Monday, June 28, 2010

we've got four stylin' winners!

okay, i really, really wish i had a doze of these for giveaway but i only had four so here are the lucky ladies who now, get to pee in style...heehee! you've got until July 5th to email me yer address so i can send you yer nifty gadget. i'm jekinthebox and you can find me on gmail...okee doke**?


happy almost July folks!

**you have 30 days to contact me or answer any inquiries i send. if after 30 days i have not heard from ya, yer win goes back into the pool for another round so you'll just have to play again. ;)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

we interrupt this program...

hi folks! so sorry about the wonky posting here, everything got a little mixed up due to blogger not "listening" to our scheduled date posting stuff. sigh. anyway, we have a dead laptop and may have possibly lost all of our photos after our visit to South Carolina so that is two weeks of fun stuff gone...poof!

i am very sad about this but let's keep everything crossed...we'll know more this week. right now we are in Rhode Island and next week we'll be in Massachusetts then Montreal and Toronto...phew!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

dupont circle, a little more of DC

just a smidge more. while in DC, we got to hang out with flickr friend and fellow crafter Barbara aka craftsy and her brother mike.bright and early we caught the shuttle to the metro and hopped a couple of trains to Dupont Circle. after breakfast we wandered and chatted and wandered some more. we were out early enough we beat the heat. we envied architecture, checked out bicycles and saw a black squirrel.goodness but do i love me some row houses...having our fill and needing to get stuff done (like this blog post) we hopped our two trains back and said our see-you-laters. DC was great fun, even better meeting friends!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

DC: a lot of ground to cover

and we only made it to three museums.

The Smithsonian:

The Natural History Museum:

The National Gallery of Art:

we also hit up the Washington Monument:

and the Lincoln Memorial:

hot dogs were scarfed, inhalers were lost, wheezing was wheezed, walking was walked, raindrops dropped and we made it back to the motel in one piece. phew! i wish we had more time...there's a lot to see in DC!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

shiny diner and Potomac wetland

6/13 Mason Neck Virginia State Park

The morning found us at the Rip Van Winkle Inn in Warrenton, VA. That's where we went the night before to escape the rain that poured down as we left Shenandoah National Park. The morning was sunny and the motel odd. When we checked in the desk person at first said they were all booked, then he changed his mind and went to ask if any rooms were open. He came back and said he had something for us. Then he said, "wait, do you want non-smoking?" Yes. So he went to check again and said he could arrange something. Hmmm. We got a room and wondered what the fuss was, there were only four other cars in the parking area. I think the place is mostly residents who don't drive and they don't get many people coming for short stays. It's not really run down or scary, just not up to date. The "AC" in our room was a floor stand fan.

It kept us dry for the night and in the morning as I packed the car I had a friendly conversation with one of the residents. She was out for a cigarette and asked where I was from. After I explained a bit of what we were up to she got very animated and felt the need to hold my hand while telling me how great what we were doing must be. After I said we planned to go up to D.C. next she corrected me, saying, "You mean DOWN to D.C." with a knowing look. She wished us luck and sent us on our way.

Breakfast was calling from the shiny stainless diner pictured above. The crowd was lively and loud for a Sunday morning and everyone just knew we were from somewhere else. After an excellent if standard diner breakfast we sat in the car for a bit to decide what to do next. We had some hours to kill before we could check in to the place near D.C. A look at the map and we picked Mason Neck Park for a possible short walk, maybe a nap, and lunch. It was a short drive and would put us in easy distance from Alexandria where a room was booked for our D.C. visit.

The little park paid off with lots of shady trees, a nice trail, and a board walk through the wetlands along the Patomac. We took a walk and had a lazy picnic while an extended family had a gathering and barbecue a few tables over. All in all a fine pick to kill some time. We headed north in the afternoon to check in and rest up for a long day of museums and memorials in D.C.

more winding road

6/12 Appalachia and Shenandoah

After a night in the Jefferson National Forest near Arcadia, Virginia where we did our best to catch the firefly show on (digital) film, interstate 81 took us to the south entrance to Shenandoah National Park. Along the way we stopped to check out Natural Bridge a bit north of Arcadia. I'm sure the stone bridge is nifty and all but don't bother with this tourist trap unless you want to shell out $29 per person. We just took some pics of the cowboy on a dinosaur and moved on.

