Bristol, TN to Nashville covers 293 miles and requires one bathroom break or an empty wide-mouthed Gatorade bottle. Because of construction, speed limits change every fifty miles or so and there are sun-glassed policemen in unmarked cars, who gain small thrills issuing fast-traveling tourists tickets. If they don’t issue you a ticket, they stand outside of your car for nearly half an hour discussing things like the impending storm and UT football and other soul-sucking conversational topics that can destroy your day if you happened to break 75 in a 70mph zone because you really have to get to your destination before the sun goes down. Without a doubt, I know this to be true.
Along the road, the religiosity of this state’s population is evident. Rumors suggest Jesus was a carpenter, and based on the number of Churches here, God must have been a general contractor/developer. The prevalence of prayer places here makes Starbucks’ ubiquity seem horribly inadequate.
Dominant roadside shades include purple, yellow, and orange, and if you get close enough to the leaves, you can almost smell the moonshine that’s fed the trees for more than a century. And, well, since we’re talking about alcohol, here’s a sign from one of the small towns I passed on my journey.
Fortunately for everyone I know, they didn’t have t-shirts.
Nashville is known for its music – think Hank Williams, the Allman Bros. and a post-move Elvis. Thus, when you descend from the Appalachians into the city’s heart, the wind outside your car window blows with a country twang. You hear them crooning from honky-tonks and diners, on street corners and in local restaurants, all cutting open their veins to bleed onto the pages of music history. Music is to Nashville as food is to Italy.
And so now I am wandering these song-filled streets, taking in the cowboy boot stores and famous fried foods from kitchens which ring out phrases like, “Y’ant mo’ okra?” and “Oda up!” Everyone says “Mornin’ to ya,” and, on every sidewalk, big belt buckles play host to sun-drenched thumbs. I’ve yet to see anyone chewing on a stalk of hay yet, but cowboy hats are as abundant as Hollywood implants.
In the past few days, I’ve noticed myself sliding into the Southern drawl. It’s easy, like cutting your workday short or using a microwave to prepare dinner. Today, though, I have to give a presentation in the King’s English. Wish me luck, y’all.