Travelogues

Travelogue #13 – Nashville

Left Washington behind, knowing I had to make two stops on the way to Nashville.

The first stop was another HipCamp spot near Roanoke, Virginia. It was cheaper than dinner at Cracker Barrel so I decided to stay there.

I do love HipCamp but sometimes, the hosts are not very good at describing how to get to their place or what their place actually is.

I put the address into Maps and headed out. The drive was easy until I got near the address. Down a treacherous road barely wide enough for my car and trailer. I got to the address and it didn’t look like a spot that had space for a trailer. I called the host and found out Maps had led me to the wrong spot. I had to turn around and go back.

However, there was nowhere to turn around with a trailer behind me. I drove a little further until I finally found a spot that I could maneuver around. Later, I discovered that if I had just driven down a little further, I could have accessed the spot from an easier road instead of turning around.

It took me a good 15 minutes of tiny movements to get the car and trailer turned around, then head back up the long scary road. Went down the main road until I spotted the mailbox she told me to look for. Once again, a long, steep, scary driveway that was difficult to maneuver with the trailer. However, I finally made it. She told me to park anywhere – by the house, down the road in any of the open spots. I decided to park by the house because that’s where the water and electric were easily available. Not glamorous but it was only for the night. Down a bit of an incline was a fire pit and the port-a-potty.

I got settled in, took Indy for his introductory walk around the area and he posed for some lovely photos. Getting to the fire pit and the port-a-potty was challenging because of the angle of the landscaping. Again, it was only for one night so I could manage.

I met the host and her husband and dog, who were all lovely.

But the place was a little weird.

A guy came by with the husband a while later, obviously some kind of laborer who works for them. He came up to me – a little too close in this time of COVID – and handed me a handful of chestnuts.

“You’re from California?” he asked as he dropped these into my hand.

“Yes.”

“Can plant these out there for me? My dream is to have my legacy spread all over the country.”

“Sure.”

He smiled then went past my car into an industrial trailer parked behind me. The trailer had no windows, just one of those you would use to haul things in. He opened the door to the trailer, climbed in and shut the door behind him. Made me think of the character in “Weird Science” who lives in the closet.

Since there was good cell service, I did some research into art shows or craft events in Nashville. I do this every time I go into a big city to see if there’s somewhere I can vend. Until then, I had either missed the shows or they were coming up after I had left. Nashville, however, had a night market the night I would arrive in the city. I emailed about getting a spot, knowing it was kind of crazy to drive for four or five hours, set up camp and then do a show. But I wanted to make some money.

Other than the guy in the trailer, the rest of the evening was uneventful. I packed up in the morning, heading for Knoxville.

As I arrived in Knoxville, I got an email from the Nashville Night Market saying that they were full for vendors but maybe I could try next month. I emailed back that I was only in town for that weekend but thank you anyway.

Made a quick supply stop at Walmart then found the local Cracker Barrel where I would set up camp for the night.

As I got settled in at Cracker Barrel, I got another email from Nashville saying that they would squeeze me in! Of course, I got the email after I had been at Walmart and now I needed to go back to pick up some things for the show. Deciding it would be easier to go in the morning, I crashed for the night.

Got up super-early to get to Walmart before nine. Got a cheap table, a table cloth and some other odds and ends. I had packed almost everything I needed for a show with me when I left LA, but I hadn’t wanted to haul a table across country with me if I wasn’t going to use it. Luckily, Walmart had a light six foot table that wouldn’t be too difficult to manage for the rest of the trip.

I had booked another HipCamp location just outside of Nashville. This one looked really nice and quiet, near a river, all that sort of wonderful nature shit.

I got to the driveway.

Loose gravel.

About a 30 degree incline.

Have I mentioned how much I hate loose gravel driveways since I got stuck in that one at the first stop on the trip and had to get towed three feet to the road?

To top it off, there was a hard left turn into the driveway so you can’t even get a good speed going.

I sat for a minute, pondering the possibilities. Then I decided I would be positive that I could get up there. I got going as fast as I could on the hard left turn and charged up the gravel. Sure enough, about ten feet up, my tires ground and wouldn’t catch anything. I tried going to slower, going faster, backing up a bit and going again. Nope. Stuck.

I messaged the host, telling her I couldn’t get into her driveway. This would mean finding another campsite with enough time to get ready for the Nashville Night Market that night. I had to be there before 4 pm to set up. It was now 10:30 am. I had been excited because I was early, figuring that would give me more time to get stuff out of the car, repack the car, get the campsite set up, and go. Nope. All that time would be lost.

Spent another 20 minutes wiggling my way out. Grateful that there was grass beside the driveway so I was able to back on to that. But it still took a million little adjustments back and forth to get out.

The host finally messaged back saying that I should just hang out and she’d have a friend come by and figure something out. Yeah, I have time for that. I asked her to cancel and spent a few minutes looking for something close and not too expensive.

There’s an app called RV Parky that shows you everything in the area. There was a spot not too far away that was about $10 a night more than I had planned to spend, but at least it was close. I called and the woman said they had a space and to come over. Usually check in is after 1 pm but when I explained the situation about the show that night, she said no problem.

Drove to the new site, paid, got set up. Pretty much a typical campsite but everyone around seemed very nice. I dug everything out of the back of the car, reorganized, repacked, got Indy set up and headed up to Nashville for the event.

Got there in plenty of time to set up.

The event itself was really nice. Most people were in masks or at least masked up as they came up to my table. I grabbed some Nashville chicken, medium hot, and loved it, though my stomach thought maybe medium was too hot.

