2017 Road Trip – Day 5

Today is the big travel day home. We aren’t even stopping much along the way. We’ve decided to take a short detour east so we can go through Indiana and miss most of the horrible traffic that exists between Chicago and Michigan.

We began the day driving through massive downpours almost all the way through Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. We stopped at a Perkins somewhere in Arkansas because I’ve never been in the state and I can’t count it as having been there if we simply drive through and never set feet on the ground.  Now I can say I’ve been there, although we didn’t see much through the rain. We did count our blessings that the rain had held off for all of our earlier adventures though, because we had pretty darn good weather for most of our trip.

We headed north through Missouri then southern Illinois, where we found Casey, Illinois. I have always loved the idea of road trips because of those fun roadside attractions that you can spend 5-10 minutes at. These are often unplanned finds and, for us, Casey was one of those places. Casey is home to some of the World’s Largest Stuff… a lot of it actually. With 8-1/2 hours of driving this day, we didn’t opt to drive around Casey and see them all, but we did see the World’s Largest Wind Chimes, World’s Largest Rocking Chair and World’s Largest Mailbox. There were giant pencils, rulers, and other items scattered around town as well. It was a fun break and something that we had been missing the rest of the road trip.

We stopped for dinner in Terre Haute, Indiana. It wasn’t too far past Casey, but we were getting hungry at this point and wanted to see the city. Terre Haute is a nice size city and we found Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant and had very yummy supper.

We still had about 3 hours of driving left and arrived back in Michigan shortly after 10pm… not too shabby for a 600+ mile drive in a single day. Looking back, I think if we were to do it over, I would have stayed in Indianapolis for the night and stopped a few more times along the way. Spending almost the entire day in the car was a bit of a challenge. In the end, we came pretty close to our $1000 budget and Indianapolis would have pushed us too far over, so it was the right choice at the time and we made it just fine.

As I mentioned in Day 1, here are our final Road Trip stats:

  • Elapsed time: 5 days, 4 nights
  • States visited: 7 (Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana)
  • Major Cities visited: 2 (St. Louis, Memphis)
  • Miles driven: 1430
  • Steps taken: 34,438 (we did really well the first couple days, then fizzled out)
  • Attractions/Sites visited: over 20
  • Hard Rock Shot Glasses added to collection: 2 (St. Louis & Memphis)

I hope you enjoyed following along, but more importantly; I hope this brief road trip, planned on the fly, has inspired you to get out and start living your bucket list. I’ve added as many links to these 5 blog posts as I could, to give you more information if you want to see any of the places we did, so no more excuses.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to do it all. You just have to start… somewhere.

 

 

2017 Road Trip – Day 4

Hello Memphis! Well, we actually woke up and had breakfast in Mississippi before heading into Memphis for the day, but it’s a short drive into the city.

We started our day with a visit to the Lorraine Motel, the site where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on April 4, 1968. They have turned the old motel into an incredibly moving National Civil Rights Museum that takes you through the struggles African Americans have faced throughout the history of the USA, beginning with slavery and continuing beyond the grim day in which the beloved MLK Jr. was taken too soon. The tone of the museum focuses on the civil rights movement and culminates with the viewing of the rooms where MLK Jr. was shot and the spot on the balcony where he was killed.

The other side of the street contains the second half of the museum. Here you can learn about the crime and the events of the day and leading up to it. You can see the location the killer shot from, the weapon used, and view the balcony from the sniper’s location. The whole experience is moving and almost had us in tears quite a few times. This is not a museum you will want to move quickly through, so plan at least half a day and plan to be challenged, disturbed, and at many times disgusted with the lows to which humanity has sunk, not only centuries ago, but within the last 50 years.

The Blues Music Hall of Fame is directly across the street from the museum exit and, although we didn’t go in this time, provided a much needed uplifting of the spirit and reminded us that, although we learned a lot that morning, we were also in Memphis to enjoy ourselves and have a good time.

We headed out towards Beale Street to hear some live blues and eat a late lunch. Beale street is a very interesting place with the sounds of all different varieties of music coming from every direction and mixing into a wild, neon-lit cocktail of fun. The photos will never do it justice because it simply something that must be experienced and felt to truly understand it. It feels vibrant, creative and alive here, but also has a slightly sad and unpleasant undertone of dirty exploitation with a hint of alcoholism. We still thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was and planned to go back again after supper to catch the night-life.

