"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
Circles -- they are well-recognized and prized for their equity, unity, perfection, and completeness. No beginning, no end. No corners, no jagged edges, no surprises. Our recent vacation made me think about circles in some new ways. Firstly, the vacation itself was a circle -- not the travel route -- it was more like a slingshot (East to West and back East again -- pretty much along the same latitude), but if you think of the circle and beginning and ending at the same spot -- like a circular plot of a story, that's most vacations -- you start at home, have an amazing adventure and end up back at home -- hopefully safe and sound and changed only by the broadening mind and enlarging heart that vacations often cause. I'd love to share this circular journey with you. It started here in our hometown where our family loves Elvis Presley like he was a neighbor, friend, or more like a really close cousin. So, we set off on an Elvis vacation.
It's a mighty long way from our hometown to Memphis, TN to visit Graceland, Elvis' mansion -- 749 miles to be exact -- a 10 and a half hour drive. So we took a little layover on our drive -- in Dawsonville, GA (hubby's home town). We spent two nights eating, visiting, relaxing, and hanging out in the pool after the first leg of our journey. Too much sun and a tumble out of the porch swing for my dad (78 years old! :-O) was kind of a rough start to the vacay, but we persisted. My husband planned pretty much this entire trip, and he did such a good job! When he realized that our route from Dawsonville to Memphis could take us right through Tupelo, MS -- where Elvis was born and spent his first impressionable years through junior high -- he planned a stopover there. We ate at Johnnie's, one of Elvis' favorite spots as a kid, eating cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes. We visited Elvis' first family home -- a 2-room shotgun house. It had a bedroom and a kitchen. That was it. Vernon Presley borrowed $180 to build it and when he couldn't make his payments later, the house was repossessed. Elvis' childhood church has been moved a few blocks and restored and we enjoyed a 30-minute reproduction of a church service and my niece and nephew even played a little song on the piano in Elvis' home church. There's a memorial chapel there, a sculpture garden, a fountain, a circular timeline surrounding the childhood home, and a museum (full of artifacts from his early years) and a gift shop. We watched a little movie dramatizing Elvis' early years and sharing facts about the star before he was a star. This wasn't originally a planned stop on our journey, but I was so glad Shane added this little stop off, as it really helped us see the circle of Elvis Presley's life.
WeFrom Tupelo, we headed on to Memphis, TN -- Elvis' hometown where Graceland is.
That evening, we took our entourage to Beale St. This was pretty much a bust. We had my niece and nephew (10 and 12) with us, my dad (78YO) is a teetotaler and teetotally against alcohol period. (What were we even thinking?!?!) Well, in fairness to us, we were thinking live music! Cultural destination! Atmosphere! Walking in Memphis and other Beale St. references that they would understand because they had walked it and been there. . . .Oh well . . . . We went into BBKing's Blues Club, paid cover charge for all of us to enjoy the live music for the night. It was already getting late by now. No one was rowdy or out-of-control, but most everyone was drinking, and Daddy was already uncomfortable. Then they seated us right at the stage. The band started soon after and the music was LOUD! We ordered food, but everyone was so uncomfortable that we asked them to give us our food to go. That took at least 3 forevers. Daddy, my sister and the kids went outside where it wasn't AS LOUD to wait for us. Eventually we made it back to our AirBnB for a very late supper. As we're eating, Daddy's bar-height chair broke and dumped his 78-year-old body right into the floor (2nd fall on the trip. . . .SMH). Bless his heart! His first vacation in 15 years, and he's had a mishap every day so far! :-(. Thankfully Graceland the next day made up for it -- a little bit at least.
