I’m not really sure how Nashville became our destination for a Memorial Day weekend motorcycle road trip with our friends David & Deb, but that’s not unusual. There are quite a few conversations that take place where I don’t always pay close-enough attention and get filled-in after the fact: I’m simply a master at mental drift. Regardless, Nashville it was.
I’d never been and neither had Debbie. It would also be Deb’s first “long” motorcycle trip, noting that in past years David & Deb’s Harley-Davidson Softtail Deuce proved to be less than ideal for two-up trips. After last fall’s acquisition of their Road King, their planned trip to Bike Week at Daytona with us never came to pass nor did the more recent Panama City trip, so this would be the first real test.
As the Memorial Day weekend approached the weather was looking OK. It wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but it was a lot better than what we’d experienced on our more recent Daytona and Panama City trips: there was just a 20% – 30% chance of showers on Sunday and Monday both at home and in Nashville.
Once we collected David & Deb’s gear when we met at On the Border all I had to do was add their duffle bag, our suitcase and Debbie’s personal carry-on bag with cosmetics, etc. and we’d be all set.
We woke up on Saturday morning to weather that was a bit cooler than we’d expected. Debbie had it in her mind it was going to be warm and wore shorts and halter-top with a lightweight ½ jacket. I asked if she would rather wear jeans, but she was having nothing of it. I went with a long-sleeve T-shirt and I’ve gotta tell ya… even that felt a little cool. I suspect that huge heater of an engine on our Road King provided a bit of a warming effect for Debbie but there were definitely a few spots on the ride up where I had to ask, “You sure you don’t need to stop and put on a jacket or your jeans?” She said no, but later on confessed there were a few times when her teeth were chattering as we rode through the shadows, creek bed crossings and up on top of Monteagle.
I should note we took the roads less travelled for about ¾’s of the ride up, which extended the 3.5 hour drive to something closer to 5.5 hours. We stayed on US Route 41 and then jumped over to GA Route 1 / US Route 27 via Georgia 136 / 151 / 95 up through Ft Oglethorpe and into Chattanooga before jumping on Interstate 24 to avoid a bridge closure on US Route 41. After getting past the bridge closure we got back off Interstate 24 near Powell, TN, and took US Route 41 up and over the Monteagle mountain ridge, which made for a pretty nice ride. With about 60 miles to go to Nashville we jumped back on Interstate 24 for the final leg.
Once we arrived in Nashville we quickly found our hotel, unloaded the motorcycles, checked into our rooms and went in search of a late lunch. The “hot spots” were slammed so we opted to give a place called Bailey’s Sports Bar a try, as there were plenty of empty seats. It was a nice looking bar/restaurant with perky but not the sharpest bar keepers and, as it turned out, only so-so food.
After lunch we walked around on Broadway and checked out menus to see what might be a good place to target for dinner before heading back to the hotel to relax a bit and freshen-up for the evening. I think it was around 5:00 or so when we went down to the Hilton’s sports bar to meet David & Deb and have a cocktail. We were momentarily pleased to hear they had frozen drinks, but it turns out what they really had was something closer to flavored ice. You know… a snow cone thing that gets drizzled with a little colored flavoring. Yeah, bad choice but at least they were expensive!
Deb & Dave joined us a short while later and we headed over to my pick for dinner, Merchants. Of all the places we visited earlier, it was their menu that stood out as having the right balance of meals choices: not bar food but not $50 per person dinner’s either. The reviews were also generally quite positive so I figured it was a much better bet than more bar food.
The wait for dinner was about an hour so we wandered down Broadway and found a nice little saloon called the Nashville Crossroads. They had a four piece band with a gal singing vocals – Holland Marie — and it wasn’t all that crowded. Seemed like a good choice and we had a very nice time waiting to be text’d when our table was ready. Time flew by and we were back at Merchants and seated for dinner just about an hour later.
Merchants did not disappoint. Jimmy was our waiter and he couldn’t have been any better, never mind that the entire staff was attentive to all of the tables. We were never wanting for anything. The meals were excellent as well. Just a great place that truly deserves the 4/5 star ratings!
After dinner we wandered — or rather squeezed our way — into a place called Honky Tonk Central after hearing a pretty good female signer up on the 2nd floor. Of course, as soon as we made our way to the 2nd floor and found a place to sit the gal finished her set and was replaced by a less than exciting group. We headed up to the 3rd floor bar and found it was slammed with at least one bachelor party in progress and not much else to hold our attention. So, we headed back down to the first floor and tried to enjoy the band(s) that were playing on the main stage. The talent was impressive; however, it just proved to be too crowded and folks were just too ill-mannered to make that work. I guess words like “excuse me” or “pardon me” take too much effort and it’s just easier to push your way past. Frankly, it made me feel like I was back in a big city where pushing and shoving seems to be a way of life in crowded bars and other public places.