My fiancée was thrilled to find another Hard Rock Café located at the head of Beale Street and we stopped in to grab another addition to the shot glass collection before heading over to the Peabody Hotel. If you visit Memphis you must plan to be in the Peabody Hotel either at 11am or at 5pm, and plan to arrive early because their will be crowds. You see, the Peabody Hotel roof is home to a flock of 5 ducks. A duck master leads the ducks down from the roof, by elevator and red carpet, to the hotel lobby fountain, where they happily swim all day until it time to reverse the process and head back to the roof for the night. This is all done with extreme pomp and circumstance and there is even musical accompaniment. The best viewing spot is on the balcony opposite the elevator and slightly to one side, so you can see most of the march. However, children are permitted to sit right up next to the red carpet and pet the ducks as they march past. My fiancée rolled his eyes at me quite a bit for even suggesting this, but was a good sport about it and managed to enjoy himself as well. It was a bit of silliness that helped balance out the seriousness of the morning.

Finally, we drove out to see Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. Neither of us are big Elvis fans, so we didn’t want to do the tour, but it was on the way back to the hotel, so we took a few minutes to see what all the hype was about. The wall full of signatures and messages was the most surprising to me… they seemed to go on forever. Of course, we added our names as well and now become part of the history of the place. If you ever visit, bring a Sharpie so you too can join us in this history.

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We arrived back at our hotel planning to nap, and head back to Memphis for supper and more Beale Street fun. Instead, we ended up having a nice prime rib supper at O’Charley’s in the Suburban sprawl near our hotel and getting to bed. Apparently we are getting too old to manage such full days and still have enough energy to enjoy the night-life too.  We had fun there earlier in the day anyway, so we didn’t feel we were missing much.

Tomorrow we head home…

2017 Road Trip – Day 3

We woke up today with another long day of driving ahead… destination Memphis, Tennessee. We scheduled several stops along the way again to break up the monotony and give us a chance to get out and stretch a bit.

Our fist stop after leaving St. Louis was Elephant Rocks State Park in Arcadia Valley, Missouri. Arcadia Valley is located in the Mark Twain National Forest and Ozarks area and has enough nature and hiking that a week trip here would be perfectly reasonable… we had about an hour. Elephant Rocks State Park was a bit out of our way, but well worth the additional drive time. An accessible, 1-mile long path winds among giant granite boulders, which can be climbed on… great fun for kids and adults alike. Part of the area has been quarried and stone-smiths would carve their names in the rock when they received their master certification, giving the appearance of heavy graffiti throughout the site. There is an additional 1/2-mile extension for those who are looking for an extended experience, but we had a bit of a late start and opted to get back to the car instead.

The drive through this part of Missouri is beautiful. It was a beautiful, sunny day and a perfect time to put the convertible top down and enjoy the amazing vistas. Our next destination, although we were enjoying the scenery and not in a hurry to arrive, was Burfordville, Missouri. There is a mill and restored covered bridge there and it was another beautiful place to get out and walk around a bit.

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It was a hop, skip and a jump (aka: a short distance) from the mill to Cape Girardeau, Missouri for supper. Before heading into town, we detoured across the cool bridge to Illinois and then right back again… ’cause bridges are fun and cool to look at! We were planning to arrive much earlier than we actually did, so we looked for somewhere to eat fairly quickly before continuing the 175 more miles of driving to Memphis.

After having a delicious and reasonable Cajun dinner at Broussard’s, we now hoped to arrive in Memphis around 9pm… significantly later than we hoped, but still in time to go check out Beale Street before hitting the hay. Unfortunately the universe had other plans for us. Just before leaving Missouri, we got stuck in stopped traffic in a single-lane construction zone. Traffic remained stopped for an hour, so we turned off the car. I had the joy of experiencing a construction port-a-potty for the first, and hopefully last, time during this extreme slow down. Once we were moving again, I was surprised to discover we were travelling through Arkansas (we’re playing this by ear remember, so I haven’t looked too closely at an overall map), and even more surprised when we drove through Memphis and into Southaven, Mississippi to find our hotel for the next 2 days. Turns out Southaven is only a 10-15 minute drive from Memphis and a convenient place to stay. We arrived at the hotel after 11pm, exhausted and thankful for somewhere to sleep, having forgotten all about our plans to see Beale street that evening. There’s always tomorrow….