Walking in Memphis
Updated: May 23
The Memphis Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee
America in Two Weeks
After my Indonesia Christmas trip, I began to quickly fall in love with travel and I wanted to do more of it. Since I still had a job in China, I couldn't just travel anytime I wanted. But the Chinese Spring Festival was shortly after Christmas, so I decided that I wanted to see more of my own country in the two weeks that I had off work. So, I planned a seven city trip that would include California, the Midwest, the South, New York, Florida, and Texas. Boy, was it an exciting trip and a memorable one that further confirmed my God-given "calling" on this Earth to be a traveler, explorer, and career vagabond.
(Arrival in Memphis & Beale Street)
I had left Carbondale via the Amtrak after spending a few days in "So Ill" visiting old friends and family. I could still feel the goodness inside of me from that great reunion, as I was able to see places and people that I hadn't seen or spoken to in about 20 years. There's nothing like a trip down memory lane to rejuvenate a person and to remind them of who and what they are.
It was an overnight train that took about 5 hours, but I had a Superliner Roomette that allowed me to have a bed and sleep with some privacy.
We went straight south and pretty much followed the Mississippi River down.
I sleep about as well on trains as I do on airplanes, which is not much at all.
I did doze off, though, as I was thinking about all my childhood memories.
I arrived at the Memphis Central Station around 6am and grabbed a taxi.
Sunset Inn in West Memphis
I had booked a room at the Sunset Inn in West Memphis, a cheap, 2.5-star hotel. I had to keep my expenses to a minimum because I had a lot of traveling to do. West Memphis is across the Mississippi River from Memphis.
It's not the best part of Memphis, but I was only sleeping there.
Oh, I also decided to do laundry there after the first day, and decided to wear my Marlins shirt again the next day. It's a comfortable shirt.
When I arrived at the hotel, I paid the taxi and then walked into the lobby.
I rang the buzzer and an Indian man walked out. I knew he was from India because he told me. He said that I couldn't check in yet because it was too early. Naturally, I was upset because I was tired and it was early in the morning and it was in the lower 30s outside. He told me that I couldn't stay in the lobby and that's when I got mad and dropped a couple of F-bombs. He got mad and told me to leave. Well, after a couple of minutes with both of us fuming at each other, he told me that he could let me have a room sooner rather than later and that I could keep my bags with him until it was time to check in, around 10am.
I had explained to him my situation and that I had no vehicle. He told me where the McDonald's was nearby and it was walking distance. I went over there and had breakfast and read the newspaper. I know this sounds stupid, but I had never felt so good to have a McDonald's breakfast around Southern looking and Southern sounding people, while reading an English language newspaper. I really missed all that from being in Asia for so long.
The hotel owner/manager was nice enough to come pick me up in his truck at 10am and take me back to the hotel. Did I mention how much I missed Southern hospitality as well?
Once I got checked in to my room, it was lights out, literally and figuratively.
I slept very very well on that nice, cozy, springy American mattress.
I woke up after a few hours and then I had to catch up with folks on Facebook. I needed to let everyone know what was going on. I had contacted an old friend of mine whom I had met in Texas while attending college there.
She was now living in Tennessee and not too far from Memphis.
We were gonna meet up the next day.
I decided to head out to Beale Street and check it out, since I'd never seen it.
So, I called a taxi and headed out there before it became dark.
In the early afternoon the taxi dropped me off near Union Avenue.
I walked down Union Avenue before heading to Beale Street.
Since it was Sunday in Memphis, there were church services going on.
I came across a preacher with a cowboy hat on. I had to get a selfie.
Church on Union Avenue
As I walked toward Beale Street, I noticed that Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood were in town for a Super Bowl concert. They performed at the FedEx Forum, where the Memphis Grizzlies play.
Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood in Memphis
When I arrived at Beale Street, I began to understand why it's famous.
Beale Street was established in 1841 by an entrepreneur and developer named, Robertson Topp (1807–1876). Topp named it for an unknown Mexican-American War hero. The original name was Beale Avenue.