The Blue Ridge Parkway that we followed for a stretch the day before, continues north through the park but here it's called Skyline Drive. The scenery is hard to adequately capture in the camera as the road winds through the green and peeks out at hundreds of overlooks. The trees here are more dense than the Blue Ridge Parkway further south but all of the winding road we traveled is more hemmed in than it was when the road was built. Farming and logging had removed much of the forest at that time. Now, many of the "overlooks" are entirely closed in by green.

The Appalachian Trail works it's way through Shenandoah and the path crosses the highway at many points. We saw a few intrepid through hikers on their way to some very worn out boots. It made me wish I had the time to try the LONG walk. Then again, I get cranky after two nights out.

While the sun was shining, warm humid air brought out big clouds of flower perfume as we drove with the windows down. We never did confirm what flowers were making the big smell but there were lots of candidates.

Try as we might, even stopping to put our noses in everything along the road, we couldn't pin down the source. I suppose it was a mix of everything at once.

At the Big Meadow Visitor Center we stopped to have a short walk (and visit with the bronze conservation corps statue). The sky was clouding over and it looked like camping out would be bad idea. Sure enough, just as we made it back to the car the sky opened up. Struggling through the waves of rain and making our way slowly down from the ridge we saw lots of very wet hikers slithering to their parked cars. Everyone who was caught out was wet to the socks in minutes. The waves kept coming but the brief breaks between were glorious, with fast moving clouds and short glimpses of sun.... and wet hikers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the button king and pearl fryar

6/9 Bishopville, South Carolina

Sorry to work in the past again folks, but we never got around to a post for the swell stuff we visited in Bishopville on our way across South Carolina. Well worth the stop was Dalton Stevens' Button Museum. mrs. a-go-go called ahead to check if the museum was open for the day but only got the answering machine so she left a message and we figured we would try our luck. If you go, do try to stick to the directions on the website. Many of the rural roads turn into unpaved ruts and a GPS may send you down one of these.

When we arrived Dalton seemed to be expecting us so they must have gotten the massage on the answering machine. We pulled up to the white museum building and Dalton ushered us in out of the sun after a brief introduction. Inside was a dazzling display of his insomniac handiwork.

Dalton says that the button applique started one night when he just couldn't sleep with just one red button sewn on the knee of his denim pants.the very first button sewn From there he covered a whole outfit including hat and vest, and the body of his guitar. Dalton indulged us with a few songs on his guitar and then he took us into the building next door where he demonstrated some of his other favorite instruments, a mandolin, a banjo, and a washboard tie!serenaded

Dalton then offered to show us the way to something else he thought we should see in Bishopville. He was on his way to town anyhow so he said, "Follow me and I'll take you to see the topiary." Huh... We exchanged concerned looks and wondered what we were in for but Dalton was right, we did need to see this. He led us to the garden of Pearl Fryar who has turned the land around his house into a marvelous topiary art project.

You won't find the frozen green elephants and turtles that may spring to mind, and there are no elemental solids here. All of Pearl's shapes are wild abstractions and imaginative organic fantasies. He started with no training and a few plants discarded from the nursery and made training and trimming plants into his own vision. If you are traveling Interstate 20 across South Carolina, don't miss the short detour for these one-of-a-kind creations.

the blue ridge parkway: pictures now, words later

Monday, June 21, 2010

words about D.C. (now with bonus practical stuff!)

