After we left Pigeon Forge we hit a long stretch of I-40 highway to Arkansas. Arkansas? I thought you said you went to Memphis. Well, we did, but our hotel was in West Memphis, just over the Mississippi in Arkansas. There was a Wal*Mart less than a mile from the hotel – we choose to believe that in Arkansas there always is.
We tried to make sure we hit Knoxville before rush hour and Memphis after rush hour. We checked into our hotel right around 6:30pm – so we thought. The room clock said 5:30. Maybe they just hadn’t set it forward from Daylight Savings Time, right? Well, at some point it hits us – we are in Central Time Zone. Major “duh!” moment. But the real question was, where was the time line? Was Memphis back in Eastern Time Zone? We asked at the hotel front desk and the clerk looked at us blankly. “Time zone change? That’s all the way back by Chattanooga.” Well color us silly.
Keith had found a website called Roadside America, which bills itself as a “Guide to Uniquely Odd Tourist Attractions”. Through it we found a few more off-the-wall places to visit if we had time, including two in Memphis. The first one we went to was the Crystal Shrine Grotto, a man-made cave built in the early 30s and filled during the 30s with Biblical scene dioramas of various styles. What we didn’t realize originally was that the grotto and the surrounding area are located within Memorial Park Cemetery. Not too far away was the Statue of Liberation through Christ, a large-ish replica of the Statue of Liberty clutching a cross instead of a torch. The pictures online are more impressive than the actual thing, but it was just a few mile detour.
That night we also ate a KFC dinner, and stopped by Wal*Mart for a special treat for Kaitlyn to reward her great behavior on the trip so far. She picked (from our narrowed down selections) a Mrs. PotatoHead. “Tater? Tater? Play ‘tater now, ok?” she reminded us, all of the way back to the hotel. Throughout the rest of the stay those facial features and limbs were all over the place – even on Kaitlyn herself.
After breakfast at the hotel, we drove back into Memphis for my “must see” – Graceland. The King’s house. Room after room of 60s and 70s southern-style opulence. We got the Platinum Tour so that we could see not only the house, but the planes, the cars, and the dozens and dozens of jumpsuits. Doesn’t Keith love me so much? While you expect it to be over the top, after the proliferation of shows like MTV’s Cribs it really just doesn’t seem that crazy. Kaitlyn liked the horses, but was largely unimpressed with the rest of everything, with the possible exception of when we stopped for a cookie break.
We spent the afternoon going downtown by Beale Street (which we decided was probably a much more fun place if you (a) aren’t pregnant and (b) aren’t toting a 2-1/2-year-old. We did sit for a while in W.C. Handy Park and listen to the blues, and decide to come back the next day to Ride the Ducks, plus we made Keith’s favorite stop of the day – Maggie Moo’s Ice Cream.
Keith tried to convince me we needed more of that ice cream the next morning before our Ride the Ducks tour, but it just seemed to early. I asked Kaitlyn if she wanted to “ride a duck”. She looked a little confused, then a little thoughtful, then nodded and said “yes, ma’am.” While she really enjoyed the DUKW trip, I’m pretty sure she thought we were going to jump on some mallards’ backs.
We got our Wacky Quackers (Kaitlyn’s absolute favorite souvenir from the trip, bar none) and boarded the land/sea craft to go around the town. We saw the Memphis pyramid from all sides, and found out it is actually the third largest pyramid in the world. Keith was about to go nuts trying to figure out what in the world was in it, so we had already looked it up the night before (for the record: nothing. It was built to get a pro-basketball team to come to Memphis, and the Grizzlies did, but then they quickly moved to the new FedEx Arena and the pyramid sits empty).
After a lunch at a Beale St. hamburger joint with some really good sweet tea, we walked down to the river and over to Mud Island (after stopping by the I-40 TN Welcome Center – what?! I’m pregnant and drank 3 sweet teas!). They have a scale model of the Mississippi River you can walk through, all the way down to the “Gulf of Mexico”. Kaitlyn enjoyed splashing in the water, but the uneven bottom and scorching concrete banks had us put our shoes back on somewhere around “Memphis” and stroll the rest of the way.
One other note about our time in Memphis – our hotel’s AC worked very oddly. It was freezing in our room, even with the thermostat turned up to 90. We had to turn it off and on, as off it was just too stifling. Kaitlyn spent her first night in our bed, snuggling against us with her cold, cold little feet.