Friday, October 2, 2015

Let's Take a Road Trip! Day 1.5, Tennessee - The Hermitage, Shiloh and Graceland!

Our Spring road-trip vacation to visit Ranger out in Dallas got pushed
to summer... However, when summer arrived, we realized that Dallas
was no place for us in the middle of July... Or August, or September!
So we pushed our trip out further, to mid-October. Finally, the
week of our trip arrived and I did what I always do just before any
long road-trip... I took my pretty Jeep in for a service check-up!
First, I took it to Costco to have the new tires rotated, then I took it to the
dealership where I bought it to have a recall repair done and the oil and air
filter changed. I was so excited to take it to Dallas because it's so comfy and I
had already programmed the stops we planned to make into the navigation
system. Plus, there's the satellite radio I've realized I can't live without as well!
I was so happy when my service guy announced he had my Jeep washed
for me because it helped check one more item off my already too long list
of things to do. However, as I left the dealership, I realized the windshield
was spotty so I pulled over in their parking lot, grabbed a towel from the
back seat and that's when I realized... Someone there had wrecked my Jeep!
What's worse, Kernersville Jeep was willing to let me drive away without even
mentioning it. Needless to say, I threw a fit! After all, that's no way to treat a
customer; and, it certainly wasn't the way we wanted to begin the vacation we
had been planning and looked forward to all year! Then there's the fact that I
didn't want to drive my Jeep like that and be reminded every day of our vacation
how disappointed I was with the guys at the dealership. So when the service guy
finally realized I wasn't just going to walk away on his promise to fix my Jeep
in a few weeks when they could work it in and he asked what he could do to
make me happy... We agreed he would arrange for a rental car that included
navigation and satellite radio too. Of course, all of this happened just as the
International Furniture Market was kicking off; that time twice a year when
every hotel room and every rental car in the area is already spoken for!
Nevertheless, National rental car worked a lot of their magic to help
keep our vacation on schedule and get us to our first stop in Tennessee...
Andrew Jackson's, The Hermitage!
Andrew Jackson's Hermitage makes it now nine homes of our
Presidents that we have visited together! We have already visited the
museum of the Waxhaws and Andrew Jackson memorial in Waxhaw,
North Carolina where the General was raised but this is even better!
Just like all the other homes of Presidents, the Hermitage didn't disappoint!
Look at this handsome front door!

Unlike many others we've toured, the Hermitage features furnishings
and many personal items that actually belonged to its President!

What you see there next to Andrew Jackson's
bed are his own slippers. How cool is that?
The mansion is lovely and every room tells a story...
I especially loved this beautifully painted scenic wallpaper!
You can explore every room of Jackson's Hermitage yourself, here
For us, the icing on the cake is always the gardens...

Even in mid-October, Jackson's gardens were as lovely as Springtime!

