I’m in Nashville, TN – Music City. As I type, appropriately, I can hear a live band. Not too loud, as they’re across the street, nor is it an issue, as it’s only 21:30 as I start to type this. In truth, the air conditioning is louder. It’s just, y’know, appropriate.
As usual, here’s the story….
An early start in readiness to go and get the car. An early ‘disaster’ too, as I manoeuvred my big bag into the lift, it tipped over under its own momentum and as I hung on to the handle, it came away in my hand. So much for a lifetime guarantee – though I guess I’ve pushed it well beyond its normal limits? As least now I know I’ve got to replace it between here and Boston. Having broken it, I temporarily abandoned it as I set off to get the car. The, by now, familiar walk to Union Station and the MetroLink light rail stop and a $2.75 ticket to the airport. It may not be quite the stunningly good value of Austin, but it’s still right up there.
The transfer from Metro via parking lot to shuttle bus and rental office made me very grateful I’d decided to do it this way; collecting bags later. I’d be getting very stressed by now if I were ‘trundling’. As it was, it all went swimmingly. National sorted me out, but again I was left with the nagging feeling I’ve paid twice, though I’m assured Expedia collect the ‘base rental’ and the local office collect taxes and fees (e.g. the one-way fee). Mmmm, we’ll see when I sit down and tot it all up. I was sent out to the lot to select my own ‘intermediate’ car. Somehow, despite the fact I’m sure it ought to be classed as a compact, I went with a silver VW Golf. It just seemed, er, ‘right’.
Rather than head straight back to the hotel to get my bags, I had a little errand to run at the St. Louis Galleria – and it involved the Apple Store there. Yet again I’ve managed to ‘lose’ something – this time the ‘lightning’ cable for my iPad. I’m sure I left it on the bed at Austin, my excuse for this particular buffoonery being that it was camouflaged on the sheets when I did my last check around. Yet again I have to say; D’oh. Oh well, another $19 toward Apple’s profits.
Having sorted that, (and topped up my US iTunes account with a ‘gift’ card), I consoled myself with breakfast in the form of a blueberry muffin and obligatory caffeine infusion at, guess where….
Back to the hotel to get my bags then on the road for real. Both legs of the route were guided by Siri. A couple of closed ‘ramps’ due to construction lead to some detours, but the system coped without any fluster. Actually, i did have a pretty major flutter after I’d left the hotel. Siri guided me east on Market Street, left onto N 20th Street, and after just two blocks, left onto Pine Street, a one way street headed west. So far so good. Then it was a left turn onto the ramp for I-64/US-40 into Illinois. I made the left turn, and granted, I was in the left lane as it was a ‘ramp’. See, this Google Streetview…
… Image my shock, therefore, when there was a car coming toward me with its horn blaring. I’ve no clue what it was, or what was going on. My immediate reaction was, ‘oh ****’, what have I done wrong!? It is only now, having looked at the map and SteetView, that I’m now sure that the other guy was going the wrong way on the ramp. PHEW – not least as we obviously managed to avoid each other.
The next ten minutes were a bit of a nervous time – had I lost my marbles? That coincided with a drive past Busch Stadium, over the Mississippi, into Illinois and East St. Louis. Although I knew this journey was, of necessity, about getting from A to B, I was determined to minimise Interstate driving. Therefore I chose to follow IL Rt. 3 along the east bank of the Mississippi, heading south east. Apple Maps/Siri did throw a bit of a wobbler at a place called Cahokia, as it seemed somehow convinced a bridge didn’t exist, sending me on a minor detour. No great worries though.
I followed Rt. 3 southwards, stopping at Horseshoe Lake for a ‘sub and chips’ from a garage, before reaching the town of Cairo (immediately preceded by small settlement regaling in the name Future City). Although this route follows the mighty Mississippi river, because of the huge levee that track it, there wasn’t much of a view of the river. An exception to that cropped up at Thebes where a ‘scenic overlook’ was signposted off the main road…
Cairo was an interesting town, though what I observed was done so while still on the move. As I mentioned yesterday, observed from the train, there seems to be an awful lot of empty, derelict, or simply abandoned property – mostly commercial premises. Anyone who suggests America is not in recession should visit Cairo for a reality check. I also get the impression that whereas there’s an economic imperative to demolish unwanted commercial property in the UK (to avoid paying rates), the opposite seems to apply here? Even if in such a decrepit state as it cannot possibly be used again, a building in the US just seems to be left to rot?
