The Best Way to Visit Graceland is as a Day Trip from Nashville

The King died 40 years ago today. Let’s put it this way, the human vessel made of muscles, bones and organs that carried the soul of Elvis Presley ceased to exist. The legend and spirit is still very much alive.

Visiting Graceland is the best way to experience the life of Elvis and pay your respects to the man and his legacy. While Memphis is best known as a BBQ capital, Graceland draws people from around the world. Beyond these two things, there’s not much else to do.

The best tip I can give for visiting Graceland is to do it after your BBQ lunch. A timed ticket between 2-3:30pm is what you should aim for. Here’s why — the actual house is a 90-minute visit at most. Every body who has visited says the same comment — “it’s smaller than I thought.”

People make the mistake thinking that it’s an all-day event. The Presley family and Elvis Inc. have been revamping the experience to make it more for an all-day thing with a new museum of clothes, cars, airplanes and artifacts. This can run you $60-$159. You can skip that.

The Graceland only tour is $40 for a timed entrance and you can buy in advance the day before. It saves you 15 minutes. The tour is fantastic and how they kept the house exactly as it was when Elvis lived there should be commended. The tablet with John Stamos narrating the tour is a little cumbersome but it gives your tour context. There are no museum placards in the house to tell you what is what.

In all, I spent 2 1/2 hours total there which included a short intro video, van ride to the house from the main headquarters and proverbial stroll through the three gift shops.

Thus, there’s no need to stay overnight in Memphis unless you really like barbecue. From Nashville, it’s a straight 3 hours and 20 minutes drive. You can spend that time like I did by listening to the Elvis station on Spotify or playing Paul Simon’s Graceland album on repeat. The road trip nature makes it seem much more like a pilgrimage.

I left Nashville at 9am. Rolled into The BBQ Spot for lunch just after 12:30pm. Did a quick stop at Sun Studios (skip the tour, just walk in and out) and then went to Graceland. It’s about a 10-minute drive from the city center in a not so exciting area, unless you think gas stations, seedy hotels and strip malls exciting.

After my visit, I was back in Nashville by 8pm for hot chicken and cheap beer — the way Elvis would have liked it.

Tales from AirBnB — If a Cat Dies, Am I Responsible?

After 2826.5 miles through the Unites States, I returned back to the homestead to the welcoming embrace of my own bed. In tow was about 150 cans of beer, 6 bags of coffee, an expensive pair of jeans and a small cartel of stickers.

My AirBnB experience ranged from the best ever to “Am I going to be the asshole who ruins the guy’s 4.9 rating?’ Since this was a last minute trip and I’m on a tight budget, I bypassed the chain hotels in favorite of staying in a stranger’s spare room. Sorry, Captain Obvious and Trivago Guy & Gal.

Of the five places I rented, two of the hosts were never there. Apparently, this is common practice in the AirBnb world. People let a complete stranger into their home without them being there. I could easily set-up a brothel like in Risky Business or just steal all their crap. “Yeah, but they have your info.” Sure, but AirBnb doesn’t know the real me.

The usual procedure is that your key is in a lockbox, you get the combo and you just follow their guidelines. Not to go into specifics, one place went completely smooth, the other was almost a disaster.

Basically, the guy had a cat. I knew this going in and was fine with it. He then told me a five days before I arrived that he was going to be away. Okay, then. I got the lockbox number and instructions. In the instructions was to not let the cat out.

In the back of my mind, I assumed that the cat would be with him, with a neighbor or in a shelter. I wasn’t informed how long he would be away.

I get the key, open the door and not even within a second, the cat darts out and runs away. FUCK!!!! It runs under the house and I can’t see it. In a slight panic, I get down and try to whisper for it. At this time in the afternoon, it’s about 96 degrees. I’m sweating profusely.

Instead of looking for the cat, I start to unload my crap. I find the cat’s food and water bowl and leave it out. Nothing. After 20-30 minutes, I’m starting to get lightheaded from the heat and panic. I eventually call the guy. He tells me to leave the back porch screen door open a crack, put the food inside the porch and the cat will eventually come back.

So here’s the thing — why the fuck am I taking care of your cat, bro? A coyote or dog could easily mangle your cat while you are away and I’m there. I’m renting your room, not your cat.

AirBnB has no policy on this, and a few AirBnb message boards suggest that you remove the pets if you are not there. One place I rented had two dogs, and they were put into the bedroom when they were not there. There could be one of a thousand bad circumstances that ended badly for me. Even if the cat didn’t get out, my luggage could have tipped over and crushed it.

I leave for a few hours, and come back. Thankfully, the cat made it to the porch and I let it inside.

