This thing grows! Always click this HOME button to ensure you see the most recent SC posts!

To see older posts, you can either use the date selector in the Blog Archive (RH side), or just click through using the Older Posts link at the bottom of each page.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Walking in Memphis......

Memphis snuck up on me. I wasn't actually expecting too much, and quite frankly, figured this stop as an overnighter on the way to the next point of interest. I came in through the back door of the city, which didn't help much, and having a panhandler hit me for money as I'm unloading the bike in the hotel parking lot didn't help to improve my viewpoint.

Still, I had some strong urging from friends to stay here and check the place out. Linda and Charlie stayed here, giving Beale Street rave reviews, with a special bit of advice to check out Coyote Ugly. Fred hammered away on Graceland and the Elvis stuff, insisting these hot spots simply shouldn't be missed.

So I finished unloading the bike, finding a halfway secure place to park it, but pretty sure the bike, the Hummer, and the trailer would all be gone the next morning, probably stolen by that panhandler. I checked in, resolving to give it at least two days before hightailing it west.

I found the Best Western Gen X Hotel at 1177 Madison on the H.O.G. Best Western Trip Planner link. 90 bucks a night, which wasn't bad, and no bitching about the trailer. Pretty nice room too. Recently remodeled. Location-wise, just 2 miles to Beale Street, and 5 to Graceland.

My fears of being ripped off turned out to be unfounded. The panhandler didn't get a thing, but he waved to me every time I went by on the bike!! There are many hotels nearer Beale Street, but I didn't see any strong indication of them being trailer-friendly. They all seemed to have typical high-rise parking facilities which could make getting a trailer in/out/parked a pain in the ass. And staying in Graceland puts you further from Beale, and Beale is where you'll be at night.

About Memphis....

It is kinda gritty, and retains it's character. No one's polished it up to impress anyone, and if they did, I think they'd ruin it. There's one thing particularly interesting, and it's that they still use trolleys. These cool little streetcars run back and forth moving peeps around. That's both good and bad. Good for the reasons stated; bad because the streets have tracks imbedded in them that add a whole new dimension to running the streets on a scoot. Get a wheel caught in one and who knows what's gonna happen.....

Sun Recording, the home of rock and roll is here, and looks exactly like it did in 53 when Elvis walked in wanting to cut a record for his Mom's birthday. And like it did when Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley recorded 40 songs together as the Millionaire Quartet. And like it did when U2 used that studio to record Rattle and Hum. Best yet, like it did when the very first R&R record was cut: Rocket 88. I took the tour of Sun Recording and it was the best, most enjoyable hour I've spent in a long, long time.

If I got any of those details about Sun wrong, let me know. I'm running from memory, and the tour guide was pretty hot so maybe I missed something!

Beale Street is about 3 blocks of fun, much like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. There is literally one cool bar after another, each different and fun in its own way. Music was everywhere and it was all good. Will Tucker was playing BB King's place, and he and his band were great. There was a band just as good playing in alley on a makeshift stage, with people partying and dancing.

I spent time in a voodoo shop, checking out the potions, and then discovered those nifty little dolls you stick pins in. I didn't know that there's actually a white and black pin. White gives your "victim" GOOD luck, and black puts the whammies on him/her. Extra black pins are optional at additional cost. No kidding.

Next I went into Memphis Music, instantly getting an unsolicited Blues history lesson from an ancient guy who also told me tales of his old pre-war Harleys. He called over another equally ancient guy, and the three of us laughed and BS'd for an hour. Those guys made sure I knew (just as at Sun Recording) that Rocket 88 is recognized as the first rock 'n roll recording. Remember that fact if you go to Memphis, and don't bother to argue with them. Seems they take this particular matter serious.

I ran into fun conversation and cool people to chat with everywhere. People were laughing and enjoying life, with no one seeming to pay much attention to being black, white, or whatever. And no one I met seemed to be down on bikers, which is also pleasant. I was also fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of my new buddy Joe from St. Louis ( I think that's right!), also a guest a my hotel who was in Memphis on vacation with his family. Joe has a Sportster, and has been riding for a while. We had daily parking lot discussions of Harley mods and the good old days, and he helped make the stay even more fun. Always good to meet folks when I'm on the road. Heck, that's why I'm out here!

I'll also grudgingly reveal that I was definitely NOT an Elvis fan when I rolled into town. I may not even be one right now, but I got a feeling I might listen to an Elvis tune or two when I hear 'em on the radio. The (hot) tour guide at Sun said there were two kinds of people in the world: Elvis fans and the rest who just hadn't yet had sufficient exposure to Elvis music.

To be sure, Graceland is a huge commercialized tourist trap, but make an effort to look under the surface, and there's something there worth seeing. I found myself becoming interested, and finally mesmerized by the story of Elvis, the rise to fame, and the sad ending. Being surrounded by the places it all happened lured me into wanting to get  to know more, and I plan to.

And yes, I got a Graceland Harley Davidson t-shirt.

To sum it up, Memphis slowly but surely charmed me. Made me comfortable, fed me well, kept a smile on my face, and made me wanna come back. I know some people who could stand to take a lesson or two from Memphis. Just saying.


PS A well-deserved thank you to Fred and Linda for suggesting this as a stop on SC 2011. You guys were right!