Archive for the ‘Tennessee’ Category

vacation photos uploaded

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

I have uploaded the photos I have. remember to click on each one to get the full image.
The link is:

anniversary trip comes early this year.

Monday, March 31st, 2008

So this year Angie and I decided to plan something a little different. Last year at the MS Dinner Auction, we purchased a few vacations based on using them this year for our anniversary. We purchased three hotel stays in Nashville, Tennessee. So we planned a trip to Nashville. Because of the restrictions on one of the reservations we had to come in March and stay over for two weekends. We decided to leave on a Thursday and enjoy a full weekend plus the next week.

We left on a Thursday on a non-stop flight on Southwest Airlines. We arrived about two hours early for our flight and ate lunch at the airport bar. We were lucky and were in the first 40 to board so we got decent seats together.

The flight in was uneventful. We arrived early and called for the hotel shuttle after we picked up our luggage. We checked into the hotel and got settled, then went down to the restaurant for dinner. After dinner, we hit the sack.


The next morning we got up picked up the rental car from the airport and decided to drive to Lynchburg. On the way we stopped at Stones River National Battlefield. We toured the battle field and stopped in at the visitors center. We watched a short film about the battle. This was one of the few battles in the civil war that resulted in more than 20,000 wounded and dead solders. After we toured the battlefield, we stopped along the river walk in search of a couple geocaches. We struck out on both of them.

We got back to the car and headed back down to Lynchburg. We arrived and signed up for a tour at the Jack Daniel’s distillery. We had about an hour wait for our tour so we browsed around the museum reading all the displays and got some free lemonade. Once our tour started, we hopped on a bus for a quick ride up the hill where they dropped us off for a 1/2 mile walk back down the hill.

The first stop was the wood burners. Here they have all the wood stacked in pallets of 2″x2″ strips. They burn this wood to produce charcoal. This charcoal is used to mellow the whiskey once it has been distilled. This is what makes Tennessee whiskey different from bourbon whiskey.

After we looked at the wood burners, we had a picture taken of the group. There was no wood burning going on today because it was a holiday; Good Friday. We started our walk down the hill and stopped and looked at the antique fire trucks on the property. Our guide told us about the storage facilities. There is a very large storage facility on the top of the hill that you can see really well from this spot. Because the whiskey gets most of its flavor from temperature changes that cause the liquid to be absorbed into the wood and seep back out again, the location in the building can cause changes in the flavor.

We moved down the hill and stopped at the underground stream. This water has been the same source used to make the whiskey since the beginning of the process. The natural limestone filtration give the water a consistence flavor. There was a stature of Jack erected on this spot and a nice walkway along the stream with some wrought iron bridges crossing the stream. This would be a very nice place to site and have a picnic. We also learned that the last Friday of the month every employee is given a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey; a pretty nice monthly bonus!

After the stream we saw the safe that did ole Jack in. Apparently he came in early one morning and the safe was locked. He kicked it and broke his toe. This caused an infection that later did him in. So the moral of the story is don’t come into the office early or it can kill you.

We walked down to the mellowing building and got to smell the aroma. They have all the whiskey dripping into the barrels and filtering down through over ten feet of charcoal. From the mellowing building, we moved down to the cookers. The cookers are where they make the mash from the three ingredients. After the cookers we visited the bottling area. All of the bottling is done onsite. They do not outsource any part of the process.

Because of the flavor difference that can happen depending on the location in the storage building, they offer to their customers the option to purchase the entire barrel. This equates to about 240 bottles of whiskey. The cost ranges between $9,000 and $10,000. Plus you get the barrel that the whiskey was stored in. You can learn more about this production at So if anyone wants to go in on a few bottles, I am taking names and deposits 😉

After the bottling room we finished our tour in one of the storage rooms. It was three stories tall filled with barrels. We finished the tour and went back and got some more lemonade. We also found out that they sell special addition bottles of Jack Daniels. I bought one for my collection at home.

After the tour we drove around the lynchburg square. This was the extent of the town. On the way out of town, we stopped at the Welcome to Lynchburg sign and found the geocache that was hidden there. While I was looking, there was a group of motorcycle riders taking a break at the stop. One of the guys was a geocacher as well. He helped me in the right direction to finding it.

We drove back to nashville, and stopped to eat dinner at the Olive Garden. As we drove back to the hotel we got semi-lost because the road was very hard to find.


