Sunday, May 7, 2017

Missouri, St. Louis - Sunday, May 7, 2017 - Casino Queen RV Park

We left Memphis early Friday morning.  It was a nice day to travel except for the wind.  We were getting just 5 miles per gallon because of all the wind resistance.  When we were hauling the motorcycle on the lift we would get 8 mpg or a little over.  Since we have started pulling the Jeep a little over 7 mpg is the best we can do.

Had a little slow down coming into St. Louis.  We want to get into the campground early this afternoon because we plan on getting to the 69th Annual St. Louis Square & Round Dance Jamboree later on this evening.

It’s a good thing we waited until Friday to travel.  Our route was flooded shut on Thursday, all was good on Friday.  We did see some major flooding around Cape Girardeau, MO when we came through there, but all in all we didn’t see as much flooding as we expected.  The Mississippi River is definitely up.

I know we aren’t all the way back in Indiana yet, but I’ll go out on a limb and say our trip back this year has been pretty good.  We’ve been lucky to get into good campgrounds and avoid the really bad weather.  We haven’t had any major coach problems.  We are going to have to look for a trim piece around one of our headlights, the wind blew one off on Friday.  We heard a noise when it came off, I thought it was inside the coach and got up to see what had shifted – everything looked secure.  Greg thought the sound came from a passing tractor trailer.  When we stopped at a rest area for lunch we saw what the problem was.  We also got a ding in our windshield, a truck passing in the opposite direction threw a rock.  I could see it coming and just prayed it would only ding and not shatter.

The campground where we stay when we are in the St. Louis area is at the Casino Queen Casino which is actually in East St. Louis, IL.  If trains bother you it might not be the campground for you since one runs right next to the campground.  It does run rather late, but we stay up until midnight usually so it doesn’t create any problem for us.  Also, if you plan on staying here, don’t rely on your GPS to get you all the way here.  It will get you off the interstate correctly, but from that point on be sure to watch for the casino signs.  It is correct until it tells you to make a left turn on Continental Grain Road.  There is a right turn at a stop light to get you on the road where you can turn on Continental Grain Road that the GPS misses.  There is a casino sign for the right turn so watch for it.

We got to the Jamboree on Friday night in time to dance from 7:30 to 10:30 pm.  We went back on Saturday right after lunch to take advantage of some workshops.  We took a break to watch a workshop for round dancers.  The crowd was a little sparse here.  This room was filled with square dancers from 7:30 to 10:30 on Saturday evening.  What a great time.  They had dance halls for beginner dancers, plus dancers and advanced dancers.  We are plus dancers, which is where most people are.  The callers on Saturday were speedy callers so you really had to be paying attention.

Today we are resting, doing some laundry and watching the NASCAR race – go Dale, Jr.!!

We are leaving here Monday morning heading to Indiana.  We’ll be spending at least our first two weeks in Indiana at Timberline Campground just outside of Chesterfield.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tennessee, Memphis - Monday, May 1, 2017 - Elvis Presley's Memphis Tour

After our tour of Graceland on Monday we stopped for lunch.  Yes, I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich grilled with bacon grease – Elvis’ mom’s special sandwich.  No, it isn’t on our diet, but it was great!!

Gladys’s Diner is a 50’s style diner featuring classic American food – burgers, hot dogs, pizza and the peanut butter and banana sandwich.  The only problem with lunch is there was a musician playing and he was way too loud.

After lunch we walked through the Elvis Presley’s Memphis exhibits.  This opened this spring.  It’s over 200,000 square feet of Elvis and Rock and Roll history and of course lots of gift shops.

Lots of his cars are on display.  This 1971 De Tomaso Pantera was purchased used in 1974 for his then girlfriend, Linda Thompson for $2,400.  He once shot it because it wouldn’t start.  The holes in the steering wheel and floor pan were never fixed.

The 1955 pink Cadillac was his mother, Gladys’ favorite.

The “Mongrel T” was built for the movie “Easy Come, Easy Go” out of spare parts and a few surfboards.  After that movie the car went on to be the Jokermobile in the Batman TV series.

The 1960 MG is my favorite of the collection.  It was used in the movie “Blue Hawaii”.  Elvis gave this car to his secretary.  She later traded it in at a Memphis car lot (what was she thinking?).  A chef who had worked on Elvis’ movie “Spinout” knew about the car and purchased it for a wedding present for his daughter.

Although Elvis had a lot of big boy toys they don’t seem to be that extravagant.  He bought most of his cars used and this boat seems pretty common.

I was a little surprised to see this.  I think they said Elvis owned a farm in Missouri and one of his favorite things to do was to get out on this tractor.  It was restored by a group of high school students.

There is a lot of Elvis memorabilia on display but they don’t have the descriptions for what it is provided yet.  There has to be a good story behind this TV with what looks like a bullet hole in it.

