Road Trip: New Orleans via Memphis

January 09, 2017

First post of 2017!

As I mentioned in my last post, Becca and I took a trip down to New Orleans between Christmas and New Years. It was a long week with a lot of driving, but it was also a lot of fun.

We left Chicago at about 6:30 in the morning, heading straight towards Memphis.  We only made a few stops along the way so we made good time.  We got to Memphis right around 3:30 and went directly to our first destination, the birthplace of Rock & Roll, Sun Studio. 

We got there just after a tour started so we had to wait a little while for the next one, but it was worth it. We got a small tour of the museum on the second floor where we learned the history of Sam Phillips and how he started it all.  We got to learn about "Rocket 88" by the Delta Cats, the song many consider to be the first ever Rock & Roll recording.  We also learned about an eighteen year old who walked in in late 1953 to record a couple songs for his mother.

Next it was on to the actual studio. It was definitely surreal to be standing in the same room Elvis recorded "That's All Right" on that faithful July night in 1954, a little less than a year after recording the songs for his mother.  There are still three x's on the ground where Elvis, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black would stand to record. There's even a microphone from back in the day that Sam Phillips left with the explicit instructions that it be left out for people to touch, not walled away behind glass.

Next it was off to Central BBQ.  Memphis is my favorite style of BBQ, so I had to try some while we were there.  They had some of the best ribs I've ever had. It just makes me want go back for an entire trip to Memphis.

We finished off the night be heading to Beale St, having a couple of drinks and listening to some live music. Since it was the Monday night after Christmas it was a little empty, but it seems like quite the place to be on a busier night.

The next morning was Graceland. I've been a fan of Elvis ever since I was a little kid so I've always wanted to go to Graceland.  I was warned that it was a bit gaudy, and they were right, but man, it was still everything I wanted it to be.

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Elvis' basement media room. One of the three TV's, plus his stereo.

We got iPads to carry around and the entire experience was narrated by John Stamos.  Sure, a lot of the decor was dated, but it's exactly what I expected from Elvis' time there. From the basement media room, to the fabric walled billiards room, to the famous Jungle Room, everything was so unique. It was definitely worth the visit, and some place I'll probably end up visiting again, especially when the new complex opens up later this year.

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The basement billiards room with walls covered in fabric.

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Equipment in Elvis' racquetball lounge.

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Elvis' grave site in the meditation garden.

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The famous Pink Cadillac

After a quick grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich, it was back on the road.  We wanted to stay off the interstate so we took the Blues Trail through Mississippi, and I'm so glad we did.  While driving through the small town of Indianola, Mississippi I saw a sign for a "BB King Museum."  I asked Becca to look up what actually made it 'his' museum, assume it was just a random stop on the trail, maybe someplace he started in the early days.

Turns out, it's a massive museum and the place he's buried. We turned right around and lost an hour and a half to the museum.  I've always been a fan of BB King ever since I was introduced to his music by my dad.  It was one of the things we really connected over, going to a few shows together including one last one a month or so after my dad was diagnosed with cancer.  It was exactly the type of thing Becca and I were hoping to run into by avoiding the interstate.

Once we got back on the road, it was getting dark so we decided to pick up the pace a little and get back on the interstate.  We made it to New Orleans around 8 and got checked in before hitting Bourbon Street like a good tourist.

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Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

The rest of the week was a flurry food while walking around New Orleans.  We had gone in with a list of restaurants and managed to hit 5 of the 15 places we were given.  Emril's for lunch, Cochon for dinner, Coop's Place for lunch, Josephine Estelle for dinner, a night of tiki at Tiki Tolteca, Lüke for breakfast, and a final stop at Parkway Bakery for some po' boys on our way out of town.

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One of three cars with hydraulics we stumbled upon. They parked all of them up like this.

NOLA was a great town. We'd only been once before, but we've wanted to come back. The 3 days we spent only whet our appetite even more. Now I'd like to take a full weeks trip down there, especially with a group of friends.  Plus, we still have 10 more restaurants to hit on our list.

You can check out some more photos from the trip in this Flickr album.