Sunday, May 6, 2012

Days 2 - 3: Detours Through Tennessee (Nashville, Hendersonville, Lynchburg)

I somehow deleted the original post on our adventures through Tennessee, so here is my attempt to re-create it.  Unfortunately, it won't be as inspired as it was a few days ago.

Nashville, Tennessee has been a routine stop-over for us on our way from Kansas City to Alabama to see our folks, so we have enjoyed many great aspects of Nashville in the past.  Here are some of the experiences we recommend in Nashville.

  • You don't have to be a country music fan to be impressed by all the musical talent in Nashville.  Listen to good quality music, any time of the day, at any of the bars in downtown Nashville.  We always visit the famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge where it all started for many country stars.  
  • We have had the privilege of attending a televised performance of Grand Ole Opry in the original Ryman Auditorium instead of at the new auditorium in which the show has moved to.  The history of this place was palpable in this auditorium as we sat in the wooden church pews, listening to the parade of country stars.  
  • One of our highlights in Nashville was being just a few feet away from the singer/songwriter, Jeffrey Steele, and listening to him play for hours and hours at the Bluebird Cafe - a small, intimate venue where many, many country stars and chart-topping songwriters have made their mark at this unassuming place.  
  • A stroll through the magnificent Gaylord Opryland Hotel is also entertaining.  An entire southern themed park with a real river, shopping, and restaurants has been built inside this space.
  • We also visited the famous Loveless Cafe and Motel south of town.  A previous post on my other foodie website, The Red Sink, describes our experience.  
One attraction we have not been able to get to in the past is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  While passing through Nashville, we usually do not get into town until later in the evening when the museum is already closed. However, with our new sabbatical "schedule", we found ourselves with plenty of time to visit the museum!  It is centrally located downtown, in walking distance from all the action.  After paying $18/per adult (with AAA discount; $20/per adult without discount), it took us approximately 2 hours to peruse the museum without stopping at every single display and plaque.  We thought the museum did a nice job of describing the origins and history of country music, highlighting key contributors that have made the music what it is today; although, Mike noticed there were some outlaw country stars who were conspicuously missing from the museum entirely.  :)   The museum tour ended by opening up into the actual Hall of Fame rotunda - a very impressive space.  

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville, TN
Country Music Hall of Fame Rotunda, Nashville, TN
Afterwards, we headed to Broadway Street for some drinks and music at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.  Since being in Nashville 6 months ago, it was exciting to notice a lot of new bars and restaurants along the main street full of people enjoying a Thursday evening.

Broadway Street and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Nashville, TN
Our personal tour guide through Hendersonville, TN!
That evening, we stayed at a friend's house in Hendersonville, Tennessee, a beautiful suburb northeast of Nashville surrounding Old Hickory Lake.  What makes Hendersonville interesting is that our friend grew up in this lake town with neighbors such as George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Earl Scruggs, Roy Acuff, Lester Flats, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash.  His mother would drop him off at Johnny Cash's house down the street, to be taken to school with the Cash kids.  He received a birthday card from his next door neighbor, Earl Scruggs, every year until he passed away.  His sister still owns a Bible given to her by June Carter Cash.  He gave us a personal neighborhood tour of Hendersonville, pointing out the famous homes and its country star owners.  We stopped to ponder the empty lot that was formerly Johnny Cash's home before it burned down during a renovation.  This was an incredible experience, and what great stories and memories his family must have.  

Johnny Cash's former property, Hendersonville, TN
Another place we have always wanted to visit, but haven't had the time - until now - is the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, TN.  Again, finding ourselves with plenty of time with nowhere to go, we headed approximately 1.5 hours southwest through beautiful country roads towards Lynchburg, Tennessee.  

Jack Daniels' Distillery, Lynchburg, TN
We immediately headed to the Distillery for the hour-long free tour.  They are offered throughout the day from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm.  Others had the same idea, as we saw many out-of-state license plates in the parking lot, and several foreigners in the tour groups as well.  Jack Daniel's is a true international destination spot!  The tour took us through approximately 1/2 mile of walking around the property through the Rick Yard where they make their own charcoal from pallets of sugar maple; the famous limestone caves in which the pure spring water that comes out of the caves continue to be an integral ingredient of the whiskey; and the original J.D. office building from the 1800s - a small rickety white house.  We then went up and down many stairs through the production facilities and bottling lines, ending with the Barrel House where we were engulfed with sweet whiskey fumes!   

Many of you may already know that Lynchburg sits in Moore County, a dry county.  The irony is not lost in the fact that we cannot purchase Jack Daniel's anywhere near the distillery, except for some commemorative bottles sold in the gift store after special legislation was passed to be allowed to do so.  Therefore, no samples of Jack at the end of the tour, no shots of whiskey in any of the restaurants around town, no liquor stores capitalizing on its famous neighbor anywhere in Moore County.  However, we are pleased to report that the 400+ employees looked very happy that day because it was the first Friday of the month where each employee receives a free pint of J.D. to do what please with it.  Nice perks.  

Town of Lynchburg, TN

After the tour, we walked over to the Lynchburg town square, a cute little square full of shops and restaurants.  If at all possible, we prefer to send postcards from the origin in which we purchased the postcards.  Conveniently, there was a post office right in the town square.  Not so conveniently, the post office is CLOSED DAILY from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm for lunch.  Not only was the post office closed, but several of the other retail outlets were closed for a long lunch as well.  I immediately thought of Europe's siesta hours, and I thought, why not?  How nice to be able to take a long break in the middle of the day.  We parked ourselves on a bench in the town square, watched the world go by, and waited for 2:30 pm to come along.  Might as well....what else do we have to do?  Nothing.

Siesta hours at the Lynchburg Post Office
Mike, Lynchburg, TN