We decided to head on down to Memphis, which was just about three hundred miles, through Missouri and Arkansas and then into Tennessee.  On the way out of St Louis we saw the largest group of bikers we have ever seen

4 Biker farewell

They were way more impressive than this, but I was a tad slow with my camera.  On the way I was puzzled that St Louis said

3 St Louis welcome

but Missouri was alone in all the states we have passed through to not put up a welcome sign.  They also make people do jobs like this!

4 naff job

At first the countryside looked a bit more interesting and less flat

6 route

but then the plain opened up and the fields got larger and I had a real problem staying awake (a rare thing on our travels, I think I have only fallen asleep twice so far) (even in the north of Sweden, no matter how much I wanted to).  One thing that puzzled us was what on earth were they wrapping the straw in?  Were the ends of the bales being sprayed with plastic? 

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It took ages to twig that we were now driving through cotton country and what we could see were massive bales of cotton. Doh! 

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Of course, I am now suffering from cotton related ear worms ‘Those cotton fields back home’ or something like that.  It is weird to realise that there is foundation to sayings like ’now wait a cotton picking darned moment’

I have enjoyed some of the advertising on the way

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and there were other signs of autumn apart from the leaves falling

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but most of the drive through

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and then into

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was all a bit of a dull blur.

We got into Memphis in time to camp at the Graceland RV park, a very nice and well run, if a little pricy campground.   The tenting side was totally segregated from the RV side, but it was much prettier, despite the huge long walk to the toilet block

12 Gracelands RV 

12 Gracelands RV2

The place was littered with bad Elvis puns

14 bad names

and next door there was the soon to be knocked down

18 History about to go

Considering how chilly it is starting to get we were not surprised that there was only one other tent in the area set aside for nut jobs like ourselves.  The only downside was that you are not allowed to burn wood here, so brrrrrr.  We had hardly any supplies so we walked the supposed mile (more like one and a half) to the only restaurant around here, an Elvis obsessed place called Marlows

1 Marlows

which has barely a square foot clear of Elvis pictures and Elvis movies and Elvis Radio (yep, there is a station locally that never plays anything else!) playing non stop. 

2 Marlows 2

The food was very good, and not as sweet as some we have eaten ( we later had a chat to nice Canadian lady in the laundry and were told that it probably was not a good thing to leave the campground after dark.  Oops! and yes the firework sounds we heard later on were probably gunfire.  Double oops!.)

On Sunday we headed out to get some FOOD in.  We were getting sick of restaurant meals, as they do tend consist of fried stuff.  A nice young man at the liquor store (shut, damn it, being Sunday) pointed us to an excellent place with fantastic fresh produce called Kroger.  It was a novel experience, not only because we were virtually the only white customers in there, but also because everyone was so polite and friendly. 

After lunch we headed on over to try out the Graceland tour, not that we are particularly fans of Elvis, but we thought it might be interesting and I had high hopes of seeing some Elvis impersonators.  The tickets were pretty steep, at $32 each and there was not a single Elvis impersonator to be seen anywhere, but is was probably worth it.  They bus you from the ticket booth to the house across the road,

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a distance of about a hundred metres or so, handing you an iPad to allow you to carry out a self guided tour.  The house was surprisingly modest and homely, with several original seventies touches like carpet on the ceiling and walls in places. 

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19 Gracelands 3

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It was quite sobering to go into the museum part of the place and to see all of Elvis’ gold records and other awards and than to be told that he died at the age of forty two.

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25 Gracelands 6

 We came out feeling very sad at the waste of such talent, sad for his grandmother who saw so many of her family die before her and with the overwhelming feeling that the whole story was so sanitised that you would never know that Elvis had ever touched a drop nor a drug nor a hamburger, nor that he ended up divorced from Priscilla.  Despite that we were very glad we went, because it gave us a different perspective of his personal life.

The following day we did exciting stuff like washing and mending (Tim’s sewing is coming on a treat) and then we took the Heartbreak Hotel’s shuttle bus into Beale street (a major tourist trap in downtown Memphis) where we went for a really good old bar crawl.  The first couple of places were interesting to look at and it was nice just to sup our drinks and take in the atmosphere,

27 Beale st 2

This guy was working his socks of and managed to spill beer over my handbag, but cleaned it off very politely. (Would an American sue?)  This sign didn’t make us feel too much more relaxed about the area

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but we loved the decoration in this place

27 Beale St 5

where there were too many guitars that used to belong to famous people (including James Blunt) to count.  (We didn’t recognise anyone else’s, but I suspect that was because we are not very knowledgeable about musicians).  As we headed down the street it got more interesting.  We passed a restaurant that promised award wining gumbo and I asked the guy on the door what gumbo was.  He said that he would show us and he was not in the least worried that we had already eaten he just wanted to make sure we knew what gumbo was.

27 Beale st 3

He took us into the restaurant and then went into the kitchen to bring us a gumbo sample.  It was delicious, like Boulibase on speed, a thick and spicy fish soup with prawns and other fishy goodness.  Further down the street we came across Coyote Ugly, a bar that obviously has a lot more going on other nights.  Yes, you can dance on the bar if you want to.

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28 Beale street 8

It appears de rigeur to leave your underwear hanging on the wall… What can I say, I wasn’t the least bit tempted to join in and nor was Tim.

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The lovely (busty, I am not sure flat chested women need apply for jobs there) waitress told us that her dad works for Land Rover Jaguar in the USA and had actually recently supplied a Range Rover with bullet proof windows for a British Prince and his wife (not sure if it was Charles or William).  She said she was named Elizabeth (for Elizabeth the first) and her sister was called Anne for Anne Boleyn (very weird, that,  would you want to named after someone who got her head chopped off?).  Sitting next to us at the bar was Wazib, a very friendly and interesting guy from Bangladesh,

32 Beale st 10

who is an IT person, working all over the USA, being sent everywhere by his company.  He would love to bring his parents over here, but they don’t want to come, as they are happy where they are and so he seems very lonely.  I must admit that at first I thought he was Mexican, as he is one of the few Asian people we have met in The USA.

We decided to walk back up Beale Street and happened to take a second glance at a bar, from which previously we had heard some pretty poor music.  At that point it sounded amazing.  There was a proper black blues group belting out some amazing sounds so we thought we would give the place a try.  

46 beale st blues guy

I loved the band, the lead singer was an older black guy with a most amazing voice and I was in bluesy heaven.  Tim got chatting to a guy called Scott, who was from Arkansas.

44 Beale st 16

We said that he must be local, but he pointed out that he lived a six hour drive away.  He was on an IT management course and just came down into Beale street to fill the time.  We asked him about thanksgiving and he said he would not be serving turkey but shrimp in various forms.  He was quite insistent that we would be welcome to join his family, should we be staying there.

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We watched a couple dancing really well

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and they turned out to from a group of Polish people who were touring with a hired car and their own motor bikes, shipped over while they toured the States in stages, a bit like us but over a longer time scale.  It seems that they had kept the bikes over here for longer than the statuary year we foreigners are allowed to keep our vehicles over here, but nobody had noticed.

We wandered back and caught the shuttle bus to the campsite at 10 30, feeling that it had been a brilliant evening all round.

We had wondered if we would want to stay another day to explore Memphis during daylight and try some of the prize-winning gumbo and go to the third largest pyramid in the world (an old stadium that is now a sports store with everything from a luxury hotel to a boating lake inside), but on reflection, we decided that it would all seem a bit of a damp squib after the previous evening so we packed up and headed north east to see what Kentucky was like.

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