Fast forward to the night, I get home at midnight and I’ve had a few drinky drinks. Not falling down drunk, but just want to get to bed ASAP. I close the door, get into bed and I hear scratching at the door and meowing. STFU please.

I eventually passed out and woke up a few hours later needing to use the bathroom. I opened the bedroom door and the cat darts in. I did my business, came back to the bedroom and don’t see the cat. “Whatever,” I think and left the door open. I got into bed, turned off the light and then the sheets staredt to move. The cat is in the bed with me. I shoo it out the room and close the door. This fucking cat.

When I went to pack my stuff and get it into my car, I lock the cat into the bedroom. The last thing I did before I left was let it out.

This wasn’t cool. I have nothing against cats, but common sense would tell the AirBnb host that you shouldn’t leave your pet in your house with a stranger when you are not there for a long time. Between the escaping and not leaving me alone while I slept, it was an awkward and unpleasant situation.

I decided not to review my stay, but contacted AirBnb about my story to see if there is any policy about pets and owners not being there. Mainly, if this cat never came back, could the host sue me for damages.

I will let you know if they respond.

Atlanta is Great If You Want to Get Stuck In Traffic and Be Among Dude Bros

Atlanta’s motto should be: “Atlanta — What Can You Do?”

Two days were plenty to get a sense that I wouldn’t be able to fit into the city. I’m sure lifelong residences swear it’s the greatest city in America, and bully for them.

I had this internal debate at which city has the biggest preppie/post-fraternity brother dickheads — Boston, NYC or Atlanta. I have ample evidence that ATL is pulling in from behind. Case in point … Sweetwater Brewery on a Friday night at 7pm.

I see about one and half women in a sea of backward hat-wearing dude bros.

This is indicative of Atlanta traffic, you’re going to be stuck in a crowd by yourself with no place to go. Yes, it’s Friday, there’s going to be traffic, but on a Saturday at 8am! Where are you people going? I’m just trying to get donuts.

I had two things on my agenda that I didn’t get to because I just gave up. I would have liked to have visited the Museum of Civil Rights, which is next door to the World of Coke. After my Coke visit, I was walking over to the Museum and there were a sea (and I’m not exaggerating) of 100 to 125 people all wearing the same t-shirt blocking the ticket the booth. The t-shirt — Johnson Family Reunion 2017. I think it was every Johnson living in Atlanta. In any event, I couldn’t figure out if there were just standing there in line or waiting for something. There was one person at the ticket booth. They might all be still there for all I know. I gave up.

Plan two, visit Atlanta’s modern art museum, The High Art. Well, it’s open for a whopping 7 hours — closing at 5pm. I get my car, follow the GPS, 12 minutes, I’m looking for the building. I don’t see any signs. Next thing I know, I can’t make a left or right, have no choice but to go forward. Forward is onto the highway, loaded with traffic.

I gave up and went back to Athens. More on that later.

 

Mama’s Boy in Athens Takes Care of All Your Southern Breakfast Needs

One of the things I’ve realized on trip is how much I’m missing out on Southern cuisine in terms of barbecue, biscuits and all things fried. We all think that our Northeast versions of these things are “the best” around. It ain’t.

That’s evident with my first stop in Georgia. After a 50-mile drive on a one-lane highway through Georgia backwoods and farmland, I ended up at Mama’s Boy. The 12-year old restaurant ¬†serves southern goodness in biscuit, breakfast and fried form. Then smother all that in gravy and you’ll need a nap afterwards.

Since I have a full-day of activities ahead, I went gravyless, but asked for a little taster cup like you would ask for a taster at a craft brewery. It was so good, thick and savoy I was taking my finger and digging around the cup for every last part.

I also had a fresh-fried donuts in Asheville beforehand, so I didn’t want to kill my waistline in one day. I went with the fried chicken breast on a biscuit, sweet tea and a side salad, like that salad would make a difference. Wait, there’s more! Jalapeno raspberry jam to spread on parts of the biscuit not covered by fried chicken. All this was served by a fine southern gentleman in a trucker hat. He could have been a roadie for the B-52 for all I know.

Since this is a popular local spot with a positive reputation in the region, there’s a wait unless you do what I did … sat at the counter. It takes up to 4 people, and you skip waiting outside in the hot Georgia sun. I was even lucky in the small parking lot and got a space right in front of the door. It’s one of those situations that you think it’s a handicap spot, but in reality, it’s the best spot. If there is overflow, there’s some open lots behind the joint.

You can even take the food to go, but why would you? You can soak up some southern hospitality in the dining room. I did take home their coffee and stickers. For this trip, I’m all about the free stickers.

The Next Destinations — Louisville and Columbus

Completing my loop around the South and heading back to HQ will be a couple of day trips. Louisville wasn’t on my radar as a place to stay, but there’s a couple of interesting things that make the Kentucky city worth a look in. Then, in Columbus, Ohio, I have to visit the new BrewDog U.S. headquarters.