Elvis was at the forefront of a revolution in American pop culture.  He crossed racial barriers by embracing the new sound of rock & roll, a mix of pop, country and gospel.  In June 1953, shortly after graduating from high school his journey to stardom began.  He took some time off work as a driver for Crown Electric Company to stop by Memphis Recording Studios home of Sun Records to record two songs as a birthday gift for his mother.

For the next year he stopped in every so often to Sun Records just to see what was going on.  In July 1954 Sam Phillips, the owner suggested he make a recording.  Sam picked Scotty Moore, a guitarist, and Bill Black, a bass player to accompany him.  It was pretty ho-hum until on break Elvis broke into a sped up version of a rhythm and blues tune, “That’s All Right”.  Scotty and Bill jumped in the fun.  Sam Phillips ran to hit the recorder and their first hit record was on its way.

After that the group would play at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport on Saturdays.  That is where he met Colonel Parker who become his manager.

On November 15, 1955 he officially became and RCA Victor recording artist, signing his contract in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel.  He received a $5,000 sign on bonus, something no other artist had received at the time.

In January of 1956 he recorded his first single for RCA, “Heartbreak Hotel”, it went gold by April of that year.  In the early 70’s I worked at the RCA Record Club in Indianapolis.  Elvis visited there one day but I wasn’t able to go downstairs to be part of the visitation.  I worked as secretary to the Manager of Labor Relations and we were in negotiations with the union which took precedent over Elvis.

By August of 1956 Elvis was headed to Hollywood for his first of many movies, “Love Me Tender”.  He was so unsure about what the process would be that not only did he memorize his lines, he memorized the entire script.  Lots of movie memorabilia was on display.

Embellished jumpsuits became a signature outfit for Elvis when he was performing and many of them are on display.  I think this is my favorite.

We finished up our day by looking at the customized planes.  The larger one, Lisa Marie, includes a living room, a conference room, private bedroom and two baths.  One of the baths has a 24-karat gold-flecked sink.  The planes seem to lean more to the extravagant than anything else we’ve seen today.

Everything is covered in plastic so it’s kind of hard to envision what it really looked like when Elvis traveled on it.  In the dining room Elvis always sat in the green chair at the end of the table so he could watch TV.  The guide pointed out the gold-plated seatbelts and the leather covered table.

The bed in the bedroom has a large seat belt across it.  I know this is FAA regulation but it does look really odd.

The smaller plane, Hound Dog II, is a Lockhead Jetstar.

The interior of it is much smaller than that of the Lisa Marie.

We extended our stay here because of bad weather ahead of us in Indiana but we aren’t doing any more sightseeing.  We went to get groceries this afternoon, worst Kroger store I have ever been in.  And, they don’t have Senior Day here in Memphis where seniors get 10% off the first Wednesday of the month!  We will be leaving here early Friday morning headed to St. Louis, hope they are over their flooding problems by then.  Our plan is to attend the Annual St. Louis Square Dance Jubilee which will be going on Friday night and all day Saturday.  We will rest on Sunday and head to Indiana on Monday.  Looking forward to visits with family and friends.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tennessee, Memphis - Monday, May 1, 2017 - Graceland Tour

On Monday it had stopped raining but the wind was still pretty brutal.  From the RV Park we can walk to where we need to get our tour tickets for Graceland.  We opted for the Elvis Experience Tour + Airplanes Tour.  The cost for this was more than what we normally pay for tours at just a little over $51.00 each for the senior ticket, plus $5.00 for the airplane tour.  Would I do it again?  Probably not, but I’m glad we did it this time.  They give everyone an IPad and headphones for the audio guided tour.  Even though there was a neck strap for the IPad I found it burdensome trying to take pictures, view the IPad and listen to the audio.  You can pay considerably more for an Ultimate VIP tour which includes a personal tour guide.  Hint: if you lag behind your group and get behind an Ultimate VIP group you can still hear what the personal guide has to say.  Greg didn’t want to stay behind them for the entire tour because the guide had a really annoying nasal way of speaking that was like nails grating on a blackboard to him.

I had never even seen pictures of Graceland so I was a little amazed to find it to be more of an upscale 60’s style home rather than what I think of as a “mansion” that the music artists are likely to have now.  It looks like a real family home, except for maybe the mirrors all over and some carpeting on the ceiling (more on that later).

Elvis bought Graceland and the 13.8 acres on which it sits in March of 1957 for $103,500.  It was named Graceland by the previous owners who were given Graceland as a wedding present from their Aunt Grace.  Elvis’ parents and his paternal grandmother also lived at Graceland.  The second story of the home which was where Elvis’ personal quarters were located is not a part of the tour.  No flash photography is allowed in the home.

The family living room has an extra-long custom made white sofa in it, but my photography of it failed.

This is his parents’ bedroom.  The bath just off of this bedroom was done in pink poodle wallpaper.