We spent an entire day at Graceland -- and could have spent longer! So much amazing stuff to see, hear and experience! Shane (vacation planner extraordinaire) had gotten us VIP passes, so we had our own personal tour guide (Paige) to tell us all the stories, explain all the rooms, and grounds and some of the museums. She answered questions and guided us from place to place with expertise and joy. She gave us our white gloves to even hold the precious keys to Elvis' pink Cadillac! So cool! She guided us through the property, through the cars, through the years, and through the memories. Graceland defies explanation, and needs to be experienced. If you don't know and love Elvis, it will probably mean absolutely nothing to you, but if, like my family, he feels like part of your family, you really should go experience it for yourself. Pictures don't do it justice. The cars were probably our favorite part of the Graceland tour, although there is so much to love and appreciate and they keep adding new attractions, new exhibits, new memorabilia. Shane and I were there 6 years ago, and the whole place has radically changed (not Graceland itself obviously, but all the museums and how everything is arranged and what is available.) If you do go, I highly recommend the VIP pass if you can afford it. It was well worth the added expense. The planes were another highlight -- so cool to see -- and the last thing we saw on that tour.
That night we visited The Pyramid Bass Pro Shop, hoping to ride the elevator to the top and look out over Memphis at night. Unfortunately, bad weather was threatening, so the Lookout was closed. Nonetheless the pyramid is a site to behold. 535,000 square feet of amazing-ness -- from the indoor created cypress swamp to all the mounted deer, elk, moose, etc. to the live animals to the feeding shows to the actual hotel and restaurant inside this facility, bowling alley, archery and shooting range and a little target game for the kids -- which we made good use of. Everyone played except Daddy, but I took the family trophy for the night for best shot. ;-). It was fun. We did go back and enjoy the lookout the next morning via the country's tallest free-standing elevator (300 feet, 28 stories). That was NOT my sister's favorite part -- nor were the alligators hanging out at the bottom of the elevator. LOL. Thankfully, the elevator did its job and no one got bitten by an alligator -- not even Shanda ;-). If you're ever in Memphis, you should totally go to the Pyramid Bass Pro Shop! Don't miss it!
After Memphis, we headed for Nashville, via Chester Co, TN. This was the purely selfish part of the trip for us -- and a full-circle moment for sure. Shane and I met at Freed-Hardeman University and had called Henderson, TN home for several years. We met here, fell in love here, and I graduated from college here. We attended church here and had friends and many adventures here. So, we picnicked at Chickasaw State park, did a driving tour of FHU, drove by where our house stood (which has since been torn down), we drove by White Ave. Church of Christ and Jacks Creek Church of Christ and in the process walked down a plethora of memory lanes! It was sweet to be able to introduce our family to the hill where we used to stretch out our blanket and study, the lake where we used to walk, and the Commons where we had weekend devotionals. None of them had ever seen that part of our world that was such a huge part of our world. Without it, we wouldn't have met. Visiting 32 years and 1 day after our marriage began was such a gift. Who knew, when we met at Bader Gym as part of the same Interface Group that our lives would have merged and melded and still be going strong 33 years later. Full Circle. . .
After the stopover in Henderson, TN, we made our way to Nashville. We had a cute Tudor-style house that my niece declared a "gnome house". It was well-equipped with Alexa (who was tired and waving goodbye enthusiastically after 2 days of questions from a very inquisitive 10-yr-old, and a very inquisitive 78-yr-old who is determined to have his very own Alexa LOL). We went to the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday -- it was a whirlwind tour -- we spent 2 hours, but easily could have stayed longer. So many amazing performers memorialized in those walls, including Alan Jackson, who was my mama's personal favorite. As he sang Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning, tears flowed freely as I missed her so much in that moment. She wasn't a traveler and probably never would have gone, but how I would have LOVED to share that moment with her.
I especially enjoyed seeing the videos of old country and song lyrics originally scribbled on napkins and notebook paper that became the songs of a nation. When we stood in the rotunda at the end, it was beautiful and I teared up (not for the first time that day . . .or the last) Hearing Dolly Parton's voice and seeing all the amazing people who had been honored in that room and all the symbolism and significance of every single piece of the planning was awe-inspiring. The inscription in the rotunda "Will the circle be unbroken" The rotunda is, as its name suggests -- round -- no beginning, no end, no corners, no edges, everyone equal and equally honored. Another nod to the circle on this vacation.