More than anything, I wanted to break up the trip back to New Jersey from Nashville. A 13-hour drive is much more tolerable if done over three days and two overnight stay overs.

You might not realize it, but Louisville is known for many things. You have Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby and mint juleps. There’s the iconic Louisville Slugger, where there’s a museum and factory tour. It’s the birthplace of Muhammad Ali, where there’s a large museum dedicated to his legacy. Finally, for booze hounds, it’s the epicenter for whisky and bourbon.

Let’s not to forget that it’s the headquarters for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which I’m sure is a mark of distinction in the town. I shall pass, but there’s no shortage of fried chicken places in the city.

For my beer adventures, Against the Grain brewery is located in town, and will meet my beer needs.

It’s a lot to pack in for 24-hours, but I got to move onto …

Columbus, Ohio! Umm, yeah? I joke, but the capital of Ohio has also become a small beer destination in the state. Being that it’s the home to THE Ohio State University, a dozen or so craft breweries have popped up. The Scotland-based BrewDog being the big new player in their push to get into the growing U.S. market. The facility will eventually house a hotel/spa where you can bring your four-legged friends.

The only other attraction is the city’s large German immigrant population, bringing with them some fine German foods and baked goods.

After the visit, it’s an easy 8-hour drive home, where I plan to diet and exercise off all this added fun weight I’m putting on.

The Next Destination — Nashville

When you are sad and lonely and have no place to go
Call me up, sweet baby, and bring along some dough
And we’ll go honky tonkin’, honky tonkin’
Honky tonkin’, honey baby
We’ll go honky tonkin’ ’round this town.

Nashville has been on my bucket list of cities to visit. It’s almost criminal that I’ve never gone to Music Cty, U.S.A. considering that my whole life was once centered around concerts and discovering new music. Well, next week, it’s time to check the Tennessee city off the list when I drive up from Atlanta (with a stopover at the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg).

With the music, it’s mostly about country music. I’m atune to the old country western style of the 50s, 60s and throw in some 70s, which I’ll explore at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The modern douchey country I ignore completely. Then there’s the rockabilly scene that I get into from time to time. The epicenter of that is Robert’s Western World, which is a tourist destination, but who cares, it looks like a fun place for a quick look in.

Food wise, HOT CHICKEN. I hope I can handle the heat at Prince’s, Hattie B and Bolton’s. Beyond the chicken, I’m looking for some fluffy goodness at the Nashville Biscuit House.

There’s so much to see and do and I have three nights to achieve it. There’s record hunting, jeans shopping and local poster art to buy. Not to mention, a growing beer scene with Yazoo being the main place.

Pictures, reports and mouth of fire pictures to follow, so make sure you check me out on Instagram along the way.

 

The Next Destinations: Atlanta and Athens

Atlanta is hot right now — literally and figuratively. The TV show is up for a slew of Emmys and rightful so, it brings into spotlight the odd nature and social, economic and racial dynamics of the former Olympic city. It’s also home to the world’s busiest airport (depending on what list you look at), which why the Donald Glover character works there.

This is a just a quick two-day weekend drive-by where I’ll be splitting my time between there and the more eclectic Athens, which is a 90-minute drive away. I’ve never been to either, and I’m sure there’s plenty to do, but it’s one of those situations where I eventually I had to visit.

Besides the TV show, two high profile summer movies filmed on the streets and on soundstages. Baby Driver takes place in Atlanta proper while Spider-Man: Homecoming took advantage of the Georgia tax breaks to film in studios there. Add in the fact that their football team lost in the Super Bowl, and Atlanta is in the spotlight.

As for Athens, it was the home of two of the most beloved bands in indie and modern rock, R.E.M. and the B-52s. The mid-sized town has always attracted artistic types. Today, it’s a destination for those seeking a quieter, more low-key scene then Atlanta.

My list of things to do is relatively small. Atlanta has the big touristy Coke-Cola World where I’m hoping I can swim in a lake of soda. Athens has the state botanical gardens and natural history. Unfortunately, Atlanta’s big history museum is under construction until 2018. It does have a respected High Art Museum.

Beer wise I should be taken care of but Georgia has some whack laws limitin hours and beer sales on premises. Athens is home to Terrapin and Creature Comforts, while Atlanta boasts one of the nation’s largest craft breweries, Sweetwater.

Food wise, I’ve got my eyes on the small regional chain, The Varsity, The Vortex and JR Cricketts. No word if the¬†Clermont Lounge has a decent food menu.

As for the Clermont Lounge, It’s not yet an UNESCO World Heritage site. In any event, let’s see what I discover in two days.