Week of July 20th

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Blue Ridge View
[Blue Ridge View]

last week



as I packed my tent up this morning my KOA neighbors, Charlie, Bob & Danny, (I think that's their names at least,) offered me some coffee and conversation.

once on the road again I found signs for the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 469 mile road which continues at the bottom of Skyline Drive can take you all the way to the Great Smokey Mountain National Parks, if you've got the time to drive it. I didn't have time to see it all, but I took in about 60 miles of it. There are overlooks throughout the drive.

Blue Ridge Parkway
bike path
[Bike Path]
getting back on the highway I made my way down Virginia by way of 81 for a few hours. Getting antsy, I made a turn on route 16 to get to Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. After talking with a friendly ranger I headed off for the bike trail.

driving down the small gravel road the fragrance of the rich foliage ran through my nose as the theme from Deliverance ran through my head. ("You got a real purty mouth.")

finally got down to the bike path and took off. The path criss-crossed over a creek where the occassional person was fly fishing or swimming. On the way back I took a little jump into the rapid waters and washed off the sweat under a cold waterfall.

bike path 2
[Bike Path 2]
 Great Smokey Mountain Ranch Camp
i followed route 58 back to the highway, grabbed some groceries from the Wal-Mart Food Store and headed south.

following 81 south I entered Tennessee and got off the highway in Pigeon Forge to be greeted with more country and western advertising than I've seen in my life time. Bull riding, $5 helicopter rides, hotair balloon rides, the Elvis museum, all available to the needy consumer.

i followed the directions in my Let's Go USA book and found the Smoky Mountain Hostel outside of the national park. My first experience at an American hostel. Let's Go described it by saying: "crash at the top of the hill in the comfortable hostel dorm with A/C, cable TV, and a kicking stereo." (O.K., so I wasn't exactly roughing it.)

terry and the rest of her clan who run the hostel were very nice, and there were all sorts of cats and dogs running around under foot, and even a horse.



i woke up early this morning and tried to catch up with some of my journal. The cigarette lighter in my car which I had been using to recharge my computer battery and power my cd player blew yesterday, so I'm trying to manage without it.

today was pretty much a travel day. I realized that I couldn't make it to Memphis if I took a trip through the Smoky Mountains, which had been one of my original stops. Next cross-country trip I'm giving myself more time in each area.

  i did get off the highway to hit Loretta Lynn's Kitchen & Gifts. Why does every country star have to own some sort of restaurant? I had my first Hush Puppies of the trip, but didn't try the collard greens. I'm holding off until I can get a good side helping of grits.  Loretta Lynn's Kitchen
 B.B. King's
[B.B.King's Blues Club]

 "I came in from Memphis, where I learned to talk the jive..."

--The Grateful Dead

i got into Memphis this evening where I'm staying at the Motel 6. It may take me a while to get used to this southern hospitality: as I brought my stuff into my room one of my neighbors, a young woman dressed in a seemingly out-of-place tight, red velvet dress asked me if I was lonely and needed some companionship. I told her I was going to Beale St. if she wanted to accompany me for a beer. She then explained what she was interested in. I guess I'm just a naive boy from Boston.

beale St. was great, but it was the first time where I really did miss having company. (Not hers.) It's all fine and good to grab a beer and some Memphis ribs, but you really need a friend to explore a place like that. There was great live blues coming out of half a dozen joints, (especially for a Monday,) and I would have like to check them all out. Next trip I'm spending at least a week in Tennesse.

"Gotta get back to Tennessee, Jed."

--The Grateful Dead

 Beale St.
[Beale St.]


today was a day of hits and misses. When I got in from Beale St. last night I had to park under a big flowering bush whose branches were bent against my car. This morning there were bees swarming all over my car and thousands of ants crawling all over the driver-side door and windshield preventing me from getting in. I climbed in through the passenger-side door while the bees were divebombing my windows and drove the car to a safer place, where I tried to wash the ants off the car.

