Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Branson to Graceland

We stopped in Branson Missouri on the May 6 & 7 May.  There is a lot of good entertainment in Branson, but usually there are only one or two big name celebrities performing on any given day.  The majority of the shows (there are 30-40 in town!) are tribute acts. During our visit the only name entertainment shows were  Larry's Country Diner with Daly and Vincent; and the Mickey Gilley show. We enjoyed the Gilley show, however, Larry's diner was sold out. On our second day in town we opted for the Frankie Valli tribute show "Jersey Nights".  Both shows were worth the admission price. All the theaters bar photography during the shows.

We left Branson on May 8th traveling through northeast Arkansas to Memphis Tennessee.  Entroute we passed some rather depressing tornado damage.

We arrived in Memphis pitched camp at the military campground on the nearby Mid-South Naval Support Base.  The park there is a full  hook-up park with very nice concrete sites.  A good price at $20.  The next day we traveled across town to Elvis' mansion at Graceland.

Graceland is not by any means expansive like Biltmore. It is a fascinating home, if for no other reason than it is a time capsule to the 1970's.  The house appears to have been meticulously maintained as it was at Elvis' death in 1977.  On the date of Elvis' death Ina and I were going out to dinner for our wedding anniversary. But I digress. 

The living and dinning  rooms are quite formal.  However, other rooms of the house have very interesting colors and textures.  The television room in the basement has three TVs and a large collection of single 45rpm records. 

The room at the back of the house called the "Jungle Room"  had really unique furniture.

There is also a major wing of the mansion which is devoted to Evis's gold records. It is at this point that one begins to understand the scope of Elvis' success.

I wonder how many people today heard this record when it was a number one hit.  As a kid, I had this record - a 45rpm single.  Lord,  I must be old! :)

Elvis built a handball court in a building in back of the mansion.  Here, is the room  adjacent to the court where Elvis played this piano on the day that he died.

The handball court itself is now filled with more gold records and night club jump suits.

There was quite a crowd at Elvis's grave.  Beside him are graves of his grandmother, his father and mother.

The small monument at the head of Elvis' grave is a memorial to his still-born twin brother.

Across  the street from the mansion, is a collection of Elvis' cars.  Although the famous pink Cadillac which he bought for his mother is there, this 1971 Stutz Blackhawk is one of the more interesting ones.

This Conver 880 four engine jet was used primarily to ferry Elvis and crew from Memphis to his Las Vegas shows.  After the first Las Vegas performance, Col Parker, (Elvis' manager) negotiated a five tour contract at $500,000 per tour in the hotel coffee shop.  They wrote the contract on a tablecloth.  The tablecloth is on display at Gracelend.  

The Graceland tour is worthwhile even your not much of an Elvis fan.  His impact on today's entertainment industry is truly amazing.

The Pink Cadillac

Friday, May 9, 2014


On Apil 30th, we had a wonderful time riding the Durango-Silverton scenic railway.   Unforunately, due to the danger of avalanche in the early Spring,  the train only goes halfway to Silverton (26 miles).  We missed the full ride to Silverton by only a few days.  The first full 40-some mile run for the season was slated to begin the next Saturday.  It was still a good ride since the railroad is one of the few scenic railroads running vintage coal fired steam engines.

I selected an RV campground (United RV) just north of town right next to the tracks.  After settling in, that evening we noticed a herd of deer wandering around the grounds.

I was taking Barney for a walk at the time.  He, of course decided start barking at the deer.  Which caused them to run a little ways away.
I got this shot of the herd just watching the barking dog.  After a few minutes they wandered further away and resumed grazing.
Here is a photo of the park from the train which we boarded the next day.
The First Class fare has very comfortable leather aircraft style seats in a glass-topped observation car.
Although comfortable, the open air coach car would be preferable for picture taking.   
I did get some good shots of the train under full head of steam.  However, I was annoyed by couple of German tourists who seemed to monopolize the car's viewing platform.

The train stopped for an hour at Cascade valley for a turn around and a lunch break.

Grandson Joshua would have loved the up-close experience of a working steam locomotive.  Most little boys are fascinated by the awesome power of  the engine. It made me feel like a kid again.  

I had a fellow passenger take this picture of Ina and me at the Durango station.

Ina found a boyfriend, but he's kind of boring. :)

The railroad museum at the Durango station is worth visiting.  Access is free.  There I spied this turn of the century printing of downtown Durango (below).  The classic architecture of the hotel on the right side of the street is still impressive today (above).
Among the antique locomotives are several beautifully restored Ford autos.

We lingered at the RV park the next day waiting for the train to pass by the park on it's morning run.  The train as it passes the park is on an upgrade and is chugging away under full throttle.  I figured it would make a great picture (at the top of this page) and a great video (below).

Finally, we headed eastward across central Colorado for Pueblo.   It was a long drive including one of the longest mountain grades we have seen.  Aptly called "30 miles of hell" in CW MCall's song: Wolf Creek pass.  Both East and West sides of the pass are about 30 miles of grades ranging in steepness from 3% to 8% .  The best the Georgetown could do through most of the steep grades was about 30mph in second gear.  I don't consider that too bad since I passed three semi's who could do more than 20 mph.  We went West-to-East.  The song and the video travels the other direction.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Capital Reef National Park

After our visit to Bryce canyon we departed Kodachrome Basin State Park on April 28th and travelled the scenic Utah highway 12 through the Dixie National Forest and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  Highway 12 is a very scenic road with Ponderosa & Juniper forests; and high mountain passes.   The road covers about 110 miles of winding two lane road (a thumbs down vote by Ina) with elevations up to 9000ft.
Kodachrome Basin

At Capital Reef we took Utah highway 24 southeast to the eastermost extremity of Lake Powell, in the Glen Canyon National Recreation area. 

As we passed through Capital Reef, we found at least one pull out  featuring petroglyphs on solid rock vertical cliffs some 300feet high.    It was apparent why the ancient people lived here since the canyon had very pleasant grassy areas and trees along the river (probably excellent for gardens and livestock).

Hwy 24 is also a very picturesque road. In this area the terrain becomes almost barren rock slopes with only few desert plants.  Although there were no high mountain passes, the road descends into many steep and narrow canyons with switch backs climbing over ridges into adjacent canyons.

In one section the road traversed the summit of a very narrow ridge with spectacular cliffs plunging down on both sides of the highway.  This road is not for those afraid of heights.

At Lake Powell there is an impressive overlook before the road crosses to the south rim of the canyon over a high steel truss bridge.

Climbing back up the plateau we drove some 85 miles for an overnight stop at the Kampark RV park in Blanding, Utah.  With all the mountain driving it seemed like  a long day, but only amounted to about a 260 mile drive.