www.retirementtalk.org                        retirement podcast                    retirement lifestyle                senior lifestyle                


                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

Episode 124 Road Trip Part 17: Blue Ridge Parkway to Graceland

A friend of mine described his trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway as a ride on a narrow, hilly, twisty road that ran through dense forest; like a tunnel. He could see nothing but cars and walls of green on both sides. We traveled the road in early February and saw few cars – I once counted one car every ten minutes meeting us over a three hour period. We saw gray brown tree trunks and open spaces that revealed beautiful valleys below and blue colored mountains in the distance. These weren’t mountains like we have in the west but they were mountains of a lesser sort that were beautiful in their own way. We stayed one night in a wonderful “green” hotel in Floyd. The town is famous for its bluegrass music every Friday night. We were there on a Monday and missed it all. We did manage to have one of the worse meals of our trip there.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

It was as if the Parkway was closed but we had been allowed on. We stopped at times and took turn riding our bicycles – no traffic, no sound; just silent beautiful biking. The winter had stripped all of the leaves from the trees and let our eyes prowl the forest floor. It was well worth the drive. Winter is a good time to go.

Ever since I read some of Thomas Wolfe’s writings, Ashville, North Carolina has intrigued me. He is the town’s favorite son – his house is a historical monument and sits right downtown. “Look Homeward Angel” and “You Can’t Go Home Again” have become American classics. Once read they cannot be forgotten. I was set on paying homage to this writer if I every got close to Ashville. I toured the house and visitors center. It brought back memories from his books. Brenda took time to visit the Biltmore Estate, home of Charles Vanderbilt. It is a palace in every sense of the word. She loved it. I passed on the visit and instead spent my time chasing Thomas Wolfe stuff and exercising at a YMCA. We especially enjoyed Izzy’s coffee shop and the French restaurant, “Chochoun” on Lexington Street. We stayed two nights in Ashville..

Graceland, Tennessee became our next destination. We headed west from Ashville and found ourselves driving through the Great Smokey Mountains. The road ran twisty, up and down, through woods and hollows. We saw lots of trees and lots of impoverished dwellings. This had the appearance of Appalachia as imagined in music and literature. The state line was crossed and we found ourselves in Tennessee. We spent the night in Waynesboro. We wanted to be fresh for our big day at the king’s house.

Graceland, Tennessee was the focus of our following day. Everything was to revolve around Elvis Presley. I could rationalize this obsession, but let it just rest with the fact that he was ‘the King’. Yes, it is like Disney Land in a way. But – only in a way.

We had a beautiful, warm spring day for our visit. It was a week day in the winter and there were no lines anywhere. We parked in a mostly empty parking lot and stepped out of the car to the sound of “Love Me Tender”. We purchased our tickets for thirty-one dollars a piece and boarded the bus for a ride across a major highway to the Mansion.

“Tacky” is the word some use to describe his house today. I think it’s the shag carpet. That and all the other things that appear cheap by today’s standards. What impressed me was his racquetball court that has been converted into a hall of award. There is a room that is over 90 feet long – I stepped it off – and all four walls are covered with gold and platinum records, gold boots, or gold awards of one kind or another. It made me realize  that Elvis was a real giant in his field. He not only wowed the girls and made millions of dollars, but he really did have a voice and appeal that took him to the very pinnacle of his profession, He was the King.

He started out in Tupelo, Mississippi a poor dirt farmer son and ended up a rich king only to loose it all in a shameful death on his bathroom floor. I remember reading about drugs and or alcohol playing a role. His grave is still adorned with fresh flowers that come every day from fans. His story is like a Greek Tragedy: his early life, his passion, his work, his success, his untimely death or fall. There’s a message there somewhere.

We looked, listened, and laughed at Graceland. Many folks would also shed a few tears. We knew when we got back to the car that this was one of our more memorable stops on the trip. I recommend it to anyone – especially anyone who is old enough to be retired today. It will bring back lots of memories of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.


This is Retirement Talk.