Destinations: Memphis, Tenn.

Visit Memphis, Tenn., for Bike Night, Memphis barbecue and more.
By Joe Berk
September/October 2012
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Beale Street in downtown Memphis on bike night.
Photo by Joe Berk
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Memphis, Tenn.
What:
Memphis, Tenn. Hospitality, heritage, humidity and barbecue like no other!
How to Get There: Either I-40 or I-55 will work, but for an awesome ride, get lost on the rural roads leading into Memphis from any direction. Don’t forget to stop for boiled peanuts when you see the signs for this southern delight!
Best Kept Secrets: The hotels downtown (they are surprisingly inexpensive). Motorcycle Wednesdays during the riding season (it’s a grand block party). Breakfast at Cockadoos in downtown Memphis (85 S. 2nd St.); if you leave Memphis without trying Cockadoo’s peanut-butter-and-bananas French toast, sweet potato hash browns and Mississippi Mud coffee, you’ll miss the best breakfast in Memphis.
Avoid: Elvis impersonations (the folks who live there will think you’re talking normally).
More Info: MemphisTravel.com
More Photos: MotoFoto 

Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Roy Orbison, B.B. King, the Sun Studio, the mighty Mississippi, Graceland, Beale Street, the world’s best barbecue and motorcycle Wednesdays — Memphis is all this and more. As a motorcycle destination with incredible sights, awesome riding, wonderful food and southern hospitality matched only by the humidity, you’d have to ride a long way to top Memphis.

Most folks know of Beale Street (now a National Historic Landmark) and its music. Often considered the center of the universe for popularizing the blues, gospel music and real rock ‘n’ roll, Memphis is a rocking place.

Memphis’ most famous citizen (and, in many people’s opinion, America’s greatest artist), Elvis Presley chose Memphis as his home. The King was born just a short ride away in Tupelo, Miss. (a great ride). Riding these roads on a warm summer night make it easy to imagine Elvis doing the same, cloaked in the anonymity of a powerful motorcycle and the evening sky. Graceland is located just outside downtown Memphis, and it would be a crime against nature to visit Memphis without visiting the home of the King. I thought Graceland would be kitschy and touristy, but trust me, it is anything but. It is a magnificent spot honoring a uniquely gifted artist. Graceland is inspiring, as was Elvis.

Memphis is the setting of the television series Memphis Beat, and the show’s frequent mentions of Memphis barbecue is what prompted our visit. Memphians say it’s hard to go wrong with any Memphis barbecue, but they all recommended Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous to us. This magnificent below-ground delight is hidden in an alley in the city’s center just a few short blocks from Beale Street. You’ll want the ribs with a locally-brewed (and very tasty) Ghost River draft beer. Don’t forget that you’re only a few miles from Tupelo, and when your waiter says “thank you very much,” there’s a reason it sounds hauntingly familiar.

Time your visit to be in Memphis on a Wednesday, as Wednesday night is bike night on Beale Street from April through September. The police close the street and it’s motorcycles only. Grab a hotel, park your bike and explore the downtown area on foot. There are plenty of hotels, and we found the rates surprisingly reasonable.

Situated high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in southwestern Tennessee, Memphis is easy to find. Memphis is easily accessible from the north or south on I-55, and from the east or west on I-40, but the rural southern roads through this region are magnificent.

Our advice is to meander in from nearby Tupelo. Grab US 278 west in the town where Elvis was born, and a short time after you’ve passed Oxford and Ole Miss, hang a right on Scenic 315. They call it Scenic 315 for good reason. You’ll snake past Sardis Lake, and you can thank me later (the ride is magnificent). Scenic 315 runs right into I-55, and heading north on I-55 for just less than an hour will put you right in the heart of Memphis. MC 


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