From the very first time we set foot in Nashville, we were hooked. The music, the food, the architecture, the energy, the history…we loved it all. So, when our sister-in-law said she was considering running the Nashville Marathon, we were immediately on-board for a third visit to this ridiculously fun city. (First visit here; second visit here.)
We cheered on Jen (along with some random guy dressed as a shark), and toasted the successful completion of her 25th marathon…
And, once the race was done, we joined them in soaking up some Music City goodness…
Nashville – The Place to See and Be Seen… and Heard
Nashville has been on a seemingly endless upward trajectory. Between its entertainment options, professional sports teams, conventions, and special events, the city offers something for everyone, and “everyone” keeps showing up. The city continues to set records for tourism and the permanent population has boomed over the last decade.
In addition to attracting country music fans, the city is now catering to those who might not have given it much consideration before. Boutique hotels, trendy restaurants, and high end shops now compete with the historic, sticky-floored downtown honkytonks for tourist and resident dollars. One such place is The Gulch – a trendy neighborhood full of higher end shops and restaurants located a few blocks from downtown.
Our visit to super-popular restaurant Milk & Honey allowed me to finally try this fancy avocado toast that has everyone up in arms:
And we got to see some of the cool kids making Instagram magic…
…after standing in line behind the other hundred cool kids waiting to make the very same Instagram magic:
Speaking of which, Nashville has become THE place for bachelorette parties and girlfriend getaway weekends. Stand on any street corner in the downtown area, on any day of the week, at any time of day, and you’ll see an almost endless stream of open top party buses full of revelers singing and dancing as they wind their way through the downtown. The buses are so ubiquitous, and their patrons so predictably hammered, we call them the “woo girls” – in honor of their seemingly insatiable desire to scream “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” as their buses motor by.
They all look something like this:
In addition to the ubiquitous party buses, there are pedal taverns, tractors, barges, and several other types of motorized vehicles that prowl the streets transporting the woo girls (and the occasional woo-dudes) around town:
But all that wooing doesn’t just happen. First you gotta get some avocado toast, 6 mimosas, and an Instagram pic…
It’s like the circle of life….
Misfire at The Grand Ole Opry
On both our previous trips to Nashville, we bought tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and, each time, we loved the experience. The show, which is broadcast live on the radio, features 8 or 9 performers, each representing a different era or genre, performing just 3 songs before ceding the stage to the next performer. For folks like us, who don’t know much about country music, it provides an awesome opportunity to get a taste of different types of it, and for those who are country music fans, there’s a good chance that, on any given night, one of the biggest names in the business might show up for a mini concert.
Most of the year, the show is broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House which is located in the suburbs of Nashville.
However, for a couple months each winter, the show returns to it’s original home, the Ryman Auditorium, which is located in downtown Nashville.
Our November visit coincided with this return to the Ryman and I figured it would be an even better experience than usual because the Ryman is so revered in country music.
I was wrong.
Somehow, we got stuck at the Opry’s version of “Golden Oldies Night at the Sunset Hills Retirement Home.”
Most of the performers were sooooooooooo oooooollllldddd… and the whole night just felt corny and dated. Of the nine acts, only two were appealing to us at all – Ana Christina Cash (daughter in law of Johnny and June), and Molly Tuttle, a popular bluegrass/folk artist. The rest were an assortment of performers who sounded like they’d finally finished their set and disembarked from the Love Boat and a gaggle of cliche country boys singing about drinkin beer and riding tractors while shooting squirrels or whatever. I have no idea. It was terrible.
Additionally, when the Opry is at its normal home in the suburbs, there is one show each night. However, when they’re at the Ryman, they have two performances back to back. Unfortunately, and somewhat shockingly, they were not at all prepared to handle the changed format. They skipped the usual introductory video for the show and they didn’t leave enough time between the performances for guests to find their seats. The entire evening felt rushed and disjointed.
Finally, and most cringe-worthy, they brought out Sergeant Noah Galloway. If you’re not familiar, Sgt. Galloway was a soldier in the Army who, in 2005, lost his left arm above the elbow and his left leg above the knee when his vehicle hit an IED in Iraq. Subsequent to his release from the hospital, he fell into a deep depression but eventually turned his life around. In addition to becoming a successful author and motivational speaker, he regularly competes in various extreme athletic events, he’s appeared on Dancing With The Stars (best show ever), and, more recently, American Grit.
