Our first stop on the way in to Nashville was the Loveless Motel, which dishes up southern cuisine prepared in all manners from fried to deep fried. It was on Slinky’s dad’s must do list and I must say I’m glad we did. It was like Mecca for beige food enthusiasts such as myself. Even the biscuits were served with sorghum, which the waitress explained was best mixed with butter to achieve maximum beigeness. As I waddled out to the van, I swore to myself I’d go for a run the next day. But first we had business to attend to at the Grand Ole Opry.
Relocated from its original location at the Ryman Auditorium to a roomier venue out in the burbs, the Opry has hosted legends of country music since 1925, including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and about a hundred others. There is a circle in the center of the stage cut from the original stage so that performers literally get to stand in the footsteps of their heroes. The whole place had a great feel to it and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Well, normally there wouldn’t be anyway. As soon as we sat down, a man in a comically large cowboy hat took the seat right in front of Slinky’s dad, Andrew. I have to admit that my respect for him grew as I watched him tap the guy on the shoulder and ask him to remove his hat. I worried about being involved in an international incident but the guy, perhaps then noticing that he was the only one wearing a view-blocking hat, took it off and placed it in his lap. Thus Andrew got to enjoy great sets by the likes of Del McCoury Band and Vince Gill unobstructed. I think he asked the guy to put his hat back on during Rascal Flatts.
We continued to soak up more Nashville music goodness over the next couple of days at various sites up and down Broadway. It was fun to have Andrew and Tom along for that part of the ride. Andrew has spent more time in Nashville than I have and between his suggestions and Slinky’s mastery of internet research, Tom and I got to kind of go along for the ride.
Our country music indoctrination culminated in a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was a boys’ trip to the museum as Slinky was feeling a little worse for the wear by then and possibly had had her fill of lap steel guitar. Having started off leg one of the trip with a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, it seemed like good symmetry to spend our last day of leg one at its country counterpart. I can’t say enough good things about the museum. I find it mind-blowing that one building houses the telecaster that Charlie Daniels played on Nashville Skyline, the Bandit’s Trans-Am, and Gram Parson’s Nudie suit. If none of those things mean anything to you, I still suggest a trip. Not to out anybody but there was a member of our group whose response the mention of Willie Nelson was “who?” and he still enjoyed it.
As we left the museum, the rain that would soon spur tornados and cause flooding across Nashville started to fall. It rained hard enough that evening that we drove the tenth of a mile to dinner and didn’t feel the slightest bit lazy about it. The rain continued on through the night and stayed with us for the entire drive back to Indianapolis the next day. Our caravan had to stick pretty close together to not lose sight of one another.
Our country music theme followed us through the rain to Indianapolis as well. A couple of hours after pulling into town, we were at the Melody Inn for Hillbilly Happy Hour with Rick Dodd and the Dickrods, a band I helped form and still feel like part of even living in a different country. They put on a really great show that made it even sweeter to be back in Indy. I even got to join them on stage for a few songs that I did my best to not mess up. It really did feel like a storybook homecoming.
I, for one, was excited to be in one place for a few weeks as we ramped up for part two of the trip. Slinky on the other hand barely had time to catch her breath before she was on a plane back to Melbourne to visit the rest of her family, meet with clients, and renew her visa status. Tom and Andrew headed to New York for the U.S. Open after a couple of days. I don’t think anybody wore cowboy hats in front of them there