Memphis, early afternoon, just in time to get a hotel room and do some work. Adventure waits outside, but I have a phone interview and a story waiting on me. Night falls as the work is completed--time for dinner. After some driving, I find Neely's BBQ, a family-owned restaurant famous among BBQ connoisseurs. The giant turkey sandwich is stupendous and really is better than anything I can get at home.
A few hours' sleep and I'm on my way to Memphis Airport, to collect my co-driver. I've already grown tired of conversation with myself (I can be so hard-headed and nave sometimes), it'll be nice to hear a different point of view.
We leave the airport to find another beautiful morning and head to The Waffle House for breakfast. They're all over the place in Memphis and you owe it to yourself to have a plate of smothered 'n' covered hash browns at least once. Immediately after walking in the cloudy glass door, all conversation stops. I feel an uncomfortable tension I'm not accustomed to on the West Coast. We're the only white people in the entire restaurant. Luckily, there are two things that bring people together in Memphis. One is music and the other is food. I love both. A waiter sees the humor in the situation and directs us to our booth. We have a great meal and the other patrons have a story to tell people at work later in the day.
Before leaving Memphis, we have to pay our respects to the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. We head over to Sun Records Studio. In this tiny, awkwardly shaped building, the Big Bang of modern music took place. Little Richard, Elvis Presley, many big names recorded here in the dawn of the era. But even before there was rock 'n' roll, there was The Blues. And Beale Street is where it lives. A collection of nightclubs and restaurants still features some of the best musicians in the world--often playing free shows in dark corners of cramped bars. It would be easy to spend the better part of a week here, but the clock is ticking.
After a brief stop on the eastern bank of the Mississippi, we say goodbye to Memphis, hoping to return one day soon. We enter Arkansas and the country starts to flatten out. This time of year, things are yellow and dry. The land is parched and it looks as if time has stopped. There's no activity anywhere and we're an hour into Oklahoma before we even realize it.
Oklahoma is much the same as Arkansas, but around sundown we find the General Thomas P. Stafford Aerospace Museum. Named in honor of the test pilot and astronaut who flew both Gemini and Apollo missions, the museum is a welcome surprise right off the highway. It's getting late and we decide to stop for dinner. We find Lucille's Diner, antique gas pumps and muscle cars mark the entrance. Inside, we find real road food and a gentleman known as `Bill from the Grill.' He sits with us during our meal and we talk cars, traveling and life. Bill is the kind of guy who is instantly a friend. Every local who comes or goes says `hi' and he greets them all by name. We stay until the close of business and hit the road again. Halfway through the panhandle of Texas, we call it a night.