It was Veterans Day weekend, so we expected the Opry announcer was introducing him and telling his story in order to allow him to say a few words about his advocacy on behalf of veterans or his work as a motivational speaker. But nope! After introducing him to a rousing standing ovation, they handed him an advertisement to read on the radio.
An ad for Humana.
They – literally – handed him a microphone and a typed out sheet of paper and had him read it.
Who asks a wounded war veteran to read a fricken ad for an insurance company?
And on Veterans Day??
After that travesty, they returned to their standard program of songs about Real Amuricans or whatever and we counted down the minutes til it was over.
Faring better for our return trip, was Hattie B’s. While Hattie’s was not the first restaurant to serve up Nashville Hot Chicken, we’ve visited several purveyors of this fine dish and, in our expert opinion, Hattie’s is the best.
The restaurant features six different spice levels: “No heat,” “mild,” “medium,” “hot,” “damn hot,” and “shut the cluck up.” We typically stick with medium or hot, but this time, Jeremy and Jen got the bright idea to order a single chicken tender at the “Shut the Cluck Up” level so we could all split it.
I think this picture of Kevin pretty well captures how that went:
The Johnny Cash Museum
We spent one rainy afternoon at the Johnny Cash Museum and found it to be extremely well done. The small but comprehensive museum explores his life, his music, his movies, and his personal story. We thought it was really well done.
Johnny Cash had one of the most prolific and successful music careers of any artist in history. Of his many astounding feats, he is the only entertainer in history to be inducted into the Country Music, Rock, and Songwriters Halls of Fame, and he’s the only musician to have had songs on the Billboard charts for six consecutive decades. Additionally, while unheralded in the face of his legendary music career, his talents as a manufacturer and purveyor of fine lip balms should not be overlooked. Alas, it is not too much to wonder whether Johnny would have walked any line at all, had he been forced to do so while suffering the embarrassment and discomfort of cracked, peeling lips. Fortunately, his Johnny Cash brand chapstick is available to all at the gift shop.
Unrelated, if you’re ever sitting in your house one day and you think to yourself “I would like to feel sad today!!”, then you should cue up this video…
This song was initially written and performed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. A producer later asked him to allow Cash to record a version. While Reznor was originally resistant to the idea, he, eventually, acquiesced and the video became one of the most critically acclaimed of all time.
The song and video were produced just months before Cash’s death in September, 2003. June Carter Cash, who is also shown in the video, unexpectedly preceded him in death in May of 2003.
The video is utterly heartwrenching and they play it on a loop at the end of the museum virtually guaranteeing that you will walk out, into the cold rain, completely crushed as you ponder the fleeting nature of human existence and the weight of one man’s regrets as he faces his inevitable physical decline.
Fortunately, it only takes about 3 seconds on a Nashville sidewalk before the despondent pall will be pierced by the siren song of “WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
Thank god for party girls.
Speaking of sadness, as we were hanging out with J&J listening to music in one of the downtown venues one afternoon, I had this lovely conversation with a bot from our bank….
We later determined we got skimmed at this car wash we took the Xterra to.
Now, my law enforcement friends will look at this photo and think: “Of COURSE you got skimmed there, you idiot!” And they would be right. We should have known better. This place has all the hallmarks of a spot where skimmers operate, but we weren’t thinking and instead of making good decisions, we got took. (Well, actually, Chase Bank got took. We just got inconvenienced. Sorry, Chase!!)
Lesson: Never vacuum your car.
After several days in Music City, we were ready for some serious beach time in one of our favorite spots. More on that next.
Where we stayed:
Two Rivers RV Park, Nashville, Tennessee
Lol!! I’m laughing so hard I’m crying! You summed it up perfectly!!! Between the woo girls, grand old Opry debacle and the “shut the cluck up” chicken tender, you nailed it. Thanks so much for meeting us! I feel like you are my race groupies, DC/VA, MA, IL, TN – you rock!! I really appreciate the support, especially this one, it was damn cold!! Who would have expected snow in Nashville in November! It was great to see the fun parts of Nashville and we always love hanging – even in the cool-but-creepy-you-never-go-outside hotel with $36 parking. Miss you lots!!!
We miss you too! We had a great time hanging out with you (as usual). I do wish the weather had been a tad nicer, but at least we had lots of sunshine. And I’m glad we finally found just the right bar with just the right music to enjoy. There should be plenty more marathons in our future. Now, if we could just get them to start a little later in the morning, it would be even better.. :).
