Tennessee – A State of American Classics

A really exciting aspect of living in a totally different part of the country is traveling to the little areas that would we probably never make it too had we stayed in Michigan. While Fabien & I have only been in Tennessee for 1 month, we have found time to explore. Through these explorations, we have found Tennessee to be a state of true American Classics.

Country Music Culture. Other than Baywatch, there is nothing outsiders associate with America more than Country Music and its surrounding culture. When we were living in Detroit, Fabien and his friends loved to go to a Coyote Ugly-esque bar called ‘Coyote Joes’. On any given night you would find the girl next door shaking her barely dressed body in an American flag bikini top to ‘Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy’. This American flag wearing, cowboy boot sporting, country music listening scene is oozing from Nashville and the whole state.  Having been a fan of the music for years, I love it.

Jack Daniels. Say you live in Tennessee to a foreigner and they’ll picture you sitting on your wooden porch, shotgun at your side and a Jack on the rocks in your hand. Lynchburg is an hour from our house and while some friends were visiting we ventured to the one and only Jack Daniels Distillery.   While I’ve never tasted whiskey without gagging, I really enjoyed the tour. The grounds are absolutely beautiful and are similar to a Michigan Cider Mill, but in the mountains. I love that their business is run in a simple and grass-roots manner. The headquarters is no bigger than the office at my last job and once a month employees walk away with a free bottle.  My favorite fact surrounding the brand is that the headquarters is located in a dry county which has been since Prohibition (1920-1933).  It’s a vicious cycle really- the county does not have enough voters to overturn the law and no one will move there because they can’t drink. However, through a huge financial bribing disguised as taxes, the company has arranged to legally sell alcohol on their grounds.  The rule is: you can buy, but you can not consume. To see pictures of our visit at the Jack Daniels Distillery, click here.  One tip if you ever find yourself in Lynchburg – go on a weekday when the actual bottling takes place.

Elvis. Okay, seriously. How can you not love Elvis? He is such an endearing icon of American culture and the driving force behind Memphis’s tourism industry. I could not wait to go to Graceland, so as soon as Fabien got a couple of days off, we drove 3 hours west to see the King’s Castle. From the front, it doesn’t look like much, but the property is impressive in the way of elaborate decor, rooms full of awards, a car museum, planes (yes, planes) and countless wardrobe displays. It should be a sin to go to Memphis and not visit the home, just be sure to bring some cash. To cross the gates, it costs $35 causing Fabien to say “Elvis raped me.” for the rest of the day.  However, if you visit the attraction website (Graceland) and become an Elvis Insider (free), you get free parking and a few dollars off your tickets. For pics, click here.

Fried and Fattening Anything. No wonder this season of the Biggest Loser had two Nashville area residents as finalists. Everything is fried, dipped in BBQ sauce and then refried. Recently, I went to lunch and in lieu of french fries asked for the vegetable of the day. Guess what I got? Fried pickles. As yummy as I find them, I don’t consider anything fried a vegetable.

Total Cheesiness. Note the bullets above and all of it has an element of American cheese. This was most evident when we visited Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. As a teenager, I visited Lookout Mountain in the area and thought it was only a tad smaller than Everest. So, when we arrived and Fabien said, “That’s it” (He’s such a mountain snob), we decided to go to Ruby Falls instead. As your driving to the city there are literally 200 signs located on farm lands, billboards and painted on barns urging you to “See Ruby Falls”. Upon arrival, you can expect to pay $17.95 per person and  to get on an elevator that takes you a 1,120 feet towards the earth’s core. The falls were quite beautiful and interesting, but whoever manages the attraction slathered them in cheese. Our guide thought he was a comedian and his plan was to hold us all hostage for an hour to listen to his stalagmite and stalactite jokes. And when you finally arrive at the falls, dramatic music and disco lights are queued on the water.  “Why can’t they just shut up and leave the beauty alone?” (Fabien) If you are ever lured to the attraction via the highway signs, go to the Falls. It’s neat. Skip Lookout Mountain and drive to Point Park for even more beautiful, natural (and free) views. Pics are here.

Having been in the state for only a month and finding all of these great things to do, we are really looking forward to exploring even more American Classics over the next couple of years. Feel free to leave comments of not to miss places in the great state of Tennessee and/or other areas in the south.

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