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Welcome To ENN - MY MEMPHIS DIARY - Some thoughts on ELVIS WEEK


Some thoughts on ELVIS WEEK 2004 -

by Donna (Star Lite)

ELVIS WEEK 2004 officially started for me at 10pm on Tuesday, August 10th. We finally got on the road after loading up the rental SUV with the belongings of 3 people (Tommy, Kelly and myself). Yes, we were driving!! Los Angeles, CA to Memphis, straight through. We rented a Isuzu Rodeo and you would think it would be big enough to accommodate us but it could have been bigger...we were not complaining though!...not too much. I was a little afraid to drive this large automobile as I am used to much smaller cars but once I got behind the wheel, I felt just fine, in fact, rather enjoyed it. I guess there is something to that powerful feeling when you are a little higher up off of the road!! I guess I enjoyed the power of it a little too much...

I got pulled over by a policeman in Oklahoma for speeding!! Luckily, he was a kind man and let me go with a fatherly warning and a pat on the car. I think it was when he found out we were Elvis fans heading to Memphis that his heart really softened (we all know how much Elvis loved cops and they, him!). The ride out to Memphis was beautiful and really did not seem very long at all. We went through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The hardest was New Mexico...that state is way LONG!!...luckily, beautiful though, so was Arizona...God's beauty still amazes me all the time. The night sky was gorgeous with all the stars. It truly seemed like we were in one HUGE planetarium. I just love tumbleweeds too! I wanted to take one home but was warned sternly of the dangers of sand mites, I passed.

All along the way, no matter where or what time it was, the Elvis stickers we made for our pilgrimage went up....on gas station pumps, restaurant doors, in bathrooms, etc. Elvis is now truly EVERYWHERE!! I felt it my duty and responsibility to get his name out there. I had to TCB and I dragged myself out of the truck/car at all hours to slap his face on any willing surface. I tried to be as mysterious and discreet as I could about it although I am sure most people would know it was us, we were wearing Elvis all over ourselves and he was hanging in the window of the truck/car too. I, once again, had the great pleasure of viewing the most awesome sunset all by myself. Although there were two others in the vehicle with me, they were both asleep while I drove myself right into those gorgeous colors of blues, purples, golds and oranges. God outdid himself! I always feel breathless over the magnificence of it and I always thank God that I have the eyes to see it. Sigh, Elvis and the sunset...what more do you need?

We arrived in Memphis around 6am on Thursday, August 12th. Exhausted, but barely able to contain my excitement, thanks to inspiration from a very dear friend, I put "Mystery Train" in the CD player and started over the Arkansas/Tennessee bridge. It was too perfect! Got it all on video too. I really felt Elvis and Memphis at that was the best beginning to our Memphis adventures. Once over the bridge, we went right to Graceland, of course. After saying hello, we went to the hotel. It was not as close to Graceland as we would have liked but we found the shortest ways to get around and it all worked out pretty well.

We were very tired, but so looking forward to the week we were about to share with everyone. Slept about 3 hours, which turned out to be "the norm" while there (at least for Kelly and I) and after a short rest period on Thursday, Kelly and I headed over to Graceland to set up our memorial poster for the vigil. It turned out so beautiful, very heartfelt, exactly as it should be. We shopped for Elvis "stuff" at the Graceland Plaza, wrote out postcards and just took everything in. Excitement was in the air! Of course, we were so thrilled to be there with everyone too. Later that afternoon, we were on to our scheduled events....

First was The Pandas with Alfred Wertheimer at the Memphis Zoo. This was interesting. We got to meet Alfred and got him to sign a poster with the picture he took of Elvis with the stuffed panda. I love that picture! He was really nice, he told me he liked my hair!! Loved the things he had to say about Elvis too. He gave him his due respect. After meeting him we got to meet the pandas and they were Soooo cute!!! I could have stayed with them all night. They were so adorable. It was amazing to me how human they seemed, almost as if there were a little person under a panda suit behind that glass cage.