We got up early to go on a train excursion. The Tennessee Central Railway Museum had a day trip to Watertown, TN It’s a very small town ;-). While there, we heard they are going to be filming a movie there that they had an open casting call going on for extras.

After the train ride, we checked into the next hotel, the Nashville Airport Marriott. When we arrived, we noticed that there was a Tattoo and Horror conventions was this weekend. Will definitely make for an interesting weekend.

After we unpacked, we drove to Opryland and walked through the mall. We stopped into the TGI Friday and had an appetizer and a drink. I have to say this was the worse margaritta I have ever had. It tasted like watered down sweet and sour mix. We saw some cool luggage at an outlet store. We may go back and purchase before we come home. We decided to head back to the hotel and stopped into the bar and had dinner and drinks. We definitely had some interesting company at the bar while we ate.


We got up and drove to The Hermitage. This is the home of President Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. This person is an amazing person in our countries history. President Jackson was the first president to come from modest means and family. The first 6 presidents came from wealthy families. President Jackson was responsible for the creation of the modern Democratic Party.

He was both loved and hated. He was brutal to the american indians and the private banks that controlled the nations banking system, where all the countries money was deposited. He was responsible for canceling the federal charter for the bank of the United States.

He also was the first president to deal with secession. South Carolina wanted to nullify a federal tariff and threaten to leave the union. A very famous incident at a dinner involved a toast that Jackson gave in a booming voice shouted “Our federal Union: IT MUST BE PRESERVED!” Jackson threatened to send troops to South Carolina to enforce the laws. During this time, Jackson appealed to the people of the state that they should reassert their allegiance to the Union that their ancestors fought for. He was successful as the local state government repealed the nullification of the tariffs.

President Jackson was also the only president to survive a point blank assassination attempt. The shooter fired not one, but two pistols at Jackson. Both of these pistols misfired.

This was a great place to visit, and you learned a lot of interesting things. When I was in school I did several reports on Andrew Jackson as well as the War of 1812. So it was nice to see a lot of the history I wrote and studied about. I recommend when you teach your kids about democracy and Andrew Jackson, you take them to see this place.

We drove to the Opryland Hotel and searched for lunch. There was no real easter brunch. I guess they don’t understand the concept of ham on Easter. We walked over to the Grand Ole Opry and purchased back stage tour tickets. We toured the Opry and got to see all the backstage sites. We saw the mail room where all the members get their mail. We also saw the dressing rooms, then wandered back stage and walked onto the stage. The Opry was a lot smaller than I expected, but it has the 3rd best acoustics of all the places in the country.

After the tour I came back to the hotel with a massive headache. It was cold and windy all day, so I needed to take medication and rest up. I slept for a few hours until the headache went away. After I was feeling better we ventured out for dinner, we ended up at Applebee’s because nothing else was open and a few of the places on the GPS were no longer in business.


We got up and had breakfast at the hotel. We checked out of the hotel and headed to Memphis. On the way to Memphis, we drove to Fort Donaldson. Fort Donaldson was the location of the first major victory battle for the Union in the civil war. We watched a video about how the battle took place. It was amazing that the mistakes that were made by the confederates that turned out to be there downfall.

After the national battlefield, we drove to memphis. We checked into the hotel, then headed out to the visitors center. We drove down to Beale street and parked. We looked around for dinner locations and ended up eating at Texas de Brazil.

After dinner we strolled through the Peadbody Mall. This mall was pretty sparse and half of the stores were out of business. As we walked back to the car we wandered by the FedEx Forum and decided on the spur of the moment to go to the basketball game. It was fun to watch a real NBA game. Angie and I had never been to a live game before. After the game, we drove back to the hotel and soaked in the spa. We had the rooftop suite. It was a very large room with direct access to the spa.


We got up and had breakfast at the hotel. We drove out to Graceland. We took the VIP tour and visited the house. The house was amazing, it was nothing like I imagined. The house was just a normal looking house. I expected it to be more ornate and colonial. It shows how even with all the money he had, he still did things simple. There was no splendor or gaudiness in his home. From what I read Elvis was a very simple conservative man in private and was only flashy and extravagant on stage. He felt that if his fans came to see him they deserved a “show”.

After we toured all the museums, we did some geocaching on the way back. We found five out of 11 caches. The river is rising and may have claimed three of the ones we didn’t find. They expected the river to overflow in the next few days. (Checking the news today, I see the park where we geocached is now totally flooded.)

