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Tennessee 2015

Last updated January 16, 2016



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six | Day Seven | Day Eight | Day Nine

Tennessee is a place that Norma said she would like to visit. With me taking an interest in country music, bluegrass, and blues over the last 10 years, I figured we would enjoy ourselves. A significant amount of good music comes out of Tennessee. Much of it is about Tennessee or places in that state. Just in my iPod, I have the following songs which mention Tennessee or its cities:
  • "All the Way from Memphis" by Mott the Hoople but I have the Contraband live version
  • "Blue Jeans and a Rosary" by Kid Rock
  • "Copperhead Road" by Steve Earle
  • "Guitar Town" by Steve Earle
  • "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones
  • "Knoxville Courthouse Blues" by Hank Williams Jr.
  • "Knoxville Girl" by the Outlaws
  • "Midnight Ferry" by Kid Rock
  • "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde" by Travis Tritt
  • "Proud Mary" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • "Ramblin' Man" by the Allman Brothers
  • "Rocky Top" by the Osborne Brothers
  • "Shakin' Hands with the Holy Ghost" by Blackberry Smoke
  • "T for Texas" written by Jimmie Rogers but I have the Lynyrd Skynyrd live version
  • "Tennessee Homesick Blues" by Dolly Parton
  • "Truck Drivin' Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

  • To make our trip even more fun, we invited Carmen, thereby making this an official Team SNaCk (Saki, Norma, and Carmen) event.

    Day One, Saturday, December 19, 2015
    Carmen came over the previous evening and spent the night. I was originally planning to bring my Koolatron 12 volt Compact Cooler/Warmer and my yet unused Thule Sidekick but we opted not to, partially because we weren't carrying that much stuff as compared to a trip that requires camping or kayaking gear. I'll save those for another road trip.

    Since we didn't want to carry anything unnecessary, I gave the girls their Christmas gifts: photo albums that I made (Ricketts Glen 2015 for Norma and Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath 2015 for Carmen) along with chicken calendars that I also made. Wife number one also got movie tickets.

    We left in the mid-morning, driving my 2008 Subaru Impreza which I recently had serviced for the big 105k maintenance. This included changing the drive belt, mid-pipe and muffler repair, head gasket replacement (fluid was leaking on my driveway), and front brake resurfacing. It should now have been running smoothly but the power steering was stiff and noisy on tight turns which made me a little stressed.

    By mid-afternoon, we arrived in Johnson City.
    We met at a truckstop
    Johnson City, Tennessee
    I was gassin' up my Firebird
    When I heard her callin' me.
    Said, 'Which way are you headed, boy
    Do you need some company

    - from "Modern Day Bonnie And Clyde" by Travis Tritt

    But unlike Bonnie and Clyde, we were there to see the Natural History Museum - Gray Fossil Site which is part of the East Tennessee State University. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a paleontologist. I am still interested in paleontology and partly because of this, I am glad I live in Maryland where there are many fossils...many dating back to the age of the dinosaurs. But here at the Gray Fossil Site, the prehistoric animals are from a much more recent age such as those represented in the first photo.
    All dinosaur fossils are found in rocks or sediments that are between 250 and 65 million years old. At the Gray Fossil Site, all fossils are excavated from sediment that is between 7 and 4.5 million years old.
    Only one dinosaur has ever been found in west Tennessee near the former shoreline of the shallow inland sea. Although only five bones were found, it was enough to identify it as a type of duck-bill dinosaur (Edmontosaurus).

    - from "Why no dinosaurs at the Gray Fossil Site?" sign at museum

    In the second photo is a triceratops...not something found in these parts. They lived during the Late Cretaceous period, which was 100.5 to 66 million years ago. Back then, North America looked much different than it does now. In the third photo, you can see Tennessee highlighted in yellow and Maryland in red.

    The Gray Fossil Site is known for its Appalachian red panda fossils. They claim to
    have the best red panda fossils in the world! Only one other tooth has been found in all of North America and it was in Washington State.
    Though red pandas once lived in Tennessee, they now live only in the forested mountains of southern Asia.
    Red pandas are NOT related to the giant panda, but are closely related to raccoons and skunks.

    - from "Bristol's Appalachian Panda" sign at museum

    This site is also known for having fossils of short-faced bears. At the Gray Fossil Site, this bear
    is one of the earliest short-faced bears and is one of the smallest, even smaller than today's black bear (approximately 200 pounds). [But] during the Ice Age, short-faced bears became huge, even bigger than today's polar bear!
    - from "Short-Faced Bear" sign at museum
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    After leaving the museum, we drove to our destination...Knoxville.
    I met a little girl in Knoxville town
    A town that I knew well
    Feelin' good like I should
    And to her love I felt
    Time was long she lay there by my side
    Held me close within her arms
    And kept me statisfied
    - from "Knoxville Girl" by the Outlaws

    The three of us checked in at an AirBnB house hosted by a bass player by the name of "Niles." "Frasier" is one of Norma and my favorite shows and other than Frasier's brother, I've never heard of anyone with this name before. Niles tends to cater to musicians. The other folks staying at the house besides him were in a band called Urban Soil.

    Team SNaCk walked to a restaurant that our host recommended called Sunspot which we very much enjoyed (first photo). Walking back to the house, I noticed lots of eggshells on the sidewalk. I'm guessing folks in cars sometimes throw eggs at unfortunate pedestrians. Having brought a limited amount of clothing, I'm glad we were not victims that night.

    We drove to the Preservation Pub and heard Urban Soil perform (second photo). The place was very smoky. They played a few songs that I enjoyed including one that sounded very bluegrassy but I found their instruments to overpower their vocals so it was hard to fully appreciate their music.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Two, Sunday, December 20, 2015

    After breakfast, we drove out to the Ijams Nature Center. See the eyes in the 'I' in the first photo, first column.

    Various structures had beams that had animal heads carved into them (second and third photos, first column).

    We arrived a little before the visitor center opened so we did a short hike on the River Trail which gave us a nice view of the Tennessee River. See fourth photo, first column.

    At the Gray Fossil Site, we learned that much of Tennessee was once underwater. A sign on the trail at the Ijams Nature Center confirmed this.
    Between 450 and 500 million years ago, the Tennessee Valley was under a shallow sea. How do we know this? Because the sedimentary rocks created in such conditions - shale, sandstone, and limestone - make up the bedrock under your feet. It took millions of years for these rock formations to be deposited.

    The three of us came to Cave Springs Cave. We would have explored it except it was closed off (fifth photo, first column). It reminded Carmen and me of Killiansburg Cave which we explored on October 11, 2015. Not just because it was a cave but because a sign nearby mentioned that it is home to cave salamanders. I thought that is what we found in Killiansburg until an amphibian expert told me it was a longtail salamander...the latter being a much less impressive find in Maryland.
    Carved by an underground stream long ago, it's now a dry cave that's gated to protect cave salamanders and a small summertime bat population.
    Years ago it acquired a second folk name: Maude Moore's Cave. On Monday, September 8, 1919, Maude Moore fatally shot an attacker named Roy Harth near Bearden. Fearing the worst, Moore hid in this cave until she decided to surrender to authorities. A 1921 trial found Moore not guilty. The jury determined she had acted in self-defense, largely because Harth had a reputation for "lecherousness."

    There were numerous animal prints in the muddy bottom near the cave entrance including what I believe to be those from a raccoon. See sixth photo, first column.

