I have been to Nashville once before…I think I was 13 years old. I went with my Aunt and Uncle and we stayed at a KOA campground. I was far too young to appreciate everything that we saw in Nashville, but I do remember falling in mad love with the garbage guy at the campground…..he pledged undying love and it lasted all day…right up until we pulled out of the campground the next morning….I never heard from Jerry again….oh the pain of teenage love lost.
Okay… back to this trip. We headed out of our motel in Kentucky (I really don’t remember where), and pointed the bike towards Nashville. Spirits were high for several reasons: 1: its Nashville 2: its Nashville 3: we were springing for a real hotel room. May not seem like much to many of you, but when you are staying within the budget and the only criteria for the room is cost, bed, toilet….and a modicum of cleanliness….well, now you know why I was excited for the hotel room upgrade.
Since we didn’t have far to travel that day we took alot of backroads to take in the gorgeous scenery. The first sight we saw that caused us to pull over was the Jim Bean Distillery. We were still doing that damn bourbon trail and this monolith was hard to not see.
The Jim Beam Distillery is in Happy Hollow (of course it is) in Clermont, Kentucky. The distillery has been around since 1795 and although it is owned by a Corporation, the Master Distiller is still a member of the Beam family. We didn’t get to have a tour because we arrived at a shift change for the employees and damn near got run over as they exited. It is a massive distillery so I can see the need for so many employees.
We kept heading South/West and came across a very different looking accommodation. The Wigwam Village Inn. And what a sight it was. This is considered a motel right in Cave City, Kentucky. It was built in 1937 and is a series of concrete teepees, each with the original hickory and cane furnishings. They are telephone free (how quaint is that?), sleep 2-4 guests and offer coffee makers and cable..shangrila. There is a a play area for the kids and some barbeque grills for the chefs. It was gitchy and I wished we had stayed there. Maybe another time.
On the road again we have a great ride all the way to Nashville. We head straight for the downtown and check into a beautiful room at the Sheraton. It was time to hit the showers (I remember how fabulous that felt), get dressed and head out to see the sights of the Country Music Capital on Broadway Avenue.
Now I don’t recall the exact order that we visited the places I am about to share with you but after staying two nights in Nashville how could I possibly remember.
Tootsies Orchid Lounge is a hot spot…Orchid colored on the outside, this icon is always packed. Tootsies is the long standing watering hole for Nashvilles hit makers, Opry icons and up and coming artists. I didn’t know there was an upstairs bar until the second night. Seems it was the entry through a back door for many stars looking for a little drinky poo before they took to the stage at the Ryman Theatre, which is just across the street from that secret back door. I also signed and left a Canadian $5.00 bill on the wall behind the bar…because that just what you do at Tootsies.
Coyote Ugly has a bar there too….of course I had to go in. It wasn’t anything fancy but it sure was fun. Spent some time chatting with a nice couple and then…they asked for ladies to get on the bar and hoola hoop. Of course I hopped right up…well it was more of a calculated climb not a hop…and proudly swung hoop to represent Canada proud. I have no idea who won or if it was even a contest, but I came away with a t-shirt, alot of laughs and a great memory. There are no other pictures to post from this bar….hard to hula hoop and take a selfie at the same time.
I did end up in other honkey tonks and bars and restaurants, but I really don’t remember which ones. This trip was done in 2010 and I was too excited to journal anything.
I did end up in the Country Music Hall of Fame and it was amazing to see the guitars and outfits from many of the original Stars of Country Music. It made me think alot of my Dad because he was always playing these oldie goldies on the record player or radio and I remember those moments fondly.
I took a backstage tour of the Ryman Auditorium. This was the home of the Grand Ole Oprey from 1943- 1974. The acoustics are unbeatable. Was able to see the dressing rooms of the Stars and of course, saw the backdoor that leads across the lane to Tootsies (remember what I told you earlier?).
