- Where We Started: Memphis, Tenn.
- Where We Ended: Little Rock, Ark.
- Miles Driven: 487 (3,488 total)
- New States: Arkansas
- Total States: 10 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
It was an eventful day on the FHMA tour on Saturday, as four weary travelers spent much of the day in the car, seeing an eclectic mix of sights. And it ended badly, with the first complete meltdown of the trip by one of the quartet. But more on that later.
The day began with a quick driving tour of Memphis. As I mentioned yesterday, we decided not to do Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum or other tourist sites, since we did them in 2003 and wanted to see some new places. We did drive past about 10 famous Memphis sites in about an hour, though, including the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studios, Beale Street and others. The only actual stop was to fix an error from back in 2003, when I screwed up and set my camera improperly when trying to take pictures outside the National Civil Rights Museum. If left me with nothing usable, so I wanted to rectify that.
Now, I have been to the Civil Rights Museum twice, and it is one of the finest museums in the country. On each visit, I felt like I could have stayed another few hours. That is not the case with Graceland; to me, if you've seen it once, that's plenty. But because we care about our faithful readers, we did a 45-mile-per-hour tour of Elvis's final home and resting place. Joan snapped this as I blew past.
From Elvis's final home, we went to his first home: Tupelo, Miss. Here, there was no shag carpeting, no bearskin rugs, no hideously gaudy decor. In fact, Elvis's first home was everything Graceland was not.
The home is just a part of the Elvis Presley Birthplace complex. Also there: Elvis's first church, an Elvis statue, a birthplace museum, a fountain and a city park. Apparently, after he became, you know, ELVIS, he returned to Tupelo to perform, and saw that the site of his former birthplace was up for sale. So he told the city he'd donate all of revenue from the concert to the city, as long as they turned the site into a city park. And Tupelo said, "Thank you, thank you very much."
Tupelo also features the relatively new Tupelo Automobile Museum, which features hundreds of vintage cars, going back to the late 1800s. This is crack for auto junkies, as every car features a button you can push to hear the history of either that specific car or the make. There are some celebrity cars there as well. Including -- OK, c'mon, you can guess -- one of Elvis's old Lincolns. Also on site: A candelabra-adorned car once owned by Liberace.
We then took a nice ride through the pretty university town of Oxford, Miss., and then concluded our drive across Mississippi with a stop in Clarksdale. This Delta town has clearly seen better times, but I wanted to stop because it's the city where, legend has it, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads of town. Now called, less sexily, the intersection of DeSoto and State streets, this famous intersection pays homage to the story.
From there, it was a too-long drive to Little Rock, Ark., where we wearily arrived in the hotel room at around 10pm local time. Everything seemed to be going fine, as we settled into our nightly routine: Joan started looking at her pictures, I started thinking about writing and the dogs chilled out.
It all started innocently enough. Fred decided to hop off the bed and relax underneath it, as he did a few nights back in Memphis. He stayed down there a while, but when he decided to come out from under the bed, found himself stuck. So he whined until Joan realized he needed help. Joan tried, but he'd wedged himself in pretty well. So Joan suggested I lift the bed to give him the space to get out. We tried, but the bed was really, really heavy, and Fred wasn't doing much to get himself out. Eventually, I had to drop the bed a little -- not all the way -- but that little drop caused Fred to freak out. Seemingly under the impression we were trying to hurt him and not help him, he started snarling and biting at the hands -- namely, mine -- that were holding up the bed. This was about the most aggressive we've ever seen Fred, who is generally well-behaved and mellow. I tried to fight fire with fire, and made it clear to him who was boss. Let's just say he wasn't impressed. On top of all this, Fred has now started to bark wildly, and it's 11:30pm. So we have a snarling, barking, completely out of control dog on our hands. We've long since accepted that security is coming; we're just trying to figure out how we're going to be able to get Fred out in order to move to the new hotel we're surely going to need.
Now, please remember, through all of this, I'm still holding up the very heavy bed, which is still fully loaded with a mattress and box spring. Matters are not helped by Hank, who has decided to start barking as well and is now next to Fred, under the bed I'm precariously holding, presumably out of some need for canine solidarity.
