We leave Marble Falls on Thursday morning and drive through to Little Rock with only a stop for gas and a lunch break at a Cracker Barrel, which is, as always, delicious. Did you know that it’s actually possible to get a lean lunch at the Cracker Barrel? I order a bowl of vegetable soup while the man at the next table orders two entrees for himself, explaining to the waitress that he’s eating more than he ordinarily would because he fasted this morning on account of getting a blood test. I imagine the test is going to come back with a higher-than-healthy glucose count, and that he will be told that he should no longer consume seven thousand calories in a single meal.
The drive is free of hassles, except that David and I both remark many times on the number of eighteen-wheelers (lorries, for my British friends) on the highway. Though we’re in a truck, the massive beasts make us feel vulnerable. At least twice we see them almost pull into the left lane when it’s already occupied. But, as we’ve just started a holiday and are trying to be upbeat, we conclude that this massive transport of goods from one coast to the other is surely an indication of a thriving economy. The drive takes longer than we thought it would and by the time we pull into a Holiday Inn Express in Little Rock, we’re snapping at each other. David is tight-lipped and his hands have developed a tremor, which is what happens when he needs to eat.
“What’re you in the mood for?” he asks. What he means is, what do I want to eat. Food is what he wants, but it’s the furthest thing from my mind.
“Just let me sit quietly for a minute,” I tell him. “Just half a glass of wine, and I’ll be ready to go.”
I uncork the wine we brought with us. I sip a bit while he fidgets. I dread getting into the truck again, but it’s what we must do if we’re to eat. We drive a few blocks, find a restaurant, and both feel better after a mediocre meal.
The next day we head toward Nashville, making a stop in Memphis to visit Graceland because Elvis was an important cultural influence, which means he’s worth knowing about. Standing in the roped-off line, we’re surrounded by impersonators and women with Elvis’s face tattooed on their arms. Graceland is their Mecca. This is the time and place that my husband of over thirty years decides to tell me he wasn’t a fan.
“How could you not like Elvis?” I ask, aghast.
“He just didn’t do anything for me. His voice was annoying and the hip-wiggling thing was stupid.”
“If anyone hears the words coming out of your mouth, you’re going to be asked to leave. Someone might do you bodily harm.” I step away, putting a distance between us because I’m fearful that his enemies will become mine.
We’re handed iPads and headsets, transferred to the house in a shuttle, and allowed to go at our own pace. The tour itself is fun and informative, stirring childhood memories. First the house, done up in the fashion of the era, though I find the angles harsh and the orange, olive, and gold color schemes difficult to tolerate. My favorite interior touch is the pair of stained glass peacocks that frame the baby grand. There’s an outbuilding where his studio and offices were—also, unexpectedly, an indoor shooting range. Another building holds a collection of his concert outfits. A third building is dedicated to his career, displaying clips and comments during his rise to stardom, his gold records, and movie posters and costumes.
I’m pretty sure I saw every one of Elvis’s movies. And that’s because those shallow romances were just the sort of thing to appeal to a carefree seven-year-old girl. Of course David wasn’t a fan. Why would those movies appeal to an eleven-year-old whose father had just died? David had four brothers and sisters, there was very little money, and his mother couldn’t be around because she had to work. I doubt they spent a lot of time swooning over Elvis.
After we leave Graceland we make our way to Nashville, where we stay in a beautiful B&B, Linden Manor. Stuffed with antiques and located in a trendy section of town, I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area. The hostess/chef greets us and shows us to our room. The next morning she serves us a breakfast that's so inspired that we believe ourselves to be in the presence of a cooking god.