Three different cities

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison was the last national park on our trip, so when we left there we put our hiking boots away, said farewell to the fabulous scenery of the south-west, and headed back towards Sarasota – more than 2,000 miles away. We planned three major stops at cities along the way.

Santa Fe

We’d visited Santa Fe before, but the adobe-style buildings are beautiful, so we wanted to see it again. It occurred to us that this was the first city we’d looked around since we were in San Antonio – exactly four weeks previously!

Downtown Santa Fe, with its typical adobe-style architecture

Downtown Santa Fe, with its typical adobe-style architecture

Several of the places we visited were familiar from previous trips: the Plaza, the cathedral, the Loretto chapel with the ‘miraculous’ unsupported staircase. We also visited the State Capitol, and a winery (although surprisingly most of the wine was much too sweet for our taste).

The miraculous staircase in the Loretto chapel

The miraculous staircase in the Loretto chapel

San Miguel Mission

San Miguel Mission

 

St Francis Cathedral

St Francis Cathedral

We enjoyed walking down Canyon Road, which has nothing but art shops, one after the other on both sides of the road. The sculptures are fascinating, and many are attractively arranged outdoors, so you can enjoy them without being tempted (or badgered) to buy. In the evening we had dinner at the (aptly if unoriginally named) Pink Adobe, sitting at a table in their atmospheric patio.

Sculpture in Canyon Road

Sculpture in Canyon Road (1)

Sculpture in Canyon Road (2)

Sculpture in Canyon Road (2)

Wind whirlers

Wind whirlers

'Day of the Dead' artwork in a shop window

‘Day of the Dead’ artwork in a shop window

Oklahoma City

We’d never been to Oklahoma City before (indeed, Oklahoma was one of the few states we’d never visited before). While there we walked through the small but attractive Botanical Gardens, and had a quick look at the State Capitol (not the most beautiful, but unique in having an oil well just outside).

Downtown Oklahoma City

Downtown Oklahoma City

The 'tube' conservatory in the Botanic Gardens

The ‘tube’ conservatory in the Botanic Gardens

State Capitol (with oil well)

State Capitol (with oil well)

The main tourist area is Bricktown, which has shops, restaurants, a baseball park and a canal where you can get boat rides. It sounded good, but we were disappointed. It seemed that they are trying to emulate the riverwalk in San Antonio, but they certainly haven’t succeeded yet. There are relatively few shops and restaurants along the canal, and several of those were closed.   The boat trip was not wildly exciting, and we got angry because we had been assured that boats ran every 10-15minutes – in fact, it was more like once an hour!

Bricktown

Bricktown

Bronze sculpture of the 'Land Rush' which founded the city

Bronze sculpture of the ‘Land Rush’ which founded the city

At the ball park

At the ball park

For us, the most interesting part (highlight does not seem quite the right word) of Oklahoma City was the National Memorial Park and Museum. The park is a beautifully designed memorial to those who died in the bombing of 1995. There are several elements, the most moving of which is the Field of Chairs: an empty chair for each person who died, including smaller ones for the children. In the museum (nothing like a traditional museum) you are taken through the events of that dreadful day, and its aftermath. Shining through the darkness were reports of the amazing response from people near and far who provided help and support in so many ways.

National Memorial Park

National Memorial Park

The Field of Chairs

The Field of Chairs

National Memorial Museum

National Memorial Museum

'Jesus wept' statue

‘Jesus wept’ statue

Tiles from children from around the world

Tiles from children from around the world

Field of Chairs at night

Field of Chairs at night

Memphis

We’d been to Tennessee several times before, but never to Memphis. Indeed, as we discovered, Memphis is barely in Tennessee – it sits in the very south-west corner, between Arkansas and Mississippi. We went on a river trip there, although there was not a great deal to see (as the guide himself said, you don’t go to the Mississippi for scenery).

Riverboat

Riverboat

Mississippi bridge and Pyramid

Mississippi bridge and Pyramid

Statue of Tom Lee, who rescued 32 people from drowning

Statue of Tom Lee, who rescued 32 people from drowning

Memphis nightfall

Memphis nightfall

During our short time in the city, we were able to sample some of the things that make Memphis famous. The most obvious, of course, is music. In Beale Street (reminiscent of New Orleans), we could eat, drink and watch the crowds strolling up and down, while blues music (which has its origins there) can be heard in every bar.

Beale Street

Beale Street

Evening crowds

Evening crowds

Don't ask

Don’t ask

Ian enjoys Southern-style catfish

Ian enjoys Southern-style catfish

Sandie joins an impromptu line dance

Sandie joins an impromptu line dance

But of course, the most famous musical resident of Memphis was Elvis Presley, so we had to visit his mansion, Graceland, which is just outside the city. The house itself is not as large as you might expect, but there are a number of associated exhibitions, some very well done, others frankly tacky.

Inside Graceland

Inside Graceland

In the basement

In the basement

You too can have a suit like Elvis'

You too can have a suit like Elvis’

His celebrated pink cadillac

His celebrated pink cadillac

Elvis was not the only famous person to die in Memphis. Later the same day, we visited the National Civil Rights Museum, which is built around the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. You can see the room where he stayed, and the balcony where he was shot. But the museum itself is extraordinarily well done and an extremely powerful reminder of the terrible things that happened not so very long ago, and the bravery of those who fought injustice at great personal risk.

Lorraine Motel (now Civil Rights Museum)

Lorraine Motel (now Civil Rights Museum)

Burnt-out Freedom Riders bus

Burnt-out Freedom Riders bus

Civil Rights demo

Civil Rights demo

Back to Sarasota

From Memphis it was another 870 miles – two days driving – back to Sarasota. Since our route took us by Tupelo, 100 miles south of Memphis, we stopped briefly to see the two-room house where Elvis Presley was born in 1935: compare and contrast with Graceland! Otherwise, we stopped only for meals, shopping and overnight camping.

Elvis Presley's birthplace

Elvis Presley’s birthplace

The kitchen

The kitchen

Elvis Presley Memorial chapel

Elvis Presley Memorial chapel

Our last campsite

Our last campsite

 

We arrived back in Sarasota at 6.40 pm on Saturday 26th July. We’d been away 39 days and 38 nights; during that time we’d driven 8,046 miles across 13 states. We’d camped 25 nights in 23 campsites, and stayed 13 nights in 11 motels/hotels. We’d visited eight national parks, 11 national monuments, five state parks and five cities (not including all the places where we stopped briefly, or just stayed overnight). We’d taken literally thousands of photos. All in all, a great trip!

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