Middle Age Miles

72 Hours (Almost) of Middle Age Miles and Edventure in Nashville – Part 2

Middle Age Miles with the Man in Black (and fellow Arkansas native), the great Johnny Cash

This article is part of our Trip Report – Adventures with Edventure in Nashville.

We’ve broken “72 Hours (Almost) of Middle Age Miles and Edventure in Nashville” into 2 parts – read Part 1 here.

Resuming 72 Hours (Almost) of Middle Age Miles and Edventure in Nashville, picking up on Saturday morning …

Saturday

8:45 am – Ed and I met up for an early-but-not-too-early scooter ride around downtown Nashville. We had a nice time riding around downtown, up to the Tennessee State Capitol building, and back down to the Union Station Hotel. I’m guessing we covered about 4 miles in total, and it was a very nice activity to start the morning before the day got too warm.

My biggest regret about the scooter ride is that we didn’t really give ourselves enough time. We had to be back to the Hilton by 10:00 am for our next activity, so we only had about an hour. With more time, I would have liked to continue on to the north past the Capitol and scooter all through Bicentennial Capitol Mall Park and go to the Nashville Farmers’ Market just off the west side of the park.

I’ll have more on the scooters in our later article, 15 Helpful Things to Know for a Visit to Nashville. And I’ll have more on the Union Station Hotel in another later article in this Trip Report, Hotel Visit – Union Station Hotel, Nashville (Marriott’s Autograph Collection).

10:00 am – Next up was a 2-hour golf cart tour of Nashville. This was a fun experience that allowed us to see more of the city than we otherwise would have, plus pick up some local history and tidbits that we certainly wouldn’t have learned otherwise. The tour took us along the riverfront, through downtown, through The Gulch, out to midtown, along Music Row, back downtown for another visit to the Union Station Hotel, and finally to the Printers Alley section of downtown. We made a few short stops along the way to allow us to stretch our legs and take some photos.

We arranged the tour through a company called Joyride, info@joyrideus.com, 615-285-9835. Our driver was Neil, and he was terrific. I’m sure you can ask for him. Another Joyride guide recommended to us was Ed (better known as “Big E,” I believe), so you might try him out as well. Total cost for the 2-hour tour for the 4 of us was $180 (plus tip). Edventure and I were able to split the tab and pay by credit card at the end of the tour, easily.

The golf cart itself was gas-powered and maneuvered through traffic safely and easily. It seated 6. Neil drove, of course, and he recommended that we ride in a 1-2-1 configuration, with 1 person in the “passenger’s seat” beside him, 2 in the forward-facing “back seat,” and 1 in the rear-facing “very-back seat.” We put the ladies in the forward-facing back seat, and Ed and I rotated between the front and the rear-facing very-back seat. The seats were plenty comfortable, and I felt plenty safe wearing a seat belt. I would say, though, that the rear-facing very-back seat is not the place to be if you get carsick easily, given that you’re riding backwards and breathing some exhaust fumes along the way. I was fine, but I was also ready to be finished with my turn on the very back!

At the end of the tour, Neil was kind enough to drop us off at our lunch place, Martin’s Bar-B-Que, which several locals had recommended as the best in town.

Here are a few pictures from our golf cart tour.

Looking up at Fort Nashborough from the banks of the Cumberland

A cool Johnny Cash mural, downtown Nashville

Loser’s Bar, midtown Nashville (sorry for the bad lighting!) (Middle Age Miles has been to the new one at the MGM Grand in Vegas!)

Two of the few (four, maybe?) remaining giant guitar statues in Nashville

The “Musica” statue in Buddy Killen Circle, Nashville (far better known as “The Naked People”)

Printers Alley Sign, downtown Nashville

The actual Printers Alley, Nashville

Me on the small main stage at Skull’s Rainbow Room in Printers Alley – our tour guide Neil assured me that Elvis had performed in that very spot!

Noon – It’s time for a much-awaited lunch at Martin’s Bar-B-Que.

My three favorite eating-out foods are thin-crust pizza, barbeque, and donuts. And even amongst those three favorites, I consider myself a true connoisseur and critic only of BBQ. I love to try new BBQ places and consider how they stack up in my own personal ratings.

In Nashville, there was a clear consensus among the locals we talked with – Martin’s is the best in town and the one we had to try out while we were there. It fit perfectly into our schedule for Saturday lunch.

