“Something tells me it’s all happening at the zoo”. Simon and Garfunkel

Memphis was having a heat wave while we were there,but that didn’t stop us from visiting their fantastic zoo.  We decided to get there when it opened and stay until the heat did us in.

Our favorite spot was the big cat exhibit.


We started and ended our visit there. Can you see why?



The African penguins were cute, but we were spoiled by the Antarctic trip, seeing the chinstraps, gentoo and adelie penguins in their natural habitat.

Memphis is rightfully famous for its giant pandas.

I always regretted not riding a camel when we were in Egypt, so when this opportunity came a knockin’, I jumped aboard.

Okay, so maybe this ride was intended for kids, but hey, I’m down with having a second childhood!

I’ve had mornings when I felt like this elephant looks.  In fact, I’ve had mornings when I’ve LOOKED like this elephant looks, especially around the eyes…

Whenever you start feeling that your job is a little too stressful, just think, at least you don’t have THIS guy’s job.

Although I have lots more animal shots, I’m going to end this post before wordpress crashes on me. Remote blogging on the iPad is a bit of a challenge, as I’m sure my fellow bloggers will attest. (any tips or hints would be most appreciated!)

One parting image from the zoo parking lot. Remember those Nashville brides? I think one of them may have followed us here.

“Goin’ to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee”–Paul Simon

Greg was about five years old when Paul Simon released his Graceland album.  I have wonderful memories of the two of us singing along all the way to daycare, Greg’s little blonde head bobbing in time to the music.  I never thought that decades later, we’d be visiting Graceland together! Elvis purchased Graceland when he was 22, and for the time, it was quite a mansion, but not so much by today’s standards.  According to the audio guide, this is the way the living room looked when he lived there. Growing up, I wasn’t a big Elvis fan, but over time, I’ve come to appreciate how much he contributed to popular music.  His achievements are impressive, and the Graceland tour does an effective job highlighting them.

Elvis’ racquetball court is now a display room for his hit records. Pretty impressive, when you see them all amassed in one place.

How sad that his life ended the way it did.   Are there many music superstars that have been able to manage their celebrity? I’m thinking of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the list goes on and on.
The Graceland complex is a marketing machine. We bought the “platinum” tour, (but found a half price ticket on the Internet) which got us into the car museum, the planes, and a couple of rooms with videos of Elvis on tour. Here’s Greg, doing his Elvis imitation, as he climbs into the Lisa Marie, an early jet, that was customized with a bedroom, living room and conference table. Ah, those most definitely were friendly skies!
Other than the mansion itself, every site is accessed through a gift shop containing every item imaginable with Elvis’ name or picture slapped onto it: pajama tops and bottoms, trivets, key chains, sunglasses. It is a money machine…and I’m sure, very good for the city of Memphis, providing jobs for lots of its citizens.
One of the things that I loved most about my former job was my wonderful customers. I traveled to Memphis at least twice a year for the past 10 years, visiting International Paper. We would conduct our meeting then enjoy a fantastic dinner together. Let me tell you, Memphis has some of the best restaurants in the United States!
This time, I had no business responsibilities, but was fortunate enough to spend time with Jim, who graciously took us to lunch and gave us a tour of places I hadn’t discovered on prior visits. The highlight was his partner’s studio.   Brantley has done some amazing pieces, one of which is hanging in the Memphis Civil Rights Museum. Enough for this post…but more on Memphis to follow.

Country, soul, rock and roll–Tennessee’s got me singing the blues

Well, we never made it to the Grand Ol Opry, but we DID stay in the Opryland area, at the Radisson, which was  a more cost effective choice than Gaylord’s Opryland Hotel.

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The Radisson offered a free shuttle that took us to the Gaylord Opryland complex, where we had lunch.  That place was clearly the country western fan’s version of Disneyworld: gorgeous setting, but mediocre, over priced food.

Had we really wanted to attend the Opry, our just-in-time planning would have failed us. Considering that I thought Rascal Flatts was a singer’s name, it wasn’t a huge tragedy that we didn’t get tickets. Instead we made our way downtown, to enjoy the sights and sounds of Broadway.

Looks like Mike and I weren’t the only ones to decide that memorial day weekend was a dandy time to get married.

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Have you ever worried that sitting on a bar stool is bad for your health? Nashville has effectively addressed that issue. Where are the Sombrero sisters when I need them?

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Gives new meaning to “pedaling your body all over town”.

After enjoying the musical offerings on the street and in several bars, we made our way back to the hotel for an authentic barbecue dinner, with authentic country western singers, that will undoubtedly be discovered and soon be playing across the street on the big Opryland stage.

On to Memphis, home of the King!