I've had a lot of good days since this trip began back in November. I've had a good number of so-so days and a few bad ones as well. This last Saturday though, was a pretty awesome day out here on the road and darned close to perfect in my opinion. The stars aligned over Franklin, Tennessee to create a day which left me tired but feeling really good about life and this journey. If only we could all have a day like this last Saturday was for me now and again, the world would be a better, happier place.
The day started off cool, allowing me to sleep in a little bit in my van. As spring has started to give way to summer here in the South, and as I have moved into Central Time, it starts to get warm in my van pretty early. Saturday I had myself parked in the shade of a nice tree, though, allowing me a little extra sleep and waking up well rested for my big day. Once I was up and caffeinated, I headed off to the gym for a good morning workout. I've been lucky to have a gym nearby for much of the time I've been in Tennessee, and coupled with being able to eat what I want, when I want (a surprisingly difficult thing to accomplish as a Tour Leader), I'm actually starting to get back into reasonable shape. Going to the gym in the morning makes me feel really good and truly ready to face the day.
From there, I headed over to the Carter House, site of a locally famous battle of the Civil War: The Battle of Franklin. This site is privately run by the Battle of Franklin Trust, but is a recognized State Historic Site. While I thought the entrance fee of $18 was a little steep, I really enjoyed my tour. I can see that they have put a lot of work into the house and grounds, and that these entrance fees are how they are able to make it all happen. The tour lasted about an hour and gave a history of the Carter family (not the country music Carter Family, but the Franklin Carters), the house, the battle and the aftermath. Our guide was excellent, giving detailed information without being boring, and the information he gave was incredibly well balanced. It is difficult to visit a Civil War site anywhere without feeling like the information is somewhat jaded by the personal views of the presenter. This guide did not have a problem with presenting this story without bias, giving credit to both sides for the different roles they played and what they were both trying to accomplish while keeping the Carters front and center as they should have been in this story. As you all probably know by now, I really enjoy learning the history of places, and this battle, fought late in the war, was a fascinating one. While it raged on outside the house, the Carter family and their neighbors hunkered down in the basement. One can only imagine what that must have been like. Probably the most poignant part of the tour was going into one of the outbuildings which was completely riddled with bullet holes - it was like standing underneath a colander. It was a fascinating place to visit.
From there, I definitely needed a beer to sit with and think about what I had just seen. Thankfully, not far away, was the wonderful Mantra Artisan Ales. They had a really unique and varied selection, and their beers were all really good. The experimental level of their brewing reminded me of the Funkatorium in Asheville, or Adroit Theory in Northern Virginia. I really liked their Steel Barrel Fire and Ice, a frost Kolsch infused with peppers and cucumbers. It was the only "spicy" beer I've ever enjoyed. It was spicy, but also refreshing because of the cucumbers. It was definitely a good beer and a good stop.
A couple of beers made me hungry, so I headed out to the adorable little community of Liepers Fork to visit the original Puckett's Grocery. Puckett's has grown into a small local chain with 5 other locations, but it all started at this little out-of-the-way grocery and lunch counter outside of Franklin. I got some stewed brisket with some broccoli casserole and macaroni and cheese. I took it out to the pew out front and enjoyed an afternoon meal in the sunshine. It was excellent. Puckett's also has live music on the weekend, and seemed like a great venue for it. There was a band scheduled for that night, but I had other plans, so after my meal I headed back to town.
Arriving back in Franklin, I made my way out to the Ag Expo for the annual Franklin Rodeo. The Franklin Rodeo has been going since 1949, and is put on by the local Rotary Club. It is definitely one of the premier rodeos to be found east of the Mississippi River. I was really impressed by the level of skill I saw there. Having seen a lot of small Podunk rodeos in my time (and loving every one of them), it was awesome to see this level of competition. It was a great family event showcasing some talented cowboys and cowgirls and some beautiful "animal athletes" as well, with the proceeds going to some excellent causes. It was a great time.
My day wasn't quite over yet, though. After the rodeo, I headed over to Kimbro's Pickin' Parlor on South Margin Street. This place is super cool, an old renovated house with a great music room, two bar rooms, a dining room and a "jam room" in the back. I was very happy to get there in time to catch the last hour of D.L. Dunken, a great local songwriter and blues guitarist. The set was great, and the setting was fantastic. Good sound, enough space to sit and enjoy while still being small and intimate. After the band finished playing, I moved back to the jam room, where a half dozen local musicians were playing some great tunes late into the night.
As I lay down to sleep in the wee hours, I thought back on a week of happy events all crammed into one long and lazy Saturday afternoon. Good food, good beers, a little history, some awesome sports and topped off with some fantastic roots music. Could it get any better? I hope so, and I will keep you in the loop when it does. This week you should try and use the long days to get some of your Saturday chores out of the way so when Saturday rolls around, you can make the most of it. After all, isn't that what Saturdays are for?