Thankfully, Joan takes the long view, and gets Fred's most favorite treats out of her magic dog bag, and starts drawing Fred out slowly, like E.T. with Reese's Pieces. I was not confident in this approach, as Fred was acting demonic. But, no matter how evil a beagle can behave, food is always the priority. So Joan finally entices Hank out from under the bed, and Fred, sure enough, starts to eat these treats and slowly walks his way out as well. Five minutes after it started, it's over. And, immediately, Fred is contrite. He comes over to me, and lays down next to me, and soon repeats the same act with Joan. Our best guess is he got scared, felt trapped and, for some reason, snapped. All seems well this morning, as Fred has been kissing both our asses. As well he should.
Oh, and by the way, security never came. Or maybe they did, arrived outside the door, heard what appeared to be Cujo, and decided they weren't getting paid nearly enough.
- It was a hard day overall for Fred. I mentioned in Fred's profile that, on the 2003 trip, he developed a short, hilarious habit of attacking our windshield wipers from inside the car. Finding little success at this, he eventually stopped, and this behavior was not seen again. On this trip, he made one brief attack on the wipers in Florida, but that was it. So when we stopped for gas in Memphis on Saturday, and I decided to clean the windshield with a squeegee at the station, I wasn't even thinking about how Fred might react. Alas, he went bananas. This story is better told with pictures. (Of course, these pictures were taken after Fred's initial attack, as we wanted to capture these images).
- Now, I am a child, so I enjoyed Fred's reaction so much that I washed the windshield for about 10 minutes longer than necessary. Hey, why not? Fred's a sweet dog; I'm sure this taunting won't have any long-term effect. It's not like he's going to get to the hotel and act like a pit bull. Right? Anyway, this brilliant maneuver on my part may have led to Fred's late meltdown. It also didn't achieve much in terms of the windshield. As we're driving away from the gas station, I see that the bug spatter that covered the outside of the windshield is now indeed gone, but it's been replaced by Fred nose smudges on the inside of the windshield. That'll teach me to be a smart ass. Maybe. OK, probably not.
- As we were driving toward Tupelo and playing Elvis, we heard "In the Ghetto." Is it just me, or should Elvis really have stayed away from taking up social causes in songs? It just sounds weird to hear Elvis -- who dressed like a pimp, shot out TVs whenever Robert Goulet came on and was generally a pretty sheltered, out-of-touch guy -- to be singing about the plight of poor kids in the ghetto. Even if he himself was once one of those kids. Comes off like Liberace doing a song about the nation's crack problem.
- Great piece of useless sports trivia. The official speed limit of the University of Mississippi is 18 miles per hour. Why 18 miles per hour, you ask? It's because the school's greatest football player of all time -- Archie Manning, Peyton and Eli's dad -- wore No. 18 when he played. Too bad Ole Miss's best player of all time wasn't a wide receiver. (Joke translation for non-sports fans: Wide receivers tend to wear numbers in the 80s, so had they matched the speed limit to a wide receiver, I could have driven 80 miles per hour through campus. Thank you, I'll be here all week).
- Walking out of the Tupleo Automobile Museum, Joan noticed one of the odder sights thus far in our journey: A man wearing jeans who had written on the leather tag, "1977." Now, one can only assume this refers to the year. Does anyone reading this date their jeans? Was 1977 a particularly good year for Levis? Was the climate right, allowing for a particularly tasty harvest. Either way, that's one bouquet I don't want to smell. And if the "1977" does refer to the year, had he really had these jeans for 32 years? A quick glance suggested it was possible.
- While leaving Tupelo, we passed the Tupelo National Battlefield. Really quickly. This national battlefield measures a grand total of one acre, meaning its slightly bigger than our backyard. That must have been quite a battle.
- Talk about good fortune: Currently running for mayor in Elvis's hometown of Tupelo: James R. Presley. It's unclear whether he's related to THE Presley family, but unless he's running against a guy named Robert E. Lee, I'm feeling good about his chances.
FHMA PROGRAMMING NOTES
- Some of you have asked whether we were going to use maps to show where we've been. We've had one, in the nav at the top of the blog, since they day we launched. So if you want to see where we've been, check out The Trip So Far. (I have not added Saturday's drive yet).