The Vegas one runs at night as you know. Just sayin’ ????
Nashville looks very red. Or maybe you are drawn to red like a hummingbird? It’s definitely eye-catching!
“Woo” girls made me laugh. And shake my head. I can’t even imagine my younger, stupider, and drunker self finding those booze buses at all appealing. WTH?
While I wouldn’t have stood in line to have my photo taken in front of the giant chalkboard wings, I can’t really fault those who do. Except for the group of six. Dummies. Those wings, though quite large, couldn’t lift SIX. Duh!
Bummer about the Opry and getting skimmed, but congratulations to Jen for her 25th 26.2!
You’re right – quite a few of my photos have a red or purple tint. Interesting… I guess it’s the preferred color for neon decorations in that city. I absolutely love those angel wing murals. We’ve seen several and they are always so impressive. It’s just one of those things, though, that once someone posts a pic on Instagram, everyone else wants the exact same pic. Ah well. I guess it’s hard to be cutting edge all the time. 🙂
I have been a country music fan all my life. With that being said, what they play today is NOT country (IMO), it’s some sort of mishmash between country/rock, country/rap aka country crap. The last concert I saw was George Jones some time around 2010. I’d love to visit the J Cash Museum, never knew about the lip balm, that’s kinda strange. Given Kevin’s expression, I think I’ll skip “Shut the cluck up”!!
Thank goodness for smart phones and fraud alerts – remember when it was forever before you knew your number had been compromised?
Congrats to Jen and Shark Suit guy for completing the marathon!
I’ll have to see if I can dig up photos of the lineups from our first two trips to the Opry and see what you think of the performers. I thought those lineups were just much more varied and enjoyable. It’s really not so much an age thing on this one, as the music just all felt very similar and corny. I don’t know. We truly enjoyed all the acts the first two times. This time was just not good at all. (and I agree with you on the Jason Aldean country/rap thing. That stuff is atrocious.)
Agree 100% on the credit card alerts. It is incredible what these companies can pick up on these days. It’s especially impressive considering we are always traveling and we charge everything to our card (I don;t even carry cash anymore.) Yet, they still pick up on these random charges.
Once again you don’t disappoint ????????. Love your writing wit and humor. ????
Thanks, Lou! I’m glad you liked it!
It’s a bummer that you didn’t enjoy the Opry this time around, especially since it seems that they had already worked out a winning formula: a potpourri of different performers from different styles/eras should offer something for everyone. But I suppose all live performances occasionally have off nights, though that’s no excuse for the lamely presented Humana ad. (I might give them some slack for integrating products into the dialogue like in the early days of radio, as a kind of throwback move.)
But the energy of the town, the music and food scenes, and the connections to cultural history are all pretty appealing. We’ve been debating stopping in Nashville on our way south this fall and I think it will probably make the itinerary thanks to your positive experiences.
I would still suggest checking out the Opry if you go. It’s not all that expensive (like $50 per ticket at the regular Opry Theater) and it has always been such a great experience. I think we just went on a bad night. As for the radio ads, they always have the announcer read these ads because it’s a live radio show, and it generally doesn’t bother us. There was just no need to ask Sgt. Galloway to read this one, especially when it was the exact same ad the announcer had been reading all night. Weird, weird, weird. And to be clear, you should definitely go to Nashville. The Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame are both excellent and you’ll learn a lot. Plus, you can see the Parthenon without getting on a plane!!!
Love this, and agree with it all. Now I know why house prices have gone up steadily there ((I shop on Zillow, to be ready for eventual retirement.) And Hurt is astonishing.
Yup, Nashville real estate prices are pretty insane these days. The region holds a lot of appeal for retirees, along with pretty much everyone else. I would imagine you can still find good prices just outside the city, though. (PS: I take a look at real estate prices just about everywhere we travel. Sadly, when it comes to real estate, I seem to have caviar tastes on a tuna budget….)
Kevin made a good choice for a beverage to go with that chicken! 🙂
Haha. That is his all-time favorite beer! We went to the brewery while we were in Michigan and he’s been happy to find it all over Florida… We’ve actually found several of our favorite Michigan beers down here…. oddly enough.
