3B’s and More in Memphis

It’s been said that people come to Memphis for the three B’s: blues, booze and BBQ. We came for blues and BBQ, and hadn’t thought of the booze part, since that’s pretty much available anywhere, but all three are certainly to be found here.

Friday night we heard some amazingly excellent blues at the Rum Boogie Blues Hall and Juke Joint. Kind of a scruffy looking place, but the music we could hear from the street was irresistible. Squeezed our way in and eventually found a couple of seats. LOVED IT. Didn’t want to leave.

Rum Boogie Blues Hall and Juke Joint
Rum Boogie Blues Hall and Juke Joint

You can hear blues on Beale Street both night . . . Beale Street Signs

. . . and day . . .

Silky O'Sullivan's Patio
Silky O’Sullivan’s Patio

History is appreciated in Memphis, so there are signs here and there with anecdotes that give some historical perspective. I love the sign below, where a Beale Street merchant is quoted as saying, “What store hours? We never had store hours. When we were here, we were here.” A little more Beale Street . . .Beale Street Sign

Silky O'Sullivan's inside the patio and from the street (above right)
Silky O’Sullivan’s inside the patio and from the street (above right)
Gibson Factory Front Desk with Image of B.B. King's guitar "Lucille"
Gibson Factory Front Desk with Image of B.B. King’s guitar “Lucille”

But there’s more here than the three B’s. The other day we walked across the street and down a block or so to tour the Gibson factory where they make hollow-body and semi-hollow-body electric guitars like the one I inherited from my brother Lennie, so it was great to see the process as well as a beautiful collection of custom guitars hanging on the walls. “Lucille,” B.B. King’s guitar, is possibly the most famous Gibson of all time, so here’s the front desk of the factory.

We also witnessed the March of the Ducks at the Peabody Hotel . . . Peabody Ducks on Red Carpet

Every day at 11:00 a.m. the ducks march (well okay, waddle) from their rooftop “palace” across a red carpet to the elevators, where they descend to the lobby, “march” across another red carpet, and climb a couple of stairs into the fountain. At 5 p.m. the route is reversed. All is supervised and announced with appropriate pomp by the “Duckmaster.” This has become the Peabody Hotel’s signature experience. Hence the souvenir glassware . . . Peabody Duck Stemware

Here’s the Peabody fountain, where the ducks mostly swim around in circles, and a view from the roof . . .

Finally on Saturday, our last full day in Memphis, we had a chance to tour the National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the former Lorraine Motel. It is brilliantly arranged and very powerful. If you get a chance to visit, do not miss it. Absolutely first class.

We left Memphis this morning and drove all day toward our next stop, Santa Fe. Tonight I’m writing this from Shawnee, Oklahoma, but I couldn’t leave Memphis without one last post. We had a great time there, even better than we expected.

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me. ∼Carl Sandburg

Here’s wishing you intriguing adventures, unexpected treats, and excellent versions of at least one B of your choice.

Walking in Memphis

Put on my blue suede shoes and
I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain.

. . . Then I’m walking in Memphis ∼Marc Cohn

Okay, we’re road-tripping, not flying, and when we drove into town, the rain had pretty much stopped, but we are now in Memphis and of course walking a lot, so I can’t get this song out of my head. Before we arrived, we weren’t sure if we’d like it here–urban, inland, colder–but we’re definitely enjoying Memphis so far. It helps that this time we’ve got a really nice condo, artistically decorated . . .

Memphis Condo
Memphis Condo: Including Cigar Box Guitar, also called a Delta Blues Box, and Cigar Band Art.

. . . smack in the middle of downtown Memphis, half a block from Main Street and about three blocks from Beale Street . . . ↓

And as of Monday morning . . .

Memphis Sunrise from our balcony
Memphis Sunrise from our balcony

. . . the sun was back out and we’ve been out and about, exploring, including breakfast at the historic Arcade Restaurant, featured in a number of movies and the oldest restaurant in Memphis . . . ↓

Arcade Restaurant, Memphis, Tennessee
Arcade Restaurant, Memphis, Tennessee.

It’s right across from the old train station . . . ↓

Central Station, Memphis
Central Station, Memphis

. . . so as you can see, we’re back in the land of red brick walls . . .

There’s a lot of the unexpected about this leg of the journey, but my powers of predicting the future have been proven completely inadequate before now. I had expected the river trip in France to be a special treat, a relaxing mini-break from the routine, but it was possibly the most stressful week of the entire adventure. I also thought we’d love Panama City Beach, but although the water was beautiful, being in a place that is mainly a vacation destination, not a regular town, made it sort of like living at the mall, just with more souvenir t-shirts for sale.

