A SPECIAL FEATURE FROM GIRLFRIEND GETAWAYS
What do you get when three single girlfriends drive the Music Highway from Memphis to Nashville? New memories—and a few lessons in love along the way.
The sun is setting as my friends Mary Ellen and Julia and I roar out of the airport in a convertible. We've had a rough time of it lately: Julia and I have gone through divorces, and Mary Ellen is a widow. We feel like we're living the story lines of so many blues and country songs, so we decide to spend our annual getaway immersing ourselves in the land of love and heartbreak. Our plan is to cover Tennessee's stretch of Interstate 40, with stops made famous by musicians from Elvis to Keith Urban. Maybe we can learn a thing or two.
Sun Studio You'd never guess this small, humble-looking studio had such a rich history. But the minute the tour guides launch into tales of Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison recording songs here, the worn edges recede right into the background. 706 Union Ave., 800/441-6249, sunstudio.com, $12.
Graceland As expected, Elvis's mansion is one over-the-top moment after the next. (Jungle-motif furnishings! An indoor waterfall! The King's jewel-encrusted jumpsuits!) Across the street at Graceland Plaza, I buy a pair of Elvis socks. 3734 Elvis Presley Blvd., 800/ 238-2010, elvis.com, audio tour from $28.
Heartbreak Hotel Given the state of our love lives, this place seems like the right fit. At check-in, we're upgraded to the Hollywood Suite. Our luck is already changing. 3677 Elvis Presley Blvd., 877/777-0606, elvis.com/epheartbreakhotel, from $112.
Tater Red's Lucky Mojos As dusk settles, neon signs straight out of the '40s light up Beale Street, Memphis's hottest party strip. Among the music venues like B.B. King's and Blues City Cafe sits a shop called Tater Red's. The store is rife with curiosities, including a wall devoted to cures for curses. I'm torn between the Ex-Husband Stay Away oil and the Come To Me candle. 153 Beale St., 901/578-7234, taterreds.com, oils from $2.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music This museum is a fitting tribute to the label that launched the careers of greats like Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes. The first stop is a 103-year-old gospel church from Duncan, Miss. From there, you step onto a Soul Train–inspired dance floor, see a re-creation of a Stax recording studio, and scan the Hall of Records, where the 180 selections on the jukebox read like a list of relationship woes, from "Never Can Say Goodbye" to "Try a Little Tenderness." 926 E. McLemore Ave., 901/946-2535, staxmuseum.com, $12.
Arcade Restaurant No Memphis trip would be complete without a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich, Elvis's favorite snack. We order one at Arcade, Memphis's oldest restaurant, and it's as satisfying as it is calorie-laden. No wonder Elvis packed on the pounds. 540 S. Main St., 901/526-5757, arcaderestaurant.com, sandwich $7.
Casey Jones Village About an hour east of Memphis, off exit 80A, this village is a tribute to Casey Jones—he died in 1900 while trying to stop his train from crashing into another but managed to save all of his passengers. Jones has been immortalized in song by Pete Seeger, among others. The village includes a museum, a country store with a Southern-food restaurant and an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, and a sweeping lawn—site of free bluegrass jam sessions on Thursday evenings. 56 Casey Jones Ln., 800/748-9588, caseyjones.com.
International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame In an 1880 brick building in downtown Jackson—considered the birthplace of rockabilly—this hall of fame displays a growing collection of memorabilia (Carl Perkins's blue-suede boots), videos of interviews with legends like Johnny Cash, and 16 life-size paintings of stars, including Jerry Lee Lewis and Brenda Lee. 105 N. Church St., 731/427-6262, rockabillyhall.org, $10.
Patsy Cline Memorial Patsy Cline died in 1963 at age 30, when her plane went down near Camden. There's not much to the memorial—a big rock with her name on it and a display with newspaper clippings from the day she died—but that doesn't stop serious fans from making the 18-mile detour off I-40 to pay their respects. We honor her by singing along to her rendition of "Crazy." Mount Carmel Rd. off Hwy. 641, 731/584-8395, free.