The western end of the street consisted of trade merchants, who traded goods with ships along the Mississippi River. The eastern part developed as a wealthy suburb. During the 1860s, many black traveling musicians began performing on Beale Street. The first Beale Street band was the Young Men's Brass Band, which was formed by Sam Thomas in 1867.
The Orpheum Theatre, a part of the Orpheum Theatre Group, hosts a number of different shows which include Broadway productions, ballets, concerts, comedians, movies, educational events, among other events.
King Jerry Lawler's Hall of Fame Bar & Grille
There is a variety of food and drinks available at Lawler's restaurant which include entrees, appetizers, desserts, and specialty items. Click the link above for the full menu and other information about the venue.
Jerry "The King" Lawler
Jerry "The King" Lawler is a professional wrestler who is currently signed with the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), and has been since 1992.
B.B. King's Blues Club
B.B. King's Blues Club is a bar, restaurant, and live music club that offers classic soul and rock 'n roll performances, along with great barbeque and signature drinks. It's located at the top of Beale Street.
B.B. King (1925-2015)
Riley B. King, AKA B.B. King, was an American blues singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. He introduced a unique and sophisticated style of soloing that influenced many later electric blues stars.
B.B. King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame
About a century ago, music began to get popular in Memphis. Memphis is traditionally known for its Blues genre, but many different styles have become popularized here. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame highlights the biggest names who have come to Memphis (or who are from Memphis) and who have had a huge impact on the world with their music. It is these artists and their talent who have helped to build the Memphis music legacy.
Celebrate St. Patrick's Day year round at Silky O'Sullivan's venue. With a variety of food and drinks, along with live music, this place is a great place to visit and enjoy the Irish-themed atmosphere. It's also available for private parties and can be reserved in advance by contacting the venue.
Beale Street (Gallery)
All the lights, music, and the smell of the great food in the air all add to the appeal of Beale Street. I walked around and was able to get some decent pictures of the area. I was supposed to meet up with a friend the next day, but for the time being, I was gonna enjoy the night.
Besides, it was Superbowl Sunday and the Patriots were playing the Falcons.
Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street
I couldn't think of any better place to watch the game than at Hard Rock Cafe, and what made it an even better place was the fact that they actually accepted China UnionPay cards!! I couldn't believe it. I could use my funds in my bank back in China to cover the evening expenses at Hard Rock.
It's rare for places in the States, especially in a state like Tennessee, to accept UnionPay card payments. But Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street was an exception. It was a helluva night at Hard Rock as the Patriots pulled off the most historic upset in NFL Superbowl history after coming back from a 28-3 deficit at halftime, to winning an overtime squeaker, 34-28.
Tom Brady After Defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI
I had some good food and met an Irish couple who was in the States on their honeymoon, which was cool. They were staying near Graceland. I also got to know the manager. He seemed like a good guy. It was a great night at the Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis, Tennessee. I'm a big fan of Hard Rock Cafe.
Since the taxi service in Memphis is God-awful, the manager called an Uber for me and the Irish couple. The driver dropped them off first and as we were headed back to my hotel, we talked about my China life. The driver was so interested in my story, he called his girlfriend on speakerphone and wanted me to tell her about teaching English in China. I gave him my contact info and told him that he could get a hold of me anytime. I was back at the Sunset Inn and I was ready to crash after a nice warm shower. I was supposed to meet up with a friend the next day and I needed to be recharged for that.
(The Memphis Pyramid)
As I was saying, I was supposed to meet up with an old friend and we were going to meet at a the Starbucks across the street from the FedEx Forum, where the Memphis Grizzlies NBA basketball team plays.
FedEx Forum Near Beale Street in Memphis
While I waited for my friend, Krista, I got on Facebook and said my "thank yous" to those who had attended the "get together" at Bleyer Lake Lodge a couple of days back. It was a great reunion and one that I hope can be repeated, someday.
Krista called me as she got closer and I met her outside of Starbucks. We were excited to see each other after 8 years. We had become good friends in Nacogdoches, Texas, while I was an MBA student at Stephen F. Austin State University. Time sure does fly. We headed toward the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid in downtown Memphis near the Mississippi River.