I did pretty well at the event. I made about $300, but I spent about $150 getting the table, paying for the space, among other things. But still, $150 profit is nothing to sneeze at. The organizers were really nice and I considered asking about their farmer’s market the next day, but decided against it. I didn’t think I had the energy to do two shows in a row after a day of traveling. So I packed up and went back to the campground.

The next day, I decided I would go into Nashville proper, heading for the Johnny Cash Museum. My mother was a huge Johnny Cash fan. When I was in my late teens, my mom took me to see Johnny Cash. It’s a memory I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Mom sat through the concert, tears in her eyes, almost holding her breath. When he sang “Ring Of Fire,” she lost it. Tears streamed down her face throughout the song and at the end, she brushed them away, pretending that they were never there. I think I talked about going into Hot Topic with Mom once and there was a t-shirt with Johnny Cash flipping the world off. Mom was delighted and bought that shirt, wearing it proudly.

Nashville was terrifying.

This is October, still knee-deep in COVID. I have been extremely careful as I have traveled because I cannot get sick. I have COPD and a compromised immune system from cancer treatment and removal of lymph nodes, so I tend to avoid anything like a super-spreader situation. I rarely eat indoors unless the place seems very safe and careful. I avoid crowds, needless to say.

I got to the main street in Nashville and it was like Mardi Gras. Thousands of people, most without masks, drinking heavily. Party trolleys and buses loaded down with maskless people drinking and partying. Every bar filled to the brim with huge waiting lines. In a normal world, I might find this kind of cool and entertaining. In today’s world, I found it horrifying.

I walked the street for a bit, ducking into stores when the crowd got too big. Even then, the stores hadn’t cleared away any space so customers were slammed together with no social distancing possible.

I finally made my way to the Johnny Cash Museum.

 

I’d love to say that they were more careful – but they weren’t. No timed entries, nothing like that. No crowd control. Everybody just entered at once, so of course the first room of exhibits was packed. I looked around quickly, took some pictures and moved on to the next room. I read really fast so while most people were still reading the cards, I left the crowd behind.

Once I got past the initial crowd, the museum was really interesting. It was put together in a way that led you easily through Cash’s career, with great information about his career. I didn’t realize that his record company didn’t want him to do the Folsom Prison gig but he did it anyway, believing that music could help rehabilitate prisoners. That turned out to be one of his biggest selling albums. He definitely did things his way.

There was one room where they were broadcasting a concert of his later in his career. I sat for a few minutes and found myself overcome with emotion, transporting me back to sitting in the Winnipeg Concert Hall with my mother, watching her cry over “Ring Of Fire.” I had worn her ring so I could take a bit of her with me. I couldn’t stop crying, missing her so much. She’s been gone eight years but I miss her every single day. I couldn’t help but think about how much she would have enjoyed this.

   

I had no idea he was an artist as well.

I finished going through the museum, glad that I had come. It was thorough and interesting, not just a bunch of junk thrown together to take your money. And I got to spend an hour or so with the memory of my mother.

I got out of Nashville as quickly as I could. I stopped by a small local neighborhood someone said was really cool. It wasn’t. Maybe a handful of a shops and a taco restaurant.

Got back to the campground and noticed that a new giant RV had parked in the space next to mine. Four kids came out of it and I kind of groaned. Kids and campgrounds. Most parents let their kids run wild with no supervision and no rules. So usually there’s screaming and yelling and riding bikes and scooters and things up and down the road with no care about cars trying to drive through.

However, these folks were different. The kids were well-behaved and the parents talked to them like adults. Sure, the kids made noise because that’s what kids do. But they were running loose like feral animals.

That night, we all ended up sitting around the fire pit, which we shared, just talking. They had been on the road for a while, homeschooling the kids, figuring travel was the best educator one could have. It was a really nice, easy evening.

Then somehow we got on to politics. I said something like, “You’ve seen my license plate, you can imagine which way I lean.” The husband laughed, saying, “I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t hang out the big Trump/Pence banner.”

I think we both had a moment where we were uncertain where the conversation was going to go. We had been having a lovely time getting to know each other and it would be sad to end things with a bitter argument over politics.

Instead, he and I ended up having a very civil conversation. It was right when Trump was hospitalized with COVID and he said something about that I must be glad he was in the hospital. I assured him I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, no matter how much I might despise them.

Though he reiterated many of the talking points of most Trump supporters, he also brought up that he was pro-choice and supported LGBTQ. We talked politely and easily about our differences, knowing that we weren’t going to change each other’s minds. But it was nice to be able to have a discussion about our differences, as opposed to things devolving into, “Oh, yeah, you’re a poopy-head.” As we headed our separate ways at the end of the night, he kind of laughed and said something about being worried about the California plate, that I might be “some hippie liberal chick living in her pod.” I might be but at least he saw me in a bit different light.

I think if we could find a way to have more of these types of discussions with people we don’t agree with, we might find our way back to a civil society. I don’t have to like who you support, just as you don’t have to like who I support. But I support your right to back an administration I despise, because that’s what this country is supposed to be about. And if we can each walk away thinking differently about those who are on the opposite side politically, then we have hope of a better country.

In the morning, we all chatted easily and comfortably as I packed up. While Nashville wasn’t terribly exciting, I enjoyed spending time with this family.

Packed up and headed off for Memphis, with hopes of seeing Elvis. However, things took a definitely different turn there. Stay tuned …

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