Kentucky to Nashville to New Orleans

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Lucy was sad to see the back of Pleasant Hill. We all were. From Kentucky we headed almost directly south, outrunning winter. We started the week in winter coats and hats, and ended in summer clothes, sweating it out in New Orleans.

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We needed to stop en route from Lexington to Nashville, so we went to the Giant Cave National Park, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – 400 miles of underground caves and caverns. We only went on a tiny tour, but it was still a little terrifying (especially when the guide told us the lights go out regularly. I’m sure he was kidding, but what can I say, I’m totally gullible and absolute darkness underground is not really something I want to experience. He also told a story about a guide crawling around in the dark and putting his hand right on the mummified face of one of the many corpses buried down there. And this guide was Mr. Serious, so yeah, nice and scary).

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Modelling appropriate hiking attire on a pre cave-exploration walk that turned into a hike.

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Cave entrance

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Obviously the pictures don’t do it justice. The lights didn’t go out, we didn’t go very far in, but still got a sense of how massive the whole cave system must be.

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Back on the road, we made our way in to Nashville. The highways in Tennessee have big flashing signs that either give the total of fatalities: 914 in 2012, 909 so far in 2013!! or they say things like “Highway 40 challenge, 0 fatalities in 2013,” so you’d better not get in an accident and ruin that statistic!

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Trying to channel Jolene in a Nashville chicken joint.

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Actually, this meal was worth memorializing. When you go in to this place, it’s kind of a hole in the wall (see picture evidence) and they ask you what you want. There isn’t a whole lot of choice, but they give you a chart for the hotness of the chicken, which runs from light mild to XXX hot. And they do warn you. Like they give you a whole lecture on how you’re not in Buffalo anymore, and this chicken is hot. I ordered mild. And nearly burned my face off. Tim also ordered mild. And was still complaining about it two days later. But it was good pain! It was like agility training in meal form, with fried okra and collard greens.

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We went to Robert’s Western World, and saw one of the best guitar players I have ever seen.

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He looked about 16.

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And then there were these two at the bar. Also amazing (also, that is an entire cup of bourbon, just for the record, and at one point he hauled out a plug of tobacco and started chewing away).

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Trying on trucker hats.

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And “cowgirl” hats.

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In the morning we went to Third Man Record’s, Jack White’s project for re-issuing otherwise lost or forgotten records, or the archives of now defunct record labels.

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And… then we went to the Grand Old Opry, which was the opposite extreme. It’s authentic all right. Oh man, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Some of it was totally amazing, and some of it was so cringe-worthy I wanted to actually crawl out under the pew (and they really are pews, in a setting that looks like a theatre in a barn, which says a lot). There were a lot of sequins, some awkward square dancing, some great singing and a really awful gospel number about not worrying about the poor or doing anything other than praying, by a guy who looked disturbingly like the theorist Brian Massumi. And there were a lot of bad jokes. Example from yours truly: It was hipster all right, if hipster means geared to those with hip replacements. bah dum dum. But the audience was so enthusiastic! And it was contagious. I also liked the fact that it’s a radio show, so there’s a guy standing there reading all the ads.

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Hipsters aside, to be honest, I wasn’t sure about Nashville. I heard some really great music, and I ate some fabulous food, but on the whole it just wasn’t for me (or at least, not on this visit).

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From Nashville, on the suggestion of one of my co-workers, we decided to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway to Jackson, on the way to New Orleans. The Parkway starts near the Loveless Café. We stopped, but it was so packed that the wait was an hour an a half! So we just hit took a picture and hit to road. The Parkway is a historic route that was traveled by indigenous peoples, and then by settlers. It crosses the Trail of Tears in a few locations, and there are historical markers all along it. Also, no trucks are allowed and it’s essentially a 400 mile empty road. We all loved it.

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Burial mounds en route.

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Open road in Tennessee.

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Open road in Alabama.

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Open road in Mississippi.

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Lookout at one of our many stops.

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Lucy looking out.

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Site where Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) was mysteriously murdered. No one knows who did it or why, although apparently there are a number of possibilities.

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The old road (what it looked like before it was paved).

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Then all of a sudden the road opens out.

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And before you know it, you’re in the swamps, it’s 20 degrees warmer, and New Orleans is just down the road.

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So now we are here, in New Orleans, at the Southern-most point of our journey, and the half-way point of the big road-trip to Vancouver.

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