Day Nine: Tupelo to Lexington

Elvis BirthplaceOur day started at 9 a.m. with our first stop just minutes from our hotel – the birthplace of Elvis Presley.  I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but since I had seen Graceland, where Elvis is buried, I had always wanted to see where he was born.  The small home, built by Elvis’ father, is located in what is now Elvis Presley Park.  In addition to the home, the small Assembly of God church Elvis attended as a small boy and where he first sang gospel is on the grounds, as is a statue of a 13-year-old Elvis.

Another birthplace was also on our schedule.  After driving a couple hours, we reached Tuscumbia, Ala., where Helen Keller was born.  Once again the map I had printed was poor, but directions to the home, Ivy Lee, were well marked by the municipality.  The house, a typical Southern white clapboard style built in 1820 on 640 acres, is quite lovely and situated on beautiful grounds sprinkled with boxwood, Helen Keller's water pumpmagnolias, honeysuckle, roses and English ivy (from which the estate got its name) – the Keller family must have been well off.  I don’t think there is anyone, regardless of age, who doesn’t know the story of Helen Keller and her discovery of words while holding her hands under the water pump at her home, so it was a bit surreal to actually see the pump in the backyard.  Keller was actually born in a small cottage on the grounds that was used as an office to keep the plantation’s books; eventually, Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, would live in the cottage.  Also on the grounds are a memorial fountain donated by the Lion’s Club International and a garden area that features gifts bestowed on Keller from countries around the world. 

Wigwam Village #2Our next stop was to see some classic roadside architecture in Cave City, Ky.  Wigwam Villages (or Wigwam Motels) are distinctive landmarks that once dotted the American countryside.  There are now only three: two are along Route 66, in Arizona and California, and one is in Cave City.  If you happened to catch the Pixar movie “Cars,” the Wigwam Motel was prominently featured as the business run by Sally, the blue Porsche.  Seven Wigwam Motels were built between 1936 and the 1950s.  They consist of individual units and even though the motels are named wigwams, the design is more of a teepee.  The motel in Cave City, known as Wigwam Village #2,  was built in 1937 and features 15 units spaced in a semi-circle.  It’s currently under renovation, scheduled to open next week, or we would have been spending the night there.  I did have the opportunity to spend the “night in a teepee” (as the motel sign advertises) in Holbrook, Ariz., on one of my Route 66 travels.

Dinosaur WorldOn our way out of town, we stopped for a photo of the dinosaurs that menace the I-75 exit urging motorists to visit Dinosaur World.  Mammoth Cave is just down the road.

World's Largest CrucifixAs the sun started to set, we arrived in Bardstown, Ky., where our last stop of the day was located.  In the cemetary of St. Thomas Parish is the world’s largest crucifix.  Made of metal, the crucifix is 60-feet high.

We reached our destination, Lexington, Ky., after dark and spent the night in a beautiful Hyatt, where we had a relaxing dinner and then toasted our final night on the road with champagne.

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