Our expectations for Memphis were high and the city didn’t disappoint. We were there for a grand total of 24 hours, but we packed a lot of action into our short window of time.
World Championship BBQ Contest
A quick google search upon arrival revealed that our stay in Memphis coincided with the annual 3-week World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest. Yes, that’s a thing. And it’s a really big thing apparently. The entire stretch of Tom Lee Park was filled with stalls that were reserved for established BBQ teams, each vying for the championship title in categories like Ribs, Shoulder, and Whole Hog. The atmosphere felt like an organized horse race, but with way more delicious food. Unfortunately, getting into a stall was by invitation only. Adam was convinced that Annie could have managed to get in if she were alone, but he suspected that the bouncers guarding each stall wouldn’t be so keen on him entering. Instead, we decided to take a stroll and buy our own BBQ at one of the very few “public” stands in the area. Annie spotted a judge and decided that we should go over and chat with him. He was both incredibly knowledgeable about BBQ, and super overweight. He and his counterparts have to take years of tasting classes before they can participate as an official judge and it helps if you also study BBQ yourself.
The Mississippi River
This was one of those items on our bucket list. Neither one of us had ever seen the Mississippi before coming to Memphis. It was much wider than we’d envisioned. We were able to take a sunset walk along its edges, since the BBQ contest stood mere feet away from the river. Annie played in bubbles that a young girl was blowing on her.
Miss Piggy Idol
The climax of the evening at the BBQ contest was Miss Piggy Idol. Amateur groups get up on stage and sing choreographed renditions of famous songs with lyrics that relate to meat, pork, and BBQ. The more male-dominated teams sought to win votes by taking off clothes to reveal more flab, and less muscle. Below are two links to see what this event is like:
Blues Hall Juke Joint on Beale Street
After our romp through the BBQ Festival and stuffing our faces with local ribs, we headed for Beale Street, the musical center of Memphis and the blues capital of the world. We opted for the Blues Hall Juke Joint because of its authentic feel. We ordered drinks at the bar and sat for an hour listening to a great band with a powerful lead vocalist. During one of the more emotional songs, she wandered the floor and zeroed in on Adam with her eyes. She put out her hand, and dragged Adam to the stage, sat him in a chair, and serenaded him for the remainder of the song. Annie claims she wasn’t jealous.
National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel
On the morning of our departure, we quickly discussed whether we would spend the morning at Graceland or the Lorraine Motel. We’d heard great things about both, but we’re really glad we chose to go to the Lorraine Motel, which is where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum. There is so much to learn here and the exhibits are really well done. I think our roadtrip helped us to understand how much racism continues to exist in the US today. When we go to museums that discuss the civil rights movement, we’re always boggled at how certain laws only went into effect a few decades ago. This world remains very unequal.