Monday, January 20, 2014

Some Tennessee Whisky Tours

We started off our final day in Tennessee with a nourishing lunch. We had less interesting real lunch afterward.

The Goo Goo Cluster is from Nashville, TN, which meant we weren't cool until we tried one. The candy lump thing was the first candy bar to have multiple ingredients besides just chocolate. According to an NPR story about the amorphous treat it was a sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry (which we visited two days prior) for forty years and the "gooey sweet was advertised so heavily on air through those decades that many people believed "Goo" was an acronym for Grand Ole Opry."

Our destination today was Lynchburg, TN, home of the Jack Daniel's distillery.

Had a quick lunch on the tiny little town's square. We hadn't had enough trains after yesterday so we chose The Bar-B-Que Caboose Cafe.

Lynchburg, home of one of whisky's biggest names, is located in a dry county. Dumb. So, so dumb.

The visitor center had lots of interesting artifacts on display.

A big moment for Jack Daniels was winning the gold medal at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

I'm a bourbon person, and have been since we did the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (here and here). "Tennessee whisky is just bourbon with one additional step: charcoal filtering. I wasn't super impressed. The bourbon experience is just better than Tennessee whisky in every way I can think of. Kentucky was a whole state full of distilleries; Tennessee has two. Kentucky was throwing free bourbon tastings and bourbon balls at us like they were going out of style; Tennessee was stingy and in a stupid dry county. So stupid. So dry and stupid.

Jack Daniels the man was about the only part of this place that was very interesting to me.

We were taken to the cave-like place where the magically clean whisky water emanated from.

Our tour guide brought us to the company's old office building. According to the story, Jack Daniels came in early to work one day and couldn't get this safe open. Frustrated., he kicked the safe, broke his foot, and later died from complications from the injury. The moral of the story being: don't come to work early. Unfortunately according to Wikipedia this story is B.S..

We then trekked to Jack Daniel's only competitor: the tiny George Dickel company. Really the best part of that trip was being able to say "Dickel" over and over in polite company.

We ended our trip back in Nashville with some Elliston Place Soda Shop milkshakes and then BAM! Trip was over.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

See Rock City and Choo Choo Chattanooga

"Bend an ear and listen to my version
Of a really solid Tennessee excursion"

We just had to see Rock City, the unapologetic roadside tourist trap. I don't think we necessarily even knew what Rock City was beforehand, but the good book said we needed to see it and that's really all we needed to hear. Rock City is located just on the other side of the Tennessee border in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, so we hit the road.

Turns out the road was steep. So steep that there were periodic sand filled ramps for runaway trucks. Who knew that runaway trucks were such a problem?

I believe that the price of entry was lower due to it being winter, which got us off to a good start. Rock City ended up being a pretty multifaceted attraction. They were really in touch which their history, and there were signs about the good ole days everywhere I looked.

Upon entry we walked into a pretty surreal place with little walkways between giant rocks. There was zero wind and lush foliage everywhere. It had a Secret Garden feel to it.

One of Rock City's claims to fame is there copious advertising, especially painted on barns. It had become sort of a meta-advertisement, with a plethora of barn advertisement related merchandise in the gift shop.

And then things got weird. What goes better with giant rocks than glowing black light gnomes? Nothing. Nothing.

There was a large room full of psychedelic displays of pretty much every nursery rhyme you've ever heard of. Many of them were pretty unsettling.

We took a little peek at the breathlessly named Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, but it was about to close so we didn't stay long.

Next we popped into nearby Chattanooga, TN, which was an important train depot and a prize during the Civil War.

Moon Pies are made in Chattanooga. So we ate some.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel was really really awesome and my favorite place in the city. It is situated in Terminal Station. 

Fun fact, Glen Miller's Chattanooga Choo Choo record was awarded the first ever "gold" certification by RCA Victor in 1942. Fun facts make you think don't they? Make you think.

Inside the place was opulent.

They even had a deal where you could pay to stay in a train car hotel room. The train car hotel room part sounded pretty cool. What they wanted you to pay for it was very not cool. Lydia and I have both slept in actual train sleeper cars in Europe, and we agreed it was an unpleasant experience.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

All Over Tennessee

It turns out we can't refuse the offer of free lodging, even if we have to drive 5 hours to get there. There's enough to do in the Nashville area that we still had several things to cross off of our 1,000 Places to See in the USA and Canada Before You Die list. Can't stop, won't stop.

We gave Franklin, TN another look around. This time we checked out the Factory at Franklin, which is a neat little mall type place set in an old stove factory. We wandered around for a bit of window shopping, ate, then left. We were mostly just trying to get a nice long walk done.

They had several of the models that used to be produced there on display which I appreciated.

We have an unofficial rule where we go to the state capitol building of every state when we are nearby. So to the capitol of Tennessee we went!

The building itself was actually pretty tiny, but it was on a large hill which gave it some stature. We couldn't find a good place to park, so the walk from the car was serious, and there were hundreds of steps up the hill to where the building stood. It was serious.

Well we did not do a whole lot of planning ahead, and the capitol was closed for the day, but wandering around the grounds proved to be worthwhile.

The grave of President James Polk was unexpectedly on the capitol grounds.

From the capitol complex we strolled to the Tennessee State Museum and learned all about Tennessee. I like learning about the Civil War and Prohibition and they had a solid section on each.

Later on we headed to the Marathon Automobile car factory building which has a few little shops with car themed stuff inside.

Antique Archaeology of American Pickers fame had a branch here as well.

It had unfortunately closed for the day so I just smashed my face against the window glass.

The highlight of the day was the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. We had what were likely the worst seats in the entire building, which a big pole dead center in our view, but I still had a really good time there. The Opry is like a live variety radio show, with several different acts popping on stage, doing a couple songs, then hittin' the road. I was especially amused by the host guy who would do live readings of the advertisements during the radio show's little breaks.

I'm paraphrasing a bit, but the song that the Grand Ole Opry Squaredancers were jiggin' to went something like "Dosey Doe, To and Fro, Something Something Country Time."

Eating at Jack's is becoming a Nashville tradition for me. I think it's more about the convenient location than the food, but it gets the job done.