Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Memphis: Blues, Barbecue and a Lesson or Two

When I put Memphis on our travel route, I honestly thought that I would get to visit its most famous attraction, Graceland. Everyone wants to see Elvis' extravagant home, right?? Well, everyone except my husband ... who has never quite figured out the fascination surrounding old homes. After we got settled on the shores of Lake Arkabutla at Hernando Point Recreation Area, I caught a glimpse of my first sunset and agreed with Doug ... our current home is pretty spectacular!

Because we were staying 35 miles south of Memphis, we planned to go into Memphis for a couple of day trips. So, what to see and do during those two days?? I was sure that "the ghost of Elvis" was serenading me to come see him.

Whenever we get to a new-to-us city, it requires a little "studying up" on what is worthwhile to see and do. Friends often ask how we get to know our new "hometown". 

I have found a few electronic sources that provide quick overviews and helpful information to decide what sights best fit our interests and also give us a better knowledge of the city. 

  • I read about the history of the city using Wikipedia.
  • I study the top rated area attractions using Trip Adviser.
  • I check the local city websites to find out about special events taking place.
  • I get recommendations from the locals ... in this case, the friendly and helpful camp hosts.
  • I cross my fingers that some of our Facebook friends will pass on suggestions ... many thanks!
  • I check the travel blogs of fellow RVers to see if they have visited and written about the area. In this case, our friends Tim and Cindy, wrote some wonderful pieces about Memphis including their visit to Graceland ... click here to read all about it, because, as you may have guessed, no Elvis for me this time., and that's OK because ... 
  • Ultimately, I talk with my travel partner(s) and the fun naturally follows. 

Imagine this ... all three of them agreed
that a craft brewery needed to be on our list!

The Memphis Music Scene

As we strolled down the iconic Beale Street, we were surrounded with Blues, Soul, and Rock n Roll.

From a side courtyard, the band
"Redemption Daay"
belted out some oldies but goodies.

In a casual bar, this one-man band
was as humerous as he was entertaining.

And a visit to
BB King's Blues Club
gave us a taste of
classic Memphis music.

Memphis Barbecue

In a city that boasts of top notch barbecue, I did my research on what was considered the best of the best. My research method?? Ask the locals!

The Memphis barbecue scene is all about the dry rub, and Central BBQ was the name that came up most often. Their slow cooked, "fall off the bone" pork ribs did not disappoint. So good that we ate there twice ... enjoying it a second time with a craft beer at Memphis Made Brewing.

Afterwards, we strolled through A. Schwab Trading Company, the oldest store on Beale Street. Established in 1876, their motto is, "If you can't find it at Schwab's, you are probably better off without it".

There were isles of trinkets, clothing, souvenirs, and ... who remembers the candy cigarettes??!! Good thing that we also found the old-fashioned soda fountain, as one always needs ice cream!

A Geography Lesson at Mud Island

A trip to the Mississippi River's edge in Memphis lead us onto Mud Island for our geography lesson of the day. There we found a hydraulic model of the lower Mississippi River which allowed us to "walk" down the river as we learned about the history and geography of the area.

From the farmlands of southern Illinois,

... to the twists and turns along
the Tennessee-Arkansas border, 

... to the many channels in the
Louisiana delta that releases the
mighty river into the Gulf of Mexico,

... it was a fun way to visualize the
importance of this beautiful natural resource.

A History Lesson at The National Civil Rights Museum

April 4, 1968 ... even "youngsters" like us remember where we were the day that Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The hotel has been preserved and developed into the National Civil Rights Museum. What we thought would be a brief visit turned into a riveting three hour lesson as we learned about the strengths of African Americans as they worked ... and continue to work to secure their civil rights.

From the Montgomery Bus Boycott,

... to the non-violent lunch counter sit-ins,

... to the sanitation strike that ultimately
brought MLK to Memphis 50 years ago,

... his "dream" lives on in the
hearts of all Americans who work
to ensure equal rights for all.

His dream lives on in the people we have met on Beale Street and all around this beautiful country.

Until next time ... 

 ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

10 Things Every St Louisan (Visitor) Must Do

A few months ago we made plans to south this fall with our RVing friends, Joanne and Gary. Due to the arrival of their precious first grandchild in September, our travel buddies had to delay meeting up with us. We found ourselves with five days to explore St Louis by ourselves. And true to the artwork on the Graffiti Wall of St Louis, we discovered and would like to share with you ...

10 Things Every St Louisan (Visitor) Must Do 

#1 The Gateway Arch
I will start with the obvious ... everyone needs to visit the Gateway Arch. While we waited for the arrival of our friends to actually explore the Arch, we took a bike ride beforehand along the river to enjoy magnificent views of the Arch. Completed in 1965, the Gateway Arch commemorates the pioneering spirit and celebrates the rich diversity of people who shaped and continue to shape our country.

When our friends joined us, we returned to take the "tram ride" up to the observation area at the top of the Arch. For $13, we received a timed ticket for the tour. After going through security and waiting another 30 minutes to board the tram, we climbed into a very compact car for the four minute ride 630 feet to the top. Word of advice: Be prepared for very crowded conditions in the tram car and at the top with many people vying for a look out of the small windows ... But oh, so cool to look out over the Mississippi River, the city of St Louis, and the lands of the westward expansion!

