Natchez Trace and Nashville, Tennessee

Trip Start Jan 08, 2006
Trip End Dec 31, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Sunday, April 16, 2006

As I write this, we're on the road again, having pulled out of the Nashville Super Speedway infield early this's a beautiful(warm - 87 degrees) Easter Sunday, and the Great Smoky Mountains are showing a million colors of spring green, with the purplish/pink of the redbuds and a few white dogwoods mixed in for contrast. The view out the front window is breathtaking (except for the number of bugs that have ended their lives there!), but I'm trying to get a bit written about our last week, in between glances up and ahead.
When we arrived at our Natchez Trace RV Park in Hohenwald, Tennessee, last Sunday, we caught up with our friends Ruth Ann and Frank, who had left Florida several days ahead of us. (See Pictures #1 and #2) Ruth Ann always does a wonderful job of researching the geography and history of areas they're in, and we enjoyed the benefits of her research, learning that the word "trace" in Natchez Trace is another word for path or trail. The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway commemorates an ancient trail that connected southern portions of the Mississippi River to salt licks in today's central Tennessee. Over the centuries, the Choctaw, Chickasaw and other American Indians left their marks on the Trace. The Natchez Trace experienced its heaviest use from 1785 to 1820 by the "Kaintuck" boatmen that floated the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to markets in Natchez and New Orleans. They sold their cargo and boats and began the trek back north on foot to Nashville and points beyond. It's a beautiful area, and the trees were just starting to bud out, adding to the beauty. (See Picture #3) Among the explorers who found their way there was Meriweather Lewis (of Lewis and Clark). There is a headstone/monument erected in his memory, as he apparently took his own life there, having been embroiled in financial and political turmoil. (See Picture #4.)
We had a couple of relaxing days there, enjoying our time with Ruth Ann and Frank - and as always when we're with them, laughing a lot! Played some dominoes, shared dinners, and then packed up for our move to the Nashville Super Speedway on Wednesday morning.
Sometimes, life has a way of reminding us to pay attention to the details. Our Wednesday morning departure was one of those days. As we pulled out of the park and started heading up a rather long hill, after a few minutes Greg commented that the motorhome seemed to be straining...he said "are you sure the car was in neutral when you loaded it on the dolly?" as I looked at the little tv screen for our backup camera and screamed "stop!" when I saw smoke swirling around the front of the Trans Am. I ran back, and sure enough, it was in 1st gear - and we'd been pulling it with the rear wheels down at almost 55 mph. I about lost it, sure that we'd blown the engine. We had to just go ahead, pulling it behind us once I'd put it in neutral, as we were following Ruth Ann and Frank to our next stop. All the way there, I was online, searching for rebuilt or new engines, knowing that we'd come close to breaking the bank if we had to buy one, and wanting to shoot myself for my stupid move. When we finally got to Nashville, we went back to see if we could get it running, and it started! With a sigh of relief, we unloaded it from the tow dolly, parked the motorhome, and Greg checked the car out more closely. Alas, it wasn't without damage - the radiator was cracked - not a cheap repair, but still several thousand dollars less than what an engine would have cost. We found a Pontiac dealer nearby, called our tow service (we have an emergency road service called "Coach Net" which works for our motorhome, our car and Greg's mo-ped, should we ever need it - it's a great service that finds the nearest qualified repair center for you when you have a problem, will even make the appointment, or, sometimes, send a technical advisor out, as they did when we needed a quick-fix on the motorhome last month in order to drive it to a repair center), got towed in, and got a rental vehicle for a couple of days. So, the car's back behind us, almost good as new, and we only took a good swing at the piggy bank, without breaking it! All's well that ends well, as they say, and I'm quite sure that from now on, I'll be double and triple checking that car before we tow it!
With the car in the shop and Greg behind the wheel of a brand new Chevy pick-up (it was good for him to get his "pick-em-up truck" fix!) we settled in to enjoy Nashville and our very special weekend parked in the infield of the speedway amongst all the fabulous coaches of the Nascar Busch racers.
On Thursday night, we drove into downtown Nashville to enjoy the Honky-Tonks and bars where country singers waiting to be discovered entertain, paid only by the applause and whatever the listeners may drop in the bucket that gets passed around. The little old bars are famous for who has played there - from Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash to Tanya Tucker - it seems almost everyone started at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, The Stage on Broadway, Robert's Honky-Tonk, or Nashville Crossroads (all of which are just around the corner from the famous Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry). This is the second time we've been there, and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening listening to some great music.
By Friday morning, the infield lot in which we had the motorhome parked was totally full - probably about 50 spaces, most of which were taken up with top-of-the-line motor coaches, with matching golf carts parked in front, as well as matching SUVs. The coach drivers had spent the last couple of days spit-shining every inch of every vehicle, in preparation for the arrival of their "star" owners, the mostly-young drivers of the Busch Grand National and ARCA Racing Series. I can say that Nextel Cup Rookie-of-the-Year contender Denny Hamlin slept in the bedroom next to ours (i.e., his rig was parked next to us!); while another contender, J.J. Yeley, "lived" across from us. Down the way was Kevin Harvick, who won the race on Saturday, along with wife Delana; John Andretti, who seemed friedliest, and Kyle Bush (who held the record for most wrecks (3) in the race). I snapped a picture of Jeff Hammond (from FOX and SPEED TV) as he and the crew left one of the coaches after an interview. As I think we mentioned in our last update, we owe this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to park in with the "Big Boys" to Ruth Ann and Frank's son, JP, who works with one of the ARCA teams, and who found a way to make this possible for us. It really was a fun experience, and we enjoyed JP's running commentary on who was who and what they did, as everyone walked by.
Because we were parked in the infield, the view of the track for the race wasn't the best. We decided the vantage point of the bluff overlooking turns 1 and 2 would be a good view, and we headed up there, where we immediately made new friends. (See Picture #5) Deb and Mark graciously shared the shade of their awning with us, and it wasn't long before were in "small world" mode, finding out that they're originally from the Detroit area, where Mark went to Redford High School (Rose's school's biggest rival) and Deb's Mom went to Cooley High, the school Rose graduated from! As they now live in the Nashville area, and are huge race fans, we left on Sunday with pretty strong assurances that we'd meet up again.

(Check back for photos - I'll upload them when we have a stronger aircard signal!)
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