A Travellerspoint blog

Days 14 to 17 – Serious Road Tripping!!

Nashville, Tennessee to Marshall Point Lighthouse, Port Clyde, Maine.

sunny 33 °C

Days 14 to 17 were serious road tripping days encompassing over 1,365 miles and 8 states (Out of Tennessee into Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and finally Maine). An average of 341 miles per day. At 55mph.... Although we did hit 64mph downhill at one stage!!

We stayed over at four different campsites including Gettysburg, the site of the most famous and most important American Civil War battle which occurred over three hot summer days, July 1 to July 3, 1863, around the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. What began as a minor skirmish ended up involving over 160,000 Americans.
Unfortunately in order for us to get up to Maine and back down again to New York in time to spend at least a day in the Big Apple, the battlefield tour had to be binned.... (“Yeehaaa...” Siobhan said!!)

The landscape changed time and again as we journeyed north with some classic country mansions and estates worth millions viewed from the windows of the Beast as we sped by at 55mph!!
Tom Tom kindly assisted us around this time by taking us on a few ‘scenic detours’ which no self respecting 33ft camper van should ever attempt.... But being British, we gave it a go... Much to the amusement of some of the locals... This inevitably made us late into the campsites, but as we were merely parking up, showering, sleeping and setting off early again , it didn’t really matter.

As you can imagine, we sampled a variety of fast food joints along the route (I can highly recommend Waffle Houses!!). Siobhan's more your Burger King person... Couldn't hack the double Whopper with large fries though... Girly!!

It was also fun to see the number of British town and city names as we rumbled along. Manchester, York, Chester, Amesbury, Salisbury, Bristol, Glasgow, Northampton... You name it, they were probably there!! The original settlers reminding themselves of home... Have to say Manchester, New Hampshire was a lot warmer than the real Manchester ever is!!

We eventually reached Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Maine about 1530hrs on day 16. The end of the Gump element of the tour (Forrest Gump’s run from Santa Monica Pier in California to Marshall Point Lighthouse, Port Clyde, Maine).
The total mileage to this point was 4479 miles. Chatting with the lovely old couple in the lighthouse museum, they confirmed that many ‘Gump’ fans visited the lighthouse every year, but they had never heard of any that had travelled the whole distance in one go, in a camper van... Mark that one up to the Locky’s!!!

The sense of achievement, in having completed such an epic journey across 13 states incorporating Hollywood, Universal Studios, the streets of San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, The Grand Canyon, Elvis’s Graceland, Sun Studio and downtown Memphis, downtown Nashville and now finally the beautiful State of Maine, was immense.
To finish such an epic journey we sampled the local Maine lobster just down the road in lovely Tenants Harbor, watching the boats coming in and out.

Then as befits our road trip, it was a longer than expected drive back to Augusta in Maine to overnight before heading south to the Big Apple and then home!!

However, the plan changed again with rebellion in the ranks!! Siobhan 'demanded' a chill out... Just because it was raving mad hot and we were driving past lovely beaches, she felt she deserved some SUN time... Me, with my ginger genes (thanks Dad... RIP) was not that bothered. Siobhan won.

After laying down the law and setting a 'we are setting off no later than 1215hrs deadline', at 1230 hrs we eventually got back to our sauna of a Beast after burning the soles of my feet on the red hot sand. (looked like a right looney hopping from foot to foot trying to reach some shade!!) Back in the Beast, Siobhan freshened up with yet another 'Nepal shower' (wet wipes to you and me...) and we were off.

On the road again for a place called Delaware Gap, 362 miles away and just over the State Line from New Jersey with easy access to the Park and Ride into NEW YORK CITY.... Or so we thought....

Siobhan will continue the final concluding part of the 'The Great LA 2 NY Road Trip - The Gump Tour 2010'....

Posted by Simon Lock 08:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 13 - Nashville... Blog according to Siobhan...

