Monday, May 21,2018
After a less than comfortable night sleeping in the car the rain had passed. We got a fire going and made breakfast. We didn’t have to leave the campground until noon so that gave us plenty of time to reorganize the car and wait for the tent and tarp to dry. I got some writing done before we left the KOA.
Since we had to leave the campground at noon and couldn’t check-in to our AirBnB until 3pm we had a few hours to kill. I had heard that the Memphis Zoo was really good, so that’s where we went to kill some time.
Now, I like zoos, they do a lot for conservation and education. If I go to a zoo I usually go to the free zoo in the Twin Cities, and it’s good. It’s small, but it’s the zoo I went to as a kid, and I feel like it’s kind of a staple for anyone who grew up in Minnesota. The Memphis Zoo is a million times better! Yes, it costs $15 to get in, but it is so worth it! The zoo has so many animals, and their enclosures are large, and well maintained.
The zoo is divided up in to sections that are all arranged in a loop. The first part we went through was the all the cats. Most of the big cats were taking their afternoon naps. They have a couple of ocelots, which are one of my favorites. There was also a red panda napping way up in a tree. We walked past the penguin enclosure, through the tropical bird building, farm area, aquarium, and herpetarium (reptile house) on our way to the Chinese pagoda. Of those the reptiles were my favorite. I know, it’s not “normal” to like reptiles, but I just love them.
The Chinese pagoda is beautiful. There’s a large pond with a bunch of ducks, some gibbons, and the biggest draw to the pagoda, giant pandas. They have two giant pandas at the Memphis zoo. They weren’t as large as I was expecting them to be, and they are very messy eaters. I squished a penny because I do that pretty much any time I go to a zoo.
We got a quick snack, and looked at the elephants. Just as we were going to keep walking a zookeeper talk started at the elephant enclosure. We listened to part of it before moving on to the other half of the zoo.
The next two sections, Northwest Passage and Teton Trek, were my favorite parts of the zoo. Northwest passage has bald eagles, polar bears, sea lions, and ravens. There’s also a lot of signs talking about the Native Americans of the pacific northwest including their history, and their stories associated with different animals. Teton Trek has elk, grizzly bears, and wolves, along with swans and ducks. The wolves weren’t out and about so we didn’t get to see them.
The last few areas were the primates and lemurs along with the nocturnal animals. Lemurs are another one of my favorites. I loved the show Zoboomafoo as a child so that may have something to do with that. They’re always super active so they’re fun to watch. There were a couple of orangutans and gorillas as well.
The nocturnal animals are always fun too. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the lack of lighting. I love the bats and the sloths. I’m always amazed by how fast bats can fly. They also have a slow loris, some sugar gliders, armadillos, and kinkajous. This was probably one of the largest nocturnal habitats I’ve seen at a zoo. Oh, and here’s a little fun fact about the slow loris: they have toxic glands in their elbows that they lick to make their bite poisonous.
It was definitely time for some real food at this point and there’s a Hattie B’s not far from the zoo so that’s where we went for dinner. Finding a parking spot was really tough. I decided to go for the hot instead of the medium this time and I got potato salad and greens with it. It was just as good as in Nashville, and I really wish I could find it in Minnesota.
After dinner, we headed downtown to find our AirBnB. This part of the city did feel a little sketchy. We parked in the ramp across the street from the building our AirBnB was in and walked over. The lobby of the apartment building was beautiful. There was marble everywhere. We got our key to the apartment and headed up to the 5th floor. The apartment was dated, but it wasn’t that bad. Rachel said she felt cleaner camping, but compared to some of the hostels I’ve stayed in I thought it was fine.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
This was our only full day in Memphis and there was a lot to see. After a quick breakfast at the AirBnB we headed out towards the Mississippi river hoping to go out to mud island. The first task was finding the bridge across part of the river. We eventually found the bridge to mud island park, but it was closed.
We decided to just get a lyft to the downtown location of Central BBQ for lunch. Wh both got the pulled pork platter. I chose potato salad and mac & cheese for my sides. It comes with a bun so I made some of the pulled pork into a sandwich. The pulled pork was so good! I love bbq and that’s really the reason I wanted to go to Memphis. I’m really glad we got there when we did because by the time we were leaving the restaurant was packed and there was a line out the door.
We were only a couple of blocks south of Beale Street so we headed north. First stop near Beale Street was the Gibson Guitar Factory. We bought our tickets for the next tour and we had about an hour and a half before the tour. We went across the street to the Memphis Rock and Soul museum. The museum starts with a short movie and then there’s an audio guide through the museum. The museum walks through how the folk songs of share croppers slowly turned in to country music, how that turned in to rockabilly, and then to rock and roll. Throughout the museum there are jukeboxes with song lists. With the audio guide, you can select songs to listen to from the lists, which I thought was really cool. The last third of the museum was all Elvis; everything from his military uniform to movie posters.
