Category Archives: Off the Beaten Path

A Little Bit Country Rocks And Rolls!


I grew up in Tennessee–specifically in Chattanooga. Yes, as in Choo-Choo. My memories are of a childhood surrounded by history that I was not particularly interested in at the time, “lightning bugs” (known to you as fireflies) in the summertime, those little square cheeseburgers (Krystals) that, sorry, no store outside their birthplace really knows how to make, and breathtaking Fall colors each and every year that brought a welcome relief from the unbelievably oppressive humidity of Spring and Summer. Think wearing all your clothes, plus those 70’s and 80’s torture devices known as pantyhose into a sauna, full steam on, and living alternately in that, and a walk in freezer, do not pass go. Not that I’m complaining about air conditioning!

Sweet Iced Tea…Note: When speaking around Southerners, it’s pronounced “SWEETtea” <–one word. Same with beer, aka, “COLDbeer”…:-)  

There’s something interesting I’ve learned about us Southerners over the couple of decades I’ve lived elsewhere in the country though–as a group, we don’t travel much. Driving two hours to get somewhere, to a Southerner, is a major trip. So, it’s really not surprising that even though I grew up in Chattanooga, and lived there until I was around 25, I really hadn’t spent much time in the Nashville area, which is a short 2 hour drive away. Recently, I visited “home” though, and had the pleasure of staying in the Nashville area at a more mature time in my life…when I actually am very interested in the history of a region, when I appreciate what’s going on around me, and when anyone who tried to put a pair of pantyhose on me in this weather, would have to kill me first. 

Always mindful of the true flavor in an area…the off the beaten path, not overly touristy stuff, I’ve compiled a few photos of some things to see and experience  in the Nashville area that you might be interested in if you’re ever hereabouts…Ya’ll…:-) 

My first stop was the Nashville Zoo, which is one of the nicer ones I’ve been to across the country. The best part is their design…they have a lovely tree canopy on most all of the trail, which really comes in handy in the summer heat! For hours and other visitor information, click here: Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

You can’t come here without visiting some sort of Civil War preserved house, cemetery, battlefield, etc. It’s history, and although I know there are some folks who would avoid that sort of thing in order to be politically correct, that’s doing yourself a disservice. To study the reality of history is to protect ourselves from repeating past mistakes. I’ve been to a few of these over my lifetime, but the one I visited on this trip was one of the finest. It was the Carnton Plantation, just a little south of Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. Everywhere you turn here you can find some sort of house or plantation to tour. But this one, I think, is unique. The house on the property is closed to tours only, which we took. The tour guide was amazing and told us lots of interesting stories about the house, the people, and the Battle of Franklin. This house was turned into a hospital to treat the casualties of the Battle of Franklin, and the bloodstains are literally still on the floors of the house. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before….it was moving and impactful. Click here for more information on this must see: Carnton Plantation 

Also, I picked up this related work of historical fiction in the gift shop–a New York Times Bestseller that I am thoroughly enjoying, particularly after touring the house and grounds, and hearing all about the very real characters…Click the picture below to visit the book’s official website…

The last thing that I definitely wanted to see was downtown Nashville…where it all happened and still happens! If you aren’t good at driving in a city while lookey looing, don’t want to hoof it some fairly long distances, or would like to pop into one of the ultra cool bars with live music flowing out onto the street, even during the day on a weekday, then I highly recommend the Gray Line Music City Trolley Hop. The trolley bus is air conditioned, and the tour takes you all around to the important sites–the Tennessee State Capitol, Music Row, etc. And the drivers, much like the tour guide at the plantation, are amazing! During the 90 minute jaunt, they entertain with lots of fascinating trivia, and let you stop a couple of times to snap pictures. One eye opening bit of trivia I learned from our driver is that Music City is not known as such for the reasons you think–Country Music and its Stars. Nope, Nashville got its nickname when the Queen came to listen to musical performers at Fisk University, who were basically singing to fund the continuance of their school’s existence. The Queen first called Nashville Music City–and it stuck. If you take the trolley, you won’t regret it…And, it’ll orient you to where everything is so that you can go back to your favorite spots later! 

Here are just a few of the interesting and quirky things I saw in Nashville yesterday…

Me with Gary Rossington’s jacket at the Hard Rock Cafe…that’s where you get your trolley tickets, by the way…:-) 

This cool sculpture was too interesting to not get a picture of…remember Minnie Pearl from Hee-Haw? This is an artist’s rendering of her infamous hat located at the Visitor’s Center! 

The broken roller coaster on the Cumberland River (Downtown Nashville’s Waterfront) 

Nashville’s Parthenon…one of the most visited sites in the city. It’s an exact replica of the original. Here are some interesting facts about the Parthenon from…

Facts about the Nashville Parthenon

  • The bronze doors weight 7.5 tons each. They measure 24′ high, 7′ wide and 1′ thick. There are two sets (4 doors total) of these enormous doors in the Parthenon. This makes them the largest set of matching bronze doors in the world. The Parthenon doors in antiquity were only slightly lighter and were wooden with a bronze overlay.
  • Like its predecessor in Greece, the Parthenon in Nashville faces east. In antiquity this would allow light to come into the building as the sun came up and the doors were opened.
  • Until 1988 visitors entered Nashville’s Parthenon through the doors at the west end of the building. Visitors now must enter the east end of the building at the sidewalk level.The east façade was considered the “front” of the building by the ancient Greeks

And finally, very close to Music Row is this beautiful, controversial, bronze statue. Beautiful, controversial, bronze, and nude–very nude. Hence the controversy, particularly in Nashville which is very much part of the Bible Belt. I loved it…truly a work of art!