The post below generated some sparks and doesn't say much in the way of advice on what to do in DC in the summer so here's a little more practical stuff: It gets really hot and sticky by June so if you visit in the hot months you may want to skip taking a walk on the mall during the middle of the day. If you stick to the museums (all of which are worthwhile and way too much to see in one day) you'll have the benefit of air conditioning. The biggest hurdle is getting into town. If you have the money a cab may be the way to go. We were on a tight budget and were staying in Alexandria. The motel had a shuttle to the subway station but we were on our own from there. The subway is very affordable but the fare system is a corker. We found very little online advice about what to do, in particular the DC Metro's own website was murky at best, but if you take some time digging you can get some useful info there. At the time we were in DC (June 2010) we spent $8 each on a day pass for the subway. There are ticket vending machines outside the gates. Some will be broken some wont take cash... the usual hiccups. The day pass is only good after the official morning rush hour on weekdays. We were there on a Monday so we waited for the 9:30 hour. We had found lots of gripes online from locals who wished that weekday visitors would wait and use the subway after 9:30am too, so we obliged. If you are taking just one subway ride in and one back out for the day it is cheaper to figure out the rates and buy the regular fair tickets. For what we did it would have cost only $4.40 for the round trip. This allows you to board before 9:30am but it makes figuring the fare alot more complicated. The vending machines have a poster on each that lists all the destinations from your station and the rate, but beware if you miss the little green sticker that says the rates all went up by 10 cents. You have to add this yourself. The machine will print a paper ticket with a magnet strip on the back and a dollar amount. Feed this into the slot of on the turn style and it will pop back up and let you through. KEEP the ticket. The fair is not deducted until you do all this again when you get off the train. There are vending machines inside the exits where you can add $$ to the ticket if you put on too little to begin with. It's a huge help if you go after 9:30am and I recommend it if it's your first time. There will be fewer people waiting impatiently for you to figure it all out and the Metro staff will be less harried too. On our first trip at 9:00 the Metro worker actually stood at the vending machine to walk the tourists through the whole mess.

Nowthen... read on if you want to hear me gripe about some things and praise a few others. DC is swell particularly for the mass of museums. Give them a few days if you can and try to keep the kids interested.

By the way, the squirrels in the Mall are evil. Don't feed them. They'll climb right up on you and swipe your snack. Evil.

mrs. a-go-go posted some pictures of our visit to D.C. but I thought some anecdotes were in order:

The National Mall: Whole lot'a grass. It was a sweltering day when we went into the mall. I wish we had been able to get there early in the morning. Walking around was a bear in the heat, but we knew it was a work day and the rush hour crowd on the trains would be rough. We took the advice of a D.C. blog and tried to not add to the locals' troubles at rush hour. That meant we came up out of the subway at about 10:30. Way too hot already. The sight lines of the mall are still impressive even with the crazy hodgepodge of buildings that are the back drop to all the familiar white buildings. I noticed that the White house is always photographed from one particular angle because from any other vantage point all the wacky buildings behind it would make for an ugly picture.

I'm not a big fan of huge lawns either. They are swell for lots of things but there is no one having picnics on most of this grass and there are many large patches with "keep off" signs anyhow. Maybe it's time for the mall to set an example and start landscaping with something less thirsty for water and fertilizer. Big patches of yarrow... creeping thyme maybe?... the place was once a swamp (let's call it a wet land to be more appealing) perhaps someone could do their thesis research on what plants used to be there and make the whole mall into a restoration project... Nah, it'll never happen.

The Washington Monument: Still takes the cake for singular, austere, craziness. Quite appropriate I think... after all, Washington did accomplish one truly singular, crazy thing... At the end of the war for independence from Brittan Washington did something really weird (in the context of the way most revolutions in history have gone). The British military had alot on their hands at the time all over the world and had been at last worn down to surrender their hold on these particular colonies. (Mind you there were lots of them who figured they would be able to come back later and set things straight.) This left Washington and his generals with a choice, let the Continental Congress, ostensibly the governing body of the colonies that had been cobbled together to organize the revolution, do its thing and try to form a new country and government, OR keep the reins of power and go the way of so many other revolutions... directly to martial law and put up Washington as despot. Washington pulled out. What? He did what!? He actually handed power to the rabble of intellectuals with their big ideas. And here we are. Is it working? I don't know. I wish we could just get over ourselves and stop trying to tell everyone else how to do things. OK, rant over.

American History Museum: We didn't see everything here, way too much to see, but the interactive exhibits of inventions (aimed at kids) were swell. We visited Julia Child's kitchen, the pop up book gallery, and the robot cars. Fun, but here's my bit of history observation: Just off the lobby was a big marble sculpture of Washington as Roman god. Kinda crazy but it made me think more about all the effort that has gone into trying to make THE FOUNDING FATHERS special, and this is sort of a continuation of all my blathering about the Washington Monument. I think they were kinda special, and did do something historically unique, but I had to wonder while standing there looking at Washington enthroned wearing a modest drapery that covered his ghoulies yet reveled his Apollo like six pack and broad shoulders as he offers the sword of power to the people.... "does anyone in the room here with me see, understand, or even care about any of this symbolism?!" I used to work in a big art museum in Los Angeles and I often wondered at what was going through the minds of the people rushing through the galleries gawking. Is this like a scavenger hunt? Can I check "fine art" off my list for this year? and in D.C... can I check American History off my list for life? OK, rant number two over.

So from there, after soaking up some cool air, we braved the heat to make our way to the Lincoln Memorial. On the way we walked through the relatively new WWII memorial. Hmm... I always get all kinds of awkward feelings about war memorials, positive and negative. Too much there to try to write about here.

The Lincoln Memorial: Nifty in its way, a too overused symbol full of other symbols. Again, I was hit with the rush of wonder about how many of this mob of people taking pictures, see anything but the big white temple they have seen in movies and Lincoln in his chair. The place is loaded, over-loaded, with symbols, and blunt in its message... I couldn't read all the words etched into most of the surfaces. It was too hot and we were cranky in the humidity and human stink. For just a taste of what I had going through my head, "Does anyone see, recognise, or understand what the bundles of sticks around the ax is?" Lincoln's chair has this symbol on the front of each leg (and it's scattered around on other parts of the monument). It's the fascis from Latin meaning bundle or group. It's the root of the term Fascism. Before the second world war that term didn't have such a nasty reputation. It's on the Lincoln memorial for what I hope are obvious reasons, but does anyone think about this stuff? Does anyone else standing there have a rush of history lessons when they see the bundle of sticks? United we stand... the creation of the Italian and German states in the 1800s? and everything that followed? anyone? Metternich? Garibaldi? Mussolini? States Rights? I could go on but I won't.

Ak! this is rambling...

The National Gallery of Art: Several Days worth. Go see it if you have time. Art is super cool if you have a sense of humor, a good companion with you, and a bit of art history lodged in yer brain from school.

The Natural History Museum: The new human evolution exhibit is marvelous, but it won't get through to the folks who need to see it. Oh well. The exhibit on new forensic archaeology discoveries at the site of the Jamestown Colony is marvelous too. And the bug exhibit... too cool, but please don't tap on the glass of the observation bee hive. They really don't like it, kids. Here, let me flick you in the forehead and see if you like it. And, yes, they really are making honey, and no it isn't gross.**

Nuff said. It was an absolutely exhausting day but worth it.

**mrs. a-go-go had this very conversation with a trio of teens...hence the forehead flicking comment.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

hanging rock state park

we hit north carolina just after a visit to South of the Border...literally. our goal was to find a campsite with a place available to rest our tired, tired selves. driving up, up, up to Hanging Rock State Park we lucked out when the camp hosts took pity on our non-reservationish selves and granted us a place under the green canopy full of bird calls from mysterious chirpers.only somewhat robotic, we moved through our by now choreographed routine for setting up camp. then we plopped ourselves down for some book reading and dinner then bed in the slightly dampish humid tent. we are so not used to this thick moisture of the south. i suppose we won't cotton to it being from a place that blasts you in the face with a hot, dry heat every summer and especially since my asthma seems to turn up its nose to the wet. we slept pretty well and even took advantage of the kooky showers in the bathhouse the next morning. after putting the tent and bedding out to dry, we ventured off for a mini hike to some rumored waterfalls.the hike was a short one, less than a mile but it was ALL DOWN HILL...down, down, down we stepped until finally we heard water. eureka, we hit the falls! a little too late in the season to expect more than what we got but it was pretty and the air smelled sweet with warmth and green.we saw a sign for another waterfall not much further around the corner and thought we'd hit that as well. so down, down, down we went for another meet and greet with some water. we hunkered down for a short while as we contemplated the steep up, up, up back to camp. oy. it was a bruiser. it may have been short but man, was it steepity steep! i survived after a weepy moment darn my asthma and we made our way back to breakdown camp.