We went back to the hotel and decided to walk down to Beale Street for dinner. We stopped at a BBQ place and got seated at a table in front of the stage. Just as we sat down the band started. We ordered food and the band played a one hour set of blues while we ate. We had the best seats in the house. We noticed they started charging cover once we came in. So we got really lucky with timing tonight. After dinner we walked back to the hotel.


Got up and had breakfast at the hotel. Today was our long driving day. We drove back from memphis to nashville and then through to knoxville and down to Pigeon Forge. The drive was about six and a half hours. It sure was a long haul. We stopped a few times to stretch and use the facilities. The rest stops on the I-40 are very nice.

When we got to Pigeon Forge, we noticed that there was a ton of chain restaurants. We went out for dinner and cruised up and down the highway to see all the miniature golf courses and go-cart places. This is the most in any one location I have ever seen.


Got up and had breakfast at the hotel. Then we headed out for Dollywood. The crowds were pretty light because this was only the second week of the season that they had been opened and it was a mid-week day. There are some incredible rides at this park. My favorite ride was the Thunderhead. This is one of the best wooden roller coasters I have been on. The next best ride was the Mystery Mine. This was an incredible ride that takes you straight up twice and then drops you down over the top. Plus there is a moment of at least 2 seconds you are totally hanging upside down. We rode with two people who where riding it for the 10th time that day. The ride operator told us that one girl rode it 100 times in a single day once. She only stopped for lunch and bathroom. I have to say, if your ever near this park you MUST ride this ride.

We did some souvenir shopping and then headed out of the park. The line to take the shuttle back to the parking lot was huge so we decided to walk back to the car. We got back pretty quickly. We drove back to the hotel and rested for an hour. We then searched for dinner for almost an hour because most places had closed by 9pm.


Today we got up and had breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and drove to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stopped at the visitor center and purchased a cap and staff shield. We also got some passport stamps.

We drove up the mountain to Newfound Gap. The weather was pretty bad. It started raining and was pretty poor visibility when we reached the top. We reached the top and took pictures. We drove back down the mountain and back to Pigeon Forge to do some geocaching. We had good luck today (8 out of 10), although we didn’t find the first or last cache of the day.

We drove back to Nashville. On the way back, we stopped at a winery. They had a few good wines that we tasted. We purchased a few bottles to bring home for us. We got back to Nashville and checked into our hotel. It was raining on the way to the hotel, so we didn’t feel like going out looking for dinner. We ate at the hotel restaurant.


This was our last full day. Today we drove to Belle Meade plantation. This was a nice tour of a plantation run by a family that bred horses. We learned that the majority of all thoroughbred horses came from five horses. The plantation purchased Iroquis after he won the Derby. The majority of the money earned at this plantation was for stud fees and not as a plantation. The crops grown here were used mostly for sustaining the workers.

After we toured the plantation, we drove back to the Parthanon. This is an exact scale replica of the real Parthanon in Greece. The Parthanon was built as a temple to Athena and most of the temple is in ruins. Inside the temple is a huge statute of Athena! It was quite a sight to see.

After we walked through the temple and the art gallery, we walked around the park looking for some geocaches. We found two virtual caches and then took on the #576 cache. This has to be the hardest cache we ever tried to find. The cache is camouflaged on a train. You would think it would not have been so hard to find. We gave up after 90 minutes. here is the link, but you have to be a member to see it. If you ever make it to nashville, you have to try and find this one.

We headed back to the hotel to rest. We started packing for the return trip home. We went out for dinner in the pouring rain. We decided to walk a block to get dinner, rather than try to drive around looking for a place. Dinner was good and we had a chance to just sit and relax as it wasn’t too crowded or noisy. We headed back to the hotel and finished our last minute packing.


Woke up early and checked out of the hotel, filled the car with gas and headed to the airport. Our flight home was pretty uneventful. We arrived a little early and caught a shuttle home. Unpacked and started catching up on the gazilion shows recorded on Tivo.

It was a very nice trip. Tennessee is a very lovely state. I can just imagine how lovely it will look in the spring when all the trees and flowers bloom. The people are extremely friendly. I encourage everyone to try to take a vacation here.

p.s. I will be uploading photos to the gallery in the next day or so. Spring training is over and Baseball season starts tonight so I may be a little busy for the next few days.