King of Rock

William, Marcus, Kat, Chris, me & Hollie @ Foxfire ranch

William, Marcus, Kat, Chris, me & Hollie @ Foxfire ranch

As the sun prepares to go down in the small town of Waterford, Mississippi on this beautiful sunday afternoon, people from all the neighboring villages gather in Marcus & Flynda’s famous ‘Foxfire Ranch’. The Hollowell family has the tradition to organize a big community open-air party in the ranch every sunday with good local music, delicious food, …  Annette, my host from New-Orleans, insisted for me to visit her family with my travel buddies Chris & Kat.  We gladly accepted such a beautiful opportunity of course to experience real Mississippi country life.

With Hollie & MacArthur @ Foxfire Ranch

With Hollie & MacArthur @ Foxfire Ranch

Hollie, the sister of Annette and her date MacArthur welcomed us in the ranch and introduced us to her parents, Annie & William.  Lovely people with an amazing big heart!  MacArthur was also a great guy and the fact that he was a filmmaker, gave us the opportunity to share our passion…  Annie & William had a great thing going on here and received us with open arms. They treated us on delicious Mississippi BBQ food and some great live music. Marcus & Flynda was another intresting couple that we met.  They came all the way from the Mississippi coastline to enjoy the atmosphere of Foxfire Ranch.

With Hollie at the beautiful Foxfire Ranch

With Hollie at the beautiful Foxfire Ranch

We spent the night in their beautiful country home in Waterford, Mississippi and Holley gave us a short tour around the Foxfire ranch the next morning. The Hollowell family owned a huge property in a fantastic place filled with amazing horses… Before we left for Memphis, Holley took us to Oxford, the closest town around for the famous breakfasts at ‘Big Bad Breakfasts’.

The King of Rock, Elvis Presley !

The King of Rock, Elvis Presley !

Memphis, Tennessee… home to the legendary ‘King of Rock’ Elvis Aaron Presley. Our third musketeer Kat had to take a bus to Atlanta to visit family. Chris & I drove to Graceland to visit Elvis’ legacy. Elvis was actually born in a tiny 2-room house in Tupelo, a small town in Mississippi on January 8th, 1935 as son of Vernon & Gladys Presley.  The Presley’s lived a simple, working class lifestyle before they moved to Memphis in 1948 in search for a better life. Elvis’ musical influences were the pop and country music of the time, the gospel music he heard in church and the black R&B he absorbed on historic Beale Street as a teenager.

Elvis' Hall of Fame & his huge collection of Golden Records

Elvis’ Hall of Fame & his huge collection of Golden Records

He began his singing career with the legendary Sun Records label in Memphis.  Soon after signing a contract in 1954, he achieved a tremendous popularity. His sound and style combined his diverse musical influences and blurred / challenged the social and racial barriers of the time. His musical & acting career in records, movies, television & concerts made him one of the most succesful & outstanding entertainer in the world! Elvis had a god-given talent that he shared with the world capturing the hearts of young and old alike. Elvis died at the young age of 43 on August 16th, 1977 leaving a huge legacy behind him. He is resting now in his home that he bought in 1957. Elvis’ home was transformed into a museum and opened to the public in 1982.

Graceland (Memphis, Tennessee)

Graceland (Memphis, Tennessee)

The Graceland Mansion was originally in the country side, outside of Memphis but that’s nowadays by far not the case anymore. It comes with souvenir shops, reataurants, a shopping plaza, huge parking lots, Heartbreak hotel,… Obviously a vert touristic place but really worthwile a visit. Chris & I took the whole package (37$) what allowed us to not only visit the ‘Graceland Mansion’ (33$) but also “Elvis’ two custom airplanes ‘Lisa Marie’ & ‘ Hound Dog II”, “Elvis’ Automobile Museum”, “Elvis: Live from Vegas”, “Elvis’ Tupelo (free anyway)”,  “Elvis’ Hawaii: Concerts, Movies and More! Exhibit” and ” The ’68 Special Exhibit”

He'll be always on our mind...

