In Tennessee, there are only tens I see.
Tennessee is in the South and borders a staggering eight states, tied with Missouri for the most in the country. The Volunteer State has distinct regions to uncover, including: Memphis in the western part, Nashville and its musical culture in the center, and Knoxville/the Smoky Mountains in the east.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
One of the most visited national parks in the country, the Smokies are a family-friendly, outdoor destination. Known for kid-friendly attractions such as: amusement park Dollywood in nearby Pigeon Forge, this area was certainly paradise for me when I visited as a kid in 2008 – one of the truly unforgettable trips early on in my life.
We stayed in a massive, brown-wood cabin in the heart of the mountains. The drive up to our cabin was steep and curvy, symbolizing how high our elevation was. As if the sheer size was not convincing enough, there was ample space to accommodate fifteen people. We had a balcony where we could see dense forests along with other eerily similar cabins scattered throughout the vicinity. For my cousins and I though, we jumped into a hot tub right away, all six of us, and enjoyed basking in the warm pampering water.
Another highlight of the trip was taking an inclination up a mountain, but the strange thing was a bench chair as the mode of transportation, rather than a tram. We went in pairs, slowly crawling up the mountain, with screeching sounds of the rusty system on full volume. Once we reached the apex, I had a silly grin on my goofy face as there was an amusement park on top of the mountain, along with a visible, majestic line of Smoky Mountains in the distance. It’s true, they looked both brown and smoked.
In 2012, my family headed to Memphis. The highlight of this mini vacation was visiting Graceland, the enormous estate of the iconic singer, Elvis Presley. If anything, the mansion was vintage and represented the success of the music legend. There were several massive white pillars holding down the front center of the mansion, quite similar to the Parthenon in Greece. Inside, the piano room had a shiny luster instrument. Well built and vintage, regal in its stance and size. There was not a speck of dust on it, and it probably represented the birthplace of many songs.
I visited Nashville in August 2019, making a quick pit stop in the city to explore the famous Broadway Street and Parthenon replica in Centennial Park.
The Parthenon here was certainly smaller than its Greek counterpart, yet looked the part. It was light gold all over, and had massive pillars holding it down in all four corners. From a distance, it looked small in a park with ample green space, but up close it was towering. One pillar was probably longer than a semi-truck if they were placed next to each other. It was majestic, and the mere presence of it almost took me to Greece itself, In my head, of course.
The tranquility near the Parthenon did not follow to Broadway. The famous little district known for its bars and partying did not disappoint at 5 p.m. on a Saturday. My family parked a block away, and as I was approaching the street, I heard thumping of loud music from multiple locations. “Old Town Road,” a hit single of 2019 and fitting song for this location, was booming out of a passing car.
As soon as I reached the intersection of Broadway, I was immersed in a vibrant culture. The humid, cigarette smoke littered air was no nuisance in this packed, roughly half-mile street filled with entertainment venues on both sides. Large, colorful signs and herds of people strolled along the heavily occupied district. Inside the bars, country singers performed karaoke with music so loud it was enough to blockade any conversations or thought. What can I say, the stereo systems were off the charts. Saloons and bars were prevalent, the noise was extreme. Broadway is known for its rowdy partygoers, rivaling Austin’s 6th Street and New Orleans’s Bourbon Street, but the unique twist here was the party vehicles. There were rowdy buses passing by frequently with folks dancing the early evening away. I saw a couple of party tractors, which was a hilarious yet an appropriate concept given the country-themed vibe.
After taking in the raucous street and buying several magnet souvenirs to commemorate the visit, my family sauntered down to the far north end of Broadway bordering Cumberland River. We sat on a bench, had a peaceful overview of the small river, with NFL’s Tennessee Titans and their stadium on the opposite side. There was a large bridge present too, presumably allowing access to neighborhoods on both sides of the river. It was a complete alternate dimension here. Quiet, people were just relaxing along the river. I could still hear tidbits of the earsplitting atmosphere from Broadway, but needed a breather to process the euphoria that came from being immersed in an effervescent atmosphere.