    At a sign that read "Geologic Fold," we found a huge rock that looked like it had been bent. See seventh photo, first column.
    We now know that continents come together and drift apart. As a result of these movements, a new land mass can be created. Approximately 230 million years ago, a super continent called Pangea was formed for a time joining together what we now call South America, Africa, and North America.
    This pushing together of those landmasses exerted tremendous pressure. Rock was upthrust creating the Appalachian Mountains to the east. Here in the valley, the flat sedimentary rock was tilted. The pressure was such that the sandstone here cracked, creating geologic faults, or was literally bent, causing geologic folds.

    - from sign on trail

    Our next stop was Jo's Grove.
  • Eighth photo, first column: A fairy tale house.
  • Ninth photo, first column: Carmen under a dome.
  • First photo, second column: Norma in an igloo.
  • Second photo, second column: A small town made of twigs and rebar.

  • This place was
    named in honor of one of the four Ijams daughters who were the first children to enjoy the true natural splendor of this property.
    This area was specifically designed to support our First Child in the Woods program, which emphasizes the spontaneous learning that occurs when children play outdoors.

    - from sign at Ijams Nature Center

    On the way out of the parking lot, we spotted an aviary which housed raptors, similar to the ones I used to work with at the Sacramento Science Center back in 1986 and/or 1987. See the turkey vulture in the third photo, second column.

    Across the street from the nature center was an area called Ross Marble Quarry in the Ross Marble Natural Area containing hiking trails which we explored.
    The marble industry was once an important sector of the regional economy. By the early 1850s, the varicolored marble quarried in East Tennessee began to be sought by architects and patrons for public buildings, such as state houses, court houses, and custom houses, after it was chosen for the interiors of the Tennessee State Capitol and the United States Capitol Extensions. The Ross Marble Quarry contributed to the second phase of industry growth, in which the modern marble industry developed primarily in the Knoxville area.
    - from Ross Marble Quarry

    Near the trailhead, we saw lime kilns that reminded me of the coke and limestone furnace we saw on the Great Allegheny Passage on June 15, 2012. See fourth photo, second column.
    This is the site of the former lime kilns operated by the Williams Limestone Company beginning in 1945. Essentially, they were high-temperature furnaces. Crushed limestone (calcium carbonate) was dropped in at the top and heated to over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting powdered agricultural lime would fall out at the bottom to be shipped away on the railroad.
    - from sign on trail titled "The Lime Kilns at Mead's"

    We saw the remains of countless hours of quarry work done to retrieve marble. Huge blocks formed a wall with a small passage called the keyhole. See fifth photo, second column. will find large blocks of limestone strewn about this abandoned quarry pit and the wall that surrounds the Keyhole. Operations began in the early 1900s on the property originally known as the John M. Ross Quarry. The quarrying involved removing overburden, drilling the marble to form large blocks, prying the blocks from the rock face, lifting them using derricks and cables, and transporting them out for cutting and polishing elsewhere.
    - from sign on trail titled "The Keyhole"

    Rather than go back to the trail on the designated route, I proposed that we climb up the blocks. Carmen and Norma took me up on this challenge and completed the obstacle without too much effort. See sixth photo, second column. Along the way, we had some nice views and even found a very small cave (seventh photo, second column) that didn't go in very far.

    We took Imerys Trail (eighth photo, second column) back to the parking lot.

    We saw various things that referred to Knoxville as "scruffy." A sign on the trail confirmed this.
    In 1980, the Wall Street Journal published an article about the 1982 World's Fair, referring to our town as a "scruffy little city." Since then, the word "scruffy" has become a source of pride, representing a strong local community.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Team SNaCk then ventured into downtown Knoxville (first and second photos, first column) to eat lunch at the Tupelo Honey Cafe.

    Some scenes in town reminded me of the artistic graffiti that Carmen showed us in Virginia Gardens, Florida on January 24, 2015. See third and fourth photos, first column.

    We stopped in at the Knoxville Museum of Art. They were showing a good bit of stuff made from glass along with some nice works by school children. One of the most unusual works there was a large sculpture of the back of someone's head titled "Back of Evan #3" by Evan Penny. See first photo, second column. It was made of silicone, hair, pigment, and aluminum.

    As it started getting dark, we made our way to World's Fair Park. We goofed around on the playground and then headed to the Sunsphere (second photo, first column).
    This Sunsphere, built for the 1982 World's Fair, is the only one of its kind. The structure is 266 feet/26 stories tall and the gold-colored, glass-paneled ball in which you're standing is 75 feet in diameter.
    Fun Facts:
  • Knoxville had the last successful World's Fair held in America.
  • A band once played atop the Sunsphere.
  • A former Vol [University of Tennessee basketball player] once zip-lined from the top of the Sunsphere.
  • The Sunsphere was featured on The Simpsons as the "Wigsphere."
  • - from sign titled "Knoxville's Skyline is One of a Kind"

    A historic/artistic crane stood outside a building on our walk back from the Sunsphere. I asked Carmen to climb it and being the good sport she is, she did. See third photo, first column.

    That evening, we ate at The Tomato Head.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Three, Monday, December 21, 2015, Winter Solstice

    I'm not much into celebrating holidays. I find them rather arbitrary. But winter solstice is different. For me, it is a day of celebration because I know from then on, the days will be getting longer. The thing I hate most about winter is the short days. Today is the darkest day (in terms of the number of hours of sunlight) and for the next six months, the days will only be getting longer.
    Winter solstice in Baltimore, Maryland is 0545 eastern standard time on Dec 21, 2015
    - from Time and Date

    The second thing I hate most about winter is the cold. Unlike solstice, the coldest day varies according to location. Where we live, that day is January 24 so once that day has passed, I will be doubly happy.
    The "cold season" lasts from December 2 to March 2 with an average daily high temperature below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest day of the year is January 24, with an average low of 29 degrees Fahrenheit and high of 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
    - from Average weather for Baltimore, Maryland

    The house we were staying at in Knoxville was pretty nice. Our bedroom was spacious and we had two shared bathrooms. Niles was very polite and helpful. One of the things we love about AirBnB is meeting the hosts and being able to pick their brains about the area. This morning, we packed up our things and then headed out. We didn't have a plan for where we would sleep tonight but Carmen was able to find and book something that we thought would be interesting.

    We drove out to the State Botanical Gardens of Tennessee which is part of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. See photo.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    Next, we ventured to the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture which was also at the university. Out front, a 65 million year old replica of an Edmontosaurus greeted us (photo). Recall that at the Gray Fossil Site, it was reported that this type of dinosaur was the only one found in west Tennessee. At this museum, we learned about geology, anthropology, archaeology, history, and fossils in the state, not just the Gray Fossil Site.
    The geological history of Tennessee is as complex and varied as the history of its human inhabitants. At the surface, rocks range in age from about 650 million years in the Smoky Mountains to clay and sand that are just now being deposited in rivers and lakes across the state.
    By studying fossils in sedimentary rocks, geologists can piece together the changes in Tennessee's ancient environments over more than 500 million years.

    - from sign in museum

    We also learned about the Native Americans in the area.
    Native Americans in the Southeast are descendants of Mississippian cultures. Some native peoples living along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and perhaps the interior, too, became early casualties of European contact - moving, vanishing, or being absorbed into larger groups by 1700.
    Once Europeans became frequent visitors to the region after 1700, Native Americans began to be identified by names we use today. Europeans recognized more than 180 groups throughout the Southeast.
    The Creeks, more than 10 distinct groups who spoke closely related languages, were the largest group in the Southeast. Before European contact, some of their ancestors may have lived in Tennessee.
    Members of the Natchez, Shawnee, and Yuchi were incorporated into Creek and Cherokee cultures in the 18th century. Several remnant Creek-related groups formed a new group, the Seminole, that by the early 19th century lived in parts of Florida once home to the Timucua and Calusa.
    The tribal identities of the 16th and 17th century occupants of Tennessee are disputed. By the 18th century, the only native peoples living permanently in Tennessee were the Cherokee. The Chicksaw controlled western Tennessee, but there is no archaeological or historical evidence that they used the area for more than hunting. The Shawnee and Creek briefly occupied small areas in the state, but little archaeological evidence has been found.

