Tag Archives: Rendezvous

The Tennessee Bucket List

29 Mar

We spent Saturday afternoon roaming around Nashville. We ate lunch on the patio at Burger Republic and played around at Centennial Park. In between, we browsed through some shops. It was while browsing that I found a book called The Tennessee Bucket List: 100 Ways to Have a Real Tennessee Experience. Actually, it only lists 99 ways because the last one is something that a writer would put in there when he could not think of anything else to add.

Anyway, I bought the book because I wanted to know how many of these I had done. Heck, I have lived in Tennessee my entire life. I must have done most of them. Also, buying the book meant I could write a blog post.

Here goes the list of my real Tennessee experience.

See a Show at the Grand Ole Opry – I have seen the Opry at the Opry House and at the Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to a former student my wife and I were lucky enough to see the Opry backstage at the Ryman. She got her picture with Riders in the Sky.

Behold the Beauty of a Tennessee Walker – We have had box seats at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration since I was a kid. Most people go to Shelbyville for the horses. I go for the donuts.

Watch a NASCAR Race – Actually, I have been to a NASCAR race in Alabama. I will be at the Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in the Fall, and that will be for a football game.

Sip Moonshine – Everyone has done this, right?

Wander the District – You cannot have the full Nashville experience without going to this part of town.

Explore a King’s Mansion – The TV Room is my favorite part of Graceland. The Outlaw Josey Wales is playing all of the time.

There are three tv's. I left out the one showing the trivia answer.

Be a Part of an Archaeological Dig – I am not sure how much digging is done in Tennessee, but there was once a dig on my family’s farm.

See a Civl War Reenactment – The dad of one of my friends took me to a reenactment of the Battle of Stones River. It was surreal to see people pretend that they were living in the past.

Enjoy a Goo Goo Cluster – You have not had candy until you have had a Goo Goo.

See Seven States at the Same Time – Rock City is an old-time roadside attraction that has survived into the 21st Century. If you are near Chattanooga, then you have to, as the barn roofs say, See Rock City.

Take a Walk Down Music Row – You may not see a famous person, but you will pass buildings where awesome music has been created.

Walk the Field at Shiloh – Almost 110,000 Americans fought on this land. There were more casualties in this battle than in all of America’s previous wars combined. It is a haunting place.

Explore Cades Cove – When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed, land was taken from people who had lived in the mountains for years. This community has been preserved in its rustic state.

Stroll Down Beale Street – The Blues was not born in Memphis, but this is where the great Bluesmen gained fame.

See the Sunsphere – In 1982, the World’s Fair was held in Knoxville. It is the last World’s Fair to make a profit, but the Sunsphere is all that is left.

Buy a Pair of Boots – I admit that I have done it.

Stand in the Footsteps of History – Everyone should visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. A few years ago, I took my family.

Explore the Titanic – Yep, the Titanic is in Tennessee. Specifically, it is in Pigeon Forge. It sounds strange, but it is an awesome museum.

See a Shark – Yep, sharks are in Tennessee. Specifically, they are at an aquarium in Gatlinburg, which is down the road from Pigeon Forge.

Hear Al Green Preach – I am cheating on this one. I have never heard Al Green preach, but I have heard him sing.

Visit Franklin on Foot – Downtown Franklin is a great place to visit. The city has found the right combination of preservation and enterprise.

Behold the Statue of Athena – Actually, we saw this on the same day I bought the book. Nashville has the Parthenon because it used to be known as the Athens of the South. Inside the Parthenon stands Athena.image-10

Strum a Guitar – Everyone has done this, right?

See a College Football Game – I have seen games at Neyland Stadium, Dudley Field, Nissan Stadium, the Liberty Bowl and Cumberland University’s Nokes-Lasater Field. However, the coolest one was Chamberlain Field in Chattanooga, which opened in 1908. When it closed, it was the second oldest college football stadium in the country.

Play Miniature Golf – It is one of my favorite things to do. The best place to do it? Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg.

Spend the Afternoon Shopping – The book talks about Opry Mills. However, the Mall at Green Hills is the best.

Savor a MoonPie – It is an awesome snack, but it is best paired with a RC Cola.

Visit the Grave of Meriwether Lewis – This is the Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. He met a mysterious end in a tavern along the Natchez Trace.

See a Bear in the Woods – I saw a bear with her cubs at Cades Cove. Luckily, I did not end up like Leo DiCaprio.

Go Line Dancing – Everyone has done this, right?

Spend a Day at Dollywood – I have been to Dollywood after it was called Dollywood. I have also been there when it was called Silver Dollar City. I have also been there when it was called Gold Rush Junction.

Watch the Marching of the Ducks – The Peabody Hotel in Memphis is a nice hotel. It is also the home of some cool ducks.

Go Whitewater Rafting – Everyone has done this, right?

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame – We try to go there each time they open a new exhibit. It is a great museum

Explore Market Square – This is a part of downtown Knoxville with a lot of cool restaurants and shops.

Pig Out of Memphis-Style Barbecue – Nashville people do not like to give Memphis credit for anything. However, they are tops when it comes to barbecue. Go to Rendezvous.

See an Eagle – A few wild ones can be seen around here.

Discover the Mighty Mississippi – At times, I have just sat and watched it flow by.

Ride a Sky Lift – For years, it has been a Gatlinburg landmark. Everyone has to ride it at least once.

Visit the Jack Daniels Distillery – Jack Daniels is produced in Lynchburg, which sits in a dry county. You cannot buy alcohol where the most famous whiskey is made.

Sit in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” Courtroom – One of my greatest moments as an educator was talking about the Scopes Trial in the courtroom. It is worth a visit to Dayton.

