Southeast USA Day 2

Today we were off to Knoxville, TN, gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains and also Dollywood. Before leaving Nashville, we enjoyed the complimentary continental breakfast at the Hyatt Place and then headed over to the Hermitage. Having driven by last night, we easily got there with no major issues. On the way, I realized that Tennessee is homeland of TV’s Huell Houser. I quickly Googled which town he was from and discovered that it was Gallatin, TN, which is about 45 minutes away from Nashville. I suggested to the group that we try and swing by Huell’s hometown on our way to Knoxville.

The Hermitage was a very cool place to visit. It started with the pre-show of Jackson’s life that was a recent movie that was edited from pieces of the PBS special about his life and narrated by Martin Sheen. I learned a few things that I had forgotten about Jackson’s life so it was worth watching. We then grabbed our complimentary wireless headphones and proceeded on the self guided tour of the grounds.

I really like the way the Hermitage has balanced historical and modern perspective of the 7th President and even highlights the lives of the slaves on the plantation. It was not hard to imagine what it would been like to call upon The General in his retirement years at his stately manor. After winding around the grounds, we ended up at the actual house where Jackson and his family lived. I was amazed at how much of the house is still original items from the early to mid 1800s. They have retrofitted to add electricity to the place, but the guides do a great job detailing the rooms and the intricate details that are there in the place. It is about to go under renovation in a few years to do some overdue maintenance, and it does appear well worn. I am glad they are taking the time to restore it. According to the docents, it is one of the best preserved houses with the original stuff of all the presidents.

We then took some photos of the grounds and headed to the gardens to visit the graves of Andrew Jackson, his wife Rachel, and various family members. There was also the grave of Uncle Alfred – one of the prominent slaves of the Jacksons, who after his emancipation worked at the Hermitage, and when it opened to the public, he was one of the first tour guides. I thought the whole place was really run well and I am glad that I visited it.

We then headed to the car upon realizing that we had spent a bit too much time lingering. We had a dinner appointment with Gary’s relatives in Knoxville and we did not want to be late. I managed to take a photo of the exit for Huell’s hometown in Gallatin, but sadly will have to try and get there when we come back at the end of the week.

The drive to Knoxville was really pretty with nice big puffy clouds as well as scenic mountains and forests. We made a quick stop at Cracker Barrel for a pee break and then picked up a quick snack at Krystal Burgers where Mom nearly passed out when I accidentally gave her one with mustard on it and she took a big bite out of it.

We checked into the Residence Inn and then headed over to Gary’s cousin’s place for a delicious dinner and then spent the rest of the night lounging and chatting on the sofa. We called it a night around 11 and then headed back to get ready for the big event tomorrow: Dollywood!!