Day 38 April 18th

Home Sweet Home!!

There is an old Johnny Cash song that goes  “I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere…”  Well, we haven’t been everywhere, but we have been to all 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia.

Our day started early for us.  We left Memphis at 7:30 central time.  Our route took us through Tupelo, Mississippi so of course we had to stop at the birthplace of Elvis Presley! 

Tupelo MS

Elvis Presley Birthplace

Julie said there is an old song about Tupelo honey, so we tried to find some.  Guess what?  It comes from the panhandle of Florida.  So, no honey.

We crossed into Alabama…yay, our last new state. 

Alabama State Line

As we approached Birmingham we talked about the civil rights history of the area.  Then we got down to the important part…finding Steve an Alabama wine!  We tried a Package Store.  No, only beer.  An ABC store.  No, only hard liquor.  A grocery store.  Well they had wine, if you like Boone’s Farm or Ripple.  So, Julie worked some magic on her Blackberry and we located a winery and a wine store.  Steve got his wine!  The original list included 19 states that he needed.  We failed in Kansas (not our fault, its dry), North Dakota, Delaware (but my brother promises to bring some this summer), West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

The Florida border was a very welcome sight.  It was such a treat to see palm trees again.

Florida State Line

We arrived home at 10:45 pm eastern time.  Our final mileage was 11,467.

We’ll put in some type of Epilogue with more particulars, but in case you are wondering, we used 380.7 gallons of gas.

Day 37 April 17th

We were tired this morning,  so we didn’t leave Natchez until 10:00.  Our next, and last stop,  was Memphis Tennessee.

Tennessee State Line

Memphis

We Travelled north on highway 61 loosely paralleling the  Mississippi River.  It was not in sight though.  Memphis is right at the Tennessee line.  We arrived at 3:30 and headed for Graceland…Elvis Pressley’s home.

Julie and have both toured Graceland before, so we kept our money in our pockets and just looked at the free things.  I love his old airplanes.

Lisa Marie Jet

The larger one is called the Lisa Marie.  I remember going inside years ago and being amazed at the seatbelts on the bed…ahh the things that stick with us.

The property around the home is really lovely and the house is set back off the road.

Graceland 2

Graceland

Gate at Graceland

It has gates with him playing music on them.  The tour includes the main level of the home.  When we went there with Matt and Lexi, the aunt of Elvis was still living upstairs.  Regardless, even when he was alive,  he didn’t let people go upstairs.  The house is very nice, but by todays standards for celebrities, it’s not over the top.

In the mid 1970’s I saw Elvis in concert.  It was in the Washington DC area and it was a fabulous show!  When the kids were little, I would ask them who the greatest singer that ever lived was and they would reply…Elvis!  Of course I taught them to say that…

Next up was crossing the Mississippi River to reach Arkansas.  Before we reached the bridge we saw a sign for

St. Judes

St Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  The one founded by Danny Thomas.  Before he was famous he prayed to St Jude (patron of lost or impossible causes) to help him.  Once he became successful he built this hospital and they treat children with serious illnesses regardless of ability to pay.  It looks just like the TV commercials!  Before we crossed the bridge to Arkansas, we noticed a big pyramid. 

Pyramid Arena

We did not know what it was.  It turns out it is the old arena for Memphis which opened in 1991 and closed down in 2004 although concerts did happen unil 2007.    Now it is empty.  Big Bass Pro Shops is in a deal to move in there and have their show room.  Who knows.

We crossed the bridge into Arkansas.

Arkansas State Line

Some states are really good about where they put their “Welcome” signs.  Others are terrible.  Our least favorite are those in the middle of bridges.  Arkansas was one of the middle-of-the-bridge states.  We got our shot and headed to the hotel.

Memphis Skyline

But not before taking a picture of the Memphis Skyline.

Tomorrow we are planning a long travel day…to HOME!  One more new state to visit, Alabama.  We are clicking our shoes and saying “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

Our mileage is 10,790.

Day 36 April 16th

We left Houston and the hospitality of our sister Lisa and her husband Tony at 8:30.   Believe it or not, we are now 5 weeks into our trip!

Our route took us through rural Texas and then into Louisiana.

Louisiana State Line

Our goal was to get to Natchez, Mississippi by early afternoon.  We drove across LA without many stops.  This was another peanut butter and jelly sandwich while driving in the car day.

We crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River into the state of Mississippi.

Mississippi State Line

Mississippi River and Bridge

Think back a few weeks…remember when we crossed the Mississippi in Minnesota?  It seems strange to see it from top to  bottom.  Julie and I have been to New Orleans many times, so this is as far down the river as we will be going.

Natchez starts at the River.

Natchez

What a beautiful city!  It was apparently only partially damaged during the Civil War and there are many homes and buildings that survived.  Thankfully, they also have a strong sense of history and have preserved the homes with historical designations.

We wanted to tour some antebellum plantation homes.  Our first stop was Longwood.  This is the largest octagonal home in the US.  Its kind of a sad story though.

Longwood

Julie at Longwood

The Nutt family was very wealthy due to cotton and had just started building their dream home.  It was to have 30,000 square feet.  The finest materials had been ordered but then the War started.  Mr Nutt was a Union sympathizer, but all of his money was confederate.  So, he went from being a millionaire to a pauper in less than 2 years.  Only the bottom level of the home was completed.  The upper levels were framed in.  He died not too long after.  His wife still had young children at home and sued the government and received a settlement.  The rest of the house was never finished.

