By the time we started searching around the cemetery in Hendersonville, Tennessee, the guys started ribbing me for adding so many gravesites to the itinerary. It’s not that I’ve gone all emo and plan on spending the majority of my time around tombstones; it’s just that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and a lot of really other cool famous dead guys just so happen to live in Tennessee and Kentucky. What’s a feller to do?
After getting so much of the skinny on Cash while in Memphis and Nashville, and after watching “Walk the Line” a couple of years ago, it was cool to see Cash and June Carter buried side by side in a quaint small-town cemetery.
Cooter’s Dukes of Hazzard Museum
Kevin was really the only one old enough to have enjoyed “The Dukes of Hazzard” as a kid, all of understood the iconic nature of that orange “General Lee” El Camino. Cooter’s museum in Nashville just so happened to have one of those cars used from the TV show among their exhibits, which mostly included old toys and costumes.
After snapping some shots with the General Lee, we’d had more than our fair share of white trash television paraphernalia for one day, so we split across the street to explore the burgeoning area surrounding the Grand Ole Opry.
With almost an hour to burn before the Grand Ole Opry tour, we decided to wander around the gigantic Opryland Hotel right next door. Over the course of our travels, we have never seen a luxury lodging facility this ornate and gigantic. Not only is this place a genuine botanical garden, but it also stretches over a mile-and-a-half in length. There wasn’t anything specific to see there, just plants and bridges and stuff, but it kept us entertained and cool on a day when you probably could’ve scrambled eggs on the sidewalk.
The Grand Ole Opry
The only problem with our time-wasting detour is by the time we got in line to buy tickets for the Grand Ole Opry tour, they were completely sold out for the tour we needed. The tellers selling the tickets were pretty shocked because tours hardly ever sell out, but Kyle, Ed, Craig, and Kevin had a nice time harassing me for screwing something up in the extremely meticulous planning of this trip.
See, when it comes to these road trips I spend a few months beforehand planning and organizing to make sure we can fit as much interesting stuff as possible into a day. My travel partners know how important it is to stay on schedule, so they give me crap for being like Danny Tanner from “Full House” because he follows itineraries to the minute.
This wasn’t the first curveball we’d been thrown on this trip, and it came sort of a running joke that whenever something went wrong it was because I hadn’t planned things properly. This is why I hate my friends.
So what can take the place of touring the worlds most iconic country music venue? How about eighteen holes of black-light miniature golf at a store in the middle of Opryland Mall?
With an hour to burn and nothing else to do before lunch, we grabbed our pink and green putters and knocked glowing balls around in the dark for a little while. The last time I went miniature golfing was on a date with Amy like two years ago, and the last time I went miniature golfing with my homies was like never. Grown men don’t miniature golf together, and they definitely don’t do it in the dark with pink clubs.
It’s no wonder then why five idiots like us would have a great time doing it.
After golf we all started to get a little hungry, so someone suggested lunch. “Do you have a place planned, Joel?” Craig asked me. “Yes, I do,” I responded. “Is it barbecue again?” “Yup.” “Why do I feel like I’m being punished with meat?”
That’s what she said.
It’s true—we were starting to develop an aversion to ribs, brisket, sweet tea, and cole slaw, but the food was like half the point of taking this trip. No mercy. We were going to eat barbecue again whether we liked it or not.
As it turned out we ended up liking it quite a bit. Other than Cozy Corner, which we still all are convinced is the most delicious BBQ we’ve ever had, Neely’s was the trip’s big runner-up in terms of food. Their hot barbecue sauce was probably the best we had, and their brisket was definitely the most satisfying. Potato salad was top-notch, and the slaw was more than comparable. Cozy Corner’s brisket was a little smokier, which I tend to enjoy, but that’s the only reason I’d still give it the upper hand.
The final standings for barbecue eateries on this trip: Cozy Corner, Neely’s, Pig on Beale, and Jack’s in Nashville a distant fourth. With that out of the way, though, we were ready to tempt our digestive systems with a little variety for the first time in 48 hours.
The Original Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant
And what better way to do that than by shoving fried, breaded chicken skins down our gullets at a local KFC? Normally, with the status of our stuffed bellies, we would’ve found a Salad Hut somewhere or just drank a lot of water, but when you’re visiting the original Kentucky Friend Chicken Restaurant, it’s almost customary to order a piece of Original Recipe.
The only problem was that we were already stuffed to the brim with smoked pork. Kyle, in a desperate attempt to get the full Sanders Café experience, ordered a single drumstick at the counter, which is something I’ve never seen done before. Knowing how not hungry he was, the little fast food minions fished him the smallest leg they could find in the batch, and the results were some pretty serious questions about little brother’s manhood.
We all ordered something similar—just a piece of chicken and a biscuit—and fiddled around with the KFC accouterments lying around the free museum. For the record, this was our third fast food Graceland, with the first McDonald’s and the first Wendy’s coming into play on road trip number one.
Man O’ War’s Grave
None of us are particularly huge horse racing fans, but when you’re in Kentucky it’s almost too prevalent to ignore. But who would want to? We came to the land of bluegrass to experience the culture, and racing horsies is a big part of that.
When it comes to horses, few were bigger badasses than my good friend Man O’ War, who not only won the Triple Crown in the 1930s but also pimped out his seed to spawn War Admiral, who also won the stinkin’ Triple Crown. So War Admiral and all the rest of Man O’ War’s babies are buried around his gigantic burial area, which is topped off with the most elaborate headstone of any grave any of us had ever seen. Elvis and Johnny Cash had most little resting places; Man O’ War has a life-size statue of himself surrounded by a moat and fountains. What a horse, eh?
8-of-10 Truck Horns
Ed is one of my favorite people in the entire world because he’s constantly full of bad ideas and has the gumption to carry them out. The results are usually a good hearty chuckle, as was the case when the future Dr. Harter decided it would be a good idea to get truckers to honk their horns.
You remember the routine—hang your arm out the window, give the air a couple of imaginary tugs, and keep your fingers crossed that the big bearded guy behind the wheel of the rigger has a good enough humor to entertain you with a toot. Ed’s particular goal on the drive from Lexington to Louisville was to get eight out of ten trucks to honk at him.
At first this proved challenging, as our Horn Doctor started off 1-for-3. He was going to have to get seven in a row if he hoped to remain a real man in society’s eyes. After an incredible three-trucks-in-a-row exhibition which we affectionately nicknamed “The Triple Crown,” Ed wrapped up 8-for-10 comfortably.
The real legend, however, came when Ed gave his best “eight-ball-in-the-side-pocket” face and claimed he’d get truck #11 to honk with only one tug motion for Ed. I’m not kidding you—the kid did it. Absolutely legendary.
Stevie Ray’s Bar
This was a place Kyle had heard of, and we assumed that it would be an awesome bar paying tribute to the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn. Instead, it was about a half-mile walk away from the part of Louisville that felt reasonably safe, and the music provided was an open mic that mostly consisted of artistic hippies strumming angst-riddled emo-blues on an acoustic guitar, wearing doo-rags but no bras. After seeing all the awesome music, Louisville’s big open mic was severely disappointing. It’s easy to see now why Louisville isn’t the birthplace of any awesome music genres like rock and roll or the blues.
On the bright side, brews were like a buck fitty so we got more than our fair share to drink, and the locals were pretty friendly. Kyle even got one to drive him around the city later on that evening while the rest of us dined at the nearest White Castle. Hours and hours away from home, and we choose White Castle as our dinner du jour. Ed ordered one of everything on the menu. It was disgusting.