My Annual Pilgrimage to Memphis

5 Glorious Days in the Mid-South: Grizzlies, Beale St MusicFest, Casinos and Graceland

I had the best time on my annual trip to Memphis, although this year it was more like my Memphis/Tunica vacation. I did everything I wanted to do and each of the five days went exactly as I had planned them, with the exception of Saturday. I went to Grizzlies game 6, hung out on Beale Street, ate at my favorite restaurants, went to MusicFest, played at the casino and went to Graceland.

Day 1 / May 1
10154070_10152391496679168_6100446020067150752_nI left my house in Maryland at 7:30am eastern standard time, flew two hours to Memphis, Tennessee, got my rental car, drove 45 minutes to Tunica, Mississippi, and was checked into my room at the Gold Strike Casino by 12:30pm central standard time. After struggling with whether to stay in Memphis or Tunica, I am so glad I decided to stay in Tunica. The Gold Strike Casino is first class with its three restaurants, a 24-hour food court, three bars, a pool and a spa. It was definitely the right choice to stay at a resort that has everything rather than just a hotel. After unpacking, eating lunch at the buffet and winning $250 at the slots, I headed back to Memphis to hang out on Beale Street before the Grizzlies game 6 playoff game. By 4pm, I was sitting on the patio at Rum Boogie, my favorite spot on Beale Street, drinking Guinness and people watching. It was a beautiful 70 degree sunny day. I was happy to be back in Memphis! After meeting up with a couple of friends, I made my way over to the FedExForum for the Grizzlies game. I was in my seat center court in the last row on the club level just after 6pm when the doors opened. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies did not win this game 6 of the first round of the playoffs, like they did last year when I attended. The refs were absolutely horrendous, and the Grizzlies just didn’t play that well. The only good part about that game was that my baby JJ, James Johnson, played almost all of the second half. He had a season high 15 points, including a three-pointer and a dunk. Right after his slam dunk, JJ glared at the OKC bench. JJ also got into a fight that almost cleared the benches. I love his spunk and 1017028_10152392290134168_5130321724833870920_ncockiness! After that disappointing loss, I drowned my sorrows with Guinness and a sausage and cheese plate on the deck at Alfred’s, my second favorite spot on Beale Street. The Memphis Sausage and Cheese plate is one of my favorite meals. I usually don’t like sausage, like the brown, gristly breakfast sausage – yuck! But this sausage is more like fried hot dogs kind of sausage. And it’s paired with cheddar, monterey and pepper jack cheese cubes with a honey mustard dipping sauce – yum! I was back at my room at Gold Strike by midnight, but didn’t get to sleep until after 2am. 

Day 2 / May 2
011After just a few hours sleep, I woke up with a horse throat from yelling at the Grizzlies game (booing the Refs and cheering for James Johnson). I got a hot ham and cheese croissant breakfast sandwich from the food court and watched the Memphis morning news. I love Good Morning Memphis on Fox 13 with Valerie Calhoun and Ernie Freeman. I learned the Royals were in town. Princes William and Harry were in Memphis for their friend’s wedding to a local girl (from the Holiday Inn family). Can’t believe they picked the busiest weekend in Memphis to host a wedding? Apparently William and Harry went to Rendezvous Thursday night and were going to Graceland on Friday. Supposedly, Harry wanted to hang out on Beale Street Saturday night after the wedding, but I am not sure how he would have been able to do that. I never heard anymore about it, so my guess it he didn’t make it. Exhausted from the day before, I stayed in my room until about 1:30. Wearing my 38104 shirt, I headed into MidTown Memphis. I went to my favorite lunch restaurant, The Cupboard, and had my usual Four Veggie Plate. It should actually be called the Four Side Plate because there was only one vegetable on it. I ordered the eggplant casserole, macaroni and cheese, corn pudding and green beans. This was of course accompanied with corn bread and sweet tea. The best meal, assuming you like old-fashioned country cookin. I went by my old house (still the same unfinished ‘development’), stopped in Sun Studio, drove around Cooper Young and bought a cool record ring at Flashback. Then I headed downtown to get parked for the Beale Street Music Festival. While waiting for the gates to open, I sat out on the patio at Majestic Grille on Main Street sipping Riesling and people watching. I was checking out the vendors  at MusicFest by 6:15. I made my way over to the Bud Light Stage to wait for Third Eye Blind. I got a spot up front on the rail, far left. I had seen Third Eye 10334396_10152396355724168_8415367944229508891_nBlind three times about 20 years ago, but I had forgotten how much fun they are in concert. It was like 1997 again. Stephen Jenkins puts on a great show. He is very entertaining and still hot. Third Eye Blind played some new songs as well as the hits from their debut album: “Narcolepsy,” “Graduate,” “Losing a Whole Year,” “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper.” For some reason, my favorite “How’s It Going to Be” was not played. I was also hoping for “Motorcycle Drive By.” I walked over to the FedEx stage to see Memphis native Juicy J perform but it was insanely crowed and he was late. I stayed for a few songs and then made my way back to Tunica. I was in my room at Gold Strike by 10pm and asleep just before 2am.

