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January 24 , 2010

Elvis Presley Boulevard

From Sea to Shining Sea, Almost


Elvis Presley Boulevard chronicles the trip we’ve all taken-or wanted to take-into the country that confounds its admirers and delights even its critics. Mark Winegardner, a young Ohioan, spent the formative summers of his wonder years touring the States with his family in a succession of recreational vehicles. Much later, only months before his wedding, he undertakes another transcontinental odyssey, this time without benefit of license­-plate games with his sister or parental warnings to get his feet out of the car window.
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He arms himself with only the bare essentials: a Styrofoam cooler; a Hawaiian shirt; enough cash for gas, blue plate specials, and the occasional knickknack; a buddy; and the buddy’s ailing ‘68 Chevy Impala. Determined to extract full value from every scenic overlook, these two set out to discover America. They visit Xanadu, Foam House of Tomorrow, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee; the Woody the Woodpecker Museum in Los Angeles; and Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the only community named after a game show. They play the Easter Island Hole at Magic Carpet Golf in Tucson. They marvel at the fourteen peacocks strolling Graceland’s lawn and at the vastness of the prairie states, “where no one speaks French or pays to park.” They collect 3-D glasses. They eat Devil Dogs. They take the amazing Miracle Photo. They discover themselves. Most amazing of a11, they discover an unbroken chain of Elvis tapestries, Elvis ashtrays, Elvis T-shirt wearers, and Elvis imitators that unites this land as surely as Route 66 divides it.
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