Not because we wanted to, of course. Kaylee happened to be in Beta Club this year, and unlike when I was in Beta Club in school, her group actually did stuff. I remember getting my little certificate and pin and that was about it. Now they do meetings and competitions and stuff. Their group won “Quiz Bowl” for my state, and qualified to go to Nationals, which was in Tennessee.
I’ve been to Tennessee before, most recently to Gatlinburg, which I don’t care to go back to, either, unless there’s more Moonshine tasting involved. Without Moonshine, Gatlinburg is a pretty dull place. I wouldn’t mind hiking through it, but staying there…no.
Nashville held little appeal to me. Sure, its the home of Country Music, but I don’t like country music. Still, it was an important trip for Kaylee and we couldn’t say no. On Thursday June 25 we stopped at the Welcome Center along I-40 and waved goodbye to North Carolina.
I tried briefly stopping at the border for a visit to the Appalachian Trail. All I could find was a white blaze on the underside of the I-40 overpass. That’s as close to the AT as I have been in a while, so I’ll have to let that one go until September.
Seriously, the biggest Handicapped spot I’ve ever seen.
One of our first places to visit in Nashville was the Opryland Mall behind the Gaylord Opryland resort, where this Beta Club thing was being held. I recently discovered Starbucks and their delicious Chai Lattes. I had to stop for one.
Not a Starbucks brand:
Outside the Grand Old Opry itself.
Competition day began with breakfast at the most interesting McDonald’s I’ve ever seen. There was all sorts of vintage radio and music stuff. It was part fast food, part museum. There was even an antenna tower on the roof with WMAC letters. Pretty nice theming for Nashville.
After Kaylee’s team took their written test, we headed into downtown Nashville to try and see the sights. Of course there was a Hard Rock and Margaritaville. Because when I think Hard Rock and Margaritas, I think downtown Nashville.
Of course – we had to take the bus through some of the awful traffic and walk a couple of blocks to see the TN state capitol. The former hot weather was quickly turning cool, and when we hit the open hill by the statehouse, we saw why. A line of terrible blustery thunderstorms from hell was heading our way.
Speaking of Roscoe – we had time to hit Cooter’s Museum and store the following morning. Unfortunately, Kaylee’s team was not one of the top 8, and they didn’t qualify for the Quiz Bowl Tournament on site. So, we had to find something to do since the hotel was paid up until Sunday. Cooter was the tow driver on the Dukes of Hazard TV show in the 70s. As a former fan of the show as a kid, it was interesting to go in and see all the stuff they had from the show.
The Duke Boy’s Car. And before people start licking glass and getting their panties in wads over the flag: Look. Stop it. It was a TV prop from the 70s. I don’t remember it as a racial thing. I don’t recall a single episode where Bo and Luke attended a Klan rally or beat up a black guy. They were a couple of troublesome young adults trying to get away from a goofy sheriff and a corrupt town manager who was always trying to take their uncle’s land. Sure, the uncle happened to run moonshine, which may have had something to do with their law enforcement troubles. So if you’re offended by the car, talk to the people who wrote the series in 1975.
Daisy’s jeep. This was the jeep of the woman who INVENTED “Daisy Dukes”. If you’re into short shorts, thank Katherine Bach. And the producers of the show…
On the way through Kentucky we stopped at Lincoln’s Boyhood home. The driveway and such were being refurbished, so this is as close as I could get, but still, to see Honest Abe’s boyhood house was pretty impressive.
After Lincoln, we hit the Maker’s Mark Distillery, for a tour that Angie said made us “Parents of the Year”. Kaylee got in Free, so I think that says something for them. The lines were really long, and it took us about 45 minutes to get started on a tour.
Kaylee doesn’t like the smell of Mash in the air. Distillery Selfie! Our friendly distillery guide, Ashley, showed us around. We saw the top of the still (most of it was in the basement), the corn grinders, and the mash tun for cooking the mash before fermentation. The top of the still column. Mash Tuns for cooking the corn/rye mix. Fermentation tanks. This was pretty neat, they let us taste from the tanks themselves. The first was like a sweet cereal like an oatmeal. The second which was two days old tasked like a flat beer, and the last one which was three days old tasted like a bad wine. It was hot and smelled very strong in this room. This was just the tops of 8 vats which were at least twenty feet tall. We just happened to be on the second floor. Their printing/cutting press from the 1930s for stamping out labels. CSI: Kentucky. Maker’s Mark’s quality control lab. Where the magic comes together with glass. The bottling line. After bottling, TASTING. Makers white had a very strong corn flavor, a lot like moonshine. Not aged at all, just bottled right from the still. Maker’s 46 was very nice, put into special barrels for the last three months. Very smooth compared to their standard fare. I bought a bottle of Cask Strength, which comes out the barrel and right into the bottle without being diluted. Mine is 113 proof. Their special Chihuly glass artwork in the barrel room right before the gift shop, “Spirit of the Maker”
Leaving the whiskey distillery, we stopped at the Toll Gate Cafe, the only place to eat for miles. Not bad. After getting back toward the interstate, we went through a little town near where Lincoln grew up, and then on to his Birthplace Memorial, a National Park.
Thanks to Maker’s Mark being overly busy, and the stop at Lincoln’s Birthplace, we were too late to take the boat ride underground at the Lost River Cave and Valley site, but we did go gem mining for rocks. I like the ones in North Carolina a lot better. We walked a nature trail and saw a butterfly house and a natural spring.
That night we got back and had dinner at John A’s, a local restaurant/bar with a stage. There was live music when we arrived, and while we were there, two singers from the Grand Old Opry happened by and sang a few songs. I’m not into Country Music, but it was still interesting seeing people that actually sing at the Opry.
Next time: Backpacking. I’m still putting together Cruise photos and video, its hard to Corrall 600 photos.