redefining wanderlust

a life blog by Bekka

Posts for Tennessee

TN: DOLLYWOOD

Dollywood Road Trip

OCTOBER 10, 2014 | DAY 09 of #ONTHEROAD1014

I adore Dolly Parton. She’s the queen of the south with a colorful personality that sparkles brighter than Christmas lights. A feminist with a sense of humor, she’s guided her career with brains and beauty. Did you know Elvis Presley wanted to sing one of her songs, but she turned him down? She would have loved to have the King sing a song she wrote, but he was also asking for full rights to the music. Dolly knew it was a bad business deal. My love for Dolly Parton made her amusement park, Dollywood, a MUST SEE destination on the dream road trip.

Its located in the smoky mountains not far from where Dolly grew up. She built the park because she wanted to give back to her community, and she figured what better way than to give them jobs. This savvy carries into the personalities of those that work there as well. When I asked the cashier of a food stand if they took credit cards, she gave me a sweet smile and said “Darling this is Dollywood, we are happy to take your money in any form”. I got such a kick out of that statement, I walked away with my delicious fried green tomatoes giggling.

Fried Green Tomatoes

The day we were driving to Dollywood it was pouring rain in Tennessee. A three hour drive from Nashville, traffic was not on our side, and we were in the car about four and half hours. When we finally pulled off the freeway, a burst of sunlight broke through the thick grey clouds. I joked to Bowerbird that it was over Dollywood, because Dolly can do anything, even part the clouds. Driving closer to the park, we were both stunned that my prediction was right, it was bright and sunny over Dollywood.

Because of traffic by the time we arrived we only had a few hours before it closed, but I wouldn’t let lack of time sour our experience. We decided we wouldn’t leave until we were kicked out. The park is “Backwoods Themed”. There are tongue and cheek representations of country people sprinkled around the park, from the signs to animatronic characters inside the rides. I swear there was a robotic fella in overalls holding a jug with X’s on it inside a fireman inspired attraction. But Dollywood also celebrates the charm and character of the smoky mountains, from the ‘County Fair’ to the artisans that still know how to loom and whittle wood.

dollywood signs

Artisans Looming

The number one question I’m asked is if there are Dolly Parton impersonators walking around, and I’m sad to report there are none. But just go to your local drag queen show and I’m sure you’ll find a few. However, there is a Dolly Parton museum, where you can meet a holographic projection of Dolly Parton. It’s an amazing building that houses many treasures of her childhood and countless sparkly costumes from over her career. You can even ask Dolly Parton questions on touch screen televisions. I was able to get Dolly Parton’s feelings on dieting and following my dreams. But what touched my heart the most was being able to see the coat of many colors.

Dollywood Chasing Rainbows

Dollywood Coat of Many Colors

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We spent a majority of our limited time in the Dolly museum, but it was well worth it. As the park was closing and people walked toward the exit, we raced to the opposite end of the park for Wild Eagle. A ridiculously tall coaster that made you feel like you were soaring like an eagle. It had started to rain so we speed walked, and by the time we reached the ride and ran up the stairs through the line ropes and hopped on the ride, we were both out of breath. The restraint was tight and I tried to not get claustrophobic as I was already hyperventilating. We went up at a 90 degree angle, the click clicks of the gear below, and at a 210 feet drop we wooshed down at speed of 61 mph. The twist and turns of this coaster are the best, especially while whipping past bright red and orange leaves. Dollywood is seriously the most nature loving amusement park I’ve ever been to, it’s simply gorgeous. There is a creek running through it!

Dollywood_WildEagle

After Wild Eagle, we exited through the gift shop. Now as Christmas is around the corner I feel incredibly stupid for not picking up more souvenirs as gifts. I know lots of Dolly lovers, and one Dolly fan I am particularly regretful for not picking up a coffee cup or magnet or something. I purchased a keychain for myself and few postcards, but if only they had an online shop I’d get all my holiday shopping done in one place. Dollywood was as magical as I imagined it. And even though we didn’t get to spend all day there, everything fell into the right combination for a fun adventure.

