End of the Blues Blues

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments


CHASING THE BLUES, CHAPTER 30:  Indianapolis, IN, to Nashville, TN

Monday, April 27—Indianapolis 

After our self-guided tour of the Indiana statehouse—another story for another post—we walked back to the Residence Inn just before noon and put together some lunch from our supplies on hand and leftovers from the night before.  Crown Hill Cemetery dominated our afternoon agenda.  Our motivation was finding letterboxes, but even the noxers (non-letterboxers) rate it in the top ten Indianapolis attractions, according to Trip Advisor.

Ensconced on the National Register of Historic Places, Crown Hill is the burial site of President Benjamin Harrison, poet James Whitcomb Riley, industrialist Eli Lilly and numerous other notables.  Founded in 1863, the cemetery sprawls over 555 acres traversed by 25 miles of roads.  More than 200,000 have been interred there, yet space remains to fill burial needs for another 200 years.

The crown of Crown Hill
At the crest of the cemetery—the “crown”—is the highest hill in the county, offering a panoramic view of the city.  Near the crown we saw something we’ve never seen before—even in all the hundreds of cemeteries we’ve visited all around the world looking for letterboxes.  It was a black granite "picnic table" with benches.  Nearby was a marker with this inscription:  “Please share communion with nature at this table.  We appreciate our past and hope for the future.”  We liked it very much.

Loved this concept
In three and a half hours, we found twenty letterboxes hidden in this peaceful oasis.  There were at least that many more, but we limited our search to the boxes with meaningful ties to the departed.  By the time we returned to the Residence Inn, the staff had rolled out appetizers and beverages for a complimentary evening reception.  With numerous vegetarian options, we easily found enough food to call it dinner.  After a bit of relaxing in our room, we returned to the Slippery Noodle to hear Gene Deer playing solo on his acoustic guitar.  A popular draw on the local blues circuit, Deer offered up some nice mellow blues.

We made plans to follow I-65 due south into Nashville the next day.

Tuesday, April 28—Indianapolis, IN, to Nashville, TN

When we left the hotel in Indianapolis, we decided it was time for us to check out the Indy Motor Speedway before leaving town.  We’ve been to the city numerous times and never made it to the famous car racing mecca.  Not that we were interested in a tour, we just wanted the “been there, seen that” threshold of familiarity.

Empty stands at Indy Motor Speedway
Much to our surprise, the security guard at the gate invited us in, even if we didn’t plan to visit the Hall of Fame, and advised us where we could park and walk over to some nearby grandstands,  What he did not mention but we soon discovered was that Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex were zooming around the track at competition speed, testing some new racing tires for Goodyear.  We hung around a few minutes, watching as they blurred past.  When they hit the pits, we left, just as a couple of other NASCAR testers roared onto the track.

Cheekee Monkey does it again!
Traveling down I-65, we again paused intermittently to search for a letterbox here and there.  Since we were approaching Cheekee Monkey’s home territory, we were looking especially for boxes she had planted.  In various places, we found her tributes to Carole Lombard and Red Skelton (both Indiana natives) and Abraham Lincoln, favorite son of Kentucky.

Abraham Lincoln memorial in Louisville riverside park
Near Franklin, KY, we left the interstate to get a closer look at some rapeseed fields in full bloom—an ocean of yellow blossoms.  Then it was on to Nashville, where we checked in to a new Residence Inn near Vanderbilt.  Though we hoped to hear some blues in that capital of country music, YouTube previews of the night’s performers at Nashville blues clubs left us less than enthusiastic, so we wound up the day in our room munching on a big salad from groceries we had picked up earlier in the day.