Then, it was on to a tour of Studio B. We didn't know much about Studio B before we went, but it ended up being one of our favorite places, and another very unintentional full circle moment from my hubby our vacation planner. This was the studio where Elvis recorded most of his hit songs, along with Dolly Parton, and a host of other amazing great artists through the years. We got to stand on the X on the floor in the very same room where Elvis recorded Are You Lonesome Tonight, and sit at the piano where he sat all those years ago, singing gospel tunes under blue studio lights, and rock n' roll in the hot red ambient lighting. It was humbling and touching to be in the space where so many amazing hit songs were recorded. Thinking about the talent that had passed through those doors, stood on the X, plinked the keys on that piano. . . I have to admit I teared up here a bit too. If you're a musician or a big music fan, I highly recommend this add-on to the Country Music Hall of Fame when you're in Nashville.
After those two tours, Daddy and I had an appointment. For his Father's Day gift, we booked an AirBnB experience with a Nashville songwriter, Brett Taylor. He's toured the country with some amazing artists, written songs that are recorded by Nashville greats, and he hosts songwriting experiences where he shares his process and helps you record a demo of your song. I went along mostly to document Daddy's experience, although I learned a lot and really enjoyed connecting with Brett. He invited us into his studio, shared a bit about who he is, what he's done and why he's doing these experiences. He also gave us a little run-down of how songwriting in Nashville works and a bit about his process and how he goes from idea to full-fledged song. Then he asked Daddy some questions and Daddy bravely sang one of his original songs that he's been working on -- one that he wanted Brett to help him work on. The rest of the time together was spent working on this jointly-written song. While I am used to critique and rewrites and revision in my aspiring author/prepublished author role, it was a new experience for Daddy. Brett took Daddy's partial song, and the story that Daddy shared and wove them into a really powerful song called "Whiskey Ain't No Friend". We are still working out the details and getting vocals back to Brett, but once we get it all put together, I'll share it here or let you know where you can go to listen. Daddy had to stretch and grow once again, but at 78, he's still learning and growing and willing to try new things. It was cool watching him. work through this experience, and I was so proud of him for the bravery of sharing his heart -- a topic that is very difficult and heart-breaking for him. My prayer is that we can find a way to get his song out into the world to change someone's life or to help someone else who's in our shoes not feel so alone. Stay tuned!
All in all, it was a great vacation. It was a lot of travel and a lot of new for my dad, who doesn't travel and doesn't experience too much new. I am thankful he is willing to have some adventures with us, and so thankful he didn't get hurt in his tumbles on the trip. Shane jokes that we're going to nickname him "Tigger" since he bounces when he falls. But hopefully, we won't be experiencing that any more. . . (my fingers are crossed AND my prayers are said -- to that end!)
We ended the week back at Shane's mom's. We ate Mexican together and played a game of Rummikub, enjoying one more evening of hospitality with Sheryl, Kelli, and her children. Then the last leg of travel back to home, sweet, home! Vacations are wonderful, but there's a special satisfaction when the circle is complete, the car is in the drive and you are sleeping in your own bed once again. Until next time, here's to full circle moments, the circle of vacations, and unbroken circles.
This past week, Shane (hubby) and I traveled to the Outer Banks of NC, one of our favorite places -- and where my best-friend-since-fourth-grade-lives. It's about a 5-hour drive, but Shane wanted to stop off in Bath for the first night of our trip. He secured a spot at an Air BnB in Bath, NC. It is our oldest town -- since the early 1700s, so it's a veritable history lesson on its own -- and perfect for any history buff. There are copious historical markers on almost every street. And, it sits right on the water, so it is charming, beautiful and picturesque. The place we stayed is owned and hosted by Deryck and Daniel, and is historic in its own right -- having served as a doctor's home/office/surgery in its early days; later as an outright bed and breakfast as well as a personal residence. It's old, beautiful, and right on the water. If you're a fan of pirates, you should definitely check it out. (There's a link to it at the very end of the post.) Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, made this village his home for a while, and that fact is its most macabre claim to fame.
