It’s a tough job to drive a car across the country. Worthwhile if you do it correctly or completely exhausting and unfulfilling if you do it incorrectly. The line that separates these two can be very thin and it takes a skilled traveler and planner to traverse the terrain of this great country while keeping a smile on one stressed out kid.
That stressed out kid is me, and the skilled traveler/planner is my sister.
For some quick background, I am going to grad school for screenwriting at Chapman University in Orange, CA and had to move myself from Ohio to my apartment with only a Jeep Compass. Because my father taught me how to pack I was able to do it, but it put a hell of a lot of strain on my car, Lucy. (Don’t judge you know you’ve named inanimate objects before too.)
To get to SoCal from Ohio you can go one of two main routes, the Northern or the Southern route. The Northern takes you through Nebraska, Colorado and Nevada while the Southern takes you through Tennessee, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. With one stop already determined, Shawnee, Oklahoma to visit our grandparents, my sister did her best to pick cities along the southern route that we haven’t been to before and have something to offer. Be it food, drinks or a free place to stay she did her best and we left Ohio with our sights set on Nashville.
Season 1 Episode 1: “Barbeque, Bourbon and Random Acquaintances”
Nashville is a strange town. “It’s very small and is outgrowing its infrastructure,” said one of our Lyft drivers as he took us from our hostel to Peg Leg Porker, where we were going to take in their famous dry-rub ribs. “Broadway is kind of like a mini Bourbon Street, there’s just a ton of bachelorette parties here all the time.”
I’m getting a little ahead of myself. We pulled up outside our hostel and lugged pour bags inside. It was a quaint little place with a lobby that had big plush couches and chairs, lots of board games and a pool table. We checked ourselves in and walked up to the shared bedroom.
The room was very sterile with two sets of bunk beds that came with clean sheets and blankets at the foot of each mattress. This was my first foray into hostels and I have to say I was not a fan. After eight hours of driving the last thing I want to do is make my damn bed and have to think about sleeping three feet from some strangers. Of course the hostel was booked full that night so there was no shot we would get lucky and have the room to ourselves.
So we departed for brighter pastures including Peg Leg Porker where the ribs were truly everything I had hoped for. If you end up in Nashville, there will be numerous options for barbeque and the thought of dry-rub ribs might make you hesitate, but I promise you they are worth it. And if they dry-rub seasoning is a little, well dry, you can always add the signature barbeque sauce.
After dinner it was a twenty-minute walk from the restaurant to the hostel and we decided, what the hell, might as well see Nashville from every perspective possible. What we discovered is Nashville isn’t like other cities, there never seems to be anyone walking around. I mean no one. We walked up near Music Row, which was kind of cool to see where so many famous country artists have recorded.
Not a soul.
We continued down a main road back towards our end of the city and still there were very few people walking around. At least there were finally cars driving around and a lot of these pedi-pubs. Ten people sit around a bar, each stool equipped with pedals, which the riders must pedal to keep the cart moving. They have the motivational driver and the bartender to help keep spirits high and drinks full.
Even next to the Predators stadium, there were so few people it was almost unnerving. It wasn’t until we were another block towards 1st street that we saw signs of life and were in desperate need of a drink. We turned on 5th and found the comparative hole in the wall, Pub 5. I say comparative because around this area we were getting into the aforementioned “mini-bourbon street.”
Pub 5 was a smaller gastropub that featured local beers and interesting eats, none of which we could even entertain trying as we were still so full from our dinner. I ordered a Bulleit on the rocks while my sister went through a few of the local beers. Arm wrestling was on the television and it turned out to be a strangely unifying sport. We laughed with the others at the bar over the intensity many of the men were exhibiting.
I turned to one of the guys sitting next to me who seemed to know the bartenders and asked him the simple question, “Where is a good local bar?”
It sparked a conversation that mentioned East Nashville, The Red Door Saloon and Five Points Pizza. We chatted for a short time and turned back to our drinks to try to find the answer to life in the bottom of our glasses.
I finished my third bourbon and we were off to East Nashville, but not before getting the full Broadway experience.
It was ridiculous. There was more neon than my eyes could handle, three story bars with people hanging out of the windows on each story, bachelorette parties left and right and barely a spot to move. This is not the Nashville we came to see. We turned off Broadway after just three blocks and took a quieter route up 2nd street towards our hostel.
About an hour later we hopped into another Lyft and took the bridge to East Nashville where we entered the Red Door Saloon. It was much more our style, low-key with a good vibe. It was a Cubs bar and having moved from Chicago I felt right at home. We ordered more bourbon and before the drinks arrived my sister leaped off of her bar stool as she mumbled about knowing someone. I turned and she was talking to a table of three women. Mind you we didn’t know of any friends in Nashville.
She came back and explained how she knew one of the women from the Lady Antebellum tour. We awkwardly sat a few feet from them for just a minute until I decided we needed to buy them shots, tequila of course.
That sparked a night that included three more bourbons for me, lots of conversations that I don’t fully remember and Five Points Pizza that I definitely don’t remember. Pro tip: if you want to enjoy Nashville, don’t drink so much you can’t remember Nashville.
Anyway, the next thing I know, I am waking up to my horrific alarm and realizing my head feels like it was run over by a car. The nine-hour drive ahead of us was not going to be easy.
Stay tuned for part two of my four-part piece on How to Travel Across America in Style – Steve Pipps