 Gold Suit
[Elvis' Suit]
Elvis' Grave
[Meditation Gardens]
when I first decided to go to Graceland I knew there was going to be at least one piece of cheese at that part of the sight. I was wrong. Graceland has been one of the best surprises so far. I'm not a big fan of the King, but it's hard not to be moved as you hear the story of his life, and how he came from poverty to influence musical tastes around the world.

upon boarding the tour bus for Graceland, (which takes you all the way across Elvis Presley Blvd. then drops you off at the front door.) you receive a tape player tells you Elvis' story as you walk through Graceland.

the narration is broken up by Pricilla talking about what it was like living with Elvis, while you can hear him laughing in the background with friends, making it seem like somehow you were invited to his dinner parties. They take you through the dining room and kitchen, where you learn that Elvis once ate nothing but meatloaf for dinner for six months straight. I guess when you're King you can do anything.

you get to see his basement where he has three t.v.'s going, (from the days before picture-in-picture, I guess,) and the t.v.'s show video's of the time: Jay Leno with wildly big hair from an early appearance on the Tonight Show, (you know, when he was still funny.)

n the trophy room they house his gold lamee suit, hundreds of gold and platinum records from the U.S. and abroad, posters from such critically acclaimed movies as Viva Las Vegas and Jailhouse Rock.

the tour ends at the meditation gardens where Elvis, his parents and his grandmother are buried alongside a plaque for his twin brother who was still-born. Flowers and trinkets from fans line the graves. People who have visited Graceland leave their mark on the wall outside, leaving messages for the King.

Graceland's Wall
[The Wall Outside Graceland]

70 mph


there are other things to see and do in Memphis, (I had wanted to take a tour of Sun Studios, where a lot of famous people had recorded,) but I can only handle about one tour a day, so I headed south into Mississippi. Got to see my first 70 Speed Limit sign.

  back to the hits and misses. Graceland was obviously a hit. I took some great photos there, (not the grainy ones with my digital camera that you see here, but with a real camera.) I also got some great pictures of rustic houses and businesses along the smaller roads in Mississippi. As I stopped to take pictures of some amazing growths that covered 100' trees and made them look like gargantuan topiary I saw a squashed armadillo (roadkill) that I thought I could work into the website. It was then that I noticed I had taken 38 pictures on a 24 roll. I opened up the camera and realized I had not put film in. (You're laughing with me, right?) That qualifies as a miss.

another miss was that I was planning to camp at a state park. When I got there I saw a few RV campers, but there was no one near the tent sites. However, as the ranger informed me that they were predicting thunderstorms I could hear the rumblings in the distance. I decided to chicken out and drove down to Baton Rouge, (Red Stick, from when a red stick divided two Indian tribes,) and got a room at the Budgetel since Motel 6 was full. (Maybe it's all that southern hospitality they offer.)

Checkpoint Charlie's
[Checkpoint Charlie's]


pulling into N'awlins, I made my way to the Pallas Hotel on Canal St. As I brought in my bags I looked around and saw about five hundred kids sporting an aura of holiness about them. Turns out they were part of a larger group of 35,000 teen-agers from around the world who were visiting New Orleans for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's National Youth Gathering.

hey brought 35,000 Christian youth to New Orleans. Was Sodom booked? Is it the rainy season in Gomorrah? Were these people thinking, or what?

as I drove over to Checkpoint Charlie's, a music bar that doubles as a laundramat, I saw a couple of their "counselors" coming out of "Hooters". I'm sure it was just for a test of faith.

i hooked up with my friend Gina for dinner at the Trolley Stop Cafe on St. Charles and then onto Bourbon St. I'm not sure if it was more enjoyable or less enjoyable walking around the streets surrounded by that many fresh-faced kids straining to peek in the doors of strip clubs and bars. Not once did I hear the cry of "show me your tits!" Just as well.

cafe du monde
[Cafe Du Monde]


woke up this morning and headed out for coffee at the Cafe Du Monde on Decatur St. Operating since 1862 it serves coffee and beignets, and not much else. Beignets are basically mini-fried doughs, and you get three per order, covered in enough powdered sugar to suck up every last bit of saliva in your body for the next three days. However, once you learn you should knock some of the sugar off, you'll enjoy them to no end.

  crossing the street to Jackson Square where the painters, psychics and musicians hang out practicing their trade. Although I was already almost 2 weeks into my trip, I felt I should get that tarot reading done that I couldn't accomplish in N.Y.C.

was he correct? Well, he told me that I would be very financially successful in a new venture, (read: b1 communications). However, I would have been surprised if he said that I would fail miserably and die poor in a short period of time.

he also told me that I should keep my ideas about my business to myself. So I can't tell you anymore.

