Between Georgia and Nashville, we went a bit out of the way to visit Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams. Country ham is pretty salty, but we’ve learned to like it. Our quick visit to the Benton’s shop was great. It’s a no-frills place, stuffed with smoked and aged meat. Brian got a Tennessee souvenir.
We spent a week in Nashville, staying at the KOA on the east side of Nashville near the Opryland Hotel. It was pretty easy to get into Downtown Nashville, about 15 minutes away. Thanks to a tip from fellow travelers, we parked near the Titans Stadium (in lot R) and walked across the pedestrian bridge to get to downtown. We loved this! In addition to free parking (which we always love), walking across the bridge was fun and had great views of the city!
We aren’t big country music fans, but when in Nashville! We bought tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. Until planning our visit, we actually didn’t realize that the Grand Ole Opry is a show rather than a venue, that’s how much we know about country music. The Grand Ole Opry is the longest running radio show in America (since 1925), and is essentially a country music variety show, with each band performing two or three songs.
The Opry performs at the Opry House three times a week, but in the winter it moves to the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman Auditorium was built as a church in 1892 and called the Union Gospel Tabernacle. From 1943 to 1974, the Opry was performed at the Ryman Auditorium, which became known as “the mother church of country music”.
We thought it was fun to see the Opry in its historic theatre, but church pews aren’t the comfiest concert seats. The balcony was sold out by the time we bought tickets, and it comes way down over the floor seats, somewhat blocking the view.
The performers the night we went to the Opry included Old Crow Medicine Show, and a bunch of other singers we’d never heard of. The show was honoring the 25th year of Marty Stuart’s membership in the Grand Ole Opry, so he performed and brought many guests to perform with him, including his wife Connie Smith, who is also a country music singer. My favorite guest that he brought was his mother, who came out and played the guitar with him for a song.
We didn’t visit the Opry House, but we did stop next door at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center to check out the Christmas decorations. There is a fountain there, and Brian was watching it while I was in the bathroom. When I came out, he swore that it went really high. We watched it for probably half an hour, and I thought he was making it up, but eventually it did shoot high into the air!
Because we aren’t country music fans, we skipped the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, but we did go into the building it is in to visit and tour Hatch Show Print, which is a historic letterpress poster shop. It has been around since 1879, producing posters to advertise the many country music shows in the city. It was previously located on Broadway, but moved to the Country Music Hall of Fame when their building was renovated, since they are now owned by the museum.
We got to Hatch Show Print just before the last tour of the day. I anxiously asked if there were tickets available, and yes, yes there were. In fact, we were the only ones on the tour! I guess 3 pm on a Tuesday isn’t the most popular time. They also seemed a little surprised we were interested, asking “So… are you guys artists?” Nope, we just like to see how things are made.
The first part of the tour was a description of the printing process, near the presses, which were in use at the time. A guy was running off posters that looked like a calendar, and a woman was carving a vintage car and trailer, free-hand. They showed us some of the old letters, still in use (they don’t add any new letters to the collection, the worn/distressed look comes about honestly), and deconstructed a poster into its components and described how it was printed.
The second part of the tour took place in their design studio, where they went through the history of Hatch Show Print, and we got to add the final color to a souvenir print. We enjoyed the tour, and really enjoyed shopping at the store!
For another live-music Nashville experience, we went to a Honky Tonk on Broadway. We went to Robert’s Western World, with the thought that we would try a few different places on the block, but we liked Robert’s so much we stayed all night. We went on a Thursday, and it was busy, but this street was crazy on the weekend!
We also saw my second cousin, Sharon, and met her husband Steve and kids. They had us over to their house for a delicious dinner, and came over to see our trailer too! It was so nice to connect with family that I hadn’t seen in too long!
Day 432 | Mile 45,201