Memphis, Queen of the delta – believe it or not the delta of the Mississippi commences up here. What we would ordinarily consider to be the delta at the river mouth is the creation of the last ice age filling in the opening existing prior to the ice.
We left the American Queen on a tour bus with the plan that the bus would drop us at our hotel. The first stop was the Tourist Information Centre. Elvis and B.B. King are big personalities in Memphis as borne out by the large statues in the Information Centre. During the tour our tour guide sang and played her guitar as she told the story of Elvis and B.B. King in Memphis. We visited an open air auditorium where Elvis used to play before becoming a household name. We saw the recording studio and other sights but all a bit weak. Nevertheless, it was a great introduction helping us to find all the things we would do in the next 5 days except our hotel.
After locating our hotel (which was under renovation – not amused) we took a walk in Main Street where the tram line runs and the tram occasionally does too . There were blokes in blue official looking shirts riding bikes around Main St and they were a mix of tourist information and Policing. A good idea actually. Walked down to Beale St (not a tram in sight) but there was nothing happening due to daylight being present. They follow the practice of keeping the heritage front of a building and whacking a new building behind. We spent the rest of the day doing very little of anything as did the rest of Memphis. Where is everybody?
The following day Kerry was very weary so she stayed in bed whilst I went to the National Civil Rights Museum just past Beale St on the tram line. Built around the Lorraine Motel where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated it is a historical record of slavery and its origins and the struggle of African Americans to be recognised as equal in America. Photos were not permitted inside the museum but it is riveting in its explanation of the growth of the civil rights movement and the racial hatred on both sides of the colour divide. I was fascinated by what I did not know of this part of the American history. It reminded me of the statements my mother made about the American soldiers visiting Brisbane during W.W.2 and how the coloured soldiers weren’t allowed in just any pub they had one allocated on the west side of the Victoria Bridge I think it was the “Crown and Anchor” – long since disappeared from South Brisbane.
The museum is in two parts the first being the Lorraine Motel where Dr King was staying containing the history of the national civil rights movement including Dr King’s assassination and the second part in a building on the opposite side of the road being an old boarding house from which James Earl Ray fired the killing shot. this part details the assassination, the investigation, the capture, and the conspiracies around the assassination.
I spent the whole day at the museum and I was moved by the images and the history and the even-handed presentation of the events it dealt with.
As you enter Memphis across the Bridge from Arkansas you are met by a large metallic pyramid once the home of the local NBA basketball team “the Grizzlies” and now the home of Bass Pro Shop Megastore and the 100-room hotel known as the Big Cypress Lodge. The Pyramid contains 600,000 gallons of water features and the largest collection of waterfowl and hunting related equipment in the world. In addition to the retail store itself, Bass Pro at the Pyramid is home to an archery range, shooting range, and laser arcade. The building also includes an Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill with a bowling alley and a saltwater aquarium. The tallest freestanding elevator in America takes visitors to The Lookout at the Pyramid at the apex of the building, where they can take in the view on an indoor and outdoor observation deck or dine and drink at the “Sky High Catfish Cabin”, a restaurant, bar, and aquarium at the top of the building. See for your self – and you can buy any automatic rifle or hand gun just as though you were shopping in Target (no pun intended).
Upon entering we encountered the largest range of fishing rods and stuck in the middle an ag bike being raffled or you can buy it. the store is supposed to depict a Mississippi swampland with big buttress trees standing in sluggish waterways filled with strange creatures – fish and alligators. Of course you can buy your swamp boat just yonder in bayou. Then there are the aquariums huge tubs of water with fish over a foot long. Standing in the middle is the free standing elevator to the summit – its not free USD $10 per person for the journey the entrance to the Lodge/hotel is to all intents a hunting lodge. And what is a hunting trip without a concealable hand gun or an automatic Armalite.
The trip up the elevator was a little alarming watching as everything on all four sides fell away. That is part of the hunting lodge you can see but once at the top it was truly magnificent. Essentially a restaurant and bar but with an enormous aquarium stuck in the middle and a viewing platform outside. You can see down to the entrance into the pyramid, the bridge to Arkansas, the city centre and up and down the Mississippi including over to Mud Is (Yes a novel name).
That night we went back to Beale St where there was a restored American road car show and far too much daylight to go inside the restaurant. The B.B. King tribute restaurant is on the first floor overlooking the action in Beale St and Second Ave. After dinner we listened to a fabulous band playing B.B. King covers whilst sitting in the bar. emblazoned on the wall was the name of that guitar. We had the real thing in a set of CDs bought from the BB king Museum, so we resisted the stage hand selling the cover band’s CD. Out in the street there were people everywhere, but we are told it was not busy. Unfortunately, lots of people living on the streets and hustlers everywhere. There was a booze bike going around appearing to be powered by the persons seated drinking but on closer examination it is motorised with the peddles just for show. On the walk back to the hotel we went past the Orpheum Theatre. What a day.