Our last edition of the journal concluded on Saturday 30th August and we were in Oklahoma City, visiting the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
This was fascinating and dealt with all aspects of how the west developed and how the Cowboy has been portrayed in movies and professionalised on the rodeo circuit. Our favourite part was the western movie star section where they had on display the original hat and eye patch worn by John Wayne when he won his Oscar playing Rooster Cogburn in the film True Grit.
On Sunday we carried on driving and headed towards New Orleans. We tried to stay off the Interstate and on the minor roads. We travelled through some small communities and farm land eventually stopping overnight in the town of Marshall to break up the journey.
As we were in Texas we thought it would be apt to have steak for dinner. We knew that we were off the usual tourist route when a number of the restaurant staff came over to talk to us and listen to our accents - we were told that they were "adorable"!
On Labor Day we continued our drive south entering Louisiana (our 10th state) and heading into New Orleans, this time taking the Interstate.
We had a cloud burst as we drove into the city which led to some challenging driving conditions. The windscreen wipers were not keeping up with the falling rain and the water was also pooling on the road creating pockets that caused the car to aquaplane.
We safely arrived at our hotel and immediately noticed the change in humidity. We had dinner at the Voodoo BBQ - apparently the best BBQ in town.
On Tuesday we spent the day in New Orleans, we started walking around the city and started melting in the humidity. In an effort to reduce our perspiration we climbed aboard a bus and took a tour of the city. This gave us a history of the city, its famous French quarter and its architecture. We saw several "Shotgun" houses which are some of the first New Orleans homes, they are small narrow houses that have rooms that are the width of the building and lead into one another, they are named "Shotgun's" because if you open all the doors you could fire a shotgun from the front and still hit a chicken in the back yard. After lunch, which consisted of a bowl of Gumbo for Helen and an enormous speciality sandwich for Nigel, we took a short boat trip down The Mississippi on the Creole Queen paddle steamer to the battlefield where on January 8th 1815, during the battle of New Orleans, the British were defeated by American forces at Chalmette plantation.
If the telephone had been in existence this is one battle that could have been avoided as a treaty was being ratified at the time of the battle which eventually ended all hostilities. We felt that it was rather unfair of the American army to attack the British troops whilst they were brewing their afternoon tea the afternoon prior to the battle.
We visited the city's famous cemetery (St. Louis No. 1) which holds a tomb in the shape of a pyramid that actor Nicholas Cage has bought for himself. He has apparently been having issues with the IRS and this is one plot of land they can't seize. We also saw one of the memorials to Hurricane Katrina which depicts a house in a tree and was apparently made from scraps found in the wreckage that was left behind.
On Wednesday we turned north and had another day of driving on the Interstate as we headed to Memphis, entering two more states - Mississippi and Tennessee - our 11th and 12th states.
Our visit to Memphis wouldn't have been complete without a visit to Graceland so we moved into a themed hotel, complete with guitar-shaped swimming pool, piped music and 3 TV channels dedicated entirely to Elvis films, ready for our visit to the home and resting place of 'The King of Rock and Roll' , Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) the singer, actor and amazing entertainer.
On Thursday we payed a visit to Graceland which was a short walk from our hotel.
The only way into the grounds was by shuttle bus and each guest was given a specially loaded Ipad. The mansion itself was quite an ordinary size but with all the additional buildings the estate was much larger. We had an audio tour of the mansion, the satellite buildings, stables and the family graves. We then finished with a tour of the archives and vehicle museum. Graceland has been beautifully preserved and maintained just as it was in the 60's and 70's and it was clear that everyone working there and visiting were true and dedicated fans of Mr Presley.
We were surprised that we didn't see one Elvis impersonator in Memphis and no jumpsuits.
On Friday we headed to Nashville, we had a later start and a shorter day of driving arriving in the early afternoon.
We have noticed during our driving days that there is an excessive amount of truck tyre debris on the Interstate roads.
We've learnt to expect parts of damaged tyres to be in the middle of the carriageway and to weave our way around them.
This poses two questions, what quality of tyre are these trucks using and who's responsibility is it to clear it from the roads?
Today is Saturday 6th September, we're exploring Nashville and here for a little country music.
On Sunday we'll be heading from Nashville over to South Carolina to reunite with David, another of our American friends who we met during our travels in New Zealand.