We slept for the night and to our surprise woke up to sunshine. This was momentous for us being the first time crawling out of our tent in the morning to sunshine. Excited for our good fortune, we made coffee and broke down the site. We are becoming pros at breaking down the tent, a mere 17 minutes this time! We even had a little cheerleader!
Afterwards we freshened up and headed out on the road to Nashville, Tennessee for a family visit to The Kuster’s. The girls, Brennan and Adella, both graduated this year (Brennan from College, and Adella from High School) John and Linda were happy to shelter us for a bit and act as impromptu tour guides taking us all over Nashville. They prepared a lovely homemade dinner on the first night complete with homemade ice creams and sorbets and enjoyed a quiet evening at home. The following day we drove over the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge (the first segmentally constructed concrete arch bridge in the United States) and then took a tour of Carnton Plantation which during the Civil War became an impromptu field hospital in the midst of The Battle of Franklin (which went down in history as the longest battle fought in the dark). The casualties on both sides were massive, with the confederates losing the most, including 14 of their high ranking generals. Rusty, our incredibly talented tour guide, brought us through each painstakingly restored room of the house, recounting the lives of the McGavock family leading up to The Battle of Franklin. The tour ended in the upstairs rooms that housed the over 300 soldiers who sought refuge after being wounded. Rusty pointed out the blood stains on the floor that were presumed to have been from heavily wounded soldiers that military surgeons tried desperately to save. He also explained how the conservation company utilized first person accounts from the soldiers to reconstruct the story he wove as he led us through the past. He made the past reach out and touch each and every person on the tour (some to the brink of tears).
After such a humbling experience we needed something to lift our spirits which came in the form of Las Paletas. If you get a chance to try one of their ice pops I highly recommend the banana chocolate chip! We walked around the park across the street before heading to see the full scale replica of the Parthenon. This replica was so exact (although made of concrete) that during the reconstruction of the original Parthenon in Athens, the Greeks used measurements from the replica to complete the restoration.
We rounded off the day at A Matter of Taste (AMOT), an all gluten free restaurant that had incredibly delicious food like onion/bacon crusted mac n’ cheese, jerk wings, chicken fried chicken, vegetable pot pie, and shrimp n’ grits. We finished our meal with apple fritters that were covered in powder sugar (It was heavenly) With bellies full we drove around down town Nashville admiring the neon lights and the open window bars that filled the streets with country music. (Buy one pair of boots, get two free!)
In stark contrast to the neon lights from the night before we took a ride to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens the following day. Cheekwood has acres of rolling manicured gardens smattered with art installations. Currently there are playhouses that were constructed in each garden section used to illustrate types of environments children from around the world would play in. They also had an incredible train set installation which wove multiple train tracks together and used wood and other natural supports to create a wonderful miniature world. Originally, the train exhibit was supposed to be rotated out like any other installation, but due to its popularity it has been kept on for an undetermined amount of time.
While we were visiting, an artist named Steve Tobin was displaying his most recent works called “Southern Roots”. The Roots exhibits were based off of the castings he had created of real tree roots, and developed his style from there. He explored the use of steel, glass, ceramics and bronze castings with the natural shapes of plants, animal bones and letters. One exhibit he called “bang pots,” crafted pottery in which he placed fireworks, detonated them while still pliable, then glazing and firing the pots to preserve their exploded states. There was another installation called “Lantern House,” which utilized old glass slides as the walls and ceiling of a house. The house was backlit which created luminaries out of the slides and projected their images on the blank walls of the museum. Cheekwood also peppered some of Tobin’s larger sculptures throughout the grounds, mixing his modern works with the peaceful scenery of the gardens.
After spending several hours walking around the beautiful gardens with our tour guide Brennan, we ended the day with the whole family at Jim N’ Nicks BBQ. This is a restaurant that understands the need to create a larger potato to stuff with BBQ, so they cut one end off of 2 potatoes and push them together, making a vessel suitable for barbeque. (Anyone who knows how much I love potatoes, knows that this is a dream come true for me.) Joe said he enjoyed his barbeque just that way it was, I told him he wasn’t living although he seemed quite happy. Our family certainly made us "Believe in Nashville!"