Music, MLK and Mountains

Trip Start May 01, 2003
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Trip End Sep 01, 2003


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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Monday, June 2, 2003

May 31 (Day 31) Memphis
We stayed close to Beale St., the musical heart of Memphis, at a guest house called the Talbot Heirs. The Talbot Heirs had been a refurbished apartment building, in the vein of the Hotel Oceana in Santa Monica, so a spacious suite, hip art on the walls and bright colors. The girls loved to romp here and we had a great location from which to operate. We hit the new "Rock n' Soul Museum" run by the Smithsonian, which had a wonderful CD-based audio tour where you could walk to any display in the museum, key in the number and hear the period music, interviews or news events associated with the kiosk. The exhibits here ranged from Elvis costumes to early radio studio sets to interviews with Al Green, music by the Bar-Kays and the like. More R&B than rock in this museum, but this made sense given we were in Memphis. We took the girls down to Beale Street for dinner and this area was much more toddler friendly than Bourbon Street. The girls danced to some great street blues bands and then we had dinner at a Hard Rock, which was again one of the few toddler-friendly establishments on Beale. The only item of note that evening was when I awoke to what I thought were gun shots in the wee hours, heard a lot of police sirens which sounded too close for comfort. Sure enough, next morning on the news there was a shooting which basically took place on our doorstep. Yikes. Well it was certainly cleaned up quickly because there was no sign of it in the morning; I suppose that would be bad for tourism traffic on the way to Beale Street.

June 1 (Day 32) Nashville
We awoke early to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis before moving on to Nashville. We took a streetcar to this very well done museum, which is basically built into the Lorraine Motel, where MLK was assassinated. The street car lets you off at the top of a grass amphitheater in an industrial area; as you move down the walkway, directly in front of you is the famous motel balcony we have all seen in the photo of the slain civil rights leader, with his aides pointing to the window where James Earl Ray fired those shots. The fašade of the hotel is intact, and the museum traces the civil rights battle from slavery days through to a dramatic climax as you actually walk into room 307 where Dr. King spent his last day, left exactly as it was that day. You then move across the street to the building where the assassin operated, and an archive of the evidence in the case against Ray. You then actually see the recreated room where the shots rang out, and can look from the window across the street to the balcony of the Lorraine. Very powerful and well done museum. For the curious, we did not go to Graceland. From there we headed to Nashville, again to take in some of the musical heritage that Tennessee offers. We arrived late afternoon and settled into the Lowes Hotel directly opposite Vanderbilt University. This is a great hotel chain for kids, and every one we have been to has given the girls a small welcome gift and has been very child friendly for dining and other requests. We walked with the girls to Centennial Park near the university, the girls played, we walked up to a full scale reproduction of the Greek Parthenon in the Park and visited a duck pond which had Canadian Geese and their little furry yellow goslings. We had dinner at a local eatery (Rotier's) and the girls had their usual grilled-cheese sandwiches, of which they never seem to tire.

June 2 (Day 33) Gatlinburg
Before we headed to the Great Smoky Mountains, there was one last order of business in Nashville, as much as we abhorred the thought of it: The Country Music Hall of Fame. Now we both know absolutely nothing about country music, except that we hate it. I believe this is a prerequisite for a happy marriage, you both either have to love or hate this music, there is no compromise. We went in with low expectations and expected a very cheesy experience. We have to say, though, that this new museum was very well done, beautifully designed and leaning towards early country and bluegrass, which was presented in a palatable fashion. Don't get me wrong, we have not added Garth Brooks to our CD collection, but we give this museum "two hoots and a holler," especially because they had archives of "Hee Haw" that you could view at your leisure and we had forgotten how funny those guys in the corn patch were. From there it was another long, nearly 4 hour haul to Gatlinburg. We were staying at the Buckhorn Inn outside of Gatlinburg, and good thing, because Gatlinburg is the "Gateway to the Smokies" and the gatekeepers look to be McDonalds, Subway, Dairy Queen and Ripleys Believe It or Not. We instead found the Buckhorn, well out of town on what seemed like hundreds of acres of property. We were given a key to the "Bebb House", which was the home of the original developer of the property and was a secluded three bedroom house with sweeping views of the Smokies from the living room. We got this for a relative song, and should have stayed longer than an overnight. However, we had a babysitter that evening for the first time in a while and had a quiet dinner for two in the Inn dining room watching sun set color the mountains.
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