June 6, 2020

Week 29: Rolling into Memphis

45s at Stax Records…

(All photos by the author).

The circle is almost complete.

This week sees us pass a crucial milestone, as we begin month seven on the road. Weíve now been continuously traveling longer than ever before, as we surpass our former record set back in 2007 when we completed our six month backpacking journey around the world.

The difference between being on the road long term and a long weekend getaway is the difference between a sprint and a marathon: new routines need to be established, bills still get paid, and writing time is grabbed wherever it presents itself. Itís all too easy sometimes to treat long term travel like a permanent vacation, at the expense of workout routines, diet and financial discipline.

But after a while, the road seems like home. This week saw us continue our trek eastward as we finished up our brief break in Dallas/Fort Worth and once again crossed the Mississippi River into Tennessee. It was a Memphis weekend, as we explored the roots of rock and roll and the civil rights movement.

Approaching Stax Records.

Our first stop was the Stax Recording Studio in downtown Memphis. Several big name acts got their start here, including Ray Charles, Otis Redding and B.B. King. Stax had fallen into disrepair after its closure in the early 1970s. The new museum offers a fascinating tour through Memphis soul music history. And donít miss such gems as the car driven by Isaac Hayes in the film Shaft, on display at Stax:

Our next stop was the National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis. It was a rainy day when we visited, befitting the somber mood of the museum’s location. Situated as part of the former Loraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the Civil Rights Museum traces the movement for racial equality, from the roots of slavery in America up to the present day.

On display at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

The refurbished museum is laid out as a journey, marking key milestones through the civil rights movement in the 1960ís and culminating with a look at the room where Doctor King spent his final hours. The assassinís bullet came from the boarding house across the street, which now houses an exhibit documenting the crime scene.

We also made a stop at the 3 Dog Bakery just outside of town, to stock up on Christmas pet treats for Astro-Lab:

Xmas canine treats at 3 Dogs Bakery.

We also made the mandatory pilgrimage to Graceland. The Batcave and Fortress of Solitude all rolled into one for the King of Rock and Roll, all things Elvis are on display here in whatís now a major tourist landmark, from his 70ís dťcor TV den, to an exhibit hall featuring Elvisís numerous awards and accolades that spills out into the racquetball court on the grounds. Donít miss the complete collection of automobiles owned by Elvis, as well as a curious display of sequined caped jumpsuits worn during his Vegas years.

Seen at Graceland… and you think your mancave has the ultimate I-love-me-wall!

And just across town, you can visit where the King got his start. Sun Records not only launched Elvis into international fame, but gave Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and many other rock and roll icons their start as well. Donít miss the collection of early recording devices, and watch for the studio amplifier rigged up with a cardboard insert, one of the first examples of distortion known.

A fine collection of classic axes at Sun Records.

Our trek this week sees us close the circle in Macon, Georgia before making a sprint up the U.S. East Coast to Aroostook County Maine.

More to come!

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