We went to the downtown Nashville location on 4th Avenue South, only about 4 blocks from the Hilton. The line was just out the door when we arrived at noon, and we had to wait about 15 minutes to place our order.

I ordered a beef brisket sandwich (I asked them for chopped rather than sliced, which they obliged) and a smoked sausage dog. Taste-wise, I thought the beef was very good, the smoked sausage was good but not great, and the sauce was excellent. The buns were store-bought and nothing special.

Portion sizes were modest and frankly, too small.  I was worried that I’d ordered too much meat, so I didn’t order any sides. But I left still a bit hungry (and there was no re-ordering, as the line by that time would have been another 20+ minutes). I’d also note that between the 4 of us, our food was delivered at vastly different times, 10 minutes or more between the time the first food arrived at our table and the last.

Personally, I’d be quite happy to eat at Martin’s again. To me, the beef brisket and the sauce are the most important things, and I thoroughly enjoyed those parts of my meal. Given what I learned on this first visit, I’d order a lot more meat – beef brisket again with some pork ribs – along with mac & cheese and some cornbread.

That said, I got the impression that the others in our group didn’t like Martin’s as much as I did. And frankly, the food and service experience (other than the brisket and sauce at least) left something to be desired.

Inside, I really enjoyed the decor and vibe. I’ll let the pictures mostly speak for themselves. One thing that was nice for a fall Saturday lunch was that there were several TVs on, tuned to college football games. That works for us!

Bottom line on Martin’s – try it out, for sure, but learn from this review and you’ll be able to order better and set expectations before you go.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, downtown Nashville – ordering counter

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, downtown Nashville – dining room

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, downtown Nashville – dining room

1:30 pm – After lunch, next up was a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The lobby here can be crowded and somewhat chaotic, so the first thing to know is that if you come in the main (north) entrance, the ticket office is to the far left of the lobby on the ground floor. You can buy tickets on-site at the Hall of Fame, or there is also an opportunity to purchase in advance here. We did not get tickets in advance and had to wait 15-20 minutes in line to reach the ticket window.

Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville – lobby mural above the ticket office

General admission to the Hall of Fame Museum is $25.95 for adults, $15.95 for youth 6-12, $23.95 for seniors 60+ and students, and $22.95 for military. An audio guide is available for an additional $5.00 per person, but we didn’t get the guide. Hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day (closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and perhaps on some other days).

Upon entering the Hall of Fame Museum, the first experience was a very nicely-done, detailed exhibit featuring Emmylou Harris. I’ve never felt strongly one way or the other about Emmylou Harris, but the exhibit was engaging and informative, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. From that point, I was expecting the rest of the Museum to be full of similar exhibits.

To tell the truth, though, I thought most of the rest of the Museum was underwhelming. In contrast to the detailed, engaging Emmylou Harris exhibit, the other exhibits were flat – usually just an item of clothing or a musical instrument from a great country music artist, along with a short note about the person. There were hardly any stations where you could listen to the great music performed by this highest echelon of artists. It just seemed like they could have done so much more, given the extreme wealth of material to work with. I’d also add that the Museum was pretty crowded, which certainly diminished the enjoyment.

Standard exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame – George Jones’ suit, plus dresses from Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Tanya Tucker

Standard exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame – guitars and awards of Garth Brooks and Vince Gill

Among the exhibits are three cars, which are definite highlights – a customized car that belonged to honky-tonker Webb Pierce, adorned with guns and steer horns; the Elvis-mobile; and the “Bandit” car from Smokey and the Bandit II. I somehow didn’t get a picture of Webb Pierce’s car, which was priceless. The Elvis-mobile was exactly what you’d expect – over the top, including gold accents everywhere and a television in the back seat.

Inside the Elvis-mobile – check out the television set in the middle of the car

Back in the day, everyone wanted to have a car as cool as the Bandit!

One of the things I was most looking forward to at the Hall of Fame was the main room with the HoF plaques dedicated to each artist, with the descriptions of the inductees’ illustrious careers and listings of their greatest hits. And when you get there, this room is indeed majestic, unique and beautiful. It’s a large, circular, high-ceiling room, with windows at the top allowing abundant natural light. In the center of the room is an inverted slender pyramid, presumably symbolic of the radio antenna towers that broadcast country music far and wide. The picture below hardly does justice to how impressive the room is.

