A Travellerspoint blog

New York to Miami - Nashville to Memphis, Thu, 27 Jun 13

Nashville to Memphis - home of the King!

sunny 37 °C

Left Nashville and headed for Memphis. Had a short stop at the Casey Jones Railway Museum.

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Then travelled on to Memphis. We arrived at lunch time. Memphis is on the Mississippi River and Arkansas is on the other side of the river. Memphis is situated high on a "bluff"which means it never floods. However, in 1811 an earthquake caused the Mississippi to flow backwards and the Indians thought that the new steam boats that had just been invented, had caused it.

Memphis water is supposed to be the best and freshest drinking water in the United States because it has four underground acquifers. We are experts on tap water because Canberra's is the best in Australia and I must say that Memphis water is pretty nice too. The Chickataw Indians and the Spanish were the first settlers in this area. Memphis is a predominantly black city with 62% blacks, 31%whites and 7% of all the rest. FedEx has its headquarters here, hence all the FedEx trucks. All parcels in the USA come to Memphis to be sorted and are then distributed by FedEx vans. Memphis is known for its excellent hospitals. St Jude's Hospital specifically treats children with cancer and they come from all over America to be treated here. Danny Thomas, the TV actor has donated millions to support the hospital and has encouraged other stars to do likewise.

The Holiday Inn hotel chain began in Memphis. The blues, gospel, rockabilly and rock and roll started in Memphis. It has the third largest delta in the world, following the Nile and the Amazon. The Peabody Hotel in Memphis is famous for the ducks that live on the roof. Apparently, every morning at 11.00 am they catch the lift down to the ground floor, march out to the pool, accompanied by a band and then at 5.00 pm, they come back into the hotel and then, accompanied by the band, march back through the foyer to the lift and back up to the roof. True!! It attracts huge crowds. Unfortunately we won't be here at those times.

While we were driving along, we watched a DVD of an Elvis concert which really set the mood for our visit to Gracelands.

Memphis has a pyramid that is the tallest in the world. It is silver and shines beautifully in the sun. We called in for a photo opportunity. It is extremely hot and humid. We don't know who built it or why and at the moment some sporting goods store has bought it and is undertaking renovations inside. Looks like it is about to become the most unique sporting goods shop in the world!

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We visited the Memphis Information Centre. While I was standing on the edge of the Mississippi taking photos, I suddenly realised that I was standing on an ants nest. Just little brown ones, but they sure packed a punch.

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We then visited the Lorraine Hotel, the site where Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray. It was a very emotional moment. We just couldn't believe that we were standing under the balcony where Dr King was shot. The motel has been preserved as it was in 1968 and it is now a museum to Dr King and the Civil Rights Movement. There is also a row of bricks in the ground that points straight to the building where James Earl Ray was when he shot Dr King on 4 April 1968. That is the middle window in the photo of the red brick building. Dr King was a preacher in Alabama in 1955 and became involved in civil rights when Rosa Parks, an African American refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person. And the civil rights movement started then. In 1964, Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize and his birthday is now a national holiday in America. James Earl Ray was apprehended in London on 9 April, confessed to Dr King's murder and was jailed. He died in prison of liver disease. We felt very honoured to have visited this place and will never forget it and the struggle of the African Americans which is still ongoing today, in a more subtle way, despite what they say.

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THEN OFF TO GRACELANDS TO SEE THE KING!

I took a stack of photos, so they can tell the story. We were at Gracelands for about four hours. We had lunch and then we joined a queue for a shuttle bus to take us across the road to Elvis' house. It was lovely. We only saw the downstairs rooms. There are rooms and rooms of gold records, his costumes and stacks and stacks of photos and memorabilia.

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We saw the graves of Elvis and his mother and father. They have ornaments and artificial flowers on them which I thought was very tacky. If I had anything to do with it, I would just have the graves set in the lovely green grass. But it was an absolutely huge thrill to be there. I couldn't quite believe it.