    - from signs in museum

    So who was McClung, the man whose name this museum bears?
    Frank H. McClung...was a member of a large and prosperous founding family of wholesale merchants. He and all of the McClungs were Confederates, and as a 33-year old family man, he joined the "Home Guard," working as a clerk in the Ordnance department. In June of 1863 he undoubtedly participated in the defense of Knoxville against an artillery barrage by Union Colonel William P. Sanders [was this the founder of KFC?]. Just before the Federal army marched into town in September, Frank left for Saltville, Virginia, where he spent the rest of the war working for his uncle in a draft exempt position in salt production.
    - from sign in museum.

    In addition to pre-history, the museum also contained more recent historical information local to the area. I learned that like Maryland, Tennessee could have gone either way in the Civil War. But unlike Maryland, which was part of the Union, Tennessee became part of the Confederacy.
    When war descended upon Knoxville, the vast majority hoped to be able to ride out the national turmoil with some sort of local compromise. As time went on, Confederate and Union sympathizers alike became more polarized, dividing the town almost 50/50. In the surrounding area, Union support predominated mainly because the independent mountaineers did not see themselves uniting with the southern planters.
    East Tennessee was of vital importance to both sides due to several unique assets: abundant livestock and crops; minerals and blast furnaces for manufacturing weapons; and the railroad, running from Richmond to Atlanta, which transported armies and provisions. Yet neither side could count on the consensus and loyalty of the population, so divided was its allegiance.
    In July 1861, Confederate troops arrived. From then on, Knoxville was occupied for nearly every day of the war.

    - from sign in McClung Museum
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    Carmen, Norma, and I went to the Knoxville Visitors Center which hosts the WDVX FM 89.9 Blue Plate Special. This is a live radio broadcast where musical artists perform on the air. We got to be part of their studio audience. First we heard Eric Caldwell, a solo acoustic guitarist. See first photo, first column. Then we heard the Lamp Light Blues Sessions. See first photo, second column. Both acts were quite talented.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    In the afternoon, we spent some time at the East Tennessee Historical Society. One of their exhibits was called Voices of the Land, the People of East Tennessee.
    By 1795, the Southwest Territory had 66,650 free population [yes, awkwardly written], making it eligible for statehood. Tennessee became a state on June 1, 1796, the 16th state and the first created by the territorial process.
    The state's first constitution was drafted in Knoxville; John Sevier was the first governor and Knoxville the capital. The state was named for the Cherokee town of Tanasi.

    - from sign in Historical Society

    The motto of Tennessee is "the volunteer state." How did it earn this title?
    The War of 1812 won Tennesseans national recognition for their military and political prowess and garnered the nickname the "Volunteer State."
    Among the East Tennesseans were Sam Houston and native David Crockett, who had moved to Middle Tennessee by this time. East Tennesseans fought alongside General Andrew Jackson, who later became a national hero at the battles of Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans.

    - from sign in Historical Society

    I had originally read about the Battle of Athens in my Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) magazine but I also had a chance to refamiliarize myself with it at the Historical Society. This event took place in 1946 in McMinn County, Tennessee.
    At the war's end, in East Tennessee, as across the nation, World War II vets gladly exchanged war for peace and returned home to start families, buy homes, and attend school under the GI Bill. In McMinn and Polk counties, however, returning veterans found that their local government had been taken over by a statewide political machine. Strong-arm election-day tactics by sheriff's deputies prompted local citizens, many of them former GIs, to arm themselves and surround the courthouses to force corrupt politicians from office.
    Later, in 1951, a similar series of events took place at Benton in neighboring Polk County and was covered nationally by "Life" magazine.

    - from sign in Historical Society

    We said farewell to Knoxville and then drove to Nashville. Nashville is the capital of Tennessee, "Music City," and home of the famous "Grand Ole Opry" stage and radio show. Known as "country's most famous stage," what began as a simple radio broadcast in 1925 is today a live-entertainment phenomenon.
    The city is named after Francis Nash, an American Revolutionary War hero. There's a lot of history in Nashville: settled on Christmas Day in 1779, Tennessee became a state later in 1796. The city became the Tennessee state capital from 1812-1815 and then permanently in 1843.

    - from Seniors Visit Nashville

    The three of us dropped off our things at where we would be staying that evening. It was a little 1961 Replica Shasta Airflyte. It was only 19 feet long but it could sleep up to five! It has its own shower and toilet, a kitchen table that folds down into a double bed, a sink, refrigerator, stove, and television. Just having the three of us there was a little cramped. A 5'7" person's head would touch the ceiling in the bathroom/shower. It reminded me of my life on a ship in 1988-89.
  • First photo, first column: A narrow passageway ends at one sleeping area.
  • Second photo, first column: Profile of the Shasta.
  • Third photo, first column: Carmen entering the Shasta.

  • That evening, we had dinner at The Sutler Saloon (first photo, second column) where we saw two artists perform. The first was Justin Johnson (second photo, second column) and the second David Bradley and Friends which consisted of David Bradley, Greg Barnhill, Justin Zimmer, and Jamie Zimmer (third photo, second column). The food was mediocre. I would eventually find that some of the places that were known for live music did not have the best food. One of the posters at the saloon showed Leroy Powell who I saw open for Kid Rock on January 22, 2011.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Four, Tuesday, December 22, 2015

    After breakfast, we drove into town and parked in an area where a Ted Cruz rally was taking place.

    Carmen and Norma had already been to Nashville, while I had never been to Tennessee. So they were not quite as interested in spending time there as me. Norma and I planned to return there after Carmen flew out in Memphis on Thursday, December 24.

    Team SNaCk ventured into downtown Nashville. We stopped in at the visitor center on Fifth Avenue (first photo). Then we walked along the main strip and saw the famous Batman Building in the background. See second photo. Eventually, we came to the Ryman Auditorium (third photo).
    The Ryman Auditorium has a rich history that begins with Reverend Sam Jones and riverboat captain Thomas Ryman. In May of 1885, Ryman attended Reverend Jones' tent revival intending to raise a ruckus; however, when he heard the Reverend's message, his heart was changed. Ryman repented his sins and vowed to build a great tabernacle for Reverend Jones so that he would never again have to preach under a tent in Nashville. Thomas Ryman built a beautiful tabernacle, and named it the Union Gospel Tabernacle, which was to project the Reverend's voice clearly and powerfully to a great crowd. After Ryman died on December 23, 1904, thousands came to remember him on Christmas day at the Union Gospel Tabernacle he had built. While leading the memorial service, Jones proposed renaming the building the Ryman Auditorium.
    In June of 1943, the Grand Ole Opry moved to the Ryman Auditorium. For 31 years, the Ryman hosted the Grand Ole Opry.
    The Ryman has been named the 2003, 2004, 2010 and 2011 Pollstar Theatre of the Year. Experts say the Ryman's acoustics are among the finest in the world, second only to the Mormon Tabernacle, surpassing even Carnegie Hall. Performers and fans alike adore the Ryman Auditorium because of its rich history, beautiful architecture, and extraordinary acoustics.

