Or so we thought. We were surprised to find that the Music City and the towns close to it offered so much to see and do! We did listen to a lot of country music, catching the end of the 2010 CMA Music Festival. But we also drove by the Grand Ole Opry (although it has been under repair for flood damage). We also toured Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage and chanced upon The Parthenon, the only full-size replica in the world of the Grecian architectural wonder! And there were also lots to see in the neighboring towns of Columbia, Spring Hill, Hohenwald, and Lawrenceburg, Tennessee!
Let me get off to a rockin’ start with the CMA Music Festival. We caught the last day of it! Taylor Swift was on a 13-hour autograph signing event inside Bridgestone Arena where her fancy RV was parked amongst the thousands of cheering fans (me included). In front of the CMA Music Hall of Fame was a huge tent where Martina McBride was holding a Country Stars’ Auction. (When we went back after the Festival we saw that underneath the tent was the MusicWalk of Fame, a la Hollywood's.). And nearby was the Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge where Bo Bice was unceremoniously, but graciously thrown off soon after getting on the mechanical bull (the challenge is for 8 seconds).
Outside the Bridgestone Arena were more country stars performing on the Chevy Stage in 30-minute intervals. At the Riverfront Park were even more stars performing! All these for free! Every night, however, at the big L P Field on the other side of the river the greats performed to sold-out seats. All around the four blocks (between 5th and 1st Avenues were the Sports Zone, Family Zone, and Fun Zone where many tents and kiosks offered all sorts of free stuff: Blue Bell ice cream, Texas BBQ, Jack Daniels whiskey, New Orleans Creole cookin’, McDonalds fudge sundaes, Mello Yellow, Coke Zero, and Ocean Spray ice-cold drinks.
We had great food, great music, and great fun! Unfortunately, it was a blazing HOT Sunday at 95 degrees with the famed Tennessee humidity and, by 5 PM, I couldn’t stop my meltdown. First we sought refuge at a cowboy boots store. Then we went to the air-conditioned public library on 6th Avenue. We understand some people were rushed to the hospital for heat strokes. But we survived and came back another day for the non-CMA Music Festival highlights of The Music City!
Tennessee produced three US presidents, Jackson, Polk, and Johnson. Having been to Washington’s Mt. Vernon, Jefferson’s Monticello (and Poplar Forest), Madison’s Montpelier, and Monroe’s Ash Lawn Highland, we were amazed at the beauty of The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home. The legacy of America’s 7thpresident was the annexation to the Union of Arkansas and Michigan. But The Hermitage must be another, especially the Greek-inspired tomb and memorial to his wife. She died just weeks before he claimed the presidency, presumably from the stresses of the campaign. The opposition tried to use the scandal of their marriage (done before her divorce was finalized) to break his overwhelming popularity as the general who turned the tide of the War of 1812 with his triumph at the Battle of New Orleans.
Columbia, just minutes south of Nashville, has the ancestral home of James Polk, 11th president of the US. Polk only served one term but won the Mexican-American War for the Union and his legacy became the annexation of the rest of the West. He died just three months after the end of his term. He was sickly from the start but, being a workaholic, it is generally believed that the hard work he put in may have cost him his life. See how he aged in these two pictures that were taken only 2 years apart during his term and are now hanging in his Columbia home!
On the way to Hohenwald, we drove by Spring Hill when we saw the sign Carter House. It is not the home of a US president. The house is on the site of the Battle of Franklin and the house is the most bullet-riddled house of the Civil War! All of over 1,000 bullet holes are quite visible on the farm office building which was painted red to highlight the holes. Spring Hill is also the town where the Saturn manufacturing plant once proudly stood on the Saturn Parkway. It is now a GM plant. What will it be next?
Hohenwald is the closest town to our campground, Natchez Trace Wilderness Preserve. And that is the town where Meriwether Lewis died under mysterious circumstances (syphilis or suicide or murder?). A monument that is incomplete stands above his burial site and near the roadhouse where he died. It is incomplete to symbolize a life that was cut short, a life that could have been so much greater. After all, he discovered the West for America. The monument is one of the attractions of the Natchez Trace Parkway which connects Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, and features many highlights along the scenic drive. We hope to cover more of it in the future.
Finally, Lawrenceburg is where a thriving ‘Old Order’ Amish community in the Etheridge area gave me a lot to think about. The Amish are a very traditional sub grouping of Mennonite churches. They are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt modern convenience. They began with a schism in Switzerland led by Jakob Ammann. In the early 18th century, many Amish immigrated to Pennsylvania. Over the years, the Amish churches have divided many times over doctrinal disputes. The 'Old Order' Amish, a conservative faction that withdrew from the wider body in the 1860s, are those that have most emphasized traditional practices and beliefs.
We enjoyed marveling at their crafts, their produce, and their way of life. The Yoders Homestead Market was a delight! I bought so many things for my pantry there! A 2008 study suggests the Amish in the US and Canada have increased to 227,000. I understand that the fastest advancing community in the country is Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We are bound to encounter many more of them in such places as Iowa, Indiana, and Kentucky where we will again visit them and partake of the wonderful products they have to offer.
Before we forget, Lawrenceburg is also the hometown of Davy Crockett. A monument for him stands in the middle of downtown and a state park, named after him, stands at the outskirts of town. In and around Nashville is a wonderful place to be. And our NTWP is a good place to camp. We had a lake which we toured on a pontoon boat (and saw lots of Canadian geese enjoying the calm waters), a sandy beach for volleyball, swimming, etc., Saturday concerts at the great hall, and a health spa to boot! I wonder how our next stop and campground will be...
Next Stops: Memphis, Tennessee and Little Rock, Arkansas