#2 The Old Courthouse
Built in 1839, the Old Courthouse lies under the shadow of the Gateway Arch. It was here that two cases in particular took place that would help shape the course of civil rights in our country. 

In 1847 Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom. In 1873 Virginia Minor and her husband sued for her right to vote. Although both of these suits were denied, they ultimately brought about important changes in America. The Old Courthouse has been beautifully restored to pay respect to ordinary people like these who have help shape our civil rights history. 

#3 Biking along St Louis' Waterfront and
Along Route 66

The St Louis Riverfront Trail follows the Mississippi from downtown, past busy train yards, and along high levees to North Riverfront Park eleven miles north of town. Along the way we passed the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, a rest stop commemorating the courage of Underground Railroad workers who helped enslaved people reach freedom by crossing to the other side of the river in Illinois.

From North Riverfront Park we went a few miles further north for the chance to bike across the Chain of Rocks Bridge which was a part of the original Route 66. So fun to see and experience this nostalgic part of American transportation history!

#4 The Outdoor Art of Graffiti Wall

The St Louis Graffiti Wall spans a two mile stretch of the riverfront just south of downtown in the Kosciusko neighborhood. On Labor Day weekend each year numerous graffiti artists vie for the opportunity to leave their mark on the flood wall.

Colorful and unique ... and each with a special story that may not be obvious to all.

The graffiti art appears to call out to young and old alike ... and may or may not bear a resemblance to someone you love.

#5 The St Louis Zoo, Museums and Green Space of Forest Park

Located in central St Louis is the huge green space known as Forest Park. Site of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Expedition (or more commonly known as the St Louis World's Fair), Forest Park is considered one of America's most magnificent urban parks. Measuring over 1300 acres, it is larger than New York City's Central Park.

Interspersed among the trees and play areas are many museums and the St Louis Zoo. While you may have to pay for parking depending on how close you want to get to certain attractions, the zoo, gardens, and museums are free to explore.

We checked out the Planetarium and St Louis Science Center as well as the Missouri History Museum. Nerdly fun fact that I learned: we were currently very close to an active earthquake area! Doug, of course, knew all about the New Madrid Seismic Zone, but I was fascinated to learn about the series of 7.0+ earthquakes in 1811-12 that were so powerful that they momentarily changed the direction of the Mississippi River. 

Looks like he is learning all about batteries, but don't be fooled ...
Doug could teach the course!

#6 Biking the Katy Trail

Northwest of St Louis is the convergence of two great rivers as the Missouri River flows into the Mississippi. It is here in May of 1804 that Lewis and Clark (along with Lewis' Newfoundland dog named Seaman) began their journey up the Missouri River to explore the lands that were recently acquired by the United States through the Louisiana Purchase.

It is here also that the 237 mile gravel Katy Trail Missouri State Park begins. 

We biked two sections of the trail in which we passed alongside the Missouri River, under cool shady forests, and beside cliffs of rock that were cut through in order to make way for the original railroad tracks.

And much to my delight, we also came upon a Missouri winery ... Life is good!

#7 A Stroll Along the Main Street of
St Charles, Missouri

Near the eastern beginning of the Katy Trail is the quaint town of St Charles. The sixteen blocks of Main Street's historic homes and businesses have been beautifully preserved and provide a fun shopping, dining, and site-seeing destination.

Ready for nerdly fact #2?? St Charles was the location of Missouri's first State Capitol building. From their admittance to the Union in 1821 until when the current capital of Jefferson City was established in 1826, St Charles was the center of government for the new state.

Not as elegant as many of the state capitol buildings
that I have seen, but a capitol building nonetheless.

#8 The Missouri Botanical Garden

Our friends, Joanne and Gary finally "caught up" with us in time to take in some weekend activities in St Louis. After a second look at the Gateway Arch on Saturday, Joanne and I were able to convince the men to join us for a Sunday stroll through the Missouri Botanical Garden.

I think that it helped that the designers incorporated a "watering hole" next to the water lily garden!

Acres of waterfalls, gazebos, sculptures, and of course, flowers provided the perfect location to walk with friends and share their joy as they filled us in on the excitement of becoming first time grandparents. 

#9 St Louis Barbecue

As we head into southern barbecue territory, we are learning about the different regional styles of this slow-cooked gastronomic delight. St Louis barbecue traditionally consists of spare ribs smothered in barbecue sauce. In fact, some locals claim that St Louis consumes more barbecue sauce per capita than any other city in the country. The barbecued pork and slow-cooked brisket that we enjoyed at Sugarfire Smokehouse fit the ticket to the T ... so many sauces on our table to choose from that we hardly had any room to set down our plates of food.  

#10 Even Better Than Budweiser: Craft Breweries

We had good intentions to tour Anheuser Busch, which has its headquarters in St Louis. But, we ran out of time because on our way ... we ran into an Oktoberfest celebration (complete with old-time polka music) at Ballpark Village located next to Busch Stadium.

And, darn ... they played the "Beer Barrel Polka" so Doug was forced to polka with me.

Because he was such a good sport, I let him try out one of the many electric scooters that line the downtown streets ... begging to be taken for a ride. It looked like so much fun...

... that we all had to give it try!

I am certain that this is just the beginning of many weeks of fun RVentures with friends! 

Until next time ... Have a "Top 10" Day ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!