Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tennessee, Memphis - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - Beale Street

On Saturday we spent most of the day on Beale Street, three blocks of nightclubs, restaurants and retail shops.  This is supposed to be where the Blues and Rock and Roll originated.

When we arrived before noon, the street was really quiet.  I think it is a lot like the French Quarter in New Orleans – quiet by day, loud and rowdy by night.

Lots of musicians had “notes” along the sidewalk.  This is one I recognize.

The buildings range from ones that look new…..

To those that look like they have been here forever.  Several of the nightclubs don’t open up until later in the day.  We talked about staying until it got dark so we could witness the lights and nightlife.  But, we wore ourselves out before that happened, we were back home before 6:00.

We went into town thinking that we would have lunch at the Blues City Café.  The menu online sounded good and it does look interesting. 

The Pig “pork with an attitude”.

Silky O’Sullivan’s looks a little precarious to me.  This is an Irish pub with dueling pianos for entertainment.  During the day the crowd seemed to gravitate to this area, guess they like living dangerously.

Wet Willies is supposed to have the best daiquiris, we decided it was a bit early for that (are we sounding like old people?).

As the day went on bands were popping up everywhere and you could hear them from inside all of the bars and restaurants since they all had their doors propped open.

We decided on BB King’s Blues Club for lunch.

The gumbo and grilled shrimp with Texas toast was great. 

We were seated in an upstairs room that would only accommodate 18 people.  We were the only ones there, when we headed up there we were a little afraid they were heading us out the back door.

Seems they leave room for a little dancing, Greg wasn’t interested.

As it turned out we had a prime spot for viewing and listening to the band.

After lunch we walked a few blocks down to the Beale Street Landing which is right on the Mississippi River.  It is a long raised (as in hill with grass on it going over the building) complex made up mainly of a riverfront café.  I couldn’t figure out how to take a good picture of it unless I was somewhere out in the middle of the Mississippi River.

This artwork is at the entrance to the area – looks to me like a couple of dueling praying mantis, but I like it.

The landing is where the steam boats come in to load passengers for tours.

The river is up because of all the rain they have had recently.  You can see that at least one tier of this boarding ramp is underwater.

The playground has a couple of water features for the kids to play in.

There is a nice view of the Memphis skyline from here.

The Bass Pro Shop has a unique store here shaped like a pyramid.  I know it has a restaurant in it and Greg thought it also had a hotel inside.  We didn’t go down to check it out.  I asked Greg if he wanted to walk down and see it, I won’t print his reply, let’s just say he declined since he estimated it was about 5 miles from where we were standing.

We walked back up to Beale Street and walked around the Gibson factory and peeked in the windows.  We didn’t go in for a tour.

The Peabody Hotel was our final destination for the day.  The Peabody was built by Colonel Robert C. Brinkley in 1869.  Originally to be called Brinkley House, the name was changed to honor Brinkley’s friend and philanthropist George Peabody who passed away just before the hotel opening.  Peabody endowed numerous museums and public libraries in the Northeast.  Peabody, Mass. Is named in his honor.  The original hotel was built a couple of blocks from the current hotel’s location, it stood until 1923.

In 1925 the current hotel opened.  In the 1970’s the Memphis economy took a huge downturn, the hotel closed.  The hotel was then purchased and sold by a couple of hotel chains and ultimately put up for auction and sold for $400,000.  After a 25 million dollar renovation it was reopened in 1981 by the Belz family and stands as the center of the downtown Memphis revitalization today.  It is truly a beautiful historic hotel.

The lobby bar is a popular spot.

We checked out Lansky Brothers Men’s Shop, one of the retail shops in the hotel.  The Lanskys are known as the clothier to the king (Elvis Presley)

If Greg only had a place to wear this jacket (just kidding).  As you can imagine we didn’t have any salesmen approach us thinking they would make a sale, our shorts and tee shirts just weren’t giving off that vibe that we could afford what they were offering.

He passed on the blue suede shoes too.

Everything in the shop next door was duck related.  I don’t think these would last too long in the RV.

The fountain where the Peabody Ducks spend their day is the center of attraction.  Ever take a selfie with a duck? Lots of that was happening today.

The ducks have been a popular feature of the Peabody since 1933 when Frank Schutt, General Manager of the Peabody and some friends returned from a week long duck hunting trip to Arkansas.  The men had a little too much Tennessee sippin’ whiskey and thought it would be funny to put some of their live duck decoys (which were legal at the time) in the beautiful Peabody fountain.  They figured they would wake up in the morning and ducks would be flying around the lobby.  Instead the ducks were swimming around the fountain being admired by the guests.

Today the mallards, one male and four females, are raised by a local farmer and friend of the hotel.  The ducks live at the Peabody until they are full grown.  They are then retired and returned to the wild.  We didn’t talk to anyone to get details on this but these ducks are so pampered I’m not sure they could make it “in the wild”.

When they aren’t swimming in the fountain the ducks live in a $200,000 Duck Palace on the roof of the Peabody.  They march to the fountain at 11:00 a.m. every day, swim until 5:00 p.m. and then march back into the elevator to go up to their penthouse.