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Then there were the planes - Lisa Marie and Hound Dog II.

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And the cars.

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And the costumes.

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There were gift stores everywhere but it was all a bit kitch but great to see it all. He certainly is Memphis' favourite son, and with good reason.

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He paid $102,000 for Gracelands in 1957.

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We are all dying in this heat. It is awful, hot and humid and about 100 degrees.

We hopped on the bus at 5.00 pm and on the way back to the hotel, we stopped off at Sun Records where it all began. Amazing! Oodles of memorabilia there too with some photos of a very young Johnny Cash that Phil just loved seeing.

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Had a big thunderstorm this evening, thunder, lightning and heavy rain. We had a nice dinner in our hotel of salad, Mississippi cat fish and chocolate cake (which we shared and didn't finish) and had a very frank and educational conversation with our African American waitress. You'll be pleased to know that racism is alive and well in the USA, but what's new? It's the same all over the world, just a bit more subtle these days.

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In all our travels, I have never ceased to be thrilled by actually seeing places that I have read, learnt and heard about . Our world is amazing.

Crown Plaza Memphis, Room 508

Posted by gaddingabout 14:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York to Miami - Cherokee, Smoky Mtns to Nashville, 26Jun

Cherokee, Smoky Mountains to Nashville! Yeehar!!

sunny 31 °C

Slightly early start this morning as it is quite a long drive to Nashville.  On the bus at 7.30 am.  Breakfast was interesting.  The whole thing was off polystyrene  plates with plastic cutlery! Slept all night with the outdoor lights shining in the window because Phil said there were no block out curtains.  Discovered this morning that there were!  That's the last time I listen to him!

We drove through the magnificent Great Smoky Mountains National Park, named for the smoke like haze that envelopes the mountains. It is a fog that it is caused by warm and cool air meeting and causing a fog over the mountains. We stopped at Oconoluffte River and Visitors Centre for a glimpse of life from 100 years ago. No other area in North America has a wider variety of deciduous trees than the Great Smoky Mountains. They have more species than all of Europe.

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This little kid was going hiking and camping with his Dad in the Great Smokys for a couple of days. He was so cute but so serious.

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While we were at a photo opportunity, 17 bikies on Honda bikes arrived at the top of the mountain. We all turned our cameras on them and then started taking their photos. We all laughed. Here we were at the top of a beautiful mountain,and we were in awe of these fabulous bikes!

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We crossed the border from North Carolina into Tennessee.

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We passed through Oak Ridge where the first atomic bomb was built. Piggly Wiggly the first supermarket comes from this area. Not many of them left any more. We passed Pigeon Forge along the way which has a theme park called Dollywood, after Dolly Parton. A lot of her family work there. Coal mining is big in this area so we watched a movie on the bus called The Coal Miner's Daughter, the story of Loretta Lynn. I had seen it before but it was good to see it again, especially driving to Nashville. It certainly set the scene. Nashville is known as the Buckle of the Bible Belt.

We stopped at the Golden Corral at Cookeville for lunch. It was a huge buffet. You just couldn't imagine the amount of food that was there. There was everything and hundreds of people all feeding their faces. It was a bit like feeding time at the zoo. I am so over the eating thing. It all tastes the same.

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We arrived in Nashville. It is hot, humid and windy. We stopped at Centennial Park and took photos of an exact replica of the Parthenon. Nashville is on the Cumberland River which sometimes floods. It was the first major southern city to fall to the North in the Civil War. It has the largest Kurdish population in the USA.

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We spent a couple of hours wandering around the city. OMG! Every building you pass has a country and western band inside belting out a country classic. Even the rubbish bins on the street have country and western music coming out of them! There are buskers all along the streets. I have never been to the Country and Western Festival in Tamworth, Australia, but I can imagine that that long weekend in Tamworth is what Nashville is 365 days a year! There are shops everywhere selling everything country. One shop even advertised, buy one pair of boots and get two pairs free! Phil bought a Johnny Cash CD and I bought a tee shirt with NASHVILLE on it, in glitter.

