|I recently finished a trip to Tennessee and Kentucky. When I told people I would be traveling there, the most common response was, "Why?" Bourbon and fireflies, naturally.
The first stop was in Lynchburg, TN to visit the Jack Daniel's distillery. Since Jack is sold all over the world and is ridiculously commercialized, I was expecting this to be more of a front for a larger and more industrialized operation. But in reality, the factory was kind of quaint. They still do a lot of stuff by hand, and it was a really cool tour. And the small town of Lynchburg felt like a movie set, but it was real.
Next up was Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the synchronous fireflies. This was a gamble because the fireflies are only in certain areas at certain times of the year. But thankfully we found them, and they were awesome. It's hard to describe the sight, other than by saying it's a bunch of fireflies that blink chaotically and occasionally synchronize. But the sheer number of these bugs and the show they put on is kind of breathtaking.
We stayed in Gatlingburg, TN, which was an experience in itself. A southern friend called it "Disney World for southerners" and that about sums it up. Waffle Houses, moonshine, and obesity. Aside from some good breakfasts and the proximity to a national park, this is a place I'd rather not revisit.
After all that, we headed to Kentucky bourbon country, with a quick stop at the Toyota factory in Georgetown, KY that made my Camry. Buffalo Trace was a quaint old place whose barrel house smelled amazing. Wild Turkey was a modern industrial operation, clean and brand-spanking new. Four Roses looked kind of like a catering center with a distillery attached. Each place offered a tasting of several of their products, and I wound up finding a few new things I like. Plus we went to a few bars and liquor stores and found stuff that isn't available in our local stores. Our checked bag for the flight home came in at just under 50 lbs.
Part of the reason for our trip was because we kept getting invites from our Kentucky friend's family to visit them at their lake house in Eddyville, KY. So we obliged. We did a little relaxing and waterskiing (attempted anyway), which was a nice break from our ~500 miles driven.
On the way back to Nashville, we stopped at Mammoth Cave for a quick tour. Once in Nashville, we visited the Parthenon, which is an awesome historical site in the middle of a modern city. Finally, we visited some honky tonk bars in the downtown area and heard some live country music. That place was alive and kicking, and it was a Monday night!
The reason we flew into and out of Nashville was because they had the cheapest flights. Driving around the area on state roads and interstates was ridiculously easy. No traffic, no problems. If I had to do it again, I would probably still start in Nashville, but I'd try to stay in or around Bardstown, KY, which was a nice small town close to a bunch of the bourbon action. Visiting three or four distilleries in one day is about as much as you can reasonably do. I unfortunately only scheduled one day of distillery tours because I didn't want to get burnt out from all the booze talk. Next time I'll be ready for more. #travel