After leaving this event we somehow wound up downtown checking everything out and went by the Hotel Lorraine where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. I could just feel the important history there. Would have loved to have taken the tour but it was late and they were closed. We'll get there one of these trips. After our downtown visit we headed back towards Graceland for CLUB ELVIS which was taking place in the Graceland Plaza from 9pm until 1am. This was fun...lots of Elvis fans, dancing to Elvis songs. We also took a few minutes to drive over to Forest Hills cemetery and we finally got back to the hotel that night around 2am or so.

On Friday late morning, Kelly and I went over to Beale Street to pick up wristbands for later that evening (buy a wristband for $10 and you get into all of the bars, all night). Stopped into BB King's so she could have a drink. It was so great to be sitting in the middle of this important part of history and all of Elvis' influences. After she drank her beer, we went over to the statue of Elvis on Beale Street. I enjoyed watching a group of Japanese tourists falling all over each other to take pictures of themselves with the Elvis statue. All the guys were dressed like Elvis with sideburns and all of the women were hanging on each other and laughing. Although they spoke not a word of English I understood what they were going through and feeling. No words needed to be spoken.
Next, we went to the Mud Island area and the Visitors Center to take pictures of the statue there too. Personally, I prefer the one of Elvis over by Beale street. We had tickets for a tour of Elvis' Lauderdale Courts home at 12:30pm which has recently been opened to the public . Now THIS was something special!! I have wanted to get into that apartment for a long time and even considered breaking in and taking the chance on being arrested when it was all boarded up before they refinished it. I am so happy that this very important place is now being preserved for life thanks to all the wonderful Elvis fans out there and their efforts to save it. This home is such an important part of Elvis' "stepping stone" history. It was surreal being allowed to go inside and having it look like it would have when Elvis lived there. I feel honored that I was one of the first to step inside those doors. I could so feel the history there too. When the tour guide told us we could go look into the laundry room where Elvis used to play for his friends I got the chills from head to toe. I was a little disappointed that this room was being used for storage and was not "officially" part of the tour. Didn't they realize the significance of it? Kelly and I were sure to tell them afterwards how important it is for Elvis fans to see that room. They were grateful for our input. The tour guide there was so nice and really appreciated our enthusiasm...she said it was fans like us that made her job fun and worthwhile...oh, and she had just caught us after we had slipped past the "do not enter" ropes and were sitting on Elvis' bed! Hey, this apt. was so great, I would live there now! I'm not kidding either!
After the tour we decided to drive around to check out some of the other Elvis related sites in the area. 1st we went to Poplar Tunes and LOVED IT! The people there were so nice. Also went to The Peabody where we took lots of pictures of Memphis from up on the roof and saw the room where Elvis went to the prom. Next was Lansky Bros. to meet Bernard Lansky. Now, I am not a shy person generally...okay, maybe a little but I am not often at a loss for words. This man had a presence. I felt awed to be standing next to him, after all, he was such a big part of helping to develop Elvis' unique style. I found it hard to say anything to him. I just stared at him. Finally, as he is signing my poster, he says to me "you don't say much do you?" after which came no response from me, even then!!! He then proceeded to say "you just stand there looking pretty and you are doing a good job of it"! Now, how sweet is that? I will cherish that lovely comment always. I do wish I could have talked to him though, there was so much I wanted to ask him. Oh well, next time.

While around Beale Street we also went to the famous Schwab's store. Now that place is OLD! I loved it though and could definitely see Elvis in there! Later that evening we went to "The Legends" show which was unbelievable! Getting to see Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, The Jordanaires, Millie Kirkham who were also joined by many others including Stan Perkins and Ronnie McDowell was amazing. I was honored to be here too. I am so glad we went to this show. We got it all on video also. I definitely shed some tears during "American Trilogy". I could only imagine how proud Elvis would have been of this show, knowing that everyone who was there still loves him so very much! After the show, "the Legends" lined up to give their autographs out to all but the line was so long we just stayed and watched for awhile and took pictures.