After stopping off in Newbern (another historic NC town) for dinner, we arrived around 10PM. We walked down to the water after a bit and stretched out to enjoy the lights on the water and the brisk breeze.
When we went back inside, we were checking out the inside of the place. It's a small space -- living area/kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom are the extent of the indoor spaces. The decorations are sea-faring and piratical and very cool. They've done a good job on the place -- and are continuing to work on the outdoor spaces to restore them to their glory.
I love and am fascinated by pirate legends and stories. We have watched all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies multiple times. So I was duly impressed to see the LOADED bookshelf full of piratical literature! It was a very eclectic and well-appointed bookshelf as you can see. Everything from romance to historical NF to novels to kid lit! I drug all the picture books off the shelf, stacked them on the coffee table and read until after midnight. (Shane had long since crashed and was happily snoozing.) When I could hardly hold my eyes open, I gave in and went to bed, only halfway through the stack. I finished them the next morning on the back deck. . . .
We had to check out by 11:00, and I needed to write a draft (for First Draft Friday, hosted by Hollie Wolverton on Twitter and via her website.). It was a glorious morning back here -- so beautiful! The ducks were hanging out and the water was gorgeous! What a beautiful space! So Shane read for a while, then went in to shower and load up all of our "stuff". I finished all the picture books, and took them back in. Then I brought my laptop down and began writing my first draft, inspired by this piratical place :-)
I was working on my own piratical story when a storm started moving toward Bath Creek. This was impressive in its own right and I watched in fascination as the water began getting choppier and choppier, soon turning to white froth as the wind picked up, holding the flags taut, then whipping them. You could hear the flags snap in the stormy winds. The breeze cooled and the rain started falling -- sparsely at first. It was a slow warning. I closed up my laptop and took refuge on the wide porch. Derrick had come out to secure things for the summer storm. I watched it from the porch until Shane alerted me that we needed to go. I was loathe to leave and wish we could have stayed longer.
The weather was misty, moist and stormy off and on, so we drove on without exploring more of the history of the town, which was our plan. We decided Pirates Wharf is a perfect writing retreat for us, so we will definitely be going back. Hopefully another visit we can do more exploring. There are so many lovely places to write here. I'm hoping for a fall visit with nice cool temps and checking out that bed on the porch for an afternoon siesta. Below, check out the picture books I read at Pirates Wharf and my impressions in the captions. You can also click on the book for the Amazon link.
This one I didn't read, as it's a mostly I Spy kind of thing with very detailed illustrations with many pictures for kids to look for. A lot of fun for the little pirates in your life. There is a paperback version with stickers as well here: https://www.amazon.com/1001-Pirate-Things-Sticker-Books/dp/0794528708/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=usborne+1001+pirate+things&qid=1625691803&s=books&sr=1-2
I definitely saved one of the best till last. . . I LOVE this book, and I've LOVED it for a long time! To me, this is an absolute classic and no pirate unit, pirate story time, or pirate anything is complete without Jeremy Jacobs' story -- perfection for me -- from beginning to end in both its writing and its illustration! So very good!
I hope you enjoyed either/and/or hearing about my trip, the Pirates' Wharf Air BnB and the review of their amazing pirate kidlit bookshelf. If you have extra pirate stories laying around, I'm sure Deryck and Daniel would love to add them to the shelf. If you're inspired to visit and write on the deck or the porch, tell them Tonnye sent you. Here's their AirBnB link: www.airbnb.com/rooms/49156638?translate_ugc=false&federated_search_id=841fcf24-06c0-4e5a-957d-eab0ec87a10d&source_impression_id=p3_1625609531_G5mtMLjyAJsnafsq
And if you, like me, are inspired to write a new pirate story, check out Mindy's critique train challenge here: mindyalyseweiss.com/pbparty-new-draft-challenge-critique-train-faq/ It's open for passengers on July 20!
Ahoy, Mateys, It's the end of this pirate tale. I'll be seein' ye on the 7 seas! Aaarrrgh!
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!