A Nashville to Knoxville road trip doesn’t usually take 6 days and being on the road for 1000 miles, but I took a more unusual route. Taking in Memphis, Holiday World and 5 new states on the way to the Sunsphere. Here’s my diary from the trip, this time I’ll be day-tripping to Holiday World and then driving over to Memphis.
22nd July 2016
I woke up to the sound of my alarm for my first theme park of the trip and set out at 7am to get to Holiday World on time for opening. It was a long, uneventful drive but a relief to get away from the drivers of Nashville. I’ve mentioned driving in Nashville negatively a couple of times now and to clarify it just seems like people drive as though accidents never happen, I feel like I have seen more near-misses here than anywhere else. I attribute it to the amount of people who don’t seem to be paying attention, but that’s just my observation from a couple of days of being here. My trip took me snaking up through the length of Kentucky and just scraping into Indiana. To the town of Santa Claus.
The car park wasn’t too full when I got there and I headed straight for the gate with my ticket, which I had bought online. It’s a lovely theme park with a particularly unique atmosphere that is made extra special by the fact the park has three wooden coasters. I headed straight towards the Thanksgiving section which had Thunderbird (a new coaster for me and the only major steel coaster there) and The Voyage, a coaster I hold in high esteem. I waited there for around 15 minutes until the area opened with a crowd of people behind me, I wasn’t sure which I wanted to go on first but when I saw a technician walking on the track of The Voyage, I knew there was no point waiting for that.
So walking, not running, I continued to the other roller coaster: Thunderbird. There were two sides of this coaster and it seemed like less people were walking up the left so that’s the one I chose. Once I got up there, I saw the front seat of the train open. Not only was I on the first ride of the day, I was also right at the front for it, unbelievable. Sometimes it really is better to not rush and use your head instead. In all the years I’ve been to different theme parks on my own, I’ve never gotten on the first ride of the day and definitely not front row! I’ll argue this is my favourite wing rider, the launch really adds to the coaster type, which is not top of my list for rides. It was a perfect start to the day. Then I ran around to bag the backseat.
Next up was The Legend. Definitely my longest wait of the day and later on I walked on to it. It’s definitely improved since they re-tracked it. I’d last ridden it two years ago and wasn’t so impressed. During this ride I made a realisation that I really need to stop riding wooden coasters in the back seat, although I doubt very much I’ll stick to my own advice there.
Then it was the turn of Raven, the little gem of the park which will surprise you with how fun it is. This was another coaster I didn’t enjoy too much in the backseat. This didn’t put me off for The Voyage though, which I ended up sitting at the back for and absolutely loved it. I enjoyed it even more than I remembered and this is a coaster that has been stuck in my brain. It is a tempestuous coaster though, that seems to change in an instant which is why I can never 100% say that I adore it. I did it three times that day, the first two rides made me rethink not putting it in my top three wooden roller coasters in the world, however the final ride (in the third row) was hell on Earth. Enough to have put me off for life if I hadn’t had two fantastic rides on it previously that day. It seems to add to its notoriety amongst coaster enthusiast that you can have such polar opposite feelings on the same coaster, on the same day. It’s a coaster that always brings up a strong reaction and lively discussion. Front seat on The Voyage was my favourite ride of the day, I’d completely recommend riding there.
I did The Legend one more time for good measure and then left the park. I got a little lost on my way back but went through the actual town of Santa Claus, which was cute. Once I was back on the highway it was easy and when I got back to Nashville I was too knackered to drag myself out of bed so I fell asleep with no dinner.
One stray observation about Holiday World; why do so many people think it’s socially acceptable to spit on the ground? Gross! Is it an Indiana thing or what?
23rd July 2016
I left the airbnb and decided to skip the queue at Biscuit Love (next time) by going to IHOP, a chain I had never visited before on all my travels to the States. I’m kind of obsessed with red velvet pancakes. Yum. A street music festival was setting up outside but sadly I couldn’t stick around for too long. I wanted to do a couple more things before I got out on the road to Memphis.
I headed over to the Parthenon and wandered around in the sweaty heat. Sweaty is the best adjective for me on this trip. Caught a bunch of Pokemon while I took photos of the beautiful park. This is the first trip I’ve had my DSLR, so I concentrated a lot of my energy on trying to shoot on manual for the first time and get some shots that sum up my trip and the way I saw Tennessee (and later on the other places I stopped off). It was a fantastic morning, even if it was filled with relatively normal things that most tourists or locals would do. No insider tips here. I just wish the weather wasn’t quite as humid so it would make it more comfortable being outside for so long.
I made my way over to Memphis, all the way along the I-40, which was easy enough to navigate. It only became complicated once I got to the city and construction confused things. Once I got into Memphis I saw one of the worst pieces of driving I have ever seen; a guy reversing (behind me, thank Bowie) all the way back down a street, about as a fast as I imagine you can go in reverse.
I got into the parking lot of the hotel without anybody hitting me and made my way into the super fancy Peabody Hotel. The room I was in was impressive and the lobby was grand. The rooftop was my favourite place though, I had a couple of drinks up there while the sun set and watched both the city below and the clientele go about their business. An upscale, yet surprisingly relaxing experience that helped me wind down after a day of driving down the Music Highway. Even if you can’t stay in the hotel, try and make it up to the rooftop for a drink and a view. It was another opportunity to take a lot of photos.
I refreshed myself and put on a nice dress for my planned dinner. I’d found a place online that had piqued my interest so I didn’t have to waste time trying to look up somewhere to eat. Sometimes it really is the perfect thing to do all your planning before you leave so you can just flow through the day without wasting time wondering what to do and where to go.
The streets of Downtown Memphis felt particularly affluent. I walked past a place that seemed to be hosting a party evocative of something from Nolan’s Batman trilogy. An old bank as the setting with everybody dressed in clothes I could never afford. Trams moved past lazily. Gaudy, colourfully lit horse carriages went past that looked so tacky I couldn’t believe anyone had paid for the privilege.
I ate dinner at Flight, which I would recommend to anybody who finds themselves in Memphis for dinner. I had a fantastic, upscale meal, which was not so highly priced or pretentious but felt luxuriously down to earth. It was better than more expensive places I’ve tried in other cities that were just downright crappy. There’s no way I’ll eat that well for the same price in NYC.
That night wasn’t too hot, my server wasn’t pushy or inattentive and the food was great. I ended up trying two different wine flights there, altogether 6 different wines. That’s my type of evening.
My hotel room was so comfortable but it was noisy being right next to the elevator so I kept being woken up just when I’d fallen to sleep. I had to find something to complain about, right?