Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles
Nashville, Tennessee, June 26nd – June 30th
On Day 9 I headed out from Chattanooga & drove 150 miles or so northwest to Nashville, with a stop about halfway through at Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester. The park is home to a Native American ceremonial enclosure which was long abandoned by the time Europeans arrived & mistook it for a fort. I didn’t really see much of the earthworks because I got so hung up on the beautiful waterfalls! Enclosure Trail is a 1.4-mile loop leading from the visitor’s center along the Duck & Little Duck rivers, as well as to some other trails. Near Big Falls the trail passes through the ruins of the Stone Fort Paper Company mill, the last of several factories that were built here to take advantage of power supplied by the river. I only had a couple of hours to spend there but there’s a lot to see & I would love to get back there to hike some more.
Day 10 was just wandering around seeing what the place had to offer. Downtown Nashville was OK except for having to get after some guy in the middle of a gift shop to get him to stop dancing all up in my personal space. I think he was part of a scavenger hunt or something, he was in a group all wearing the same t-shirts & headbands, & I kept seeing people all over town wearing the same t-shirts with different colored headbands. What was the challenge – get a stranger to dance with you? If it was get a stranger to yell at you they definitely got to check that one off the list. Anyway I walked down Broadway to the river & it was mostly just bars & kitschy shops so I didn’t hang around long. I went over to the Parthenon at Centennial Park. It’s a full-scale replica built for the 1897 Centennial Exposition, complete with 42-foot statue of Athena. The building also houses an art museum & plaster casts of the original Parthenon Marbles (sometimes referred to as the Elgin Marbles but that’s a whole rant I won’t get into today). I ended my day at Belle Meade Plantation, which started off as a single cabin on 250 acres purchased by John Harding in 1807. The property was right on the Natchez Trace, the main trading route between Tennessee & Mississippi. The farm eventually became a successful thoroughbred breeding & racing operation that allowed Harding to build a large brick house. John’s son William expanded the house & property before being one of just a few Confederate prisoners sent to the fort where I used to work on Mackinac Island! The mansion & grounds were very cool & in the middle of a fancy-pants part of town so when I was done with my tour I basically just drove around staring at rich people’s houses.
On Day 11 it rained. It rained alllll day. So I headed down the road from my campground to do some indoor exploring. Gaylord Opryland is a resort & convention center but it’s also basically a jungle inside a building. There’s 3 sections of garden, complete with waterfalls & a river, all protected from the elements by giant glass domes. It’s amazing & beautiful & free as long as you park at the shopping mall next door & walk over because parking on site costs a bajillion dollars ($27 – seriously) unless you want to eat at one of the expensive restaurants or stay in the expensive rooms.
On Day 12 I did what I do at least once on every single trip I ever take & went to the zoo. The Nashville Zoo isn’t huge but has plenty to see, including an aviary with a sloth & a whole pen of guinea pigs that are pretty darn cute. Plus of course lots of large African animals, monkeys, reptiles, & big cats (I didn’t take many pictures there. I have no idea why.). In one corner is the Grassmere Historic Home, which offers tours & a chance to pet heritage breeds of farm animals.
Next stop: nature & Superman in Paducah, Kentucky!