Our next destination was Tupelo, Mississippi, home of Elvis Presley. We drove through a section of Alabama on the way; unfortunately, the part we saw in the Birmingham area was economically depressed. We toured the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame in Talladega—a NASCAR track is there.
We visited the Tupelo Auto Museum, a collection of about 100 vehicles. Then we toured the restored two-room home of Gladys and Vernon Presley where Elvis was born. The church the Presley family attended was moved to the grounds beside the home, and we watched an excellent audiovisual presentation with actors re-enacting the singing and a shortened sermon of that time. I must include this detail: For his 11th birthday, Elvis wanted a shotgun, but his mother talked him into a guitar. The church minister taught him 3 chords: A, E, and D. The family moved to Memphis in 1948 when Elvis was 13.
We stayed overnight at a B&B just outside of Tupelo with very friendly hosts and an extremely comfortable bed. Check it out if you’re in the area or interested: http://moonlakefarm.com
Next was Memphis where we toured Graceland—not as commercialized as I thought it would be and worth a visit. Graceland was a trip back to the 1960s and 1970s—including shag carpet and gaudy color schemes.
From there we drove into Nashville and met our California family who had flown in for the weekend. You don’t have to even like country music to enjoy The Country Music Hall of Fame—we spent almost five hours there. It’s really a history of music. The Grand Ole Opry at Opryland was a unique experience with good entertainers. The next day we toured the Johnny Cash Museum, went on a trolley tour, and took a carriage ride through downtown Nashville.
We drove into Kentucky—beautiful rolling hills, green grass, horses in paddocks—the area we were in looked like a travel ad. We spent a day and a half in Bowling Green, visiting the National Corvette Museum—that’s the one which had the sinkhole on February 12, 2014--and going on a one-hour factory tour. I had never been in an assembly plant so found it fascinating watching the people and robots build corvettes—a total of 160 were built that day. No, we didn’t drive a new one home, but I bought a raffle ticket.
After a stop at the Swope Car Museum in Elizabethtown, we drove on to Lexington where we stayed overnight. The next day we drove through part of the Daniel Boone National Forest and hiked to the Natural Bridge in the state park. The Natural Bridge is a 900 ton natural sandstone arch, 65 feet/20 meters high and 78 feet/24 meters long. According to my iPhone, round trip we climbed 45 flights of stairs--mostly rocks which served as stairs, a distance of 2.3 miles, and I huffed and puffed. The majesty of the bridge and the view were worth it. Next time, I’d take the Skyride/chairlift up!
We entered West Virginia—the part that was originally coal-mining. We decided to take back roads so we really saw how the people in that area lived—houses built right beside the road in between the gaps in the Appalachians, many abandoned places as the boom-and-bust cycles continue, and the Hatfield and McCoy Trail named after the famous feud.
After leaving West Virginia, we entered Virginia and meandered along part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. There are no traffic lights, no advertisements, no bathrooms between October and May, no service stations, no villages or towns right on the Parkway, just beautiful scenery. Speed limit is 45 mph.
The southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park which is half in Tennessee and half in North Carolina. We were in the North Carolina part, and the photo I posted earlier was taken at Cranberry Ridge, elevation 5,475 feet.
The next morning we drove from Blue Ridge, Georgia, to the Atlanta Airport (with the largest number of passengers last year in the world) and flew to Toronto. We rented a car and drove to a lovely B&B with friendly hosts and a beautiful lake setting near Peterborough: www.stillwateronthelake.com
The next morning we drove to Lindsay, Dunsford, Bobcaygeon, and Sunderland and walked through four cemeteries to locate Doug’s ancestors on the White and Germyn sides of the family. Doug’s mother was born in Bobcaygeon. We found most of the ancestors’ tombstones and confirmed one of Doug’s Great-Great-Grandfather’s death date and age at death. We never did find his Great-Great-Grandmother’s grave though so we still don’t know her maiden name or dates of birth and death. She remains Mary for now.
Across from the Dunsford Cemetery, we saw a couple working in their yard. We stopped to talk with them, and they put us in touch with some of the Germyn descendants still living in the area. Now I have more family history to work on, but I’m always glad to get the contact information. If anyone reading this is related to the Germyn or White families, please do contact me.
Doug and I took a late flight out of Toronto and arrived home at 1:00 a.m. We enjoyed the trip, but, perhaps on the next trip, we’ll slow down a bit as we both came home tired.
If anyone reading this wants a full copy of the trip log that I kept, please send me a message from the Contacts page on this website. I’ve just included a summary here.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers reading this, and enjoy spring everyone.