US Road Trip Travelog: 18th February 2005

Friday morning, and I'm changing motels for a few days. All the ones in Nashville, including the (Dis)Comfort Inn, bump up their prices to around $115 a night on Friday and Saturday night. Since I have no choice but to pay it, I'm going to the Holiday Inn Express downtown which is a proper high rise hotel and even nearer to the bars and clubs. As I'm checking-out of the Comfort Inn the manager offers me a good rate - $60 per night - for a few nights next week. That's a bit of a bargain, and too good to resist whatever I may think of the motel.

There are actually very few motels within walking distance of downtown. Being a car-based nation, most are further out of town (as seems to be common in the US). I've seen some of the scary driving late at night as people leave the bars and clubs and, even if I had the car, would not want to get involved in that. The alternative is to take cabs, but once you take the cost of that into account I think you may as well pay the extra to be within walking distance. Extraordinary how I can justify just about anything to myself ...

Broadway in Nashville
Broadway in Nashville, the other street (along with 2nd Avenue) where most of the bars are located. Tootsie's is the purple building below the skyscraper.

I thought that I read on the website that the Holiday Inn had a laundry room. It doesn't, so the alternative is to buy some more clothes. I have a look around downtown but can't find anything, then see Bicentennial Mall on my map so decide to head there.

The State Capitol Building
The State Capitol Building. It's a lot bigger than it looks when you're up close.

Bicentennial Mall is a park, not a shopping centre, in the shadow of this very impressive building. It's a nice sunny day, if a bit cold and windy, so I have a walk around and generally behave like a tourist.

The lack of clean clothing issue will have to be addressed, though. The shopping malls are all out of walking distance so I decide to take a Grey Line Tours bus out to the Opry Mills one for $10 return. I have no great desire to see the new home of the Grand Ole Opry, which is part of the same complex, but the mall is big enough that I should be able to find what I need. On the way there the driver tells us about the Gaylord Opryland Resort, a gigantic hotel with 2800+ rooms ($240 to $3500 per night), 3000 full-time staff and 20 or so restaurants. I wonder how the people staying there feel when they find out that the Opry itself actually relocates to downtown Nashville in January and February?

Inside the Opry Mills mall
A shoe shop inside the Opry Mills mall. I can think of a few people who would regard this as a kind of heaven.

I manage to find what I need and a few things I don't, like a pair of Levi 501's for $35 and a scale-model '65 Riviera for $6. The surprise, though is the Gibson guitar shop. Not only can you watch them being made, and try them out if you can play (I can't), but they also have a full-sized concert venue attached. Better still, though there's no-one playing, the bar in the venue is open so I can sit down with a beer or two whilst waiting for my bus back. I've been to a bookshop in the mall - bookshops seem to be few and far between in the US - and found a great book on the history of cheating in NASCAR racing. As the NASCAR season starts this weekend it seems appropriate reading matter.

Grey Line Tours seem to be chronically disorganised. There are a few of us waiting outside in the cold and only after we all phone up and complain do they actually bother to send a bus to take us back, about an hour later than scheduled. They do other tours around Nashville but I won't be on any of them.

Back in downtown Nashville and a different kind of evening is in store. I'd picked-up a local listings paper earlier in the week and seen that a singer-songwriter called Jesse Malin is playing in Nashville tonight. The venue is a cab ride away but, as entry is only $8 I think it'll be worth it and I get to the venue at 9:30. The End club looks like what it is - an old brick shed that hasn't been redecorated since the Civil War. Great place to see a band. The venue slowly fills despite the anodyne support band and by midnight, when he eventually takes the stage, the place is packed.

Mr Malin may thing he looks like Ronnie Wood but I'm afraid my immediate thought is more Rab C Nesbitt. Worse still, he sings off-key, hits bum notes on the guitar and his female keyboard player obviously has only a passing acquaintance with her instrument. After three songs the club is half empty again and a few songs later - after he's murdered the Clash's 'Death Or Glory' - I'm on my way myself. The ones I feel most sorry for are the three lads next to me at the bar who'd driven all the way down from Wisconsin that day for the gig. Bet that was a quiet drive home.

US Road Trip Travelog: 19th February 2005 >