Blast from the Past – Graceland 1995

It’s been almost two months since our last vacation and I’m feeling restless already. I think it might be almost time for a spring road trip. While I contemplate the possibilities, I thought I would share another vacation of yore. Today we’ll be traveling back 15 years. I was 21 years of age and living in a summer sublet near the University of Windsor.

“Oh my gawd, we totally have to do that!!!” My best friend, Kristie and I squealed into the telephone after we read the same article in Glamour magazine about summer road trips. Despite living about 500 km apart during the summer of 1995, we seemed to have stumbled upon this article simultaneously. That fact alone (oh my gawd) was like totally fate and even more reason to go on our own adventure.

We quickly got to work on the details. We discussed who’s piece of crap car would be the most likely to make the trip (her Dodge Shadow, it was a bit newer), how we would fund it (Visa), and accommodations (tent). Most importantly, we decided on a destination – Graceland!

This was before the days of GPS so I picked up some free maps from CAA, along with some camping and tour guides. Then on our day of departure, Kristie arrived at my place, where we finished packing up the car and hit the road.

We left in the afternoon and followed I75 south though Ohio. In Cincinnati we stopped for dinner on a Riverboat and shortly after we settled in at a state park in Kentucky.

The next day we drove on to Tennessee, through the Smoky Mountains, stopping for a while in Pigeon Forge for some outlet shopping. I bought shoes. Big surprise.

By nightfall we had arrived in Nashville and we did some exploring in the dark. Did you know they have a full sized replica of the Parthenon there? They do, and we’ve been there.

Later that night we got lost in the dark for hours and hours in the kudzu tangled forest of Natchez Trace State Park. We just drove in circles, around and around the enormous park.

It was our CAA guidebook that threw us off track. They failed to mention the name of the Campground within the park where we needed to set up camp for the night.

An interesting fact about this picture: Since it was taken before digital cameras and Photoshop, Kristie and I cut out and pasted each other into photos we couldn’t be in together. In this one, Kristie was glued in. You can hardly tell, right?

The next day was the main event. We made it to Memphis. What was most interesting about Graceland was its size. The house itself is quite modest. When you think about Elvis and his larger than life fame, you expect his home to be obnoxious and huge. It’s not. It’s certainly nothing like the sprawling mansions that today’s celebrities live in today. Of course, the interior is unique. They didn’t allow flash photography inside so our photos were pretty crummy but you can see some great pictures here.

While the house is small, the property is huge.

After the tour, it was time to turn around and head home. We really hadn’t given much thought to the return trip and it seemed boring to follow the same route home, so we left Memphis to Arkansas. Arkansas, from the highway, appeared to be a barren wasteland of nothingness.

We grazed Missouri, finally ending up in Indiana for the night. While we were in the neighborhood we thought we would pay a visit to Fairmount, the birthplace and resting place of James Dean. We didn’t leave any lipstick marks on the headstone though. Gross!

Our final night was spent in Illinois. Our little nylon motel had belonged to Kristie’s family and had seen better days. By the time we came home, I think there was only one good pole left. Still, it kept out the mosquitoes and woodland creatures and that was really all we needed.

The next day we were home with our very own Glamour worthy road trip adventure story.

When we look back on this trip we always marvel at how little we packed and spent. We slept in a little old tent with only sleeping bags between us and the ground. We brought no other camping gear to speak of. Collectively we spent $200 on food, gas, accommodations and entertainment for 5 days of traveling. We’d even cut costs by bringing peanut butter and bread so we didn’t have to buy for food for every meal.

These days we could never pull off a vacation with that level of simplicity. We’re far too high maintenance now. For one thing, my back couldn’t withstand four nights on solid ground. Thankfully we don’t really have to now, as we can afford a little bit more luxury these days. Still there is a part of me that misses being younger, limber and spontaneous.

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  1. I love your photos – the jean shorts, the film cameras…. Yes, trips like this were heaven but now I’d have an aching back. We’re shopping this summer for those luxury base camp (ie for old people) thermarests….

  2. Thanks! Instead of tent camping, Jeremy and I have been renting a cabin for the past few years. It’s spoiled me. Now I not only need a comfy mattress, but indoor, private plumbing is becoming essential for my enjoyment of nature. It’s pathetic.

  3. I used to make fun of my mother for needing to sleep in the (tent) trailer instead of a tent and now I’ve found myself eyeing up caravans… it’s all downhill isn’t it?

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