Monday, October 29, 2018
Today, we leave this beautiful place and come back to Florida. As we cross over the bridge back to the mainland, we see dozens of pelicans standing on a shoal just taking in the scenery. We drive through Mobile and see the USS Alabama Memorial Park.
We’re on our way to Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park in Niceville. This will be the first time we’ve been back in Florida in more than a year and a half. Skip was unable to get campsites in the state parks we will be staying in, so he is on his own till we meet up again in Arcadia.
We have a great back-in site, wide with lots of shade, across from the water. We can sit and look out at the water right from the front of our coach. We spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.
Sunday, October 28, 2018
We take a bike ride to the center of the island and back as our morning exercise and spend the afternoon on the beach.
Saturday, October 27, 2018
Alex and I wake up late today. We have some breakfast and meet Skip for a bike ride to Gatalop 35: Jubilee, the Renaissance Fair at Fort Gaines. The event is run by the Society for Creative Anachronism a non-profit organization devoted to the research and re-creation of pre-seventeenth century skills, arts, combat and culture. They have international events, demonstrations, and other educational presentations and activities, and today they are in our backyard.
We park our bikes and walk through the vendor booths selling all sorts of local art outside the fort. There’s a modern day version of a blacksmith making iron works of art.
As we approach the fort, the fighting has begun. The good knights are pairing up to do battle. We learn they use an honor system. If a knight takes a hit to an arm, the arm is considered lost, and it is put behind the back and can’t be used in combat. Likewise, if a leg is hit, it is lost and since you can’t hop around on one leg, the knight goes down on his knees to fight. Body and head hits are death blows and the knight loses the battle. They are well padded, which is a good thing, since they really do hit hard.
Inside the fort, camp is setup. There are tents in the center surrounded by the walls of the fort. As we walk into different areas of the fort, there are cots, where the knights have been sleeping, and Renaissance decor on the walls and in the halls. It is hard to separate the two time periods, that of the Civil War and Renaissance. It’s kind of a mashup between the two, but it works. I have been to other Renaissance Fairs, but having the brick and stone of the fort as a backdrop adds to the overall effect.
Back inside the fort grounds, there are more vendors to one side and a benefit lunch, pulled pork for the guys, pulled chicken for me. Every food on this island has barbecue sauce on it. Not a fan!
We tour the fort to learn of its history during the Civil War. This is the location of the famous Civil War battle known as the Battle of Mobile Bay. It is also the battle where Admiral Farragut coined the phrase, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!”, after losing the U.S.S Tecumseh to what we call a mine today, but was referred to a torpedo then. The fort was manned by the Pelham cadets, young boys, 13-15, from Mobile, until the battle drew near and seasoned reinforcements arrived. When the federal soldiers took the fort, rather than imprison the young boys as traitors, they were sent home to their worried mothers.
Late in the afternoon, Skip, Lucy, Alex and I take a walk on the beach before the sun goes down. I have never seen so many Monarch butterflies and dragonflies as I do walking around this island, Renaissance Fair included. They are everywhere. Simply beautiful!
Friday, October 26, 2018
Cool and breezy today. The three of us are taking a bike ride to Fort Gaines on the east end of the island. There we get the schedule for the Renaissance Fair. Everyone is dressed in authentic period garb and busy setting up.
We bike to the ferry terminal for lunch, where I have been told they serve great brisket. They were wrong. I have now decided there is no good food here. Beautiful island, terrible food!
After lunch, we bike almost to the west end of the island. We stop before we get into the residential area and go in and around some of the roads exploring before we bike back.
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Pouring rain all day. The weather says upwards of two inches. The puddles look like lakes by the end. We’re staying in doing our incredibly difficult Star Wars jigsaw puzzle.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Alex, Skip, Lucy and I are taking a walk on the beach. It’s a beautiful beach with big rock jetties. Off in the distance you can see oil rigs, dozens of them. People are fishing along the shore.
