DRIVING THE USA

What I love about travel is the unexpected adventures that can happen along the way.

Rock 'n Soul Museum, Memphis, TN

Like pulling into a roadside park and being told by the gate attendant that the park is ‘clothing optional’.

In that particular scenario, I’m sure the driver and I both wore a ‘deer in the headlights’ expression as we contemplated this fact and in unison responded:

“What?”

Then, a hurried “Is there a place we could turn around?”

As soon as we pulled through the gate we burst out laughing, one of those laughs that completely fills you up with joy and giddiness.

But that was another trip, and another adventure.

I’ve just accompanied my son on a cross-country drive from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Austin, Texas.

We completed this trip in four days. Time was of the essence.

So there were no side trips, and little sightseeing. But we drove through miles and miles of countryside and breathtaking scenery as we passed through each state into the next in our comfortable, air conditioned car.

Virginia Tech University

One thing’s for certain, we live in a vast and beautiful country!

From the lush, rolling hills of Virginia to the flat, dry countryside that envelops Arkansas and Texas, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the experience.

Although the nine hour drive from Virginia to Memphis was maybe a bit much.

In Memphis, we did the tourist thing, having allotted an extra day just for taking in the sights and sounds around this fascinating city, steeped in musical history.

Beale St, Memphis, TN

Our lovely hotel was just around the corner from infamous Beale Street, which was alive with music and restaurants. We ate dinner outdoors, in the sultry heat, beneath a fake palm tree aglow with lights. A live band provided entertainment, belting out one familiar song after another.

Next day, we visited the Rock ‘n Soul Museum. There, we immersed ourselves in the fascinating story that ties soul music and the black experience to the birth of rock and roll.

Many familiar names of my youth, along with musical legends, appeared before me:  Elvis (before my time, actually), Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Isaac Hayes and of course, The Beatles.

You can’t be a tourist in Memphis, and not visit Graceland, so that was next (and last) on our list. Graceland continues to be hugely popular, plus we happened to arrive during the very week commemorating his death thirty some years ago.

Graceland, Memphis, TN

Has it been that long already?

Our tour of the stately, well-cared for mansion tied in nicely with our morning visit to the Rock ‘n Soul Museum. Both were highly educational!

By late afternoon we were off to Little Rock, Arkansas, but unfortunately saw very little of the city during our brief, overnight stay.

Although, I did learn that when dining out for breakfast in the South (where temperatures hovered around 100), you will likely get this question if requesting tea instead of coffee:

“Hot or Iced?”

No one ever asks this in Seattle!

Dallas skyline

Our last day of driving took us to our final destination of Austin, via Dallas where we enjoyed a happy reunion with my nephew and his baby daughter.

I was thrilled to be meeting my great-niece for the first time and can honestly say, (without bias, of course) that she is the cutest, most cheerful one year old I’ve ever encountered.

This was my second visit to Austin, and I enjoyed it just as much the second time around. (I highly recommend the AT & T Conference Center, if you need a place to stay. If you’re lucky, your room will look out on the University of Texas illuminated Clock Tower – spectacular at night!)

Our most surprising adventure took place in a windowless Sears store. We happened to be there while a summer storm raged outside.

We listened to the loud claps of thunder, amid reports from other shoppers of torrential rain. I can only assume that there was also lightning because the next thing we knew the power went out!

The store was darker than dark. As in pitch black.

Lucky for us, the outage lasted only a few seconds, but it was enough to shut down all the computers. We were there a good ten minutes before everything was up and running again.

Not being from the area, I had to ask:  “Does this happen often?”

The salespeople assured me that, no, this had never, ever happened before.

In summary, Memphis was certainly memorable, as was the breathtakingly beautiful campus at Virginia Tech University in lovely Blacksburg, Virginia.

And yes, I did sleep in that Heavenly Bed and it lived up to it’s name!

Even so, it’s good to be home.

Next week, I’ll share my collection of tips on How To Travel ‘Green’!