Unfortunately, this Hall of Fame room was at the very end of the Museum. It’s very easy to rush right past it if you’re not paying close attention. Also, having fought the crowds in the rest of the Museum and knowing you’re at the end, your body and mind are tired and ready to check out.

I spent some time circling the room and reading the plaques. I was fascinated and could have spent longer perusing them even more closely. But the rest of our group almost entirely skipped the Hall of Fame room and was ready to move on. In my opinion, this Hall should be the centerpiece of the Museum, but it feels like an afterthought.

Country Music Hall of Fame – this is the impressive room with HoF induction plaques (the full inscription reads, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, a classic country music line)

3:30 pm – The Edventure crew consists of a couple of true art lovers, so we set off across downtown Nashville to find the art galleries. We found a couple of interesting contemporary galleries along 5th Avenue, between Church Street and Union Street (about 3 blocks north of Broadway)  – the Rymer Gallery and the Tinney Contemporary. Philly and I are decidedly unsophisticated when it comes to art. But that said, we really enjoyed some of the pieces at the Rymer, including a number of pieces created solely of crayons.

We also tried to visit The Arcade, which is in the same area, but all of the galleries and shops were closed in anticipation of an event they were hosting later that evening.

The Mona Lisa in crayons, at the Rymer Gallery, Nashville

4:30 pm – The ladies in our group had heard that the coolest restrooms in all of Nashville could be found at The Hermitage Hotel. We were nearby, so we decided to stop in and have a look.

The Hermitage is indeed a beautiful, old, ornate hotel. It’s independent, but part of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts collective, which has a points-earning loyalty program, iPrefer.

When we entered, we mentioned that we were looking for the restrooms, to which the doorman replied, the regular restroom or the famous one. Ha! He very kindly directed us to the “famous” restrooms, which were to the right and downstairs. Shockingly, I didn’t visit the women’s restroom, but the men’s room was an art deco blast from the past. It was indeed quite different, and pretty cool.

The men’s side of the “famous” restrooms at The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville

We also took a peek around the lobby and downstairs restaurant of The Hermitage Hotel, which were quite nice. In contrast to the art deco men’s room, the lobby and restaurant were classic old-style Southern genteel.

The Hermitage Hotel – main lobby

The Hermitage Hotel – main lobby decor and ceiling

The Hermitage Hotel – downstairs restaurant

5:00 pm – It’s back to Broadway for a little Saturday afternoon happy hour before dinner. This time, we stop in at the world-famous Tootsies Orchid Lounge, one of Nashville’s iconic locations.

On a Saturday late afternoon, this place is absolutely packed. We kept moving further upstairs. Amazingly, they can accommodate a different band on each floor without the sound crossing over. The top floor was a little less crowded than the others, so we stayed for a while. Given the crowded conditions, it was tough to get a drink. It was also very tough on the less-tall members of our crew. The band was solid. They played a standard selection of cover songs, with one exception – at one point, they lit into a long, enthusiastic, rousing version of “Rocky Top,” which brought the house down.

World Famous Tootsies Orchid Lounge, downtown Nashville

Tootsies Orchid Lounge, downtown Nashville

The band at Tootsies Orchid Lounge (and a pretty funny poster of some random dude)

And if I may digress for a moment – and remove my beloved Arkansas Razorback Hog Hat in favor of my college football fan hat, so I can muse about this question … Is Rocky Top the greatest college fight song of them all? It’s immediately recognizable, it’s immediately associated with its school and unmistakably tied to its state, it’s rousing and catchy, it inspires passion in the fan base, and it’s imminently sing-able. Perhaps its only downside is that it’s not majestic. Nit-pickers would say that it’s not even the “official” fight song of the University of Tennessee, it’s too new (written in 1967; first performed at a UT game in 1972), and it wasn’t even originally intended to be a fight song. But what other college fight song can bring down the house at a bar on a Saturday evening (and not just because it’s the school song of the bar’s patrons)?

[Philly says that this is a no-brainer – the greatest of all college fight songs is the Notre Dame Victory March. She has a point. It’s definitely way up there, even setting aside our obvious bias.]

6:30 pm – Continuing on a college football theme, next up was dinner and football at the City Tap House.  The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were off to a good start for the 2018 season, and a big road game at traditional power Virginia Tech loomed on Saturday night. A little advance research had revealed that the Nashville chapter of the Notre Dame Club has its game watch parties at City Tap House, and we were delighted to learn that this was only 3 blocks from our hotel.

