Two Saturdays ago, the kids and I started our trip that went over the mountains and several rivers, through six states and the woods to Grandmother's (and Grandfather's) house. Afternoons are weird times to start a big journey, but one daughter and I had a fiber arts class in the late morning and one son and my husband wouldn't get back from his first cub scout campout until the early afternoon. My plan was to drive from the Phoenix area to Albuquerque, NM on the first half day, travel to Little Rock, AR the second day and spend a leisurely two hours on the road the third day to get to our destination in the Memphis area. It was crazy, I know. I wouldn't have done it if my kids weren't veteran travelers and able to be amused by drawing, listening to audiotapes and watching movies. And as an added bonus, my oldest is now able to ride "shotgun", which was an even greater help.
Part of the plan was to stop at a park the second day and have a picnic lunch in Amarillo to get some sunshine and let the kids work out some wiggles so that they would go to sleep easily. The problem with choosing a park, however, without knowing the area, is that it may not be in the best area. In this case, the area surrounding the park looked okay, though we passed through an iffy area to get to it. Just as we were sitting down to each lunch with a crowd of people that I thought were just enjoying a warm Sunday in the park, one of them came up to me and asked if I was planning on eating the free food handed out at 5 p.m. that day. I was still on mountain standard time in my car and told him we were eating lunch. He looked confused and one child wanted to eat closer to the play area to escape the smell of cigarrettes, so we moved. It turns out that the park I had chosen was the "homeless park.". One of the guys we met was pretty nice, though after an extended conversation, I wasn't sure how intimate with reality he was. We shared our food with him and prayed for him. For dinner, I wasn't initially planning to stop and eat, but I felt that I really needed a break from driving if I was going to make it to Little Rock, AR, so we stopped at a Love's Gas/Subway stop outside of Oklahoma City for a quick meal. The break definitely helped. The kids watched a movie and settled into their chairs for some sleep until we reached our destination about12:30 local time, though it was "only" 10:30 AZ time.
The next morning, we slept in, knowing we only had two hours before reaching Memphis. The original plan was to meet my folks down by Mud Island and take a tour of the museum and grounds. There were two complications to this plan however, the biggest being that the Mud Island museum was closed on Mondays. My folks also had some unexpected business with their bakery that kept them at work until the late afternoon. So, instead, we parked at a Lee Park, on the riverside, to play for a bit. As we prepared to take a walking tour of Memphis, an older gentleman stopped and asked me if we would pay him to wash our car windows. I have no problem helping someone who wants to work and after two evenings of driving, our windows were pretty buggy, so I consented. I wondered why he picked us out of the people milling about until I later realized Elz and I had shirts on with messages from Matthew 25:37-38 about helping the poor and downtrodden. I guess that would make us pretty good "marks." He did a great job and I gave him the rest of our fruit and some of our veggies as well as some money.
Memphis is built on a bluff, which meant we had to walk up three flights of steps to get from the river to the city. We walked up Huling avenue to Main Street and then across to Beale. That section of Memphis is eerie. It does not appear to be a bad part of town because there are no bars on the windows and the streets are relatively clean and buildings look well-cared for. However, none of the shops were open on Monday afternoon. There were also many buildings standing empty, like a neighborhood that is either in its twilight or the dawn of experiencing renewal. There is trolley service that runs along Main street, which the kids really wanted to try. I figure that since we have family living there, we can try that another time. We saw a statue of "Young Elvis" along the way to Beale. I had wanted to see Beale street ever since the song, "Walking in Memphis" became popular ("Walking in Memphis; Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale...). Memphis actually closes down parts of Beale street to all vehicles, the parts with the highest concentration of bars. This is really nice in the afternoons. I am sure it has saved a lot of lives in the evenings, too. All along the sidewalks were little brass stars with names of early blues musicians, most of whom I was not familiar. The kids were not interested at all in Beale street, especially when a band started to play some 60's blues in a marketplace square. They wanted to see the ducks at Peabody Hotel. We had read John Phillip Duck by Patricia Polacco many times, which is a fictional account of how the ducks came to be swimming in the lobby fountain. For those of you unfamiliar with the hotel or story, ducks are trained to march in line to a fountain in the lobby of the hotel, jump in the fountain, and remain swimming all day until around 5 p.m. when they march in formation back to their home on the hotel's roof. The lobby is opulent, filled with marble and gold, with lots of elegent sofas, tables and overstuffed chairs for hotel guests to relax after a long day of sightseeing. However, there were also little notes on all the tables indicating that the services of the lobby were for hotel patrons only. My kids were complaining about being hungry, since we had skipped lunch after a big, late breakfast. I would have been glad to give them money in exchange for coming in to look at the ducks and using their restroom; however, those little unwelcoming notes discouraged me from even trying to order anything. We walked back to our car, taking the same route, since the kids were afraid we would get lost and drove to my parents' bakery for some snacks and a tour of the new equipment.
Even though I am not a fan of Memphis, I enjoyed our excursion enough to take another walking tour next time we are visiting family.