After a few days of exploring this beautiful downtown, it was time to head to another distillery, the infamous Jack Daniels. We traveled South on the back roads towards Lynchburg where the distillery is located. I do recall going through Shelbyville which I remember because of all of the Tennessee walking horses that were on the farms there. That is what Shelbyville is known for. I wanted to stop and hang out with all of them.
At last we reach the Jack Daniels Distillery and pull in….cars go to the left and bikes go to the right. Well, the parking lot for the bikes was covered with pea gravel. Now if you haven’t been on a bike, you wouldn’t know that riding on any type of gravel can be precarious. Pea gravel is tiny, the size of a pea, and is very smooth in texture. This is not great for riding a bike on. We were going very slowly to find a spot to park when…all of a sudden the bike started tipping over to the right. It happened slowly enough that I put my right foot down on the ground and stepped off and my riding partner straightened the bike back upright. It wasn’t much of an event but it was a memorable moment. I thought I understood what a bike tipping over was like…not too bad….I would find out differently in Kansas….but that is an upcoming blog.
The Jack Daniels Distillery tour is interesting. Located in Moore County, which is a dry county (liquor is prohibited from being sold), the distillery has been there since 1884. Jack learned how to distill alcohol from a local preacher who also was a backwoods moonshine distiller Jack eventually purchased the land from the preacher and this is the site where JD is made to this day, appropriately named Stillhouse Hollow. The product is made with natural spring water right on the property. Fun facts about Jack Daniels: 1: the Old #7 branding on the bottles refers to the original registration number assigned by the government to the distillery 2: Jack died in 1911 due to blood poisoning in his toe after getting mad (I’d be mad if I lived in a dry county !), and kicking the safe in his office, which he always forgot the combination to. 3: All employees, who attend work without missing their shifts each month, get a free bottle of JD as part of their pay…needless to say, no one misses much work and everyone is at work on that payday. I may apply to work there one day just for that perk.
The next stop to be made is a visit to the gravesite of Jack himself. It is customary to have a little sip of JD while you visit him….so always one to get into local customs and culture…out came our flasks and a small toast was made.
Now that we had the distillery tours we wanted to do under our belt we headed towards Memphis.
Now I am going to add a little story here. I honestly don’t recall where this happened, but I know that it happened and it happened on this trip.
We stopped for some gas at a little one street town, very back woods nothing really happening place. I stayed outside with the bike and my partner went in to pay and to ask if there was any sights to see in the area. He came back to the bike and said the lovely young lady at the cash when asked what was down the road and over the bridge told him.. ” I, don’t know whats over the bridge”. When he asked why she calmly said, “I ain’t got no cause to go over that bridge”. Fair enough. Now i was even more curious what could be over that bridge.
Upon crossing the bridge, we came across some signs that stated a historical site was only 5 miles away…perfect. Next sign said 4 miles…logical…Next was three miles followed shortly by 2 miles. At the one mile marker we were looking for the pulloff…and we found it…and drove right past it…why? Because the sign for the turn off said..Historical Obliesk..0.00 miles…What kind of mileage marker is that …albeit an accurate one. Well, you can’t get more specific than that. So we turned the bike around and headed back to the turnoff, which we made this time and parked the bike. Within seconds a pickup truck pulls in and out comes a wonderful elderly man with his cane. He comes over to welcome us, walking slowly, obviously needing his cane, and takes us into what he says is a civil war home, restored. Now this town is also a one street town that seldom if ever has visitors from Canada ( guess they didn’t cross the bridge). So he is excited to give us this tour and we oblige. The house was really just an old farm house, with a few antiques in each room. He takes us to a library which has a table strewn with books and pamphlets. He immediately begins to gather them to give to us and we decline, but say we will leave a donation in the donation box anyway. In goes a bill, and I don’t think it even hit the bottom of the box, when our tour guide grabs the rotary phone and dials up Mary. He says…”Mary, we got a doooonation. Somebody put a doooonation in the dooooonation box. You gotta come and get it”. We were laughing so hard…it was so cute and so amazing that this was likely the first doooonation they had ever received…and I spelled donation that way because that is how he said it.
