Nashville: Blues, Bikes, & BBQ
By the time I arrived in Nashville, I was museumed-out and barely had the energy to make it through the Country Music Hall of Fame. I'm not a country music fan so I was content breezing through the museum, which was very well designed and interesting even for a non-country fan. I listened to original recordings of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and snapped shots of Elvis's "Solid Gold" Cadillac limousine. My Saturday afternoon was spent wandering along bustling Broadway, where bar after bar, each prominently displaying a "no guns allowed" sign, offered live blues, country, and rock. Every 20 minutes or so, a bachelorette party on a "pedal tavern" would ride by, casually pedaling as they sipped beer and belted out songs like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun".
Friends suggested I visit the Belle Meade Plantation, a mansion and thoroughbred horse breeding operation once run by one of the largest slaveholders in Nashville. The plantation allows guests to visit the dairy, horse stable, carriage house, mausoleum, gardens, and a log cabin. It also highlights the everyday lives of enslaved people on the plantation and tells some stories through their eyes. That afternoon, I headed to the gorgeous, 132-acre Centennial Park, featuring walking trails, a lake, gardens, and the Parthenon, a full scale replica of the original Greek masterpiece in Athens. The re-creation also includes a 42-foot statue of Athena, just as it was in ancient Greece, and several art and historical galleries.
Local friends were very proud of Nashville's strong musical history and explained that the bar is so high in Nashville that even the diviest hole-in-the-wall bar will have an amazing live band. Per the suggestion of my hosts, I headed to The Station Inn, regarded by many (including Frommers Travel Guides) as having the best bluegrass around. Each Sunday, The Station Inn hosts a free Bluegrass Jam from 7-11pm. On the night I visited, a dozen intensely talented musicians took the stage, including a couple young ladies that looked middle-school and high-school aged. On Tuesday night, I tried to go line dancing at the Wildhorse Saloon but it was closed for a private event so I headed to Hotel Indigo, which hosts a free "Bluesday Tuesday" artist in their bar and restaurant. On the night I visited a tall, young man with blonde hair and a deeply soulful voice belted out classic blues hits and modern pop songs remixed in the blues style.
I had planned to rent a car to visit the Jack Daniels Distillery (located in a dry county!), the Grand Ole Opry, "The Show That Made Country Famous" and the Cumberland Caverns, 32 miles of caves, underground waterfalls, and Bluegrass Underground, a concert recorded 333 feet underground inside the caves! Unfortunately, I had forgotten my drivers license in NYC and couldn't find a travel buddy on Craigslist so I spent four days biking to just about every neighborhood in Nashville. I hit 145 miles ridden that week and was grateful to refuel with excellent vegan food at The Wild Cow and Sunflower Cafe. Nashville has a beautiful waterfront bike path and good signage along the "Music City Bikeway" that goes around the city, through public parks, and across the winding Cumberland River. I rode through the gorgeous Shelby Park and trendy East Nashville, and through beautiful but massively hilly Percy Warner Park, which completely lacked maps and signage. Have GPS with you unless you want to find yourself climbing up a series of 500 feet hills!
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Cincinnati: The Queen City details my adventures in Cinncinati, and biking around Covington and Newport Kentucky, quaint cities along the Ohio River.
Kentucky: Lousiville Slugges, Mohammed Ali, & Daniel Boone details my adventures exploring rural Kentucky before heading to the big city for some art, culture and (more!) biking.