Linda (Kaywood) Bilyeu is a self-published author. Her books are available on Amazon. She writes from the heart—there is no other way.
Celebrating my Birthday in Nashville
Birthdays are my favorite holiday. While it's true the older we get the faster our birthdays seem to roll around, but how much does that really matter?
We have no control over time, but we do have control over how we spend that time. We could sulk about getting older or we could celebrate our presence in this vast, wonderful world.
For my birthday this year, I chose to celebrate being alive for 53 years in a fun way and with the love of my life; country music and which better place to do this, but in Nashville, Tennessee. Little did I know I would be carded at the honky tonks and bars as many times as I was, but I sure didn't complain.
This was my first visit to Music City so I didn't know what to expect. I had been following Nashville happenings on social media for the past two months to get the lay of the land, to know what to expect, to plan ahead and the site that offered the best assistance was Instagram.
What I never expected was to fall in love with Nashville. I had strong vibes that I would be in awe of, but as my plane ascended towards the blue sky a piece of my heart was left behind and I sure as heck will have to go back one day to retrieve it.
Join me on my journey to the country music capital and just maybe you will also be planning a trip to Nashville.
Big Machine Label Store
On June 25th my daughter, Michelle who was kind enough to accompany me on my adventure headed to Orlando International Airport. Everything was running smoothly until we hit a snag, a very unexpected one. We went through the TSA line and I was immediately guided to the side for a pat down. I asked why? She said, "your groin lit up, look at the screen." I turned to view the screen of my body and sure enough my groin area was lit up like the 4th of July. Granted I was excited about Nashville, but this was totally unexpected. My hands were then tested. I along with all my belongings were brought to the computer where the results were flashing "Explosives Detected!" Are you kidding me? I just want to go to Nashville and celebrate my birthday!
All I could remember doing was using hand sanitizer on the TSA line. I mentioned this to the small crowd of TSA workers forming around me. They just went about their business of testing my things. I was then taken to a private room where once again I was patted down and my clothes were tested in a swiping motion. I never expected all this action at the airport, heck I wasn't even in Nashville yet. Anyway, 15 minutes later I was released. Geez! Yes, the hand sanitizer I used while waiting in line to avoid germs of fellow travelers and then I wiped the residue on my jeans had been the culprit. Really? I suggested that 15 minutes ago.
Anyway I learned a lesson and I hope y'all did too! What a weird way to start my trip.
Flip Flops on the Ground in Nashville
I was finally in Nashville. The city where so many inspiring musicians, songwriters and dreamers desire stardom. The city where country music began and evolved over the years into mainstream music. The city where Keith Urban, Tim McGraw among many others were discovered. The city that captured my heart.
I was in awe from the start. From the Cumberland River to the Farmers Market where I was gifted a sunflower from a vendor and his son as a welcome to their city. Michelle and I had 3.5 days to explore and experience Nashville. And we did so with gusto. We learned a lot along the way.
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It wasn't long before we found ourselves on Broadway St. which is the foundation for the honky tonks, bars, restaurants, clubs and music. Lots of music.
We discovered musicians who work for tips and perform in 3-4 hour increments, beginning in mid-morning until the late hours of the evening. They not only perform music, but they are quite entertaining in other aspects. They mingle with the audience. They ask for requests. I was continually dropping dollars in the tip cans and requesting songs. I had quite a few birthday shout-outs and Orlando received much love when they heard Michelle and I hailed from the City Beautiful and even Nashville with all the hustle and bustle was aware of the Pulse mass shooting and their hearts ached for those who perished and the loved ones left behind.
We had won festival tickets on Instagram to a kick-ass concert in Fontanel which was once a massive estate owned by Barbara Mandrell. What an experience that was! We met some interesting people and were entertained by the Brothers Osborne who rocked the house, well the field for over an hour in sweltering temperatures. We had won lawn seats, but since there were many empty seats in front of the stage we just went ahead and sat in the first row of seats instead. Such rebels.
We walked up and down Broadway and while soaking in the sunshine we also soaked in the music scene. And a few drinks which included my first taste of vanilla moonshine and oh my, Sunshine really enjoyed the tempting taste of moonshine. And the buzz too. And of course the music too at Bootleggers Inn where once again my birthday and Orlando were recognized by the musician.
Honky Tonk Central quickly became my favorite go-to place. Three floors of drinks, food, musicians, and lots of cowboys! We would visit each floor and select our favorite band while enjoying the music we would also eat, drink and people watch. We met many other tourists mostly from Ohio and Michigan. By the end of our visit in Nashville, we had made many new friends. The people of Nashville are very friendly and witty! Even when I was the brunt of their jokes it was all in good spirits!
Whether we were at Tequila Cowboys, Legends Corner, Tootsie's, The Valentine, Bootleggers Inn, Honky Tonk Central, Whiskey Bent Saloon, Layla's, The Tin Roof, The Stage, etc...we hooted and hollered and Woohoo'ed until we lost our voices or fell off the bar stools.
While on Music Row listening to some sensational soul music, we were just steps away from Taylor Swift's Nashville condo! Oh if only she stopped in for a pizza and beer, but alas she never did.
More Than Just Country Music
What surprised me is while I did hear much country music, I also heard a variety of other music genres too which made my Nashville Experience that much more awesome! From soul to R&B to mash-ups to rockabilly...I became one with each and every song I heard.
My advice to you is not to shun Nashville because you do not like country music because you will quickly learn that Music City has plenty to offer in most genres of music. You just have to go with the flow and lose yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of this fine city.
I heard that in the next twenty years about one million people will make Nashville their new home, which speaks volumes about the city, people, and ambiance. While I felt right at home in Nashville, I don't have the desire to live there but I do have the desire to return again for a visit. Preferably many more times.
If you want to party and have a good time, visit Nashville. If you want a laid-back vacation, visit Tennessee. Either way, you will have the time of your life.
Nashville is second to bachelor and bachelorette celebrations, with NYC coming in first. Those youngens made some awesome memories. Not sure how much of the weekend they will remember, and not quite sure how they were even able to walk, but they sure did have a wonderful weekend!
More Than Just Honky Tonks and Booze
While in Nashville we took a guided tour of the downtown area. We learned about the history of the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry which was very interesting. The Ryman opened in 1892 and was called the Union Gospel Tabernacle for a short time. On this tour I also learned that Keith Urban was discovered at the Legends Corner bar by Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn...I was surprised I didn't know this already or maybe I did know but had forgotten. I also learned that Dierks Bentley is opening a bar on Broadway, just one more reason for me to return to Music City!
On his first night in Nashville, many moons ago, Tim McGraw had walked out of the bathroom to hear a songwriter discussing a song Indian Outlaw, Tim assisted with the song and the rest is history. While in Nashville I met a musician named Mark who happened to be a featured dancer in the Indian Outlaw video and needless to say he quickly became a good friend of mine!
Nashville Is Family-Friendly
What was exceptionally nice about the city of Nashville was that it was compact, we were able to walk to all the sites on our itinerary. Within a few mile radius we were able to see arenas, stadiums, museums, retail stores, bars of course, concert venues, hotels, business offices, the capital, churches, etc...we either walked by it or we toured it.
There were many families touring the city and who also visited the bars. Little kids swaying their hips to the sounds of the music that began in the bars yet poured out into the streets. After 6:00 pm kids aren't allowed into alcohol-serving establishments but during the day they could shake their little moneymakers as much as they wanted.
On Monday evening Justin Beiber was in town for a concert, we saw many families strolling Broadway. I met a wife of one of the trucker drivers who travels with the concert circuit and helps to set up the stage. She showed me her backstage pass that was tucked under her shirt, I offered her $20 for the pass, she laughed at my suggestion. I also laughed because there was no way I would pay $20.
We also saw a few scalpers selling tickets. These tickets were going for $300 each. I tried to talk the scalpers into selling me a pair of tickets for $80, but that didn't work out too well, instead I pissed off a few scalpers...good thing they didn't scalp me! On Tuesday morning we saw MANY Beiber t-shirts strolling Broadway and each person I asked said they LOVED the concert. I am still not a Belieber.
There is Life Out of Nashville
We drove to Franklin and Brentwood in hopes of seeing a country star. We stalked Starbucks, Whole Foods and Target but had no luck. I did learn after speaking to a few residents of the area that they don't keep up with the lifestyles of country stars. I was shocked! Then I realized that I live in Orlando and feel the same way about Disney World!
We used Google Maps to direct us to Keith Urban's house. We ended up at a shack built in the early 1800's...Google Fail.
While we didn't get to see anyone famous, Michelle and I were able to enjoy beautiful landscapes of rolling hills, vast green lawns and massive mansions. If only the stars placed signs on the roadside stating which home was theirs. If only, but totally understandable why they don't because I sure as heck wouldn't.
We also visited the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center which was similar to the Gaylord in Orlando except larger. This Gaylord is the largest non-gaming resort outside of Las Vegas. We stayed at the Gaylord Inn across the street, the sister hotel which is half the price and just as lovely, but had full access to the amenities at the resort. What we didn't realize when strolling through the core of the resort was that we would walk through an upscale restaurant and get lost within the maze of tables. The patrons just considered us entertainment.
Later that evening while dining at the Gaylord Inn, a guy walked out of the kitchen area and said Happy Birthday to me. I was shocked! We were at least 25 minutes away from Broadway, how did he know it was my birthday? He then told us he was a musician from Tequila Cowboy bar and he had sung a Tim McGraw song for me yesterday and wished me a Happy Birthday. My apologies cowboy, but I didn't recognize you without your hat on. A few minutes later a guy sitting near us was curious as to what I did at the bar for the musician to remember me after seeing hundreds of people in between...I didn't have an answer, but I did accept his offer to buy me a drink for my birthday. This dude from Indiana was very nice and the three of us walked across the street to a club for a nightcap and to chat. Little did we all know that our rooms at the Inn would be next door to each other. Who was stalking who? We don't know, but it was nice to meet him.
On our last day in Music City we visited the Grand Ole Opry, well the outside of it. We then went back to Broadway to bid farewell to our favorite honky tonks and musicians. It was bittersweet, but lots of fun. On our plane ride home I made another new friend...she travels from Nashville to Orlando weekly on business. It was a pleasure meeting Tammy and I look forward to our get togethers.
I'll Be Back, Nashville
Plenty of memories were made in 3.5 days in Nashville. I learned some lessons along the way.
I knew by day two that I was having too much fun when I mistakenly brushed my teeth with hydrocortisone cream instead of toothpaste! So, be careful what you place in your mouth.
Do not yell Woohoo in a bar in Nashville. It's Yeehaw. Yeah, a whistle or Woot! I continued to yell Woohoo cause that is how I roll.
While at a stoplight I witnessed a woman about 70ish years old who was dancing to the beat of a song while smiling and smoking...what I learned is we are never too old to have a damn good time!
Holler and Swaller - When you yell (not Woohoo) and take a swig of your drink.
Nashville is also known as Nashvegas due to the partying, not the gambling.
Tootsie's is one of the most famous bars on Broadway. We tried many times to check out the entire place from the first floor to the rooftop bar, we finally accomplished that mission about 10:30 in the morning and what a special treat that visit was. So visit establishments early to check out the details and come back later on in the day to party.
Bring lots of dollars to tip the musicians and do not expect them to strip, tipping is for singing, not stripping. They do appreciate audience participation and requests. On our last day there I challenged the musicians to play Johnny Cash songs and fun was had by all.
I did not use hand sanitizer while standing on the TSA line at Nashville International Airport.
I look forward to my next Nashville Experience and I hope I inspired you to visit Music City. No matter what life throws at you, it's OK to think about yourself and have the time of your life.
In the meanwhile I have a song to write ... "Cowboys and Cougars."
© 2016 Linda Bilyeu