No freeways on this leg, just wonderfully twisty roads through the Great Smokey Mountains - including the Tail of The Dragon, a famous/notorious stretch of Hwy 129 with 318 curves in 11 miles. It's a challenge even on dry roads, and we were in steady rain and a rental car! And were still held up by a very slow Corvette... :-) No photos of the Tail itself as I was having too much fun driving, but there are some equally enjoyable twisty roads throughout the mountains.
The Tail starts just as Hwy 129 runs past Calderwood Dam and Lake, and ends at Deal's Gap. Hwy 28 starts there and runs past Cheoah Lake (complete with tent caterpillars and kudzu-covered trees and shrubs), and becomes Hwy 281 before it runs past Wolf Creek Dam and Lake.
A lot of freeway driving from Memphis to Nashville. then on to Chattanooga and finally Knoxville, but the countryside became more beautiful with every mile. An overnight in Nashville to see an old friend allowed a visit to see The Grand Ole Opry, the home of country music. The relatively modern building between the Opryland Hotel and a huge modern shopping mall wasn't what we'd expected, despite being (no doubt) much more functional than its Grand Ole predecessor.
On to Chattanooga the next day, we succumbed to the many, many roadside signs exhorting us to "See Rock City" and "See Ruby Falls" and took a diversion to the latter! We didn't go in (the 400 ft falls are in an underground cavern) but the twisty road up to it alone was worth the drive. Chattanooga no longer has a train station, alas, but we did find the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum on the outskirts of town to count as a "Choo-Choo" sighting.
After our sobering and thought-provoking visit to Montgomery, we headed to Memphis to explore some of that city's famous musical roots. Much as we acknowledge Elvis Presley's impact on rock and roll, a visit to Graceland was off the table; they've built tall buildings all around the mansion so you can't see it from the road, and $65/person is just too much admission. Instead, after an outstanding barbecue lunch at William's roadside shack across the river in West Memphis, we stopped in at Stax Studios. Despite being a reconstruction of the original building, on the same site and with the same theater marquee outside, this is an outstanding retelling of the Stax story, of founding a soul-based recording studio in an old cinema in a quiet, multi-racial suburb close to where Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones and so many other brilliant musicians lived. Very well worth the visit. Click on any image to enlarge..
After a quick stop at Sun Studio (where Elvis started) we wound up at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street for dinner. Great blues club with a red hot band! I was quite taken with Memphis in general, too, and would love to spend more time here.