our next stop was Virginia and the Blue Ridge Highway...whoo-hoo!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


6/10 Rockingham to Hanging Rock with a little Pisgah in between

We woke up in Rockingham, NC after a night in a lame motel. It wasn't run down or anything, just kinda lame... The wi-fi didn't work well and the promised continental breakfast was very meager. I did have the chance to go into town to find a laundromat, so with clean clothes we set off to find Hanging Rock State Park near Mt. Airy, NC. Highway 220 was mostly hemmed in by trees with little showing through so we took a couple of detours to see what was over the dense hedgerows. The rural scenery opened away from the highway and the picture above gives a good idea of what we saw repeated in endless variation. One exit from 220 pointed the way to Pisgah covered bridge... no indication of how far or what was really there just, "Pisgah that-a-way." We had to follow that one.

Ultimately it wasn't that many miles off the highway but after lots of twists in the road and three turns following tiny brown "Pisgah" signs we started to wonder if we were being fooled. Then the last sign pointed down a short gravel drive to what turned out to be a small picnic area and hiking trail along a creek, AND the promised bridge. It's just off the road and a modern bridge takes the road over the creek so Pisgah is strictly for foot traffic these days.

In addition a small sign pointed out that the bridge is far from old. What was left of the old one (even that was not original, being wood it had been rebuilt many times) had been washed away in a flood in 2003. This replica was only six years old. Alas, many visiting artists had thought it incomplete without their personal touch and the inside of the bridge was littered with the most heartfelt personal messages.

It's a nice place for a picnic and that's just what we did. The small park is some distance from the highway and a long way from the nearest town, but we had quite a bit of company while we ate lunch, and the visitors were surprisingly diverse. Some came to walk the path or have lunch and throw rocks in the creek but most just gawked at the bridge, took a picture and moved on. Hmm, I guess the small highway sign and odd name was irresistible.
It was a welcome break from the highway and I'm glad we made the detour even if the bridge is not quite a relic. Our drive continued north to Hanging Rock State Park, but that's for another post. For anyone who may wish to find Pisgah, below are some directions. Look close for the little brown signs.

From the 220 (also labeled interstate 73 and 74) south of Asheboro, NC
Turn West at Burney Rd, drive 5 mi
Turn left at Pisgah Covered Bridge Rd
take 1st right to stay on Pisgah Covered Bridge Rd, the gravel drive to the park will be on the left after about 1.5 miles.

hello chiggers!

Aaaah! We have been introduced to lots of new (to us) critters big and small as we make our way across the U.S. The one I have the least fondness for... chiggers, Trombiculidae, or harvest mites. I have great disdain for their cousins the ticks, and maybe these mites don't deserve the venom I reserve for ticks and all the disease they carry, but man I hate Chiggers right now. When we visited Memphis our hostess asked if we had yet met the chigger. No, but soon we'd have the displeasure. It's high chigger season in the south and Congaree and some of the other dampish places we camped out were teeming with 'em. For those of you who have not made their acquaintance, chiggers are small difficult to see larval mites that get on your skin from low vegetation usually in the humid late spring and early summer weather. They don't suck your blood like ticks but they do consume a bit of skin. It seems that some of the stuff that helped dissolve your skin for dinner gets left behind and that's what gives the host an often intensely itchy red bump or even a small blister or welt. They typically crawl up until they find some particularly thin skin or meet a barrier. That means itch city at the hem of your underpants or right up in'yer armpits. It was my feet that got it in Congaree. The camp area was all perpetually wet mowed grass and weeds, perfect for chiggers.

