Cross Country Road Trip

Freelancing can lead to amazing opportunities.

Last week it just so happened that each of our kids were away from home at the same time for different reasons, leaving my wife and I with the rare opportunity to have the house all to ourselves for a few days. Then I got a call from a national media network to ask if I could travel to Alabama to do courtroom sketches for a sentencing. (I occasionally do courtroom sketch work.) It just so happened to coincide perfectly with our free time with no kids. So we made an impromptu decision to drive together down south on a whirlwind trip and see how many places we could visit in four days.

We were skipping like a rock across a lake from Minnesota all the way to Alabama. We briefly hit about ten different tourist sites. At some we stayed for an hour or two, at others we just snapped some quick photos and moved on. Among other things we saw a Civil War battlefield, a scale replica of the Parthenon, downtown Nashville, Graceland, the St. Louis Arch, and Col. Potter’s house. I also tried grits for the first time and heard my first ever live blues band.

I had never visited the South. The people were just as friendly and laid back as I had always imagined and the food was amazing. I definitely want to go back someday.

Our first stop was Hannibal, Missouri. On TV show M*A*SH, Col. Potter is from Hannibal. According to the city’s website, if he were a real person this is the house he would have lived in. (Bonus tidbit for M*A*S*H superfans: In the car we were shuffling some relaxing music. Just as we pulled into town the car started playing Mozart’s Quintet for Clarinet, which is the same piece of music Charles tries to teach the band of doomed POW musicians in the final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen”. It gave me chills, the good kind.)

Hannibal is also the boyhood home of Mark Twain. There is Twain stuff everywhere including shops, museums, banners, replicas of buildings from his stories, and statues like this one of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

We hit the St. Louis Arch. It was raining and we had no umbrella so we jumped out of the car for a quick photo and sped on.

Nashville has the world’s only life size replica of the Parthenon. The sculptures along the top are taken from actual casts of the original in Greece. Inside is an art museum but unfortunately it was closed.

Nashville also has these cool butterfly wings. Tourists line up to get their picture taken in front of them. Here’s my lovely angel of a wife.

It just so happened to be the night before the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Festival so downtown Nashville was *packed*! Crowds everywhere and music pouring out of every door and window.

The Ryman Auditorium is an icon of country music. Originally built as an evangelical tabernacle in 1892, over time it transformed into a venue for educational events, religious gatherings, and entertainment. In the 1950s and 60s it was the home of the Grand Old Opry and became the most prestigious stage for country performers until 1974, when it was replaced by the newly built Grand Ole Opry House.

Nashville has everything including a gift shop where Elvis will read your fortune.

We hoped to have dinner at the Johnny Cash Bar and BBQ but it was closed. But we took advantage of a photo stand near the front door.

Florence, Alabama is the birthplace of Helen Keller. Way back in the distance is the house where she grew up.

Corinth, Tennessee is the home of two Civil War battles. Two of the Confederacy’s longest railroads crossed each other in Corinth making it a strategic location. In May, 1862 during the nearby Battle of Shiloh the Confederate army retreated to Corinth, fought a two-day battle there, and eventually lost. The Union Army took control of Corinth. The Confederate army then returned in October for another two-day battle and was defeated again. Corinth also became the location of a contraband camp where about 6,000 former slaves fled to freedom.

Several unknown soldiers are buried on the Corinth battlefield.

A relief sculpture commemorates the battlefield.

I found the faces in the sculpture very moving. You can see the somber weariness in their eyes.

Graceland was closed but we made a quick nighttime spin through the parking lot.

Beale Street in Memphis is full of colorful shops and amazing music.

We had dinner at B.B. King’s Blues Club where a live band performed. The music was as delightful as it was loud.

On our way back we made one more lunchtime stop in Hannibal, Missouri. Who did we run into but Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher.