I set off from Paducah with no particular plan in mind. Ahhh, the optimism of the Americans and their broad highways coursing through my increasingly clogged veins.
After the excitment of Fathers Day, they were yipping about the 20th June, which for us Brits is a moment of gloom being the longest day. Soon we will be plunged into darkness of winter. To the Americans the 20th is the first day of summer! This keeps them happy and is a useful peg for their advertising strategies (BBQ and pool sets) for a couple of weeks until July 4th - whatever that's all about!
After stopping at a roadside diner for catfish (damn, fried again), I thought I would head for Lexington.
The idea of this trip was to see the big country. The cities I can visit on a piecemeal basis another time. It has all been about the journey. However, the moment I saw a sign which read "Nashville 139 miles" I was toast.
I24 took me there in 2 hours and I took the downtown turnoff. Ten minutes later the valet parking guy "stole" my vehicle and it was out into town.
Not sure if I have been anywhere yet where the daytime temperature has been under 85- 92F, and a high humidity makes for a very sticky boy.
After getting my bearings, I picked up a free newspaper and had a look at the events listings. Who was on in town tonight? A rare performance by 83 year old banjo legend Earl Scruggs. I hot footed it down to the Ryman Auditorium and they had a few single tickets left. A little laundry, a shower and some chicken tenders later and I was being ushered to my seat.
The Ryman is a former church and so the seating is in the form of long curved pews with numbers screwed to them to denote places. The elderly usherette looked at my ticket and then at the pew said "No, this won't do at all - I am going to have to put you someplace else". The reason was enormously and bulbously clear - sitting in his seat.....and mine as well, was a bloke who at a conservative estimate must have weighed thirty stones! I was shown to a nearly empty row about 5 from the stage.
Earl Scruggs may be 83 and obviously frail but he can still cut it. With the help of an amazing band, which included two of his sons, and an audience who applauded every "plunk", it was a memorable evening. 61 years after he first appeared at the Ryman, he was headlining for the very first time. To hear everyone (myself included - I still remember the words), singing along to "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" brought a lump to the throat.
All over by 10.30, it was a short walk to Broadway and its bars. Every joint had a band playing....and a good one too. I went and sat in "The Second Fiddle" and watched a terrific group, which included a phenominal guitar player and a pedal steel player. They played for tips - no cover charge. What was interesting about the audience at the Ryman and the crowd in the bar, the age range was across the board - young to old. Country has no barriers.