Rootin tootin Nashville.....

sunny 30 °C

Chill day! My kinda day! Due to the campsites buildings being renovated, including the toilets and showers, we had no choice but to use the facilities the Beast had to offer. Thankfully Dad had figured out how to drain the crap (literally) out of the waste tanks without covering himself in it like last time! We were free to take showers and do our business without the worry of Dad later wearing it! After breakfast it was off to the pool. Dad headed straight for the shade and myself, the opposite. The pool water was already refreshing in the morning heat. I repeatedly reminded Dad to put sun cream on as we lay drying off from our swim (he’d joined me in the sunshine). His answer was always ‘’I’m going back in the shade in a minute’’, but he never moved an inch. It wasn’t until later that day after he’d moved back into the shade did he realise he had burnt; his miniature man boobs (I'm going to kill her!! SL) were now a shade of crimson, to match his crimson like belly. Hilarious! I meanwhile enjoyed a full day in and out of the pool, with cream on! Still in the Memphis mood I chilled out to some Johnny Cash and other 50/60’s tunes on the iPod. We had lunch in the camper that consisted of Hot Pockets, spicy baked beans and microwave hot dogs! Dad has cooked better.

After a few more hours in the sun I was about toasted, only suffering a slight redness to the knees! Dad looked a little like a traffic light, minus the amber and green. So on the cards for tonight was originally meant to be a trip to the Grand Ole Opry; a live radio show that has some of today’s biggest country acts singing live. ‘Country’ to me and you is Taylor Swift, but not all of it sounds as good as that as we were to find out later that night. So since all the Opry tickets were sold out we went for Plan B; a cruise down the Cumberland River on an old style river boat, with a rib steak meal and live country music. Oh joy. We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for when the coach picked us up......

We were the first ones on the bus so we chatted to the driver about the recent floods as we drove round hotels picking other guests up. He was really sweet and insisted we go and watch his band play the following day at a local venue. We were polite and tried to tell him we wouldn’t be here but ended up having to say maybe, knowing full well that by that time, we’d be in another State.
The first couple that got on the bus were the highlight of my night; a rather ‘well fed’ bloke with thinning dark hair and a ‘tache’ and his short, bubbly wife, both from the state of Alabama. He started talking to us almost immediately. He had a really drawly “Forest Gump’ type accent and when he found out we were from England he went wild. Saying how much he’d loved to visit the UK and asking detailed questions like “What y’all eat for breakfast in England?” and “What’s the main sport y’all have in England?”. My Dad spent almost the entire hour of the trip answering all his questions whilst being completely blown away by the enormity of this bloke’s character! He showed us pictures of his dogs and a photo of his son who was my age (hint hint), although there was no face in the picture, just a rather well defined torso. I did question myself as to whether it’s right to have a photo of your sons naked body on your phone, but then I reminded myself that we were in the US. Alabama (as we nick named him), also spoke of his home, the crime rate there, the snakes he found in his garden and the amount of tornados they get each year, around 50 to be exact. He told us the story of his friend who was shaving in the mirror one morning when all of a sudden he was sucked off! Now, not only is this funny, but it was also enhanced by his comedy southern drawl of an accent! He was of course referring to a tornado but I think I was laughing for about an hour after that. He then went on to describe tornados as sounding like trains; with one incident being when a bus the size of ours was picked up clean off the ground, everyone was sucked out , only then for the bus to be perched on top of a high rise building, 15 miles from where it was picked up from. Now I don’t know whether he was trying to scare us into ever visiting Alabama, but he then complained about having to put back up his ‘’privacy fence 15 times last year due to the storms. I still found this funny.

So after our hilarious bus journey through downtown Nashville, we pretty much had a good idea of what was in store for the night. We’d passed quite a few bars playing live country music and everyone seemed to be out and about enjoying the Saturday night cowboy vibe. Believe it or not the girls’ out here really wear cowboy boots and mini shorts, I thought that was just a myth!
So we boarded our boat that turned out to be a lot bigger than we expected. It was packed with people drinking and enjoying the sunset over the skyline. Dad complained about the prices of drinks as we made our way down to the dining room where the show would also be taking place. We were sat a table away from the front of the stage, sadly not on Alabama’s table, he was next to ours.
Our table consisted of the following; to my left there was the oddest couple I’ve ever come across, a woman in her late forties who wore a hideous patterned top and fashioned a rather tight 80’s perm, she stunk of stale smoke. Her husband/brother/son (couldn’t figure it out) sat next to her. Now if you’ve ever seen the film ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’, then you’ll know what I mean when I say “Her first baby came out sideways. She didn’t scream or nothing.” He was the scariest looking bloke who wore a baggy sweater and a trucker cap that covered his long, tangled hair to match his long beard. If there was to be a person carrying a gun on themselves in that room, I would have guessed him. Total 100% hillbilly.