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The Grand Old Opry.

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Our hotel is out of town in another music district and we walked through our hotel's car park to attend a dinner and show. As usual, the food was buffet style and pretty average, but the show was great. The band members and the singers were pretty old and consequently sang all the old numbers that we knew. At the end of the show, we even bought a couple of their CDs. The show finished at 8.30 pm so it was an early night.

GH Guesthouse, Nashville - Room 501

Posted by gaddingabout 05:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York to Miami - Roanoke, Blue Ridge, Cherokee, 25 Jun

Roanoke to Blue Ridge to Cherokee

sunny 31 °C

Good night's sleep but breakfast was a bit bleak, no oj but enough to eat. Because we have a food plan, at least we don't have to go hunting for food! However, a continental breakfast is $4.95 and a full breakfast is $8.95. Pretty good value. Our guide should have told everyone on the bus how much breakfast was because I am sure they would have eaten in the restaurant and not gone out looking for food. We are certainly on the budget tour!

Travelling day today. Will be driving through Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We have wifi on the bus which is a surprise.

Long day in the bus looking at the same scene.  I thought Canada had some trees, well not as many as America!  We are driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway which was a public works project during the depression.  We are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  These are the highest mountains in east USA.

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North Carolina is named after King Charles.  It was originally called Carolane which is Italian for Charles. It just cracks me up when the guide starts reading all the State symbols, eg flag, tree, flower, insect, mammal, animal, plant, flower, tree, etc, etc, etc.  It just goes on and on. But now I have heard everything.  North Carolina has a state carnivorous plant!  Can you believe it?  Well, it's the Venus Fly Trap.  And just so you know, the State insect is the bumble bee and the State bird is a Cardinal.  And wait for it - the State drink is - Milk!  That's my kind of state!

Famous people from North Carolina are:Billy Graham, Roberta Flack, Ronnie Milsap, Charlton Heston, Andi MacDowall, Michael Jordon, James Taylor, Andy Griffiths, Ava Gardner and Jesse Jackson.  Crispy Creme doughnuts and Pepsi come from here too.  The Wright Brothers first flight was made in this area too.

We stopped in Ashville for lunch at the Cracker Barrel Country Store and had lunch with Adam from Newcastle, UK and John from London.  The restaurant was huge and it took a while to get a table.  The menu was huge.  I am so sick of eating and trying to choose something that is half healthy!  I had chicken noodle soup and Phil did too plus a toasted cheese sandwich.  I had two corn muffins with my soup and they were warm, crunchy and delicious.

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Back on the bus and we travelled to Cherokee, in an Indian reservation, via the very scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.  We stopped a couple of times along the way for photos.  It was quite cool today, especially on top of the ridge.  Certainly not the hot humid weather we were expecting, but it is coming!

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We arrived in Cherokee and some of our group went to the Indian museum, some went to the hotel and the rest of us wandered around the trading post shops.  I was looking forward to doing this as I thought there might be some Indian artifact that I might buy.  Well, no.  It was very disappointing.  All commercial rubbish.  Phil bought a polo shirt which is nice and has Smoky Mountains on it. Checked into the hotel.  Because we are on an Indian reservation, there is no alcohol sold here, however we were able to take our own wine to dinner, which we did and shared it with four ladies travelling together from Newcastle, NSW. Early night tonight because even though they have free wifi here, it keeps dropping out so to reduce my frustration, I have typed today's blog in draft emails and will download it in Nashville where I hope the signal will be stronger.

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Our hotel had the longest hallway I have ever seen and of course, we were right up the far end!