And my ignorance of geography is embarrassing. Who knew Memphis is barely even in Tennessee? Not me. I thought it was somewhere in the slightly-western middle, but we’re in the far southwest corner, only a few miles north of Mississippi, and we can see Arkansas right across the Mississippi River, roughly four blocks from our downtown condo. I’d basically forgotten there even WAS such a place as Arkansas, and I’ve spent the last year looking at maps. A LOT. Wow. Oh, and by the way, you can’t get Tupelo honey in Tupelo, Mississippi. You have to get that in Florida, my Alabama cousins explained to me. Sheesh. Okay, I could hardly have been expected to know that! Just saying. Still, wish I’d known to stop instead of driving right by a roadside stand in Florida offering it, preferring to wait for the “real” Tupelo honey in Tupelo.

I guess I’m learning that when you’re on a voyage of discovery it’s impossible to avoid having expectations, but I’m humbled by how frequently I’m wrong, and not just about details of place. It seems I can’t even predict what I’ll enjoy, let alone which experiences will be most meaningful or have a lasting resonance.

Ironically, one bit of ignorance may have actually increased the power of another discovery here in Memphis, since it was for us completely out of the blue. As it happens, this condo is exactly three blocks from the Lorraine Motel and the balcony where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Somehow, both David and I had forgotten he was shot in Memphis, so it was stunning to go for a walk and stumble upon this . . . ↓

Site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated–now part of the National Civil Rights Museum

There were a few people around, but everyone was very quiet, respectful of the significance of the place. The wreath is a replica of the original hung on the second floor railing outside room 306, where Dr. King was standing, and the two cars just below in the parking lot are the same year, make and model as were there on the 4th of April 1968, so it had a surreal time-warp quality I can’t really describe. I wish I could convey how unexpectedly moving it was to stand in this place.

There’s certainly much more to tell you about Memphis, but for now I’ll leave you with some timeless wisdom from Dr. King:

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

∼Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wishing you moving moments of discovery and an abundance of faith and peace and love, no matter where you’re walking.



Here Comes the Sun

After a cloudy weekend here on Panama City Beach, Sunday evening gave us this . . .

Sunset on Panama City Beach
Sunset on Panama City Beach

. . . and Monday, this . . . Panama City Beach 5

So now I’m understanding the Aqua part. The water here is absolutely crystal clear. Gorgeous.

Panama City Beach

The beach, at least near us, is surprisingly uncrowded, since it’s the height of spring break season. When we go out to walk, it’s a bit like being the only minivan at Sturgis. Probably not even exaggerating to say roughly 99% of the people here this week are under 25 years old. They get going a bit later in the morning than we do, but even before the sun sets . . .Sunset Wide 2

Sunset on Panama City Beach. . . they’re all doing their college spring break thing, including blaring outdoor karaoke followed by a nightly dance party that goes until about 2 a.m. every night across the street from our condo. Fortunately, the door is heavy, the walls are thick and the windows and window coverings are substantial, so although it’s audible, it’s at least muted at bit.

During our walks, we overhear rather more interpersonal drama than we have in other locales with an older demographic. And yesterday I glanced at the street in time to witness a Girls-Gone-Wild moment when a young woman popped out of the sunroof of a passing car. Whatever. (And, no, there’s no photo!)

Mostly harmless it seems, but I’ve lived long enough to know some choices do have lasting consequences.

By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. ∼Confucius

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. ∼Proverbs 3:13-14

So I’m hoping for all these young men and women–as well as for the rest of us, really–wisdom, deep and wide as the ocean; foresight, penetrating beyond the horizon; and clarity, sparkling as the waters of the Gulf.

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. ∼Henri Nouwen

This morning it looked like this . . .IMG_7886

. . . but even as I write, here comes the sun. Amen.

On the Way to Aqua

Sunset on St. Pete Beach
Sunset on St. Pete Beach

Beautiful as the setting sun can be, we let it set on St. Pete Beach without us on Friday and checked out a day early from the dismal condo we’d rented. No regrets, as this plan had the added bonus of shortening our drive on Saturday. We spent Friday night in Crystal River . . . . ↓

Lunch overlooking the Crystal River
King’s Bay of the Crystal River

. . . on our way to the Aqua Condominiums in Panama City Beach.      Saturday’s drive was long, but there wasn’t much traffic for most of the way along the Big Bend Scenic Byway Coastal Trail.

We passed places with names like Apalachicola and Ochlockonee Bay, and carefully drove by Tate’s Hell State Forest–must be a reason for that name. We finally  found EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOM in Panama City Beach, apparently all in their cars . . .

