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Monday, January 30, 2023

Things To Do In Sioux City, Iowa

Check out our list of things to do in Sioux City, Iowa before your trip here.

If you are traveling here with your RV, take a look at our list of 10 Items You Should Have On Your RV Camping List before you hit the road.

Sioux City, Iowa was the the 4th stop of the 26 we made on our recent cross-country road trip. We actually camped in South Sioux City, NE because the campground was closer to downtown Sioux City than any of the campgrounds in Sioux City.

(1) We camped at Scenic Park Campground, located just across the Missouri River from Sioux City. We had a great view of the city from our campsite. (Read more about Scenic Park Campground here.)

Our first day, of 2 short days in this area, was spent in Walmart buying groceries, setting up, making and eating dinner. We did have a chance to take an after dinner walk around the paved walkway that encircled the campground.

(2) The following morning, we ate a quick breakfast and packed lunch and set out early to make the most of our one full day in Sioux City. We were very disappointed to find out that most of places we had on our To Do List were closed on Mondays! We were really looking forward to going to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. 

(3) Luckily a friend made a suggestion to visit the Sargent Floyd River Museum. It had not made our list but since nothing else was open, we went. We actually were very happy that we did.

We learned about Sgt. Charles Floyd who was the only fatality of the Lewis and Clark Exhibition.

We also learned about the Lewis and Clark Exhibition.

And about the vessel we were on and about the history of Missouri River transportation.

(4) There was a very nice welcome center in the museum with helpful receptionists who told us about the Woodbury County Court House. We wouldn't have thought to go here if they hadn't told us about it. This building, built in 1918, was gorgeous inside and out.

The details on the outside and inside of this building were so interesting and each had it's own story to tell.  The huge figure here above the Douglas Street entrance, symbolizes the spirit of law. The figures on either side represent all types of life and symbolize society. I thought it looked a little scary, but pretty cool, from this angle.

The north entrance features a man and woman holding a baby. These statues symbolize the family and along with the words "justice and humanity" written above, signifies that the court house provides protection and justice under law for all.

The inside of the court house is just as interesting as the outside and even more gorgeous. The dome catches your eye immediately and brightens up the lobby with a tinted light. It was huge and amazing. The murals were equally as impressive as the dome.

Each mural had its own story. This one tells us all about urban life in Iowa. 

This court house was well worth a visit.

Good To Know: Make sure to get the free (it is also free to enter the court house) pamphlet that has all the information you need to know about the inside and outside of the building so you know exactly what you are looking at. 

(5) It was lunchtime so we headed to Stone Park.

We packed a lunch to have a picnic here.

Then we went to look for one of the many trails listed on the park map. We saw some signage that pointed in the direction of a trails but they never led us to a trail.

We finally found what we thought might be a trail and started to walk down it. The path was about 1 1/2 feet wide and had tall grasses and weeds on each side that scratched our legs and wasn't fun at all. We abandoned that trail after a couple of feet. We were starting to wonder why nothing was working out for us on this day.

We decided to give up on finding a trail and head to the next destination on our list of things to do. Our bad luck took one more bad turn when JT jumped into the driver's seat of the van and went to open the window a crack and the entire window unhinged and fell into the door. We frantically started calling for help. AAA could not help us. We decided to head back to the campground to figure out what we were going to do. On our way back, we spotted this small car repair shop. All of us, at the same time, decided to stop here.

Our guardian angels were taking care of us that day and sent us to a couple of very caring and honest people. The guys at Ross Auto Repair looked at our van, diagnosed the problem and got right on the phone to order us the part we needed to fix the window at a very reasonable cost. We did not feel like we were being taken advantage of although we were desperate and would have paid anything. It gives you hope in humanity when you meet people like these two. (Thank you so much guys!)

(6) The rest of our day would have to be spent waiting for the car to be repaired. We would have to miss out on doing what we had left on our to do list. But, yay!, Soko and JT didn't want me and Sandie to miss out on going to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and it was only a few minutes away from the shop so they dropped us off here and went back to the repair shop to drop off the car.

(7) Because of our car problems we missed going to Trinity Heights where there was a life-sized last supper sculpture and other larger than life sculptures. But this small disappointment was nothing compared to the big headache we would have had if we hadn't been so lucky with our car repair. 