The tourist information on the duck march says to arrive about half an hour ahead of time.  I would advise getting there before that if you want to sit anywhere you might be able to see them.  We were tired of walking around and the temperature was in the 80’s so we got there way ahead of time to just hang out in the cooler lobby and have a glass of wine.  Come prepared to pay dearly for a drink, these are $13 glasses of moscato.  It was good and we sipped it slowly, we were 3 hours early!

This duck march is a real crowd attraction.  It took security a while to get everyone seated and back behind barriers.  Since we were so early we snagged a prime spot in the mezzanine overlooking the area where the ducks would march out.

There is a lot of hoopla involved in the half hour just before the march.  The Duckmaster brings out the carpeted steps and red carpet.  He gives a history of the Peabody and the Duck March.  He introduces the honorary Duckmaster of the day.  In case you are interested you can be an honorary Duckmaster by purchasing a Ducky Day family package which starts at $379 (which includes your room and some other amenities).

The current Duckmaster is Jimmy Ogle, a Memphis historian.  He is only the sixth Duckmaster since 1940 when a Peabody hotel bellman Edward Pembrooke took over the duties.  Pembrooke was a former animal trainer for the Barnum and Baily Circus.  He convinced the manager of the hotel that he could train the ducks which were then only swimming in the fountain to march to and from the fountain.  He held the Duckmaster position for 50 years.  Needless to say, the Peabody Duckmaster position is one of a kind.  A couple of things I read online indicated that the salary was at least $85,000 a year.  The Duckmaster does more than just care for and present the ducks, he represents the hotel at many functions.

The ducks got “all in a row” and marched out to John Phillip Sousa’s Cotton King March.  It lasted all of ten seconds before they were out of view.  I was so nervous knowing I had one, maybe two shots I could get before they were gone.  If I blew it we had waited three hours for no pictures.  These are a little fuzzy but they were shaking off water the whole way out.  Now we have an answer for when we are asked “what is the craziest thing you have done in your travels”.  Sitting three hours waiting on five ducks to make a 10 second march probably qualifies, but we are glad we did it.

As we left Beale Street just after 5:00 the crowd was picking up.

As I sit here writing this Sunday morning, it is pouring down rain with strong winds.  Our plan was to visit Graceland today and leave on Monday morning.  Instead we are extending our stay here until next Friday.  Because of the extended rains they have had in Indiana we think it would be better to wait to arrive there until the ground has settled so we don’t get stuck going into our summer spot.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tennessee, Memphis - Friday, April 28, 2017 - Graceland RV Park

We have come to Memphis to find this guy – or at least some history on him.  Elvis Presley was a big part of our younger years so we’ll take a little walk back through time.

We are staying at the Graceland RV Park for three nights, we will be heading to Indiana on Monday morning.  This Good Sam Park is older than I imagined it would be.  It has full hookups and we are in a level pull through site.  It isn’t a park where you want to get out your lawn chairs and just hang out but it’s good for a visit into Memphis.  I swear a few of the RV’s here were here when Elvis was alive!

Last night we stayed at the Sunshine RV Park in Texarkana, Arkansas.  It was suitable for an overnight visit but absolutely nothing blogworthy about it.

Tomorrow we will be visiting Beale Street in downtown Memphis.  Beale Street is one of America’s most famous musical streets.

On Sunday we will be visiting Elvis’ home Graceland.

We will also be visiting the just opened “Elvis Presley’s Memphis”.  In other words we are really being tourists for the next couple of days.

We had supper at Vernon's, named after Elvis' father.  Pretty good barbeque.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Oklahoma, Thackerville - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - Winstar World Casino

We pulled into the RV Park at Winstar World Casino yesterday afternoon and we will be staying until Thursday morning.  From here we will be headed to Texarkana, TX for an overnight stay.  The Winstar is the largest casino in the United States.  With its last expansion it became larger than the casino in Foxwood, CT.  It has 7,400 electronic games and over 90 table games.

We are in site 103 right across from the reservation office.  The weather has been mild but the wind has been brutal.  Chance of rain tomorrow.

We got in the Jeep and drove around some of the facility today.  Despite the wind there were several golfers out on the course.  They were painting some of the parking lot at the club house this morning so lots of orange cones were out.  They also have a golf academy here.

My camera doesn’t have a video option on it or this would have been a whole lot easier.  I wanted to get pictures of the casino but it is a mile and a half long (according to our shuttle driver last night).  I snapped pictures as Greg drove through the parking lot.  We felt like security might be wondering what we were doing.  It is called “world” casino because various countries are represented around the outside of the casino.  These same countries are represented again in the décor of various sections of the inside of the casino.  I can’t name them all but a few are pretty easy to recognize.

Two of the five hotels that are in the complex.

If you visit the Winstar you have to check out this shop that is right down the road.  Cloverleaf says it is spirited shopping.  I say it is certainly eclectic.  I should have taken my camera inside, there were a lot of off the wall items available.  I saw a couple of tops I liked I just wasn’t willing to pay over $100 for each one.