We walk to the end of the island where Fort Gaines has sat since 1821. Named for Edmund Pendleton Gaines, a senior Army commander in the late 1700s to mid-1800s, it is best known for its role in the American Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. We will be touring the interior on Saturday when they are hosting a Renaissance Fair, so for now, it’s beach combing. Alex works diligently to find unique, beautiful shells. We like to collect them or sea glass and put them in a glass container as a souvenir of the beaches we visit.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Yesterday’s clouds turned into rain during the night. The weather forecast is calling for rain all day, hopefully, stopping this evening. Our warm summer days are yielding to cool autumn temperatures. We will struggle to get into the seventies the whole week we will be here.
Skip ordered a bike rack and found a bike in Mobile. Alex puts our bike rack on Sergio and away I go with Skip to get the bike. Our ride gets us scattered showers.
This time Skip has success with the bike and our rack. We’re get it loaded on Sergio, in the rain, and set out to Publix for fried chicken and their Italian bread. Yum! We’re back in Publix country.
Monday, October 22, 2018
The caravan is moving seventy two miles east, to Dauphin Island, Alabama. It’s a short ride on I-10 east, then we work our way southeast on AL 188.
The right hand turn into Dauphin Island Campground is, to say the least, difficult. It’s more of a hairpin turn than a right. But once we’re in, life is great. We have a large, wooded corner site next to the trail that leads to the beach and bird sanctuary.
The three of us set off in pursuit of lunner. We’re on the east end of the island, a short walk to the tip. The Estuarium and Fort Gaines are the only other things there, so we head west. There’s not much on this tiny island, a few gift shops and even fewer places to eat. I count four, with a fifth closed for renovations, and none offer restaurant style meals. The closest thing to a dinner is a fish, chicken or shrimp basket or a burger. We drive to the west end of the island, which is all residential. There are work crews moving sand from the road and properties, remnants of the recent storms.
We work our way back and see what looks to be a restaurant, Islanders Restaurant and Bar. The name sounds promising, but it’s burgers and fried baskets. Oh well, it’s food.
Sunday, October 21, 2018
While Skip does battle with his laptop, Alex and I are going to Beauvoir, meaning “beautiful view” for its front porch view of the Mississippi Sound. This is the Last Home of Jefferson Davis and his Presidential Library. Oddly, my first Presidential Library is a Confederate one.
Beauvoir is on Beach Boulevard, US 90, which runs next to the beach and the Mississippi Sound, right down the street from the campground. We pull into the parking lot and get a great spot under a tree. Parking spots in the south are valued for shade, not distance to the door, and this is a good one. We pay our $10 admission and start on our tour of the library. The building is large, but it doesn’t contain much for its size. Many of the items have cards telling us they were damaged from Katrina.
Davis was born in Kentucky, on June 3, 1808, just 100 miles from and eight months earlier than Abraham Lincoln. He was a West Point graduate with a distinguished military career before serving as the Democratic Senator from Mississippi. He was Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce and oversaw the construction of the Capital building. He remained in the Senate until January 1861, resigning when Mississippi left the Union, after which, he was elected President of the Confederacy.
At two o’clock, there is a reenactment of a Civil War battle. This is my first reenactment. Lots of canon fire, flags waving and men shooting. This being the Deep South, the Union loses this battle.
After the battle, we walk through the Beauvoir Confederate Cemetery, where Confederate soldiers and spouses are buried.
For the muster, a Confederate Camp has been set up next to the cemetery.
We visit the house, built in 1852, where the one and only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, lived out his last days after his release from prison. It is here where he wrote his books and papers.
Davis died on December 6, 1889 of acute bronchitis while in New Orleans. His body was temporarily interred at New Orleans’s Metairie Cemetery and later relocated to a specially constructed memorial at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Shopping at Walmart for the next week while we are at Dauphin Island. Skip is in pursuit of a bicycle. He’s been at it for the last few days and has found one at Walmart that will work. He buys it and a bike rack for the car. Unfortunately, the bike rack isn’t quite doing the trick for the bike and his car. Back it all goes just as the skies open up and send torrents of rain down on us.