Just beyond the gardens is the final resting place of one
of America's most beloved Generals and Presidents...
Here he lies, next to his one true love, Rachel... While the inscription
on Jackson's tomb simply reads, General Jackson; on her tomb he
had inscribed: Here lies the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of
President Jackson, who died the 22nd of December 1828. Aged 61
Her face was fair, her person pleasing: her temper amiable, and her
heart kind; she delighted in relieving the wants of her fellow creatures
and cultivated the divine pleasure by the most liberal and unpretending
methods: to the poor she was a benefactor; to the rich an example; to
the wretched a comforter, to the prosperous an ornament, her piety
went hand in hand with her benevolence, and she thanked her creator
for being permitted to do good. A being so gentle, and yet so virtuous,
slander might mound but could not dishonor; Even death, when he
tore her from the arms of her husband, could but transport her to the
bosom of her God. You can learn more about the scandal of Rachel, here
Without any doubt, Jackson is responsible for building this great
nation of ours; however, he's also referred to the President of many
firsts. There's a long list of them but some of the firsts I found most
interesting include: Born in South Carolina, Jackson is the first of our
Presidents to reside in a state other than Massachusetts or Virginia...
Jackson is also the first President born to immigrant (Irish) parents
and the first President to ever be held as a prisoner of war. He was
also first to be the target of an assassination attempt. He was first to
add running water and toilets to the White House too. And, he was
first to do something I bet all of us wish a President would do today...
As Andrew Jackson was the first President to pay off the national debt!
An amusing story we were told is of Jackson's pet parrot, Poll. He was
brought down to attend Jackson's funeral service but had to be removed
after he began cursing the mourners! Below is the grave marker for Albert,
who was Jackson's servant. He was the longest enslaved worker to remain
at Hermitage and asked that he be buried near the President. After the
President died, Albert bought lots of the furniture. To help support himself,
Albert sold photographs of himself taken with President Jackson...
We're so glad we had the opportunity to visit The Hermitage!
With two more of the most interesting places to visit in Tennessee still
on our list... And, because the Hermitage sits 120 miles from the Shiloh
national military park and Graceland is still 110 miles beyond that, we
really had to get a move on if we were going to get to Graceland before it
closed at 5 o'clock. Plus... We were pushing to make Arkansas by dark!
With just a few minutes spent in the Hermitage gift shop we were off to...
But boy, did I hear about it here! See... I thought we were on the same page about
making it to Graceland before it closed; but apparently, wanting to see Graceland,
even for five minutes, versus spending hours walking the battlefield to absorb the
the history of the Battle at Shiloh made me un-American. Oh, and a terrible wife!
Hey! It's not my fault you-know-who
took an hour to explore the visitor center!
Of course, things really blew up after I reminded him of our timeline;
so instead of spending any time exploring the battlefield at all, I was
informed that we were skipping the three-hour+ tour the battlefield
requires and, that he will return at another time - Alone, if he has to!
In order to give it and the men who fought here the respect they deserve!
Okay then! Off to Graceland we went... Mostly in silence too! And, when we
finally arrived, guess who refused to get out of the car with me? Oh, yes!
You guessed it... That is indeed a ticket for one to tour Graceland at 4PM!
Just yours truly and Elvis' buddy, John Stamos!
I don't really know what to say... No, not about having yet another road trip
disagreement - I am pretty much used to them, since every trip we've ever taken
has had at least one good spat. In fact, the most epic disagreement we have ever
had occurred during the 1986 road trip we made from Virginia to Pacific Grove,
California, which resulted in me throwing chicken McNuggets at my brand new
husband. It's been nearly thirty years and neither of us can say McNuggets and
not recall that slow climb up to the Grand Canyon and those flying chicken lumps!
No... What I meant is that I don't quite know what to say about Graceland...
It certainly is less grand than it appears in pictures and on television!
It was also a bit surprising to learn that Elvis didn't build the house or name
it Graceland either. Less of a mansion today, Graceland appears to be just
like any other Colonial Revival style home seen in our neighborhoods today. As
for the name, Graceland Farms was originally owned by Stephen Toof, founder
of the oldest commercial printing firm in Memphis. The grounds were named
after his daughter, Grace who later inherited the property in 1894. After she
died, it passed to her niece Ruth, a Memphis socialite, who along with her
husband, Dr. Thomas Moore, built the 10,266 sq. ft. home in 1939. After his
fame grew and he could no longer live at the $40,000 home Elvis bought
for himself without being bothered by fans, Elvis gave his mom and dad a
$100,000 budget and asked them to find a "farmhouse" type home to
buy. In 1959, Elvis was only twenty-two years old when he purchased
Graceland for $102,000. He died upstairs on August 16, 1977 at age 42
Elvis spent an additional half-million dollars to add another 8,000 square
