May 15, 2018:
[A quick note: Our House In . . . is on YouTube! Not actually all that exciting, as we haven’t created any original video content for YouTube (yet?) but we have migrated most of the videos we have published on our blog to YouTube so we can remove them from WordPress and free up space. We’ve uploaded a few other videos that didn’t make the blog cut as well. Going forward, we will probably try to make an effort to record more new videos to embed in the blog, and maybe record some stand alone videos. No promises. Please let us know if the change is causing any problems.]
When we left off last time, we were with Terry and Michelle on Florida’s Panhandle. From there, we all headed to Nashville for a couple of days of fun.
Along the way, we drove part of the Natchez Trace Parkway. This is a 444-mile 2-lane scenic low speed highway stretching from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville. It’s managed by the National Park Service and has lots of historical sites, hikes and such along the way.
We stopped at just one of the historic sites on our piece of the Parkway, at the site of the former Napier Mine.
There were road-side critters on display.
We just drove a section of the Parkway which happened to be close enough to our route to not add much delay, so we could get to our next campground at a reasonable hour. If we’re back in the area, we’ll definitely give it another shot. It was a really nice drive, and promises some interesting stops.
And then, there was Nashville. Surprisingly, even though Terry is a huge music guy and used to tour professionally, he’d never been to the Athens of the South. In fact, it was the first time for all of us.
There’s a lot to do in Nashville; museums, parks, historic homes…
But we didn’t do any of that. We went to the honky-tonk strip on Broadway and listened to music (mostly old country) for two days. The stretch of bars there has live music starting mid-morning every day, going all day until bar close.
The church-like building rising behind the buildings on the left is Ryman Auditorium, made famous as the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. Opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, this still operating music venue is a National Historic Landmark.
The interior of Nudie’s Honky Tonk, named in honor of Nudie Cohn. It’s not clear how Nudie is related to the bar, other than the fact that they’ve got one of his Cadillacs hanging on the wall, and some of the suits he designed in display cases. Nudie was the designer of outlandish western wear, including Elvis’ gold lamé suit from 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong, and the costume Robert Redford wore in The Electric Horseman, as well as many of the rhinestone studded, elaborately decorated suits worn by country and rock legends and actors in the latter half of the 20th Century. Nudie’s story is pretty interesting.
At another bar, this group in particular, including Alan Jackson’s base player, was amazing. Laura would have listened to them all day long:
Most spots along Broadway have windows open to the street allowing a preview from the sidewalk.
Broadway isn’t just about live music, it’s about the gear:
Nashville probably has lots of great food but we didn’t have much luck finding it. We wanted to try Nashville hot chicken to see if it lives up to its hype. The lore of how this dish came to be is entertaining. One of the original hot chicken restaurants, Prince’s, claims that the founder’s girlfriend thought he was cheating and tried to take revenge by dousing the fried chicken she made him the next day in tons of peppers and spice. But instead of crying about the heat he loved it and asked for more. A tradition was born. Probably apocryphal, but it’s a good story, so let’s call it true.
Mostly because it was convenient and recommended, we tried hot chicken at Pepperfire, instead of at one of the original restaurants like Prince’s or Bolton’s. Arguably our favorite part of this place was its logo. The chicken was decent, but it wasn’t worth a trip to Nashville. For those of you in the Twin Cities, Revival is definitely better.
We like Nashville more than we expected. Maybe next time we’ll actually take in some of the history.
Back on the road, our intentions were set for visiting family and friends in Minnesota. But when we examined the forecast, we learned that a storm was about to dump a lot of snow on the Twin Cities, so we decided to kill a few days rather than fight the roads.
Our meandering path took us to the Cahokia Mounds, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the southwest corner of Illinois, just outside of St. Louis, MO. You’ll note from our updated Archeological Site Map that it’s quite a distance from other sites we’ve visited. We honestly were not even aware until recently that there were any serious archaeological sites in the Eastern US. Now we’ve got more destinations to target in the future.
Cahokia is an archaeological site that was home to a Mississippian city at the center of a region of smaller towns and villages that peaked around 1200 AD with a population in the tens of thousands.
The site has a really impressive visitor center / museum. Someone obviously raised a tremendous amount of cash to build it in the 80s, and it’s been well maintained since. We would highly recommend a stop if you’re anywhere nearby.
After touring the museum and watching an informative movie, we went outside to see the site. Unlike the masonry structures at many of the other sites we’ve visited, these were earthen mounds, and as a result, they are more eroded and less defined. Still, the scale of the site, and of the largest mound in particular, are pretty impressive.
Monk’s Mound, above, is approximately 100 feet tall (30.5M). The massive mound is the largest pre-Columbian earthwork in North America. It is named for Trappist Monks who lived on the site and gardened on the mid-level terrace.
One thing we didn’t learn in the museum: If this city was the ruling center of a region of surrounding towns and villages, who was this palisade built to keep out?
From Cahokia, we drove to St. Louis, where our friends Brett and Nathalie happened to be for the weekend. They are rehabbing a 19th century house in the city’s picturesque Lafayette Square neighborhood. You might recall that we visited Brett and Nathalie in Augusta, Georgia last year. We also visited them in Hawaii and two places in Germany in the past. Now they’re in South Central Missouri, but not for long. Some people’s jobs. . .
We decided to head west to take a route more likely to be clear of snow. Just east of Kansas City, we found a chain Mongolian barbeque restaurant that had this unexpected bar:
There was actually a banner sign tied to the outside of the restaurant advertising the taproom, but we had to go in to believe it. It was incongruous, attached to a chain restaurant, but apparently the franchise owner is a big beer nerd. Fun find.
Anyway, after that, it was all driving to Minnesota, where we got to spend a little time visiting friends and family. We have been a little more rushed in our travels this year, and we know that we have have failed to stop and visit some of the people we would like to spend time with. We hope to rectify that in the future, on our further adventures.
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