Wednesday, April 29—Nashville, TN

Our day began with some letterboxing around the city—on the Vanderbilt campus, behind the oldest bar in Nashville, in Centennial Park.  While we were in the park, we decided to visit the Parthenon, a Nashville landmark. Built in 1897 as part of the city's centennial celebration, this imposing edifice is a full-size replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece.  Intended as a temporary structure for the exposition,, the first Nashville Parthenon was constructed of insubstantial materials, which eventually rendered it hazardous. It had proved so popular with the local citizenry and visitors, however, that the structure was rebuilt with concrete in the late 1920s.  Today it serves as an art museum and a popular event space.

Athena Parthenos
Just as with its namesake in Athens, the centerpiece of the Parthenon is a 42-ft. statue of the goddess Athena.  With no imagery of the Greek original extant, a Nashville sculptor who won the commission in a competition, brought the full force of his imagination and all the historical data he could collect into his design.  The result is a very impressive and imposing sculpture, abundant with imagery and symbolism, and gilded with more than eight pounds of gold leaf,

From the Parthenon we drove to the Nashville Farmers Market just north of the state capitol and ate lunch in their food court before heading off to the main branch of the Nashville Public Library.  A mystery letterbox was hidden within the stacks, one whose devilishly clever clue consisted exclusively of a long string of ISBNs—international standard book numbers.  That's the unique 13-digit numeric book identifier printed with a bar code on the back of every commercially published book.

Near the library's main entrance, on the corner of Church Street and 7th Avenue, sits La Storia della Terra, a 20-ft. tower of books made of marble, granite and quartz from five continents.  Created in Germany in 2001, the column consists of 26 books, one for each letter of the Roman alphabet.

Driven by a flourishing health care industry and robust job market, downtown Nashville is in the midst of a construction boom—office buildings, restaurants and stores, hotels, and residential properties.  "If there's dirt, they're moving it," Ken observed as we passed one construction site after another.

A few more letterboxes after the library, and we retired to the hotel where we did some construction ourselves, building dinner from lunch leftovers and existing supplies.  We even had time to relax a bit before heading out in search of some Nashville blues.

On 2nd Street, the city's intensely touristy stretch of restaurants, bars and taverns, we found the Nashville location of B.B. King's Blues Club.  The happy hour duo was still playing—a fellow named J. Curly Speegle on guitar and vocals accompanied by a diffident bass player, who couldn't tear his eyes from Curly's hands.  We surmised that the two don't play together regularly as the guitar, bass and vocals often seemed to be proceeding on their own without regard for one another.  Song selections leaned more toward Eric Clapton than Muddy Waters from this pair who billed themselves as southern rock.

Another B.B. outpost
At 7:30, the evening's feature performers—Tony Coleman and the King's Men—began setting up, a process that took the better part of an hour.  Led by vocalist and drummer Tony Coleman, the band comprised musicians who have spent time playing with B. B. King.  Theirs was the kind of music we were seeking and we enjoyed the performance, including a soulful rendition of Stormy Monday with Tony on vocals.

This was our last day of chasing the blues, and it has been a great ride.  When we started out 40 days ago, we were novices.  Today, we still are, but we've learned a lot and heard some fabulous music and met some talented musicians.  Our decision to stick with small blues clubs rather than concert halls afforded us opportunities to really get to know the people we were listening to.  They were uniformly friendly, appreciative, and instructive, leaving us eager to continue chasing the blues in our future travels.

Chapter 30 Stats:
  • Miles driven:  377
  • Weather:  sunny to partly cloudy, 35° to 72°
  • Letterboxes found:  28
  • Miles walked:  11.25
Last Dose of Blues Music (for this trip)


Gene Deer in Indianapolis


Tony Coleman and the King's Men in Nashville


More Photos

The beautiful Eastman angel, a Crown Hill landmark
Lovely markers and landscaping throughout the cemetery
Lush grounds of Crown HIll
Nashville's Parthenon
Rapeseed field
Nashville Public Library
Food Court at Nashville Farmers Market
Moving dirt, and rubble, in Nashville
Tree-laden Calvary Cemetery on Lebanon Pike in Nashville