If you go to Memphis, you’re supposed to go to Graceland, so we did.
I was expecting something really over the top, but it’s not. The original house, while nice enough, appears to be like many other large homes of that era. Of course, Elvis added on a lot of extensions and other buildings.
We took the basic mansion tour, for which you are given an iPad with earphones, which guides you through the various rooms, with narration by Lisa Marie Presley, among others. If you want a tour guided by a human being, you have to pay big bucks for an “ultimate VIP tour.” We skipped that, as well as a chance to see the inside of Elvis’s airplanes. We picked a good day to come, as there were no lines. Based on the size of the visitors’ center, it looked like it would be a zoo in tourist season.
The decor may have been trendy in the 70s when the house was built, but it seems pretty tacky now, with shag carpet not only on some floors but at least one wall. My favorite was probably the billiard room, where not only the walls but also the ceiling are covered in fabric. Then there was the “jungle room,” whose name speaks for itself. The TV room had three sets, which Elvis put in after he heard than Lyndon Johnson had three in the Oval Office so he could watch all three networks at once.
Of course, Elvis came from modest beginnings — a couple of years ago we visited the modest one-room house where he was born in Tupelo, Miss. — so Graceland was a huge step up for him and his parents.
The “trophy building” is now a museum, which houses furnishings no longer used in the house, home movies, Elvis’s collection of law-enforcement badges and patches (he was a cop groupie), documents, photos, and home movies.
The tour ends in the meditation garden and cemetery where Elvis, his parents, and his grandmother are buried.
After we left Graceland, we went to a local emergency room, so I could get my back X-rayed. It turnned out nothing was broken, so they just gave me some muscle-relaxing pills, which made me kind of dopey (or even dopier than usual, as some would say).
Because of that, we didn’t get to do as much as we had hoped in Memphis, especially on the music front. Our second night we did go to place called Lafayette’s Music Room, where we saw a group called the Memphis All-Stars, made up of local session musicians. They played a variety of music, mostly Motown and R&B, and were excellent.
On our last night we had a very good dinner at restaurant called Felicia Suzanne’s, just around the corner from our hotel.
Then it was back on the road for the final two days’ trip to North Carolina. Because I was still doped up on muscle relaxers, Robin did all the driving. We stopped for one night at a motel east of Knoxville and completed our journey the next day.
The final tally:
- Miles driven: 4,014 miles
- Actual driving time: 76 hours
- Average speed: 53 miles per hour
- License plates seen: 47 states (all except Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and West Virginia) plus the District of Columbia and four Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec).