Day 2: December 29, 2005
All The Way To Memphis



Shots of last nights lodging and eatery. I was very pleased with both and can recommend the Olive Pit to anyone. Great Italian food and everyone in town seems to know it. This was a busy place. I'll recommend the Knight's Inn, as well, but only to those who appreciate a fine forty dollar room.

I suppose if your name is Smith or Jones you won't see the attraction in either Gibson County or the town of Gibson. I, on the other hand,... I had actually passed up a promising diner in hopes that I would be able to eat breakfast in Gibson and I was not disappointed. There are eleven tables in the back of the grocery. All are covered with red checkered oil cloth and most are sitting on treadle sewing machine bases. The half-dozen men sitting around the first table left shortly after I entered but they were followed by a constant stream of customers who mostly knew each other. Good food, good prices, and a generous helping of atmosphere.

The US routes will try to take you around Brownsville but don't do it. You need to go through town to see Billy Tripp's incredible sculpture/monument. At first glance, I thought it was some sort of power station then I begin to question what a fire watch tower was doing in the center of town. Then I realized that something wasn't quite right with that power station and pulled over with my jaw in my lap. This whimsical and thought provoking creation is huge and getting bigger. That's a water tower that the crane is poised to work on. Billy has placed five Mind Field Stools near the front of the sculpture that provide some pretty good reading. See them here. A web search didn't turn up much but there is some information here and here.

ADDENDUM: Oct 21, 2008 - The two links I had above went dead and have been replaced. While looking for replacements, I found Billy's own site which I'm fairly certain did not exist in 2005.

In Memphis, I opted for the Sleep Inn on Main Street. It's well over my target budget but still about a third of the current rate of the last place I stayed in Memphis - The Peabody. Check-in was a couple of hours off so I did the obvious and walked to Beale Street. At the Rum Boogie Cafe, I had one beer and got directions to the Gibson guitar factory just one block away. The Cafe is filled with autographed guitars though not every signature came from a guitarist and even those that did are not often on an instrument that the signer did or would have anything to do with. But there are exceptions. The guitar just to the left of the neon Stax sign is from Scotty Moore and there's one from Elvis just out of the frame to the left.

I did enjoy the Gibson factory tour even though it was pretty much shut down for the holidays and there were many more than the stated fifteen maximum in our group. But our guide, Tony, did a good job of explaining things and there is something about rooms full of handcrafted instruments that gets your attention. Over 90% of the guitars make it out as perfect but a few don't. Most are completely destroyed but I guess golf cart seat backs are another option.

Right across the street from the guitar factory is the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum. There's some really good stuff here but photos aren't allowed. An outside shot and a recommendation is the best I can do.

On Wednesday, when I checked into my motel in Paris and checked email, I was surprised to learn the Maine resident and American Road egroup member Alex Burr was in Memphis. He is visiting his daughter and the two of them had driven old 61 to Clarksdale that day. I told him I was on my way to Memphis and when I checked in and checked email today, he had passed along a phone number. I gave him a call and before too long we met up at the Rendezvous. Alex has some high speed night time experience with the area's two lanes from a few decades back and passed on a few tidbits and encouraged me to hit Clarksdale if the schedule allows. That's me, Alex, and Alex's daughter KC.

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