Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DAY 118- Knoxville to Nashville…

The rain had continued all night long.  It was still coming down pretty good when I left my hotel.  I drove to downtown Knoxville, TN to explore what I could in the rain.  I first parked in the Old City area which is being renovated and there’s a host of new businesses opening soon.  There wasn’t much going on during a Sunday morning except for some brunch at some of the restaurants.  Some of the menus looked pretty good but I had a free breakfast at my hotel.  There were some rather neat old buildings in the area.
Photo- Some really neat old buildings in the Old City part of downtown Knoxville, TN.

I wandered over to the Market Square area of Knoxville next.  There was a plaque that explained that the Market Square started out in the 1940’s as an area for farmers would pull up the back of their trucks and sell goods out of the back of their trucks.  It now has a series of restaurants with patios and other business around the edges of the square.  There was a large tented area in the center that is currently being used as an ice skating rink.  I could imagine on any other day than Sunday it would have been a place of activity. 
Photos- Market Square area of Knoxville.

I wandered south through Market Square and across the street into Krutch Park which was a lovely city park area with large sculptures on display and some of them were even available for purchase.  I walked south some more on a main city road through the area, turned a corner and there was a HUGE sculpture coming out of the sidewalk.  I will say there was a great deal of artwork in the downtown area which was rather nice.  I walked by a theater in the downtown area that had lines waiting to buy tickets.  I also walked by a café that had outdoor seating behind a clear vinyl hanging barrier that was different.  It was like looking at people through a shower curtain.
Photo- Krutch Park a city park south of Market Square in Knoxville.

Photo- A VERY large sculpture in Knoxville's downtown area.

Next I drove over to the World’s Fair Park but there wasn’t much going on because of the weather other than one runner getting soaked in the rain.  I admired the tall tower with the sphere a little closer but the rain clouds were dropping and I couldn’t see much.  I decided I would go ahead and drive on to Nashville which was my next stop.
Photo- World's Fair Park in downtown Knoxville, TN.

About 10 miles out of Knoxville, I was white knuckle driving through thick fog where I could barely see the car tail lights of the car that was maybe 20 ft. in front of me.  I slowed down to 50mph but didn’t want to slow down too much for fear of getting rear ended.  This went on for almost 20 miles where there were patches of thick fog and then patches where it was very hazy.  The whole time it was still rainy too.  The radio station faded from an alternative rock to a twangy country station (which I HATE) and I just let it go because I was concentrating on driving. 

Finally, the clouds picked up off the road way but it was still raining pretty good.  I decided I needed a break and I turned into a truck stop.  I filled up the still half-filled tank and cleaned out the front passenger side seat of garbage.  A little while later, I was back driving on the interstate through rain but no fog.  As I got closer to Nashville, TN the rainy weather started to clear up but a cross wind had started to blow hard out of the north.  As I passed a truck, I had to be ready for a gust of wind to hit the car.  As I got even closer to Nashville, the traffic picked up. 

I took the exit to head over towards the Opryland area where my hotel was near.  On one exit there was a long line of cars almost ½ mile long.  It was the exit before the one I needed to take and it looked like there was a huge shopping mall off of it.  I think last minute Christmas shopping was in full swing!  The next exit was pretty busy too but not quite as much.  It still took about 8 minutes to get off the interstate.  Thankfully, I managed to get into the right lane to make a turn I needed to.  I took a quick right after going left over the overpass and then I was on an almost empty road to the hotel.  Yeah!

I got checked in and settled into the hotel.  It would soon be dark and I went down to the front desk.  There was information about a free shuttle service over to the Gaylord’s Opry Grand Hotel which I guess is a HUGE resort hotel.  In fact, the guy at the desk said that you could easily fit 10 of this hotel which had 150 rooms into that place.  He went on to tell me that there were restaurants, shopping, shows and Christmas lights too.  I signed up for a shuttle time and went upstairs to get cleaned up.
Photo- In side the large Gaylord Resort.

It was like a three block drive in the shuttle to the Gaylord Resort but then it was about a block and a half drive around to a loading-drop off zone in the back.  The busy mall was adjacent to the back of the Gaylord Resort and there were people walking back and forth between both locations.  The guy in the hotel shuttle van gave out the hotel business cards for us to call when we needed to head back to the hotel.  I walked into the Gaylord Resort through a foyer area, down a hall, and into a HUGE atrium area.  It was packed full of people and there was a map of the layout.  I looked at it and discovered there were three floors of restaurants and shops in the atrium area.  There were four ballroom areas and it looked like there were about 10 floors of hotel rooms on the outside areas.  It was HUGE!
Photo- The Giant Panda that kids can visit and have their picture taken with.

I proceeded to wonder around.  There were Christmas lights on trees, draped from the ceiling in some areas, balloons with lights, and towers of poinsettias.  I walked by displays where there were characters of Shrek and the Panda where kids could visit and get their pictures taken with them.  There were restaurants both high end and middle range serving all types of food.  There were all kinds of stores.  It was very much like a shopping mall within a hotel area.  It was rather confusing and I ended up backtracking to a map to figure out where I was quite often.  I ended up having dinner at a Jack Daniels Restaurant and watching the football game from near the bar.  I opted for just a bowl of chili and corn bread.  The steaks sounded good but they only had a 12oz. portion which was more than I could handle.  I was able to see out to the “mall” area through some barrels and also did some people watching.  There was a great deal of families with young kids wandering around.
Photo- Outside in front of the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

After dinner, I wandered out front of the Resort and there was a row of carriages lined up for people to take rides in.  There also was a great deal of the landscaping with trees that were filled with Christmas lights.  It reminded me a bit of the Temple Square in Salt Lake only quite a bit more down scale but it was a nice display.  There was a manger area and a very large tree with huge light holly formations at the bottom of it.  There were sitting areas and a little fire pit area where people could stand and warm their hands.  It was a fun festive air.  I walked around and just enjoyed.  But soon I was ready to head back to the hotel for the night.  I called the hotel and caught the next shuttle.

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