite special, that not everyone goes and travels as we were doing.

Something that was less special to us was downtown Memphis itself; we followed some of the directions from the various guidebooks and tourist leaflets we had picked up, and this lead us to a mall that was only half-open, many of the shops empty. A walk through the surrounding neighbourhoods had us heading back to the car after only half an hour, which then took us back to our motel. Memphis itself might have been slightly disappointing, but the day had been a high point of the trip so far, and in our minds would come to be a high point of the trip as a whole.

We headed back to our disappointing motel, and got some sleep; tomorrow the open road was before us, as it was for several days after. We were headed for Colorado, and had many, many miles ahead.


No comments: