Here are some of the other sites we visited while in Memphis:
The Lorraine Motel:
In sharp contrast to the upbeat mood of Graceland, lies the Lorraine Motel. This is where Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was brutally slain. A poignant reminder of the extremes our nations was facing at that time.
Our patchwork knowledge of MLK's assassination was greatly enhanced as we walked through the National Civil Rights Museum, which encompasses the Lorraine Motel.
Just a quick rewind, Martin Luther King was in Memphis to support the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike. The Mayor of Memphis, Henry Loeb III (D) had refused to upgrade the equipment or salaries of the city's sanitation workers. After two black sanitation workers were crushed to death because of faulty equipment, the workers decided to strike.
He arrived on April 3, 1968 and as rain poured outside that night, delivered his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to a group of sanitation workers.
The following day, as King stood on the balcony outside his second-floor room, James Earl Ray, shot and killed him with a high-powered rifle from the window of a rooming house across the street.
The infamous Balcony, today:
Below is the room MLK was staying in that night:
This is James Earl Ray's room at the boarding house across the street.
Below is the view James Earl Ray had from the window he shot from:
It is a very distressful and perplexing experience to walk through the Civil Rights exhibits and see the oppressive conditions to which one class of human beings felt (feel?) they had the right and privilege to impose on another.
To the left of the picture below you can see the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. The structure can be seen for miles and looks very out of place in this urban setting. But, if you're a sporting goods enthusiast, it's a must see.
This elevator takes you to the top of the pyramid where there's a restaurant and patio. We chose not to do this because the price was $10/person (just to ride up). Fascinating decor:
Live fish in the ponds:
From the top of the elevator looking down. Not one of my photos:
Lorraine wouldn't let me buy a boat!
We spent about two hours strolling around the interior of the facility. Even if you're not there to buy something, it is a fun visit. There is also the rustic Big Cyprus Lodge on the second floor, which looks like a really cool place to stay (about $200/night).
THE MARCHING OF THE DUCKS:
In downtown Memphis, not far from Beale Avenue sits the historic Peabody Hotel.
This landmark hotel, built in 1869, has had such notable guests as Presidents Andrew Johnson and William McKinley, Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederacy.
But its real claim to fame is its unique set of guests:
FIVE MALLARD DUCKS!
You see, the Peabody Hotel employs the only Duck Master in the world. His job is to care for the hotel's most famous guests and, to lead the daily Peabody Duck March.
The tradition began in 1933. The General Manager at the time, Frank Schutt, had just returned from a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas. He and his friends found it amusing to leave three of their live English Call Duck decoys in the hotel fountain. The guests loved the idea, and since then, five live Mallard ducks (one drake and four hens) have played in the fountain every day.
So each and every day, at 11:00am the ducks are led in an elaborate procession from their roof top perch, down the elevator, across the lobby and into the ornate fountain [believe it or not, the ducks even have their own security force made up of retired Memphis police officers]. Again at 5:00pm the same ceremony is conducted in reverse order.
Like a festive tailgate party, people gather hours in advance to eat, drink and get a good view of the parade.
In the photo below, the Duck Master is going through an entertaining and elaborate story of about the ducks.
Here are the ducks in the fountain:
And if being an honorary Duck Master interests you, the hotel has packages at around $500/day which includes:
One night's accommodations
Honorary Duckmastership - help the Duckmaster march the Peabody Ducks to/from the Lobby Fountain at 11 a.m. OR 5 p.m.
Official brass-head Duckmaster Cane
Peabody Duckmaster Celebriduck™ collectible rubber duck toy
Reserved table at your scheduled Duck March
Peabody Duck Cookies from The Peabody Deli & Desserts
Self parking in Peabody Parking Garage
If you plan on attending the event, get there about two hours early to get a good seat. It's a delightful and entertaining experience, and will bring out the child in you.
Here's a short Youtube video of the procession:
In hindsight, we enjoyed seeing the sites of Memphis but not enough to want to live there (or return). We found the city to be a bit gritty, run down, and the people less friendly than the other southern cities we've visited. Sadly, we both gave the city two thumbs down.