We don't expect a road trip, especially one that is over two months long, to go as smoothly as it looks when we are planning the trip. We call these unplanned events "small bumps in the road" and although they are stressful when they are happening we know, because we've been on a few trips now, that the bumps are to be expected. We just hope that there aren't too many and not too big!

To make sure we appreciated and were grateful for all the good we had on this crazy day and to make sure we were thankful for just being able to be on this road trip, we were given this beautiful sunset when we got back to our campground to put everything back into perspective. 

Read about the third stop we made on our road trip, Memphis, TN.

Have you been to Sioux City, Iowa? What things did you find to do? 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Things To Do In Memphis, Tennessee

Check out our list of things to do in Memphis, Tennessee before your trip here. 

You might also want to check out our guide, State By State Guide to State and National Park Campgrounds, before you make your camping reservations if you are traveling around Tennessee in your RV.

The second stop of our Cross Country Road Trip brought us to Memphis, TN. Before we left on our trip we made sure we had reservations at campgrounds and hotels at each of our stops. We are pretty much newbies at traveling in our RV so we are not at the point, like many campers we meet, where we can just jump in our trailer and hope for the best. 

Speaking of campers we meet, we actually met the coolest of campers here in Memphis. Peter and Anne Glatz are "living as nomads" in a converted bus, turned food truck, named Bertha. Peter Glatz is a retired dentist currently living his dream by traveling the country cooking at the finest restaurants and working with top chefs. Me and Sandie approached Peter and Anne Glatz' truck curious to see if and what they were cooking up in there. They were not cooking so we didn't get anything yummy to eat but we did get to meet one of the the most interesting and nicest couples we have ever met at a campground. By the next morning, they were on the way to their next adventure in Nashville where, they told us, Peter was getting a chance to work with James Beard Award - winning chef Sean Brock. Safe travels Peter and Anne! (Chef Sean Brock is the Founding Chef of Husk in Charleston, SC. Me and Soko had the wonderful experience of eating here when we took a trip to Charleston and absolutely loved it! You can read more about Husk here.)

(1) We booked T.O. Fuller State Park for our stay in Memphis. We like to look for state parks in the area we want to stay in because we have found that (a) they are less expensive than private campgrounds and (b) the parks themselves are often as beautiful as some national parks and we can find trails with waterfalls and other gorgeous views right where we are staying. (Read more about this campground here.)

The Day 1 itinerary of most of our cross country road trip stops was all about just getting to our stop, setting up, cooking and eating dinner and then relaxing by the fire and/or playing cards until it was time to hit the hay. One chore we take care of before relaxing is cleaning out our cooler and replenishing the ice, which can be pretty expensive if we are buying it at the campground. We were so excited to find out that there was an ice machine that we could use at no charge in this park!

(2) When we were mapping out our road trip we noticed that Memphis would be a perfect place to stop as we were heading that way on our road trip route. And if we were going to be in Memphis, we really needed to go to the most famous site in Memphis, Graceland. So on our Day 2 we headed to Graceland.

We bought our entrance tickets at Graceland because it didn't seem necessary to buy them earlier online. We were going mid week and not on the weekend. When we got there, we found out that we couldn't buy our tickets there and actually had to purchase our tickets online. We stepped off the line and bought our timed ticket. The tickets we bought included a tour of the mansion and cost $50 each. If we chose, we could get tickets that included everything except Graceland for less. (We were very happy that we included Graceland in our tour.)

Good To Know: We were able to get a discount with our AAA membership.

The tour first brought you into a small theater to watch a movie about Elvis, his family and career. It was very interesting and it got us excited for our day at Graceland.

From there, we followed our group outside to board a shuttle bus to the Graceland mansion. We were given headphones connected to Ipads which served as our audio guide and were dropped off at the mansion to begin our tour. With our Ipads in hand we started our tour in Elvis' living room. It looked like it could be anyone's living room, but we were prepared to see a modest home as we had heard from friends that the mansion was on the smaller side. But, on the other hand, not too many of us have a gorgeous white grand piano sitting in our living rooms. We knew we were someplace special.

Most of the rooms were not much bigger than the rooms in our own homes and the decor was typical of many of the homes we grew up in in the 1960's.

But then we came to rooms that were very unique like the jungle room.

And the game room with the pool table.