Cairo also marks the point where the mighty Mississippi River is joined by the, at this point at least, even mightier Ohio River. My route, Rt 51, took me over the Ohio just before its confluence with the Mississippi, and it was a pretty impressive bridge over which I travelled.
This took me into Kentucky, southwards first to Arlington, then east to Mayfield with several little villages in between, interspersed with fields of corn (maize) and, notably, lots & lots of churches of every denomination. Continuing eastwards, the tourist industry showed its face again with the Land Between The Lakes Recreational Area. The ‘lakes’ in question are actually two spurs of the Tennessee River as it flows north, into the Ohio. Again, a brace of impressive, if somewhat narrow(!) cantilever bridges to cross each stretch of water.
Beyond the town of Cadiz, I joined I-24 south, and basically blitzed it south. At the State Line, entering Tennessee, I pulled off into the rest area and state Welcome Center. As well as availing myself of the facilities, I grabbed some leaflets and the modern equivalents of the Exit Information Guide to see if any motel vouchers might help. In the end, despite a lot of head scratching and map browsing, what I did was stick a pin in a motel in a conveniently located position and got Siri to guide me there. The problem I faced was I couldn’t reconcile the distinction between ‘Downtown’ and the entertainment district. The random hotel was the Comfort Inn on Demonbruen Street – which has turned out to be a good compromise.
It took me another 50 minutes to get to Nashville, and Siri did a belting job of getting me through the traffic.
At the Comfort Inn, I went in to enquire about a room, and sure enough, the rate they quoted was within the range I anticipated, so that’s where I am. Once checked-in and car disposed of (350 miles for the day), I set off on foot. Again, I didn’t (and in truth, still don’t) get what is where about “Nashville” – and I deliberately use quote marks… what IS Nashville to you? My wandering first took me to an area called The Gulch. Several bars, including a few with a seemingly ‘official’ sign outside proclaiming them as Live Music Venues.
Also in this area, the Yazoo Beer Company has its brewery and tap room. When I found it, I was quite taken by the place, very similar to the Denver Brewing Company. My hopes were dashed, however, when I was informed they were just closing – it was 18:15. Er, …OK?
Back past the hotel, along Division Street (which sounded vaguely familiar – or am I thinning of a Pink Floyd album) toward “Music Row”. Turns out, even this is a red herring, as it seems to be formed of music company offices and recording studios? I walked past one bar in which a guy was performing, though the lyric I caught made me wonder… “Jesus was a rebel. And so am I.” On West End Avenue (and with a little help from a “Craft Beer Nashville” Google search) I found myself at Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery. Bees sampled were — note that they list strength by ‘original gravity’ rather than the more usual Alcohol By Volume; St Charles Porter 1056og, APA (American Pale Ale) 1049og, Nut Brown Ale 1052og & Black Gold 1046og. That all washed down an unusual (in more ways than one) Shepherds Pie preceded by a Cesar Salad (see what I mean by ‘unusual’!?).
I found a slightly different route back toward the hotel, watching Division Street come to life as darkness fell (partly due to some ominous thunder clouds to the north). Back on Demonbruen Street, I explored where the live band was performing. This seemed to be a special open air concert and there was a cover fee to get in, so I checked out the bar next door. The Tin Roof would have you believe it is a local institution, but I suspect that applies to ALL the bars around here. It’s a fun pub but it served local craft beer. I went for a Black Stone Nut Brown. It cost $4.25 which I paid for in csh with $5, but change was NOT offered!! Oh, and the beer was served in plastic cup. One did me, and after pausing briefly to watch the band next door, I crossed back over to the hotel, and here we are….
Onwards into Georgia tomorrow.