Around the table from the weirdos were a couple from Canada. He seemed ok but Dad described the woman as looking like a stick of rock in reference to her colourful top. I would describe her as looking like a stick of rock.... stuck up her arse, as she never smiled once throughout the night! Finally around from that couple were a man and wife from Chatanooga here in Tennessee who were verging on strange too. Dad spoke to the bloke mainly as the woman who was dressed up like a dogs dinner was far too busy complaining about the fact that this time last year they were in Hawaii. No one cared. Dad later described her dweeb of a husband as being a little hard to talk to. I would have said ‘simple’. Anyways, they all had one thing in common, they loved country music, and we were doomed.
After a rather shocking introduction to the music agenda tonight we had our meal. It was not what was on the brochure. It was chicken in cream sauce not the rib steak we were promised. Anyways we were starving and due to the air con above blasting away, we had to eat fast or end up eating cold chicken.

So the music began; a tribute to the history of country tunes! A group consisting of three blokes and two girls took on songs by famous acts joined by their band whose average age was about 90. We didn’t know hardly any of the songs but the rest of the room seemed to be hooting and hollering throughout the set. One of them took on Johnny Cash’s ‘I walk the Line’, I cringed the whole way through as he pretended to play his guitar like Johnny. We did know a few of the most recent songs towards the end and Dad did enjoy seeing the girls dancing round in next to nothing. All in all it was like spending the night in a nut ward, and we breathed a sigh of relief when the boat finally docked 3 hours later!

The hour long bus ride home felt shorter due to Alabama and his never ending statements and questions. He came out with ‘’Good Lord above!’’ and ‘’My Lordy!’’ as we drove through some of the crazy night time antics the city had to offer. Before getting off the bus he said how much he wanted to record our voices, he loved us that much! It had been a true pleasure to meet him and his wife, one in a million! A funny but random day! Bring on tomorrow!

Posted by Simon Lock 17:39 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 12 - On the road again. Siobhan's input...

Memphis to Nashville. The home of the Blues to the home of Country and Western.... Yee haaaaa....

sunny 28 °C

Hey y’all,

Dad’s letting me on here to fill you guys in for the next couple of days, guess he needs a break to think of some more ‘Dad’ jokes. So the day got kick started with a dip in the pool (for me of course). I thought what better way to begin a day then by floating, peacefully in the cool waters of the Graceland RV site’s swimming pool, little did I know, they blast Elvis Radio over the speakers there for visitors ‘enjoyment’. Yes, the King of Rock n Roll has his own station playing 24hrs of nonstop Elvis hits interrupted with a weather update for Graceland every so often. I’ll admit I did find myself singing along at one point whilst soaking up some Tennessee sun, it’s hard not to!
So today we said a big farewell to Graceland as we drove the beast down Elvis Presley Blvd and waddled our way out of Memphis! What a fantastic place! We made our way through the Tennessee countryside en route to Nashville, reminiscing about the day before and how lucky we were to stand in the very same room as Elvis, Johnny Cash and many more legends, all those years ago. Today’s drive was a short one at only 280 miles (believe me that’s short), and took us past the city of Jackson. Of course we felt inclined to play ‘Jackson’ by Johnny Cash and June Carter, for the 100th time this trip, but it sounded better than ever! Admittedly, much to Dad’s annoyance, i did spend the majority of this road trip today either asleep or reading Twilight, so I didn’t do much ‘through the window photography’, once you’ve seen one hill billy town you’ve seen them all, right? And plus we weren’t heading over any state boarders today so I wouldn’t have dad waking me up from a peaceful slumber with ‘’Quick Siobhan! There’s a weighing station for the trucks, they’re often near the boarders! Quick get your camera ready!’’

The definite highlight of my day was when we pulled over at a rest stop for the toilets and a stretch only to find a rather large woman, dressed in orange sat in a motorised lawn mower, scooting around on the nearby grass. A sat completely mesmerised by her as she ran the mower back and forth, over the mounds and in circles, hard at work. She was so mesmerising that I had to film it. Videos can be purchased upon my arrival back in the UK.