    - from "Ryman Auditorium - June 25, 2001: This Day In Ryman History"

    In front of the Ryman was a sign titled "Birth of Bluegrass."
    In December 1945, Grand Ole Opry star Bill Monroe and his mandolin brought to the Ryman Auditorium stage a band that created a new American musical form. With the banjo style of Earl Scruggs and the guitar of Lester Flatt, the new musical genre became known as "Bluegrass." Augmented by the fiddle of Chubby Wise and the bass of Howard Watts (also known as Cedric Rainwater), this ensemble became known as "The Original Bluegrass Band," which became the prototype for groups that followed.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    We walked to the Nashville Public Library. Out front and across the street, they had a rather artistic but functional place to lock up bicycles (first photo).

    At the library, there were some paintings on display by Hispanic artists. One in particular that I liked by was Jorge Yances of Colombia titled "Memorias en Colores." See second photo. Can you see all the faces in this painting?

    We spent a lot of time in the Special Collections area which housed their Civil Rights Room. The girls read stuff while I watched videos that were part of their Civil Rights Collection Video Presentation. In particular, I watched Nashville: We Were Warriors which depicted local civil rights struggles.
    In the fall of 1959, Vanderbilt student James Lawson taught classes on the history and practice of nonviolent methods to prepare students from Fisk, Tennessee State, and American Baptist College for "sit-ins" at segregated downtown lunch counters. Guided by these principles, the students endured arrests and later became leaders in a movement committed to nonviolent change. They took their struggle for civil rights to the steps of the Nashville City Hall and ultimately to the forefront of national attention.
    - from sign in library

    I learned to appreciate just how organized and disciplined these early civil rights protestors were...traits lacking in many more recent demonstrators. These early activists had ten rules of conduct that they practiced:
    Do Not:
  • Strike back nor curse if abused.
  • Laugh out.
  • Hold conversations with a floor walker.
  • Leave your seat until your leader has given you permission to do so.
  • Block entrances to stores outside nor the aisles inside.
  • Do:
  • Show yourself friendly and courteous at all times.
  • Sit straight: always face the counter.
  • Report all serious incidents to your leader.
  • Refer information seekers to your leader in a polite manner.
  • Remember the teachings of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Love and non-violence is the way.
  • - from History Learning Site: Nashville Sit Ins
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    After leaving the library, we walked over to the Tennessee State Capitol. Inside, we saw the State Supreme Court Chamber, the House of Representatives room (first photo, first column), the Senate room, and the Legislative Lounge (second photo, first column).

    The three of us ate lunch at Acme Farm Supply (first photo, second column) which is actually a restaurant that sells human food. The place overlooked the Cumberland River.

    Certain elements of Nashville had a fun, hippie element. See second photo, second column.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    We said farewell to Nashville and then drove to Memphis, where we checked in at the Exchange Suites. Our room was as spacious as the Shasta trailer was cramped.

    That evening, Carmen, Norma, and I walked over to Beale Street (first photo, first column). We saw the Memphis home of W.C. Handy, the father of the blues. See second photo, first column. Walking around, I saw a sign that read
    No vehicles, bicycles, skates, skateboards, glass containers, animal/reptiles.
    See third photo, first column. I've never seen a public street sign prohibiting reptiles.

    We stopped in at a civil rights photo gallery and then went to hear some blues.

    Our first music stop for the night was Mr. Handy's Blues Hall where we saw Chris McDaniel. See first photo, second column. This was my favorite band that we saw in Memphis.

    Next, we walked to the Rum Boogie Cafe where we ate and heard The High Falutin' Band (second photo, second column) before heading back to our room.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Five, Wednesday, December 23, 2015

    From our hotel room, we could see the Mississippi River and into Arkansas.

    The three of us set out on foot to the I-40 Tennessee Welcome Center. There, I learned a little more about the state...actually it was a refresher to what I had already learned in Knoxville at the McClung Museum.
    From 1861 to 1865 Tennessee was "a house divided," as it experienced hundreds of battles, large and small, and the wide-reaching devastation of "total war" on its farms and towns. The state supplied more soldiers to the Confederacy than any other state except Virginia - it also provided more men for the Union cause than all the other Southern states put together. Tennessee was the last state to secede and the first to rejoin the Union after the fighting stopped.
    - from sign at Welcome Center

    When the Civil War began in 1861, Memphis was Tennesse's largest city, home to its largest cotton and slave markets along with an established community of free blacks who had been there since the city's start. For miles inland, cotton plantations covered the countryside; here was Tennessee's Delta, where the largest percentage of African American slaves in Tennessee toiled away, building with their brains and brawn a cotton landscape unlike any other in the state.
    - from sign at Welcome Center

    This area also marked the loss of a large number of lives immediately after the Civil War.
    One of the worst maritime disasters in world history occurred 7 miles north of Memphis on April 27, 1865, when the steamer Sultana exploded and burned with the loss of over 1547 lives. Built to carry only 376 passengers, the Sultana had over 2300 on board at the time of the disaster. Most were Union soldiers from Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Virginia, who were on their way home following their release from the Confederate prisons at Andersonville and Cahaba.
    - from sign along Mississippi River

    We wanted to get to Mud Island which Norma had read about but it was closed for the season. It turned out there were a lot of things in the area that were closed. I guess they don't get many tourists at this time of the year.

    We walked southeast along Wolf River Harbor and then the Mississippi River where we could see the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge in the distance. See first photo. In the opposite direction, we saw the Bass Pro Shop pyramid (second photo).

    Memphis Queen riverboats were docked. See third photo. We saw Memphis Queen III but I don't remember seeing Memphis Queen II.
    Built in 1955 by the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Company, the Memphis Queen II was the first all-steel passenger ship on the Mississippi River.
    - from sign along Mississippi River

    The Mississippi River was wide and brown. At least from our location, it was not the least bit scenic or interesting from a kayaking perspective. It had a pretty good current. I definitely wouldn't want to paddle upstream on it for too far.

    It was a dark and cloudy day. Tomorrow was supposed to be warm (low 70s) and sunny with little wind...a perfect kayaking or paddleboarding day. The weather was similar in Maryland. Winter days like this are rare and should be taken advantage of. So I called a couple of kayak outfitters to see if they would rent me a boat but I just got a answering machines. I couldn't get my mind off kayaking.

    The three of us walked out to Beale Street Landing (a park).
  • Fourth photo: Cotton in raised garden bed.
  • Fifth photo: Big John, named for John W. Stokes, Jr., founding chairman of the Riverfront Development Corporation.
  • Sixth photo: Spiral road down to the water to board the riverboats.
  • Seventh photo: Looks like a Lego house but there's more to it as documented in Beale Street Landing Is Open.

  • We saw a sign that read
    In 1930, Memphis City Beautiful became the nation's first urban beautification commission. Over three decades "Clean Up, Paint Up, and Fix Up" campaigns won Memphis the "Cleanest City Award." Memphis also won the Ernest T. Trigg trophy four times for being names the "Nation's Cleanest City."

    But looking around, one would never guess Memphis had won such a prestigious award. Many of the sidewalks were in disrepair and the city seemed depressed.
    In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked the Memphis area as the poorest large metro area in the country.
    - from Wikipedia - Tennessee

    A report from September 2014 said the following:
    For cities with a population less than 1 million, Memphis was listed as the poorest in the nation.
    - from Memphis ranked as one of the poorest cities in the nation

    Additionally, Memphis has a significant amount of violent crime.
    Tennessee has the dubious distinction of having the worst violent crime rate in the country.
    To be fair, Tennessee's violent streak is concentrated in some of the major metropolitan areas. Memphis's violent crime rate was the nation's fifth worst, while Nashville's was the 18th worst.