feet to his Graceland mansion. Now, I was never what you call an Elvis fan. I
was only ten years old when he died but remember where I was when the news
reached Germany where the Captain was stationed and we lived at the time.
Nevertheless, and despite the push it took to get there before it closed and
the argument it caused because it took precious time away from touring
yet another civil war battlefield, I was very glad I got to see it! I mean...
Just look at all this retro, 70's fabulousness!
With few exceptions, every room is just as Elvis left it!
No one is allowed upstairs out of respect to the Presley family. Also,
because we were told Lisa Marie is still a frequent visitor and that is
where her bedroom is. The family also doesn't want the bathroom
where Elvis died to be the focus of tours either, since the floor remains
untouched since he died. At the time of his death, Lisa Marie  inherited
only 1 million dollars, with Graceland eating up over $500,000 a year in
upkeep. But instead of selling Graceland, Priscilla hired a CEO and in
1982, she turned Graceland into a huge money-maker! Today the trust
for Graceland is valued at 100 million and continues to grow every day!
This bedroom located just beyond that elephant table hanging
on the entry wall is the bedroom shared by Elvis' parents...
A guide told us that Lisa Marie and her adult
children still dine at this table whenever they visit!
There  is a television in every room, including the kitchen...
Speaking of the kitchen, it was my favorite part of the tour!
Just look at that carpet... And, Hey! My mom had that exact same
range at our house in Kansas after my dad retired in 1979! Check out
that sweet canister set next to the cast iron skillet on the stove too!
Love it!
Downstairs in the basement is where Elvis and his friends
would hang out and play. Here at the mirrored wetbar...
And over here, in the adjacent lounge, with its U-shaped sectional pit and
Elvis' signature TCB, or Taking Care of Business in a Flash lightening bolt
painted on the wall. Notice the hi-fi system and triple television sets too!
I imagine Elvis would have loved the flat screen televisions we have today!
The d├ęcor throughout Graceland is often and widely criticized. Professor,
politician and author, Albert Goldman who wrote controversial biographies of
both Elvis and John Lennon once said, Nothing at Graceland is worth a dime!
That might be true, dear professor, but let's remember Elvis and his
parents lived here in the 60's and 70's and back then, all of this was the
bomb! Besides me, there are plenty of other people who simply think
these rooms are a testament to the brilliance and quirkiness of Elvis!
And, for anyone who still thinks nothing at Graceland is worth a dime, I would
 say, put this stuff up for auction and let his fans prove just how wrong you are!
Of all the work that went into decorating Graceland, I imagine the worst
assignment had to have been this pool room covered in pleated fabric. Stamos
says it took ten people a week to hang. Notice that it also matches the sofas!
Our tour of Graceland ends through the famous Jungle room. Elvis was
inspired to decorate it this way after his time in Hawaii. In 1976, the room
was converted into a recording studio where Elvis recorded his final 2 albums!
So now that we've toured the inside of Graceland, let's check out the back yard!
Elvis added this kidney-shaped swimming
pool and a racquetball court to the property...
As well as this, what he referred to as the meditation garden where
he is said to have spent time contemplating the troubles in his life...
Today, Elvis, his twin brother, who was stillborn and their
grandmother and parents, Vernon, Gladys are all buried here...
Arriving at the last possible minute before the last tour of the
day had its advantages because being the last one to leave, I
was able to get plenty of photos with no one else in them!
After a quick cruise through one of the
six Graceland gift shops across the street...
And then a stop at the end of...
At Heartbreak hotel... For postage stamps and a last stop
at the Memphis post office, we headed off to Arkansas!
With tickets for Graceland priced between $40 and $90, per
person and over 600,000 visitors a year... You do the math!
Take that, Professor Goldman!
Oh, look! We made it to Arkansas before dark...
Road-Trip Day one and a half is now history. Stay tuned for day two
where we got to tour P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm!


  1. Ahhh - the Hermitage. My father's family farm was right next door. He and his three brothers and his father farmed those 200+ acres located between The Hermitage and Rachel Ln. This summer we were allowed an escorted tour of the old farmhouse and the dairy barn - all still standing but boarded up. The state of TN still farms the land - but no one lives there. We were invited to return this January when the vegetation dies down and more of the house could be seen. My father had stories for the security guard that he had never known...and answers for many mysteries on the property. Probably the best gift I ever gave my Dad - he never thought he would see the farm again. Glad you enjoyed my home state! PS - Elvis might have been big but his house only looks big because of photography tricks. Once you see it for yourself - you get it. The house you saw on Day 2 looked more exciting to me. ;)

  2. So annoying about your car, but what a great start to the trip! I did get your e-mail and will reply and explain why it has taken me a while! I hope that all is well with you! xx


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