Dollywood_Holigram

Thanks for reading about my time at Dollywood! Comment below with your favorite Dolly Parton song.

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TN: Little Bit More Nashville

We spent so much time in Tennessee and even more time in Nashville. The following happened over the course of a few days, but I thought writing about it in this fashion would be the most efficient. Also easier on the ADD blog reader.  Promise, I’m working on getting my post shorter! Well here is my Nashville…

PRINCE’S HOT CHICKEN

The hottest chicken in the south, Prince’s Hot Chicken, will bring tears to your eyes, no doubt about it. On the outskirts of downtown Nashville, located in a strip mall with a clothing store and nail shop as it’s neighbor, Prince’s Hot Chicken is as much an experience as visiting classic landmarks. We found out about Prince’s through Mind of a Chef, yes Sean Brock visited Prince’s Hot Chicken and recounted the burning sensation on film.

Filled with families and people who were picking up dinner before headed home, Bowerbird and I had to wait for a table to open up like sharks circling a boat. Fortunately, the food isn’t served quickly, so we were able to get seats before the chicken was ready. I couldn’t imagine having tried to eat it standing up. It’s served up so hot it burns your fingertips as well as your tongue. We ordered the ‘hot’ chicken and were told by a regular the two of us were crazy and would be feeling it in the morning. Sensory overload: our immune systems kicked into high gear to fight off the invasion of flavor, eyes filled with tears and noses began to run. Sharing a tiny side of potato salad, we nibbled on it trying to stretch the only way to give our tongues some relief.

An hour after our chicken dinner, our lips were still completely numb.

Prince's Hot Chicken Nashville TN

GROOVE RECORD STORE

After dinner, we drove around Nashville until we could head out to the home of our host that night in Hendersonville. Gazing out the window, I spotted Groove Record store, a house on the corner of a quaint street with an illuminated sign on the lawn. I love just coming across cool places, versus having it programmed into the gps. It makes the discovery that more special. It was 5 minutes to closing, making a joke about being the assholes who are coming in right before the doors are locked, the clerk was friendly and assured us he had enough cataloging to do, and that we were fine. The walls are covered in local artist and music posters. Christmas lights strung beside an in-store stage. The selection of new and used music was phenomenal, and since we didn’t I bring many CD’s for the road trip we picked up Deerhoof and HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock). We even spotted the cd of a fellow label mate, ERRAS. We didn’t stay too long, but it was a great little find to shape our time in Nashville.

Groove Record Store Nashville TN
vintage dolly parton

THE HOUSE OF CASH

Thirty minutes outside Nashville, Hendersonville was where Johnny Cash and June Carter stayed until till their passing. It’s also where the Father of Bowerbird’s friend lived who graciously offered to host us for a night. I will refer to him as Mr. Radio because of his amazing voice.  Mr. Radio lived just down the street from the original Johnny Cash museum, The House of Cash, before it was moved to Downtown Nashville. Now a real estate office and dental practice, the buildings were originally an old train depot where June Carter had a little antique store along with where the museum was located. Being so close to more Johnny Cash history tingled the fan girl in me, but my mouth dropped when Mr. Radio offered to drive us up to Johnny Cash’s old home. It was the middle of night and unfortunately no moon, but he drove us along the fence as we peered from the car to see the faint outline of Cash’s home (which had burned down in 2007). Being so close to where this legend had lived gave me chills. As we drove away two fawns were walking on the road and ran into a neighboring yard.

