The next stop on our epic US road trip was Nashville. I’d been to Nashville about 15 years ago and couldn’t wait to see it again, and share it with Nick! Boy, has Nashville grown in those 15 years!
We arrived a few days after the Country Music Awards ended. The whole city was recovering from the massive crowds that had just left. You could tell that everyone was just a little hung-over and exhausted from awards week.
On our first full day in Nashville, we couldn’t wait to get downtown and see the sights. The day was already heating up, but we hopped on the shuttle that ran between our campground and downtown. The shuttle driver gave us directions to get to the heart of the honky-tonk section of Nashville.
We walked up and down Broadway, and also down Second Avenue. I’d left my cowboy boots at home, so we went into a few of the many boot stores that lined the streets. I just couldn’t find a pair that felt right, but looking was fun!
There was a long line of people, mostly young girls, waiting to get into Jason Aldean’s rooftop bar for a free concert. We never did figure out who they were going to see. The sun was beating down on the girls in the line, and it looked like it would be even hotter on the rooftop in the mid-day sun. Oh to be young again!
Looking for a place to cool off, we headed for the Johnny Cash Museum and bought our tickets ($20 each). The museum was crowded, and it was hard to get to some of the exhibits. But it was packed with fascinating memorabilia. I really enjoyed the information about his childhood and his life with June Carter Cash. The curators did a fantastic job displaying an amazing number of artifacts and honoring his musical legacy.
It was 105 degrees and just too hot to be wandering around Nashville. We went back to our campsite to check on Bella and made a plan to go out again that night.
After the sun went down, we headed back downtown. Nashville was fun during day, but the Music City really shines at night! Music was pouring out of every bar on Broadway. As we walked down the street, the sounds of one band pulled us in. We walked into the Second Fiddle and enjoyed the music of Big Country and the Hee Haw Rejects until their set was over.
Our next stop was Robert’s Western World. Famous for their fried bologna sandwiches and cheap beer, this is a local favorite. This honky tonk used to be a boot shop, that offered a bit of music and beer in the evenings. But the honky tonk business is apparently more lucrative than the boot business. They still have shelves full of boots along to the wall, though no longer for sale. The heat, the beers and the music had done their work, and we headed home for the night.
The next day, we resolved not to leave our air conditioned RV until the sun went down. Once it did, we caught the shuttle downtown to enjoy more music. We went to Layla’s and saw The Taylors and The Mama Tried Band. This is a mother-daughter duo, and the Mom is an amazing guitar player! Check them out on YouTube if you want to see them.
We wandered in and out of a few more honky-tonks, but after a few beers it all got kind of fuzzy. Time to catch the shuttle back to the RV and go to bed!
Nick got on his bike the next morning and headed to the Grand Ole Opry. In addition to the actual performance space, there’s a big resort-hotel and a shopping mall. He returned with lunch (BBQ, of course) and suggested that we rest up, and go to the Opry that night.
That evening,we Ubered to the Opry and headed to the ticket office. We asked for their best available seats. It turns out that the best available were in the center section, front row! Front row seats aren’t always the best, but I still love them. Yes, you might get a stiff neck looking up at the stage. But I love the feeling of being part of the show that you only get when you’re in the front row!
We weren’t familiar with any of the artists playing that night, but we enjoyed them all. I especially enjoyed Rickie Skaggs! It was fun being part of the radio broadcast. Seeing a show at the Opry was a bucket-list experience.
Another must-do in Nashville was to eat some hot chicken. We selected Prince’s for this culinary experience. During the Great Depression, Thorton Prince was a bit of a ladies man. After one of Thorton’s late nights out, his girlfriend decided to get revenge. He woke up to the smell of his favorite fried chicken. But his girlfriend had made it extra spicy, so that he would be in agony when he ate it. It turns out he really liked it that way. Thorton Prince perfected the recipe for Hot Chicken and opened Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. That was almost 100 years ago. You can get hot chicken all over Nashville, but Prince’s is the original.
Our Uber dropped us off at a strip mall on the outskirts of Nashville. Prince’s opens for lunch at 11:30 and we arrived just a few minutes after it opened. There was a pretty long line of people waiting to place their order. We saw a lot of orders going in, but no chicken coming out of the kitchen. We purchased sodas from a vending machine and placed an order for Hot Chicken. We like spicy food, but something told us that the Xtra Hot or XXtra Hot might be too much to handle.
We took our number (17) and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, they started calling numbers and finally they called ours. It was hot from the fryer and plenty spicy for us! Served with white bread underneath and topped with a couple of pickles, this is the stuff dreams are made of. We dove into our meals, both breaking out in a sweat from the spicy hot chicken. There were no leftovers to take home.
As we waited outside for our Uber to pick us up, a young woman was playing rap music on a CD player outside of the store. She explained to Nick that she wrote and performed the CD we were listening to, and asked if he wanted to buy a copy for $5. He did. I love that about him.
Our time in Nashville was winding down. We went honky-tonking one last time. More beer. More amazing music. More fun. In a moment of beer-induced clarity, we decided that our trip to Nashville was like being in college again, only this time we could afford the beer.
It was time to either leave or consider rehab. We had planned to go to Memphis next, but the heat in Nashville had convinced us that it was time to head North. And perhaps we needed a little more wildlife and a little less nightlife. Bella had been a trooper about all of the urban campgrounds, but it was time to give her some off-leash fun.
Next stop, the Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in Illinois!
Lynne, Nick and Bella