Sunday, December 30, 2012

Across Tennessee: Elvis, Pandas, and The Creepiest Motel 6 on the Planet

After we left Gatlinburg, we were definitely on our way home.  However, we had a few days left and a few new places to see.

We didn't spend much time in Nashville, and it rained the whole time we WERE there, but we did manage to walk around Broadway, aka Honky Tonk Row.  I had read about Hatch Show Print and really wanted to see it.  It's this old print shop on Broadway that still screen-prints posters for all sorts of events.  It was old and funky and really cool to visit:
I kept my eyes peeled for a glimpse of Keith Urban (he and Nicole DO live in Nashville, after all) but the closest I came was a ginormous handbag covered in photos of him.  It was a bit much, so I passed, but I DID buy a guitar-shaped spatula that I now refer to as my Keith Urban Memorial Spatula.

Our hotel messed up our reservations (which was fine, because it was a pretty skeevy place) so we decided to drive on and see how far we got.  We made it all the way to Memphis, ready to find someplace cheap to sleep for a few hours.  Mission accomplished!  We managed to find the creepiest Motel 6 east of the Mississippi.  (I think they had a plaque.)  As if the rent-a-cop guarding the property weren't enough, our "non-smoking" room reeked of smoke and had an ashtray on the dresser, for our convenience.  You know you are scraping the bottom of the barrel when you are just grateful there is no hair in the sink.

However, after we woke up and got out of that room as fast as we possibly could, things could only get better, and they did.  After treating ourselves to breakfast at Cracker Barrel (pancakes, finally!) we headed on over to the Memphis Zoo:
 (We're walking like Egyptians, can't you tell?)  Now, you know I am a fan of zoos, and I can generally find something good to say about any zoo, but believe me when I say that THIS zoo is truly spectacular, one of the best I have ever been to.  I am sure it helped that the weather was cloudy and blissfully not hot, but weather aside, this is just a beautiful zoo with a terrific variety of animal exhibits and interaction programs.  The top priority for me at this zoo was the pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le:
I fell in love with the pandas!  They are one of only four pairs in the whole United States--the others are in San Diego, Washington DC, and Atlanta.  We got to watch them eat their bamboo, have a drink of water, and do a lot of sleeping.  They were enchanting.

We also got to feed a giraffe named Kenya, which was a hoot:
We also fed budgies:
All of the animals at the Knoxville Zoo were either asleep or hiding (or both) and while all the animals at the Chattanooga Zoo were awake, there were only 3 or 4 of them, so it wasn't really the ultimate zoo experience.  But Memphis Zoo, oh, Memphis Zoo was definitely worth the price of admission.

After the zoo we went downtown and rode the vintage streetcar to Beale Street, where we ate lunch and browsed through all manner of Elvis souvenirs.  Then, on our way out of town, we drove past Graceland:
With two tired kids in tow, Graceland would definitely NOT have been worth the price of admission.  (FYI, it's really expensive.)  So no Jungle Room or gold Cadillac, just the gates.

And then we were on our way home!  After one last motel, where all the crickets in Texas go to die (but at least there was no smoke OR hair in the sink), we made it home:
The Wheats made us a fab banner, which as soooo nice.  I took a picture of our trip odometer just to prove how far we had gone:
Hoo-boy!  What a trip.  I am so glad we went.

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