The tradition of taking an annual vacation together began the year my two best friends, Becca and Courtney, and I finished college. We committed to taking a vacation together every year, and thus far, we’d kept the tradition alive through graduate school and weddings. However, the challenges of new motherhood have recently thrown us off our yearly routine.
We skipped a year because Becca had a baby. When I brought up our trip the next year, she said she was still nervous about leaving the baby overnight. We understood her reservations but felt that after 18 months of interrupted sleep, wearing her pajamas all day, and minimal adult conversation, Becca was in dire need of some time away.
Thus, Courtney and I played hardball and proposed we visit Tupelo. The unique Southern city is best known as Elvis Presley’s birthplace. For Becca, Elvis is like catnip. She’d harbored a lifelong fascination with the King of Rock & Roll that Courtney and I were fully willing to exploit to salvage our trip-taking tradition.
When we proposed Tupelo over coffee one Sunday afternoon, Becca’s dilemma was obvious. “Oh, wow—I’ve always wanted to go to Tupelo.”
“We could do the Elvis Presley Driving Tour and visit the Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum,” Courtney suggested, referring to the house-turned-museum where Elvis was born.
Becca hesitated before committing: “Okay, I’m in.”
We found a date that worked and drove to Tupelo together in my Jeep. After we dropped our bags off at the hotel, we headed to The Creative Touch and Day Spa and Salon. I’d asked a local online, and Creative Touch was highly recommended for a pampering session. After group mani/pedis, I indulged in a massage, Becca had her hair styled, and Courtney got a facial.
As we bounced out of the salon into the warm afternoon, Becca tossed her curls and exhaled, “I needed that. I can’t remember the last time I went to a spa.”
We went back to the hotel to change for dinner. An hour later, we were at the Blue Canoe Bar & Grill. With the largest brew selection in northern Mississippi, juicy hamburgers, and a reputation for hot bands, the wood-walled honkytonk was a natural choice for a night of letting loose and dancing. It was like being back in college without the stress of homework.
Art and retail therapy
The next morning, as we perused Nostalgic Alley Antiques, in the Downtown Shopping District, Becca commented, “I forgot what shopping was like without someone hanging on my leg.”
I giggled at the image of her son wrapped around her shin koala-style. The quaint and quirky shop had clothing sorted by color, giving it the vibe of a twister mat. Courtney swirled around in a pink sequined overcoat and ended up purchasing a relatively conservative leather handbag. I bought a pair of onyx earrings. Becca came away with two dresses, a blouse, and a pair of sparkly shoes.
We next toured the rustic Oren Dunn City Museum, located in Ballard Park. Housed in a converted dairy barn, the Oren Dunn City Museum itself is a piece of living history. It includes an original dogtrot-style cabin, a one-room schoolhouse, and a small church. At the museum, we scoped out the period diner, had a group photo taken beside a model 1940s caboose, and learned about Chickasaw history.
Self-discovery on the road to Elvis
Getting a real feel for Tupelo before we took the Elvis Presley Driving Tour ended up being a perfect plan. It gave us a real sense of where the King of Rock & Roll got his start.
The day was warm and sunny, so we dropped the Jeep’s top and headed for the first stop on the 13-site Elvis Presley Driving Tour. We started at the original Assembly of God Church location on Adams Street. That’s where the young King met Reverend Frank Smith, an instrumental figure in helping the young Elvis hone his legendary guitar skills.
We had an early lunch at the iconic Johnnie’s Drive-In, where Elvis used to eat cheeseburgers and drink RC Cola. We were lucky enough to score a seat in the booth where Elvis had been photographed dining.
“I’m never washing these pants again,” Becca exclaimed.
The tour resumed after lunch and took us to the Lee County Courthouse, where Elvis performed. We also took requisite selfies with the huge Elvis Presley 1956 Homecoming Concert statue near Tupelo Hardware—that’s where the King got his first guitar. Later, we headed to Mayhorn’s Grocery store, where Elvis used to kick back on the front porch and listen to the blues.
As we headed back to the hotel after the tour, Becca mused, “You know, this trip helped me realize that it’s okay to leave my family for a few days and take care of myself. A big part of my heart is back home with my son, but I can’t ignore my passions.”
“Like Elvis,” Courtney quipped.
She paused. “I guess what I’m saying is long live the King of Rock & Roll, and long live girlfriend getaways!”