I make chicken fajitas for the three of us for dinner and we spend a nice time eating, drinking and chatting.
Friday, October 19, 2018
Relaxing by the pool.
For dinner, the three of us went to Brooklyn Pizzeria on Courthouse Road in the Hardy Court Shopping Center in Gulfport. It lived up to its name. It was the best pizza since Arizona.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
We spend a relaxing day on the beach. I pick up two plastic grocery bags full of plastic and a big plastic seed bag that I fill with more plastic as well. I can’t believe how disgusting humans are! Remember to love your mother🌎. Pick up at least three pieces of garbage every time you go to the beach.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
We have a caravan! Claudia and Phoebe, Skip’s coach, and the tow vehicles are moving to Biloxi, Mississippi, to Cajun RV Park on the Gulf. It is a short hop along I-10, 82 miles, to the campground.
Once we’re settled in, Skip and Lucy, and Alex and I take a walk on the boardwalk along the beach.
I walk to the shore and stick my feet in the Gulf. Hello old friend!
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
I take a ride to PetSmart in Metairie, a little west of New Orleans to get the kitties dry food and litter. On the way back I stop at Wendy’s for salads. We spend the afternoon getting ready to hit the road tomorrow.
Monday, October 15, 2018
New Orleans is also home to The National World War II Museum. This five building complex is an historical treasure trove of information and a beautifully done tribute to the men and women of this nation’s greatest generation. Two thumbs up.
We park in the museum parking lot and walk across to the main building, Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, to buy tickets. The line wraps around forever. A nice woman volunteer of that great generation greets us and tells us we can get tickets across the street in building number two, Solomon Victory Theater Complex, without the long line, so off we go. She was right. We walk right up to the ticket counter and get our tickets, plus tickets for the 2009 WWII Tom Hanks movie, Beyond All Boundaries, which is showing in this building. About two hundred of us are crammed into a tiny room with only two benches for seating. An eight minute movies begins, the introduction of Beyond All Boundaries. We then move to the main theater to see the rest of the movie. The movie tells of the circumstances that lead up to the war, how we stayed out of the conflict but were eventually drawn in, and the war itself. It wasn’t just a flat two dimensional film. A three dimensional nose of an airplane moves in front of the plane flying on the screen to be the plane’s nose, a guard tower rises up to take its place at a concentration camp, snow falls on the audience when the troops move through winter forests. The props keep popping up. This is more than a movie!
When it’s finished, we move to building three, Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters. It started to rain while we were in the theater, but the walkway has a canopy, so we stay dry. Construction is going on between the two buildings, in the Col. Battle Barksdale Parade Ground area. We enter the building where the first floor of the building is dedicated to the history of the African, Italian and European battles, of which my father took part. He was in the 9th Infantry and made the invasion into Africa, then Sicily, finally into France, all the way to the Russian front, liberating concentration camps along the way. I remember his stories and have seen his photos of that time. I have read his Army division’s book and many others on WWII. This is where I spend so much of my time, having an interest in this war and making connections to my father’s history.
The second floor is where you find the history of the Pacific Campaign. While the European theater was comprised mostly of land and air battles, with sea being the delivery of troops and beach clearing, the Pacific battles were heavily dependent on sea campaigns. These battles were fought on the seas, under the seas and on the islands scattered throughout the Pacific. The European battles were more in line with traditional warfare. The Pacific battles were jungle warfare, a first for us, with Allied forces fighting a savage foe that didn’t fight by the traditional rules of war.
It’s late in the day and we don’t have much time till the five o’clock closing. The boys want to go to the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and I want to go to the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, so we split up. I walk across the street to building five, where the scientific discoveries made during the war are exhibited. This is the building where PT-305 was restored. The giant crane is still in the building, saved for future restoration projects. As I enter, I realize it’s not what I thought. Many of the WWII vehicles and artillery are there, but not the science or stories behind some of the great technological pushes forward of that time. I was hoping for Manhattan Project and got vehicles. Still good, but not th STEM as advertised. It doesn’t take me long to see and read what they offer. I leave and head to building four, the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.
