Education Trip Stops at Elvis’s Graceland

HISTORIC VISIT: The Joanne Whitney family stopped in Memphis and visited Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, on their way to Washington, D.C., during the education trip.

Editor’s Note: The is the second article in a series about a family’s education venture from Tulsa to Washington, D,C. and places found in between.

I left our readers last month, setting off in our monumental RV educational road trip with the three grandkids and my daughter Adrienne. Accompanying us was our nemesis storm, the “Rainstorm from Hell.”

The storm parted ways with us as a whimper instead of a bang in the middle of the I-40 Mississippi River bridge connecting Arkansas to Tennessee: Clear sailing ahead to our first RV campground location; not that close to Tulsa but far enough away from our ultimate destination, Washington D.C., to justify a stopover in Memphis and its world-famous Graceland.

This memorable first stop in the thousands of miles we meandered on this 28-day trip was chosen for its logistics and also for a pop-culture dose of American history. Studying America where it all happened in its beginning was the reason for our journey, but there we were at Elvis Presley’s homestead.

Graceland, a curiosity, weird maybe, but it’s still American history, right? Adrienne planned carefully for every RV park overnighter to be an opportunity for the kids to learn about our country’s beginnings at each strategic location. As the RV entered Graceland’s enormous wrought iron gates, I realized that Memphis’s number one tourist attraction is undeniably the most unrelated venue for the instructive matrix my daughter had created for us to follow: Elvis? Really?

I zipped my lips. As it turned out I need not worry about Elvis encroaching upon our educational mission; the children’s take on Graceland revealed they’re more perceptive than I would have imagined. Here’s how it played out, you just had be there!

Inside the RV the kids were speechless as they gawked at the spectacle of chauffeur-driven pink Cadillacs transporting senior citizens to events; symbols of treble clefs everywhere; images of guitars emblazoned on everything from buildings to pink poodle skirts. The enormous antebellum mansion appeared ostentatiously before us like a sideshow preview of Elvis sightings: He’s alive and still lives here!

I struggled to maintain a passive expression despite an imminent explosion of laughter right in front of the kids, were it not for respecting my daughter…but I took a side-glance at her and saw her fake a cough meant to mask contortions from withholding hysterics. Only I could tell what was hidden behind that subtle grin of hers. It was good to see the kids excited for our first encounter with an historical celebrity figure, and they were oblivious to our mirth, demanding to know more about this Elvis that none of them had ever heard of!

We told the children what Elvis and his Graceland were all about just as an entourage of white-haired Elvis groupies walked by us dressed in 1950’s fashion, the men in blue suede shoes and the women in pony tails and poodle skirts. After they passed, 13-year-old Canaan posed a profundity; he asked me, “JoJo, in a hundred years from now do you think people will still come to this place – will this place really matter or will Elvis Presley still be famous?” Enough said! We realized the kids “get it,” that this first experience only reinforces the reverence we Americans have of the entire spectrum of our heritage, even if it’s a popular entertainer who died in 1977 but has been seen alive ever since!

We accomplished many RVing roadtrip “firsts” while in Memphis, like learning vital RV facts that not all RV water is the same: there’s blue, gray, black, and fresh waters, some you can drink, some is fine for washing dishes and your body….but some RV water, not so much! I’ll just leave that to your imagination!

And then there’s geocaching – an adventuresome outdoor treasure hunt adding suspense, exercise and mental challenges at every RV site we occupied. An activity based on (Global Positioning System) coordinates geocaching’s 21st Century hide-and-seek-type educational sleuthing-and-finding offers skills in map reading, clue deciphering and the thrilling satisfaction of discovering memorabilia at the end of the quest.

Ready to go on our first geocache in Memphis, Canaan’s online search found coordinates and a clue: “Burning Love and That’s All Right mean Elvis Presley’s on the Bvd. looking low for his Hound Dog.” Canaan’s deciphering revealed the cache’s location:
Burning? = propane tank
Love? = Love’s Travel Stop
Right? = Location of Love’s is to our right
Bvd.? = Elvis Presley Boulevard

Looking low for his Hound Dog? = The cache is on the ground close to a “dog.”

We all met the challenge and discovered the cache at Love’s Travel Stop on a busy corner of Elvis Presley Boulevard hidden in a plastic storage container underneath the outdoor propane depository next to a dog water dish below a water faucet – whew! What was inside the cache? Trinkets left by American and European travelers and a list of geocachers’ names from all over the world! Keeping a geochacher’s obligation to replace what is taken from the cache, we left coupons to Elvis attractions!

Next month don’t miss our daring wilderness adventure in Natural Bridge, VA! Thank you for reading !

Updated 09-15-2014

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