When we arrived I was impressed at the huge complex.
Bass Pro Shops at the Memphis Pyramid
We walked around inside and had lunch at Uncle Buck's Fishbowl & Grill.
Inside the Bass Pro Shops at the Memphis Pyramid
Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill is an aquatic type of restaurant and bar with a saltwater aquarium and a 13-lane bowling alley that has a unique kind of atmosphere and is a family-oriented type of venue.
Uncle Buck's Fishbowl & Grill at the Memphis Pyramid
Bowling Alley Inside Uncle Buck's Fishbowl & Grill at the Memphis Pyramid
Big Cypress Lodge is a 103-room wilderness hotel inside the Pyramid and is the first hotel inside any Bass Pro Shops location. There are many rooms that offer a private screened-in porch with rocking chairs that offer some nice scenery of the swamp below along with the visitors.
There is also a shooting range and archery range for adult guests to enjoy.
And then there is also a fun family gun range for everyone to enjoy.
The Memphis Pyramid also hosts a Bait & Tackle store, Archery Pro Shop, and a Beretta Fine Gun Center for gun enthusiasts who want to purchase a new firearm for themselves or as a gift for someone else.
Bait & Tackle Store at the Memphis Pyramid
Beretta Fine Gun Center at the Memphis Pyramid
The Beretta Fine Gun Center offers gun lovers premium and gallery grade firearms, as well as shotguns for hunting. There are a wide variety of Beretta pistols, including the famous M9. A wide variety of apparel and hunting gear is also available. This Beretta Gallery is the third in the United States.
Ducks Unlimited Waterfowling Heritage Center at the Memphis Pyramid
The Ducks Unlimited Waterfowling Heritage Center is a museum showcasing the history of waterfowling and wetlands conservation. It was established in partnership with Memphis-based Ducks Unlimited. The Center allows visitors to learn more about the incredible wildlife found along the Mississippi Flyway and the importance of conserving wetlands. Visitors can learn more about different waterfowl species, can interact with experts, and check out a wide variety of waterfowl decoys.
Aquarium & Fish Feeding at the Memphis Pyramid
Every day from 10am to 3pm, people can check out the aquarium. Associates scuba dive in the aquarium and hand feed the fish while using a microphone to tell spectators about the different species.
Elevator Leading to The Lookout at the Pyramid
As you can see, there is much to see and do in the Memphis Pyramid and there are activities for the whole family to enjoy. The lodging available makes it more convenient for travelers who want to explore and enjoy the whole place, which would take at least a couple of days even for a young person.
I decided to save my personal favorite for last, which is The Lookout and Glass Observation Deck, which is where you can catch a panoramic view of downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River.
The Lookout at The Pyramid & Glass Observation Deck at the Memphis Pyramid (Gallery)
This is a part of the Big Cypress Lodge. In my opinion, it is the best attraction at The Pyramid and one of the best attractions in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Lookout at The Pyramid & Glass Observation Deck at the Memphis Pyramid
I love how I had just visited the Mississippi River in Grand Tower, Illinois, just a couple of days before and now I was seeing it again but from a different, more aerial kind of angle. When you consider the history and impact of the Mississippi River and how it has helped to shape so many towns and cities, it helps you to appreciate it that much more. When it comes to American folklore, there's almost nothing like a Mark Twain novel to help one develop a special love for the "mighty" Mississippi River. It's even more special when you're someone who grew up near the Mississippi River and have known it your whole life. The Midwest "river culture" is special in so many ways.
Elvis Presley (AKA The King of Rock and Roll)
Elvis Presley Legacy
Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8th, 1935. Elvis and his family moved to Memphis in 1948 and he graduated from Humes High School in 1953. Elvis’ musical influences included the pop and country music of the time, along with the gospel music he heard in church and at all-night gospel sings. As a teenager, Elvis was exposed to the black R&B music on Beale Street, which was another major influence on him and his career.