The US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center Houses some of the great flying machines of World War II. A Jeep, militarily uniforms from all branches of the Armed Services, the Normandy Liberty Bell and amphibious vehicles are some of the other items on display. You can take a simulated ride on a sub.
It was closing time when we had to leave. We never made it to building one, Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, that will be for next time. When we exit it’s still raining. We walk around the construction towards the parking garage. We check out the Soda Shop for dinner, but decide to walk to BB’s Stage Door Canteen, a tribute to the venues where service members frequented to feel like home. Pictures and posters from the era hang on the walls while 1940s music plays. They have live 1940s era entertainment, but we are not fortunate enough to have entrainment while we dine.
We drive home in the rain. It pours all night with flood warnings in our area.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
It’s vehicle washing day for Sergio and Claudia, and Skip does an all around job on Phoebe, his coach.
At five thirty, we pile into Skip’s car and head for the French Quarter for a seven o’clock Haunted History Ghost Tour of New Orleans’ cemeteries. We first visit a Catholic cemetery and learn the New Orleans burial ritual. Since New Orleans is at or below sea level, burying a body six feet under doesn’t work. The low water table, flooding or storms can push the casket up to the surface and spill the poor occupant on the ground. Not a pretty site, even for New Orleans. So they have family crypts, built above ground, that have two chambers, the upper, called the oven, and the lower called the cellar.
When a family member dies, they are placed in the upper, or oven chamber, minus a casket. The southern heat cooks the person at three hundred degrees and turns them into ash. After a year and a day, the oven is opened and the ash is brushed into an urn, which is then placed in the cellar with all their other family members. Out of respect, the year and a day is so as not to move them on the anniversary of the day they were interned. If another unfortunate member of the family dies before the one year and a day period, the family rents a tomb where the newly deceased is placed. When the year and a day has passed, the person in the oven is moved to the cellar and the person in the rented tomb is then moved into the family oven. On average, there are forty three people in each of the crypts dating back three hundred years. Small cemeteries can have forty to fifty thousand people laid to rest in them. The crypts belong to families that have lived in New Orleans for centuries. They stopped building them seventy years ago. New comers, as more recent inhabitants are called, are buried the traditional way, six feet under, further inland.
We stop at a location where voodoo was practiced back in the day, then The New Orleans Katrina Memorial. This cemetery has eighty lost souls that were killed when Katrina came storming in. They are interned in blocks of concrete with black granite fronts, three high by six wide. These unknowns were the only people no one came to claim. It took the people of New Orleans four years to raise the funds to create the cemetery and memorial.
At a stop in the City Park, our guide tells us of Lisa, a sixteen year old from a wealthy French family, from a time when the land was owned by France. None of the prospective suitors her father suggested met her fancy. She fell in love with a sailor of little means, who was neither French nor Catholic. Daddy wasn’t happy, so he scared him off. When Lisa discovered what her father had done, she drowned herself and her unborn child in the waters behind her home. The story goes that if you stand at the water edge and call her name three times, she will appear and drag you in. The guide had one man try. He screamed her name three times. She didn’t appear.
The tour gives us a brief stop at a cafe where we have beignets, a French dessert made from deep-fried choux pastry, covered in powered sugar, and Yuengling beers. Hey, it’s New Orleans. What else would you have to wash down the pastry? When the tour continues, we stop at a few other cemeteries and wander through the tombstones. We learn of a little boy named David, who liked to play in the cemetery. He fell from an oak tree and now haunts the area by the tree. We go through the City of the Dead, a one square mile area that has sixteen cemeteries. There are hundreds of thousands of people interned in this small area. The tour ends at nine with us being deposited back on Decatur Street where we started.
