Road Trip Memories #1 – Nashville July 2002

Long story short, I wrote what follows for a different reason than blogging, but thought it might be an idea to expand my blog beyond its current format of a training diary. Anyway, many years ago now I lived in America for a while and made some great friends, saw some great things and drank a lot of generally not-so-great beer. So here’s my first anecdote, if people like it I’ll write down some more. Hope you enjoy.

After what seems like an eternity of driving on an endless four lane highway, we reach the exit for Nashville, Music City. The streets are eerily deserted, the roads quiet and the stores, bars and restaurants mostly closed. The notion of one of the world’s most famous cities being virtually inactive takes a little while to comprehend and still seems unfamiliar until we come to the slow realisation, it is Sunday. Unlike the rest of the hyperactive western world, the South still takes God’s day of rest seriously, which made for a surprisingly peaceful cruise around town. I am struck by Nashville’s modesty, the place is tiny compared to the earlier stops at America’s sprawling metropolises of this road trip. However, there is an inherently welcoming atmosphere as we search for a hotel or motel in the blistering sun of a beautiful Tennessee afternoon. We book in at a hotel where the receptionist looks and sounds every bit as glamorous as Dolly Parton herself, then on her recommendation we hit the ‘Big River Grille’ for steaks and pale ale brewed on site. We’re strangers in an unfamiliar town and it probably shows. The waitress, another glamorous country singing southern belle with the apt name Tammy-Lynn, takes us under her wing and offers to show us around the few open bars in town after her shift. We gladly oblige.

After our bloody-as-hell-rare steaks we wait at the bar next door for Tammy-Lynn, the magnificent Buffalo Billiards. Several games of pool and pitchers of beer later, Tammy-Lynn arrives cheerful-as-you-like and leads onto a bar where her friend works, the Beer Seller. The place is packed full and boasts no less than fifty draft ales and over 100 bottled beers. Tammy-Lynn is kind enough to get the first round and in my honour as an Englishman, buys three glasses of Boddingtons. I don’t hurt her feelings by pointing out Boddingtons is hardly the finest beer Great Britain has to offer and we begin the happy process of getting drunk together. Though enjoying the fine selection of beer and lively atmosphere, the Beer Seller was not the mental image I had of a Nashville bar, so I asked Tammy-Lynn if there was somewhere a little more ‘authentic’ we could go to. She seems confused at first and asks am I not having a good time, I assure her I am but I was hoping for a more traditional sort of a bar with some country music playing and the like. ‘Gotcah!’ Tammy-Lynn exclaims and leads us on to another bar where another friend works. Things are starting to get a little hazy now as we’ve sampled plenty of beer over the course of the evening. The name of the bar we went to escapes me, but it was in an old theatre/ballroom, complete with stage and dance floor. The bar looks magnificent but is pretty much deserted apart from us, the barman and some German tourists. Tammy-Lynn bids us farewell and leaves us to head to a friend’s party, it is sad to see her go as I think both my friend Jeff and I fell in love with her a little when she bought the first round. We stay at the ballroom bar for a while and play darts with the German tourists before the barman announces business is slow tonight so he’s closing early. By way of compensation he offers to take us to another bar that he assures us will be livelier and he delivers.

What transpired on the journey between the two bars remains a mystery to me to this day as I was quite drunk at this point, but we had somehow added two girls from California to our troupe and I acquired a white Stetson hat from somewhere. Our final stop of the evening did not disappoint, it was as ‘authentic’ a Nashville bar as I could possibly dream. It was full of guys in Stetsons and cowboy boots, girls in denim skirts with long golden locks, spittoons next to the bar and a full-on country band churning out endless ballads of heartbreak. I was in my Nashville heaven. The rest of the night is definitely a blur, but the highlights that have survived the mists of alcohol and time are of the barmen showing me his pistol and holster, the girls from California pole dancing on lamp-posts, losing and re-finding my Stetson several times and somehow ending up skateboarding by a fountain outside our hotel at around 2 am. My first night in Nashville was one hell of a night!

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