down in nashville, tennessee

I want to live in a place (again) that has a song people were familiar with at some point in history.

For this year’s trip to commemorate Renée’s birthday, we decided to head south. Ultimately, we went to Alabama to go to her parents’ house, but, officially, this was a trip to Nashville.

Because I wanted an excuse to post this song.

Since the vast majority of my travels have been along the East Coast from Boston to Miami, this is only the third time I’ve been outside of this time zone. For shame, I know. I never got used to Central Standard Time, so I got up at about 8 a.m. every single day of this adventure.

It wasn’t an enormously action-packed trip, but I made a point to take notes. I’m toying with making this one giant post; it took me a decade to realize turning trips into miniseries makes them populate in reverse chronological order. We’ll just see what happens when I get to the end of being in Nashville.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Dec. 26

Traffic in Tennessee is weird.

I know, I saw that about every driver I encounter whenever I go out of Virginia. I even say that about Virginians. I have no idea who I managed to get through biking and driving in Hampton Roads alive.

But, seriously, it was odd as we headed down Interstate 40. It appears that people there take the left lane being the passing lane seriously and take it upon themselves to enforce that rule.

I hung out in the left lane because I run about 9 mph over the speed limit nowadays, especially when the speed limit is 70. I call it “keep it under reckless.” I was passing people all over the place, but if I camped out there too long, someone would tailgate me so I yielded.

Next to no one passed me when I did that.

They’d get behind me and fall back. Like way back.

Then I’d catch up to someone in the slow lane, get in the passing lane, pass four cars in rapid succession and then someone who doesn’t pass me pulls up to my rear again.

The last time something like this happened when I was in the Further South, I sped up instead of holding my ground or getting out of the way. I got a speeding ticket for my trouble.

Aha. I see what you’re trying to do there.

I may not be from ’round these parts, but fool me twice …

Also, outside of Knoxville, I wound up in near-standstill traffic for miles. Once I got to the scene of the action, it was a single cop who pulled over three bikers.


Surprisingly, we arrived at our hotel (we made a left at the strip club at the end of the exit; it was like I was back in Richmond) precisely when my 100-song playlist ended. The night before, I screwed up the booking and had to call the front desk.

Apparently, they screwed up as well when I changed the date to the correct one.

We got a pretty sweet suite for the same price. I wanted to live there. All that was missing was a stove. We had complimentary cookware, but there wasn’t even a hot plate. (I’ll add photos later.)

After we got settled in, we walked a few blocks down the curiously named Demonbreun Street (apparently, it was de Montbrun at some point) to a Puerto Rican restaurant, Salsa. Since ’twas the night after Christmas, we were the only ones there. The food was great and, obviously, so was the service.

We nearly went out that night, but Renée was tired. I swore that I wasn’t, but I didn’t make it to 2 a.m. Or maybe it was 1 a.m. Who knows.

Dec. 27

I woke up at 8 a.m. to discover that Renée was already at breakfast on the ground floor. We both got up as if we were going to work. As I was getting myself together, I checked my phone. My heart then skipped a beat.

I had an allergic reaction. Come downstairs.

My biggest fear in the entire world is that I bring some allergen home or she eats something by accident, she has an allergic reaction and then I’m a widower. She swears she’s fine if I eat certain things, but the two times I ate fish in Charlottesville, I took a shower afterward. I stayed on the other side of the house and scoured my face and teeth the two times I ate pecans.

I threw on a shirt and my shoes then ran to the lobby. Her eyes were extremely irritated and some other minor issues that weren’t life-threatening.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

The front desk apologized profusely, bought her eye drops and offered to change the sheets. We were heading out that day anyway, so that was unnecessary.

Since we had a few hours before checkout, Renée tried to sleep off her troubles.

I decided to get a haircut.

I had meant to get one before we left, but Shaunelle visited the day I was going to go. As we were going to my in-laws, I decided I needed to look more presentable. I’ve fallen out of my habit of getting my hair cut every two weeks because of my No Shave Till Wedding campaign in January, and I was definitely overdue.

Through the power of Google Maps, I blindly headed a few miles north of the hotel in the dreary day. After cruising down a street with an unusual number of barber shops that were all closed, I spied a squat, brick building with a sign saying it was open.

According to the name painted on the window, this was Craighead Barber Shop. It looked like it was where old men got their hair cut. I like older barber shops.

I was right on the money.

The was a lone old man cutting hair. As I walked in, I could smell the ancient wood paneling. Hits from the ’70s were playing on a boombox propped a few feet above the worn red and black tiles on the floor. There was organized chaos on the back counter.