City Tap House has a typical selection of American bar/tavern food. The food was fine, although the service was uninspired. Surprisingly, the restaurant section wasn’t good for game-watching, as the televisions were too small and too few. Game-watching was good at the bar, though, and we had a fun time watching the Fighting Irish dismantle Virginia Tech in the second half to stay undefeated on the season.

After Dinner and the Game – After a long dinner and game, we were ready to stretch our legs a bit. By this point, we had tired of the crowded Broadway scene and were craving something different, so we walked the few blocks up to Printers Alley.

The Edventure crew wanted to go back to Skull’s Rainbow Room (and we owed them one after they sat through the entire ND game!). Initially, we had a little trouble getting in to Skull’s, so we settled next door at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. Philly and I enjoyed our time at Bourbon Street – the band was good and had a different playlist than what we’d been hearing over and over on Broadway (and wasn’t really blues-y), we met some fellow ND fans, and the bar had Jello shots! We listened for a while until Edventure was ready to give Skull’s another shot.

This time, we got in to Skull’s. They were in the midst of a burlesque show, and we kind of settled in to a standing-room only spot near the entrance. Edventures is a burlesque fan, so they had a blast and were sad to see the show come to an end a few minutes after we arrived. Philly and I are not burlesque fans, so we were on my phone trying to get updates on the McGregor-Khabib UFC fight that was going on at the time, leading to me almost getting kicked out of Skull’s because my cell phone screen was bright and the manager thought I was taking pictures. Special shout-out to Middle Age Miles daughter Katie Beth for keeping me up-to-speed on the fight and the craziness that broke out afterwards!

Well, not quite “nude,” but Philly and I saw more than we wanted to!

Time to go back to the hotel – Don’t let your Saturday night in Nashville end like this:

Enough said.

Sunday morning

9:00 am – With limited time before Philly and I needed to head back out to the airport to catch our flight homw, we all went out for quick breakfast/brunch at The Diner. Again, this was a short 2-3 block walk from the Hilton, so very convenient.

I had a solid if uncreative breakfast of waffles and bacon, and I think the crew generally enjoyed their food at The Diner. Service was also very good, which came as a bit of a surprise after two full days of mostly underwhelming service.

The Diner is kind of a cool venue with 6 floors. It seemed that only the bottom floor was open for breakfast. But importantly, it’s open 24 hours. And potentially even more importantly, as our helpful golf cart tour guide Neil pointed out, The Diner doesn’t stop serving alcohol until 3:00 am – but then re-starts alcohol service one hour later at 4:00 am. Now that’s a helpful tip!

10:00 am – For our last Nashville activity, we visited the Johnny Cash Museum – and we were so glad we did. Send a memo to the Country Music Hall of Fame – this is how you do a music museum. The exhibits included priceless actual mementos from Johnny Cash’s childhood and adult life, like his birth certificate, one of his elementary school report cards, and items from his military service. Given our affinity for credit card rewards, we loved that one of the displays included Johnny Cash’s Amex Green Business card! The exhibits included lots of fun and interesting facts about Johnny Cash and his career, reminding us of just how great he was.

There was also plenty of music in the Johnny Cash Museum. I thoroughly enjoyed the station where you could listen to the many remakes of some of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits. I may or may not have listened all the way through, twice, to Snoop Dogg’s remake of “I Walk the Line.” And near the end of the museum tour, I loved listening to Johnny Cash’s late-career, soul-stirring cover of the Nine Inch Nails song, “Hurt.”

The Johnny Cash Museum is open 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, 7 days a week (closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day). Admission is $19.95, with a $1-off discount for AAA, military, seniors and students. Youth 6-15 admission is $15.95 with an adult admission. Tickets can be purchased online in advance here, but there is a service fee. Advance tickets are not date- or time-specific – they’re good any day and any time the Museum is open.

If you take away only one thing from our Nashville Trip Report, it should be this – definitely visit the Johnny Cash Museum.

“I Walk the Line” exhibit, Johnny Cash Museum, Nashville

Johnny Cash’s Amex Green Business card along with his reading glasses and harmonica, Johnny Cash Museum, Nashville

After that highlight, it was time for our stay in Nashville to end. We said our sad farewells to Ed and Marilyn, caught an Uber back to the airport, and let American Airlines take us home safely. It was a busy, fun-filled weekend, and we’re looking forward to our next Adventure with Edventure at a destination to be determined later!


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