The judges have decided—the votes are in! Having traveled more than 8,000 miles and scoured the country for the very best, here are the 2015 DOWNING ROADTRIP AWARDS…in order of encounter. Continue reading
Stage at The Grand Ol’ Opry
Today there was a culture clash with a visit to The Grand Ol’ Opry in the morning, followed by the Belle Meade Plantation in the afternoon. Standing in the hallowed halls of country music’s Mecca, one got a momentary glimpse into what it is like to reach the pinnacle of your profession and have your dearest dream come true.
1 of numerous dressing rooms at The Opry
At Belle Meade, where 136 people were enslaved, one also got a glimpse of dreams coming true—the dream of emancipation. Tonight we’re dining in a building that combines ancient with modern, if I can stretch the comparison a bit. Modern cuisine in a building where Andrew Jackson was married, and which also served as a station on the Underground Railway.
Slave Quarters at the plantation
Belle Meade Plantation
On the day after nine people have been senselessly slaughtered for no other reason than the color of their skin, it’s difficult to write about my enthusiasm for being in Nashville, Music City. A couple of days ago I wrote about our visit to the Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC, and implied the South still had a way to go; little did I know how prescient my words would be.
This particular southern city—Nashville—has churches of one denomination or another on just about every corner. It also thrives on its reputation as the home of ‘Country Music,’ a genre that has its roots not only in British folk songs but in gospel singing and other melodies of slaves. While I have absolutely no intention of tarring every southerner with one brush, it’s difficult to reconcile the continued bigotry and denigration of African Americans by some individuals with the palpable Christianity and love of this music genre.
Put it into practice, folks. It’s now or never.
Elvis Presley’s gold Steinway at Country Music Hall of Fame
Dolly Parton’s Manuscript of her song, ‘Jolene’
Wall of Gold Records at Country Music Hall of Fame
Knoxville, TN, en route
On a day that saw us drive over 400 miles from Charlotte to Nashville, at times through blinding rain in the Smokey Mountains, it might be best to take a moment and tell y’aaallll about the third member of our party: Betty.
Although Betty sits demurely on our dashboard, she can at times be something of a harridan. Betty has been with us on several trips now, and, in general, we rely on her guidance to get from one exciting place to the next. That said, at times, Betty has had some ‘original’ route ideas. For instance, there was the time she told us to go down an unpaved fire road near Mount Rushmore. Or, more recently, she has taken to yelling “Make a U-turn immediately! Make a U-turn immediately!” in places where barricades and the like ensure that no such maneuver is possible. Luckily for us, we have learned when to believe Betty, and have instigated a friend, newly named Hillary, who serves as back-up when Betty seems to be tired and cranky.
As the road trip progresses, there may be further reports of Betty’s achievements and misdemeanors. But for now, we thank her for her support in getting us to Nashville (and a much-needed glass of wine) safe and sound.
(WRITTEN WITH CRISTAL)