Our next stop was Stanton Hall.  This home was “only” 18,000 square feet.  Luckily for this family, it was completed and paid for shortly before the war.  Of course it was gorgeous.  Italian marble fireplaces, chandeliers, French mirrors,  and special touches throughout.

Toni at Stanton Hall

Stanton Hall

Stanton Hall in more recent times became a Bed and Breakfast for a short time.  General MacArthur and his family stayed there at one time.  Now it is a museum and a club house for the Historical Society and is open to the public.

After touring these mansions…and driving around and admiring the exteriors of others…it was time to go to our hotel.  Needless to say it is quite a bit more modest than the Plantation Homes!  However, in 1959 John Wayne and William Holden were filming a cowboy movie in Natchez called The Horse Soldiers.  It was directed by John Ford.  The reason I mention it, is that they stayed at this hotel while they were filming.

John Ford Room

Horse Soldiers

As a matter of fact, John Ford stayed in the very room we are currently occupying!  Before you get too jealous, Julie and I think they decided to keep things the exact same way as it was in 1959…if you get my drift.

We arrived in Natchez at 2:30 and our mileage is now 10, 390.  Tomorrow  we head to Memphis.

Day 32 April 12th

One week from today and we will be home!

We left Wichita Falls at 11:00 and pointed our car south.

Houston

Houston was our destination, and seeing our sister Lisa and her husband Tony.

Lisa and Tony

Caitlin

Their daughter Caitlin has been living with them in Houston for about 6 months, but is moving back to Allentown, PA.  Remember, we saw her briefly in PA at the beginning of our trip.

Our journey was pretty uneventful today, not a bad thing. We passed through the Hill Country of Texas.  It sure didn’t seem very hilly compared to what we have seen!  But, it was pretty.  Lots of farms, ranches and cows.

We arrived in Houston at 5:00 and our mileage is 9,893.    It is finally warm!  We had perfect weather today.

While we are here, Julie will be visiting her doctors at MD Anderson.  Scans, appointments, biopsies etc.  Our plan is to continue our journey on Saturday.  So, check back then for updates.

Day 29 April 9th

Its hard for us to believe, but our “excellent adventure” started 4 weeks ago.

View of Hotel

Monument Valley 3

Today we got up to see the sun rise over the monuments.  It came up about 10 minutes earlier than we thought, but it was really beautiful.  Since we were up and about, we got moving earlier than usual.  After breakfast, we drove along Valley View Road which is a 17 mile loop around the monuments.  The road is very primitive in most places, but of course the views were spectacular.   At one point a tumbleweed got stuck under the car.  The ever amazing Julie said to put the car in reverse.  Sure enough the tumble weed dropped off.

Totem Poles MV

Toni with Atlas

Three Sisters

We left Monument Valley and headed east to Four Corners.  This is the only place in the US that 4 states meet at one point.  It is also on Indian territory.  The various tribes occupy a lot more land out west than I ever imagined.  

Four Corner Sign

4 Corners

Four Corners is a fairly small area.  It is surrounded by a partial wall shaped in a semi-circle.  The local Indians have booths along the wall to sell their products.  In the center of the area is a square with a   circle inside.  The 4 states are named along the square…New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona. There is a circle in the middle that says it is the meeting point.  Just to be completely sure, and to please Steve who wants it all official, we then went back to the road and crossed the state line with a Colorado sign and then a New Mexico sign. 

Colorado State Line

New Mexico State Line

It was freezing cold and very windy.  We got our pictures and moved on!

Now on to Santa Fe.  The rest of the day was spent driving along picturesque roads and through small towns until we got closer to Santa Fe.  We will be staying here for 2 nights, so the local sightseeing will happen tomorrow. 

We arrived at 5:30 and our mileage is 8,963.

Day 28 April 8th

We woke up today to light rain and 40 degree temperatures.  And that was only the beginning.

At 10:30 we were on our way towards Monument Valley.  Our route took us through Flagstaff Arizona.  Shortly before we got there, the temperature dropped to 30 and a snowstorm hit.

Snow in AZ

  There were several motorcycles and a car in the ditch.  We plodded along and got ahead of the storm.  Apparently, they are expecting a major storm over the next 24 hours.  The weather improved and the temperature reached 60 degrees.  Then we hit a really nasty sand storm. 

Dust Storm in AZ

Will this weather ever improve??  We’re not  complaining though, too many good things are happening.

We passed through Tuba Arizona and Julie remembered that was the location for the Tony Hillerman detective stories. 

Then we reached Monument Valley. 

Utah State Line

It borders Arizona and Utah. It is so different from anything we’ve seen so far. 

Near Monument Valley

Stone formations that just stand in the middle of valleys and flat desert ground.  We entered the Indian Reservation and arrived at our hotel, The View.  It is the only one on the Reservation.  All the rooms have balconies that face the monuments.  We can see the iconic “mittens” from our room.

View From Room

The View Hotel

You might recognize this area from old cowboy movies.  John Wayne’s Stagecoach was filmed here as well as 2001 A Space Odyssey, Easy Rider, and Thelma and Louise  and many more.

View at Hotel

For dinner we tried a local specialty… Navajo fry bread. 

Indian Fry Bread

 It looks like nan bread from Indian restaurants.  They use it for tacos, as a side dish and also for dessert.  Just add honey and powdered sugar.  It is made with ground blue corn flour.

We arrived at 5:30 and our mileage is 8,580.