    - from WBIR - TN has nation's highest violent crime rate (now a broken link as of 2016)

    All that poverty and crime is surely a motivator for singing the blues. Other reasons are listed in How to Sing the Blues. For example, one might argue that you can't sing the blues if you grew up in Jupiter, Florida which is ranked number two in the 25 richest places in Florida according to Florida Locations By Per Capita Income (broken link as of 2017). More about Jupiter later.

    While it was only two days until Christmas, it didn't feel like it. But occasionally, there was a reminder. See eighth photo.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Team SNaCk headed over to the National Civil Rights Museum. My friend Sue M. spoke very highly about this place.

    This museum resides at the Lorraine Motel (first photo), where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fatally shot.
    On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the balcony in front of Room 306, discussing that evening's sanitation strike meeting with aides. King requested his favorite spiritual, "Precious Lord," be played that night. Those were some of the last words King would speak. At 6:01pm, a bullet streaked across Mulberry Street. Official investigations concluded that the bullet that felled King was fired from a window in the boarding house behind...King was rushed to St. Joseph Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:05pm.
    - from sign outside of museum

    Across the street from the museum, one can see the boarding house with a slightly ajar window from where the assassin's shot was fired. See second photo.

    At the museum, I joined a tour. We had an excellent speaker by the name of Mr. Logan. I made sure to contact the museum when I got back to let them know he did a fantastic job.

    I learned quite a bit about civil rights history in the third grade. This was something my teacher, Ms. Sain, really stressed. She would have loved this place.

    I knew a good bit about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those that followed his teachings. But I did not know much about African American groups or individuals with contrary views. One such person was Marcus Garvey.
    Marcus Garvey believed that white supremacy was woven too deeply into American society for it to be conquered. The Jamaican native and follower of Booker T. Washington brought the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) to America in 1917. By the 1920s, it claimed as many as one million followers.
    Garveyites [followers of Garvey] were asked to put their race first, reclaim their African heritage, and return to Africa to build a new nation. The organization was undone when U.S. officials investigated the UNIA and deported Garvey in 1925. Without its leader, the UNIA lost momentum and its membership. Garvey's influence, however, was felt for generations.

    - from sign in museum titled "Universal Negro Improvement Association"

    By 1930, the Nation of Islam (NOI) was taking shape. The new religious and social organization questioned whether being accepted by whites was worth the effort. Its mission emphasized the divine nature of black people. The NOI offered members a history where African Americans are "Original People" who will reclaim their greatness. Whites were boldly labeled "devils."
    - from sign in museum titled "The Nation of Islam"

    Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party (BPP) in 1966 and built support for it with a bold move. They followed white police patrols in black neighborhoods to prevent police from brutalizing African Americans. The Panthers exercised their right to bear arms and kept their guns in plain view. Their patrols earned the respect of black youth, many of whom had been victims of police misconduct and a discriminatory justice system.
    In 1968, the BPP shifted its focus to community survival programs, like its "free breakfast for children program." Its efforts to empower black communities continued to fuel tension with white authorities. By the late 1970s, an illegal government counterintelligence campaign helped destroy the party.

    - from sign in museum titled "Black Panther Party for Self-Defense"

    The Black Panther Party for Self Defense is founded in Oakland, California. The party uplifts the community with breakfast programs, medical clinics, education centers, and community protection.
    - from sign in museum

    Having grown up on the west coast, I knew little about racism against African Americans near my hometown of Sacramento...until today.
    In 1955, the San Francisco National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) launched a campaign against the Yellow Cab Company to integrate African Americans into their workforce. After two years of boycotts and pickets, the transit company agreed to integrate.
    - from sign in museum titled "Yellow Cab Boycott"

    I always knew Mississippi had a reputation for racism but I never knew how much worse it was than the other southern states.
    Violence was part of the fabric of racial oppression in Mississippi.
    Lynching was the most dramatic form of violence. Between 1882 and 1964, Mississippi led the nation with 539 reported lynchings. Many of these murders took place in the presence of spectators. They were planned to attract excited crowds. Parents brought children. At times, local police and civic leaders attended. To some, these events seemed almost respectable.

    - from sign in museum titled "A State of Violence"

    Perhaps the most brutal and shocking lynching in Mississippi took place in 1955 to a 14 year old boy.
    While visiting family in Money, Mississippi, 14-year-old Emmett Till, an African American from Chicago, is brutally murdered for flirting with a white woman four days earlier. His assailants–the white woman's husband and her brother–made Emmett carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river.
    On September 23, the all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing a verdict of "not guilty."

    - from The death of Emmett Till

    I finished my museum tour before the girls. Waiting in a section across the street from the motel, it started to pour. See third photo. It was raining so hard that water couldn't flow into the roof gutters fast enough so it ran over the sides of the gutters (fourth photo). We later heard that this same storm created numerous tornadoes, flooding, and deaths in other areas.

    Norma and I ate lunch at Central BBQ while Carmen continued in the museum. Being a vegetarian, I don't think Carmen would have liked Central BBQ much. But I certainly did. I definitely like southern food: pulled pork, spare ribs, catfish, and beef brisket.

    Walking back, we passed some street art reflecting the civil rights movement. See fifth photo.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Near our hotel was the much more prestigious Peabody Hotel. We stopped in for an old, historic, and fun tradition called the Peabody Duck March.
  • First photo: Duck fountain at the Peabody Hotel.
  • Second photo: Ducks in the fountain.
  • Third photo: The "Duckmaster" with assistant. I would love to have a job title like that.

  • How did the tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain begin?
    Back in the 1930s, Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Batwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Tennessee sippin' whiskey and thought it would be funny to place some of their live decoy ducks (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain.
    These small English call ducks were selected as "guinea pigs," and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Thus began a Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous.

    - from napkin at The Peabody

    Apparently, Tennessee sippin' whiskey can impair better judgment. I had none and that is why I didn't buy this book for Norma (or Carmen) which I saw on display in a glass case at the hotel.

    Outside the hotel, they had big fake duck footprints with the names of some of the ducks on the sidewalk (fourth photo). They are given Hollywood star status.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Next, we took a drive to the Bass Pro Shop. Like the one in Hanover, Maryland, this one had a large aquarium with local fish. But it also had a big open pond for the fish and even an area with alligators! See first photo. Not surprisingly, their taxidermy display was most impressive. See second photo. Carmen and I went upstairs and looked at guns. This store specialized in firearms made by Beretta. They had some with ornate engravings on the metal parts and stocks made of exotic wood. The most expensive was a shotgun with 500+ hours of engravings. It cost over $82,000! For that kind of money, I'd rather have a Tesla.

    After leaving Bass Pro, we walked through a historic area called The Pinch District. It was pretty dead.

    That night, we went to hear more live blues. We stopped at Blues City Cafe where we heard Blind Mississippi Morris. See third photo. Carmen really liked their music.

    This was our last night for hearing live music in the city known for
    Home of the blues. Birthplace of rock and roll.
    - from sign at visitor center
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Six, Thursday, December 24, 2015

    Carmen gave us a demonstration in folding a plastic bag which reminded me of when my co-worker Stacey brought in a fitted sheet and showed us how to fold that. I quickly forgot both lessons.

