Friday, September 30, 2011

Cross Country Chronicles - Part 4

Here is an update on our travels through Tennessee.

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Day Seven Continued (from CCC - Part 3) / Day Eight.  Mile 1700.  Memphis, Tennessee.  After checking into our hotel in Memphis, we drove to the National Civil Rights Museum.  The museum was built around the Lorraine Motel, which is where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It was so seamless how the exterior of the motel integrated into the museum facade.  No photography was allowed inside the museum but here are some photographs of the exterior.

Just behind the flower wreath is where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot while standing outside the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel.  He was staying in room 306.

Charlotte sitting outside the Lorraine Motel.

We then walked down Beale Street, which is a hub for all things blues, for a taste of the music scene.

And for dinner, we dined at Central BBQ.  Awesome pulled pork sandwiches!  While sitting there, I started to get food envy watching other diners eat BBQ nachos.  So Justin, being the oh so supportive husband that he is, ordered some for us to munch over while Charlotte played at the park.  Bad idea.  I think I was on BBQ overload at that point (and carne asada chips are just so much better).

Justin and his brisket plate.  I must say that the potato salad was also delicious. 

Charlotte and I with her mac 'n cheese and green beans.

The next morning, we headed down to Graceland.  We had no idea what to expect and were pleasantly surprised at how seemingly normal the experience was (i.e., no Elvis impersonators). 

Here are a few photos from the mansion tour to peak your interest.  :)

The front of the mansion.  The tour didn't include the top floor, which was where Elvis had his room.

Formal living room.  This is at the front of the house.  The peacock stained glass was pretty cool.  And the white couch on the right was ridiculously long.

The stairway near the front entryway.  Like I mentioned before, the upstairs living area is closed off.

This is actually the racquetball court.  Check out the all of gold records.  Ridiculous.
The Meditation Garden.  This is also Elvis' grave site.

Day Eight Continued/ Day Nine.  Mile 1930.  Nashville, Tennessee.  We didn't have any concrete plans for Nashville.  We found a parking spot downtown and just wandered around. 

The original Grand Ol' Opry.

Charlotte on the Country Music Walk of Fame.  Sadly, Justin and I didn't recognize too many names but Keith Urban is certainly one of my favorites.

The Country Music Hall of Fame.  Notice how the building looks like a piano keyboard.  We actually got to the museum just as it was closing.  Oh well, next time. 

I actually think the highlight of Nashville was walking across the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge.  It's apparently one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world and on the National Registrar of Historic Places.  We got some fantastic views of downtown Nashville from the top and Charlotte tired herself out running around.  :)

The next morning, we made our way just outside of Nashville to visit The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson.  What an amazingly beautiful and well preserved mansion.  Almost all of the furniture, artifacts, and wall coverings were original to the home.  The tour guides, dressed in period attire mind you, were so patient and full of information.

For a tour of the grounds, a free audio tour was included (which was excellent).  Charlotte was fascinated with the little audio machine.  I still can't figure out what she was doing with it.  At times, she was using it like a magnifying glass.  A second later, she was talking into it like a phone.  Regardless, it kept her occupied so that Justin and I could enjoy the audio tour.

The most touching thing I learned about President Jackson was how devoted he was to his wife, Rachel.  She died before Andrew Jackson became president and is buried at the Hermitage (along with Jackson).  While listening to the audio description of how President Jackson would take solitary walks through the garden to visit his wife's grave, I started tearing up.  He never remarried.  I'm such a sucker for love stories.

Day Nine.  Mile 2110.  Knoxville, Tennessee.  I think our evening in Knoxville was as close to perfect as we could wish for.  The hotel had coin laundry facilities.  The hotel was also located right in downtown so there was no need for the car once we checked in.  Charlotte had a great time playing in the water fountain and playground at the World's Fair Park.  Our stop at the water fountain was unexpected so Justin had to actually run back to the hotel to get her a change of clothes.

The water fountain at the World's Fair Park.  You can also pay to go up to the observation deck in the Sunsphere (the giant gold ball in the background).