We decide to drive over to Frenchmen Street, where the locals party. As soon as we find a parking spot, we come across our first band of jazz musicians, playing on a street corner. They were great! A large crowd gathers and traffic is stopped.
We walk through Artist’s Garden, a lot strung with white lights between two buildings, that showcases local artists selling their individual creations, each different from the next. The Blue Nile is our first stop to hear the band and get a few drinks. Many of the bars don’t have cover charges, but a band member comes around with a tip bucket while they are playing. They have to make money somehow. Bamboula’s has a great blues band. The place is packed and we manage to find a table in the back. We spend the night drinking and listening to great blues.
Saturday, October 13, 2018
The National World War II Museum, here in New Orleans, in conjunction with the Commemorative Air Force and Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, is having a WWII Air, Sea and Land Festival at New Orleans Lakeside Airport. It started yesterday and runs through tomorrow. We drive the short distance to the airport, park and make our way to the area where the festivities are happening.
As we enter, we see Jeeps, tanks, motorcycles and artillery from the World War II era. People are dressed in uniforms of the day showing scenes from the war. One soldier was demonstrating how men shaved in the field.
There are dozens of different types of airplanes. Many of the planes offer rides for fees of upwards of $100.
One plane in particular catches my eye. It’s a C-47 called That’s All Brother. It was involved in the paratrooper drop during D-Day and, having been restored, will be making the trip to France next year for the 75th anniversary.
On Lake Pontchartrain is the restored PT-305, the sea portion of the event. You can do a deck tour or pay $350 and get an actual ride on a real PT boat.
We get sausage sandwiches for lunch at the concession stand before the warbirds begin their flying exhibition. Almost all of the planes here are taking a turn flying overhead. After the fly over, there is a flamethrower demonstration to show how American soldiers burned the Japanese out of the underground bunkers they were burrowed into on the islands in the Pacific. I would not want to be on the receiving end of that thing! The weather was beautiful for a very nice tribute to such an important part of our history.
Friday, October 12, 2018
A day of resting. Skip has his follow up doctor visit to make sure he’s good with the stints he had put in before he left Alaska. The three of us have the leftover lasagna I made the other day for dinner at our house, and we chat the night away.
Thursday, October 11, 2018
The park has a bus that takes you to the French Quarter for six dollars per person. We decide to give it a try to learn the lay of the land. There are three times during the day the bus makes the trip, 10:00 AM, 3:45 and 7:45 PM. It picks you up at 4:00 or 8:00 PM. If you miss the bus, you need to get a taxi or Uber. We get the 10 AM bus, which turns out to be two buses because so many people from the park are making the trip.
We walk Bourbon Street, with its shops, restaurants and bars. Road construction is everywhere. They are working on the city’s pipes. Best guess is it’s the sewer system. Bourbon Street is just one street in the French Quarter. We wander down other streets in the Quarter. The architecture is magnificent. The New Orlean creativity and expression abounds. Halloween is coming and the people of New Orleans are stepping up for the occasion.
We’re on our way the Frenchman Street, at the opposite end of the French Quarter. This is where the locals haunt. On our way, we take in all the Quarter has to offer. We visit Saint Louis Cathedral, across from Jackson Square, in the heart of old New Orleans. One of the oldest churches in the country.
A stroll through the square brings us to the 300, an amphitheater that leads to the Mississippi and a walkway along the river.
We continue our walk until we get to the French Market, an eclectic mix of street vendors, food and, of course, drinks. This is the place for good food. Crepes, oysters, gumbo, anything that is gulf coast southern is here. We indulge in daiquiris while we sit at a table watching the world go by.
We’ve walked quite a bit and the boys are tired, so we walk back to catch the four o’clock bus. We’ll save Frenchman Street for another day. We walk up to the restaurant for dinner. While we were eating, a staff member comes around telling us free bingo is going to start. Do we want to play? Sure, why not? A few more drinks, a few rounds of bingo and Alex wins two beers, a box of chocolate chip cookies, a box of oatmeal raisin cookies and a gallon of Hawaiian Punch Lemonade. Not a bad night’s haul!
