End of February I was attending another fan event in Nashville so planned several things to see. I WAS going to have about 4-5 stops, but because of an unanticipated dislocated kneecap, cut that to 3. Getting in and out of the car was a little difficult and frankly walking was a little draining so decided to keep it a little shorter.
New Jersey to The Smoky Mountains — 703 miles
The trip to Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains took about 12 hours. It was not one of the better drives mostly because it was raining off and on the entire time. It didn’t really impact the time of the trip too much — other than it was one more thing.
Smoky Mountains – Overnight Only
I got in late so it’s really hard to say what it was like. But you drive through Pigeon Forge — home of Dolly Pardon. I can assume only that it’s a lot more buit up now than when she was younger. Reminded me a bit of Niagara Falls are and NJ boardwalks — some honky-tonk and some fun rides. I think for kids there is actually a lot to do — besides just hiking in the mountains. Plus, the entire area had colorful lights to dress it up for the “Winterfest.” There is a whole driving tour of the area during this time and it’s beautiful.
I finally arrived at the hotel around 6 pm so it wasn’t a late night in comparison to others. I stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites right in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Beautiful area — as you drive into Gatlinburg, there’s a huge sign welcoming you in soft lifts to the town. Very picturesque. The hotel was great — nice room, two pools (although I didn’t swim), spa, free breakfast all for $80 a night (including taxes). I very much like the area and would suggest anyone think about visiting.
On the Way to Nashville — Music City USA – 173 miles
At least the start of the next leg let me see what I missed the previous evening driving in. Lots of interesting things to see and do for all so strongly encourage people to think of this as a place to vacation.
I was tired driving and this trip from Gatlinburg to Nashville took only about 4 hours. To me — now – that’s short. After the last trips, I realize that trying to do two ‘long’ trips back to back by yourself is hard so my suggestion is to give it one day of rest or only a short drive — 2 hours. Longer than that wares on you. And of course, the weather was rainy most of the way. I stopped several times for coffee and to walk a bit — for a four hour drive that’s a lot so it clearly says short drives on the ‘second day.’ Had I not had that bad leg, I probably would have stopped in Knoxville — but next time for sure.
Nashville, Tennessee — Definitely a Place to Visit
First, my convention was not in Nashville proper, we were at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It is a beautiful, HUGE hotel. Everyone staying there gets lost — literally. There are five or so different sections, various convention and meeting areas, a river and a boat ride, trees and pretty much most kinds of stores. Plus, WSM 650 broadcasts at least some shows from the hotel. WSM is home to the Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts.
When the convention was over, we moved about 20 minutes closer to Nashville downtown — again a Fairfield Inn & Suites — located in the Gulch. It too was very nice so have nothing but positive comments about this hotel chain. Again, free breakfast and it was good. Hotel staff couldn’t have been nicer.
So, for our one free day, what did we do? Went on the Music City Trolley Hop. There were five of us and we decided to get the two day pass. There was a lot you could do and spend time doing and that pass made the most sense. While I think our driver was not necessarily the best, the sites you see are pretty much the same with any trolley company. One of the major areas — Broadway — has live music playing from most of the clubs and bars on the street. It is a little reminiscent of New Orleans — including not sure how ‘late’ you want to be on the street. While we were there — it was absolutely fine and we saw many families enjoying the walk and the sites.
Since three of us had more limited time we chose to tour the Ryman Auditorium. While a lot of country performances took place here, the history of this beautiful building is so much more. Built initially as a tabernacle, it became one of the premier music halls. I encourage everyone who enjoys any kind of music to see it.
En Route Home — via Louisville, Kentucky and the home of the Kentucky Derby — Churchill Downs!
Churchill Downs — 175 miles; to home — 730 miles
Start to a very very long day — but had company for this trip home. Rained pretty much the entire drive home but we stopped at one important place — Churchill Downs. Home of the Kentucky Derby. We decided to stop — see the Kentucky Derby Museum and take a short — 30 minute tour. As there was lightening — we had to wait a bit for the tour and that had a significant impact on when we got home. But I thought it was great to see and broke up the drive a bit. We literally were right next to the track; we were in the stands, saw the paddocks and the betting windows. All best are in cash at Churchill Downs. That means if you bet $1000 — you have to hand over cash.
So after we finished up at Churchill Downs, we finished our drive. One of the more interesting things we saw on the rainy way home was a cloud formation that reminded me of X-Files – Mulder’s “I want to believe” poster.
You have to enjoy these things on a long ride home — we ultimately pulled in at 3 am Wednesday — after starting out at 7 am Tuesday — given a one hour time difference. The drive took us 19 hours — given stops, rain and rush hour traffic. Not something I want to do again but decided to go home instead of finding another place to stay overnight.
Nashville Trip by the Numbers
Total Distance: 2,127 miles
Total Tolls: NONE!!!!!
What did I Listen to: Pandora, local radio stations, books on tape and TuneIn application that let me get CNN and 1010 wins everywhere
Wished: I hadn’t dislocated my kneecap! But having done that, I got a handicap placard that made parking much much easier.