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Travel Log - Tennessee
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Tennessee: May 24

Met pretty Ashlyn Staggs wearing her softball uniform.  She and dad Jim who says he can eat all the junk food he wants were at the gas station just before a game--or was it a practice?  Anyway her team is the piggly Wiggly Express and Ashlyn can belt out a tune, so give her an audition for your next Tennessee wedding, anniversary or party.  She may be all of 10 but she's got big plans.  Hire her before she gets famous.

Drove too long yesterday and made it to Bolivar, Tennessee where I pulled into the first motel sign I saw.  Signed up for a room but didn't have a very good feeling about the place.  When the key wouldn't open the door I figured that was enough of an omen.  Seno was crawling with guys like gnats in a Wisconsin tomato patch.  We hightailed it to the next motel and it wasn't a bargain but at least we're both still safe.

Still I was awake at 4 a.m. There's been a time zone crossed over at some point so that's not as ambitious as it sounds.  We were haulin' A (for Alyce) by 5:30.

Didn't know I was going to make it all the way into Memphis today but the easy miles of Highway 64 (now my favorite road besides the lovely Merritt Parkway).  This road goes almost the length of Southern Tennessee, it is divided, finished and smooth. 

Got a little tangled up in early morning traffic but made it to the Graceland area without too much stress.  Had enough time to stop at the closest open restaurant and that turned out to be MacDonald's.  After I got what I needed, a lady came in and had a hissy fit with the clerk and I was reminded that people do get shot in MacDonald's occasionally so I split.

The very accommodating guards at the asphalt acreage known as Graceland parking took Seno under their wing and parked him in a "high eyeball" spot.  Everybody who arrived at Graceland this morning saw him--and that was probably about 2,000 people. 

It will take me many pages to describe the experience of seeing what i figured would be the pinnacle of kitsch. 

It may take awhile for my eyeballs to recover.

Talk about CONTROLLING.  The only way to get in is on their shuttle and before you get on one, you are told all the no's: no flash, no smoking, no video, no food/drink, no pets, etc.  you are given an audio thingy.  Your bags are checked and if you have a video camera, it will be locked up and held for your return.  Then you are photographed.  You think maybe this is for the souvenier photo for later (and that's right) but one security person said it was part of the "head count."  I'm not sure Elvis could have gotten in.  Probably not.  No firearms. 

Why "Graceland"?  The name, I mean.  Well, it was a mansion on acreage and named after the original owner's Aunt Grace.  Elvis kept the name.  He kept a lot of other stuff too.  You see the house as it was when he died but in the basement you see a sampling of the other phases of decorating he went thru--including the fake fur period, the red plush period and the mirror period.  Og.  If I never see olive drab green shag carpeting again as long as I live, that would be fine.

Did you know that Elvis had a twin?  Did you know he was 6'2"?  Did you know he was raised as an only child?  How long has E.P. been dead--assuming he really is?  This amazing performer died at 42 and that was TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO!  I was one of the first to arrive today and I was on the 4th tour! 

Elvis was generous with various charities in Memphis and was the source of hospital bills getting paid and more than anyone can even document.  Well, looks to me like he is STILL taking pretty good care of Memphis because so many people are employed there.  The place is fairly big (remember now I'd just come from the Biltmore Estate...) but there appears to be a small army as guides, clerks, drivers, landscapers, etc. 

In the shops there are Elvis guitar picks, sewing kits, his Last Will, his driver's license, a pendulum clock where his legs swing, his image on a camp candle for the vigils and my favorite:  an Elvis cookie cutter for $10.99. 

I probably won't have many photos to share on this part of the trip.  And all I bought was a slider pen with a little Elvis that wiggles back and forth across a stage.

I braved the humid heat and the dust to get to Mud Island.  Sounds like a great destination point, right?  Well, it IS actually.  There's a monorail to take you over there and one of the coolest "sculptures" in the U.S. is the reproduction of the Mississippi River sort of miniaturized with water flowing through it in this park.  Intriguing.

But I came for the plane.  I do hope my shots of the Memphis Belle turn out.  Did you know that when the bombadier took over, the pilot was NOT to touch the controls during a bombing raid?  Whoa!  The pilot could get the controls back when he heard "bombs away"!  You look at this plane and you think that KIDS were flying this thing--very young, handsome, scared Americans.  And it just seems impossible.  Old war planes will squeeze the AWE right out of you if you just stand and look at them for a little while.

I had my own cockpit to get back into.  There's a fine exhibit at The Pyramid but you'll have to see it without me.  The damp heat, the noise, the dusty construction just taking its toll on my adventurous spirit.  I'm insatiably curious about nearly everything--when I'm half way comfortable.  Today wasn't that day.

 
Read about Alyce in the Elk Valley Times: Click Here
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Car museum in Pigeon Forge, TN has 007's Aston Martin. The inside of Hank Williams Jr.'s convertible -- there's a saddle in there, over 500 silver dollars and the shifter is a 6-shooter.
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Ernest Porter, Seno's guardian ot the hotel in Chattanooga, TN. "I clean up pretty good."  Alyce with THE Chattanooga Choo Choo.
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The view from Dinner in the Diner train car. The train station, now hotel lobby, domed ceiling.
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Fresh flowers in the lobby with giant windows for back drop -- spectaclar! The special details: clock reads "Choo Choo Time."
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The 1,000,000 Mile Man -- here's David Swisher of Bowling Green, VA, first man to do one million miles on a BMW motorcycle.  Two words for you, David, "physical therapy."  (He's recovering from ankle surgery.) Grandfather Higgins was into purple so that's why you'll find the purple hearse at Higgins Funeral Home in Fayetteville, TN.  If you're really NOT a procrastinator you'll get your funeral arrangements taken care of NOW ( like I have) and save your family a lot of unnecessary grief.  If you're in TN, would seem to be a good bet to call Charles or Clay in Fayetteville 931-433-2544.
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Have lunch in a jail ... and then get to leave! Cell doors inside the restaurant -- tip well or else!
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Look close & you'll find Atorney offices right next door to the "jail."  (I can't make this stuff up!) Here's Linda May, real estate magnate of Fayetteville TN -- call her at 931-433-3021 when you want to buy property in a very friendly Southern town.
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Meet Jeff Neal, staff writer and photog for the Elk Valley Times. Ashlyn Staggs, multitalented and NOT shy -- you want to bank on the next big time performance artist to come out of TN, call Ashlyn in Waynesboro.
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Here's a fafce only a WWII pilot could love -- it's the Memphis Belle. Alyce's sunburned nose next to the nose art of the famous film star, The Memphis Belle.

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