From here we moved onto Beale Street for the night. Kelly took us to many places that she regularly goes to including BB King's (again) and Rum Boogie (I think that's the name). I was the designated driver for this night so Kelly and Tommy could have their drinks with everyone else getting wild out there pm Beale....there was such a mix of people, it was so interesting...especially for me, being the people watcher that I am. Another highlight of our night on Beale was a group of men doing gymnastics in the street for donations. They were absolutely amazing. They were flipping down the street over and over again at such speed and with such precision. It was awesome. When the night wound down and we decided it was time to go back to the hotel we took a taxi back to the car which we left at the Cannon Center and drove back over to Lauderdale to take some more pictures outside of Elvis' bedroom window. Finally we got back to the hotel at around 4am. Again, only 3 hours sleep that night because Kelly and I wanted to be at Meditation Garden the next morning.

While Tommy stayed behind we started our Saturday with an early morning visit to Meditation Garden at Graceland. We went there and prayed and cried with the other fans who managed to get up so very early also. Got to see all the memorial posters at this time. They were so beautiful. So much love went into all of them. Again, I am in awe at the love that this man, Elvis, brings forth from people all over the world.

Our 1st scheduled event for the day was a tour of the Audubon Drive house. This was the first time for Kelly and I, so you can imagine our excitement. It was so beautiful. What a lovely house and Mike and Cindy were such great tour guides. The tour was so informative and we were so excited when we found out that afterwards we would have the opportunity to roam the house ourselves, free to take all the pictures we'd like and to touch anything we'd like also!! We were happily informed that we could even use Elvis' bathrooms if we'd like. Now isn't that sweet? I think quite a few of us took advantage of this rarity. I was thrilled to learn during the tour that a lot of the inside of the house was the star lights, the music wallpaper (which Mike and Cindy uncovered under two other layers), the trophy case, the phone jacks, the counters in the bathroom, etc. I know this was the house that Elvis lived in when he dated June Juanico too. I read her book so it was nice to see the things she described first hand. I can imagine this house was special to Elvis too since it was the first home he bought after his success. That had to feel good which made it extra special for me.

Next on our schedule for this day was the "Save the Shell" event being held at the Overton Park Band Shell. Although we didn't get to stay long at this event...I loved it because I just loved being at this location. There is something about it that just tugs at my heart and soul. I can feel it deep in my the pit of my stomach...the history....everything that happened there and how special it is and why it is so very important to save it. All Elvis fans need to help! If we don't get together on this the shell could be gone very soon! As I sat and watched the performers I tried to imagine Elvis up there back in 1954 and how nervous he must have been playing to his local crowd. It was the beginning for him and it was only up from there.

Then came Sunday....the day of the vigil. The day I had been waiting for since I became an Elvis fan two years before. We got a little more sleep the previous night because we knew how special this day would be...we also knew we would be waiting on a long line for quite sometime. We were ready for it! Kelly and I set up our camp in front of Graceland at approximately 12:30pm that afternoon and left Tommy behind to join us later. We had everything we needed to get us through the day...our chairs and parasols, water, music (Elvis, of course!), cameras, markers to write on the wall of love, personal size fans, raingear (just in case!), etc. After getting a locker across the street I joined Kelly in front of Graceland. We were probably about the 15th from the front of the line. Pretty good, I thought. Our neighbors turned out to be very interesting and would became a big part of the spirit of the day for me.

