Day 20

Tuesday, June 14, 2005Memphis, TN
Miles: 2352Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll
Memphis is keepin’ it real. A lot of cities famous for specific things become fake and campy when they start getting tourists. New Orleans, for instance, had Bourbon Street, which has become a wasteland of frozen drinks and all night schlock shops. Memphis’s Beale Street, on the other hand, has maintained its, uh, soul. Twice tonight we watched live bands play in Handy Park, and every bar on the street had live music. Sure, drinks were ridiculously expensive, but that’s to be expected. But let’s start at the beginning.

Keath worked today from 6 until 2. A full day that still leaves time for sightseeing. You have to love it. We took off at 2:05 and got to Sun Studio in time for their 2:30 tour. It was a cool tour through the history of Sun Studios, starting in 1951. Our tour guide was also the assistant engineer, for you too can be recorded at the Studios for $75 an hour, which seems like quite a deal. The coolest part of the tour was the little studio itself, which you get to only after going upstairs to look at the memorabilia and hear about the history. Music clips were entertaining to all, and at the end, everyone scrambled to touch the microphone that all the artists had recorded with. According to our tour guide, many people want to kiss the microphone, even though it has never been cleaned. Yuck.

After our Moon Pie at the Sun Studios Café, we went to the Mud Island Park. The Park is nestled on a peninsula that sticks out into the Mississippi River. A two minute monorail later, we were on the island, checking out the very cool, half mile long model of the Mississippi. At last, a mighty river you can wade in. It was very hot, and the signs said you could, so we took off our shoes and waded into the topographically correct model and made our way to the Gulf of Mexico. It was a remarkably short journey. After our trip, it was time to return to Memphis and Beale Street.

Before we hit Beale Street, we decided to indulge in the air conditioning of Peabody Place, a mall. We wandered, had some iced beverages and checked out Isaac Hayes, a restaurant started by the man himself. After getting our share of coolness, we headed to Beale Street. We made it to Handy Park, where some great musicians (The "Beale Street Blues Band") were playing for free. Yay! We watched them for awhile, then checked out places to eat. Isaac Hayes seemed to be our best option, so we headed back. We ate, watched some people sing Karaoke, then headed back to Beale.

We cruised Beale for awhile to try to find the best option. The first bar we stopped at had no cover, but overpriced drinks. We had one each before deciding we didn’t really like the band, as they were more soul than blues. They were good, but we wanted blues, so we headed out. We walked down the street some more, trying to choose a bar, when we noticed that a new band was setting up in Handy Park. Shazaam! We got another drink at the bar next door and brought it outside (only allowed when the street is closed) and listened to the Juke Joint All Stars, a really good blues band. When they took a break we left so as not to be out all night long and have a lousy day tomorrow. The heat had taken its toll and we were rather woozy, but we decided to definitely head back tomorrow for more blues in the park.