When the little itch bumps turned up in quantity a day latter we thought, "fleas?!" Then with a bit of internet research we confirmed our second hunch, "Ah, so these are chigger bites." The nasty little chicken pox like bumps were a perfect match to the pictures on the internet. I too had the incorrect assumption that chiggers burrow into your skin and suck blood. It was a relief to read that when you start to itch the chiggers are already long gone. The bumps do not contain evil little worms that will burst out later, nor is their any reason to try to "suffocate" the critters. There's nothing in there but your own skin's inflammatory reaction. When you are itchy it's too late. Grin and bare it. Now I know more about prevention, and I'll keep my pants tucked into my socks when hiking in Congaree. In addition I learned that taking an immediate shower after exposure can wash the beasties off before they get to digesting little bits of you. It seems they are slow like ticks and taking measures to get 'em off early will do a world of good. At the time I am writing this we are recovering from our l'il bumps, but the memory of the squirming desire to scratch won't fade for a while.

By the way, we have thwarted the ticks so far. In North Carolina where we camped out, there was one little bloodsucker I found waiting on the edge of the tent rain fly just above the door. That one got squashed. I hope we can keep the rest of them off. Ig, I hate ticks.

Friday, June 18, 2010

last chance to win a pstyle!

if yer thinking you need one of these sweeties leave a comment and tell us about yer most ridiculous incident in which one would have really, really come in handy. there are some GREAT stories coming in and it is gong to be crazy hard to choose. i have four to give away so we'll pick the top eight and pull names form a hat. if you don't manage to get yerself one here, please visit krista's cups and order up a round, the price is really right at $12 a pop, you may find yerself buying them for all yer friends!

south of the border

NOT down mexico way...
oh South of the Border, you held promise in your very being. i imagined a slightly downtrodden adventure with faded leftovers of your glory days and instead we found a place that was hot, hot, hot and more than downtrodden (and horrifficly un-pc). frightful really. i expected it to be bad in a b-movie kind of way i did. i shouldn't have been surprised it was seedier than a fat watermelon. yet, i am satisfied we hit ya (thanks Bob!) and i bought (too) many postcards to prove it and a plastic dancing donkey toy and a gingerale...if only i remembered to bring out the duaflex. eeps! still, it has major kitsch appeal, someone get in there and kitsch it up please!i knew we were in for it when the billboards began to appear. much like The Thing in arizona, the more signs the more yer likely to find yerself in a room with a fake two-headed turtle (not that is what The Thing is, i'm just guessing it's something sad like that).Pedro's diner is more awful than awful. if you hit South of the Border, don't eat here, just don't. do bring a camera, sure it's cheezeriffic but you can't beat large gorillas and turquoise jackalopes. oh and there are fireworks a plenty so stock on up. other than that make sure you drive (or walk) the short block over to North Carolina and capture the moment...hey, you could even stand in both states at once! South of the Border on Roadside America and Wikipedia