So after spending a few hours in the camper looking at the inside of my eyelids, i opened them to find we were already on the outskirts of Nashville, it seemed to be rush hour and our normal two lanes were joined by several more. Cars and trucks weaved their way in and out of traffic; we’re pretty used to their senseless driving now, so thought nothing of it. We got a pretty good view of the city skyline as we drove to our campsite, situated a few minutes from the Cumberland River. When we arrived we found that most of the place was being rebuilt; only later to find out that the place had been flooded by the Cumberland back in May this year. The place was wiped out by over 18ft of river water, so much so that if you were float in a boat on it, you could have screwed a light bulb into the overhanging street lamps above, scary stuff! So we were shown our plot by yet another gay Koa worker, who this time felt the need to touch Dad’s chest whilst describing the floods. Dad was not pleased. He then went on to tell Dad that he had to rescue his little puppy from the flood before it was swallowed up by the rising waters. We were hoping ‘puppy’ wasn’t code for anything else.

It was still pretty hot when we finished setting up the camper so Dad and I took a quick dip in the rather large pool they had. Dad then later decided that the following day ought to be a chill day. No driving just lots of lazing in the sun and swimming. Couldn’t have agreed more!

Posted by Simon Lock 17:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 11 - The home of the King of Rock and Roll

Plus Sun Studio and Beale Street, Memphis...

sunny 30 °C

Day 11 – Graceland – The Home of the King and Sun Studios, Memphis

Graceland is located on Elvis Presley Blvd in Memphis. Although built a number of years before, Elvis bought it when he was 22 and ‘modernised’ it by adding certain buildings and changing the decor over the years. Whilst it looks very cheesy in parts today, it was the height of fashion at the time. The tour actually starts across the road from the mansion, where all the other exhibits are located (his cars and planes) and numerous gift shops. From there they bus you across the road with a self guided audio tour that explains each room. The tour consists of the ground floor and all the out buildings but not the upper floor which out of respect they keep private.

The house itself is not massive but together with the additional buildings and the grounds it does make an impressive place, particularly when you consider that he was born in a very poor two room house and just a few years before he bought Graceland he was working for the local electric company delivering parts around Memphis.

The most touching bit are the graves of Elvis and his mum and dad. His mum died a few years before Elvis and was buried in Memphis. When Elvis died he too was buried together with his mum but after a while Elvis’s dad had them both moved and reburied at Graceland. There was also a little memorial to Elvis’s twin brother who died at birth.

As it would have been Elvis’s 75th birthday a few weeks ago, there were still many wreaths and flowers from all over the world around the grave and surrounding gardens.

Across the road we then looked around his many cars (Rolls Royce’s, Ferraris, Mercedes and various American makes) and his two private aircraft. One large one which they used for Elvis and his band when touring and a smaller Lear Jet size plane he used for private use.

Whilst I thought the tour around Graceland was very poignant almost as good was the tour around Sun Studios in the afternoon. For those who don’t know about Sun Studios, this is the place in downtown Memphis that was run by a guy called Sam Phillips, essentially a radio engineer, who ran the studio as a place for recording blues artists for other companies. This place is probably the most famous recording studio in the world, where the blending of blues and country music exploded in the big bang of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This is the place that launched the careers of Elvis, BB King, Johnny Cash, The Howlin Wolf, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and many others. Through a quirk of fate, it’s in exactly the same state as it was when it closed as a recording studio, down to the same tiles on the floor (with marks for where particular musicians should stand) and the same tiles on the walls to provide the soundproofing.

The tour was guided by a real Tennessee rock chick with a great southern drawl who really knew her stuff. The highlight though was to stand in the same spot that Elvis, and many others did years before; actually hold the microphone used by such greats and pretend to be one.... Sent a tingle down the spine...

We then had a quick hour in downtown Memphis and in particular Beale Street with blues music beating out from every bar and restaurant along the road. Chatting with one of the local guys, he was telling me how it’s the beating heart of Memphis and in days gone by it often exploded into violence (remember; it’s legal in Tennessee to carry your gun with you... It’s only recently that they have brought in a law that says you cannot carry a gun on Beale Street at all...) Siobhan insisted on getting her Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and Hooters vest... (Lovely looking girl served us in Hooters... Can’t think why they call it Hooters though!!) All in all, it was amazing. A very cool place; that still has an edge about it...

