Monday, March 3, 2008


Tennessee is a funny state. Its culture changes pretty quickly from end to end. Memphis belongs to Mississippi really; it’s a black, southern town with a large inner-city: the blues capitol. Nashville belongs to Kentucky culture; it’s is a hick town in the midst of prairie plains with folks wearing cowboy hats: the country music capitol. Knoxville ought to be in West Virginia. It’s a mountainous, heavily forested town with lots of wood houses at various elevations. I didn’t see anyone carrying a long rifle and wearing a coonskin cap, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if I did.

I actually passed through Knoxville itself pretty quickly because I wanted to get through the Great Smoky Mountains before dark, which turned out to be a really good idea because that road through the mountains would have been treacherous in the dark. Plus you wouldn’t be able to see anything. Anyway, right before you get up to the mountains, there’s this town called Pigeon Forge that’s like a drive through amusement park. All along the sides of the roads are all kinds of rides and attractions. It was hard to get a picture that captured the road long-ways, but here’s just one random type of thing that was off the road.

Up the road from here is Dollyworld amusement park. I had not realized before, nor ever would have guessed, that there’s a whole amusement park based off of Dolly Parton.

As you go on further up the road there’s another town, Gatlinburg, right up in the foot of the mountains. Gatlinburg’s a resort town, a lot like Aspen or Park City, with lots of people walking around who think they’re all cool just because they’re there. I stopped by the Hard Rock Café there, but nothing special.

I made it through smokies just before twilight. They weren’t very smoky that day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


It seems like all these southern cities have a single main drag where all the action is. In Nashville, it’s Broadway. The northern end of Broadway is an entertainment district, full of bars with live country singers, shops selling cowboy hats, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Incongruously, a rather futuristically cool AT&T tower looms along side it.

Broadway is capped on its northern end with a Hard Rock Café full of country crap, and the Titans stadium is right across the river.

Oddly, the southern half of Broadway is full of these big stone buildings. Tons of them. Here are just a few.

This castle-looking one’s a high school. I’m serious.

Then I headed down to check out Opryland. There was a big bowl game the next day in Nashville, so all the touristy places were super crowded. Blue shirts everywhere. I think the whole state of Kentucky was in Nashville that day and every single one of them was wearing their bright blue shirts.

The Opry House wouldn’t let you in the auditorium without a ticket.

More interesting was the Opryland hotel, which was bigger and fancier than anything I’ve ever seen in Las Vegas. Inside the hotel is a little jungle with a river that you can ride a boat on. On the other side of the river is a small mall with fancy little shops. The other wing of the hotel had a jungle with a waterfall.