We’re finally back in town, and boy, has a lot happened over the past two weeks. First …
It’s no secret that I am a very frustrated Californian. Don’t get me wrong; California is spectacular – our mountains, beaches, forests, and even our deserts are simply breathtaking. Our climate is perfect, and it’s hard to find fresher produce, fruit, and nuts. But, and it’s a big one. Our political climate is horrific. Our governor has gone crazy as have most of the legislators. I am aching to join the thousands of others fleeing the Golden State. Since we can’t relocate quite yet, we decided to at least go on vacation.
Before deciding where to go, we looked at all fifty states – we worried about being denied re-entry if we left the country, and then we looked at how “open” each state was. Tennessee checked all of our boxes. The state is completely open, and all of the things we wanted to do welcomed visitors and spectators.
Tennessee State Capitol Building
While I’ve heard about southern hospitality, I’ve never actually been on the receiving end of it. Whether the fine folks in Nashville actually wanted us there or not will forever remain their secret because Tennesseeans are the friendliest people in America. I have never felt so welcomed in my life. Even though it wasn’t actually anyone’s fault, anytime there was a delay or a product was sold out, we were given the most genuine apologies I have ever heard. The people of Nashville clearly wanted us to think well of their city and state, and they went out of their way to make us feel at home. It was so refreshing.
5th and Broadway
The truth is, there wasn’t a single thing that I disliked about Nashville. Every time I turned around I found something else to admire or appreciate. At one point, I told my husband that everything about Nashville was just right. Nothing was too big, too small, too pretentious, or too overwhelming. It was as though the city was truly meant to be lived in like a comfortable pair of sneakers. Some places are meant to be looked at like a fancy piece of glass kept in a curio cabinet. You wouldn’t ever use it, it’s just nice to look at. Not Nashville. I even enjoyed the weather, hot and sticky as it was.
While we were in Nashville, we did most of the things that one should do while there. I am sure we missed a few attractions, but we made up for them by doing unexpected things. We had a hilarious time at the Ryman Auditorium sitting in all of the seats blocked by the pillars used to hold up the balcony. It felt a little sacrilegious to poke fun at the Mother Church of Country Music, but we figured a little goofing off had to have been done there long before us. While the acoustics may be fabulous, not all of the seats are equal.
Best seat in the house?
All joking aside, the Ryman is definitely a must-see while in Nashville. The video shown before you go into the auditorium itself tells the Ryman’s story and left both of us feeling a bit awed by the history that place has been home to. I can see why the place is called the Mother Church.
On the Ryman stage.
We also went to the Friday night performance at the Grand Ole Opry, another fantastic experience. Among other performers, we saw and heard Tommy Emmanuel who is arguably the world’s best guitar player.
Yes, that IS Terry Bradshaw, and the dude can SING!
We visited the Johnny Cash Museum … It was small, a bit over-priced, but still interesting.
He was taller than I expected him to be.
We toured the Corsair Distillery whose home is in the Marathon Motor Works building which also happens to be the home of the Tennessee store of Antique Archeology (American Pickers). When we heard the store is really just a glorified gift shop, we skipped it. After the tour at the distillery, we also did some tasting. Who knew I liked Tennessee whiskey?
Marathon Motor Works Building (dating back to at least 1910)
Unlike anything in California, many of the state museums are free to the public. We walked right into the capitol building and even had a peek into the Governor’s office. The doors to the House of Representatives and Senate were wide open. No one hassled us or assumed we were intent on bringing down the building. We walked around peering at what interested us and never once were we made to feel like we were breaking any laws. California should take a page from Tennessee’s play book.
House of Representatives
Former Supreme Court
On Sunday, we took a drive to Lebanon to watch our first in-person NASCAR race. We’re dedicated fans, but we had never actually been to see a race in person. It was loud, but we knew that. The 40-minute drive to the track ended up taking 3½ hours due to traffic. While it was a bit disappointing, we still made it in time for the green flag to drop. It was also about a billion degrees with 80% humidity, but we enjoyed ourselves even so.
At Nashville Superspeedway
I am a Joey Logano fan, driver of the 22 car.
On our last full day in Nashville, we braved some pretty extreme heat (high 90s with 80% humidity). We walked back to the Capitol building to explore the Mall. It was one of the most beautiful city parks I’ve seen. Everywhere we looked there was something new to see. Each county had a large “seal” laid into the sidewalk describing it and showing its place on the map of Tennessee.
At the end of the park, we came to a large circle of towers. After walking around them for a few minutes trying to figure out what they were, we heard bells begin to chime. We looked up at the towers only to discover that they were actually bell towers. The towers surround the Court of 3 Stars which represents Eastern, Middle and Western Tennessee.
Court of 3 Stars
There is a bell for each of the Volunteer State’s 95 counties. Each quarter hour, the carillon plays a portion of the Tennessee Waltz. At the top of every hour, the 50-tower carillon plays the entire song. A 96th bell on the capitol grounds rings an answer symbolizing the government answering the call of the people. After hearing the bells ring at 10:45, we decided to wander around the park waiting to hear them play their full song. It was a very powerful experience.
The Mall – the Capitol Building is at the top of the hill behind us.
We love to travel and have been to many countries and US states. While I haven’t been to all 50 US states, I think that Tennessee is my favorite. In many ways it reminded me of our nation’s capital. Like DC, Nashville has filled every nook and cranny with symbols of its history. Their willingness to wear their heart on their sleeve made me love the place even more. As we sat eating dinner on our last evening there, I asked my husband if he could see himself living in Tennessee. He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no either.
Tennessee, thank you for a fabulous time. We will be back.