They were a homeless couple who had hitchhiked to Memphis from Detroit just to take part in the vigil for Elvis. They loved Elvis and were so excited about being there and I learned that despite their unkempt dirty appearances, they had pure, clean hearts. Much more humble than a lot of others I know. He was missing about 4 of his front teeth and she, a few herself. They were both deeply lined and tanned about the face and had bodies that bore the scars of very hard living. They told Kelly that they had been digging ditches for 18 hours a day for $10 a day. The woman, named Beth, also said that she had recently been severely beaten and mugged which is why some of her teeth were knocked out. At first I was a little leery of them. They reminded me of the couple from the movie "Kalifornia" with Brad Pitt, only dirtier. As I sat there with them, I quickly put aside those thoughts. Not good to judge a book by it's cover. When I heard the story of their hard existence, I immediately recognized it as an opportunity to do what Elvis would have done. It was the right place and the right time. Pulling $20 out of my bag, I headed over to them and kneeled down on the ground in front of them. I told them I wanted to help and put the $20 in their hands. I also asked them if they wanted something to eat...told them Tommy was coming by with food from Taco Bell...did they want anything? After thanking me and telling me "I didn't have to do this" over and over...they excitedly told me they would love soft tacos with lots of sour cream. I never saw anyone get so excited about fast food before. It made me appreciate my own blessings all over again. I knew how they felt though. I find joy in simple pleasures too. I guess I'm lucky. After taking their "order" I was again told "I didn't have to do this" to which I said "Yes, I do....I want to help. You are my fellow Elvis fans. Besides the fact that you are my brother and sister...God made us all and he loves us all, right?" They enthusiastically agreed. I felt honored to have been put in the position to help them. Awhile later, after looking at me a number of times kind of quizzically as if he was trying to understand kindness when the world had only shown him pain...the homeless man (we never got his name he wouldn't say) said again~"you didn't have to do that"...and I said "yes, I did...I did it because I wanted to...that's just me. I love everyone...maybe someday, someone will help me when I need it". He nodded and finally seemed satisfied. He told me I was a beautiful lady which meant more to me than most comments I get. I knew his came straight from his heart.

As the lines grew throughout the day we met more and more fantastic Elvis fans. We all shared a common solid bond and it was lovely. The cars that would drive by would blow their horns in support. The only "party pooper" was a car of young guys who drove by screaming something terrible and unrepeatable about Elvis to which a fan behind me screamed out loudly "bite me"!! Haha....that's right, stick up for Elvis!! Good girl! Before we knew it the night sky was upon us and everyone was getting really excited and anxious. The ceremony was very moving. My tears started to flow as I listened to the words and looked around at the sea of people everywhere (we are told about 8000) with their candles lit. The theme song for the year was "I love you because", beautiful choice I thought. Tommy finally got there at 9pm right before the start and handed the bag of food to our homeless friends who threw up their hands in appreciation and with a bonding of the precious moment we were all surrounded by.

One by one we made our way into the gates, lighting our candles and walking up towards the was quiet and it was humble and it was touching. It was beautiful. As I was walking, eyes tearing, I thought about how proud I was to be an Elvis be part of this family...some of the best people I know. All kinds of people from all walks of life. I felt proud that I "get it". I was given the gift of that. I was so blessed to have been lead here. Got up to the grave and threw 6 white roses on the massive pile collecting there for Elvis. I said a prayer and left my specially made candle there as well, for him. Heading back down, I took in the beauty that surrounded me, the grounds of Graceland and the people around me. I studied the faces, listened to their words, felt their emotions. I learned a lot this day. It felt good. We set ourselves up on Elvis Presley Blvd. once back outside the gate and put up our little candle alter in front of us. I was glad we were some of the first to go in because it gave me the great opportunity to sit back and watch this magnificent scene unfolding before me. The scene of thousands of candles against a dark background making their way up to Elvis was indescribable. I was speechless. Kelly and I visited everyone's alter and took pictures of all. There lots of candles and pictures of Elvis from all stages of his artist feverishly drawing Elvis on the street with an anxious crowd around him. I felt drawn to the sidewalk in front of Graceland and stood there for a LONG time just watching everyone file in and out. I was trying to take it all in but it was overwhelming. As I stood there, I had many visitors come over to talk with me. It was nice, sharing the moment with someone who felt compelled to talk with me. I felt a great peace and lots of love. I wanted to share it. I had hopes of waiting until the end of the line and getting to make my way back up to the garden again but was informed by Kelly that it could be the morning before that happened. The line seemed never ending and I was glad. I was glad so many came out and I thought about how many more wanted to be there but couldn't be. I felt for them. We wound up staying until about 2am. It was hard to walk away. I kept turning back to look at Graceland. I thanked God and I thanked Elvis for this experience. I knew my first vigil was over and it hurt. We found out the next day that the last person walked through those gates at around 8:30am the next morning. Wow!

