Salutations from Nashville Tennesee!
My travel mate for the summer, Nicole (I know the blog is titled one guy and a Prius, sue me) and I have been busy! We’ve been to Copper Falls State Park and Apostle Islands National Lake Shore in Wisconsin and now Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and Nashville Tennessee. This summer we are going to be taking my Prius and traveling from here (Nashville) up to the Great Smoky Mountains, through the Blue Ridge Parkway (and it’s 469 miles of uninterrupted Appalachian Mountain Wilderness) through to Shenandoah National Park from there we’ll be heading to Washington D.C. over the 4th of July (!!) and then up to New York City for a few days before heading to Boston and eventually up to Acadia National Park in Maine. We’ll finish up the trip going up through parts of Canada through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan making our trip one huge loop. These next few weeks will be full of camping and adventure in places I’ve never been before and I couldn’t be more excited.
Summer traveling can bring different challenges and opportunities. Camping is a great way to feel kinship with nature, especially in some of Americas most beautiful wilderness and in general is much easier in the warmth of summer. However, summer can bring sudden storms and heat which make it far harder to camp. A wet tent and inability to make a fire because everything is soaked is no fun. Traveling is also much more difficult with stifling summer temperatures, which since this past Saturday have been well into the 90’s with heat indexes reaching well over 100 degrees. We’ve also seen our fair share of rain already which can make camping far harder and frankly, much more gross. The rain did come to our aid though on our first day of camping at Mammoth Cave however, as the heat bared down on with no relief in site, a sudden torrential downpour that soaked us giving us some nice relief from the stifling temperatures.
Mammoth Cave itself was a unique experience, after 8 hours of driving to Southern Kentucky and sleeping in a rest stop sitting up in my Prius we arrived and made camp that morning. We took a 2 hour tour of the cave and saw just a glimpse of what is a truly spectacular cave system unlike any other place in the world. The worst part about the tour was something I fear will be an all too common theme with summer traveling–crowds. Too many people made for a bit of an unruly crowd. Some on the tour were not able to appreciate the beauty of the cave, blaring loud music and asking stupid, obtuse questions to the guide, you can tell some people would rather not be there. Time will tell if this becomes an all too frequent problem. Outside of the humongous 120 person tour group the park was relatively sparsely populated. The above ground hiking trails were decidedly barren and outside of a lost camera we found (and took to the lost and found at the visitor center) few traces of other people were seen. I guess that gives you a pretty good clue as to what to do to avoid the crowds at parks–go on a hike. Going off the beaten path and doing something seen as inconvenient is a great way to get some of the nature to yourself.
Camping was also easy to set up even though they were fully booked online as they had two camp site loops open to “walk in” (for lack of a better term) campers only. If not for several heavy downpours which soaked everything not under a tarp (unfortunately including our fire ring and one of our camping chairs) it would’ve been perfect. Even with the rain we made due, I “went to town” on several downed logs around the site with an axe and made us a nice pile of firewood which we were able to burn through the night and cook some delicious improptu camp food on.
After another torrential downpour in the night which made for a soggy morning packing up our tent and belongings we headed down to Nashville, Tennessee. We stayed with an Air BnB host, David, who had an ADORABLE dog.
Our first night in the city was a blast, we went out for delicious spicy chicken at Hattie B’s– a bumpin’ chicken joint with a line far out the door on a Monday night! I got the spiciest level of chicken, called “Shut the Cluck Up” because for some reason I always feel the need automatically try the hottest option of food whenever I go somewhere new.
Despite several people in line acting shocked that someone would eat something so spicy, I found it to be quite delicious and with a nice building heat, certainly something not unbearable for someone who has a decent spice tolerance. After our delicious chicken excursion we decided to see some live music, as we were in Nashville, the Music Capital of the World (or something like that). Since neither Nicole nor myself fancy Country Music in any way shape or form we decided to check out a Jazz Club in the Famous Printer’s Alley after wandering around the streets of downtown Nashville.
We stopped at a bar named “Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar” on the recommendation from several of Nicole’s friends and we were not disappointed. Shortly after arriving we were greeted with excellent soulful jazz music from the like’s of the Andy T and Nick Nixon’s Band (http://www.andytband.com/). Monday night also presented another unique experience as it was open mic night. We were able to see several excellent live music acts while enjoying a few Nashville area beers. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love music and beer, so I would highly recommend this bar to anyone in the Nashville area.
The next day brought us the most glorious of all days, Taco Tuesday. What better way to celebrate Taco Tuesday in Nashville than to enjoy some delicious local tacos? Having decided what we were already going to do for lunch that day we headed into the city without much of a goal other than acquiring tacos. Nicole, loving Farmer’s Markets as much as she does, suggested we head to the downtown Farmer’s Market to check it out. When we arrived we soon found out it was probably a better thing to visit on the weekend, and it was mostly about lunch food during the week so we decided to wander around the park outside of the market in search of something to do. At this point out goal soon came to seek refuge from the 109+ degree heat Nashville was experiencing that day. Since the Bicentennial Park we were at was just a stones throw from the State Capital we decided to stop by and see what we could see there. We were pleasantly surprised by the fact that there were free tours. After ditching Nicole’s pocket knife we were able to take a fun informative tour of the state’s Capital Building where we learned not only about the history of the state, but that two dead guys are buried with the walls of the building. Weird.
After our trip the Capitol, it was time for what everyone has been waiting for all along. Taco Tuesday, we headed for Mas Tacos Por Favor in East Nashville which has been recommended to us by several of Nicole’s friends (a common theme here). We each got three delicious tacos, which made for a very satisfying Taco Tuesday. Divey taco places are the best!
After our quest for tacos had finally been fulfilled and still in need of something to do we decided to head to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, a MASSIVE hotel and convention center complex right outside of the city. The inside of the building features a massive indoor air conditioned (!!) arboretum which we were able to meander around for several hours and escape the blistering Nashville heat.
After several hours of wandering around the extravagance of the Opryland Convention Center, we decided to head to the East side of Nashville for something so perfect on a hot day, Ice Cream. Our final stop in Nashville was to the delicious ice cream shop called Jeni’s. Though a bit pricey (6.56 with tax for three half scoops) it was a wonderfully creamy and cool way to end our time in Nashville.
Well that’s all for this blog post, I hope to be writing more of these in the coming weeks about the rest of our stops on our trip but it’s all very dependent on whether we get internet connection or not. Until next time, happy travels/summer everyone!