    On our sunny and warm day, we drove out to Sun Studio (first photo) for a guided tour. Our guide was Lahna of the band Deering and Down. She was energetic and silly which kept us entertained.
    In July 1954, Sun Records released Elvis Presley's first recording. That record, and Elvis' four that followed on the Sun label, changed popular music. Elvis developed an innovative and different sound combining blues, gospel, and country. That quality made Elvis a worldwide celebrity within two years. He went on to become one of the most famous and beloved entertainers in history. Sun Records introduced many well known people in all fields of music. Generations of musicians have been affected by those who recorded here and especially by the music Elvis Presley first sang at Sun Records.
    - from sign outside Sun Studio titled "Elvis Presley and Sun Records"

    Lahna told us about how a damaged speaker (second photo) created a distorted sound that eventually became characteristic of rock and roll.
    March 5, 1951, was the night it all came together for Sam Phillips. Ike Turner, a DJ on WROX in Clarksdale, Mississippi, had driven up to Memphis with a band featuring a young singer named Jackie Brenston. A feature in the Memphis Commercial Appeal in June 1951 reported that "B. B. King of Memphis, one of the race artists Sam has been recording, passed the world along to Ike Turner, a negro bandleader of Clarksdale, Mississippi, that the market was open." Ike, Jackie, and the band had worked up a rollicking R&B number-called "Rocket 88," after the hot Oldsmobile coupe-and they decided to audition it for Phillips.
    But during the drive from Clarksdale, guitarist Willie Kizart's amp fell off the top of the car, breaking the speaker cone. "We had no way of getting it fixed." Phillips told Robert Palmer, "so we started playing around with the damn thing, stuffed a little paper in there and it sounded good. It sounded like a saxophone."
    Rather than submerge the distorted sound of Kizart's guitar, Phillips took a chance and over amplified it, making it the centerpiece of the rhythm track. Kizart played a simple boogie riff in unison with Ike Turner's piano. Raymond Hill contributed two screeching tenor sax solos, and Brenston rode over the top with a hugely confident vocal that belied his tender years. Phillips later characterized "Rocket 88" as the first rock 'n' roll record. Its raucous, unbridled energy certainly foreshadowed much that was to follow, although arguably it owed a greater debt to what had come before.

    - from Rockabilly Hall - Sun Studio

    I mentioned that I like southern food. Perhaps my favorite local restaurant is Red, Hot, and Blue. Today, I learned how the place got its name.
    After dropping out of the Memphis College of Music in 1947, Dewey Phillips began working in the record department of the W.T. Grant five-and-dime on Main Street. Dewey's unique personality and passion for rhythm and blues music would ultimately land him a job hosting a fifteen minute show on WHBQ called "Red Hot and Blue."
    - from sign at Sun Studio titled "'Daddy-O' Dewey Phillips"
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Team SNaCk drove through a very small, wealthy section of town with homes built in the 1800s. See first photo.
    ...ornate mansions along Adams [Avenue], known as Millionaires Row. Wealthy cotton merchants and the city's most elite families lived in the neighborhood.
    But as the city grew, many of the families eventually migrated east to newer neighborhoods such as Central Gardens. By the 1950s, many of the mansions sat empty. Others had been converted into tenement housing.
    "It was kind of seamy. There were lots of winos living in these houses, and my house was in shambles," says Eldridge Wright, the neighborhood's longest surviving resident, who lives in a grand 1880 home across from the Mallory-Neely House. "It was not a very attractive neighborhood back then..."
    [Now] Homeless people from the nearby Union Mission on Poplar often find their way into the village, creating the perception that the area is unsafe. Though violent crime isn't typically a problem, burglaries persist.

    - from Rebuilding Millionaires Row

    We ate lunch at Stone Soup Cafe (second photo). The name of this place reminded me of a dinner party that Norma through earlier this year with this same theme.

    The temperature was warm and pleasant. It was similar in Savage but cold in Sacramento. Very unusual.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    On our way out of Memphis, the three of us stopped in at Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. He was actually born in Tupelo, Mississippi but chose to make Tennessee his home. As a young boy, I grew up listening to a lot of Elvis' music. It was simple and easy to follow. But later, I was disappointed to learn that he did not write his own music. Graceland was huge...certainly fitting for "The King of Rock and Roll."
    Elvis' diverse audience and his strong bond with them were one of the most important elements in Elvis' popularity. Elvis did not invent rock-n-roll, but he was the first artist to break through the 1950s cultural barriers. Teenagers responded to the implied rebellion seen in his performances. More mature audiences were won over by his polite, disarming nature offstage and his generally clean-cut, down to earth attitude. He was dangerous, but not too dangerous.
    - from sign at Graceland

    Elvis' rise to stardom was a result of many things including just a lot of hard work.
    "We do seven shows a week. Actually, we do a bit more than that 'cause, as a rule, we do two or three a day...and have done as many as four...startin' at two o'clock and ending' at ten."
    - from sign at Graceland

    I learned a few things that day about Elvis.
  • Ed Sullivan, who had said that he would never have Elvis Presley on his show, changes his tune when he sees the big ratings that Elvis attracts to the Berle and Allen shows. A three-appearance deal is worked out for $50,000, the highest amount ever paid to a performer for appearing on a variety show. Elvis attracts the highest ratings ever for any television variety show, receiving 80% of the national viewing audience.
  • The production number for the song "Jailhouse Rock" is considered to be the first music video.
  • Elvis had 38 gold, 100 platinum, and one diamond record with a total of 129 million copies sold. But another sign said that he had more than 400 million albums from BMG Entertainment International, August 11, 1997.

  • We saw Elvis' final resting place. See photo.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    As the sun got low in the sky, we made our way to T.O. Fuller State Park. Little else was open that Christmas Eve. A very helpful park ranger met us at the visitor center and gave us a map of the area.
    T.O. Fuller State Park was the first state park east of the Mississippi River open to African Americans... The park was later changed from Shelby Bluffs to T.O. Fuller State Park in 1942 in honor of Dr. Thomas O. Fuller who has spent his life empowering and educating African Americans.
    - from sign at park

    In the park, we made our way to Plant Road where we parked and then walked on the Chickasaw Bluff Interpretive Trail to Chucalissa Indian Village. A replica of a Chucalissa house stood. See first photo.
    This platform mound was created over the years 1350 to 1600 C.E. Hundreds of people carried over 380,000 baskets full of dirt 1/4 of a mile to construct this mound [(second photo)].
    These mounds were built as foundations for the temple and other public buildings. They were constructed in stages over a period of several generations. Each time a building was replaced, a new layer of earth was added to the mound in basket-loads carried on the backs of the men and women in the village. [I guess they didn't have wheelbarrows like my True Temper 534-172 which Norma and our parents bought me for Christmas.] The mound and the temple on its top were regarded as sacred and no one but the chief, his sisters [no brothers?], priests, and temple guardian were allowed inside.
    The mounds at Chucalissa provide evidence that the site was part of the Mississippian culture. Mississippian mounds are found over the length of the Mississippi River during the era when Chucalissa was most active.

    - from signs in park

    After leaving the park, we had some time so we just drove around. We saw a big flame which I'm guessing was burning off natural gas not profitable to save. See third photo.

    The three of us made our way to the Memphis Airport where we said our farewells to Carmen. She flew to Florida to spend Christmas with her family.

    Norma and I went back to Beale Street, hoping to hear more live music but since it was Christmas Eve, almost every place was closed. We walked past the Gibson Guitar Factory and looked through the window.