Longhorn Steer Car in Panama City Beach, Florida
Longhorn Steer Car in Panama City Beach, Florida

. . . since it was nearly impossible to even make a left turn. Be sure to note the Longhorn Steer car.

The beach, on the other hand, is not really that crowded.

Cloudy Day on Panama City Beach
Cloudy Day on Panama City Beach — view from our 7th floor balcony

When we got into the condo I noticed all the clocks were an hour off. Someone had neglected to spring ahead, I thought, so I helpfully went around and changed all the clocks. This morning I woke up to discover my phone had finally updated, and now the clocks were an hour off the other way. Oops. Turns out we’ve driven far enough west that we’re now on Central Time. Sheesh. Yes, I changed all the clocks back to the correct time. Gulf from Panama City Beach Condo

Really reminds me we’re on the road home.  The compass in the car says N, or W or NW nearly all the time now, and in a few days we head inland for good.

It’s cool and cloudy here at the moment, and a bit more jade than aqua . . . →

. . . but we can still enjoy the shimmering afternoon light on the sea and I’m hoping for a few more spectacular sunsets.  Late Afternoon on Panama City BeachSunset from Panama City Beach Condo Balcony

There’s something about the vastness of the sea and sky together that is both humbling and soothing. I’ll miss these views and colors, but I am beginning to long for home. Until then, I’ll soak it all in this week and share the best of it with you.

I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought. ∼Helen Keller

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. ∼Jacques Yves Cousteau

The mountains are calling, but the sea hasn’t seen the last of us!

There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.
∼Victor Hugo

Still Life with Gators

. . . or more importantly, still ALIVE in spite of gators and interstate travel in Florida. We left Key West Friday morning and made our way along the Overseas Highway, marveling yet again at the amazing shades of blue on both the Atlantic side and the Gulf side. We had hoped to stop again at Bahia Honda State Park, but the line of cars was out to the highway and we had a long way to go. Instead we stopped on the side of the road for a few quick snaps.

Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park

Our goal was to avoid the freeway as much as possible this time—been there, done that and YIKES—so instead we headed up 41 and across the Everglades. In a canal at the side of the road, we spotted alligators just hanging out enjoying the sunshine. Super cool. I’ve never seen gators in the wild, so loved it, especially from the safety of our car! But of course, that’s not how you get good photos, so we pulled off at a visitors’ center and found these . . .

Double Trouble
Double Trouble — Don’t remember them being this blue.

. . . and this guy . . .

Still Water with Gator
Still Water with Gator

Super scary when they stared at me, so I was grateful for the fence! This Great Blue Heron seemed relaxed . . .

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

. . . right there, next to the gators. But we weren’t there very long, so not sure how dinner time goes!

We spent Friday night in Naples, and although no Key West-style sunset from our hotel, we were able to enjoy the sun lighting up the clouds . . . Clouds at Sunset -- Naples. . . then continued north in the morning. We were supposed to stop for lunch with some cousins in Fort Myers, but somehow got our signals crossed, so David took me instead out to see Sanibel, famous in Bridge family lore as the site of a maddening family photo session, with teens on mopeds, so you can imagine how easy that was to manage. Like herding cats. Here’s David on the beach . . .

David on the beach, Sanibel Island
David on Sanibel Island — 43 years since the last visit

Then we decided to risk I-75 to drive the remaining two hours up to St. Pete Beach, and the angry, reckless drivers were still out in full force, but we made it. The condo itself is a little disappointing, and the beach in spots is thronged with spring-breakers, but dwelling on the negatives would be insane. A short walk has us back to shell-seeking and admiring the blues, so we are NOT suffering, I know. Makes me think of this:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ∼Philippians 4:8

So here’s a little admirable loveliness for you . . .

St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach
Shells on St. Pete Beach
Shells on St. Pete Beach
St Pete Beach Blues
St Pete Beach Blues

Photogenic, no? I promise to keep sending you the warmest, most colorful photos I can to help you through the final weeks of winter!

End of the Road

We’ve said goodbye to Key West, former home of Hemingway and his enviable studio . . .

Ernest Hemingway's Studio
Ernest Hemingway’s Studio

. . . where works like For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Green Hills of Africa, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro, among others, were written. The day I visited, there was the loveliest breeze coming through the windows and rustling the palms outside . . .

Hemingway House on Key West
Hemingway House on Key West

Hemingway seems to haunt the place a bit. I can’t even count the number of look-alikes I encountered during our sojourn. Here’s one conveniently posed by the sign, in case you didn’t catch the resemblance.