We finally decided our best bet was to head back to the Nashville Crossroads and as luck would have it, we arrived just as another foursome was leaving and were able to get their table. That’s where we remained for the rest of the evening. Holland Marie was amazing as was the rest of her band, even after four hours. David & Deb left about 30 minutes before we did, as we decided to stay and finish-out Holland’s last set.
I made the mistake of suggesting we take another walk around Broadway just to get a feel for the nightlife. Well, let me tell you… every inch of the sidewalks along Broadway were pretty much like Honky Tonk Central and simply packed with people. The more popular night spots all had waiting lines which filled the already narrow sidewalk with people who weren’t moving, leaving very little room for people who were trying to move to pass in both directions. Moreover, I think we counted 20-30 bachelorette parties as we wandered around, which put large “groups” of gals standing around having little street parties in the midst of all the people trying to go somewhere else. Total mayhem!
I like a good crowd, but at some point you cross a line and I’m pretty sure the line crossed around 6:30pm. I was never so happy to get off Broadway and back to our hotel where son-of-a-gun if we didn’t find two more bachelorette parties! What’s the deal with that!
That was the end of our night and all-in-all it was a pretty good day. We had a great ride, great dinner, enjoyed a great band and spent the day with great friends.
Was that thunder? By golly, it was! A thunderstorm rolled across Nashville around 6:00am and brought with it cooler temperatures, strong breezes and an overcast sky. If nothing else, the interesting twist in the weather provided a good reason to “sleep-in” a bit before facing the day. Well, OK; I was up early and started work on this blog entry while also downloading Saturday’s video from the GoPro cameras before heading back into the adjoining bedroom to stir my lovely sleeping bride.
It was probably around 8:00am when we finally went down to breakfast and stepped outside to see how the air felt: it was pretty brisk for a day when the high would be in the upper 80’s. Thankfully, by the time we’d finished breakfast and got ourselves ready to ride over to see Andrew Jackson’s home at the Hermitage the temperature had easily gone up 10 degrees and there were signs that the clouds would eventually clear.
Interestingly enough, while the roads were all dry in Nashville, about 5 miles to the east we began to encounter damp and then wet roads where the rain had apparently lingered for a bit longer than in town. No worries with the Road Kings; all of the moisture stayed under the fenders and the windscreens took care of rooster tails.
The Hermitage provided an interesting backdrop to the personal history of our 7th president, enough so that I’ll probably go and did up an objective biography. The glimpse into his life that the Hermitage media presentations, hosts and printed display materials painted an interesting picture of the man who founded the modern day Democratic Party, expanded the southern United States, defeated the British at New Orleans and brought about the expulsion of American Indians and their march along the Trail of Tears. Oh yeah, he was that President Jackson.
After touring the Hermitage it was getting on towards 1:00pm and we all were ready for lunch. We rode back to the Hilton to park the motorcycles and then walked the short distance to Rippy’s Ribs for lunch. Rippy’s is a two-story monster of a restaurant and show bar that was slammed on Saturday and only a bit less slammed Sunday. However, after surveying the landscape for a few minutes we saw one of the now ubiquitous bachelorette gangs get up from their table for six and head for the door. They had definitely worn the patience of our server thin as she noted it was the second bridal party she’d had that day. Let’s just say that word is they’re high maintenance… individually and collectively according to the hotel staff and folks at restaurants who we met!
The service at Rippy’s was well below average and the kitchen was slammed: it took about 45 minutes before our food arrived after ordering. However, the pork ribs and pulled pork sandwich meats were exceptional: perhaps some of the best I’ve ever had. I suspect there are better times to visit Nashville other than 3-day weekends around holidays so the entire experience at Rippy’s and elsewhere may be quite different for other visitors.
By the time we’d finished lunch the sun had broken through the clouds and the temps were heading up to the 80’s, quite a change from what we’ve been used to. This was probably the first “hot day” of the year that we’d experience. After all of our walking around at the Hermitage and now with some food in our bellies, David & Deb decided it was a good time to take a break and headed back to their room for some afternoon down time. We initially did likewise, but quickly grew restless and debated what to do.