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Chestnut Tree Inn, Cherokee - Room 242

Posted by gaddingabout 19:27 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York to Miami - Washington, Williamsburg, Roanoke, 24Jun

Washington D.C. to Williamsburg to Roanoke

sunny 31 °C

Left Washington at 8.00 am and crossed the Potomac River and the Mason Dixon Line which meant that we were officially in the "South". We are now in the state of Virginia which was named after Queen Elizabeth I, the virgin queen. In 1609, British colonists established Jamestown, the first permanent settlement in the new world. The Revolutionary War and the Civil War both ended in Virginia and four of the nation's first five presidents came from this state. We arrived in Williamstown at 10.30am and had two hours to look around and have lunch. Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1780. 173 acres of the old town have been meticulously restored, creating America's largest outdoor museum. It is just lovely. Wished we could have spent longer here. It is very hot and humid.

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Jamestown was settled in the early 1600s and was the first British settlement. It was the first settlement that lasted. Florida was settled in the 1500s but disease and illness soon closed it. Eight American presidents come from Virginia. There are Magnolia trees everywhere and I am noticing a different accent down here. Y'all. Virginia was the first state to have free public education and has a reputation for excellent schools. The William and Mary University is the second oldest is the USA to Harvard.

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Me in stocks.

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The dogs are really pampered here!

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We had lunch at a tavern and then got lost on our way back to the bus. We had to leave at 12.30 pm to enable us to catch the ferry to Jamestown. We were the last on the bus at 12.31pm, very hot and bothered. We are never going to be the last on the bus again!

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More photos of lovely historic Williamsburg.

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We took the ferry from Williamsburg to Jamestown. John Smith of Pocahontas fame settled here in the early 1600s, hence the ferry name.

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Called into a Walmart shop during the afternoon, and in 30 minutes, shopalohic Phil had bought one pair of shorts and two tee shirts!

Travelled on and arrived at Roanoke for the night. Sandra Bullock, the actress comes from Roanoke. Roanoke is situated at Blue Ridge, the highest range in this part of Virginia which is part of the Appalachian mountains. Virginia used to produce tobacco but now they produce soy beans and they manufacture computer parts. Lots of farms and churches here.

Holiday Inn Tanglewood -Roanoke - Room 109

We are very pleased that we are the only people on the bus with a meal plan. Everyone else has to go looking for things to eat but we just receive a voucher and go to the restaurant. It is very good.

One last photo of Williamsburg.

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Posted by gaddingabout 19:09 Archived in USA Tagged to williamsburg washington roanoke Comments (0)

New York to Miami - Heading South, Washington, Sun, 23 Jun13

Washington

rain 29 °C

Washington, Omni Shoreham Hotel, Room 2102

Having a sleep in today and a rest day, as everyone else is going on a Washington monument tour and as we had done it only two weeks ago, we decided we would do our own thing today. Good decision! It is pouring rain. Not a good day to be trudging around monuments. We thought we might stroll up to the zoo but it will have to stop raining first.

We were woken up at 6.30 am with an automated wake up call but quickly went back to sleep. Had a nice leisurely breakfast and took some photos of the hotel. It is a huge complex.

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Some famous people who have stayed here.

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It's now lunch time and has stopped raining so we went for a walk. Took a photo of the hotel. It is so huge, it looks like a hospital!

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Went to the Smithsonion Zoo. It is free entry, which in our opinion, all zoos should be. It was very lush and green and extremely humid. It feels like Singapore!

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Went looking for the Pandas. This was all we could find!

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Picture of a bear (the dark spot in the middle of the picture), a cheetah and an elephant.

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Washington street scene at Woodley Park.

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Nice dinner in the lovely dining room of the hotel, a walk around the grounds and then into bed as our southern adventure begins in earnest tomorrow.

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We are about to watch a guy, LIVE ON TV, walking across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope - no net and no safety wire. I'm not sure I can watch! Only in America!

Posted by gaddingabout 17:35 Archived in USA Tagged washington Comments (0)

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