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
We’re heading down I-55 to New Orleans to meet up with Skip and his pup, Lucy, at Pontchartrain Landing, a waterfront RV Park. It’s a nice park, but getting to it leaves something to be desired. France Road, where the park is located, is in an industrial area. Trains, boatyards and manufacturing. The roads are horrific. To say the roads have potholes would be like saying the Grand Canyon is a little hole in the ground, the mounds in the streets would be like saying Mount Everest was an ant hill. Never have I seen a city with such bad roads. Add in low lying sections with flooding and it makes for slow going. You don’t have to worry about speeding tickets, the roads prevent it. And this includes the interstates.
The ride is an interesting one. Hurricane Michael is making his stand in the Gulf, heading for the Florida panhandle. We can see the effects of the storm surge pushing its way up any waterway or low lying area it can find. The water is almost up to the pier caps on I-55 as we drive south over the bayou. That’s only a few feet before the water floods the highway.
Skip is already here and settled in. We can see his coach from the road. Alex gives out a toot as we pass on our way to the entrance. When we come out of the office, he and Lucy are waiting for us in their car to escort us to our site. We’re side by side for the next week. We haven’t eaten and we decide to go to the restaurant in the park for lunner, drinks and catching up. We haven’t seen Skip and Lucy since we left Alaska at the end of September last year. Jambalaya, beers, wine and po’ boys, Louisiana’s version of a sub, make for a good start to being back in the south.
Tuesday, October 9, 2018
It’s a cloudy day, threatening to rain. I did some paperwork, made lasagna, and we started a Star Wars jigsaw puzzle.
Monday, October 8, 2018
It’s a beautiful day for doing nothing outside by the water. Alex tries his hand at fishing while I entertain Princess Poco Loco outside. My baby misses her lanai.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
It’s moving day to Jackson, Mississippi and LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. What a beautiful park. We have a large site on the water. A perfect place to relax and do nothing for a few days before heading to New Orleans and meeting up with our friend Skip from Alaska.
Saturday, October 6, 2018
Alex is tuckered out, so it’s a home day. I run to Walmart and Kroger for a few things. Later, we take a walk along the Mississippi and check out the tree houses and the new camp sites.
Friday, October 5, 2018
Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum located in the Lorraine Motel, site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assignation.
The museum takes you on the journey from the start of slavery in America through modern times. The slavery area is packed with information and leaves a lasting impression.
The Emancipation, Jim Crow laws, segregation; these are some of the areas covered. The various marches and protests for Civil Rights are very dramatic, graphic and informative. The Freedom Fighters exhibit is explicit, with an exploded bus showing just how violent the times were.
The Memphis Sanitation Workers section told of the discrimination towards the workers of color.
When two sanitation workers were crushed to death in a garbage truck, their plight took to the national stage. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis to help them organize a march for better working conditions and lend his support. He was stuck down at the Lorraine Motel in front of room 306 on April 4, 1968 after just receiving word they had approval for the march. The city of Memphis eventually conceded, and the workers achieved better conditions.
We have the good fortune of walking with a guide and his group, all people of color, through the museum. We got an interesting perspective of American Civil Rights through their eyes while listening to the guide talk, something I would not have gotten walking through the museum on my own. A hush comes over us as we get to view into the room where Martin Luther King, Jr. was staying that fateful night and we get to look at the exact spot where the great man of peace was assassinated.
Across the tiny street from the main building, is the Legacy Museum. It is the boarding house that James Earl Ray stayed in and where he fired the fatal shot that killed Martin Luther King, Jr.
In this building, we see the timeline of the two men, assassin and assassinated, leading up to that night and learn of the manhunt to find James Earl Ray. We see the room he stayed in while planning the assassination and the bathroom where he took the fatal shot.
This is a must see museum to learn of America’s ugly past, and hope we have learned to never duplicate it.