Plan A was to hop on “Blue” and make the 30-minute ride out to northern end of the Natchez Trace, then do a short out-and-back ride for another 30 minutes before making the 30-minute ride back to town. We opted for Plan B, which was to get a little more exercise by taking another walk around Broadway and see what was happening in the various clubs, bars and saloons. Ultimately, they all seemed to have pretty much the same look and feel and some type of live entertainment. The music wasn’t all that different from what we hear most cover bands playing around Atlanta with the exception of the 70’s-90’s rock stuff. After about an hour of walking around and exceeding my afternoon quota of bachelorette parties we retired back to the room to give our feet and nerves a rest.
Seriously, the sorority sisters and other groups of BFFs were everywhere. In fact, just before heading out for the afternoon I took a look out from our 7th floor hotel room down into the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Walk of Fame and son-of-a-gun if there wasn’t another bridal gal-pal pack migrating towards Broadway. They were hard not to miss with the bride to be in a white cocktail dress with a pink sash and all her sorority sisters in black cocktail dresses.
Well, OK; that was actually the second-most popular ensemble; the most popular was a wide array of sundresses with inexpensive and poorly fitting “western boots.” I suspect many of the latter were borrowed from friends as few if any of the gals we saw trying to dress the Nashville country girl look had on a nice pair of Corral or other better-quality western fashion boots. OK, I’ll admit it… I’m a boot snob. Hey, if you’re gonna dress to the nines in country fashion you’d best have western work boots with dung packed in the welt and a properly fitted pair of Miss Me jeans or a nice pair of western fashion boots if you elect to wear a dress when you go out to paint the town!
We finally began our evening in earnest around 5:30 with another visit to the Hilton’s sports bar and then made our way back to Broadway Street. After sticking our noses in a couple saloons we settled on the Second Fiddle. A fresh band had just set-up, we were able to find some empty seats at the back bar and had a pretty good time relaxing and enjoying the music and other guests. However, after about an hour or so we went in search of food.
I’d suggested Demo’s for a nice sit-down dinner but we ended up going with something a bit more casual: so-so bar food on the back porch of the Broadway Brewhouse & Mojo Grill. Sitting there eating my Jambalaya burrito (hey, I tried to try something different) I was reminded that I really do need take it upon myself to do a much better job of due-diligence before taking trips. If I’d thought about it before hand, a better Sunday afternoon and evening would have started off with that late afternoon ride over towards the Natchez Trace with David & Deb for lunch at the Lovelace Cafe (something David had suggested as a lunch time stop), then a couple hours ride on the Trace before headed to one of Franklin’s many fine restaurants before heading back to Broadway for a little night life. Live and learn.
After dinner we visited another so-so saloon on 3rd Street stayed only briefly before going back to the Nashville Crossroads where we’d had a pretty good time the night before. It wasn’t too crowded when we arrived and we were able to find four seats at the bar. The band doing the early set was pretty good, but after a while the banter between songs – mostly aimed at encouraging patrons to drink – grew tiresome. I think that was one of the things that made Holland Marie’s band “work” so much better for us the night before, in that they just segued from one song right into the next and she’d just do a shout out for the bar when they were playing the intro and exit riffs.
I was pretty much “out of gas” even when we had dinner and was struggling to get a second wind at the Crossroads. I think there’s just a finite amount of time I can spend “bar hopping” as that’s just not our thing. Debbie and I prefer to find a club with a good band and a dance floor where we can settle-in for the night with maybe a one post-club bar stop for some people watching and a nightcap. I’m also pretty sure that crowd fatigue coupled with the first warm weather of the year may have contributed to my subdued condition on Sunday night.
I believe we packed it in around 9:30 and both were out quickly for a good night’s rest. We’d hoped to be on the road by 9:00am the following morning so that we’d be back in Kennesaw by early afternoon as there were some things we wanted to do at home that would allow us to squeeze out a little more down time from the 3-day weekend. Well, that and there would be some potential weather to contend with throughout the day where “timing” would be everything.
Rain….?? again?! Sure enough, when I woke up around 6:00am and pulled back the blinds in our sitting room Nashville was soaked and the rain was still falling! That certainly wasn’t in any of the forecasts we’d seen the night before. In fact, it wasn’t even in the current weather outlook showing up on my smart phone. But, sure enough, it was overcast and raining. Good thing we were prepared!