Sign from House of Cash Johnny Cash

**The sign from House of Cash is now housed at the new Johnny Cash Museum in Downtown Nashville**

 

 

GRAND OL’ OPRY

When I purchased tickets to the Grand Ol’ Opry’s 89th birthday show, with no musical act yet listed, I was making a commitment to the dream. Seven months in advance, the tickets were will-call only and non-refundable. I had to be in Tennessee by October 11, and that’s exactly what I did. The act ended up being Craig Morgan. I’d never even heard his music before, but it was an amazing show. A down to earth musician, former military man, his songs were heart felt stories. Good country music is a story to a melody. He even made me cry, but then again country music always makes me cry. As it was the birthday celebration radio stations, activity tents, and food vendors were set up outside the auditorium. I purchased myself some rainbow kettle corn that tasted like fruity pebbles. The Grand Ol’Opry is located in a shopping center, the Opry Outlets. for me the shops took away from the magic of “The Grand Ol’ Opry”. I’m glad we took a tour at the Ryman. Next time we are in Nashville, I’m buying tickets to a Ryman show, even better I’ll make sure to get tickets to The Grand Ol’ Opry at the Ryman.

Grand Ol Opry Birthday Show

Couple ‘Selfie’ After the Show 

Dolly Parton Pumpkin

 

They had a fantastic Jack-O-Lantern display of Country Music Stars

 

Rainbow Popcorn and Grand Ol' Opry

 

 

My Popcorn and Dolly 

 I missed going to the Blue Bird and a dive bar in an Airstream trailer, but it just gives us a reason to return.

Have you ever been to Nashville?

p.s. Notice all the Dolly Parton pics I snapped? Well next post will be all about Dollywood!

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TN: Johnny Cash & Nashville

One of my favorite shows on television right now is Nashville. Admittedly, this show influenced a few choices in the process of planning this trip. I was looking forward to all the bright lights and country songs. Plus I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. My Ji-chan (grandpa in Japanese) loved Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. Bowerbird was raised on the Grand Ole Opry. The Music City was a pretty big destination for us. But lodging for our first night there, the 9th, was not planned.  At the recommendation of some people we met at Muscle Shoals Sound, we went to a Bed and Breakfast owned by their friend. They had even given the B&B a call to see if we could get a discounted room. Unfortunately once we got there it seemed to be deserted. Thank modern technology for Airbnb, because at 9pm we were able to find beautiful lodging for an insanely reasonable price. It was under $100.

The Airbnb place was really close to the B&B, so close when I looked at the address I thought it was only 4 houses down from the bed and breakfast. When I called the Airbnb host to clarify what house was his, because we couldn’t find the driveway he indicated in the arrival details. He informed us we were ten blocks north of his home. Same street, but instead of 612 it was 1612 – doh! After a day on the road, I swear you lose a few brain cells.

Located in East Nashville, a trendy part of town that is comparable to Soho or Los Feliz. We couldn’t have lucked out anymore, this place was gorgeous.  In the morning we decided to go “running”, and I put running in quotations because it’s more of a fast paced walk in full workout clothes. Seriously, we packed running shoes and have only used them once. Regardless I’m so glad we took the time to “exercise”, because with the tree lined streets and turn of the century homes, East Nashville could easily be the neighborhood Mr. Rodgers was always singing about.

House in East Nashville - Halloween

Next we dived straight into tourist central, downtown Nashville. We ended up spending nearly 2 hours in the Johnny Cash museum. Not a very big museum, but we read every caption under the photos. It even includes a poem written by Johnny after June’s funeral. I dare the toughest guy to read that and not tear up a little. I love their love story. I don’t endorse how Johnny handled his relationship with his first wife Vivian, but you can’t deny that J.R and June’s love ran deep. Watching videos of the two performing, you see this puppy dog love in Johnny Cash’s eyes that makes a girl weak in the knees and pray for the same devotion.

Johnny Cash Museum Johnny Cash Museum Johnny Cash Museum

Being a fan of country from a far, but far from a historian the Ryman and Opry history always confused me. So when we came across the Ryman I was excited to purchase tickets to the backstage tour in order to get my facts straight. The original home of the Opry, the floors are the same wooden panels from the 1800’s when it was a church. The dressing rooms are themed based on the famous faces that had sung on its stage. We learned the history of those kicked out of the Ryman and the backdoor they used to drink at the bar next door.

