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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Middlerun Does America, Days 30-32: Nashville

I've finally decided to finish these damn blogs. It's well over a year since my America trip, so I'm piecing this together from memory, photos, my twitter feed and the plot of Vanishing Point.


On Saturday I left Memphis for the bright lights and honky-tonks of Nashville. Before I checked out of my accommodation, I was eating breakfast of pancakes made from the hostel's endless supply of pancake mix when I overheard a couple of people talking. One of them, a Scottish girl, mentioned she was getting a Greyhound bus at 1:40. My bus to Nashville was scheduled to leave at 1:40, so I asked her if she was going to Nashville too. It turned out we were getting the same bus, so we agreed to leave together.

For some reason, in the whole time since I've been back home I haven't been able to remember what that girl's name was. Maybe we never told each other our names. I'm just going to call her Merida. Once we were both ready, we checked out and left to catch one of those dreadful Memphis buses to the Greyhound terminal.

Waiting for the bus, we got talking to an old English guy who had been staying at the same hostel. He was headed downtown as well, so he came with us. I can't remember his name either. I think it might have been Colin. He seemed like a Colin, at least. Let's assume he was. After waiting for half an hour for a bus, I double checked the bus timetable and realised that since it was a Saturday they were only running every 90 minutes. Memphis public transport, ladies and gentlemen. In the end we got a taxi.

Merida and I got lunch at the Greyhound terminal. The fast food for sale there was pretty trashy, but a million times better than the nauseating not-quite-food I'd been forced to endure at the Baton Rouge terminal. Our food took so long to prepare that we ended up having to smuggle it onto the crowded bus and eat it there. The bus trip wasn't as bad as the Austin-to-New Orleans one, but still not particularly fun.

We arrived in Nashville, and found our way to Music City Hostel, where we were both staying. My room at the hostel was tiny, with barely enough room for two people let alone the four people staying in it. The floor was constantly covered in people's bags because there was nowhere else to put anything. It also had zero ventilation. Probably the worst hostel room I've stayed in, though not the worst hostel overall (that would come later).

That night we got talking to some other people at the hostel, and the lot of us went out to hit the town. You can probably guess the rest: significant amounts of beer and country music. Nashville is a fun town.


The next day Merida and I set out to explore Nash Vegas a bit more. We wanted to go to the Adventure Science Center, which sounded cool, but the lady at the visitor centre said it was too far to walk (which turned out to be bollocks, it was only about two kilometres), and getting a bus was too much hassle (Nashville buses are about as hopeless as the ones in Memphis), so we didn't bother.

We went to the Country Music Hall of Fame. We didn't actually see any of the exhibits because the entry fee was a bit more than either of us felt like paying, but we did get to see a great performance by a university bluegrass band.

After that we went to they countryest looking honky-tonk we could find, a place called Robert's, for lunch and a couple of beers. This was a place where you could buy a pair of cowboy boots along with your Budweiser. Merida had to go do something after lunch, leaving me to continue meander around Nashville on my own.

I went and had a look at the replica of Fort Nashborough, the small log cabin settlement that became Nashville. Then I wandered north from there and ended up at the Davidson Country Public Building and Town Hall. Not far from there is the Tennessee State Capitol, though sadly I couldn't go in and have a look around like I did in Austin.

Later I returned to the hostel and met up with Merida again. I also ran into another familiar face: Colin, the English guy. The three of us hung out and played Yahtzee. At one point I ducked up the road to get dinner from Arby's. Arby's has burgers with layers of sliced beef instead of a patty. It was pretty decent.

Later we went out again, with the same people from the previous night. We went to some horrible crowded place that smelled like vomit.


On Monday, Merida and I parted ways. She was continuing on somewhere or other, while I still had another day in Nashville. I think Colin left that day too.

I went to Centennial Park, mainly to see the Parthenon. The full-scale Parthenon replica was originally built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and was meant to be a temporary exhibit, but it was soon rebuilt as a permanent fixture because America. Normally you can go inside and have a look around, but like the Chinese restaurant across from my house, the Nashville Parthenon is closed on Mondays. Which is kind of annoying, because sometimes you want Chinese food on a Monday night, you know?

I wandered around the park a bit, looked at a steam train and an F-86L Sabre jet that are both on display in the park, took a bunch of photos of squirrels, and then found a bus stop. Through zen-like patience I managed to catch a bus, headed in the direction of the Adventure Science Center.

I got some lunch and then checked out Fort Negley, a Civil War fortification built by slaves and basically anyone else on hand who happened to be black. The fort's not particularly well maintained these days, and there wasn't much in the way of informative signs or displays but it was still interesting. After that I continued on to the Adventure Science Center.

The ASC was actually kind of lame, to be honest. I was expecting something similar to the California Academy of Sciences, but as it turns out the ASC is aimed mainly at kids, and as an adult I didn't find much to be excited by. Even the planetarium was a disappointment, a load of goofy primary-school-level CGI stuff outlining the history of astronomy, most of which I already knew.

That night I spent a lot of time trying to figure out my accommodation for New York. It turns out that hostels in New York fill up weeks to months in advance, which I probably should have foreseen but didn't. I ended up booking a hostel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for most of the nights I'd be there, but there were a few nights when they had no vacancies. I decided to leave that problem for another day.