We went ahead and got ourselves packed for the trip home and then headed down to breakfast around 7:30am with the reassuring knowledge that we had all of the gear we’d need to make the trip in the best or worst of weather conditions. After breakfast I collected “Blue” from the valet parking area, hauled our luggage down from the room and had the bike packed and ready to roll just when a brief respite from the rain gave way to more rain. Time to pull out some of that rain gear!
After a 10-minute delay to gear-up, Miss Debbie, David & Deb were all suited up in full rain gear and ready to roll while I opted to be the optimist and wear only a rain jacket with my polo half-helmet betting on the come we’d not encounter any significant rain. Yeah well, nice thought….
It was probably 20 minutes into the trip down Interstate 24 when “hope” gave way to the reality of more rain. I made it through two light showers without any issues, but the third one I saw off in the distance was a full-blown squall. Rather than getting soaked for an undetermined period of time I opted to pull-off on the shoulder and put on my rain paints and full-face helmet. As it turned out, the rain squall lasted about 10 minutes. After the next 30 minutes it was pretty clear that we would get to enjoy clear sunny skies for at least the next few hours, so I pulled off at the next exit where we all ditched our rain gear.
The rest of the ride down to Chattanooga on Interstate 24 was generally uneventful with no-traffic to speak of. Once we were just east of Chattanooga we jumped off on US Route 27 so we could enjoy that same scenic, low-key trip back into Cobb County via Georgia 95 / 151 / 136 to US Route 41. It adds another 20 – 30 minutes to the trip vs. taking Interstate 75, but the reduced stress makes it well worth it. As we came into Calhoun we began to hit the back-end of the strong showers with rain-soaked roads and a definite chill in the air that had me toying with the idea of throwing on our rain jackets just for warmth. Debbie said no by the time we rolled into Cartersville, Georgia the sun was peeking through the clouds and giving us back the warmth we’d enjoyed in Tennessee. The roads remained wet all the way back into Kennesaw and a fresh new band of showers was moving east to west just south of us.
We’d purposely skipped lunch stops along the way and planned to reward ourselves with a late lunch at Loco Willy’s. However, as suspected, we rolled into the parking lot and found they were closed for the Memorial Day holiday. Our alternative plan was Taco Mac’s just up the road near Barrett Parkway and we arrived just in time to miss a 15-minute rain storm. Seriously, had it been 10 more minutes we’d have been soaked as the rain was coming from the edge of the storm and started as a sun shower.
Safely inside Taco Mac, we ended up enjoying one of the better dining experiences of the entire weekend. Taco Mac definitely put Loco Willy’s deeper on the endangered species list as the frozen drinks were… well, stout! The food — including the wings — was also really good and the staff was exceptional. There’s a lot to be said for a spotless restaurant that is clearly firing on all cylinders.
The rain and clouds disappeared quickly and the roads were also drying up quite nicely. David & Deb left about 20 minutes before we did as we were still formulating a plan for the rest of our afternoon. We’d been issued an invitation to stop by our friend’s lake house for a spur-of-the-moment gathering of friends and really wanted to spend some time with them if that was still an option. We’d shot off a note to see if the lake party was still “happening” but had never heard back.
Given how nice it was, and as good as we were feeling after our late lunch, we threw caution to the wind and went ahead and make the nice 30-minute ride over to Lake Allatoona via some lovely, twisted back roads that we’d discovered a few weeks back. We arrived and were somewhat surprised to find we were the only people there! Rain had apparently put the kibosh on their lake party plans and once the weather cleared Jeff and Sharon decided to head out for a motorcycle ride.
We spent about a 1/2 hour relaxing by the fire pit behind their rental home before finally heading home, where a long list of chores awaited me. Again, it wasn’t a wasted trip as we really enjoy making the ride over to the lake now that we’ve discovered the back way via Woodstock Road.
Once back at home, the rest of my evening was spent unloading the bike, putting away gear, washing the bike, doing laundry and then sitting down to start work on my blog. As for the lovely Miss Debbie, she was truly wiped-out by the combination of the long weekend, the long ride home and the stout Margarita’s at Taco Mac’s. In fact, some three hours after arriving back home she was still zonked out on the couch when I finally sat down to relax and promptly fell asleep!
Bottom Line: We had a really good time with really good friends and got to spend a lot of time on the motorcycle enjoying wide open highways and lovely, tree-lined back roads on the way to and from Nashville.
Oh, and Deb did great on her first long trip with David! I noticed a few butt breaks at red lights for both David & Deb and I think even Miss Debbie took one or two of those. I must say, my re-worked saddle continues to impress: it’s incredibly comfortable despite its very minimal padding.