Downtown Chattanooga: a man and his mural

October 10, 2007

Chattanooga’s Main Street area is on the rebound, and while walking through it last month I came upon a man holding a large piece of paper and staring intently at a mural in the works on the other side of the street. He turned out to be Shaun LaRose, master of murals and fine art.

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Tale of the Tail of the Dragon

July 31, 2007

One of the great joys for Tennessee residents and visitors alike is driving the backroads through this beautiful state. With your favorite road music blasting, going through the gears–be they on car, a motorcycle, or a bicycle–as the scenery whips past is about as good as it gets.

The best Tennessee roads roll through the eastern part of the state, and last week I came across a website that celebrates these two-laned paths to pleasure. The Tail of the Dragon website gets its name from the section of Highway 129 that skirts the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and crosses into North Carolina at Deals Gap. This stretch of road, according to the site, has 318 curves in 11 miles–not for those who need Dramamine.

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Ron and Nancy Johnson, proprietors of Tail of the Dragon

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Powell Service Station Airplane to fly again?

July 28, 2007

Just south of Ciderville between Knoxville and Clinton stands one of the more interesting roadside attractions in Tennessee: the Powell Airplane Service Station. Built in 1930, the structure recalls the excitement of a time when aviators such as Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes captured public imagination. It sits along Highway 25W, a stretch of the famed Dixie Highway that ran from Detroit to Miami.

In our time, when one can drive 500 miles in one day and seemingly enter the same gas station/convenience store over and over, we can only imagine the delight of motorists from far away coming around the corner and seeing this fanciful building.

Such structures once graced American highways, but almost all have been bulldozed. This one survives, just barely. A wonderful group calling itself the Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association seeks to restore the station to its original condition. Their website details progress and gives an address to which supporters can send donations.

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More photos here.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.


Loving the Loveless Cafe and Motel

July 19, 2007

If someone in Hollywood set out to create the perfect Southern eatery, they would conjure up the Loveless Cafe. This place used to be a mom-and-pop hotel southwest of Nashville on Highway 100 back in the days before the mom-and-pop hotel owners were named Patel.

The Loveless family shifted from the motel business to serving meals, and they gained fame as a good place out in the country to eat down home food. It didn’t hurt that country music stars were known to come there for cholesterol-heaped breakfasts, which were served all day and fit the lifestyles of people for whom wasted days and wasted nights was more than a song title.

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Extreme Driving in Tennessee

July 18, 2007

I drove on Tennessee highways for several hundred miles in June and July, and experienced the entire range of the motoring experience, from I-40 to the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The worst interstate highway driving experience in the state has to be I-40 in East Tennessee east and west of Knoxville. I-81 terminates into I-40 east of town in Jefferson County, and I-75 joins I-40 in Knoxville and runs with it for several miles before peeling off and heading southwest to Chattanooga. Throw in the most popular exit (I-40’s 407) for the most visited national park in the country and thousands of semis roaring alongside cautious flatlanders pulling travel trailers, and you have a hellish mix even when traffic is running. God help you if there is a wreck.

Even if drivers could ignore the traffic, the trees that have grown up along the interstate highways all over Tennessee have resulted what can only be called tunnel vision. Here’s a look at I-40 west of Knoxville:

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Ciderville

July 10, 2007

I was driving down Clinton Highway on the way to Knoxville when I passed a place whose sign read “Cas Walker merchandise,” so I pulled in. This is Ciderville, a combination music store, concert hall, and the closest thing there is to a Cas Walker Museum. Presiding behind the counter was Faye West, the sister of owner David West.

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The store is filled with all manner of accoustic instruments; you could outfit all manner of bluegrass bands here. The owners claim that at one time they sold more Martin guitars than anywhere else in the country. I saw one with a price tag of $2,500 and a sign that said “no jamming on this guitar.” Read the rest of this entry »


Shinbone Alley

July 10, 2007

While stopping for lunch in Ashland City, I came upon a place of which I have long heard Bob Wills and others sing: Shinbone Alley. It’s a part of “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)” and appears in these lyrics:

“You ought to see my blue-eyed Sally,

She lives a way down on Shinbone Alley,

The number on the gate, the number on the door

And the next house over is the grocery store.”

Shinbone Alley was the name of a song by the Spin Doctors on their Pocketful of Kryptonite CD, but was most famously associated with Don Marquis, who created Archy the typing cockroach in the 1920s. Shinbone Alley became the name of an animated film about Archy  and friends in 1971.

Where did Bob Wills get “Shinbone Alley?” Did he read Marquis? Bob would have been 22 when Marquis began publishing his Archy poems, but did they make it to readers in Texas?

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This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.