Day 20 – Terrorist llamas, Rock & Soul in Memphis, and Elvis’ house sure sucks

• After an early night brought on by some unknown illness, a few choice drugs from the local US distributor (definitely legal I am assured by the pharmacist from Craigslist who met me in the carpark for a cash only sale) had me back to full functionality and ready to carry on being a tourist! Here comes a nice long post to make up for it before I come down.

• We headed off towards Memphis, which after the disappointment of Country-orientated Nashville promised to be a utopia of rhythm and blues. Also I heard they did BBQ and I am quite partial to burnt meats myself.

• Yet more beautiful countryside, now completely overrun by cotton fields. We must have been on a common domestic tourism route, as we started seeing more and more SUVs and utes (“trucks”) with campervans. Next up were the RVs towing the local Jimny equivalent (some basic Jeep thing). Then they started becoming a little more ridiculous, with medium rigids pulling full sized 4x4s. Then finally along comes the biggest swinging dong of them all with a full sized bus, pulling an F150. Excessive is barely sufficient for some people! And yes I’m slightly jelly.

• As we approached Tennessee, we saw a sign for a drive thru safari. That definitely piqued our interest, as both those things sounded appealing. We managed to time it quite well as we pulled in with minimal waiting in line. You pay for entry, then you buy buckets of food to feed the animals. Not a bad business model – get tourists to pay for the food and provide the labour for feeding your animals. The buckets looked pretty big so we got 4… The lady suggested 8 and I was like NICE TRY LADY, and totally outsmarted her by sticking to the 4. Turns out she was totally right and we ran out like 1/3rd of the way through the park so you win this round ticket lady.

• Driving around a few hundred acres of open park land feeding all manner of large-dog-to-horse-sized animals in varying degrees of fluffiness was the highlight of trip so far. Our careful food rationing of the 4 buckets was completely ruined at gate 1 by the camels who discovered the trick to getting the most food, is to simply remove the entire bucket from the car. So now we had 3 buckets.

• Next, we tried ostriches and emus. I feel like these guys took etiquette lessons from the cookie monster, because they do a lot of smacking of jaws while food goes flying everywhere, but I’m not entirely sure how much goes down their throat. Also their go go gadget extendo necks make hiding the bucket impossible cause they can just stretch in and grab it anywhere (ANYWHERE 😳😳) so the only solution is to drive off and hope they run out of neck before you run out of food. Anyway now we had 2 buckets, and about half a bucket through the interior of the (hire) car.

• Next up were Buffalo, which came with a rather ominous warning that they may damage the car. At first I was all brave because har har, surely that’s just one of those disclaimer things right? Like laundromats not taking blame for lost socks, or doctors and leaving scalpels in your guts. Next minute, a rather medium sized deer looking thing took offence at a silver mini van near us, and chose to headbutt it. Seeing how much punch something half the size of a horse could do, I was gently reminded by my copilot that we were in a hire car, and there is almost certainly something in tiny print on the document I signed that would make us liable for the damage caused by a horse² animal. So brave Sir Andrew ran bravely away, and skipped that section.

• Then we found bambis, and calves, and older bambis, and adult calves, and even some things with horns. Bambis are cute, so I’m only slightly mad that they also knew the trick about thieving the whole damn bucket and that’s why we very quickly only had 1 bucket of feed remaining.

• Next up were the llamas. I don’t want to over exaggerate here, but the llamas were literally terrorists. They would legitimately run to get in front of your car, and then hold you hostage until you gave in to their demands for feed. And they’d win every game of chicken too, because if you inched forward expecting them to move they would just lean against your bonnet and stare at you just saying with their eyes “this is a nice bonnet… It would be a shame if some sort of heavy fluffy terrorist bent it”. We got terroristed so many times we ran out of feed, and had to resort to pretending we were going to give them dinner by pantomiming with an empty bucket, then taking off when they came to the window… at which point they would chase the car! Funniest thing ever watching other people get chased, less so when being chased. I now understand the other side of the predator/prey dynamic.

