After leaving Arkansas we set out for Memphis, Tennessee with the plan of visiting Graceland and hunting down some really good bbq. Graceland will always be a place everyone should visit at least once. In my opinion, Elvis is one of the people every generation should be made aware of. We made sure to expose our sixteen-year-old daughter to his music and movies. She’s now a fan. I do have to add we happen to have an old soul on our hands. A fact that I was made aware of when she had her earbuds in for hours and we asked what she was listening too. Bear made a joke about One Direction, which she ignored. In her perfect teenage monotone voice says, “Billy Joel. I low-key love him.” We stared at each other completely speechless. This happened in the year 2018 by the way, and admittedly was kind of a proud moment. Not that I’ve ever been a fan of Billy Joel, not that I’ve not been a fan either, but the fact that she’s not “basic” is such a relief.
I feel like I should have a warning disclaimer at the beginning of that paragraph in case the word ‘not’ is a trigger for someone.
Okay, so where were we…oh right, so we arrive at the former home of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, and once we’re given headphones and a video player to wear around our necks we then were ushered onto a bus to take us to the beginning of the tour. Once inside I started taking pictures like a madwoman.
I’ve spared you the 100 other pictures. We didn’t take the more extensive tour which includes getting to see Elvis’s cars, clothes, and records. Someday we might go back for that reason. At the end of the tour we headed to the gift shop and picked up a couple of mugs, a wallet, overpriced Elvis chap stick for our kid who was waiting patiently in California for us to return with goodies, and Elvis chocolate bars.
If you haven’t yet and you enjoy things like history, museums, pop culture, or you’re a fan of the King, make it a point to add visit Graceland to your bucket list.
Next, we got on our phones to search for a place to stuff our faces with Memphis bbq. Bear found a place called, Central BBQ, which had good reviews, but as we’ve learned everything is just a matter of opinion. Basically, our experience is going to always be a crapshoot. We always go to a place with an open mind and the hope that it will be enjoyable.
I would like to point out the sign in front of the doors to the restaurant that reads, ‘CBQ IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST ITEMS PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLE ITEMS IN YOUR AUTO.’ I don’t think I’ve seen a sign like that directly in front of the doors at any restaurant I’ve been to in California. Something like that might be around the parking lot at Walmart or malls, but unless maybe I haven’t noticed them, this was a first for me seeing that right before you walk into an establishment.
As soon as you walk in they have a wall menu for you to look over. After deciding which meats and sides you feel like indulging in, take yourself over to the row of sauces and fill up plenty of plastic dipping cups, before heading over to your table, and wait patiently for your food to arrive.
God knows I hate to say this, I mean we’re in Memphis! This is Memphis bbq! But…ugh. If our hearts were broken from the Big Texan Steak Ranch, then our souls were shattered over this bbq. Perhaps it’s our own fault for having high expectations. We wanted to be seduced and wowed with this meal. We wanted to not have any choice but to make noises with every bite. I did make one noise if I count the groan of disappointment. The best things about our meal were the sauces and the sweet tea put in cups we got to take with us. Oh, I think the coleslaw was pretty good too, thank sweet baby Jesus for that small miracle.
The ribs were dry and overcooked. The pulled pork was also dry and without any yummy factor, and Oscar Mayer lunch meat is better than that turkey. We mashed the meats, coleslaw, and sauces all up on the rolls and that made it a bit more tasty and edible. Unfortunately, it was still a disappointing orgy in my mouth. It’s like having a selfish lover, you know, you have all the necessary ingredients to have a good time, but you’re left feeling empty and unfulfilled. We, however, made the best of it.
After our soul-sucking bbq, we needed a sweet treat to maintain the will to live. We found a place called La Michoacana, a large ice cream shop with plenty of seating and so many flavor choices. We went with a banana split with three flavors of ice cream, (which escape me) strawberries, walnuts, cherries, and whipped cream. It was such a perfect banana split it almost made up for our meal.
With our bellies experiencing an emotional roller coaster we set off towards Nashville, Tennessee. Something to be aware of when you’re driving in the Memphis area is to pay close attention to the road and other drivers, more so than you normally would. It was a consistent flow of crazy drivers who drove as if they didn’t care about their lives or anyone else’s. It was maddening and terrible for my anxiety. Thank God Bear is an amazing driver, and it was a great excuse for him to release a steady flow of profanities. I may or may not have released a few myself. And we’re from California! I had no idea drivers could get worse than they are here!
Eventually, we safely make it to Nashville and check into our motel. We hadn’t planned on eating again but around 10 pm we started to get snacky. Bear had lived in this area when he was in the Army so he knew what was around. He suggests going to White Castle. I had frozen White Castle burgers from the grocery stores before, and I’d seen the movies, but I’d never been to one. As long as getting to it wasn’t going to be anything like the movies, I was okay with it. Thankfully, it wasn’t. We get to the drive-thru and I swear he must’ve ordered 50 of those things. (Not really, but it seemed like it) I see that they have mozzarella sticks and I make up a little song about how I need mozzarella sticks, so of course, I get mozzarella sticks.
My brother who is a long haul truck driver loathes them, but I found it to be alright. I’d have it again, I think people usually love or hate their burgers. Probably best if you’re suffering from the munchies I would imagine.
The next morning eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel was another first for me. We both ordered chicken fried steaks, hashbrown casseroles, grits, biscuits, and mocha coffees. (Fyi I could make a whole blog on just my love and passion and mission to find the best chicken/country fried steak in America.) I might at least dedicate a post to chicken or country fried steak.
Cracker Barrel is like most chain restaurants in that it’s solid average food, but something you can easily put in their pro column is they’re fairly cheap, especially for the amount of food you get. The chicken fried steak definitely started out frozen and maybe they all do, but some restaurants are better at hiding it. Their biscuits, however, were what biscuits should be, which is soft, with just the right amount of chewiness. The gravy gets a 3 out 5 in my book only because it didn’t have big chunks of sausage, which is the only way any gravy will get a 5 out of 5 from me. When traveling this place will do just fine.
We didn’t do a whole lot in Nashville because we wanted to get to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Before we left Bear took me to the Opry Mills Mall. I, of course, couldn’t understand why we just had to stop at this mall before getting back on the road. As I soon found out, as far as malls go, this one is pretty neat and has a lot going on inside of it.
Ah yes, “Those Animals” as they’re called, are mechanical animals they rent out so adults and children can ride around the mall bobbing and weaving on their favorite animal. As long as you don’t weigh over 500 pounds. We passed. Maybe next time.
Riding giant stuffed animals in public not for you? Walk on over to their Madame Tussauds and get a picture with the legend Johnny Cash!
Hungry and like aquariums? They have the perfect dining experience to kill two birds with one stone!
So when traveling through Nashville, Tennessee on that family road trip and an announcement is made you’re stopping at the mall, and they groan, complain, and think you’ve lost your mind, just throw your kids and significant other on a moving pink camo bear once you’re inside and everything will be fine.
To be continued…stay tuned for part 4
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