Sing “Rocky Top” – I have sung it thousands of times at the top of my lungs. However, I cannot bring myself to sing the “WOO” part.

Tour a Plantation – They are everywhere.

See a Lady Vols Basketball Game – I have seen a bunch of games and seen a bunch of victories. However, it is not the same without Pat Summitt.

Tour the Home of a U.S. President – There are three. I have seen two. Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk.

Ascend the Space Needle – It is a ride high over Gatlinburg.

See a Titans Game – I have done this a bunch. It was fun when they were winning. These days, it is not as much fun.

Cheer on the South (or North) – When I went to the Dixie Stampede, we were late and could only get tickets on the North side. I was told that the North never wins. That night they won.

Take a Riverboat Cruise at Night – Nashville’s General Jackson is a great ride on a Summer night.

Enjoy an Orchestra – We love going to the Nashville Symphony. They are awesome.

Sink Your Teeth into a King Leo Peppermint Stick – I am not crazy about them, but they are a Christmas tradition.

Walk to the Top of Clingman’s Dome – It is Tennessee’s highest point. Just watch out for the fog. They do not call them the Smoky Mountains for nothing.

Listen to a Country Music Concert – Everyone has done this, right?image-11

Visit a Fort – There are forts, but they are not as cool as forts in the American West.

There is my list. I will not write about the things that I have not done. I am sure the author of the book would love for you to buy a copy to see what else is in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey Among Kings

21 Feb

This weekend, my girlfriend and I decided to get away for a few days and took a short trip to Memphis. Ordinarily, this is not a city that ranks high on my agenda of places to visit. However, there were a couple of sites within its confines that I wanted to visit – one place that I had never been to before and another that I have been to numerous times.

We left late on Friday, which meant that we arrived in Memphis, a city with one of the highest crime rates in the nation, after nightfall. I was not comfortable with this prospect and was even less comfortable when we missed our exit. You see, the interstate system is strange in the fact that there are no signs saying “Downtown” or “Beale Street” or anything else that might be familiar. Even a GPS, which we had, leaves questions. Things got worse when we found streets blocked to allow the NBA crowd to get out-of-town. We talked to a couple of policemen who sent us on detours through neighborhoods with blown out windows and people wandering the streets. Finally, we made a turn and happened upon our hotel.

On Saturday morning, we slowly arose and visited the site that I had never been to before, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.

The National Civil Rights Museum

Normally, I am not a fan of museums (strange for a historian I suppose). To me, the places where history happened are a lot more interesting, and that is what made this a place I wanted to see. The Lorraine Motel was the location of one of the great tragedies in American history, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Most people have seen the photographs of him lying on the balcony, so I will not reproduce them here. I will say that powerful emotions emerge when you walk around the corner and see the balcony ahead.

Unfortunately, I did not get the same feelings about the museum. First, there were few authentic artifacts. The struggle of African-Americans from the beginnings of slavery to the assassination was told through photographs, audio and reproductions. I really believe that a story as important as this would be well served to have original pieces of history.

Second, I felt like a Japanese tourist at Pearl Harbor. To explain, when I was last at Pearl Harbor a lot of Japanese tourists were also there. World War II ended a long time ago, and we should be past hard feelings. But, something hit me as I watched them look around, and I thought to myself that they had no business being there. Stupid, I know. As a white person at the location of King’s assassination, I got this feeling that I had no business being there.

Third, it bothered me that the history had been gutted. The Lorraine Motel holds an important and haunting place in our history, but the facade is all that is left. I wish they could have kept more of the building intact. Granted, I have no idea of its condition when the museum was created, but I had the sickening feeling that a historic site had been demolished to build a museum. On the inside, the hotel rooms were recreated, but they were at the edge of a larger room. The sense of history had been erased. The same happened with the building that James Earl Ray fired from. A cramped, dirty boarding house was gutted and opened into a museum loft dedicated to the murder. The one part of history that was not changed and I noticed immediately was the short distance between the two. I never realized how close they were.

When the tour was finished, we had a late lunch at Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous, the most famous barbecue joint in Memphis and one of the most famous in the world. If you are in Memphis take a walk down the alley and head in. You won’t be disappointed. After that, we had drinks in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel and watched the ducks march from the fountain to the elevator on their return to the roof. Don’t know the story of the Peabody ducks? It is something to behold, and the lobby becomes packed when the Duck Master appears.

On Sunday, we got up and headed to a place that I have visited countless times, Graceland.

Graceland

I have written about Elvis Presley before and must say that any fan should take a trip to his house, the second most visited private home in the country. It is an homage to 70s decor and the style of a man whose tastes had few bounds. He had money and would spend it on almost anything outrageous. The Jungle Room is probably the most famous, but the TV Room is my favorite. ALERT! ALERT! TRIVIA QUESTION AHEAD! Can anyone tell me what 70s era movie is always playing in the TV Room? Hint: It’s a western.

There are three tv's. I left out the one showing the trivia answer.

After touring the mansion, the private planes and the other attractions at Graceland, we headed back to Nashville. We both agreed that visiting these sites was a great experience and everyone should make a point to go to each one. They play different roles in our history, but, as we know, all history is important. I have read extensively about both people and the events of their lives, but leave it to my girlfriend to ask questions that I could not answer.

1. Did Elvis Presley and Martin Luther King ever meet? After all, they were contemporaries and two of the most famous southerners in the country.

2. Was Elvis at Graceland the night of King’s assassination? If he was, then he wasn’t too far away. Knowing his fascination with police work, Elvis could very well have been following the events closely.