We relax into the atmosphere of Green Turtle Bay Marina. We have heard about it for months and it doesn’t disappoint. The marina is lovely with lots and lots of Looper boats. There is a well appointed ship store and everything that isn’t a boat part is 30% off so we have a great time browsing but not so much buying.
We connect with new friends and say goodbye to some of those with whom we have traveled for a while now. It is funny how you can tell where people are in their Loop journeys by looking at their burgees. Some that we see are brand new and crisp, others are well worn and are beginning to be a bit tattered like ours and others are barely discernable as AGLCA burgees. These are the folks we envy. They are taking their time, going back and forth home to work or just visit and then returning to continue their Loop. Some have been at this since 2011 and while some smell the barn now and are hurrying home, others don’t want this experience to be over and are finding any excuse to side trip anywhere just to prolong their journeys.
We enjoy a fantastic potluck dinner with Looper friends before we bid all a fond farewell and leave GTB at first light to start the trip to Nashville. It is a gorgeous day that starts with a lot of fog but shortly sees us shedding coats and scarves as the temperatures climb. The Cumberland River is a really nice change in that the water is tranquil and free of debris and all of the markers are exactly where the chart plotter says they should be. What a nice change from our recent river experiences on the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Fall is touching the leaves with color and it is a long 11 hour trip to Clarksville (Yes, I can hear the Monkees’ song in the back of my mind) but it is a peaceful and pleasant journey.
We pull up to the town dock just as the dude is turning on the power for us and we ask for a restaurant recommendation. We follow his direction to Strawberry Alley Ale House and have a fantastic dinner of chicken picatta for me and a home made vege burger for Jerry (his was good, mine was exquisite!). We stroll the river front after dinner and turn in, ready to travel to music city tomorrow!
The trip is long but even prettier than yesterday because we travel through fall foliage that works its way up and down small mountains. We see deer and turkey along the river and after a long day we come into Nashville at sunset.
We get the boat secured and crash for a bit but the draw of the city is too much and so we stroll Broadway and sit at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge listening to two bands simultaneously. It is amazing the sheer number of musicians in this town and we only really walk about 8 blocks before we are really done and return to the boat.
The next day we play tourists and do the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We are not really country music fans, not that we don’t like it, we just haven’t been exposed to enough of it to really know much about it so our expectations for this museum are modest.
Boy, are we pleasantly surprised! We travel back in time, tracing the roots and expansion of country music through the ages. It is a blast to see Willie Nelson with short hair and performing in a suit and tie back before Willie became the Willie we all know and love today, grizzled and twinkling at the camera. We love that there is an exhibit dedicated to the Outlaws Era (Waylon, Willie and Kris) and a lot of information on the Armadillo World Headquarters which we didn’t know before.
It is really neat to see my old school mate from Princeton Day School, Mary Chapin Carpenter honored here. Mary Chapin has won five Grammy Awards and is the only artist to have won four consecutive Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, which she received from 1992 to 1995. She has sold more than 12 million records worldwide. On October 7, 2012, Mary Chapin Carpenter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Maybe the biggest shocker, after seeing that Shel Silverstien (author of the Giving Tree) writes successful country lyrics, is to see Kris Kristofferson’s military uniform! He attained the rank of captain, was a helicopter pilot and an Army Ranger. He was offered a scholarship to Oxford and a teaching position at West Point but turned both down to focus on his music. Never would have guessed that in a million years! This museum was a great way to spend a day.
The next day is rainy and windy so we stay in to work on paperwork and do some light housekeeping.
By noon is dry enough to walk into town and we visit the Frist Museum of Art which has a wonderful exhibit called Paris 1900. We are lucky enough to catch a docent lead tour and learn about the Belle Epoch (1875-1918) through the art of that time.
The museum also has a fantastic children’s room where lots of materials are set up for art exploration.
Afterwards we walk across town to the Tennessee State Museum which is an extensive and well curated history of the state from prehistoric days through the present era. We like the Bicentennial Park which leads to the museum. It traces state history through the ages in a series of stone pillars and walls that mark historic events in Tennessee history along with famous quotes that are applicable to the happenings of each decade. It is really well done.
This one was Jerry’s favorite!
We wish we had more time here to explore the Farmer’s Market and other areas near here but I am excited to spend some time with my old roommate who I haven’t seen since a class reunion in 1990 or 91 (?) and we need to get back to the boat and cleaned up.
Kathy and her husband arrive for a tour of the boat and we catch up over drinks and appetizers and then head out for a wonderful dinner near where they live in East Nashville. It is a fun evening and it seems like just yesterday not 20 some-odd years since we have last seen each other.
The next day, Kathy is kind enough to use her day off to shepherd us around Nashville, showing us city and suburban neighborhoods and making sure we see her alma mater, Vanderbilt University. We got to see Kathy’s gorgeous home and neighborhood, did a little shopping and went back to the boat. It is easy to see why Kathy and David stayed right where they went to school. Nashville has so many diverse and wonderful draws, I know we will come back to see some of the sights we missed due to lack of time.
Somehow our tickets for the Grand Ole Opry were for 9:30 not 7 as we had thought and we killed some time listening to an amazing band called The Skeleton Crew at the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie bar on Printer’s Alley. Thankfully they were more rock than blues and we really enjoyed the performance and the venue which had a more intimate feel than did some of the venues we saw on Broadway.
I have heard of the Grand Ole Opry for decades and always thought it was a place. So it is a lesson for me to find out that it isn’t a place, it is a live radio show which can take place in different venues. Our tickets are for the Ryman theater and the experience is amazing!
We hadn’t heard of most of the performers except for Larry Gatlin, who emceed the first segment and Ricky Skaggs (inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame just a few weeks ago) who emceed the last segment.
The show is fast paced with performers doing 1-3 songs and then making way for the next act, as an old time radio announcer does the ads for the sponsors in between. The talent of these people from bands, to comedians to a capella septet called Home Free (my personal favorite) is absolutely stunning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b6F_HKCRrg&list=RDEMVvJInyBV9sG3bp3IlwBsxA&index=4). The audience is totally engaged, clapping and cheering and we were all sad when it was over.
Nashville was all that we expected and more and we hate to leave but it really is getting too consistently cold for these poor Floridians and we need to be moving south towards warmer weather! Thanks again to Kathy for a wonderful introduction to her home town!