To finish off this great day we had a meal in the restaurant that Elvis used to take his family to. The restaurant provides a pink stretch Cadillac to pick you up and take you back after your meal. To be fair the food wasn’t fantastic but we had a great time with an Aussie couple we met who were also touring the States (they had six months to do it, we had 3 weeks!!).
A long day and a lot packed into it.

Tomorrow it’s driving and then overnight, maybe two in Nashville.

Posted by Simon Lock 17:05 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Days 9 and 10. Ladies and Gentlemen.... Mr Elvis Presley...

On the road again to Memphis, Tennessee....

27 °C

OK, so as you know, the next leg of our journey after the Grand Canyon was to Memphis, Tennessee and Gracelands the home of the legend that was and is, Mr Elvis Presley. Only trouble is that its over 1100 miles from the Grand Canyon... Siobhan was not best pleased!!

Day 9 and we were up early and back on the road, this time heading for El Reno in Oklahoma. To get to Oklahoma from New Mexico you have to pass through the ‘pan handle’ region of Texas. While in Texas we stopped at a petrol station to get some fuel and a bit of grub for Siobhan. However, even the temptation of a foot long hot dog was not enough to get Siobhan inside to begin with after she saw some geezer with a holster around his waist... I couldn’t see the problem, he’d left his gun in the car!! When we finally got her in there, the guy serving had to repeat 3 times ‘what d’y’all want on it’ before Siobhan finally worked out that he was asking if she wanted ketchup or mustard on it... Very funny.. I don’t think he’d ever seen a surfer dude girl from Yorkshire with a rasta hat on and baggy Nepalese pants on before.... Not sure also what the locals thought of a 30 foot camper van weaving its way through the freeways of Amarillo, Texas with Peter Kay playing ‘Show me the way to Amarillo’ full blast and me doing my best Kay impression whilst driving!!

After passing through Texas, we were into Oklahoma (our 3rd state in one day...) and heading for a place called El Reno. They dont sing about it being windy in Oklahoma for nothing.... The BEAST was all over the place on the Freeway, so I was glad it was only 360 miles today. Arriving safely, we decided to eat in the local Cherokee Restaurant. This place turned out to be where all the locals ate, so you can imagine how quiet it went we we walked in!!! It was friendly enough though when we sat down and the food was fantastic. Simple stuff, but really good food. Siobhan had Buffalo steak which to me tasted like a ‘gamey’ version of beef and I had the best ribeye steak I’d had in years. It was funny though. We didn’t have a starter or pudding yet couldn’t finish the main meal we’d been given, yet the locals were polishing trays of food like it was going out of fashion... I felt a bit anorexic compared to those guys!!

Day 10 and it was El Reno to Memphis. Just over 500 miles from Oklahoma, passing through Johhny Cash’s birth state of Arkansas and then just over the State line into Memphis, Tennessee. The route from Oklahoma and through Arkansas took us through some lovely countryside with lakes and rivers etc though Siobhan missed most of it ‘cos she was kipping... With over 500 miles completed though and only 10 miles to go what did I see in the rear view mirror?? Flashing blue lights and then the siren started.... Pulling over, I waited to see what happens next. After a few minutes the policeman got out of his car (a raving mad, black Hummer... Very nice...) and came up to Siobhan’s side. “Can I see your licence please sir?” Checking out my new UK picture licence he obviously thought I was dodgy and asked me to get out of the vehicle... (All Siobhan wanted to do was take a picture...)

After asking loads of questions about where I had come from, where I was going, etc, I got around to asking why he’d stopped me. “Sir, you were doing 29mph in a 50mph zone. Did you not notice the mile long traffic behind you??” The shame of it... Pulled over for going too slow!! By this time two other cop cars had pulled up as ‘support’...
After I told him we were headed for the Gracelands RV park (turn right at the Heartbreak Hotel and its at the end of Lonely Street.. Seriously...) we shook hands and he sent me on my way....

This now made us late for booking into the site, so it was a night registration job. (ie see what sites are free and choose one... ) When I told the security guard on the gate why we were late, he nearly wet himself. Ah well. We are here safely and have set up on a pitch on Love me Tender Blvd (no laughing please..).

The Gracelands tour and a trip to the legendary Sun Studios happens tomorrow... C’mon...

Posted by Simon Lock 06:51 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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