Monday we went back to Graceland Plaza to finish up the Elvis shopping. We sent more postcards and waited to go on our tour of Graceland. We chose the 16th because we felt it to be the best day, of course. Our tour was for 2:30pm that afternoon. Getting on the bus we headed through the gates of Graceland and got off at the front door. This was my second time going through that door and I just could not believe it. I so longed to go back in time when Elvis himself were there. If only we had the ability to do that, even if just in our minds. I walked in, touching everything I could. Standing by a mirror near the stairs, I ran my hands around it slowly. A security guard stepped out of the shadows and I thought I would get scolded for touching things. Instead she said "you look very pretty". I said "thank you, but I wasn't looking in the mirror, I was actually touching it"....she said she understood. Again, made me happy. I kept staring at the staircase leading upstairs and couldn't seem to draw myself away from it. More than anything, I wanted to go up those stairs. It's hard to accept being told that you can't although I totally understand the reasons. Making our way through the house, I felt honored to be able to roam around in Elvis beloved home. Eventually finding myself out in the backyard again, by the horses, I cried.. Going through the Trophy room I was pleasantly surprised to see the beautiful white Edwardian suit that Elvis wore for "If I Can Dream" and it was gorgeous. I longed to touch it behind those glass cabinets. It frustrates me that I can't but again, I understand why...there would be no suit left if we were allowed to do this...with all the hands that would be touching it!! The racquetball building is difficult for me because of the piano in there, knowing that Elvis played his last songs on it. I just hugged the support pole and stared at it, unable to move. I was told I should take a drink from the water fountain in that room since Elvis drank from it when he lived there, of course, I did and moved on into the room with all his costumes and awards. Wow, what a load of accomplishment this man was!! These suits, not behind glass, seem more accessible until you put your hand over the rail and a loud voice tells you not too. "You've been bad", basically is what it said. Heading out to the garden area I took a detour and lay down in the grass by the fence. I tried to picture Elvis laying out in his yard without a care, again, I cried. Eventually, I tore myself away and made it to the garden where I joined all the other fans, standing and sitting, staring at Elvis' grave in silence or in tears and I said another prayer. Eventually we headed back to the bus to be escorted off of the grounds. It was over and again, I was was bittersweet, I guess. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to set up my life in that house. I know, that's crazy but that is the mind of a heart and soul Elvis fan. We want to be as close to him as we can be and what better place but in the home he loved so much?

After our Graceland tour we set out on our trip to Tupelo, MS, birthplace of Elvis Presley. I had been there once before but it was Kelly's first time. I feel all true Elvis fans NEED to go there...for this was Elvis' very beginning. This is where he was born and handed his first guitar and obviously it was important to him too since he used to drive there and sit out in front of his little house, staring at it. It meant something to him...he didn't forget his past or his humble beginnings. All true fans should know it too. The drive to Tupelo is lovely and peaceful. I feel good there. Once we arrived we went straight to the house (which was closed for the night) and I could hardly wait to get out of the car. I walked right up to the porch and sat on the swing chair which is where I sat for quite awhile in quiet meditation. After this precious alone time, Kelly and Tommy walked up with a new "friend" It was a dog and he was tiger striped...we named him "Tigerman". He was perfect and he was friendly and I loved him immediately. I wanted to take him home. Maybe he was sent there by Elvis to greet us and welcome us to his home?? We each walked off in different directions, doing our own thing at that point. The dog following each of us at different times...I read the walls which were loaded with great stories about Elvis written by the people who knew him. Everything else was closed because it was late so I walked back to the front of the house and caught the most amazing sunset between the trees. The sun was a flaming orange, it was awesome. Once the sun went down, being as tired as we were and overwhelmed from our journey, we said good bye to Tigerman and headed to the motel.

