Saturday, September 14, 2013

West Memphis Arkansas to Mena Arkansas - Graceland

We woke up early again, about 4:30 AM. The only catch this time was that I hadn't gone to bed until after midnight. We turned on the TV and read news until we could go down and get the continental breakfast. Although the hotel was quite full, the breakfast area was quiet. At this time of year, Graceland opens at 9:00 AM and it was only 15 minutes away, so we left the motel at 8:00. Nothing like being early.

Memphis skyline as we cross Ole Miss into Tennessee

Pyramid Arena - soon to be a Bass Pro Shops megastore

We got to the parking lot about 8:15 and, of course, it was still closed. There was a large 450 diesel there with a goose neck trailer carrying other trailers. We pulled up beside it in the next lane. The driver was Mike Bush of Texas and he was hauling the tank trailers to the Texas oilfields. He told me he had passed Memphis many times but was excited to be paying his first visit to Graceland today.

Not open until 9:00?

The barricades were still down

Mike said they told him the lot would open about 8:30. Sure enough, a lady showed up about then, took our money and let us in. While I was paying her, VROC friend Pappy came walking up the drive. He had seen that we would be here and mentioned on Facebook that he might try and drop by. Due to family issues, he (Eureka Springs 2012 go-cart champion) wouldn't be able to make it to ES this year so it was really good to see him here.

We got parked in the lot (only took two spaces) and walked towards the Visitor Centre with Mike, who had already bought VIP tickets on line.

Pappy, Sandy and I

Mike headed for the VIP line to start his tour while we lined up to get regular platinum tickets. This allowed us on the mansion tour, the auto exhibit, through the planes and a few other places. While we were buying ours, some guide for a bus tour picked up a bunch of tickets for his group so we found ourselves part of the 9:00 AM Tour 2. Then we waited and chatted with Pappy near the boarding area until the VIP and all the Tour 1 bus people had departed on the shuttle to the mansion. When they called our Tour, we bid Pappy a fond farewell and lined up.

They took our picture and a staff member gave us each an audio device with headphones to hang around our neck. With this, we could call up a voice recording describing each thing we were seeing just by entering the number displayed by the particular exhibit. The shuttle took us across Elvis Presley Boulevard to the front doors of the Graceland mansion.

Looking out from the front doors of Graceland

Sandy at the mansion entrance

Our group was given a brief introduction to the mansion, built in 1939 and bought by Elvis in the 50's when he was just 22. Then the doors opened and we followed the prescribed route through the building, which was smaller than I had visualized. Flash photography was prohibited inside, so I didn't take a lot of pictures. The upper floor was also off limits.

The route took us past the front room to Elvis' parents bedroom, through the dining area and kitchen and then down a set of stairs lined with mirrors. That was oddly disturbing, sort of like a fun house..

The mirrored stairway

Downstairs, we viewed the TV room and the billiard room before ascending and seeing the famous Jungle Room, an addition Elvis added to the back of the structure and furnished with jungle themed artifacts. It was sort of like a wild family room.

Outside the back door, we looked at the carport and the office where father Vernon ran the business side of Elvis' interests. Then there was the stable and the Trophy Room with more gold records than you would think one person could earn.

Back yard at Graceland mansion

Looking across at the Meditation Garden

Next was the racquetball court, where people could watch the game through a Plexiglas wall while socializing in the lounge. The piano in the lounge was where they said Elvis last played on the day he died. The actual court was turned into another exhibit of awards and costumes. From there, the path led to the Meditation Garden where Sandy, not the biggest fan, got a bit choked up as Elvis sang while we viewed his grave, as well those of his close family members.

The piano in the racquetball lounge

Inside the racquetball court

Here lies "The King" - RIP

The grave site was the last stop on the mansion tour, so we caught the shuttle back to the Visitor Center and turned in our headsets.

Final view of the mansion from the shuttle pickup area

Back across the road, we started with the exhibition hall that held some of Elvis vehicles. Two Rolls Royce Silver Clouds, a couple of Stutz, the famous pink Cadillac, his last Harley decker and some toys they used at Graceland including a wheel-equipped snowmobile.

Outside the car museum

No flash, so the purple doesn't show up well

A sled with wheels

The pink caddie

Outside again, we ran into three people we had joked with when we first arrived because they had managed to score Tour 1 tickets. We stayed together for the rest of the visit.

Steady lineups for the shuttle to the mansion

Where the VIP's hang out

Two of Elvis aircraft were on display. The full size Convair 880 named Lisa Marie and a smaller Lockheed JetStar. The Lisa Marie was quite well appointed inside but, again, no flash photography and my little point and shoot didn't get anything worth posting. Then we went on to a hall where they screened the Elvis 1968 TV special and another that focused on Elvis in Hawaii.

Sandy and the Lisa Marie

That concluded the tour of Graceland and, after saying goodbye to our new friends (we didn't even get their names), we walked back to the parking area and put Mena, Arkansas into the GPS as a destination. On the way through West Memphis, we  grabbed a quick lunch at McDonald's and took it to go.

We were moving west on I-40 at 12:05. The traffic was moderate and I found a truck doing 65 MPH to shadow. I even managed to block for him when he had to change lanes to pass slower traffic. I was going to call Sherm to advise as to our ETA but there was no TracFone coverage along this corridor.

Amazing that you can see everything except yourself

The Arkansas River

I followed this truck all the way to Little  Rock

We stopped in Little Rock at a Love's for fuel and Sherm managed to reach us by phone. I told him we'd be in about 5:00 PM. Then we left I-40 for I-30 and then US 270 to Hot Springs. I hadn't been there since 1985 at a Rider Rally and it was Sandy's first time through.

West of Hot Springs, we continued on US 270, which became a two lane winding highway and then took SR 88 that wound even more into Mena. I kept the truck in third gear and was able to keep up and even pull away from local traffic. This little trailer tows like a dream. We arrived in Mena just before 5:00 and, after making a U-turn because the GPS thought the Limetree Inn was on the other side of the road, we found Sherm. There was also a group of riders from Arkansas who had just arrived here and another few from Texas.

It says welcome to Mena on the other side

A sight for sore eyes

WHORE parking (We Haul Our Rides Everywhere)

The man beside Sandy, Gary, moved to Texas from NZ in 1980

The bikes are free at last

Some kind of cricket

We walked over to the restaurant in the front of the motel and had their buffet dinner. From the looks of the locals dining here, this was a popular spot. We talked to a couple of them as we were leaving. The invited us to the Eagle's Lodge for live music and country dancing but we politely declined.

Sherm proof reading his blog

I sat down to finish the blog for the day but, before I got done, everyone else went to bed and I realized I was very tired as well and turned in as well. The  blog would have to wait.

Today's Route (289 Avalanche/trailer miles):

1 comment:

Gordon Friedrich said...

Great blogging as always, Skid, for those who can't be there.
Safe journey!