Tarot Reader
[Tarot Reader]
 Camellia's front
[Outside the Camellia]
after working up a sweat by blading through City Park I headed over to the Camellia Grill, a N'awlins institution. Although I didn't have room for dessert this time, last time I had the pecan pie ala mode. After ordering it I realized that they didn't have a microwave, so I wondered how they heat the pie.

they grill it, pecan side down. There may never have been a better piece of pie.

 Inside the Camellia
[Inside the Camellia]
 N'awlins Gravesites
[Cities of the Dead]
before heading back to the hotel room to submit my report I took a quick trip through one of the city's cemeteries. The graveyards here are made up of raised stone tombs. Since the Crescent City lies 4-6 feet below sea level a 6" hole in the ground quickly fills up with water.

coffins used to actually float in the graves, and filling them with holes so they would sink was also discarded, perhaps because of the distracting gurgling sounds when then sunk. Now there are miles and miles of these tombs througout New Orleans called "Cities of the Dead."



eaving New Orleans, I headed west, retracing my steps on I-10. There was a lot of driving today, and just a little bit of picture taking.

i'm standing on the west side of the Mississippi for the first time in a while, and I've stepped foot in Texas, which is something I've never done.

since I've been driving down south, I've noticed how drivers differ down south from those of us in New England, Boston specifically. First of all, no one honks. In Boston, I rarely take my hand off the horn; only if someone does something spectacular, like yielding before entering a rotary, then briefly I release the horn to let them know they did a good job.

another thing: in Boston, the left lane is known as the passing lane. Faster cars go there so they can pass slower cars. Down here all the people who are in the passing lane are saying is "this next exit isn't mine", or "my left hand exit is coming up in 12.5 miles."

pulling into the state park a little before six, I managed to startle a wild boar, catch the tail end of a baby deer crossing the trail, and see a dozen birds that appeared to be vultures, all while taking a quick bike ride. The "Don't Feed or Pester the Alligators" almost turned me off to swimming, but I went anyway. It was like bath water. With boat motor oil floating up occassionally.









getting into Austin this afternoon was a breeze. I love these secondary Texas roads with their 70mph limits. (Or suggestions, as I prefer.)

austin, "The Live Music Capital of the World," as they so humbly put it, is a very cool town. Yet another of my college buddies (Trish) lives down here with her boyfriend, Will, and her brother Peter.

we spent the afteroon cooling off in their backyard pool, and then headed down to see the bats.

Trish et al
[Trish, Will & Peter]
Congress Ave. Bridge
[Congress Ave. Bridge]
over a million bats call the underbelly of the Congress Ave. Bridge home, and every night they come out around dusk to eat. Originally, the city began exterminating the bats when it was discovered that the new bridge, (new in 1980,) was the perfect home for our friendly flying mammals, but the group Bat Conservation International educated the city about how harmless the bats are, and that they eat up to 30,000 lbs. of insects each night! (I understand that the makers of Off! and Cutter are still trying to exterminate the bats.)

unfortunately, the bats come out when they want to, and this time they decided to wait until dark to come out. If you want to see what I saw, there's an image to your right.

[The Bats (sort of)]
  even though they didn't rise up from the bridge like a giant swarm to block out the sun the way I had hoped, I was still pretty cool. We then walked down to 6th St., the center of night life down here. There were too many bars to choose from, but we found a couple of choice places where the temperature was hot, the music was hotter, but if you didn't bring your Visa card, you'd be left out in the cold. (Or something like that.)

e found a great little hole-in-the-wall called the Bates Motel where the band only knew Hendrix and the Allman Bros., but that was o.k. We also found a piano bar where they change the lyrics of cartoon theme songs to make them raunchy. You should have heard what they had Yogi doing to Ranger. Getting back home we took a quick 3am swim before crashing.

should have had to put another hangover symbol on Sunday's entry, but I woke up feeling great this morning. I guess with the rate that I was sweating alcohol out of my system last night that makes sense.


next week


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