Day 3 / May 3
021I slept for eight hours, which was the combined total of the previous two nights. Still exhausted, I stayed in bed until noon and watched a movie. I went down to the casino around 1:30, won another $100 and had a free lunch with my comp dollars. Around 3:30, I tried to leave for Memphis for my day at the Beale Street Music Festival, but my rental car wouldn’t start. Three hours later, Alamo brought me a new rental car – they couldn’t have been nicer actually. At 6:30, it was too late to drive into Memphis and find a parking spot for MusicFest – besides I had already missed Jerry Lee Lewis’ set. For the first time in 12 years, I did not get to see the Killer! So on to plan B. I stayed at Gold Strike and watched Grizzlies game 7 on the huge screen at the casino bar. We started off great, but couldn’t hold on to the lead. It didn’t help that the refs played for OKC. With the suspension of ZBo and the terrible officiating, the NBA got what they wanted: the MVP’s team advancing and a small market team losing. After the game and four Guinness, I realized I hadn’t eaten in eight hours. I got my free pizza and took it to my room because the casino was too cray cray that Saturday night. So my day did not go at all as I had planned – no MusicFest and Grizzlies lost. But things could have been worse. My car could have broken down at night on deserted route 61 instead of safely in the casino parking lot. It was a blessing in disguise because I was so exhausted I hurt. That low-key Saturday staying put recharged me for the next two days.

Day 4 / May 4
10267774_10152397411389168_7117185906698488519_nAfter sleeping for about six hours, I was back in the casino by 10:45. I had planned to spend the day in casino because there was no one I wanted to see at the Beale Street Music Festival. In the first hour, I won $300 and $13 comp dollars. I had a great free brunch at the buffet. A while later I needed some fresh air, so I walked next door to the Horseshoe Casino. It was not as great as I remember, so I quickly came back to Gold Strike. Around 5:00, I got my free pizza and went to my room for the rest of the night – as I had lost all of my winnings. (Don’t gasp, that’s what happens when you play the slots for six hours!) I caught up on my soaps online and watched MadMen

Day 5 / May 5
027After a great night’s sleep, I went down to the casino to try to win back my money. I didn’t, but won enough to play the slots for an hour. For the last time, I got my free pizza for lunch and took it to my room – along with my free orange cup. I checked out and was at Graceland by 1pm. It felt SO great to be back at Graceland. Just such a great energy, everyone sharing in their love for Elvis. It was a beautiful, warm (not humid) day in Memphis. After my emotional tour of Graceland and the exhibits, I hung out at the Rock n Roll Cafe, lunching on BBQ and sweet tea, until I had to leave for the airport. My flight was a little late. I was home by 10pm, excitedly greeted by my dogs Elvis and Cilla. 

I had the best time in Memphis (and Tunica)! For the first time in 12 years, it did not rain the first weekend in May. I miss and love Memphis very much. I am so happy there, very relaxed. Nothing bothered me, not losing my winnings, not spilling sauce on my Grizzlies jackets and not even my rental car breaking down causing me to miss a day of the Beale Street Music Festival. Everyone in the Mid-South is so nice, but they do smoke a lot of drive terribly. I loved staying at the casino in my comfy bed in my quiet room eating free food all weekend and playing great slots. I wasn’t at all bored being by myself. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. See you next year MTown!

To see all my pictures from my fun-filled five days in Memphis and Tunica, please click here. Keep following me on Twitter @DeenasDays. Next stop Vegas in July!

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