Tennessee and Trains

Warning: long post. I really don’t expect anyone else will read the whole thing.

I took a long overdue vacation. My two planned vacations last year were thwarted, one by a dying cat and one by a dying dog. This time Tom didn’t get to go because of an expecting cow, but he did go to Utah last year.

I started off flying to Nashville. I MacGyvered an old-fashioned in the flight per an article in Bon Appetit.

I had arranged for lodging with a kitchen, hoping to cook to save money. I arrived tired and hungry so ordered fish tacos from the restaurant downstairs. On the last taco I found a long hair in it and I was ill the rest of the night. So that clinched my decision to cook.

I had been reading Michael Twitty’s book called The Cooking Gene. It is a fascinating personal exploration of his interested in cooking and his African-American history and culture. Unfortunately his book does not have many recipes so on a whim I bought Dora Charles A Real Southern Cook for my Kindle. Her recipes have been adapted for modern times but are based on the heritage Mr. Twitty is describing so I used it.

So I picked up my rental car, found a grocery store and hauled the food quite a ways to my new kitchen.

First I made hoecakes.

I carefully purchased all the food I would need but failed to get cooking utensils and pans my new kitchen was lacking. So I headed out into Nashville in search of kitchen items. Which is hard since they seem to mostly sell boots there. But I found a great little grocery store and got what I needed.

Next was baby back ribs. Plus I made myself one old fashioned while cooking each evening.

Above is a piece of art depicting Broadway and a figure in a second story window where my room was.

The next day I visited Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. It was fascinating and a lovely sunny day to walk around its acreage. I tended to focus on the slaves’ lives, especially with regard to cooking.

I briefly visited the Antique Archeology in Nashville.

I then attended a great 3 day conference on medical coding and learned a lot.

At night I cooked.

I hadn’t been going to the country music sights hoping that the cow would give birth and Tom could join me. He is more of a fan. But the last day I was there I gave up and visited the Johnny Cash museum.

Then I headed out of town. First I drove to the George Dickel whiskey distillery. I drove on country roads and through hollers to get there. They wouldn’t you take photos inside, but it was amazing. You could look at the grain bins, the mash tanks, the fermenting tanks and the whiskey being distilled followed by the charcoal filtration and barrel aging. Then there was a tasting of 4 different varieties. My grandfather liked this whiskey, and I am learning to enjoy it too. Here are the outside photos.

I then drove to the Shiloh Military site. On the way I was on portions of the Trail of Tears and the Natchez Trace Parkway. At Shiloh I saw the surgical equipment used,

a drum found after the gruesome battle,


The Shiloh church where a lot of the action took place,

Pittsburg Landing where a large number of Union troops landed,

and a cemetery (many were elsewhere in unmarked mass graves).

I did not have good cell service at Shiloh so I could not check my great, great grandfather’s diary to see if he fought at Shiloh. So I continued on my trip and visited the Pinson Mounds just as they were closing.

I spent the night in Jackson. It turns out the song was not originally about any particular town, but Johnny Cash said when he sang it, it was about Jackson Tennessee in respect of Carl Perkins.

The next day I headed to Memphis. I started with going to Bass Pro Shop. I checked out the fish, ducks and alligators inside. I headed to the top to check out the view and after got my photo taken with a stuffed bear.

Next I drove a bridge across the Mississippi then recrossed and headed to the Metal Museum. The art there was amazing!

Next I walked up Beale Street and then headed to Sun Records. At Sun Records there was memorabilia from many of the great musicians that started there as well as of the amazing secretary and local DJ who enabled their careers. The studio itself is amazingly intact.

I then checked into my room in Memphis with a kitchen. I visited the lobby of the Peabody hotel across the street to view the March of the Ducks.

Then I made dinner.

The next morning I headed to the National Civil Rights Museum. It was incredible. It was educational, inspiring and emotional. Everyone needs to go there.

Then they have you cross the street to the building that the shot was thought to come from. There they present the actual evidence the FBI used to identify, capture and present at trial for James Earl Ray. They have the actual gun used and the bullet pulled from Dr. King’s body.

It took me more than 3 hours at the museum, and I was starving. Plus there was a bitter cold wind. So I walked quickly to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. And it was so good!

With a full and warm tummy, I headed to the Blues Hall of Fame Museum. They had memorabilia of their hall of fame artists but more importantly they had biographies and several full songs for each person. I started with Alberta Hunter and Amtrak Blues. It was very educational.

Next I went on a tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory. Unfortunately they did not let you take photos in the factory, but it was quite interesting how they mostly make them by hand. They also reject guitars that are not perfect, and we witnessed the destruction of one who did not make it. At the end they inspect and play them,and we also witnessed one who made it. Here are some of their completed products. I headed to the Peabody lobby just to relax and have one of their old-fashioneds. I was not planning on staying for the Ducks but the drink was so strong, it took me over one hour to sip it. So I saw the duck march again. This time I took a video of the duck master as he is quite entertaining.