We then walked up to Market Square, an adorable pedestrian only area filled with resturants and coffee shops.  The square was buzzing with activity and was so family friendly.  We ordered some pizza and sandwiches from The Tomato Head, found a table in the square, and enjoyed a lovely resturant meal without the drama of dining out with a toddler.  Charlotte ran all around the square and could squeal as much as she wanted.

Since we were in such high spirits, we even let Charlotte eat some ice cream.  Happy girl.

Stay tuned for the next part of the Cross Country Chronicles.  I'll update everyone on our travels through the Great Smoky Mountains, Asheville and Virginia!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cross Country Chronicles - Part 3

Since the last cross country update, this is where we have been so far...

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Day Five.  Mile 956.  Amarillo, Texas.  Before leaving Texas, we did a bit of backtracking to visit Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo.  I don't know the full story on this place but it's basically ten Cadillacs buried in the ground at the same angle as the ancient Egyptian pyramids.  People are encouraged to graffiti the cars.  Really random.  Reminds me of Cooper Pedy in South Australia.

A view of the Cadillacs from Interstate 40.
A close up view of the Cadillacs.  They really are perfectly aligned.

Day Five Continued.  Mile 1216.  Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  We wandered around a really cute area of Oklahoma City called Bricktown.  I believe it's modeled after San Antonio's River Walk and is lined with restaurants and stores. 

Afterwards, we drove just south of the city to meet up with an old high school friend and his family.  Nate, Justin and I all went to high school together (and Nate and Justin date back to middle school).  It was lovely to have our families hang out over dinner.  While Charlotte was initially a handful (to say the least), once we placed her next to Preston, she calmed down quite a bit (thank goodness)!  So much fun.  To the Kane family - thank you again for such a fun evening!!!

Amber, Toby, Preston, Nate, Charlotte and Justin. 

Preston giving Charlotte a big hug.

Day Six.  Mile 1400.  Fort Smith, Arkansas.  This town lies just across the Oklahoma-Texas border and on the Arkansas River. The movie True Grit was also set around Fort Smith in the 1870s.  We quickly drove through the Fort Smith National Cemetery, which is only one of two cemeteries in the country where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried. 

Afterwards, we attempted to visit the Fort Smith National Historic Site.  We barely made it down the walkway before Charlotte had an epic meltdown.  So back in the car we went.

Day Six Continued/ Day Seven.  Mile 1530.  Hot Springs, Arkansas.  I think this might be one of our favorite spots on the whole trip so far. 

People have allegedly been coming to Hot Springs for more than 200 years to experience the baths.  In 1921, Hot Springs National Park was created to protect the 47 naturally flowing thermal springs along the southern slope of Hot Springs Mountain.  I think it might be one of the few (if not only) national park to be located entirely within the city limits.

There are fountains on display so people can feel how warm the natural spring water is.  143 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Charlotte was a bit grumpy that we didn't let her touch the water - a bit too hot for her.
There is also this public "drinking fountain" in front of the Administration Building for people to take some water home.  It's really tasting drinking water once it is cooled.  Throughout our stay there, we saw locals bringing huge bottles to fill up!

Many of the old bathhouses are preserved and on display along "Bathhouse Row."  Some of them are still open for business.  You can pay to take a bath in the thermal waters of the spring or have any other spa treatment.

The Visitor Center is also an old bath house.  Charlotte obviously also enjoyed running around the museum.

This is a fountain in the middle of the men's bathhouse (which was exceedingly nicer than the women's bathhouse).

Notice that Charlotte and I are relaxing in the front.  :)

The park also boasts some stunning hiking trails along Hot Springs Mountain. 

Day Seven.  Mile 1585.  Little Rock, Arkansas.  Our one and only stop while in Little Rock was the Clinton National Library.

Inside, they have a life size replica of the Clinton Oval Office.  Justin's couldn't stop raving about how magnificent the desk was.

The only exhibit that grabbed Charlotte's attention was the one about the Clinton pets.  Hilarious.

I think that's all I have in me for the time being.  I'm gonna sneak into bed now and see how much more sleep I can get before Charlotte wakes up.  And on our itinerary today?  A visit to the king himself, ELVIS!!!!!

And to all who have been following our journey and commenting, thank you.  It makes us feel so loved to know that y'all are thinking of us.  :)
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