Tennessee

We have been to Memphis before (for a marathon) and visited many of the sites then (like Graceland, BB Kings on Beale) but not in such warm weather.   From the Visitor’s Center, we walked the pedestrian overpass to Mud River Park where they have a scale replica of the Mississippi siting historic spots and purposes. You could actually “walk in the river” as you went along – very cooling. We checked out the new Bass Pro Shop located in a glass pyramid building on the river; lots of “outdoorsy” settings and even has a hotel and restaurant. We parked downtown and walked the promenade enjoying some Maggie Moo’s ice cream for lunch. The salted caramel “was out of this world” says Fran.

We moved Tigger to avoid paying more for parking and then walked to Beale Street around 6. We found a place playing good live blues and sat for dinner and drinks on the sidewalk patio. Unbeknownst to us, being Wednesday, it was Biker Night and hundreds of motorcycles took over the three blocks of the pedestrian part of Beale. It kinda drowned out the music a lot of the time but made for some great people watching entertainment.

We drove a longer day than we’d like on Thursday: Memphis to Nashville (just over 200 miles with not anyplace really worth stopping enroute). We did take a break in the town of Huntington for a stretch and a walk, then New Johnsonville on the lake for our lunch and then in Dickson for some wifi before making it to Nashville late in the afternoon. We had tried to get tickets for the Bluebird Café for tonight but only one was available so we decided to get there an hour before the doors opened to see if we could get in via the queue for unticketed seats. The Bluebird Cafe is one of the world’s preeminent listening rooms and the venue has gained worldwide recognition as a songwriter’s performance space where the “heroes behind the hits” perform their own songs – not only country ones.  It’s located in a small strip mall outside of downtown and seats only 90. Performers sit “in the round” in the middle of the room and take turns signing. Over the past few years, it’s been featured in the TV show Nashville. Tonight’s performance was from a number of the finalists of the USA Songwriting Competition. The doors were to open at 5 for the 6pm show and we got there about 4:10. Fran got in line as it looked like only about a dozen people so chances looked good. Doug went to park Tigger (not an easy task in that area) and we were patrons number 14 and 15 so we got in and were seated in “Pew One’. The first ten unticketed get seats at the bar and the next get ten get pew seats. The other 70 people get actual tables and chairs.

We were not really sure what to expect and were actually thinking we might sneak out if it was not enjoyable but we were more than pleasantly surprised at the performances, the excellent creative songwriting and the intimacy of the venue. We would call this a must do in Nashville. There was actually no cover charge for this performance other than a $7 minimum spend per customer. We thoroughly enjoyed it and since it was the early show, we had time for a walk before calling it a night. It made the long driving day worthwhile.

Friday we spent the day walking in “Music City”. It was very warm – up into the 90’s but there was a breeze off the river.  We walked all over: State capitol, farmers market, Bicentennial State Park, down along the river, a pedestrian bridge over the river, checked out GooGoo candies (a Tennessee treat), checked out a few infamous honky tonks: Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Honky Tonk Central, wandered Broadway and took a self guided tour of the national historic landmark, The Ryman which was the home of the Grand Ole Opry for many, many years. That was very interesting. It was nice to stop into air conditioned buildings periodically. After all that we actually drove out to the old Opryland site (no longer a theme park) and viewed the present day Grand Ole Opry building but the tour was pricy so we passed. It was a well spent day with little driving.

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