    The two of us had a late night dessert at the Peabody. We ate a mediocre and overpriced Key Lime Pie.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Seven, Friday, December 25, 2015, Christmas Day

    Norma and I expected few things to be open on Christmas day. But that was o.k. Our plan was to head back to Nashville and stop along the way at whatever piqued our interest. One such was place Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge.
    Established in 1964 and purchased with funds from the sale of duck stamps, Hatchie Refuge's 11,556 acres provide habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. The many habitats of the Refuge include wetland hardwood forests, streams and sloughs, oxbow lakes, shrub/scrub wetlands, and fields.
    - from sign at refuge

    We pulled up to Oneal Lake. I saw a few fish and turtles. There were lots of cypress trees (first photo) and I found evidence that during the summer, there were lotus flowers (second photo).

    It was a dark and gloomy day but at least it wasn't cold.

    Norma and I spent a little time looking at launch sites. I don't know if I'll ever be back here and if I am, I might not have a boat but it was interesting to see what kind of kayaking was available. We saw the Hatchie River (third photo) which reminded me of the Monocacy River.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    We stopped in the town of Jackson and saw the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis (N. C. & St. L.) Depot and Railroad Museum. See first photo, first column. It was closed but we looked around outside. Our neighbor, Brian C., is from there. Outside the building, they had a hand pump car (second photo, first column) like the kind my cousin Dean races.
    [The hand pump car was] developed in the late 1850s. Because of its low weight and small size, they can be put on and taken off the rails at any place allowing trains to pass. They carried 4 to 6 track maintenance workers (section gang).
    - from sign outside of museum

    Near the museum, we saw the Electro Chalybeate Well. See third photo, first column.
    Thousands visited this artesian well in the early 1900s to drink its mineral water believed to cure stomach, liver, and kidney ailments.
    - from sign at well

    Feeling hungry, we looked for a restaurant open on Christmas. Even the fast food places were closed. But the Waffle House in Jackson was open. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Being as it was the only restaurant open in town, it was packed and the staff was working extra hard. Norma and I often eat at Waffle House when we're on vacation. It always brings back fond memories.

    A few days prior, Carmen got me to download a game on my smart phone called 2048. She told me what her high score was so I tried my darndest to beat her before she left. I could not but I did beat her today. In fact, I got to 2048 at the Waffle House! See first photo, second column. I kept going after that and eventually got a high score of 22,488! See second photo, second column. I was quite proud of myself until on January 9, 2016, Eric M. (Jorge and Yvette's son in the 9th grade) told me that he got to 4096!
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Continuing our trek to Nashville, we stopped at a boat launch on the Tennessee River near the town of Eva. The river looked too big to be interesting. See first photo, first column.

    We stopped briefly at Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park and did a short walk on the Polk Creek Wildflower Trail. See second photo, first column. We saw some yucca plants (first photo, second column) and had another view of the Tennessee River.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Norma and I drove into Nashville and then to our AirBnB house where we met our hosts, Ron and Tim. They live in a big, old, and extremely well maintained house in a neighborhood with similar homes. This house was in the Lockeland Springs neighborhood of East Nashville. It was very upscale. The shower/bath control was a little confusing (first photo, first column) and that's the worst thing I can say about this place.

    After dropping off our stuff, we went out for a late dinner at Beyond the Edge. Unlike places on the drive east, we actually had our choice of restaurants. We started going to a different one at first and saw an interesting sign that had nothing to do with Tennessee. See first photo, second column.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Eight, Saturday, December 26, 2015

    Unlike yesterday's dark and gloomy day with almost everything closed, today was sunny with places open for business...and we were ready to give them our business.

    Norma and I drove across the Cumberland River and found some expensive but well-located parking.

    Walking through town, we saw the Batman Building again. See first photo.

    We went to the Ryman and tried to get tickets to see a show but they were sold out.

    Our big stop of the day was one of the things on my "must see" list...the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We spent several hours there and it totally held my attention, even though we didn't have a tour guide. I guess I must really like country music.

    Things started with Sam Phillips and Sun Studio so we got a little refresher of what we learned in Memphis. One photo of Phillips that caught my eye was him with Rosco Gordon who had his chicken perched on his shoulder. See second photo.

    How did country music start?
    Country music is rooted in the folk traditions of the British Isles. In the New World, those roots became entangled with the ethnic musics of other immigrants and African slaves. Manny gospel hymns were popularized in the nineteenth-century South, while tent shows and blackface minstrelsy introduced folk-sounding tunes written by northern professionals. Played on fiddles or homemade banjos, all of this music would one day sound as if born in the southern hills.
    - from sign in Hall of Fame titled "The Roots of Country"

    I saw a photo of Jimmie Rodgers. I've never heard him but I have heard a song he wrote sung by Lynyrd Skynyrd:
    Give me a T for Texas, give me a T for Tennessee
    Give me a T for Thelma, woman made a fool out of me

    The funny thing about this is that Jimmie Rodgers looks a little like Don Knotts. In the Andy Griffith Show, Don Knotts' character, Barney Fife, has a girlfriend by the name of Thelma Lou.

    Country western music wasn't always western.
    Many country artists bridled at the word "hillbilly," considering it loaded with negative cultural stereotypes. By contrast, "cowboy" implied romance, bravery, and the self-sufficiency of life on the open range. By the mid-1930s, western fringe and cowboy hats and boots had become part of many performers' wardrobes, especially after Gene Autry and other Hollywood singing cowboys began to tackle the world's ills in their fantasy version of the West.
    - from sign in the Hall of fame titled "The Western Influence"

    Interestingly, I brought two pairs of shoes for this trip but only wore one pair, my brown "Legend Phoenix" Ariat cowboy boots. They were very comfortable though we didn't do any long or fast walking. These shoes are great for putting me in a Country State of Mind.

    Being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame is quite an honor. But only one person has been named twice...Roy Rogers. He was inducted as a member of Sons of Pioneers and as a solo artist.

    Interestingly, Elvis Presley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
    Elvis Presley's first releases fused country, R&B, pop, and gospel to create an original and incendiary style. By the time he signed with RCA Victor in 1955, Presley had begun to break out of the country market to captivate a nationwide audience of young listeners. Instead of almost killing country music, as some feared at the time, Presley opened the door to broader acceptance for other young country singers and musicians.
    - from sign in Hall of Fame titled "Elvis Presley"

    In one part of the Hall of Fame, a 1962 Pontiac Bonneville owned by honky tonk singer Webb Pierce was on display. See third photo. It reminded me of a car I had seen on one of Kid Rock's CDs. It turns out I was right. Kid Rock's car is two years newer but customized by the same artist.
    The 1964 Pontiac Bonneville Kid Rock drives [see Kid Rock car] in his "Born Free" [music] video was custom-made for country music icon Hank Williams, Jr. The Michigan rocker now owns the one-of-a-kind motor, which was styled by tailor to the stars Nudie Cohn in 1968, after picking it up at a 2010 auction for $225,000.
    - from Kid Rock's Classic Car Has Quite A History

    Country music is definitely lacking in people of color so it was good to know that Charley Pride was named Entertainer of the Year at the 1971 Country Music Association (CMA) and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
    With his easygoing charm, memorable songs, and a hard-country voice, Charley Pride overcame racial prejudice to win a huge following and gain tremendous chart success. After Chet Atkins signed the former Negro American League baseball player to RCA in 1965, Pride enjoyed a twenty-year streak of hits...
    - from sign in Hall of Fame titled "Charley Pride"

    Norma and I attended a songwriter session with Joe Doyle (fourth photo). While not being noted for being a performer, he wrote music for Alabama, Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, and others. He played several of his songs and answered a lot of questions from the audience. I thought all the songs he played sounded too similar.

    We ate lunch at the 222 Grill in the Hall of Fame.

