I love children books – particularly well written ones that tell a good story. One author, Patricia Polacco, moves me with the way she tells a story, usually based on her family but not always, as well as with her illustrations. When I worked in the school system (upper elementary grades) I always seemed to gravitate toward this author’s books and I was always surprised that a few of my special ed students “got it” – the subtle meaning of some of her books. One of her books, John Philip Duck, told the story (fiction based on fact) about how the ducks came to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Since reading the story I have wanted to go see the ducks walk to the fountain or from the fountain back to the roof where they resided. The ducks come down at 10:00 and return at 5:00.
Knowing that, going to the Peabody Hotel in the morning became our first priority. We were shocked that parking was very easy to find and relatively inexpensive in Memphis as was the hotel. We entered the lobby at 9:35 and already people were lined up along the velvet roping to view the ducks. Children were sitting on the floor along the red carpet so they could have an unemcumbered view. Hotel guest were fortunate that they, and only them, could sit in the lounge around the duck fountain to view the duck walk. Excitement was building and then the elevator doors open. Led by the Duckmaster, the 5 mallard ducks (one male and four females) waddle on the red carpet to the fountain, walked up the ramp and plopped into the water where the swam around. A few minutes later, the Duckmaster approached the fountain with a silver tray and on it was a silver bowl of duck food. It was all over in about ten minutes.
We then walked down to the Cotton Museum. It was okay and nothing memorable in my mind. The museum was basically one room in a large building. My recommendation would be to skip this museum and save your time for the Civil Rights Museum.
Before we visited the Civil Rights Museum we decided that it was time to have lunch and nothing would satisfy my craving other than Memphis style barbecue. Everyone gave us their recommendations. Some were too far outside the city, one location – The Rendezvous had been highly recommended but a local woman told us that it wasn’t very good anymore because the owner sold the restaurant and took his recipes with him. With that little bit of local information and the fact that we were starving, we ate at a BBQ restaurant behind the Civil Rights Museum – Central BBQ.
All I can say is WOW – probably the best bbq that I have ever had. The ribs, which we had half wet and half dry, were very nicely charred and the meat pulled from the bone. The pulled pork sandwich was just as delicious, nicely smoked and flavored. On the counter were various different bbq sauces though my favorite was the vinegar sauce. Cole slaw was on the side as was the crispy onion rings. I kept repeating during this lunch how delicious the food was. If you find yourself in Memphis – do yourself a favor and eat at Central BBQ.
As soon as you finish eating, walk around a very short corner to the Hotel Lorraine. The Civil Rights Museum is inside the gutted hotel.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was much more than what I did expect. From the capture of Africans to be brought to the Jamestown Colony in 1619 through the current day, you see the struggle of the black population in our country. The most memorable part for me was the early sixties as I remember watching events unfold on television – the KKK, the lynchings, the Freedom Riders, bombing of churches, Martin Luther King and his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”.
I remember my grandfather writing a letter to President Kennedy as one Boston Irish Catholic to another about how he needed to bring in the military to stop all the killings. I probably was ten at the time and it still leaves a very strong memory. Visiting the museum was a very emotional and at times I felt like I was on information overload since there was so much reading in the exhibits as well as emotions for such a dark period in the history of our country and in some respects probably still exists. I had wished that they had a small cafeteria where we could take a break. Do not miss this museum – one of the best that I had been to including the Apartheid Museum that I visited in Johannesburg. On our way out, we went by the room that was occupied by MLK, Jr when he was assassinated. We could not go in but we could view inside the plexiglass wall to see the room just the way it looked in 1968. Afterwards we walked across the street for more of the museum staying only about 10 minutes.
As we crossed the street to walk to our car, we noticed a very small crowd as well as two black SUV’s with door open. As we approached, we saw that it was Dr. Ben Carson. I approached him and asked if I could have my picture taken with him. He quietly agreed and I now have a picture of he and I. After our picture he got into the car and took off.
Reflecting on our day, we came to the conclusion that it was a wonderful day. From seeing the ducks, barbeque, the Civil Rights Museum and someone trying to win their party’s nomination for President. This is why I love Road Trips – you just never know what you are going to do or see and we were very open to just let things happen.