Thursday, June 17, 2010

the place I've been thinking about for so long

6/8 Congaree National Park

About a year ago when we decided it was time to make this big trip happen and I started planning and linking together points on the map, I looked at a list of all the national parks. Quite a few national parks came up that I had never heard of or at least ever thought about because they were so far away. This trip would be the grand opportunity to see the far away special places. A mysterious name on the list, Congaree, I read was a rather new addition to the National Park system. The more I read about it the more enthused I became. Soon Congaree became my goal, my reason to spend weeks driving across the southern states. There were lots of destinations along the way and I don't mean to diminish all those experiences and flavors, but when we crossed into South Carolina I at last felt far from home and amazed that we'd come so far.
Congaree became a national park in 2003 after being a national monument for 30 years. It preserves the largest remaining stretch of old growth flood plain forest. It attracts a mad array of migrating birds and seasonal residents too. A few days before we were to arrive in South Carolina there was a flood warning in effect for the area around Congaree, and I worried that our visit would be cut off. The park normally floods at least ten times a year, but a short call to the Visitor Center assured us that the water was receding and we would only have some extra mud if we ventured off the boardwalk to the longer trails.
After pushing our way through some chaotic traffic in Columbia, SC the road turned down into the bottom land of the flood plain. The air turned cool (but no less humid and heavy) and the green took over. We passed a few houses and farms as we followed what we thought was the way to the park, heck it was called Congaree Park Road. Hmm, something was wrong. We could not get to the park and there didn't seem to be any helpful brown signs, other than the one we stumbled on that pointed the way to a canoe landing. After some fumbling with the map and some dead reckoning we at last made our way to the park entrance and the camping area. If you go, make sure to carefully follow the directions provided on the web site. Finding Congaree is not as easy as most National Parks where you start seeing the direction signs when you're still miles away.
The park was a delight. Hot and sticky, but still a delight of green, and muck, and fungus, and bird song, drippy wet growing things, and...

We saw insects to beat all; Odonates (dragonflies) that flew with a bat like flutter, and brilliant green beetles having a frenzied party on the muddy trail. The high canopy of the cypress, tupelo, and loblolly pines cast more dazzling patterns than a disco ball, and the scrabble of vines and moss completed the encyclopedia illustration of thriving bottom land forest.
Congaree at last. For me this made a fine corner stone and capped the first part of our trip. From Congaree we would wind our way North for part two; Appalachia, the big cities, New England, and Canada (or at least a little taste of it). See you there.

all the marvelous survivors

Memphis, Tennessee
Beal Street, A. Schwab, the Arcade, and to top it all off, Tops Barbecue

Sorry to back track a bit but there were so many things in Memphis that we never managed to write about, so let me take you back a week or so in our trip. The old city center of Memphis has managed, hook or by crook, to save some of its venerable old buildings even if it’s just the original brick fronts supported by girders angled up from the sidewalk.
Several of the businesses along Beal Street, the original live music center of Memphis, occupy these old brick fronts even if many of the upstairs windows open on a view of the sky. Surrounded by the music, A. Schwab, still has its doors open after more than one hundred years and offers a wild mix of new kitsch and lots of old department store stock.
From Elvis’ TCB lightning bolt logo patches to random vintage button cards, from local handmade soap to the last of the cotton slips from 1960, A. Schwab has it all.
On the mezzanine, A. Schwab adds to the charm with a Beal Street Museum collection of old bottles, ancient vending machines, lost yearbooks, and rusted toys.

Away from Beal Street but still in the old center we sampled the fare at the Arcade Restaurant.

The old city center has seen its share of troubles but the Arcade, the oldest continuously open restaurant in Memphis, has survived with its neon sign and classic diner design. mrs. a-go-go tried the sweet potato pancakes, extra tasty with lightly crisped edges and fluffy center, I had the “Memphis” roasted peppers, turkey, and cheese on a crispy roll; a crispy succulent delight. Later that day it was time for some Memphis barbecue at Tops, Sarah’s favorite sandwich chain.
While the fare at the Arcade was creative twists on classic diner plates, Tops is all about making fast food sandwiches with some local pizazz. My quick and sloppy shredded pork barbecue sandwich hit the spot like no tired old cheeseburger ever could.

Oh, and one last thing, we delighted in our visit to the Rock & Soul Museum too.
Best part... the tour is guided by a little electronic device with headphones. These guided tour things have become common at lots of museums but at the Rock and Soul Museum the potential of the little keypad was really fulfilled. Most of the galleries of the museum contained a menu of rare or unusual music tracks pertaining to that room’s display. The visitor is invited to punch the number corresponding to these songs at any time. These music tracks were the highlight of the tour, it was a real treat to hear these songs in the context of the displays.

In our short visit the city by the big river surprised me with its many facets and I know there is so much more that we missed. I hope we'll have a chance to come back someday to see, hear, and taste all of what's on the plate in Memphis.


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