We went back across the street to the Gibson Factory to catch our tour. The tour was really great and took about an hour. It starts with where they form and cut the pieces for the fronts and backs of the guitar. Then, to where the glue up all the piece for the body of the guitar. Then, to where they get the neck ready and assemble things. Our guide took us through where the guitars get painted, and where the paint gets scraped off the plastic binding on the edges before getting polished. The final thing for the guitars if for them to be strung and tuned. I was really surprised by the amount of people that are involved in making a Gibson. I figured like most things it would be mostly machines.
We took a bit of time to walk along Beale Street and do a little bit of shopping. There’s a few really fun shops. There’s one that has two floors with music on the second floor and fun gifts, kitchen stuff, and souvenirs on the first floor. Also, on the first floor there’s a soda fountain/candy shop. They had a lot of classic candies and the soda fountain was really cool. We got some ice cream and sat down for a bit. The whiskey pecan ice cream I had was so good!
We went to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame before going to see the Peabody ducks. The Hall of fame was pretty small, but they had a lot of stuff! They a guitar signed by B.B. King, one of Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits, lyrics handwritten by Johnny Cash, and even one of Justin Timberlake’s tuxedos from his “20/20 Experience World Tour.” Just up the street from the museum is the Peabody Hotel where we went to see the famous Peabody Ducks for their end of day march. I’m not exactly sure why there are ducks that live at the hotel or how it became such a huge attraction, but when in Rome… or when in Memphis, I guess.
We went back down to Beale street and had a beer at one of the many bars. The bar we went to had signed guitars hanging from the ceiling and dollar bills, postcards, and photos taped all over the walls. On one wall in a case is a guitar signed by Stevie Ray Vaughan. As we were enjoying our beers a bunch of classic cars start filling up Beale Street. Turns out there was a car show happening that evening. I love car shows so this was a real treat. We started at the east end of Beale and worked our way west. There were a lot of brightly colored cars from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. While the shiny Chevys are nice, the rat rods are my favorites. Of all the beautiful cars and trucks on Beale Street that evening Evil Ethyl was probably my favorite. The paint job on it was stunning. Ill put a short video at the end of the post so you can see it.
Once we’d made it to the other end of Beale it was time for dinner. Conveniently, that put us right outside of Blues City Café, which was recommended by a woman at the Rock & Soul museum. We each got a half rack of ribs which comes with fries, baked beans, coleslaw, and toast. The ribs were amazing! Fall off the bone tender. The sides were great too, but really the ribs are why we were there. The restaurant was pretty busy for it being a week day. That made me curious as to how many pounds of ribs they go through in a week, so I asked our server. On an average week, without all the festivals and events they have in the month of May they go through 750 pounds of just ribs!
With full stomachs, we went back to our AirBnB to pack up our stuff for the las time this trip.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
We left Memphis at about 10:30 that morning. We ran in to a bit of traffic just outside the city because there was a car crash. My GPS rerouted us to service roads to get us around it faster. I drove the three-ish hours to Paducah, KY. Yes, we went back to the first city we went to on this trip. It really is a lovely place.
When we got there, we had a bit of time to kill before our friend Mitch was done with work. We walked around downtown for a bit. We looked at a couple of antique stores. One of them had a ton to jewelry and some vintage clothing. I was looking at the dresses not bothering to look at the prices because I assumed they’d be way out of my budget. There was one that I absolutely loved. It was light blues cotton with white lace. The woman who ran the shop told me I should try it on so I did and it fit me perfectly. I looked at the price and it was only $30! In most vintage shops dressed from the 40s and 50s are usually double that so I bought the dress.
We met up with Mitch, and he took us to a pizza place called Mellow Mushroom. It’s right next to one of the local craft breweries, and they serve quite a few local beers. Mitch and I each had a beer, and the three of us split a bbq chicken pizza. We told Mitch about what we did on our trip, and caught up. This time though it was only a few weeks to catch up on instead of a few years.
In the same building as the pizza place there’s a little boutique, and ice cream shop, and a tea & coffee shop. We looked through the boutique and then got some tea and continued to chat until it was an hour past when we should have been on the road again.
Rachel drove the next seven hours until midnight. We stopped somewhere in the middle of Iowa to refuel the car, get some snacks and change into more comfortable clothes. I drove the rest of the way home. We were getting to the south end of the Twin Cities just as the sun was starting to come up around 5am. I’ll tell you what, I’ll take the seven lanes of polite drivers in Nashville over driving in the Twin Cities during rush hour any day. I dropped Rachel off at her house before finally making it home at 6am. I took a short nap, and unpacked some of my stuff.
Until the next trip, safe travels!