Travel: The Pyramid

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Have you been to the pyramid? No, not the ones in Egypt. I'm talking about the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee. Okay, it isn't as large as the others and not nearly as old, but it's impressive even if you aren't into hunting and fishing.

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The structure, the tenth-largest pyramid in the world, was built in 1991 by the city of Memphis and Shelby County. It never worked out for the city so after years of negotiating, Bass Pro Shops leased it and converted it into, well, an experience.

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James and I arrived there one hot July day and hurried inside, eager to see what it was all about. Water gurgled in a nearby fountain. An earthy scent filled the cool, dark environment. Children stood wide-eyed, their noses pressed against fish tanks while varieties of aquatic life swam by inches from their faces. A toddler screamed and buried his face in his dad's chest as they passed the life-like bear.

Aside from the typical things in a Pro Bass Store, there's a general store, a twenty-five yard live pistol and archery range, boats, a live bird aviary, the Waterfall Heritage Center, live alligators, thirty-six varieties of fish, Cypress trees, a saltwater aquarium, a bowling alley called the Fish Bowl and yes, even a hotel. 

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The Big Cypress Lodge, with its 100 rooms and rustic, elegant style, extends across the second and third floors of the Pyramid and resembles log cabins. Balconies overlook the trees and wildlife below almost as though you were sitting in the wilderness. We didn't stay the night, but I'm told the rates vary from $255 to $900 (for the governor's suite) per night.

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At the pyramid's center is the tallest free-standing elevator in America. At twenty-five stories high, it's either something you can't wait to get on, or a terrifying sight you try to ignore. James and I, always a bit daring, paid the ten dollars per person fee and waited our turn. Soon we were heading up the center of the store with a view of everything.

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The elevator opens into the Lookout restaurant with a catfish tank above the bar.

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Outside the restaurant are two glass-floored observation decks from which you can see Memphis and the Mississippi River. It takes courage to step out on the viewing decks, but strips of something running through the glass make it look somewhat solid. Looking up from beneath it though, you can see right through.

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Once we ventured out, we forgot about the perceived danger and enjoyed the magnificent views.

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Visit America's pyramid when you get a chance. If you get tired, there's super-comfortable, cushioned rockers to sit in. Okay, they're on display for sale, but nobody tells you to get up if you need to rest a spell. The Pro Bass Shops Pyramid is just a fun place to go, something unusual that might leave you asking, What was I thinking? How safe is that glass deck, really? 

Linda Sawyer