Our trip to Memphis included much more than Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum. We toured Sun Recording Studio in a small storefront building where Sam Philips started the business in 1950. Sam’s partner Marian was the first to hear Elvis perform and a year later got Sam to bring him in. The session didn’t go particularly well so Sam took a break. During the break Elvis tore into Big Boy Crudup’s “That’s Alright” and made rock and roll history. Sam Philips found the sound he was looking for. Sun recorded many early rock and roll pioneers like Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis as well as blues legends like BB King and Howlin Wolf. Johnny Cash got his start at Sun. But Elvis made music history.
While the big attractions in Memphis are Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum there is so much more largely centered around music.
Memphis also had the first black owned and first woman owned radio stations in the United States. They had the first radio station that played black music and white music on the same station. STAX music was another recording studio that featured great R & B acts like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Bobby Blue Bland.
B B Kings Blues Club on Beale st is just one of many live music venues in Memphis today. It’s a nice compact area with plenty of Bar B Q too
Memphis even has a vintage streetcar line. Which of course we had to ride.
We’ve never been big Elvis fans but Graceland is such a worldwide attraction that we had to see what it was all about. It’s not an inexpensive place to visit.
After a introductory film we were shuttled to the home which is not huge by today’s standards but very personal to Elvis. The home is preserved as it was when he lived here. He bought it in 1957 and loved entertaining family and friends.
The home is just the beginning at Graceland. There is a large museum displaying many items from Elvis’s career. There is one room just for cars. Another has boats. Another huge room displays his iconic costumes. Then there’s still another room dedicated to his legacy and all the artists influenced by Elvis. Some of those included Elton John, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon who is quoted as saying “If there had been no Elvis there would be no Beatles”
We were thoroughly impressed by the quality of Graceland. We arrived only curious about Elvis and left with a deep appreciation of the man and his legacy.
Memphis has a lot to offer. Our first stop was the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated. It’s a very moving history of the movement from the earliest days of slavery through the violent 50s and 60s. Even if you think you know much of the story there is so much more to learn. This is a world class museum.
We spent 4 hours there and only left because they were closing. There’s still more to see.
Cloudcroft New Mexico is located in the Sacramento Mountains in the southeastern part of the state. In this hot dry region it is an comfortable oasis due to its elevation. Fodor’s travel recently called it one of the most overlooked places in the country. We visited on our way from Palm Springs to Florida. The railroad history, mild weather, scenic views and hiking made this a place we’ll come back to visit.
The Alamogordo and Sacramento Railroad climbed over 4000 feet in 32 miles with grades of up to an unheard of 6.4%! Historically trains slowly climbed trestles and S curves to the timber in the mountains. Vacationers flocked to the mountain air on up to 5 trains per day from El Paso. This was one of the most spectacular western railroads. Today trestles can be reached via hiking trails.
We stayed at the Cool Pines RV Park in nearby Mayhill. It’s a lovely quiet park.
We really never heard of Kilgore let alone planned to visit but our granddaughter recently moved there so we had to stop by. The town operates the Harris St RV park near downtown. It is very nice with paved sites and beautiful lawns although its a little difficult to reserve thru the city. The rate was $20/night for water and electric site with an onsite dump station. Our granddaughter moved to Kilgore to pursue her passion for horror films and actually landed a leading part in the upcoming prequel to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
What surprised us was the first class museums and lively downtown of Kilgore. The East Texas Oil Museum tells the story of the first east Texas oil strike right under the town in 1930. What happened next was amazing. The small dying town exploded overnite into a boom town. At one point there were more than 1100 producing wells within the city limits. The East Texas Oil Museum is a first class facility telling the story.
Another unexpected attraction was the Texas Broadcast Museum. A couple of locals collected an incredible array of historic TV and radio broadcast equipment. Among the historic items we saw were one of the original 3 ESPN mobile broadcast trucks, the actual TV camera that filmed Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald and a projection TV built in 1948. For fans of history and technology this was a very interesting museum.
We very much enjoyed meeting our daughter in Kilgore to visit our granddaughter. The town was upbeat and friendly. Right off I-20 we would recommend it as a pleasurable stop for travelers in Texas.
One of our absolute favorite national parks is Chiricahua National Monument in southeast Arizona. We remember the smell of the forest the first time we visited. The park is located about an hour from the RV parks in Benson. Its an easy day trip but we hope to camp at the park campground one day. The Chiricahua Mountains rise up to 9,273 feet with plants and animals from 4 ecosystems meeting in this range. There are species from the Rocky Mountains, the Sonoran Desert, the Chihuahuan Desert and even the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.. This area was home to the Chiricahua Apache since the1400s. They called the rock pinnacles “standing up rocks”.
Our favorite trail is the Echo Canyon loop which combines 3 trails into a spectacular 3.4 mile loop. There are views of the rock pinnacles around every turn on this easy to moderate hike. We love it so much we haven’t tried another trail.
We know there are many more trails to explore. There is also much human history to learn. For these reasons we know we’ll return to this beautiful national park. Its one of those we call 3rd or 4th level parks that are less well known and just isolated enough to be safe from overwhelming crowds. Only tell your best friends.