    A variety of instruments was on display including a triple-neck instrument which featured a six-string guitar neck, an eight-string mandola neck, and a ten-string neck. See fifth photo. This reminded me of the guitar that Kyle Gass played in Master Exploder from Tenacious D - The Pick of Destiny.

    Bluegrass artists were mentioned at the Hall of Fame. The thing I love most about bluegrass is the fast banjo reminds of of the heavy metal shredders of the 1980s. The man who is given credit for this style of banjo playing is none other than Earl Scruggs.
    A master of the five-string banjo, Earl Scruggs (1924-2012) helped create the genre of bluegrass music with his innovative three-finger picking style.
    - from sign in Hall of Fame titled "Earl Scruggs"

    Perhaps my favorite genre of music is southern rock.
    In the early 1970s, the label southern rock was applied to the blend of blues, rock, jazz, and country fashioned by a wave of young, long-haired groups from the Southeast, who wore their regional pride like a badge of honor.
    The Allman Brothers Band laid the groundwork for the southern-rock movement when they signed with Macon, Georgia's newly formed Capricorn Records in 1969 and made that city their headquarters.
    The Marshall Tucker Band, from Spartansburg, South Carolina, combined musical improvisation and the laid-back feel of country rock.
    Florida-based Lynyrd Skynyrd established themselves with hard-rock swagger and southern-proud anthems such as "Sweet Home Alabama."
    Country artists such as Alabama, Brooks and Dunn, the Kentucky Headhunters, Montgomery Gentry, Travis Tritt, and Hank Williams Jr. all drew on the creative innovations of these pioneering southern-rock bands.

    - from sign in Hall of Fame titled "Southern Rock"

    One of my favorite country music artists is Hank Williams Jr.
    As he emerged from his father's shadow, Hank Williams Jr. immersed himself in southern rock, collaborating with Charlie Daniels and members of the Marshall Tucker Band on his 1975 LP "Hank Williams, Jr. and Friends." By the end of the decade, he had created a rowdy, no-holds-barred persona around the hard-edged sound of hits such as "Family Tradition."
    - from sign in Hall of Fame titled "Hank Williams, Jr."

    I'm not much of a car person but if I were, my style would be muscle cars like the 1980 Pontiac Trans Am T-top coupe used in the 1980 film "Smokey and the Bandit II." See sixth photo.

    If I were a guitar person, I'd probably like the Fender Custom Shop Telecaster with bird's-eye maple neck and carved top overlaid with 160 mirror pieces made for Keith Urban by Senior Master Builder Yuriy Shishkov in 2009. See seventh photo.

    Speaking of guitars, one of my favorite country music songs is Guitar Town by Steve Earle. I actually considered putting it on my wedding playlist until I noticed that some of the lyrics include
    Everybody told me you can't get far
    On thirty-seven dollars and a Jap guitar

    In one section of the Hall of Fame, they had the music video for this song playing. But I noticed that they dubbed the song so it became
    Everybody told me you can't get far
    On thirty-seven dollars and a cheap guitar

    I did a web search and have not found this version of the song anywhere other than the Country Music Hall of Fame.

    One thing I like about some modern country music is that it blends various genres of music...sort of like Kid Rock does.
    MuzikMafia figureheads Big and Rich shook up country music with their eclectic, genre-bending sound. Blending contemporary country, hard rock, and rap, the duo broadened the definition of country with their 2004 debut album, "Horse of a Different Color," and the #1 single "Lost in This Moment," from 2007.
    - from sign in Hall of Fame titled "MuzikMafia"
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    The two of us walked on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge over the Cumberland River. We had a nice view of the Korean Veterans Boulevard Bridge to our east. See first photo, first column. We also had a scenic view of the Nashville skyline (second photo, first column).

    At Mr. Hat's Boot Company, I purchased a Stetson Hollywood Drive Crushable Wool Cowboy Hat. It fits like a Stetson should.

    Norma and I ate dinner at The Listening Room Cafe. The food wasn't very good and the service was extremely slow but the entertainment was not bad. We saw Casey Derhak and Friends. I bought Casey's CD "Deep South Sweet Sound."
    Casey Derhak [(third photo, first column)] is a national touring artist based out of Nashville, TN. Casey's rhythmic music is the type of music you can't get out of your head, with well-crafted lyrics and insane rhymes. People find a way to gravitate towards him and what he calls his "Deep South Sweet Sound". Casey has also christened his musical style as "Flow Country" which makes perfect sense when you hear his ability to shoot rapid fire lyrics on top of up-tempo beats!
    - from CMT - About Casey Derhak

    Casey is from Jupiter, Florida, where Team SNaCk visited on January 18, 2015. I made sure to tell Casey that when I bought his CD, which he autographed for me.

    We walked around on the main tourist street where all the honky tonks were located. They were pretty crowded and Norma wasn't so keen on standing so I went into a few alone. In Whiskey Bent Saloon I saw Chase and Earl. With such energetic fiddle playing, they were my favorite band of the evening. See first photo, second column.

    The two of us went into Robert's Western World (second photo, second column) and then I went in alone to The Big Bang Dueling Pianos (third photo, second column). I didn't catch the names of the bands that played.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Nine, Sunday, December 27, 2015
    We said farewell to Ron and Tim, then began our long drive home.

    Gas was as cheap as $1.61 per gallon in Tennessee.

    Norma and I stopped at Arby's, one of my favorite chain restaurants.

    Not too far outside of Washington D.C., it rained pretty hard for awhile, making driving difficult.

    We made it home early enough to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

    I counted my chickens. They were all there, thanks to Erin A., our chicken and cat sitter.

    This trip was unlike any others in that we spent little time doing outdoor activities. The general theme of the trip (at least in my mind) was music. Of the three cities we stayed at, I enjoyed Nashville the most, though if I didn't like country music, I don't know if I would say that.

    While writing this blog, I made a "to do" list for myself to increase my music enjoyment with things I learned on this trip.

    Bands I will check out:
  • Urban Soil
  • Leroy Powell
  • Chris McDaniel
  • Earl Scruggs
  • Gary Allan
  • Jimmie Rodgers
  • Hank Williams, Sr.
  • Steve Earle
  • Eric Church
  • Charlie Daniels: Song titled "Trudy"
  • Waylon Jennings: Song titled "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line"
  • Jerry Reed: Song titled "The Claw"
  • Glen Campbell: Song titled "Rhinestone Cowboy". I had this song on 45. It was one of the first songs I owned as a child.
  • Brooks and Dunn
  • Kentucky Headhunters
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Travis Tritt
  • Tompall Glaser
  • Keith Whitley
  • Ricky Skaggs
  • Dwight Yoakam
  • Keith Urban
  • John Anderson
  • Big and Rich
  • Cowboy Troy
  • James Otto
  • Two-Foot Fred
  • Blackberry Smoke: CD titled "Holding all the Roses" which I do not yet have.

  • Try out the following Sirius/XM satellite radio stations:
  • The Highway: Today's country hits on Sirius channel 56
  • Y2Kountry: 2000s country hits on Sirius channel 57
  • Prime Country: 80s/90s country hits on Sirius channel 58
  • Willie's Roadhouse: Willie's classic country on Sirius channel 59
  • Outlaw Country: Rockin' country rebels on Sirius channel 60
  • Bluegrass Junction: Bluegrass on Sirius channel 61

  • Watch the movie Coal Miner's Daughter.

    I'm also considering purchasing a Sea Eagle RazorLite 393rl inflatable kayak for travel and launching when there is no place to park near the launch area. There are definitely times I could have used this in Tennessee.