Greetings from Memphis and the cheapest (only $15 a night) but really quite nice on the top floor of a church hostel I have ever stayed in. There is nothing religious about it, I was really skeptical of the place when I reserved my bed.
Yesterday, I had a fairly quiet full day in Nashville. I wondered into downtown, walked over its historic pedestrian bridge across its river, the Cumberland, went to its one free museum, the Tennessee History Museum and got as close to the State House as I could due to construction. I wondered around Centennial Park and walked around the Parthenon. I also made a point of wondering around deserted Vanderbilt University to see that wing of my ancestor’s lore. I had a quiet evening (didn’t feel the need to wonder downtown again) mainly catching up on internet things in a Vanderbilt Starbucks. While planning my travel for the next day I discovered two inconvenient public transit facts about Memphis. First is effective November 9, 2011 Greyhound has moved to a the Airways Transit Center in the middle of nowhere out by the airport. This replaced the old downtown station, Greyhound has been doing this all over the country I think trying to cash in on there real estate. Second MATA, the Memphis Bus System, has extremely limited Sunday service (in terms of routes) and the last buses leave downtown at 6:15pm. This ruled out MegaBus whose one trip would have arrived at there downtown transit center (leaving from more convenient Music City Central, Nashville’s Transit Center) 6:35pm. Greyhound seemed like a time consuming but only real choice since I am starying in a hostel in a neighborhood away from downtown. That night as I was in the hostel today took a turn for the better, I found someone else Emily from Australia, midway through a year as a nanny in Orange, New Jersey who was planning to travel on the same Greyhound bus and even better another Australian on a road trip who was already planning to drive her to the Greyhound Station the next morning. Seeing no reason to walk 2 miles with my bags I accepted the ride.
Last night I realized I had forgotten to revisit historic Union Station and it would be a good morning walk before a long day of bus riding. I woke up at 7:00 and was surprised how hot it was already and walked over to the hotel. I asked and was allowed to wonder into the hotel lobby and noticed the reception desks restored board listing train departures (formerly in chalk made permanent based on a historical photograph). It’s too bad Amtrak or any train hasn’t stopped in this station since 1979 and the historic train shed was raised in 2000 after a fire.
I walked back to the hostel, finished packing and checked out. At 9:30 the Aussie Ladies came out and I hopped in the back of a rental car. It was quick ride with a bad moment when my driver ended up on the wrong side of the road (Australia is like England, they drive on the left) but luckily it was on a deserted street near the Greyhound Station. The modern building was packed and I went up and got my ticket, my backpack tagged and did a strange Greyhound line-up technique, dumping my bag at the end of the line (for both me and Emily, she just had a small daypack and would have probably missed the bus had I not been there). We sat down and began what ended up being over six hours of chatting on and off, which definitely helped pass the day. At about 10:15 there was commotion at Gate A as people started lining up and there were definitely way more than 50 people in line. We handed our tickets over and walked out to a bus, the destination sign saying Sacramento (I know the bus was continuing to Little Rock and Dallas, but didn’t seem to be going all the way to the West Coast) and sat down together. It was a full bus and nice not to have an odd Greyhound seat mate which usually happens but someone of my generation. The bus ride was largely uneventful. We made one stop, a brief rest stop in Jackson, TN at a historic 1938 Greyhound station whose art deco features hadn’t changed one bit. This included the men’s room which I used.
The bus arrived at the middle of nowhere but ulta-modern Memphis Airport at 2:40 in time for the 2:58 bus on its hourly loopy run into downtown (on a weekday or Saturday a bus would have taken me straight to the hostel in maybe half an hour). Emily who was going to the hostel in downtown (which I considered but the reviews made it sound like it was just a hotel that had put bunkpeds in a room). We walked out to a nearby bus stop in the sun along the nearby highway. It wasn’t clear if the bus loop was being used by city buses today (or at all, a little MATA sign would be night) the bus came and immediately made a loop into the Greyhound station to drop off its one other passenger. It is also an high ozone day so the fare is only 25¢. Then came the long but slightly interesting part of the day, a half hour loop around the Memphis Airport. We picked up a few confused European Tourists at the airport terminal before wending our way through Memphis’s cargo area. There FedEx’s huge operations were made very clear, we must have passed at least fifty tails of there plains off in the distance plus an assortment of trucks and the like. At one stop about twenty-five Fed Ex Employees got on on their way home from work all waring identical purple shirts, less formal than those warn by there delivery drivers were all used to dealing with. Many had those standard FAA issued armbands for ramp work you see when flying on passenger airlines.
The bus finally got into downtown a shortly after 4. Had there been an evening bus downtown I would have connected straight out to the hostel, dropped by backpack off and come back downtown. Mud Island this odd little place with a monorail out to it is closed on Mondays and I wanted to see it. It closed at 5pm, unfortunately last admission (access to the grounds is free) is at 4pm and I got there at 4:10 and it was clear I couldn’t wander over its bridge and go for a walk on it. I settled for a few photos of its odd little suspended from a footpath above monorail before getting some streetcar photographs. I took the next hours bus out to my youth hostel, which was quite empty, on the third floor of a church but not at all religious. On that bus a local obviously wanted to chat with the odd rare guy on the bus with a backpack. (I am quite used to it). My favorite part of the hostel are the decent comfy coaches something my previous hostels lacked so I have a lazy evening getting caught up on this TripLog and going out for surprisingly greasy Chinese Food in its small neighborhood with few places open on a Sunday.