Next we go outside, are shown the mock up of the civil war campsite and then…..in comes a gentleman on a …golf cart. Introductions are made and our tour guide then points to the obliesk…a tall white pillar set across a field in a beautiful grove of trees. We walked towards the field and realized how far off it was, and figured we didn’t really have time to hoof it out there and back and still make it to Memphis. Our tour guide kindly asked golf cart guy if he would give us a ride out….and golf cart guy said he didn’t have time cos he was headed to services at the local church…they started at noon….it was 10:00 am….I feel that he was going there by golf cart but didn’t ask. As a note, when we were looking at the obliesk over to my right was a small hill, which was giving me the creeps. When I looked closer I could see the cannon barrels from the war buried in the hillside, pointing right out at the field. It made me envision how soldiers had died on that field and we came to find out that the obliesk was built as a memorial to those that had fallen there, from all over the USA. It was interesting for sure. As we walked back to the bike to bid farewell, golf cart guy was talking to my partner, and our guide asked me if I wanted to see his peach tree. Raised to respect my elders, I said sure, and he gently placed his hand on my butt, picked up his cane and we put it into high gear over to the peach tree. I complimented the peaches, the hand on my butt was removed and we said out goodbyes. As a note we did find out later that Mary is the editor of the local newspaper, so I am sure when she came to collect the dooooonation, tour guide gave her the scoop of a lifetime. I just love small towns and impromptu adventures.
So now on our way to Memphis we drive through the top of Alabama, and Mississippi and land back into Tennessee. We decide to stop for a quick drink and end up at Fat Babys Bar. I think that it was a bikers’ bar….at least it sure felt that way. We ordered our beer, were asked to join a few folks at a table, which we did, and when it became evident they were trying to separate us, we politely, yet quickly chugged our brews and got on the bike.
We never travelled at night…a little dangerous on a bike what with cars not really seeing you and animals running out of the bush onto the road. We had taken so much time today that we found ourselves heading into Memphis in the dark. The folks at Fat Babys did tell us the name of a place to eat, which we became thankful for since we were hungry and needed to book a room. We got the room booked and our bellies full and then headed to our hotel room. I will note that we were told at the restaurant to be careful where we went due to the high crime rate of the city.
We drove to the address of the hotel….and it was not there. Physically, the hotel was not there. We called the hotel and were told the exact same address, but then she added that they had just changed the name of the hotel, but yep, that was it right where we were. As we went to check in, we realized we were right beside a police station. There had to be at least 40 – 50 police cars in their parking lot….I have never seen anything like it. We also noticed that there were bars on all windows, on every house, on every floor, and on the police station. Being so tired we decided to just hunker down for the night and check things out in the day light.
After good a nights sleep, we load up to find a place for breakfast. While there we realize that Graceland is right here, and how could we not go see it. I had no idea what to expect and I was blown away on many levels.
Graceland is separated into two parts: one is the parking lot and museum where you can see his cars (the Pink Cadilac) and airplane ( you can go on the Lisa Marie) and numerous costumes and guitars of Elvis. Its really big and so fun to be reminded of his music and movies. Once you are done in the museum, you board a shuttle bus to cross the street and head over for a guided tour of Graceland the house. Yes, I stood in the Jungle room, and yes it is all original furnishings, colors, wallpaper (yikes), music room with 8 tracks and all. Once you exit you realize it is a farm (14 acres) as there are barns and were horses. Then you walk over to the graves in the Meditation Garden…and for some reason, I couldn’t help but cry. There is a real sense of sadness at the graves as Elvis is buried there with his family. Definitely a memorable place to visit.
Well with Memphis under our belt, we decide to move onward. We are heading to Arkansas and let me just say…..things only get more interesting.
As a disclaimer the photos of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Keith Urban were not taken by me. I merely wanted to illustrate the importance and reverance of that stage to Country Music.
Life your life….Jan