It was at about this time last year that my friend Roger Hansen told me that his daughter Alyssa became engaged, that the wedding would take place in November of 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee, where Alyssa and Adam resided, and that we would be invited to attend. Thus began a year long process of planning the logistics for a trip to Tennessee. Nashville is not a quick drive, so Marilyn and I decided that we were going to make a real vacation out of it. That we were going to do and see things (including one item that had long been on our personal Bucket List) because, honestly, when will we ever be in that part of the country again?
So it was that on Tuesday morning, after being numbers 10 and 11 to vote at our polling place, we set off on this great southern adventure. The trip took us through five states, covered 1,744 miles, had us spending time in four different hotels, and a lot of time in the car (and, by the way, what did we do before there were in-car navigation systems? What a great invention!), but it turned out to be one tremendous trip.
In chronological order, this is what we did. Many of these stops along the way deserve their own separate Grandstander posts, so watch for them over the course of the next few days and weeks. Here we go....
First stop on Tuesday, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.
Yep, that's me next to the giant bat.
Dinner in Louisville was at a sports bar called the Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe, and even though you have to be well into your sixties to have actual memories of this guy playing, I was glad to see that Johnny U. holds prominent position on the wall at this place.
Wednesday morning, we hit the road and entered Tennessee.
We arrived in Memphis (about a six hour drive from Louisville) and then checked into the famous Hotel Peabody.
During the course of her business travels over the years, Marilyn had once stayed at the Peabody, an old-style luxury hotel, and our spending two nights there was a true indulgence on our part, but it was well worth it. What a treat.
That afternoon, we visited two historic sites. The first was the Sun Records recording studio,
where legendary record producer Sam Phillips discovered a young Memphis boy named Elvis Presley. Elvis made his first recordings at Sun and signed his first recording contract there. The place has become a museum, of sorts, to Phillips, Presley, and legendary blues, country, and rock artists such as B.B. King, Howling Wolf, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. It is still an active recording studio and contemporary artists like Ringo Starr and U2 have recorded there.
The tour ends in the very studio where Presley made those first recordings. Hallowed ground to be sure. You also get a chance to pose with the "very mic that Elvis used" to make those recordings.
Personally, I am a bit dubious that that was THE microphone, but so what? For a few seconds, anyway, I was in the footsteps of The King.
From Sun Records, it was on to the Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.
A very sobering experience.
Back to The Peabody in time to see the famous Peabody Ducks, and their march out of the lobby fountain to the elevator and their home in the Duck Palace on the roof of the hotel.
No trip to Memphis would be complete without a visit to this famous spot.
Thursday morning was that major Bucket List item to which I referred earlier....
Yes, Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. A visit to Graceland is something that Marilyn and I have talked about forever, and it finally happened. This visit will get its own Grandstander post in the days ahead, so watch for that. I will only say here that the place exceeded all expectations that we had for it. An awesome experience.
Okay, Friday morning it was back in the car for another three hours or so to head for Nashville. When we arrived, we met up with our friend David Cicotello, and we then experienced a real Nashville treat, The Bluebird Cafe.
Like Graceland, the visit the The Bluebird deserves its own write-up, so that will be coming soon. Many thanks to David for suggesting the place and putting the visit together.
Saturday morning was spent visiting The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States.
On the grounds, both Jackson and his wife are entombed in a small family cemetery.
This marks the fifth Presidential grave that I have visited: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, and John Kennedy being the others.
And, of course, ex-banker Marilyn couldn't resist this cornball touristy photo op:
Saturday night, of course, was the raison d'être (Definition: "The most important reason or purpose for someone's or something's existence.") for the entire trip, the wedding of Alyssa Hansen and Adam Korsvik.
I know of few things that are happier to be a part of than a wedding, and this one was no exception. This one was bittersweet, though, because the world lost Denise Hansen, Roger's wife and Alyssa's mom five years ago. However, we all have faith to know that Denise was there on Saturday night and watching with all of the pride and love that any Mom has on such an occasion.
It was a terrific event.
We got to spend some time with a bunch of old Highmark friends...
and we cleaned up pretty well ourselves for the night.
Sunday morning, it was back in the car for a three hour drive to Louisville where we visited the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs,
where The Grandstander got to pose before one of the most famous Grandstands in the world,
and where I was able to take a photo that will be popping up on both The Grandstander and my Facebook feeds in the future (regular readers will know the context of this):
The final stop on this Grand Tour was the Muhammad Ali Center.
This is a remarkable museum and cultural center. It features three floors of exhibit space devoted to Louisville's most famous favorite son. Lots of video and interactive exhibits. Terrific stuff, and a must see if you are ever in Louisville.
We broke the trip up by leaving Louisville and stopping about halfway home and staying in a hotel on Sunday night. It made for a shorter and more relaxing trip home. We packed a lot of stuff into six days, and it will go down as one of our most memorable trips ever.