Ryman Old Opry

When we were in the Ryman a friend of mine texted me to get ahold of Bowerbird. Knowing we were in Nashville, he tried to contact his friend, Ikey Owens, a member of Jack White’s band to give us a tour of Third Man Records, but unfortunately, he was on tour. Ikey passed away a few days later. Not knowing him personally, we couldn’t help but be shocked and saddened at the eerily close timing to both incidents. My Facebook feed was full of his mutual friends sharing stories and outpours of love. I don’t live far from Long Beach, and he had lived there for years before moving to Nashville only six months prior. I’m happy my friend was able to text and have a conversation with Ikey, before his untimely passing, even if it were brief. While on the road you can’t help but reflect on life and purpose. You feel more appreciative of the friendships you have, a comfortable bed, the potential in every new day. Ikey Owens impacted a lot of lives. Like I said, my Facebook feed was filled with friends sharing their memories and mourning of the loss of their friend. I didn’t get the opportunity to meet him, but he seemed to live a life full of creative passion and love. I’ll continue to strive to live a life with the same intention, and wanted to give a little respect to this fantastic friend to my friends.

On that note, I’ll end this post here. Later that night we went to Prince’s Hot Chicken and saw Johnny Cash’s home, but more on that another day. Our hotel tomorrow has Wifi so unless I get wasted on Bourbon street, I should be able to post more in the coming days.

B, Bekka

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TN: Back to Memphis…

memphispartii

Memphis is the hometown to one of my favorite bands of all time, Lucero. They were the first band I ever saw by myself, and if my heart had a soundtrack it would be comprised of Lucero songs. I made it a mission of mine to visit 1372 Overton Park, not only the title of an album but an actual address in Memphis. Lucero’s musical roots in Memphis, it’s where the band lived and wrote music for years. A loft on top of a Thrift Store, taking a picture with the door to 1372 was my little piece of Lucero memorabilia. I asked the Sun Records tour guide what was near 1372 Overton Park, as I was a huge Lucero fan, and she lit up with the familiarity of talking about a wonderful mutual friend.  A few of the members had played on her own record. She recommended a few bars, but told us the place to go that night to potentially run into Lucero members was Buccaneer. A friend of Lucero and fellow musician, Dave Cuosar was playing at 11pm. I was completely committed to seeing this local act, and till then we filled our time with local Memphis finds.

We chose to experience the delicious ribs at Central BBQ. Their hot BBQ sauce still teases my phantom senses. The meat fell off the bone, but wasn’t too dry, only around the blackened edges that gave it an extra smoky flavor. Next we went to Beale Street. The tourist trap of Memphis. Its neon signs draw the out-of-towners like a moth to the flame. But once on it, aside from the jazz and blue grass music that fills the air outside stuffy bars, it is a dead street. We left just as soon as we arrived, walking up and down it once, and then hoping back in the car.

bealstreet

On ward we went to one of the other bars our Sun Tour guide suggested, we came across Overton Square. A colorful street lined with restaurants and bars, the buildings were really interesting. A mixture between the old and new, most of them had to either been built or renovated within the last ten years. Maintaining the structures charm and a certain amount of character most modern establishments’ lack. We pulled over to explore, stopping inside Boscos, a Tennessee brewing company. Enjoying a flight, we overheard two college students discussing their Knoxville campus. Sharing that the campus was socially segregated, and how some of their friends don’t know how to talk to black people. I was stunned, my ear glued to the conversation. I can’t fathom the idea of not knowing how to talk to someone because of their skin color. Language barrier yes, but a different ethnic background… it was my first real taste of the stereo-typical south everyone warns you about. This same person then went on to discuss how they didn’t care for Jewish people. Let’s just all agree, that as a society we should look at people as an individual and not respond to someone based on a skewed idea of a group of people.

overtonsquare

After the flight we headed to First Avenue which was one of the first venues Lucero played at. It was a pretty mellow night, and we took a seat at the bar. Watching the baseball game on the TV, those sitting at the counter bonded over a singer on the screen wearing a bizarre parade float styled hat upon her head.  Soaking in the vibe, when I told the bartender we were there as I was informed Lucero got their start there, he handed me an old guitar pick. “This could be from them, or perhaps another band, one thing for certain it’s old.” He went on to say how members of Lucero still come in, and the bassist was across the street at a different bar the night before.