- If you're trying to read FHMA on your mobile phone, and the display and/or images sizes are an issue, try going to Mowser.com on your mobile device, and plugging in the URL fredandhank.typepad.com. It will then produce an easier-to-read post. I don't see a way to automate that process, but it will help make the post easier to read. Thanks to Jim Hassert for the excellent tip.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Because the Night," by Patti Smith. This is a terrific song, one later covered by Bruce Springsteen. But my best Patti Smith story has nothing to do with her music. I once insisted to a few friends from The Post that John McEnroe had married Patti Smith, and while it seemed like a strange match, it was indeed the case. One of my colleagues responded by saying, "Next thing you're going to tell me is that Maria Sharapova is married to Gene Hackman." But I had checked it on the Internet, and as we all know, the Internet is never wrong. Alas, it was,and I was. McEnroe is actually married to Patty Smyth, former lead singer of Scandal. That makes more sense.
- Most-played albums: We played a lot of Elvis today, and also listened to some of Stax's best artists -- Otis Redding, Booker T & The MGs and Wilson Pickett. In a more mellow mood later in the day, I listened to "In a Silent Way," by Miles Davis.
- Lunch: Phillips Grocery, Holly Springs, Miss.: This ramshackle, memorabilia-adorned hole in the wall was listed in Roadfood and in Hamburger America as a must-stop joint. Good news: They were both right. The burgers melted in our mouths, even though I'm generally not a big fan of mustard on burgers. Joan loved her corn nuggets -- which we think were made by taking sweet creamed corn and breading and frying it. My seasoned fries were also excellent. Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). Again, it's not the burger; it's the fries that are killing me. I'm such a sucker. Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5). I argued for 4.5 stars, but Joan felt like the burger -- while very good -- wasn't as good as a Five Guys burger. I disagree, so we averaged out to a 4.
- Dinner: Craig's Bar-B-Q, DeValls Bluff, Ark.: As ramshackle as Phillips was, it looked like the Tavern on the Green compared to this BBQ joint in the tiny town of Devalls Bluff (population 750, give or take a few). The restaurant is easy to miss, and can hold about 20 at any given time. It's a very local joint, as customers walked in and casually would walk into the back to talk to the kitchen staff. Yet, we struck gold again. The BBQ sauce here was the best I've had in years, and had we not been on a long road trip, there would be some in the car right now. Sauce comes in mild, medium or hot. I got hot, and it made the meal. Joan got medium, and was also pleased. Additionally, Craig's also butters, then grills its bread. Mmmm. Joan also noted the excellent addition of apples to Craig's coleslaw. Only down side: Why taint such great food by giving each diner a bag of Fritos? Seems to cheapen the meal. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). I got the sausage dinner, with baked beans. I also ate the buttered bread. Oh, andI managed to overcome my outrage and eat the goddamn Fritos anyway. Restaurant Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5).
- Taking both meals into account, this was alternatively our most successful day (from a taste perspective) and least successful day (from an artery perspective) of the entire journey.
- Comfort Inn & Suites Downtown Little Rock, Little Rock, Ark.: We were big fans of the Comfort Inns on our 2003 journey, but have found it much more difficult to find ones that accept dogs this time around. We finally did, and damn near almost got ourselves thrown out. Our room is excellent, very spacious with a great view of the downtown skyline. Unfortunately, one of the two elevators isn't working -- the scuttlebutt Joan picked up while walking the dogs is that the broken elevator dropped a short distance with someone in it. Even more unfortunately, the hotel is also hosting a beauty pageant that includes babies, so the lobby is overrun with mascara-wearing six-year-olds. Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).
- Leftover hotel note from Memphis: We had BBQ takeout on Friday night, and ate at the small desk in the room. Unfortunately, in our post-dinner cleanup, we noticed BBQ spatter on the wall next to the desk. And pretty high up on the wall, no less. Now, outside of the obvious joke about how eagerly we must have been eating to get sauce spatter on the walls and not norice, we were glad we caught this, as it looked like blood spatter. Welcome to CSI: Memphis.
- Hamburger America: The story of one man's journey to find America's best hamburger. Need I say more? I didn't think so.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
- Today: Little Rock, and a drive up scenic Arkansas Route 7.
- Tomorrow: Oklahoma, specifically Tulsa and the eastern part of the state.
- The Day After Tomorrow: Dallas and Austin, Tex.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO
A pre-meltdown Fred stands on a slide at a playground in Oxford, Miss. He looks so harmless, doesn't he? Hey, figured we should close this chapter with a cute picture of our normally serene older beagle.