There are many reasons to travel; learn history, see friends, get away from home, relax and enjoy the company of your traveling companion. It had been years since my husband and I had taken off alone for a weekend, until last week that is. A job search, two kids in college and our desire to travel with our children when vacationing are just some of the many excuses we have for not venturing off on our own. A long weekend spent in Tennessee was not only fun but reminded me about all of the things you can learn when traveling.
There is a catchphrase used to describe my home state, it’s “Minnesota Nice” which frequently is commented upon by visitors who don’t actually believe we are living up to it. While we may be proud and conversational, that does not always come across as welcoming but perhaps as more of a Midwestern Arrogance. The people of Tennessee that we interacted with went beyond “nice” they were actually kind. Friendly and kind is a winning combination, throw in some quality barbecue and we’re planning another trip to visit before we are even packing to head home. In Nashville we met up with friends who have relocated there from Minnesota, we also met transplants from North Dakota, Michigan and Wisconsin. We did eventually meet some born and raised Tennessee residents who made us feel right at home.
After spending our first night in Nashville and seeing Music Row and enjoying the antics of the Jugg sisters on a pink school bus called the “Nash Trash” tour (which gave us insight to the underbelly of the country music industry and the capacity of people in Tennessee to be self-deprecating) we ventured out on our own. Lynchburg was our intended destination, the trip being a gift to my husband whose DNA is partially composed of Jack Daniels (from his maternal grandfather’s side of the family). The irony of his favorite liquor being crafted in a dry county had us stopping at a liquor store in route. Bubba’s seemed like a fine choice to pick up libations to enjoy that evening at the cottage we rented in Lynchburg (one block from THE stoplight in town, tucked behind the library). While Jeff quickly found a small bottle of Gentleman Jack I searched the coolers trying to find beer. I checked every cooler before asking “Do you sell beer?” the response came “I could because they changed the law last year. I don’t because I own the building and rent to the guy next door.” She then went on to explain that she couldn’t sell liquor until after noon on Sundays (mostly as an educational comment, as it was Friday). It was then that I realized that Minnesota is the truly confusing state, no sales on Sunday, 3.2 beer sales in grocery stores and gas stations, plus some convoluted liquor sales to food sales formula required in some areas. I would think the damage that the accidental purchase of 3.2 has done to tourism would be enough to make abolishing it a high priority in the next legislative session, if in fact prioritizing things somehow was done in a way that makes sense. Jeff made his purchase and we headed next door to the Tobacco store to get my beer, as it was not available at the Wine and Liquor store. See attached photo to note that those under 21 are not permitted in the store at all, meaning the likelihood of unattended children in vehicles is high and no Dum Dum suckers for the kids in Tennessee stores. Maybe that’s where the term “Minnesota Nice” comes from, free suckers at banks and bottle shops.
Our brief visit included destinations that were tips from locals and we received many more tips than we had time to explore this trip. After breakfast in Lynchburg, while waiting for the ice-covered roads to thaw we stopped out at an address provided to us in a tip, what looked like a well maintained shed behind a brick country house ended up being the Lychburg Cake and Candy company. Our intent was to make a purchase and be on our way. The owner was a gregarious Vietnam Vet, retired Jack Daniels accountant and former Lynchburg mayor. Retirement left him looking for something to keep him busy. He took his grandmothers fruit cake recipe, added local whiskey to it and with the help of his mother (whose picture was prominently displayed by the front door of the office) and the promotion from being featured on some popular food shows he has grown the business significantly. We got the full history, took the tour of the three room facility and learned a lot about his philosophy and politics. An hour and a half later as we prepared to leave he offered up some tips on where to eat on our way back to Nashville and also some ideas regarding excellent food when we got there. Several times while encouraging us to eat at one families restaurant he mentioned they were black and gave the ringing endorsement “Those black people can cook Southern food like no other.” and “There is great food in the black part of Nashville.”. I was surprised at how I would nearly flinch as he said it but then realized that it was truly a regional difference, certainly not intended to be offensive, as he was promoting their product to us. It made me think of the many recent news stories of what people find to be offended by. It reminded me of how and what people say has changed over the years, including my own mortification in the 1960’s when my great-aunt inquired about the Brazil nut on the top of her chocolate cake in a restaurant “Is that a nigger toe?” I knew not to say that word and yet her question was not intended to offend, just simply meant to identify what topped her cake.
Other surprises on our whirlwind getaway included what we saw on the local news. There was footage of a “school pig” that had escaped and was on the street. A reminder in the weather segment to bundle up before leaving for church, which I found quaint and folksy but knew that back home in Minnesota would result in people who don’t attend church gathering to make signs and picket the TV station to demonstrate how offensive they found that. There might actually be riots over how insensitive a “school pig” might be to various segments of the population. Because of the multiple ice storms and cooler than normal temps in Tennessee the Nashville mayor reminded people to not go out because the weather conditions were dangerous and there was “no reason to be out for any length of time”. True, unless you were from Minnesota where the Birkibiner ski race was taking place in temps thirty degrees colder that same day.
What a delightful reminder regarding keeping things in perspective, a realization that protests are often about a groups personal intolerance and that they frequently don’t possess the tolerance they claim. Typically people are not out to hurt or offend other people, they are just trying to proudly share the knowledge they have and are maybe trying to get you somewhere for some great home cooking! No offense intended, none taken.