Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On the Road Again - The Roundabouts 2300 Miles See the USA Road Trip Part 1


Road Trip USA 2015 Map
From watercolor travel sketchbook journal
by jojo sabalvaro-tan
When my high school classmate, Dennis, told us he and his wife Lulu were coming for a visit, we naturally planned on a road trip. Dennis, my husband and I are part of the core group we have tagged The Roundabouts, a small group who have been taking road trips since 2006. Our first trip took us to S. Dakota and Wyoming and then in years that followed Southeast Asia, Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.

We all wanted to go to Yellowstone National Park and maybe extend the trip as far as Nevada and California. All of us retirees, we now have the luxury of time and indulge on our wanderlust. Unfortunately, our timing was off. During the planning stage, we found out that on the days we plan to be there, the roads at the park are still closed due to snow. So a complete change of plans was in order. We decided to drive south instead and targeted Orlando, Florida as our final destination. This is Lulu's first road trip and also her first visit to Chicago . So before leaving for this long road trip, we admired Chicago's architecture from a Wendella tour boat that sailed on the Chicago River through the locks and onto Lake Michigan. The weather was quite cold but at least we were spared from the rain and the famous Chicago skyline radiated majestically.
View of Chicago Skyline from Lake Michigan

Milwaukee Art Museum
Photo from Wikipedia
We also visited the Milwaukee Art Museum, a beautiful piece of architecture perfectly located on the shores of Lake Michigan, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It is a tour the force of architecture highlighted by its roof top that opens up like a wings of a bird or sails on a ship  and one of the best examples of neofuturistic architecture defined by architect and historian Jean Louis Cohen as "a corollary to technology, being the structures built today byproducts of new materials to create previously impossible forms.”
The Roundabouts with a Chihuly Glass sculpture at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Now we are packed and ready to embark on our trip.

Our road trip rules are:
  1. Only drive in daylight. It became quickly apparent that our eyesight is no longer as good as it was and night driving is certainly, a strain. for some reason, the lights from cars begun to look like alien ships.
  2. Avoid toll roads, which treated us to country roads almost devoid of any traffic.
  3. Have frequent stretch and bathroom breaks. Age has really crept up on us, body aches are more prominent and often and our ability to hold basic bodily functions has diminished exponentially.
  4. Pack munchies and drinks to keep us refreshed
  5. Obtain keepsakes or souvenirs, in this case magnets and thimbles, from the states or cities we stopped at, which became such a challenge since these seemingly easily acquired items proved to be hard to find in some places but at the same time added some sense of excitement as we went on the hunt and afforded meeting with local folks.
  6. Be flexible and allow for schedule and route adjustments.
  7. Only swear at the GPS when we get lost, not at the human navigator or the backseat drivers.
  8. Stay at one of the known hotel chains that is close in proximity to our targeted sight, reasonably priced, and clean. To determine cleanliness, read the reviews and scrutinize the pictures and look for white sheets and updated décor. Free breakfast is a plus, as this can be a savings of at least $15 per person.
Having plotted our areas of interest and rest stops on the GPS, off we went on  US294 to US 57 through the farm lands of Southern Illinois, we then followed US24  into Kentucky and then the Julian M Carroll Purchase Parkway  for an overnight stay in Memphis, Tennessee. The following day, we drove straight down on US 55 to New Orleans where we are staying for two nights. From New Orleans, we went onto US10, skirting the gulf shores of Mississippi and Alabama until we reached Tallahassee and veered into Georgia Florida Parkway to get to Hernando, Florida where we spent the night at the house of my brother's sister-in-law. This was our longest driving time in terms of miles and time and therefore, breaking  one of our road trip rules. After lunch the next morning, we drove to our final destination, Kissimmee (Orlando), Florida where we would stay 4 nights. We did have some limitations in time for this trip since Dennis and Lulu had to catch a flight from Orlando at a certain date. All in all we would clock about 2300 miles. Luckily, gas prices averaged $2.39 which is almost at the pre-Obama prices.

Day 1: The thrill is certainly not gone in Memphis
Springtime is a great time to meander through the country roads of America, with the fields freshly plowed and prepared for planting, buttercups in full bloom carpeted the landscape in vibrant yellow and cows were grazing everywhere. A short while after we crossed the Illinois/Kentucky border, we came upon the small Kentucky town of Paducah. It was an unexpected treat and thrill for me to be there, America's quilt capital and a place all quilters, and I am one, should visit. We were there on the biggest event of the year for quilters, Quilt Week and there were quilters galore. On a  visit to humongous Hanover Fabrics Store while looking for magnets, we found the store packed with busloads of fabric shoppers and it was hard to fight the temptation of making my own purchase. My husband was very happy that I resisted since our trunk was already packed within a centimeter of available space.