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Wash day for the vehicles! Only washing wasn’t getting the sap off, so it’s scrub day for Sergio and Claudia gets a good scrubbing on her windshield and back end.
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
While being parked under the hackberry trees is giving us a respite from the Memphis heat, it’s giving us a different problem, the Asian Woolly Hackberry Aphid, mountains of dead leaves and sap all over Claudia and Sergio. It turns out, the hackberry is it’s favorite food and this is the time of year it does its munching. There are so many aphids, it looks like it’s snowing. Tomorrow is definitely wash day for the vehicles and a new parking spot for Sergio.
There’s a Senior day at the Memphis Zoo and Aquarium today and it’s free, so we’re going to check it out. The local businesses that cater to seniors have tables or booths lining the walkways. Everything from healthcare to funerals and everything in between.
The theme of the zoo follows in the Egyptian fashion, obelisks, hieroglyphs, and tombs. We visit the nocturnal house to see the night critters, flamingos, hippos, and giraffes to name a few. But the three most interesting animals were three grizzlies, two pandas and the penguins. The three grizzlies were just sitting in the water watching all the humans. One was not happy with Alex and attacked the glass that was separating us from them. Looking at those claws, I was glad for the glass.
The pandas are just so cute munching on their bamboo.
The penguins, well they are just a source of endless amusement.
There is a very small, one room aquarium with a few dozen tanks. Nothing too exotic, but I enjoy watching the seahorses.
We have lunner, grilled chicken sandwiches, at the Cat House Cafe before heading home.
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
The Holy Grail of Memphis is Graceland, home of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. Besides touring Graceland Mansion, you can see his airplanes, cars and other toys; his entertainment and military careers; the archive, and soundstage. There are fifteen different attractions and exhibits, plus dining and shopping. The mansion is on one side of US 51, named Elvis Presley Boulevard by the city in his honor, and everything else has been built up on the other side of the highway. The more you want to see, the more expensive the price of admission. The least expensive, at $39.75, allows you to tour the mansion. The most expensive, $169.00, gets you everything, plus a meal voucher and private lounge. We opt for somewhere in the middle.
You start with a video about the King, then get your audio device and headphones. To get to the mansion, you take a tour bus. After a brief introduction by a guide outside the main door, you enter the mansion and start your self guided tour. The audio device senses when you enter a room and begins playing. You can stop, pause or rewind the recording at any time and see extra photo clips. You walk into the mansion and see a staircase that leads to the private residence, not part of the tour. To your right is the living room, with the music room just beyond.
To the left is the dining room.
His mom’s bedroom suite, and later his grandmother’s suite after mom died, is down the hall.
The kitchen, looking the same as the last time it was remodeled, is adjacent to the dining room with the infamous Jungle Room next to the kitchen.
Downstairs is the media room, equipped with a bar, and the the billiard room, all done in the lavish, over the top style of Elvis.
Outside is the carport where Elvis kept his vast car collection. A separate building next to the carport was used by his office staff to deal with fan mail, the media and the day to day tasks of running the King’s empire.
Elvis was quite the accomplished horseman. You can see the stables and thirteen acres where Elvis’ many beloved horses lived and played. Unfortunately, none were out on the grounds as we walked by. We see the pool he had put in to help beat the Memphis heat.
Elvis loved to play racket ball and he had his own court on the grounds. It was here on August 16, 1977, that Elvis played racket ball, then sat down and played a few songs before going up to his room to rest before heading to Maine for a show. He never made the show. He was found dead in his room.
His father got special permission from the city to allow Elvis to be buried on the grounds of Graceland. Two years later his father would pass. His grandmother would outlive her family. The area next to the pool is where Elvis, his mom and dad, and his grandmother are buried. There is a memorial stone placed for his older twin brother Jesse, who was stillborn.
Back on the bus and we are at the museum area of Graceland. We see Elvis’s car collection, his motorcycles, boats, golf carts and other toys.