Elvis Presley in the 1950s
Elvis began his singing career in 1953 with the Sun Records label in Memphis. By late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, Elvis had become an international sensation. Elvis had a unique sound and style blended his diverse musical influences and challenged the social and racial issues of that time. Elvis established a brand new era of American music and popular culture, which many later musicians can credit their success to.
Elvis in the Movies DVD Box Set
Elvis had become so popular that Hollywood began to show an interest in him. He starred in 33 successful films. Elvis became known for his record-breaking live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas. Elvis has sold over 1 billion records, worldwide, which is more than any other artist in history. Speaking solely on the American market, sales have earned him gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, there are more Elvis Presley fan clubs than any other fan club.
Elvis with a Platinum Record
Elvis had many awards and accolades which include 14 Grammy nominations (3 wins) from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received at age 36.
Elvis in the U.S. Army
On March 24, 1958, Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army. To no surprise, his arrival to his induction was a major media event. Hundreds of people, including fans and photographers, followed Elvis to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
Elvis donated his Army pay to charity and to his unit for better TV sets and fatigues. Elvis served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960. Elvis was stationed in Germany, where he met Priscilla Beaulieu, whom he would eventually marry after a seven year courtship. They married on May 1st, 1967.
Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu in 1962
During his time in the U.S. Army, Elvis had 10 top 40 hits. He focused on movies from 1960 to 1967. In 1968, he made a comeback to the music scene with a showed dubbed, "'68 Comeback Special," which was a big success.
Elvis at the '68 Comeback Special Concert
Elvis would go on to produce and perform several more #1 singles.
It's hard to imagine how just one person could have that much impact on the world. Elvis Presley continues inspire people to this day, long after his death.
Elvis Presley died at his Graceland estate on August 16th, 1977.
Elvis Presley purchased Graceland for March 25th, 1957 for $102,500, after his parents put a $1,000 downpayment on it. The cost of the home back then would be like paying $911,000 today. Elvis purchased almost 14 acres of land.
At that time, Graceland made up a little over 10,000 square feet.
Today, Graceland makes up over 17,000 square feet.
Gates of Graceland
"Grace" was the name of the previous owner's aunt, who sold the estate to Elvis. Their names were Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Moore.
Before Elvis purchased the land it was used as a farm to raise Hereford cattle.
Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie, is the current sole owner of the estate.
Over 600,000 visitors visit Graceland every year.
In 1991, it was added to the American National Register of Historic Places.
View of Graceland from Above
There are events that go on, year round, at Graceland. These events include Christmas at Graceland, Elvis Birthday Celebration, Graceland Performing Arts Camp, and daily tours. Normal daily hours of operation are from 9am to 5pm, but hours do vary depending on the time of the year.
3764 Elvis Presley Blvd Memphis, TN 38116
After two extraordinary days in Memphis, it was time to catch my flight to New York City. It was my first time to fly to NYC, so I was super excited.
Leaving Memphis at the Memphis International Airport
Map of Tennessee in the United States
National Civil Rights Musuem
Stax Musuem of American Soul Music
Memphis & Tennessee Tourism Websites
Memphis has a population of about 650,000.
Memphis was founded in 1819 by a group of wealthy Americans, which included John Overton and U.S. President Andrew Jackson.
During the Antebellum South days in the 1800s, Memphis was a major hub for the slave trade. Cotton was a major domestic commodity in those days.
Memphis, along with the rest of Tennessee, seceded from the Union in 1861. It was recaptured by Union forces in 1862 and was held for the rest of the Civil War.
Memphis is home to Tennessee's largest African-American population and was a prominent location of the American Civil Rights Movement. It is where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
FedEx is the largest employer in Memphis.
Modern Memphis serves as a regional center for commerce, art, education, media, and entertainment.
The city attraction hundreds of thousands of visitors every year due to its musical heritage, along with its food and cultural heritage.
Elvis Presley and Graceland are synonymous with Memphis.
Memphis barbecue is famous, worldwide, as the city hosts its annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which is a part of its annual Memphis in May International Festival.
Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn
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