After the tour of the Elvis' home, we were guided out to the grounds. The outside was much bigger and more extravagant than the inside. There were things here that most of us don't have like this indoor racquetball court that Elvis had built after a friend introduced him to the game and he decided that he needed his own personal court for him and his friends to enjoy.

He also had a stable on his property. Elvis loved horses and enjoyed riding with his friends and family. And he had a  pool and deck that was a little small considering it was in the back of a mansion but probably was impressive back in the day.

Behind the pool was the cemetery. It was a beautiful final resting place for Elvis and his family.

After touring Elvis' home, we were off to see his planes. It was very cool to step inside to have a look at how he and his entourage traveled around.

After checking out the planes, we got on the shuttle bus to go back to where we started from to tour the Presley Motors Automobile Museum and the Elvis Discovery Exhibits. Obviously, Elvis loved cars. There were a lot of them in this huge museum. My favorite of  his collection was his Pink Cadillac.

From there we went into and enjoyed all of the Elvis Discovery Exhibits where we learned a lot about this icon. One thing I learned, when we went into the gift shop area of one of the exhibits, was that he had a favorite meatloaf recipe. I found that out when I was looking for postcards to send to the kids. I sent the one with the recipe on it to my son, Mike and his family and DIL Chrissy was so sweet and made it for us when we got back from our road trip.

One of our favorite Discovery Exhibits was the Elvis Interactive Experience. We had a ball in there!

Bottom line - if you are anywhere near Memphis, you have to go to Graceland!

(3) Surprisingly, we had time to make a stop at Beale Street before heading back to our campsite for the night. 

You will hear blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, R&B and gospel as you stroll along the three blocks of Beale Street.

My conclusion about Beale Street was that it was a smaller and jazzier, version of Nashville's Broadway. 

(4) We had a full schedule for Day 3, our last day in Memphis. Our first stop was Chuccalissa Indian Village which was conveniently located adjacent to our campground. 

We watched an introduction movie and learned about the history of this village and then went into the museum. The museum was very interesting and we really enjoyed the hands-on exhibits.

When we went outside we immediately recognized the highest mound we saw in the movie.  We climbed the mound to see the view the high chief had as he sat and watched over the village.

Good To Know: Chuccalissa Village charges a small fee of $6.00 per adult to enter the museum and grounds. $4.00 for seniors, 60 and over, and children 4-11.

(5) It was lunchtime by the time we finished exploring Chuccalissa so we jumped into the car and made our way to Paynes BBQ. Son Joe and DIL Nicole recommended this restaurant when they heard we would be in the area and we were glad that they did.

We all ordered the pork which came sliced or chopped. It was reasonably priced at $7.95 for a jumbo sandwich topped with a mustardy coleslaw and came with beans on the side. We had the choice of a mild, medium or hot BBQ sauce. I had the mild and it was a delicious thin, sweet and vinegary red sauce.

Sandie also ordered the fried bologna sandwich. I have never seen a slice bigger than this one!

(6) We needed to work off a few pounds after our delicious lunch, so off to the Memphis Botanic Garden we went.

It started to rain hard the moment we arrived at the garden so we waited it out in the huge lobby. There was actually a very nice gift shop and lots of beautiful art to enjoy while we waited for the rain to stop,

We kept checking on the rain. We could see the Red Queen in the distance and were dying to be able to get out to see the rest of Alice's Adventures at the Garden.

After almost an hour, the rain slowed down and we were able to get out to enjoy the gardens and the rest of the exhibit. The Chess Set was our favorite sculpture of the four in the exhibit.

Besides the larger than life sculptures, you could find the magic of Alice In Wonderland throughout the grounds of the garden.

The garden itself was one of the nicest gardens we have ever visited but we didn't have enough time to see it all. We completely missed seeing the Japanese garden here because we just ran out of time in our day but we really did enjoy the parts that we did see.

Good To Know: It is worth it to become a member of your local garden so that you have the benefit of free admission to gardens around the country that are part of the reciprocal admissions program.

Memphis Botanic Garden was the grand finale of our stop in Memphis. The next day we were headed to Stop 3, Kingdom City, MO. We made our first hotel stop here. Hotel stops enabled us to reach a few destinations easier and made it possible to keep this very long road trip to just over 2 months. It would have taken us at least 3 months otherwise.

Read about our Stop 1 here: (Find it towards at the end of this blog post.)

Have you been to Memphis? We would love it if you would share what things you found to do in Memphis, Tennessee