He’ll be always on our mind…

The Graceland Mansion has a really great set-up and gives you a good impression of Elvis’ life. Walking into the “Meditation Garden” at the end where Elvis’ & his family found their last place to rest, leaves you with intens bitter sweet feelings. And as his father Vernon said… “God saw that my son needed some rest and called him home to be with Him. I’ll miss you, son but I thank God that He gave us you as our son”
Overwhelmed by our visit to Graceland, we made our way to our host Sarah. Sarah lived with her roommate Morinsola Keshinro & her cute cat Musauji in the outskirts of Memphis in a wonderful wooden house.  She took us out for a typical Tennessee BBQ in ‘Central BBQ’ restaurant where we had some nice Tennessee food.

With Sarah & Chris @ Flying Saucer

With Sarah & Chris @ Flying Saucer

After that Sarah took us downtown to visit the historical ‘Beale Street’ where Elvis hang around as a teenager. Beale Street is still the place to be in Memphis with a lot of pubs, live music, jazz, blues,… We enjoyed the music, the nightlife & a few drinks in ‘Flying Saucer’ and ‘The Young Avenue Deli’.  Back in New Orleans someone hit my rental car while I was exploring the city and smashed the driver’s rearview mirror.  Drivin’ to Memphis was really unsafe without that mirror so before drivin’ to Nashville, the rental company exchanged my Chevrolet Impala for a brand new white, hybrid Hyundai Sonata.  Fancy upgrade!

With Chris, Andy, Brad, Ashley & Austin in Austin's restaurant 'ML Rose'

With Chris, Andy, Brad, Ashley & Austin in Austin’s restaurant ‘ML Rose’

Hamilton, my buddy & host from New Orleans told me he had a good friend in Nashville who could host us. Austin was a succesful businessman and was the owner of 2 famous restaurants, ML Rose. He was negotiating to start up a third one & was so kind to invite us for dinner in his place. We had a lovely dinner & we met his girlfriend Ashley. Andy & Brad, 2 of his friends joined us as well.

With Henry @ Nashville's famous 'Three 'n' Meat' @ Arnold's

With Henry @ Nashville’s famous ‘Three ‘n’ Meat’ @ Arnold’s

After dinner Chris & met Kirsten, a girl from Chicago for drinks and we explored Nashville’s nightlife in the famous ‘Broadway’ street where we went to the renowned ‘Honky Tonk’ & ‘Tootsie’s’. Henry, who worked as an economic & community developer, meaning that he attracts companies and invest in good projects to settle in Tennessee, was eager to meet us when he read our adventures and we met in Arnold’s, a famous ‘Three ‘n’ Meat’ place the next day for lunch. Henry was a newbee in couchsurfing and was happy to hear our ideas & advice before we hit the road to Georgia.

With Kevin & Holiey in their beautiful country house in Loganville, Georgia

With Kevin & Holiey in their beautiful country house in Loganville, Georgia

After travelling 4 weeks together, Chris & I had to go our separate ways.  Chris had to catch a flight in Atlanta to New York to enjoy the Big Apple for a few days before leaving to London. My journey would bring me to Florida.  But first I drove to the small country town of Loganville.  Last summer I hosted Holley & Kevin, a lovely couple that lived in Loganville near Atlanta in a beautiful home in a cosy neighborhood with their daughter Kalani, their 2 dogs Hanley & Chloe and their 5 cats John Mayer, Pete the Cat, Neo, Marla and Colbie.  Although I only hosted them for a couple of days, Kevin & Holley received me with open arms and let me feel very welcome in their beautiful family home.

With Kalvin & his mom @ Valdosta, Georgia

With Kalvin & his mom @ Valdosta, Georgia

Early in the morning, we I left for Florida I received a text message saying he had postponed his flight to London. He couldn’t leave now and asked if he could join me for Florida for the next 10 days. Another fellah, Kalvin, contacted me too to share the ride to Valdosta right before the border of  Florida. Actually it was a woman who contacted me. When we wanted to pick her up at a gas station, a huge black dude came out of a 4×4. He looked as a rapper/gangster with dreadlocks, golden teeth, worn off clothes, … It didn’t feel very comfortable when we saw him approaching the car. He asked us with his southern accent if we were his ride to Florida… We didn’t dare to say no and just take off, so we nodded with a friendly smile on our faces and the huge rapsta stepped in our car and off we were for brand new adventures!  Kalvin turned out to be an extremely nice & polite guy who went to visit his sick mother a few hours south.  So there we were…  Ready for 10 more crazy days on a roadtrip through Florida!

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