We were staying at the "All American". We decided on this place because it was recommended by Elvis fans and it was sooo close to Elvis' little house. Bad idea, this place was a nightmare! Wow, from hell it truly was! Thank G*d it was only $40 a night. The rooms were awful, we were afraid to lay down on the beds and the smell was terrible. Complain? Yes, we all did, but once I laid down, completely clothed, using my bag as a pillow and I turned the TV on to find out there was an Elvis marathon on, I was okay. I had Elvis and that made it better. All was well. Got to watch "Viva Las Vegas", "Elvis On Tour" and part of "Spinout" before falling asleep. It turned out okay and although I was afraid of the shower, it turned out to have the warmest, most soothing water. I so needed that on my aching muscles with all that we had been through. I also stopped complaining when I realized that we were in Elvis' home area. He grew up here and if it was good enough for him, well, it was good enough for me.

Next morning we checked out and started the Tupelo tour. Went by Tupelo Hardware where we met a very nice man named Henry. He was great...loved to talk...loved to share. Told us the whole story of Gladys and Elvis and the first guitar. Got some stuff there and took lots of pictures. Again, I felt honored and humbled to be there. Stopped by the information center to collect some Elvis stuff, very nice people there too. Disappointed that the fairgrounds are not there anymore. City Hall has replaced it but just looking at the ground it was on does give me the chills anyway. Went by Elvis grade school (Lawhon), Jr. High (Milam), Priceville Cemetery (where Jesse is buried).

We went back to the birthplace and this time it was open so we paid the price and went through the museum, gift shop and through that sweet little house. Also stopped by the chapel to say a prayer since I know Elvis would have wanted us to. It was modest and lovely. I cried again. Reading the plaques on each of the benches/pews there, I noticed one donated by Colonel Parker. Apparently someone does not like him and took it upon themselves to put deep scratches through his name. Hmmm, I wonder why??? After spending a nice afternoon here and sneaking a picture or two in the museum (Elvis' flowered shirt and cute black hat) we headed to Johnnie's.

We had been told to visit here by other Elvis fans and knew it had Elvis history. Wow, what a greasy place it was and sooo old. I loved it. Once inside, a nice giant of a man who was sitting at a nearby table asked us if we were Elvis fans. I told him yes and he immediately invited us over to his house. Wow, how trusting can you get? That would NEVER happen in LA. He explained that he was the nephew of Becky Martin. A dear woman who had recently passed away who had gone to grade school with Elvis and remained friends with him. He invited us over to her house to see her Elvis stuff. We gladly accepted. I had heard many wonderful stories about Becky and had hoped to meet her one day. What were the odds we would run into a relative of hers? His name was Eddie and he was very, very nice, very southern. I loved it. We went to the home and sat and talked with him and felt an ease that is seldom felt back in LA or anywhere. He talked to us like we were old friends, even family. We told him we would do anything we could to help him keep Becky's house up and running since so many Elvis fans loved to visit there when in Tupelo. After the visit, he walked us out and asked us to please keep in touch and come visit anytime. He thanked us. We exchanged information and took a picture. It was such a pleasure to spend some time with him.

Heading back to Memphis we decided to visit a couple more places before hitting the road back to LA. We were on a time schedule since both Kelly and Tommy had to be back at work on Thursday. We stopped by Baptist Memorial hospital which we thought was in danger of being torn down. After talking with some "workers" there, we came to find out that only part of it would be demolished. The older building that was not associated with Elvis. We were very glad to hear this. Despite hearing this though, we tried every door on the place to try to gain entry. No luck. I so wanted to get up to Elvis' room. The place was kind of creepy...cobwebs everywhere...dark hallways, garbage and dust everywhere...a forgotten space. In the back of the building was a metal gurney pushed up against a door and I found myself wondering who had been laying on it. Hospitals freak me out, don't like them at all.