Hemingway Look-Alike
Hemingway Look-Alike
Louie's Backyard and the Dog Beach
Louie’s Backyard and the Dog Beach

Goodbye also to Louie’s Backyard, an excellent restaurant next to the dog beach. Our favorite is the small plates restaurant upstairs, where the Prosecco is cold, the chef is world class and where we twice lucked into a balcony table with a view of the sea looking like this. →

And no more Mallory Square Sunset Celebrations where the performers hope for tips, the artisans hope for sales . . .

Mallory Square Artist
Mallory Square Artist

. . . the sunset sailors fill their sails . . .Sunset Sails. . . and the vacationers fill their drinks . . .

Mallory Square Coconut Drink at Sunset
Mallory Square coconut drink while waiting for sunset

But aside from these usual tourist events, I don’t know where else we’ll see things like this . . .

Fort Zachary Taylor Civil War Battle Reinactment
Fort Zachary Taylor — Preparing for a Civil War Battle Reinactment

. . . or this . . .

Iguanas in the Cemetery
Iguanas in the Cemetery
End of Route 1
David at the end of Route 1

But all that is now in the past. We made it to the end of Route 1, and since Key West was meant to be the end of our original year of adventure, leaving Key West really is the beginning of the road home.

We will actually be in Florida for two more weeks, which we realize is a very good thing, since FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, this winter has been UNBELIEVABLE. Bon courage! It seriously does have to give way to spring eventually.

So you’d think it would be no big deal, but there is an odd feeling of something ending. At the same time, though, some new things are beginning and other good things will be resuming, so in this season of change, we remain grateful for the opportunities we’ve had and the friends we’ve made both in France and here in the states.

We love you all. Thanks for sharing our journey with us. We’re not done yet!

Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle. ∼Anna Quindlen

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. ∼John Steinbeck

Happy trails!

Uniquely Key West

First, I know many of you are still suffering from this seemingly endless winter, so here’s a gift of warmth and color to help you cope. If you’re really desperate, remember you can click on any shot to enlarge it and really soak it in. Enjoy . . .

Hope you feel a little better and warmer after a little color therapy! Now that you’re fortified . . . .

I can’t leave Key West without mentioning the notorious weirdness. Before we even left Colorado, we were told by a few people that Key West was too “weird” and we wouldn’t like it. But, well, weirdly, we’ve enjoyed it. Now we’re down to less than a week left here before heading north to St. Petersburg (still Florida), so I thought I’d better share a few of the unique things we’ve seen here.

The naysayers weren’t exactly wrong. People do seem to delight in being a little different.

Standard Duval Street style sight
Standard type of Duval Street sight

And some of the transportation is unusually artsy . . .Fish Fund Truck

And there’s actually a rooftop bar that is “Clothing Optional” – we’ve skipped that, so no photos!

There are t-shirts here that say, “Key West: Where the weird go pro.” That seems to be true.

Spiderman on Duval Street
Spiderman on Duval Street
Juggler at Nightly Sunset Celebration,  Malory Square
Juggler at Nightly Sunset Celebration, Malory Square

Some who are only posing in odd attire have a sign asking for a tip if you take a picture. Didn’t cross the street to see if Spiderman had a sign, but he did not appear to be playing.

This top-hatted juggler is at least trying to entertain for his tips. He involves volunteers and has a relatively engaging spiel that draws a crowd every night.

Southernmost PointActually, though, unusually-dressed people can be found anywhere from time to time, so there are probably only a few things completely unique to Key West, like the fact of its being the southernmost point in the continental USA. There are non-stop lines of people wanting their pictures taken next to this. →

Side note: The other evening at Malory Square, a young Asian woman came up to us and said, “Excuse me? Is that Cuba?” pointing to the little island 500 yards across the water. I think her English was good enough to understand us when we explained that Cuba is close, but not THAT close. You can’t actually see it from Key West. It’s also not north of here. In case your geography’s a little rusty, Cuba is 90 miles south of the Southernmost Point marker, not to mention the fact that it’s slightly larger than 27-acre Sunset Key you can see from Malory Square.

Some unique and interesting things here don’t even qualify as weird at all. Key West is the place to find much of the treasure recovered from the 1622 wreck of the Spanish ship Atocha by Mel Fisher and his crew, as well as other shipwreck treasure.

So it’s not all weird, and even some of the weird is fun.

We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutually satisfying weirdness–and call it love–true love. ∼Robert Fulghum (probably not Dr. Seuss, as some say)Frost QuoteWishing you the very best wherever your road takes you!