We left Pennsylvania July 27th on an odyssey. Going to Santa Fe the longer way we spent seven days traversing Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas before crossing into New Mexico. It was only about a hundred miles longer than taking I-70 but much more scenic. The first day was strictly driving between Reading and Asheville, North Carolina. Monday was spent touring the Biltmore estate, the lavish mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, scion of the great Robber Baron Cornelius Vanderbilt. At 250 rooms and 65 fireplaces it is an ode to excess. This is how the 1% spend the wealth produced by the sweat of your labor.
The next day we drove to Nashville and toured President Andrew Jackson’s old cotton plantation The Hermitage. This sprawling land was worked by slaves whose labor enriched the early President and his family. These two days were an object lesson in how the 1% exploits the 99%.
That evening was one of the highlights of the entire trip: a visit to the Grand Ole Opry. I’m not a country music fan but I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Numerous singers and bands played three songs apiece including The Charlie Daniels Band doing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Then Little Big Town took the stage and brought down the house. Afterwards we had a backstage tour and I got my picture taken standing on the Circle.
We drove down Music Row listening to the music emanating from all the nightspots and saw young people milling all about. The following morning we went to Nashville’s full size rendition of The Parthenon and then had lunch at the famous Loveless Cafe. Frequently featured on both the Food and Travel Channels they’re famous for their biscuits. I can’t say they were much better than the ones we had for free at out hotel breakfasts. By far the best biscuits we had were at Brother Junipers in Memphis. Their barbecue was delicious however.
The Parthenon replica in Nashville:
We did drive to Memphis and stayed at the worst hotel ever. This Comfort Inn near the airport has owners who don’t believe in either cleanliness or maintenance. After three tries we finally found a somewhat acceptable room. The second one had a sofa bed which not only hadn’t been stripped of its dirty sheets someone’s under garments were still in it. Relatives of the owner were living in the room across the hall.
One room (of two) filled with gold and platinum record awards:
Afraid to eat anything in a facility whose public areas were a disgrace we had breakfast at Brother Junipers. Best meal we had on the trip. Graceland exceeded my expectations. Folks had warned me it wasn’t grand like the Biltmore or The hermitage (for its time) but I really enjoyed the tour. The home and grounds are still as they were when Elvis died in August 1977.
We then drove to western Arkansas on the Oklahoma border but not before a brief stop at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Built to simulate a bridge (the Bridge tot he 21st Century) next to the Arkansas River, it is filled with documents and memorabilia of the Nineties. I met a woman in the gift shop who has known Bill Clinton for 39 years. I met the President when he was in Reading campaigning for Hillary in 2008.
The Oklahoma City Memorial is a testament to the 168 people killed in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. Tastefully done, it is a very moving tribute.
After brief stops at the Cadillac Ranch and Tucumcari NM ( a town still rich in lore from old Route 66) we rolled into Santa Fe. The second leg of the trip took us into Arizona, Utah and Colorado.
A few selfies and a game: where am I?