We have passed through Nashville, but not taken the time to enjoy it the way you have. You wit really brings the experience some life, just avoid the car wash …
Thanks, Jeff! I think if I have one goal with this blog, it’s to make people stop washing their cars, exercising, and drinking in moderation. From what we can tell, nothing good comes from any of those things. 🙂
Loved your blog as always. I would love to visit Nashville someday. The one take away I learned is don’t vacuum your car. We just did that after accumulating months worth of sand and dirt, and wouldn’t you know it….we are loading up on same stuff again. LOL!
I’m telling you, it’s impossible to keep a car even kindof clean in this lifestyle. We track sand everywhere. At least in the RV, we can kick our shoes off, but the car is always a disaster. Plus, the puppy…. It’s just a lost cause. Ah well… since we’ve now committed to never vacuuming it again, I guess we’ll just have to get used to it! 🙂
Such a bummer about your Opry experience, especially because your previous two visits were so great! Like you, I would have thought that a show booked at the Ryman would be even better than the new venue. But…you got to see Molly Tuttle, and we paid big bucks to see her at the Savannah Music Festival last year. So, yay for that, right?
We love Nashville, and we hate Nashville. Love the music, the energy, the food…but hate the insane traffic, the outrageous parking fees, and the ridiculous amount of construction going on there. That said, although we kind of swore off returning to Nashville after our second visit last spring, your post is making me want to go back. It’s a cool city, no doubt about it. And Jen is awesome for following up running a marathon with a cocktail. Sounds like a winning training program to me (the cocktail part, anyway).
I know you guys enjoyed the Opry too, so I really think we just had a bad night. Ah well, it happens. We LOVED Molly Tuttle. Downloaded several of her songs when we got home. She was truly fabulous! Somehow we got lucky with the parking situation. There are some lots up near The Gulch that aren’t particularly expensive and we just walked downtown from there. Traffic can definitely be a bear, but, like so many cities, we’ve found that rush hour is really like, an hour, so if you can just avoid that time period, it’s not terrible (at least as compared to the traffic vortex we were used to.) As for Jen, I think her post marathon martini is as much a motivator as the damned medal they hand her at the end of the race!!
Johnny cash chapstick is just weird.
Right?? Of all the things to brand, why that???
We’ve been to Nashville a couple times for short visits and loved each one. It’s great to be able to hear music all day. We haven’t been in awhile. I’ve heard it has become the bachelorette party town. Not fun times!! More like crazy. Sorry to hear about your credit card. It’s a real pain while living on the road to get the new card. We’ve had it happen twice. Thank goodness for alerts.
I think that’s one of our favorite things too… there is ALWAYS someone playing live music. And there’s a wide range of styles to be found in a a very small area. If you don’t like the musician at one venue, just walk 20 feet and you’ll find something totally different. It’s just such a lively, fun city! You’re definitely right about the credit card thing. Our bank was on the ball and ready to send us new cards right away, but we had to figure out a place we’d be for long enough that the mail could get the cards to us. Things like that are always more complicated when living on the road.
Sounds like a great time. In Nashville..well despite the skimming and bad Ole Opery!!!
My people are from the south and I love Johnny Cash…was brought up on his music as well as all the other CW greats. That video is crushing for sure but what an amazing life that man had. Regrets, for sure but hell who doesn’t. It’s an unfortunate fact that hind sight is well, hind sight. Aging isn’t always easy and losing friends along that path is crushing for sure. Boy do I feel down now…LOL.
So on a positive ..I am still laughing about the Woo-Hoo girls.
Keep on keeping on Laura!!!
I think that’s the great value in songs like that. It makes you think about where you are in your life and what you shouldn’t take for granted. It’s a nice reminder to live in the present and enjoy it all because time is slipping away. And yeah, nothing like some sad songs to bring the whole mood down… Sorry about that. 🙂 The woo girls really did lighten the mood when we walked outside. There’s almost always something to laugh about, after all.
Only Johnny Cash can make such a simple melody and words like “my empire of dirt” carry more weight than an opera at the met. Bless him and June. What a legend. I do appreciate a good sad song from time to time.. Here’s another one for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-z7M3FZv4E
Okay, Woooooooo! We’ve driven around Memphis enough, it’s time to go in.
Safe and Happy Travels,
I was curious to know what the NIN version of the song sounded like and wow… totally different and not nearly as powerful. It is amazing what a difference the performer can make. He truly was one of a kind.
I listened to your sad song and now I am very very sad. So… thanks a lot for that. 🙂 But you’re right, the occasional sad song can be therapeutic…. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go find some videos of puppies to cheer me up. YouTube is the best invention ever!