One building houses archive memorabilia and his military career.
Another building has testimonials from other performing greats as to his lasting influence in their music. The Entertainer Career Museum, the largest of all the buildings, houses the famous jumpsuits, gold records, movie posters, movie clothing, pianos and everything that has anything to do with his career, including his philanthropic efforts.
Elvis grew up dirt poor. He always vowed to give his momma a nice house and Graceland was the fulfillment of that promise. Unfortunately, she died not long after moving into the house. With all his riches, he never forgot his humble roots, and gave to ever worthy cause, from Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, to police, and ever local charity and organization. Say what you will about Elvis, but the man and his music were great!
Monday, October 1, 2018
Our first stop in Memphis is the world famous Peabody ducks at the Peabody Hotel. One hundred years ago, a hunter smuggled a few live decoy ducks into the hotel. They somehow escaped his room and waddled their way down to the hotel lobby, where they found the fountain. Being ducks, they did what ducks do. They quickly made the fountain home. The hotel management was aghast and vowed to remove the ducks promptly. The hotel guests had another idea. They thought the ducks were adorable and convinced management to let them be. So starts the tradition of the Peabody ducks, which has evolved into its own ritual. Since then, for the past one hundred years, there have always been ducks in the fountain. Promptly at eleven AM, the elevator door opens and the Duck Master ushers the ducks out on to a red carpet. They quickly waddle down the red carpet, lined with all the onlookers, up a few carpeted steps and land in the fountain, where they spend the day. At five, the ritual runs in reverse and they go up the elevator to their penthouse apartment. Today, we are fortunate to have an honorary Duck Master, Jay Leno, who is staying in the hotel.
We walk over to Beale Street, which is only a few blocks away, but realize we are going to spend more time than our parking meter will allow. I walk back and move Sergio to a parking garage. We stroll up and down the street, checking out the shops and restaurants.
We finally end up at B.B. King Blues Club for some barbecue brisket. Mmmm, mmmm, good!
The landmark of the Memphis skyline is the Pyramid, as it is called by the locals. It was built as a pyramid to capitalizes on its sister city Memphis, Egypt, land of the pharaohs, home of the pyramids. Originally, called the Great American Pyramid, it was built as a 20,142 seat arena in downtown Memphis overlooking Wolf River Lagoon and the Mississippi River. When the FedExForum opened in 2004, the Pyramid was abandoned. Bass Pro bought it and in 2015, opened a super mega cypress swamp inspired store, complete with live gators, a 600,000 gallon tank with over 1,800 fish, a duck aviary, an elevator to an overlook and restaurant 32-stories atop the steel pyramid, and a 103 room hotel with tree house cabins. You can practice your sharp shooting at a 25 yard live pistol and archery range. The Ducks Unlimited Waterfowling Heritage Center, on the second floor, house some of the highest quality duck decoys and artifacts in the world. This Bass Pro is an attraction in itself, in addition to housing the largest array of clothing and sporting gear anywhere.
After we walk through all the shops with everything the store has to sell, look at all the attractions and go through the Heritage Center, we pay our ten dollar ticket fee and take the three hundred foot elevator ride to the Overlook and restaurant. When you come off the elevator, you walk around it and into the Overlook Restaurant. You’re at the top of the Pyramid, all the walls are glass and are set on the angle of the Pyramid. The Overlook Restaurant has a Steampunk fish theme with a giant circular fish tank at the center of the bar and Steampunk fish hanging from the ceiling.
The dining tables are next to the glass windows providing views of the city and beyond. There are two separate observation decks that are accessible from the restaurant. It’s a cloudy day, so our view isn’t far and wide, but what a view. We can see all of Memphis and into Arkansas.
Walking out on to the desk is a bit unnerving, it has a glass floor. When you look down, you see the Pyramid walls fanning out below you. One section of the floor had duct tape on it, and in my wide imagination, I could see falling through and sliding all the way down the side of the Pyramid to the street. Ouch!