The wait was two old men deep, so I sank down in one of the red pleather chairs below faded hairstyle guide posters. The only sounds were an early Saturday local news show on the 13-inch TV in the rear, the buzz of the clippers and Midnight Train to Georgia.

The sun appeared, we reached the warmest part of this trip. I played Git It Awn on the way back to the hotel as I checked myself out in the mirror.

When I returned, it was time to check out. The front desk apologized yet again for something in the room causing an allergic reaction. Then they comped the room. I still can’t believe it. I mean, it wasn’t the Ritz-Carlton or anything, but it was the most I’d ever shelled out for a room. Because of how attentive they were, I would totally stay there again … but it probably would screw up Renée’s face again.

We were going to meet one of Renée’s sorority sisters for brunch later, so we did some sightseeing. By happenstance, I almost got to where Dave and I crashed last year when my friends Tim and Cathy lived with some of The Wooly Mamas. I couldn’t lead you to that house for $1 million, though.

Renée was a right as the rain that began to fall by the time we arrived at Noshville, followed by a trip to one of the area malls and an order of hot chicken to go. After that it was a long slog in the rain to Alabama.

I was filled with trepidation. Renée’s reassurances notwithstanding, this was my first prolonged period with them. This was Do Not Screw This Up. They’re really relaxed. It was fine. Mr. Walker’s like a sillier, more outgoing Renée.

Considering how ridiculous I am, the world should fear the precocious creature(s) we eventually set out into the world.

I have no idea what to call my in-laws. I’ve mastered the art of not using people’s names. I can keep this up for years.

Once again, we considered going out. To do what in northern Alabama, I do not know. Instead, I watched a college bowl game with my father-in-law, and then, when Renée all but went to bed, watched an episode of Archer.

If at any point in my life up until this weekend you told me that visiting my in-laws’ house for the first time would entail snickering at Archer with my wife’s father, I would have called you a liar to you big, fat, lying face full of lies.

I went to bed with a sigh of relief. Then woke up at 8 a.m. again because that’s what we do now.

At this point, 9/8c is less than eight hours from now. I better not. I better not.

Dec. 28

The next day, I continued my unhealthy food tour with Bojangle’s. Eating horrible-for-your regional foods or fast food I can’t get at home is a road trip tradition. Sometimes, it’s the sole point of the trip.

Afterward, Mr. Walker ferried one of Renée’s sisters, Joy; her beau; Renée; and me to a local mall.

In a minivan.

“We’re going on a double date with my dad,” Renée said with a laugh.

After some sightseeing, Renée was down for the count with her second migraine of the day. I went down for dinner and hung out with the family for a while. I had two long conversations with my mother-in-law. She means well and her beliefs are unshakable. As a whole, they are not supplementary family members I gained on June 22. They are undeniably complementary. Like with my mom, I kinda wish they were a little closer.

Once again, I tried to hang with the family late into the night, but I’m an old man now and I had a long drive ahead of me. Again, I’m still surprised I’m awake now. That Mountain Dew I had in Bristol is probably the culprit.

I do not want to know how many typos are in this entry. If I had a Mortal Kombat-esque energy bar over my head, my editing skills would be one more punch (or PBR) from FINISH HIM!

I’ll fix them in the afternoon when I upload the photos.

Dec. 29

Rock City. Ruby Falls. Fireworks.

Rock City. Ruby Falls. Fireworks.

Rock City. Ruby Falls. Fireworks.

RockCity. RubyFalls. Fireworks.



















I refuse to link to those attractions.

Our goal was to get home by 9. We got home at 10:30.

The Volunteer State struck again.

Other than the ubiquitous ads for the two main Lookout Mountain attractions that began near Scottsboro, Alabama, and sundry pyrotechnic supermarkets that drove Renée crazy, there was a massive traffic jam in Chattanooga.

We tried to select an alternative route, but Google Maps’ navigation kept insisting we get on I-24 in the middle of the jam.

Finally, at a traffic light, I took matters in my own hands and created my own route.

The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful. I timed the distance between an imaginary place in my novel and a real place someone had less than 30 minutes to reach. It’s impossible in 2007 without going over 80 mph. I’m going to adjust that to 35. I did it in 38 at about 78 mph and a few slowdowns. I think 35 is doable on a dry day with light traffic.

And here we are. It’s now after 3 a.m. and, if you don’t count this as Tuesday yet, I have two vacation days yet before the big, fantastic changes in 2015.

This certain has been a ride, figuratively and literally.

Here’s to this year going out in style, and hopefully, a lot of hours of sleep before it’s back to the newsroom.

Rock City. Ruby Falls. Fireworks.

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