Moab was pretty dull but extremely hot so it was a huge contrast once we got to the Rocky Mountains National Park. It was cloudy and the air had a chill to it, so much so that we had to get our trackies and hoodies out! We only stayed there for a night but we set up camp and sat around our first fire of our trip – it’s been too hot to sit by a fire every other night! It was a really relaxing night and in the morning we drove to check out a lake in the park. We had our camera and bear spray on hand whilst we waiting for the sun to rise. And as the sun was rising all of the animals were beginning to wake. The edges of the lake were covered in mist and behind the mist we could see small deer edging towards the water. We walked around the lake back towards our car and out of the corner of our eye we both saw movement so we stopped and turned to see a huge elk, and then there was another, and another. One smaller one stared at us and didn’t move while we stood there watching it. Slowly Mark crept away and jumped the fence so he could try to get a better photo but by this stage the elk were bored of us and so they began to leave. The elk themselves were more impressive to us compared to the lake itself which wasn’t such a huge issue because we had decided to leave at this point anyway.
On the drive from Cleveland to Memphis we booked a site at the Graceland RV Park and made our way there. We set up our van for our stay and then headed out to see Memphis. We first walked next door to Graceland, the home of Elvis and bought tickets for the following day. Then we thought “what do we do while in Memphis?”. The list seemed quite long so we decided to get a start on it. First stop, Gus’ Fried Chicken. We put our names down on the waiting list and then went for a walk before heading back to eat the most amazing fried chicken we’ve ever eaten. The chicken came with a heap of sides – coleslaw, mac and cheese, fried pickles and slices of plain white sandwich slices of bread which we found to be quite comical. Although the sides had nothing on the chicken we ate them all except the bread, we left that because if we were hungry for plain white bread we could always just go to the supermarket. Our next stop was a cool part of town away from most of the tourist hot spots. We walked around and then found a bar to chill out at. After staying for a while we met a guy who used to live in Memphis and was in town for the weekend. He offered to show us around so we spent the next few hours checking out Beale St, the main street in Memphis filled with blues bars. We spent most of our time at BB King’s, listening to some old school blues music before calling it a night. The next day we were up early, ready to check out Graceland, the home of Elvis. Well, wasn’t that a huge disappointment. We had bought the basic tickets which were meant to be self guided. There was nothing self guided about being there. We stood in line to get our photo taken in front of the Graceland sign, then we stood in line to get on a bus which took us across the road (it would have been quicker to walk), and then once we arrived at his house we stood in another line to wait to get in. Once we got to the front door we were told about the entrance and told to “enjoy our time”. Inside everyone put on their headphones and had their iPads ready to go to listen to all of the information, this caused everyone to stand in line once more, but just around the house. Each room was filled with a single file line of people waiting to get to the next ‘feature’ to then click on that feature on their iPad so they could listen to the information about the said feature. Mark and I didn’t use ours. Neither of us were that interested and so we looked like 2 rude people trying to cut in line constantly because all we did was follow the flow of the people of the house but moved 10x as fast. We finally finished the tour and were so underwhelmed with the whole experience we didn’t know what to do. In the end we just left. Our ‘self guided tour’ ticket only allowed us access to his house and his plane collection, the rest of the museum was off limits to us. Memphis itself was a really cool city in regards to music and history so we figured that our next stop Nashville would be just as cool.
Nashville was so busy once we arrived because it was the 3rd of July, the day before America’s Independence Day. The whole city was getting ready for the huge celebrations and the biggest fireworks in the country. The difference between Memphis and Nashville could simply be described with the type of music being performed at bars. Where Memphis was mainly blues, Nashville was filled with country music. What we loved about Nashville was that while walking along the street you could stop and listen to bands play at different bars because they played at the front of the bar and often had huge windows opened so that passersby could stop to listen. We did this a couple of times before we started to get really tired and went back to our hotel. The next day we were overwhelmed with the amount of people out on the street celebrating the 4th of July. The entire city was out and we enjoyed walking around, drinking Jack Daniels and listening to all of the bands playing. Towards sunset we headed up towards the bridge over looking the Cumberland River. We set up there waiting for darkness to descend over Nashville. We had about an hour before the fireworks were due to start so we began chatting to the people around us who were completely shocked we were from Australia. They couldn’t get over how far away we were from home and they wanted to ask all of the usual questions.
“Do you see Kangaroos on the street?” – “Well it depends where you live, but generally not close to the cities”
“Does it get hot in Australia?” – “Yes really hot, but it does also snow in some parts of the country”
“Is it weird driving on the other side of the road?” – “We are used to driving on the right side of the road now, but we learn to drive on the left so the left is normal for us”
We were also asked some unusual questions.
“Do you celebrate Christmas?” – “Yes we celebrate Christmas on the 25th December and we also celebrate Easter”
“What cell phone companies do you have in Australia?” – “We have different companies to you here in the US”
We had begun to find that while we were in the southern states, people knew of Australia as a country far away but didn’t know many other things about it, and while most people were too embarrassed to ask some questions, some people just went straight for it and asked whatever came to their mind. Which seemed to please the other people around them because they would nod in agreement and repeat the question. We also found that people seemed too polite to ask where we were from. They could tell straight away we weren’t from there but they always stopped themselves from asking so we would always volunteer the information early into a conversation.
The fireworks eventually began and went for just over half an hour! They were quite spectacular but by the end we were checking our watches to see how much longer. Once they did finish though we made our way to our hotel to drop our camera off and grab some food. It was getting late but we figured there would still be people out and about so we went back out only to find that the streets had emptied almost completely save for the cleaning crews and the groups of late night stragglers. We assumed everyone had either left or gone into bars or clubs so we walked around to see if anything in particular caught our eye which was when we noticed a huge group of people yelling and crowing around, with police standing by trying to get them to move along. Not sure what was happening we stood for a bit and watched until we realised the crowd was moving towards us. Not wanting to get caught up in what we thought could become violent we began walking away quickly. We found that there were a few other people in the same situation as us – they had been walking around, noticed the crowd, stopped, and then found the crowd heading towards them. We made it back to the street our hotel was on and just as we turned onto the street the crowd continued walking past, heading in the direction of the park. We figured that was the sign that the night was over.