For example, here’s the Baptist Press’s take on things: And, here’s some information on the history of the statue: Musica
For critics, I think a picture is worth a thousand words…and, well, one word….ART, not to be confused with pornography….

Well, that’s it for now…I’ll leave you with this…pretty much sums it up and says it all!

A Day At The Museum


My grandmother Kay taught me three things…Take an avid interest in your surroundings, never miss an opportunity to visit historic sites (that goes double if they’re free), and never, under any circumstances, allow anyone to photograph you without your lipstick. That last one has come in handy over the years, and the first two were highly useful today when I found myself with two long hours to kill in a small town…

I was in Bartow, Florida, which also happens to be the county seat of Polk County, in Central Florida. There on Main Street, which is the main drag through Bartow, is the Polk County Historic Museum (also the old courthouse). My grandmother would have been proud of me…I walked all around, looked at all the exhibits, and not once did I whine and complain that it was borrrrr-ING. She sure heard that a lot when I was young and was a frequent travel guest of her and my grandfather. I saw a lot that interested me actually–I’ve evolved, I guess. And, I wish she had been there with me today because I saw a lot of of items that would have caught her eye too.

So, from Kay and me, here are just a few of the fascinating things Polk County Historic Museum has to offer…

A Very Vintage Hair Dryer & “Permanent Wave” Machine

An Exhibit About The First Theater In Polk County

America’s Oldest Man, Charlie Smith

And His Letter From President and Mrs. Ford

A BIG Catch…

An Old Fashioned Curling Iron, and a Rather Creepy Hair Braid…

Old Traffic Lights (With No Little Gotcha Cameras Like the Ones Nowadays In Polk County)

Scary, Prehistoric Monster Heads…And One Modern One…

Vintage Law Man Accessories

Women’s History…

And Some Fascinating Florida Trivia…Thanks, Ponce…I Love Those Oranges!

Museum Information & Fees


The museum is located in downtown Bartow at:

100 East Main Street (corner of Main & Broadway)
Bartow, Florida 33830


Tuesday – Friday 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Saturday 9:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
Closed Sundays & Mondays

In 2011 the museum will also be CLOSED on the additional days listed below:

  • Friday, November 11 – Veteran’s Day Observance
  • Thursday & Friday, November 24 & 25 – Thanksgiving
  • Friday & Saturday, December 23 & 24 – Christmas Holidays


Admission to the museum is FREE to the public.

For Information On Polk County’s Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary) This Year, Click The Photo Below…

A Day Trip Worth Taking; Manzanar National Historic Site


One of my favorite souvineers from a life of travels…I picked this up at Manzanar’s Interpretive Center gift shop. This Japanese word translated reads, “It Can’t Be Helped”.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast of the United States. To carry out this order, ten Japanese internment camps were established in the states of California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. Approximately 120,000 men, women, and children, many of whom were actually loyal American citizens, were forced to leave their homes, sell any property they owned at a profound financial loss, and relocate to one of these camps. 

Read More About the History of Japanese-American Relocation

A few years ago, I visited one of the camps which has been preserved as a museum by the National Park Service. Manzanar Internment Camp, now a National Historic Site, housed 11,070 “relocated” Japanese-Americans during World War II. Manzanar is located in the state of California, in the Owens Valley region, at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The specific location of the camp as listed on their website is: “Manzanar is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 395, 9 miles north of Lone Pine, California and 6 miles south of Independence, CA.”

A typical scene from inside a barrack apartment at Manzanar, Photo from the Dorthea Lange Gallery

I visited Manzanar as an adult, and it had a profound impact on me. I grew up in the South, and I don’t remember hearing much about Japanese internment camps, and had certainly never seen one. This is probably due to the fact that Japanese-Americans lived mostly in the West during WWII, and that was also where all of the internment camps were located, except for the one in Arkansas, which I never heard about at all when I was growing up in Tennessee.

One of the guard towers of Manzanar-Photo by Fred Causey… Each guard carried Thompson submachine guns, shotguns, and 30′ caliber rifles…

As I toured the facility, and browsed the many exhibits at the park’s impressive Interpretive Center, I was struck by the incredible strength, tenacity, and grace that seems to lie at the heart of Japanese culture. I was also a little embarrassed that I hadn’t known more about this regrettable bit of American history before that day. Every American who has the opportunity to visit Manzanar should definitely do so! It is a great historic and cultural educational opportunity for both children and adults, and also a moving experience for anyone who visits, as you fully realize the loss and indignity this group of individuals was forced to endure.

Some of the children of Manzanar, Photo from the Francis Stewart Gallery

If you are taking a vacation to California, or if you live in the Western region of the U.S., there is certainly a lot to see! I lived out West for several years of my life and really enjoyed all of the beauty and the history I was able to take in there. My travels would definitely have been incomplete without a visit to Manzanar, however, and I urge you to take a day to see it yourself sometime—I promise you won’t regret your detour from the tourist traps, nor the extra gas (also known these days as liquid gold) you’ll burn to go a little out of your way!

Manzanar’s Website:


Operating Hours & Seasons: