On Being a Pedestrian in Hilly Nashville, TN

This is part 2 of my Nashville adventure. To read part 1, click here.

I awoke the next morning excited to enjoy that most gratifying of mid-level hotel luxuries: free breakfast. Making it to breakfast was especially essential because I had accidentally ruined my chance for in-room coffee that morning. The coffeemaker was the kind that takes little pods and serves up single cups (the kind that serious coffee drinkers hate), and I had exactly one pod for decaf and one pod for caffeinated coffee, so, I had exactly one chance for real coffee. (If you can even call those little pods real coffee, but I’ll spare you my soap box speech on that…) Anyway, I got a little excited while opening my caffeinated coffee pod and tore too deeply, ripping the pod. Though I tried to “make it work,” as they say on project runway, by running the coffee pot with the ripped pod strategically folded over itself, what filtered into my cup was a dark mixture of grainy disappointment.

Downstairs, though, awaited a land of coffee and bagels aplenty. I fueled up then headed out to enjoy the day.

I had two things I wanted to do before hitting the town for drinks and live music that night: visit Parnassus, an independent bookstore owned by famous author Ann Patchett, because I love those kinds of things; and tour the Country Music Hall of Fame, because that’s what tourists do when they travel to Nashville.

The book store was about 4 miles, or an hour and fifteen minute walk, from my hotel. I had not rented a car because my hotel was pretty centrally located and I’d figured I could probably walk to wherever I wanted to go. Technically, I could‘ve walked, but I was not about to hoof it over an hour, buy a handful of heavy books, and then carry them back to my room. My boots may have been made for walking, but they had their limits.

I decided I would take the bus. On the way to the stop, I vaguely wondered about whether or not I should have done some research on the public transportation in Nashville before making the decision to opt out of renting a car. You know, looked into things like safety and the like. I’d lived in New York so I was no stranger to public buses, but this was not New York and a part of me was a little afraid that this whole trip would unfold into the plot a bad Lifetime movie.

And then the stars aligned and presented me with this glorious sight:


They’re called B-cycles and are a part of a public bike sharing program in Nashville that lets you rent a bike for an hour free of charge and for some nominal fee thereafter. I’d heard of these types of community bike programs, but hadn’t ever had the opportunity to try one out.

I didn’t think about it. I pulled my credit card out of my wallet, followed the instructions on the touch screen, and was the proud handler of a B-cycle in fewer than five minutes.

Had I thought about it, it may have occurred to me that I hadn’t ridden on a bicycle in over a year, maybe two, and had never ridden one with the flow of traffic. Had I thought about it, I might have considered that my suede ankle boots were not exactly appropriate riding gear. Had I thought about it, I may have taken the time to Google the terrain of Nashville, and would thereupon have discovered just how hilly that city is. And finally, had I thought about it, I would have realized that while it was “just” a 4-mile-ride to get there…it was then, logically, also a 4-mile-ride to get back, making the trip total a grand 8-mile bike ride.

I’m glad I didn’t think about it.

I plugged the bookstore’s address into my phone and told it I was traveling by bike, and it mapped out the bike routes to get there. I let it hang out in the bike’s basket where I could see it and follow the directions without fumbling with it, thus avoiding certain death.

Here are a few fun things about your first time riding a bike on a street with real cars passing you by at 30+ mph:

  1. You become increasingly aware that the cars are so close to you, you could reach out and touch them. Isn’t that neat?
  2. Sometimes, you go into autopilot and fumble for a blinker when you want to turn, only to realize that you do not have one because, duh, bike.
  3. When you’re coming down a hill toward a stoplight, that stoplight may turn yellow, in which case, you get to do this fun thing called try to brake fast enough that you don’t get caught in the middle of the intersection, but not so fast that you flip over your handlebars.
  4. When you’re stopped at a red light and it turns green, there will be a horrifying split second where you wonder if you actually do remember how to ride a bike after all, because before your momentum gets going it feels like there’s a very real chance that the damn thing is going to tip.
  5. You become keenly aware of the fact that biking is a sweaty business. (It was chilly that day, so I was wearing a coat. At one point, I stopped and took it off. That helped very little. I was talking to my dad about this later and he laughed and said, “Honey, Southern women don’t sweat, they glisten—they glisten like hell!” By the middle of my ride I was a goddamned effervescent pool of glisten.)

I made it to the bookstore alive (if drenched) and it was a really awesome place. Very cute, small, and cozy with books from the floor to the ceiling.

Parnassus Books

I bought a novella called Parnassus on Wheels, which had a little note by it saying it was Anne Patchett’s inspiration for opening the bookstore, and I bought a book written and signed by her, The Magician’s Assistant. So, all-in-all, the trip was a great success.

I did not want to leave, but after finding my books there was really no sense in prolonging the inevitable. I was going to have to get back on that bike. For a brief moment I seriously considered trying to see if the bus would let me take the B-cycle on it for the trip back…but I felt the other passengers would shame me with their faces if I did that, so I chose pain instead.

The first thing I did when I mercifully made it back to the hotel was shower. The second thing I did was sit down on the bed and talk myself into the forty minute walk I was about to take to get to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

I rationalized that this was fate punishing me for all of the New Year’s resolution workouts I’d successfully avoided thus far by cramming them into one ridiculously active weekend. Everyone knows the best kind of exercise is mandatory exercise.

Eventually, I did get up, and I walked across two bridges, feeling a bit like Buddy from Elf, and made it to the legendary Country Music Hall of Fame.

The museum is three stories of photos and memorabilia of the ghosts of country music’s past and the stars of the present. A lot of things about the museum were interesting, but this blog post is running long so let’s just cut to the one that stuck out to me most, which was a funny thing I noticed in the final room. It’s full of busts of honored Country Music Hall of Fame inductees. Dolly Parton’s bust caught my eye because, well, it was busty. Like, obviously so. Here, have a look:

Dolly Parton

After further investigation, none of the other women’s busts in that room showed any signs of bustage. Here’s Reba’s for reference:

Reba McEntire

See that? Tastefully cutoff just below the shoulders. I had to laugh a little because Dolly Parton is famously proud of that rack. She once responded to someone asking her if they were hers by saying, “Yep, they’re mine. Bought and paid for!” It seemed very fitting that something that’s such a big (ahem) part of her fame be included on the bronze tribute to it.

After I’d spent a sufficient amount of time pondering Parton’s plunging neckline, I left and went back to the hotel to enjoy a glorious early-evening nap before heading out to explore the nightlife.

Stay tuned for the next post to hear my night on the town flying solo featuring a love affair with a bacon old-fashioned and an unfortunate encounter with a thirsty 21-year-old boy.

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