Next we went on to where Elvis went to school,Humes High. I took some pictures and hoped to get inside. I didn't know if school was in session or not, being it was August. Upon trying to get in the door, I happily found it to be open and went inside. Immediately I was faced with a picture of Elvis drawn by Betty Harper up on the wall. I then walked over to the hall and peeked around the corner. I took pictures everywhere. Feeling sneaky, I decided to go back outside. I know how security is in schools nowadays. Once outside, I decided to go back in...couldn't help myself. When I opened the door, a very nice gentleman asked me if he could help me. I told him I was an Elvis fan and he invited me in. He told me they had an Elvis room and that he would walk me over there. Kelly joined me and we walked down the hall way that Elvis himself surely did too. Unfortunately, the room was locked and dark but I could see some of the memorabilia inside anyway. He explained that the person who usually greets the Elvis fans had gone home for the day. I thanked him anyway and told him I was just glad to be in the school. He walked us back out and pointed to a boys bathroom on the way out telling us that it was where Elvis was going to be beaten up by some punks because his hair was too long when Red West saved him! I squealed with delight and asked him if I could go into the boys bathroom? He said yes, as long as no one was in there. I then, of course, took pictures. I was so thrilled to again be standing in a place of important history. After we finished up our Humes mini tour we set out on our trip back to Los Angeles.
With sadness in my heart we said our last goodbyes "for now" to Graceland and over the bridge again we went. I ached, both physically and mentally. I had so many emotions running through me that I actually felt numb. I was on overload. I still am. I haven't been able to thoroughly process it all yet. It may take some time. I know I do now have "the blues" in more ways than one. I want to go back. I miss Memphis. I love it there and it is definitely a part of my heart and soul. It is part of the many places that make up my "home". I cherish the time I spent there and all the people I spent it with. Every single little experience, all of them. I didn't get to do even half the things I wanted to do. We couldn't, time would not permit...but I don't regret it. I know I'll be back, year after year and I will fit it all in someday. For now, I will just savor the flavor of what I was able to taste...and it was yummy!! On the way back, we stopped in Clinton, OK at the Best Western Trade Winds where Elvis himself stayed several times. They still have the room he used marked with a plaque. It was late, very late, windy and quiet and I felt the loneliness and ache of time past.

I had missed it all being born too late. The ride home was harder knowing we had to get back to "normal life" soon. We all got lost in our private thoughts. Kelly and I couldn't help thinking about our homeless friends hoping that they were alright. As quickly as they came into our lives, they left. It makes me sad that we'll never see them again. It's amazing how some people come into our lives for such a short time and make such a lasting impression....and we bonded through Elvis. There are no accidents, "nothing happens for no reason". The drive home seemed to take longer.

We were all dead tired and Kelly's feet mysteriously swelled up so they looked like ham hocks. was the joke of the trip home but she was a good sport about it even though she was in pain. By the time we hit New Mexico we were all just dying for a shower and a comfortable bed. Again, Elvis stickers went up on all missed spots on the way home and we revisited some we had put up on the way there. Around Arizona somewhere I had the perfect ending to the perfect journey...after much praying, reflecting, thinking, etc. on the way home about everything in my life, I feel I got a sign from God. Maybe Elvis sent it too? I suddenly felt a peace and clarity in my mind when a hard hitting rain pelted our windshield. The sun was out and shining bright which made it odd and immediately I knew to look for a rainbow. I was not disappointed. There it was...beautiful, big and bright COMPLETELY surrounding our car. It was breathtaking, the most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen. I got an answer to my prayers. Everything was going to be alright, always. No matter what, God would get me through and was with me always. I am grateful for all of my experiences, good and bad...for I learn from them all and they help me to grow and each and every one of them make me who I am today. I loved this pilgrimage and look forward to many, many more in the future. Hopefully, I will be able to share some of them with you all, my dear friends, in person, right there with me. Thank you for letting me share my story with you!

P.s..and let me just add that I was told by many for years that the weather in Memphis in August was a killer, it would be terrible. Well, God blessed us again. The weather was so gorgeous, like LA weather...very pleasant and sunny during the day, but not too hot and at night it actually cooled down. It couldn't have been more perfect. People couldn't stop talking about it and how amazed them were. We told them we brought the weather with us from California. I think we did. It couldn't have been a more perfect first August trip for me. I am truly blessed.

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