No… we are not exploring the ancient ruins of the Aztecs. We did not fly away to Egypt to see the pyramids. We are still exploring the U.S. and traveling the highways with our camper. But we did discover a great pyramid and we did see the home of a king…”The King of Rock ‘n Roll”.
We are staying at Cherokee Landing, a Thousand Trails RV resort located nearly seventy miles east of Memphis. It’s a membership based RV resort with locations all over the country. We were given a one year membership when we bought our camper from Lazy Days. Of course there are restrictions and some upgrade offers but for now we will take advantage of the free camping.
We were up early. The morning temperature was an invigorating 58 degrees with clear skies. With a forecasted high of 79 degrees, it was going to be a good day to visit Graceland. We made the drive into Memphis. Parking was easy as it was not crowded. There was no line to purchase the over-priced tickets.
We started our tour with his airplanes. The first was a 1958 Convair 880 with a red, white and blue exterior that he named the Lisa Marie. On the tail was the TCB and lightning bolt logo which stands for “taking care of business in a flash”. The interior was customized to have gold plated bathroom fixtures and seat belt buckles, state of the art stereo system, a conference room, a TV room and in the back was a bed. The second plane was a ten passenger Lockheed Jetstar with green and yellow seats. Elvis traveled in style.
We boarded a shuttle bus to take us across Elvis Presley Boulevard to Graceland. I remember Elvis Presley. I know his story. I listened to his music on the radio. I’ve watched his movies. He was a good entertainer and I liked what he did. But I have never felt a desire to visit Graceland…until now.
We entered the 14 acre estate through the iconic Graceland gates. The shuttle dropped us right at the front door. Four large white columns framed the entrance of the 23 room 17,552 square foot mansion. Only part of the mansion is open for the tour though, as the Presley family still use the upper floor. Graceland is second only to the White House as the most visited house in the United States.
We entered through the front door into the foyer. On the right was the living room with white furnishings and on the left was an elegant formal dining room with a crystal chandelier.
As we moved along from one room to the next the extravagance of Elvis was apparent. The pool room with pleated fabric walls and the famous jungle room with a wild animal decor are two examples.
Some of the other rooms we saw were his mother’s bedroom, the kitchen, and the TV room complete with a bar. Walking outside we saw a barn and horses grazing in the field. We walked through Vernon’s office. Vernon Presley was Elvis’s father and he managed the estate. We toured the trophy room and the racquetball building.
We walked past the kidney shaped swimming pool toward meditation garden where Elvis and his family are laid to rest.
Getting back on the shuttle our next stop was Elvis’s car museum. Like I said, Elvis traveled in style. There were all sorts of luxury cars from Cadillacs to Rolls Royces. The well known pink Cadillac was a personal favorite. However the two Rolls Royces, one black and one white, were very impressive too.
We ended the tour with a stop at the museum that displayed personal items own by Elvis. Hanging on the walls were gold records, photographs and paintings. Featured in glass enclosed cases were his iconic jumpsuits worn at concerts.
For grammi and I, the Graceland tour is something we would only do once because it was on our bucket list. We spent about four hours there. We were fascinated by some things but we really didn’t feel awe struck. The Elvis name has been commercialized to the point that it makes more money today than when he was alive. The tickets were pricey for the experience. I wonder what Elvis would think about it all.
After leaving Graceland we were driving toward Mud Island when we saw a large glass covered pyramid along the banks of the Mississippi River. Drawn by curiosity we turned off and started heading that way and discovered it was a Bass Pro Shop. It was nothing like any Bass Pro Shop I’ve ever seen so we had to go inside and check it out. WOW! I was amazed by the place. The cypress swamp theme had the quality and feel of a Disney attraction. It’s like walking into a cypress swamp. A perfect recreation complete with fake cypress trees and Spanish moss hanging in the branches. A variety of fish were swimming in the water. I saw a giant gar fish. There were ducks on the pond and even an alligator or two.
The store still offers their typical retail inventory and there is the iconic large aquarium that all Bass Pro Shops have, but this place is not just a fishing tackle and sporting goods store but a destination attraction. On the third floor of the pyramid is a 103 room hotel. Big Cypress lodge has rooms with a private screened-in porch overlooking the cypress swamp below.
In the center of the pyramid is an elevator going up to an observation deck and restaurant overlooking the Memphis skyline where there are views of the Mississippi River. At 28 stories high, it is said to be the worlds tallest freestanding elevator.
The store within a store concept offers a variety of shops and restaurants. There is a 13 lane bowling ally inside of Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill. There is a live 25 yard pistol and archery range where you can come and practice your shooting skills. There’s a hard to resist fudge shop. There is a waterfowl museum offered by Duck Unlimited.
This bass Pro Shop in Memphis was an awesome find and I certainly want to come back. I could spend hours inside and we just didn’t have time on this visit to do that.
We continued on to Mud Island, an upscale area in Memphis along the Mississippi River. We had a dinner date with Analise and Frank at Tug’s. Analise and our daughter Kacie grew up together. We went to her and Frank’s wedding last year and Analise is going to be in Kacie’s wedding later this year. Frank was recently transferred to Memphis so we thought it would be nice to stop and spend a couple hours. The food was good and we all had a nice chat. We left feeling happy for the chance to see them while we were here.
The rest of our stay at Cherokee landing was mostly uneventful. It was a quiet campground with only a few campers and not a lot of activities close by the area. We spend time reading and doing little things like reorganizing the back of the pickup for easier access to the things I am using the most.
We did go off one morning for an short hike at the Mineral Slough Boardwalk, Ghost River State Natural Area. This is an area where the Wolf River is said to disappear as it widens out in a broad vegetation-filled swamp. We were lucky to find a ranger on the boardwalk who was helpful describing this ecosystem. It was interesting to learn the area was know for it’s numerous variety of trees all in a small area. She told us there were fifty varieties of trees found along the half mile trail, many of them posted with a sign with the name of the tree.
We went into Middleton, the closest town, one afternoon to go to the post office and fuel up the truck. While we were there we found a geocache to add to our growing collection.
We stayed four nights at Cherokee Landing and I was not too impressed… at first. Honestly though, I became fond of the place. It was clean and everything worked. I loved that it was remote but had phone service. I was able to do some reading and to get some work done. Heck, it was free camping with full hookups. What is there to complain about?