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Trip Features Spokes, Kudzu And Reverance

Headed To Nashville

This is only one of several styles of traveling taverns found on the streets of downtown Nashville. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

The main purpose of this trip to Tennessee was to use expiring timeshare points. Originally, we had hoped our grandson, who lives in North Carolina, could join us, but his parents had other plans. We were limited to where we could stay because many other Americans were also vacationing after a year of no travel.

After a stop at The Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky and a week in Sevierville, we leisurely drove to our second reservation site, a resort in Nashville. The drive between the two cities should have taken about three hours, but we stopped whenever something of interest caught our eye. One of those stops was in the center of downtown Cookeville, TN, specifically the area near the Depot Museum on Broad Street. My husband can spot a track, side-lined cars or anything else related to trains because of a 35-year career with the locomotive division of GE.

We first noticed the eye-catching, most prominent things, like the red and tan depot, a massive steam locomotive and a few cars, including a red caboose. These were situated on the outer edge of a small park. A unique, wheel-themed arch rose above the entrance to the parking area. There were nine bicycles of various sizes and ages attached to the upper-outside of the arch, with an antique high wheel as the central piece. Hanging from beneath the arch, were smaller, child-size bikes with the exception of a bicycle built for two, which was in the center. “Spokes,” is a project with the purpose of bringing art to public spaces. Free-standing, wheel-related sculptures were randomly placed nearby.

As we glanced around, we realized there was much to see. Standing on a red-brick sidewalk laid in a herringbone pattern, under the depot’s overhang, was an old baggage cart with red steel wheels. As usual, when he is near train tracks, my husband looked for the dates of manufacture stamped on the rails.

We found a model train display, some train-related memorabilia, printed material and souvenirs inside the Cookeville Depot Museum. A woman sitting behind a counter served as the cashier and information-provider. The depot was constructed in 1909 and was known to as “the crown jewel of the Tennessee Central.” Travelers on the last remaining passenger train disembarked for the last time on July 31, 1955.

This “Spokes” arch is located at the Cookeville Depot Museum in Cookeville, Tennessee. Photos by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

The need for these trains greatly diminished due to the new Highway 70 and the popularity of the personal automobile. In 1972 the old depot was sold to Cookeville City Council for one dollar. After many years of hard work by the Friends of Cookeville Depot and the City of Cookeville, the Cookeville Depot Museum opened in 1985. The surrounding land was purchased at the same time.

As we exited the depot, we couldn’t help notice the billboard-size neon sign directly across the street, on the roof of Cream City Ice Cream and Coffee House. The sign was erected in 1950. At that time, it was the largest neon sign between Nashville and Knoxville and still lights up that section of Broad Street 71 years later.

As we continued toward our final destination, we came upon a very strange sight. It was as if we had driven into another world, a place where everything in sight was green, but not like it was painted green. For as far as the eye could see, every tree, bush, post, stump, fence, anything that was stationary, was covered with a thick, green, leafy plant. When I posted videos and pictures on Facebook, a few of my friends knew right away what we had seen and identified it as kudzu. When I turned to the internet for more information on kudzu, I learned it was “an invasive species introduced from Asia with devastating environmental consequences.” It has been nicknamed “the vine that ate the south.” It was sad to see a house in the middle of this uncontrollable, smothering blanket of green. It appeared the owner had kept the plant at bay, but the resale value of the property must be a fraction of what it would be worth if located in another area.

Since our three-hour trip had taken seven hours, we decided to find a restaurant, have dinner and hunker down for the rest of the night. Nashville would have to wait.

For the past two years, we had been seeing clips by Pastor Greg Locke, in which he spoke passionately about his political and religious beliefs. Since his Global Vision Bible Church was only 20 minutes from our accommodations, we attended the morning after we arrived in Nashville. The church had had about two hundred weekly congregants a year before we visited, but was growing rapidly. They had been progressively been moving into larger tents. The week we attended was their first Sunday in a tent that held 1,000. Since then, the tents have expanded twice, each time accommodating an additional few hundred.

Because I had been to the Grand Ole Opry many years ago and since neither my husband nor I are fans of country music, it was never our intention to see a show. Instead, we did other touristy-type activities. We learned the following trivia about Music City, USA on the day we joined a trolley tour: Nashville has a Taco Bell that serves alcohol and has live music. Jimmy Hendrix was Little Richard’s lead guitar player when he first started, therefore he has a star on Nashville’s Walk of Fame. Little Richard spent the last ten years of his life residing in the penthouse suite of the Hilton Hotel. The Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry prior to its move to the current location, began as a tabernacle in 1892. The AT&T building is referred to as the Batman building by the locals because of the design of its spires.

It is impossible to drive through the city without seeing various modes of traveling taverns filled with groups of celebrating vacationers. Red case tractors pulling bus-length trailers, open-top buses and tables surrounded by 16 stools occupied by pedaling passengers move throughout the city streets.

One evening just before sundown, we drove through the Nashville National Cemetery’s 30-foot, gated, arched, limestone opening. A sign inside the entrance states the cemetery is not a recreational activities center and no walking, jogging or pets are allowed. Established in 1867, the remains of 16,485 known Union Civil War soldiers and 4,141 unknowns are interred here. The remains of Union soldiers were removed from temporary burial grounds located near Nashville’s general hospitals and Civil War battlefields in Tennessee and Kentucky and relocated here. Over 36,000 soldiers from all wars are interred at this location. White gravestones are arranged in straight rows. A railroad track divides the peaceful resting ground with an underpass leading to the other side.

To be continued.

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