Quilt Barn 2015
Paducah, KY
From watercolor travel sketchbook journal
by jojo sabalvaro tan
Driving in the vicinity of Paducah, it was a nice to spot some barns decorated with painted quilt block patterns. I think they should have a quilt block on every barn in America. It would make driving through the country side much more interesting, me thinks!


A few hours later, we arrived in Memphis, Tennessee and checked in at a hotel not far from Graceland, Elvis' home. We booked the hotel the day before from one of the many online sites since we calculated that Memphis was going to be one of our overnight stops.  After checking in and freshening up a bit, , we opted to have dinner downtown at the famous Beale Street, the Home of the Blues. We were going to tryout BB King's restaurant but the wait was long and we were already pretty famished. So we ended up at a barbeque joint called The Pig on Beale which is touted to have numerous awards for their barbecue. We ordered the Barbecue Pork dinner which I thought was pretty good but the service is a  little so-so and the condiment containers could use some clean-up.

Beale Street 2015
From the watercolor sketchbook journal
by jojo sabalvaro tan

Beale St. was filled with music emanating from the bars and restaurants lining the street. It was also very colorful with all the brightly multicolored neon signs above every store or restaurant front. .  Rabble-rousers abound carrying their beer glasses from one bar to another. The police was a welcome presence. Looking at Beale St. today, you would not know that back in the 60s and 70s it once was in a derelict state with almost all of the store fronts boarded up.

On a surreal note, as I was putting on the finishing touches on the BB King Bar sign on the sketch, it was announced that BB King passed away. What a spooky coincidence. Rest in Peace, BB King.
Here is a  video from You Tube of BB King "The Thrill is Gone", one of the best examples of the Blues - click on link below picture.

BB King's The Thrill is Gone
Photo from Wikipedia
BB King (1925-2015)  an American Hall of Fame blues singer, song writer and guitarist. He is also a National Medal of Arts awardee.

Day 2: All Shook Up in Graceland

We are not huge Elvis fans but we do appreciate his talent and his contributions to the musicworld. And he is no doubt handsome. So off we went to visit his mansion. After we purchased the tickets for the platinum tour ($36 for seniors) ,  we were each handed an IPad for our interactive tour as we boarded a shuttle bus that took us to Graceland Mansion. We passed through the famous gates decorated with musical notes and as the bus meandered through the green lawn filled with large oak trees we got a glimpse of the white house Elvis called home.

We entered into the front door and the interactive tour of  Elvis' home brought us from room to room. The décor was the very definition of eclectic. It was like time travelling to the 60s and 70s.
Living Room

We were also reminded that at his peak, Elvis gave up his career to serve in the US Army and after that how charitable he had been to many causes and individuals.

Elvis' Army Uniform
It was amazing to see how many awards Elvis received and how many records he sold based on the number of Gold, Platinum and Diamond records that were on display.
Elvis' costumes, awards and platinum, gold records
I felt Elvis' presence the most in the music room which is claimed to be the last place he sang before he died.
Music Room
Elvis , his parents and twin brother are all buried on the estate. 

The estate is well maintained and I believe provides much needed employment to people in Memphis. We lunched on the premises  at Elvis Presley's Chrome Grille which features some of Elvis' beloved food. We had the meatloaf which is said to be his favorite.

Graceland Stables 2015
From the Watercolor Travel Sketchbook
by jojo sabalvaro tan

Here are some of Elvis' Greatest Hits - click on link below the picture

Photo from Wikipedia
Elvis Presley's Top Ten Greatest Hits from WatchMojo on You Tube

Elvis Presley Biography (From www.graceland.com)

The incredible Elvis Presley life story began when Elvis Aaron Presley was born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon, was stillborn, leaving Elvis to grow up as an only child. He and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1948, and Elvis graduated from Humes High School there in 1953.

Elvis’ musical influences were the pop and country music of the time, the gospel music he heard in church and at the all-night gospel sings he frequently attended, and the black R&B he absorbed on historic Beale Street as a Memphis teenager.

In 1954, Elvis began his singing career with the legendary Sun Records label in Memphis. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, he was an international sensation. With a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time, he ushered in a whole new era of American music and popular culture.

Here are a few Elvis Presley facts: he starred in 33 successful films, made history with his television appearances and specials, and knew great acclaim through his many, often record-breaking, live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas. Globally, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other artist. His American sales have earned him gold, platinum or multi-platinum awards. Among his many achievements were 14 Grammy nominations (3 wins) from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award which he received at age 36, and his being named One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation for 1970 by the United States Jaycees. Without any of the special privileges, his celebrity status might have afforded him, Elvis honorably served his country in the U.S. Army.

His talent, good looks, sensuality, charisma, and good humor endeared him to millions, as did the humility and human kindness he demonstrated throughout his life. Known the world over by his first name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth century popular culture. Elvis died at his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977. He was 42.
Next stop New Orleans

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