The next morning I was planning on going to Graceland but when I found out tickets are $40 plus you had to pay for parking I decided I did not want to go that bad. And with access to WiFi I was able to learn from his diaries that my great great grandfather had landed at Pittsburg Landing about one month after the Shiloh battle. He then with the 31st Illinois Infantry marched to Corinth and had two skirmishes there were they had 6 killed and 45 wounded. They participated in the Siege of Corinth and they went into town after the rebels left. He said there was everything there except “Coffey”. He said they baked bread and lived fine until he got marching orders and two days rations. So I decided I would rather visit Corinth than Graceland.

I explored the museum, the maps and the books there. There was no mention of his unit there. The NPS ranger there could not determine where he was encamped. But I learned a lot. Interestingly they said the rebels had burned everything when they left and nothing was left for the union army which is opposite of what the diary said. But I saw the maps of where he likely was and saw the fortifications he likely made. After the museum I went to the cemetery, imaging that his fellow infantrymen might be buried there. There were a lot of graves of unknown soldiers there. Then I went to union siege line to see the trenches they had dug there, likely similar to his.

I drove by Graceland for free on my way back.

Then I headed to the Stax Records Museum. There was the story of Stax, the recording equipment, records and memorabilia including Isaac Hayes’ Cadillac and Booker T. Jones’ Hammond organ.

Next I picked up dinner at Central BBQ (the smoked ribs are amazing!) and drove by Mason Temple where Dr. King had given his mountaintop sermon.

The next morning I had to check out of my room and turn in my rental car. But my train out of Memphis did not leave until 10:30 PM. So I dropped my luggage at the Amtrak station and walked a lot around Memphis. I visited the Cotton Museum.

I ate lunch at the Flying Fish.

I found a really cool antiques warehouse. I bought an old cookbook there.

I then checked out a variety of sights in Memphis.

The train station is being renovated. The station is below but the tiny waiting room I spent hours in is the next photo. It did have a cool old time table and locomotive photos though.

I boarded The City of New Orleans train that night and woke up outside of Chicago.

I had a few hours in Chicago so decided to walk down to Michigan Avenue and then to see The Bean. In doing so I got to experience Chicago winter weather again.

I then had lunch at Lou Mitchell’s. When we drove Route 66 we started in the outskirts of Chicago so this kind of completed the trip for me. After lunch I hung out in the very nice lounge at Union Station.

Finally I boarded the California Zephyr heading to Sacramento. I saw The Mississippi again and saw Ottumwa Iowa where the character who inspired Radar O’Reilley had lived. The blue night light on the train made my toenails glow.

I slept through Nebraska and woke up outside of Denver. Then we headed up into the Rocky Mountains where the geology was truly amazing. Then we went through the Moffat Tunnel at 9200 feet with 4000 feet of dirt above us. Upon leaving the tunnel we had crossed the Continental Divide.

West of the divide there were poles with old glass insulators, old ranches and river scenery.

Then the geology became truly amazing along Interstate 70.

There were ducks in the Colorado River and Hotel Colorado where Teddy Roosevelt stayed.

And then was the incredible Ruby Canyon.

I woke up in Winnemuka Nevada. There were wide open spaces there.

Then we went through the Sierra Nevada range with Bonner Lake, almost non existent old mining towns and an old Mountain Lodge.

And here is my train after I departed from it in Sacramento. It was bittersweet. I am ready to go home but really enjoyed the trip and the people I met on it. ( Our train attendant Dennis was incredible.). Amtrak is a national treasure which needs to be preserved. Everyone should take a long distance Amtrak trip. You get to see America and at meals meet diverse Americans you otherwise would not have a chance to talk to. Contact your Congress representatives to save Amtrak!!!

Now I am at the Sacramento airport trying to make it home to see my honey but thwarted by airline computer problems. I miss him and have not been away from him this long since the day I met him. Wish me luck.

BTW Alaska agent Tiffany is amazing at helping me get home!

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13 Responses to Tennessee and Trains

  1. Steff says:

    I so wish I’d known you were in Nashville. Would have loved to meet you and visit a few places with you. Your trip looked amazing. Long live the Amtrac!smc

  2. Kathy says:

    Wonderful trip Donna! You inspire me to take another road trip

  3. Enjoyed the post ! So many great places in the US !

  4. Denise says:

    wow. you covered a lot of territory- thanks for sharing your adventure!

  5. Chloe Reynolds says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip. I’m always amazed at how they cooked way back when. Always interesting and you did a good job on your travel log!

  6. Jeanne says:

    I signed up for your blog and have been waiting….This is the first one I’ve received. That was SOME trip!! I’m looking forward to more of your everyday things. I’m a fellow Northwesterner, though from a “bit” further south than you!

    • Donna says:

      Thanks for signing up. It was some trip. I usually blog about everyday stuff but occasionally about other things too. I hope you enjoy it.

  7. Pingback: Martin Luther King Jr. Day | Schoonover Farm Blog

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