Then on to the Buck, a dive bar located inside a yellow house. It was filled with cigarette smoke and illuminated with red lights. Set up on an area that was clearly designated for bands, but hardly a stage, was one guitar and a stack of amps. Arriving ten minutes till the show, we ordered drinks, took a seat and watched Dave come out of the shadows and take his seat next to the guitar. That night we got one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2014.  Dave Cousar is an artist with the guitar. He plays in a way that I’ve never heard before, making the guitar cry and wine, vibrate beneath his fingertips. An abstract painting of folk and rock, he is what Bob Dylan should be. I made up a story in my head that Dave and Dylan were at the same festival or audition, and by some random accident Dave couldn’t go on, letting Dylan take the stage and the slot for that sound. I think Dave is a little younger than Dylan, but man did his voice just weave through notes rising and falling. Mid-set he paused, and aside from my enjoyment of the music I was getting really sleepy. We told Dave how much we loved his set and he humbly thanked us, even gave me his own I just saw the guys in Lucero story.

davecousar

 

That night I didn’t see any of the members of Lucero, but I met them through Memphis. I began to gain a better sense of the band through friends, acquaintances, the musicians they play with for fun. Driving up and down the same streets they do, and talking with the same friendly faces they know to be familiar. If I wasn’t going to see Lucero live in Memphis, that night was the best I could have asked for. I look forward to name dropping Dave to Ben at The Echo in November.

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TN: Walking in Memphis…

 

graceland_memphis_banner

Memphis has soul, it possess a grit that can be felt throughout the city. It’s this authentic character even amongst the most tired tourist spots. I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but you don’t visit Memphis without going to Graceland. A different tour guide experience, your handed an ipad and headphones to help direct the tour. Older gentlemen and their wives at times looked like lost children with the clunky tech around their neck, trying to figure out where to go next once the audio (spoken by John Stamos) ended. It’s a tour that depends on self- reliance to move from one room to the next, and a little bit of attitude in not allowing the museum staff to heard you from one room to the next too quickly.

Elvis’s decorating style was as distinctive as his sound. There is no doubt you are in the home of a king; it’s opulent carved furniture, stained glass windows, shag carpeting as wall treatment, and bright patterns on the walls are loud but in harmony. For any interior design nerd, you must go to Graceland. It overflows with unique focus pieces, and is a challenge to the bold to see if one could decorate their own home this way, and succeed.

 

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Next we headed to Sun Records, the source of where it all began. Parking in the back alley a man approached us, being friendly he chatted us up about traveling and being from California. He eventually asked for a couple bucks, and I said I had no change but would give him something when I broke my twenty.  Going into Sun, I bought our tour tickets and then walked back outside to search for the gentleman.  He appeared out of nowhere, once again like how he appeared the first time, and lit up at the fact we had gone out to actually find him to give him the dollar. A woman of my word, I handed it to him and he gave us a hug.

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has it only been a few days?

…Since I recapped Oklahoma city. We’ve been to Memphis, Dollywood, and now leaving Nashville. I haven’t had the chance to write an actual post. Whether I’m too exhausted to think or staying someplace with out WiFi, there are a lot of stories I’m collecting in my head which I’m dying to get out on paper/ computer. My whole sense of time is wacked, I never know what day it is anymore or how long we’ve been gone unless I check. Sort of gives me a sense what being on a deserted island would feel like.

I write this on my phone as i ‘ve paused putting on my makeup. I’m excited as we head to Louisville today and to Elizabethtown!

60 B

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