A commentary by Lisa Marie at this point of the tour indicted that every time Elvis came down this stairway he was completely pulled together, including the “bling” chains and rings.

In the family dining room Elvis always sat at the far end of the table so he could better view the television that was located next to the door to the room.

Naturally, I couldn’t pick up a piece of this china to look at the name of the pattern but it looks an awful lot like the china I picked out from Star China in Anderson when I was a young bride in 1967.

With all of the people that lived in this house and the band members and others who were constant visitors this kitchen was kept busy.  Most of the stuff in here looks just like what most of us were using in our homes in the 60’s except our kitchens weren’t quite so big.

The media room with equipment provided by RCA is something we didn’t have in our homes.  There were three televisions because Elvis liked to view all three news channels that were available then – no recording them to view later.  Most every surface in this room was covered with mirrors – had to laugh at one tour participant who found that “disgusting”.

I found the pool room interesting.  The walls and ceiling are totally covered in gathered material, 350 yards of it.

In another part of the tour a receipt for the pool table is on display.  Elvis bought it reconditioned in 1960 for $445.

The Jungle Room was reportedly furnished by Elvis during a one day shopping spree – obviously someone should have gone with him, it’s a little overboard.

The “jungle” look was furthered by green carpeting everywhere including the ceiling.  This did come in handy we are told for some recording sessions, the acoustics were great.

I could get a better photo of the back of the house than I could of the front.

Lisa Marie’s swing set looks like any other little kids swing set.

Elvis’ father, Vernon, and two secretaries had an office in a separate building behind the main house.  In his prime Elvis received over 5,000 pieces of mail a day.  Vernon and the secretaries took care of household bills and answering the mail.

Another separate building is now a trophy room.  While Elvis was alive he and his friends had a large slot car set up in here instead of trophies.

The trophy room also contains some of Elvis’ more personal items.  This photo album was found in Elvis’ desk drawer and contains pictures of his daughter Lisa.  My kids’ baby pictures are in an album just like this one.  It came as part of a package that included a set of encyclopedias, Meta Givens cookbooks (I don’t even know who Meta Givens was but I used the cookbooks a lot) and a large white bound family Bible.

This slot car is the only one left from the set up that used to be in this building.

The Presley’s wedding clothes are also on display here.  We were here on what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.   They were married May 1, 1967 at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

On Lisa Marie’s 4th birthday Elvis couldn’t think of anything she needed.  He finally asked a family friend from Tupelo, MS, to write a poem he could give her.  When the friend gave the poem to Elvis to read he took it to his office and was brought to tears by the feelings it brought to him.  One of his tears stained and smudged the paper.  He took the paper back downstairs and apologized to his friend and asked if she could redo the poem because he had ruined this one.  She told him that no he hadn’t ruined it, it would be even more of a keepsake to Lisa Marie in the future.  This is a copy of the poem, I’m sure Lisa Marie has the original some place safe.

Elvis had a deep respect for law enforcement.  He had large collections of badges and guns.  He held the rank of captain in the Memphis and Denver police departments.  Some of his cars had dashboard police lights.  He was known to have pulled over a few people and warned them about safety infractions before signing some autographs and letting them go.

This portrait was the only one Elvis ever commissioned.  While he was in Las Vegas in 1969 he paid artist Ralph Cowan $18,000 to do this portrait.  It has hung in Graceland ever since.

In yet another building behind the house in 1975 Elvis put $200,000 into a racquetball/fitness center so he could indulge in his favorite sport.  The second floor had a Jacuzzi and dressing rooms.

This piano in the sitting room area of the racquetball building was the center of many jam sessions.  During the last session before he died Elvis played “Moody Blue” and “Unchained Melody” on this piano.  “Unchained Melody” was the first song Greg and I danced to and the one we danced to at our wedding reception.

The pool was the first thing Elvis said needed to be installed after the purchase of Graceland.  By today’s standards it really isn’t very big.

We finally found Elvis and wished him peace, he died at 42 years of age, much too young.

The graves of Elvis, his parents Vernon and Gladys and his paternal grandmother Minnie are in the Meditation Garden on Graceland property.  A marker for his twin brother Jesse who was stillborn is also here.  The caskets of Elvis and his mother were moved by his father in October 1977 with special permission for security purposes from the Forest Hills Cemetery where they were originally buried.

The wall of the Meditation Garden has several stained glass inserts from Spain.

Our view of the gates of Graceland as we were being transported back to our starting point at the ticket building.

This was only half of our day.  We went on to visit the new Elvis Presley’s Memphis exhibit.  I’ll write about that in the next blog.  I get tired of writing at about 1500 words.  I told Greg the other day that writing these entries is like writing a term paper every time – he said that’s why I do it instead of him.  By the time I sort the pictures (usually there are 150-200 of them each time we go out), edit them, decide which ones I want to use in our story and then write the story I have a few hours in each of our posts.