November 20, 2012

Memphis, TN- Almost Home

After Nashville we only had one more stop before going home for the holidays, and it was Memphis. We had lived in Memphis for 3.5 years, and had last been there when we moved back to Fayetteville over 2 years ago. Having lived in Memphis for so long we knew what we would find there, but were interested to see it from a visitor’s perspective. I wondered if Memphis would seem different to us now that we’d seen so many other cities around the US and had something to compare it to.


As soon as we got off of Interstate 40 and onto the back streets, we started to get a sense of familiarity. All of a sudden we no longer felt like travelers, but like out of town relatives, coming to visit distant family. There was a strong sense of coming home, yet this was no longer our home. This was the first place we had visited in the last nine months that was finally somewhere where we could relax and not worry about needing directions for where we were going. As we drove, we passed grocery stores we used to shop at, restaurant we used to frequent, and parks we used to walk in. It was exciting to be back somewhere where we had once called home, but it was also a bit sad because it felt like the beginning of the end of this journey.

We came into town on Saturday night. We had originally planned to go downtown to see Beale Street, so we could compare it to Broadway in Nashville on a busy night, but we were so anxious to see our old house that we decided to leave downtown for the next day. Instead we decided to recreate our old favorite way of spending a Saturday night. We started by taking a long walk around our old neighborhood. We were really surprised to find that absolutely nothing had changed there. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I could have sworn even the same cars were parked in the exact same parking spots. Our old house looked exactly as we had left it; even our homemade shutters that we’d put up right before selling it were still up. We half considered knocking on the door and pretending like we were children of people that had owned the house a long time ago, and asking if we could peek inside, but then decided against it. I was content with seeing that everything was unchanged.

I had a slightly surreal moment when we walked up to the gate to the neighborhood, and my first impulse was to turn to walk to our house, instead of out the gate. We had walked the neighborhood so many times that it was only natural to turn right to go home. That was a slightly sad moment too. We walked out of the gate, got in our car and continued our traditional evening by stopping by the neighborhood Fresh Market and picking up our favorite dinner: sushi, a take home pizza and a chocolate dessert to split between us. We took our dinner to our new home, the travel trailer, and finished out the tradition by watching a movie with a bottle of wine.

Sunday we woke up and took the dogs on our most favorite place to hike in Germantown (the suburb that we’d lived in while living near Memphis). There is a collection of single track forest trails along the Wolf River there that we must have walked and biked at least a hundred times before. This had been our go-to place to take the dogs on hikes on weekend mornings. We hiked 7 miles and the pups got to run and swim on their favorite beach. We were quite hungry after the hike, so we headed back, ate a long lunch and then took a nap until dinner time.

Hiking on the Wolf River
Skyler and the pups enjoying their favorite beach on Wolf River 
When we woke up we decided to finally head out to see the city. We went downtown, drove down South Main Street (where there is an excellent Art Walk on the last Friday of the month), and then took the elevator up to the rooftop of the Peabody Hotel. The rooftop offers great views of downtown Memphis from above and is free to visit. The Peabody ducks live up there in their own little hotel. After visiting them, we strolled up and down Beale street. The street was pretty quiet; it was after all a Sunday night. We had missed our chance to see the true Beale street spirit. On our way home we drove the full length of Poplar Avenue (the main drag in Memphis that stretches from downtown to the outlying suburbs), and again found that little had changed.

The Orpheum on South Main in Memphis, TN
The Orpheum on South Main
The Peabody Hotel rooftop sign in Memphis, TN
The Peabody Hotel rooftop sign
The Peabody ducks "hotel" on the rooftop of the Peabody hotel
The Peabody ducks "hotel" on the rooftop of the Peabody hotel 
Beale street sign in Memphis, TN
Welcome to Beale Street! 
Beale Street on a Sunday night in Memphis, TN
Walking on Beale Street
So, our conclusion on Memphis? From a visitor’s perspective, Memphis is likable and on par with most other cities we've visited on this trip. If we had never been there before and only saw the parts that we saw that weekend, I would have likened it to Nashville or Knoxville. I was even starting to wonder why we’d been in such a hurry to leave Memphis. Then, on our way out of the city on Monday morning, we were quickly reminded of the irks that had bothered us before.

Memphis has some of the worst drivers in the US. There is an unspoken 3 second stoplight rule there that basically goes like this: if the light is green, drive through; if the light is yellow, speed up and drive through; once the light has turned red, you have three more seconds to continue driving through the intersection. When pulling the trailer through the city we had to be especially careful to wait the appropriate time before proceeding on a green light. Also, there is an Add 20 rule on the highways, which basically means take the posted speed limit, add 20 and you will get the average speed needed to keep up with traffic. If the speed limit is 50 miles an hour, 90% of the cars will be going at least 70 miles an hour, all the while being passed by cop cars as if nothing is wrong. Pulling the trailer on the Memphis 240 loop was not the most stressful experience we’d had yet, but it was probably in the top five.

Overall our visit to Memphis was well worth it. Visiting our old neighborhood and our house and some of our old favorite haunts was like a small home-coming for us. I think it was a good transitional stopover for us on our way home. This was a taste of home without any attachments. It was like dipping our feet before jumping all the way in. Now we were headed home, across the Mississippi River, into Arkansas, across the state to our home town of Fayetteville- the last leg of this portion of the journey.

The Memphis, TN pyramid
The view of the Memphis pyramid just before we
crossed the bridge into Arkansas
To see more pictures of Memphis, click here.

Happy Revisiting Good Memories,

M.

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