• After the rest of the drive thru component (which we literally just drove through because we’d lost all our buckets, sorry remainder of animals!), there’s a walking section too. You can feed a giraffe, and some goats, but the rest are all off limits. All sorts of monkeys and foxes and birds and what not. I liked their enclosures which are outdoor cages and indoor areas joined by enclosed runs so they can come and go as they please. Pro tip when feeding giraffes – when the sign says hold the carrot sticks horizontally, they mean hold them out to the side not on the palm of your hand. Otherwise you will get drooled all over. Ask me how I know.

• I’m sure there’s an environmentalist or two who will say why this place is bad, but until that happens it’s been a highlight of the trip.

• Lightened by 4 buckets, we continued on to the Memphis Rock & Soul museum. Talk about chalk and cheese compared to the country music one! Much quieter, far more enjoyable to walk around, we actually recognised the majority of the content so could appreciate the context, and a great soundtrack because it wasn’t country or western. I definitely recommend this one for a visit and really enjoyed the audio tour.

• Memphis itself was a bit of a let down. Beale Street is pure tourist, although there’s still a few pubs on the go. It’s pretty much 3 pubs, a dozen souvenir shops, and one or two takeaways (which were closed??). Also heaps of people wandering around trying to sell you stuff, and heaps of other tourists. Not a real enjoyable spot, not sure if we were just there in off season / off time of day…. Also got directly begged for money more here than anywhere else I think. Clearly a very low socioeconomic area by comparison to where we’ve been so far….?

• Next we attempted to visit Graceland. Mostly just to get a photo out front because entry is crazy expensive (over $100 per person), and we only had an hour until they’d be closed anyway. Trying to find it and you head down a really run down old area, with abandoned shops (and cars) everywhere, potholes as big as a terrorist llama, and what looked to be methamphetamine enthusiasts all over the place. Graceland itself had a plane out front that looks like it’s painted in house paint, and some sheds? Based on no research whatsoever, I’d assumed Graceland to be slightly more majestic and less Pissweak World. Just went for a detour through the backstreets to check out the local residences, then ran away before our wheels got stolen.

• Final stop was the worst hotel we’ve stayed at yet. Pulled in to a scene from a movie in the ghetto – people yelling at each other from the top balcony, cars with broken windows and mismatched panels in the carpark yelling back, “interesting” characters striding up and down the outer halls for… reasons? Checked in with some trepidation and were relieved to be allocated rooms on the exact opposite side of the hotel, behind locked gates and carpark entry. Rooms themselves actually weren’t bad at all at first glance, so we ducked out to grab dinner before everything closed.

• Attempted Cracker Barrel to tick another American delicacy off the list, but despite less than half the place being filled they said there was a 30 minute wait for a table? Decided to check out other options and found this awesome little Mexican joint just around the corner. I knew it was going to be good because it was full of Mexican families and they were having a good time. Also it was absolute perfection on my dodgy:quality graph of which some people are very familiar with already. Great food, good price, happy people. A+++, would consume tortillas and corn chips again.

• Got back to the hotel and made our way past the drug deals going on, and said no thankyou but appreciate the offer to some under dressed ladies, to reach the safety of our compound. Start to get ready for bed and omg the linen… Every single item was dirty. Stains on everything, cigarette burns on the covers, etc. Towels? Stained. Fitted sheet? Oh you better believe that was stained. Went to the lobby to try and get some satisfaction but the best they could offer was two new sheets and the laundry is timer locked to prevent theft, and the hotel is full so no other rooms. Being that it was 9 or 10ish, I took the sheets and went to change them… And found the new sheets also stained. Totally disgusting. Put the cleanest mix I could find and went to bed fully clothed, ready for a shower in the morning. Ended up showing and toweling down with a couple of face washers cause the towel was gross too. Only hotel that’s been disgusting so far, and not even the cheapest one! I’m taking some serious action on this one – 1 star review on Google. That’s how mad I am.


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