Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Chris Myers, S.L. Hansen
Yesterday's soupy clouds have dissolved in Mississippi blues. Nearby, two boys playing tag dart past, disappearing around a signal corner - one side of the shotgun shack in which Elvis Aaron Presley entered this world on January 8, 1935. As their shouting fades the sound of rustling leaves returns. Resting in the shade of the trees under that clear spring sky, I can't imagine a finer spot has ever been created for anyone about to dine on a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Saying that "The King of Rock and Roll" sprouted from humble roots is an overstatement. For ample evidence of this newborn's extremely straitened circumstances, you only have to look around - the tiny house that is the centerpiece of the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Park is so small it's easily outsized and contained by any number of the prefab tool sheds found in a Home Depot lot. Heck, I'm sure some litters of Great Danes have started out better. And though the Presley family moved to Memphis when Elvis was only 13, he always maintained close ties with relatives and friends in his hometown. In 1957, after playing a sold-out show at the local fairgrounds, the King-in-Waiting donated the proceeds to the City of Tupelo in order to purchase his birthplace and the surrounding property. He wanted the neighborhood children to have a safe place to play. Today, the site provides me with welcome respite from the road and shaded haven for the thousands who visit each year to reflect on all things Elvis: his early years, the timeline sparkling with fame and despair, and, yes, these raw beginnings that gave him voice.
Lunchtime with Faulkner
A cool, steady breeze spills across perfect tarmac as I guide the Victory Jackpot south out of Tupelo on Route 45. I've been looking forward to exploring the area that got the King's Blue Suede Shoes a-tappin' for some time now. Stretching so far before me, large flat fields greened with early spring crops stretch their rows to fuzzy tree lines lightly scratching the bottom of the deep blue sky. Although it's one of those easily avoidable big roads, this plain-and-simple straightaway is just the ticket for a relaxing start while the Sleep Inn's coffee gets the motors running.
At the small crossroads of Egypt, I push the bars west, onto the two-lane of Route 406, and with the exception of a few small houses here and there, I have it all to myself, almost. In the distance, a large brown dog seems to be gauging his odds in a snappy pursuit, but he reconsiders, plopping down in the gravel next to his master's dinged-up mailbox instead. With a few nonchalant wags of the tail, Old Shep gives me the OK to move on.
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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2007 back issue.