Driveabout: Day 14
We woke up, literally at the end of Lonely Street, behind Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel in the Graceland RV Park. After reheating our leftover teppanyaki and filling Lucky up with propane, we headed over to Graceland. Jae had been before but it was my first time.
Equipped with interactive iPads, headphones and the voice of guide John Stamos in my ears, we made that pilgrimage through the house, backyard, garden and through the automobile and plane exhibits, stopping for a beer at one of a handful of eateries, browsed through the shops and grounds.
I've always liked Elvis, but I don't own every single one of his records like some über fans. I've long held an appreciation for The King and exploring the property where he used to live felt almost invasive, yet it was incredibly fascinating and, in some ways, just a little sad. And, as it turned out, Elvis and his parents are buried in the backyard, so it was a legit stop on our cemetery tour. Full disclosure: I've never seen an Elvis movie all the way through. Jae couldn't believe it; there's a movie night planned.
Turns out there was a Triple D destination right around the corner and we sat down to snack on some delicious Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken with "corrupted" carrots and fried okra. Tremendously tasty and some of the best grub we've had on this journey! One thing we've noticed about the establishments featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" is that they all really embrace the visitation by The Food Network and, in many cases, clear signs of expansion and improvement can be seen. Looks like the show will put you on the map and increase your business in mighty ways.
With an eastward-advancing storm front creeping towards us, we opted for a southeastern route that would begin taking us back home. Just 90 miles from Memphis is Tupelo, Mississippi and we had set our sights on Aberdeen to go check out a cemetery there. Early dusk was making this a difficult proposition, but once the highway sign for the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum flashed by on the roadside, it was kind of a no-brainer to pull off and have a visit.
The house looks even smaller than it did in the scale model that was at Graceland. It truly put things into perspective to see where the man was born, drive down the town's streets and compare it to the relatively opulent lifestyle that he enjoyed later on in life. I sat on the swing by the front door and thought about it for a bit. Then, we headed off to Aberdeen with the rapidly sinking sun challenging our potential gravestone visibility.
By the time we got to the Oddfellows Cemetery, it was pretty damn dark but a street light clearly illuminated the "no trespassing after dark" sign. What, trespassing was okay during daylight hours? Anyway, not wanting to have wasted the trip (and with another sign promising that the premises were under video surveillance - oh man, are we gonna get busted or what...?), I grabbed a head-light and a flashlight before we ventured into the darkness.
Figures that this is the largest cemetery we've visited yet. We were looking for one marker in particular; a woman whose dress had caught on fire and her stone reflected that somehow. "Let's split up and search," I said, as if I'd never seen an episode of "Scooby Doo."
The wind howled and thrashed at the trees as we sleuthed separately across the graveyard. Even though I was focusing my search forward, I whirled around and shined the flashlight beam behind me as well, scanning it slowly across the stones, causing shadows to shift and morph. A huge creak to my right, and I whipped the maglight in the direction of the sound, seeing a huge, gnarled old tree, branches looking exactly like the mangled claws of a nightmare, swaying and clutching and grasping as the wind gusted through. Turning around again to catch a glimpse of Jae's iPhone light and thinking that, if this was a horror movie, it was exactly the kind of stupid behavior that gets a body stabbed or sucked into a mausoleum forever, I returned my gaze forward and came to a dead halt.
Eyes. Two eyes had just opened up and were peering at me, shifting slightly. Two more eyes opened next to them. My phone rang and I answered it with one hand, keeping the beam focused on the sudden peepers.
"Where are you?"
"I am staring at something staring back at me," I said. "It's like a Disney attraction; eyes appearing in the darkness."
"What is it?"
"I don't know, I'm going closer."
Seriously? Did my dumb-ass just say that? No time to reflect because my dumb-ass feet were already carrying my dumb-ass towards the eyes, of which there were now four pair. I tried to see the silhouettes and figure out what kind of animal (demon?) this was, but no luck; nothing but spooky, reflective eyeballs. They moved in a such a different way, not like a cat or raccoon or llama. The eyes seemed to sway back and forth. I pressed farther, tombstones edging ever closer to either side of me, wind whipping up into a crescendo, deeper and deeper into the cemetery. And then, I could see what I was looking at.
Deer. Four little ones. They wouldn't flee, I guess due to that whole "deer in the headlights" thing, but as I tromped closer, they found their hooves and scampered along the hedges from which they'd emerged. Mystery solved. And the deer would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for...oh, never mind.
We gave up. It was literally like searching for a needle in a haystack. But before we left, I wandered into the adjacent Old Aberdeen Cemetery, which was the final resting place of Confederate soldiers. Lots to be seen here, if it could be seen, so we pledged to return some day.
The encroaching storm had triggered flash flood warnings in the area and the two RV parks nearby were on the river so we nixed that idea, continuing southeast to Columbus where we checked into Lake Lowndes State Park. With the wind really gusting to beat the band, I took note of the proximity of the lake and hoped that we'd be alright in the morning after the front came through. Jae made chicken soup and we had our evening recap, looking at interesting possibilities and plotting out a route. Incredible to think that it's been two weeks since we began this journey and, in just a day or two, we'd be back in Florida and heading home. I sort of feel like I really haven't been home since June, but what a way to go!