Florida has many nice state parks with good campgrounds. Payne’s Prairie is one we have been curious about for a very long time. Every trip north or south on I-75 crosses Payne’s Prairie near Gainesville. The campground is accessed from the south side near Micanopy. There are 50 campsites which offer electric and water hookups as well as very nice restrooms and showers. There is a dump station too. For tenters there are fine campsites off the main loop. Our smaller 25 foot RV fit in very nicely.
We visited in December and the weather was very mild – warm days and cool nights. The prairie is 27,000 acres of mostly wetlands with an amazing abundance of wildlife. It is home to a small herd of bison which once roamed Florida. Many wild horses and cattle descended from those brought by the early Spanish explorers find home here. Birdlife is abundant as well for migratory and resident birds. The park has a fine visitor center and museum interpreting the nature and history. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable. While we were there we saw bison, horses, alligators, eagles, deer, owls, egrets, ibis, herons, bitterns, gallinules and anhinga as well as others we could not identify.
We enjoyed the campground, wildlife and many trails. Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park is one we would highly recommend.
We always like visiting the Oregon coast in the Fall. The summer crowds are gone and the weather is mild. Our Thousand Trails membership offers us multiple RV parks along the Pacific coast. We love watching for whales, hiking and collecting wild edible mushrooms.
Newport Oregon is one of our favorite coastal towns for the artisans, murals, lighthouses and rafts built to accommodate the abundant sea lions. They are numerous boisterous and adorable.
Sure there are cool and rainy days on the Oregon coast in the Fall but we have lots of warm sunny days in Florida and enjoy the change.
This year marks our 40th wedding anniversary and as if that wasn’t memorable enough we wanted a travel experience to commemorate the event.
What to do in the face of a surging pandemic! We have been cruisers for a long time and found a trip to one of our favorite places, Alaska. Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas was sailing out of Seattle in September on a seven day itinerary at the same time as our visit to family there. Perfect. No border crossings to worry about. No unvaccinated guests allowed. Negative Covid test 72 hours before sailing. Reduced passenger load with full crew. Travel insurance in case we decide to cancel. And great ports along the Inside Passage.
We had taken an Alaska cruise 23 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. This cruise planned stops in Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Juneau and Ketchikan. The trip began on schedule sailing north in Puget Sound. The next morning we noticed we were sailing slowly south off the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula. We then learned that bad weather around Sitka was causing our captain to dilly dally near Washington until the weather cleared. This resulted in our Icy Strait port being cancelled and our guided hike there cancelled. While we were disappointed, we were glad the captain was looking out for us.
The story of Sitka is the story of Alaska. The Tlingit people thrived here for countless generations before Russian fur traders came for the abundant sea otters and their pelts. The Sitka National Historical Park tells the story of the complex culture of the Tlinget and the conflict with the Russians. There is an impressive collection of totems as well as the Russian Bishop’s house and the site where Alaska was turned over to the United States in 1867. The Russians really had no interest in colonization as they were only there for the furs. As the fur trade declined they were happy to sell their interests to the Americans. Of course the Tlingit had no say in this and continued a long decline before a rejuvenation in the 1960s. This is a particularly abundant area of Alaska with an ice free harbor, a temperate rain forest of Sitka spruce and Western hemlock and rivers hosting massive salmon spawns. The area supports brown bears, river otters, mink, black-tailed deer and over 150 species of birds.
The mid-point of our our cruise brought us to Endicott Arm, Dawes Glacier and Alaska’s state capital – Juneau. Our wet chilly morning visit to the fjord and glacier views was awesome. The water in front of a glacier is such a unique color. The chunks of ice floating all around us were beautiful. Juneau itself was still partially shut down due to the pandemic and the cold weather cancelled our planned kayaking experience but we had a good time.
Ketchikan was our last port of call on our Alaska cruise. As with our other stops this one was more enjoyable since ours was the only visiting ship that day. Creek St is the historic red light district that operated until 1954. A local salmon hatchery had thousands of fish following their DNA upstream to spawn. Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of totems which began to be restored by the CCC during the Roosevelt administration.
Reflecting on our cruise we realize we were not just taking a vacation for ourselves but also rejuvenating the cruise industry and the musicians artists and other workers severely impacted by the pandemic. So often during the cruise the crew thanked us for coming back. In this era of huge cruise ships this really was a dream cruise. The crowds onboard and ashore associated with modern cruising just really were not an issue with this cruise. It proved to be the memorable celebration of our 40th anniversary we were looking for.
A long time favorite, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a historic beautiful 444 mile meander through mostly Mississippi from Natchez to near Nashville TN. The parkway preserves a historic route taken by early 19th century boatmen back north after delivering their boats and cargo down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Natchez. Those boatmen were following the Native American travel route who in turn were following the seasonal migration pattern of bison to salt licks in Tennessee. Natchez was a the principal trading port for cotton and other plantation crops sold to northern markets and Europe. It had more millionaires than Boston.
The parkway is a unit of the National Park Service. There are 3 campgrounds along the way. We stayed at the Rocky Springs campground after entering the parkway near Clinton MS. The campground has no hookups with nicely spaced paved sites. Our new smaller rig fit in perfectly.
Rocky Springs is now a ghost town near the parkway. In 1860 it had a population of 2616 inhabitants 2000 of whom were slaves. The Civil War, yellow fever and the cotton boll weevil led to the demise of the town. The spring dried up and all that remains is the historic church and a cemetery.