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  • Writer's pictureAdam Hlasny

Photo Interlude: Tennessee, Y'all!

In April 2018 I attended a work conference in Music City, my first time in Tennessee. In fact, my experiences in the American South were/remain extremely limited. I've dipped a toe into Kentucky (Louisville, Lexington, Mammoth Cave) and Virginia (Fredericksburg, Richmond, Jamestown) - the "Shallow South"? Been to Florida a bunch (see January Travels post), and New Orleans in 2008, but that's it. Prior to three years ago, my travel map was one huge gap from New Mexico to the Carolinas.

Nashville was an absorbing locale - I was astounded at what a modern, booming metropolis it was. Not that I was expecting a bunch of straw hat-wearing laggards drinking moonshine on dilapidated porches. As with any business trip, time for sightseeing is necessarily limited. However, in typical me fashion I stretched my days, exploring before and after meetings, as well as extending the trip by an extra day at the end.

On the morning of my last Nashville day I decided to take an early morning walk by the Cumberland River- had the city to myself. Perhaps it was on account of the cold. Tennessee cold that is - was probably in the low 30s, but evidently enough to keep locals indoors.

Over the previous days I had hit some of the high points, such as the Ryman Auditorium, Musicians Hall of Fame, and Belmont Mansion. Just walking around was satisfying as well. Fresh skyscrapers rose up like spring shoots. There were more cranes than at an origami festival.

When my conference was over I motored a bit further south to pick up a couple more new states.

On my way into Huntsville, Alabama, I stopped to photograph a very cool shuttle display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. After a couple hours driving through empty rolling grasslands, I was astounded by its scale (see car at left and person at right for comparison).

I stayed overnight in Huntsville (most spartan Airbnb I've ever experienced - I literally had to make my own bed and sleep in it), arriving under the cover of darkness.

The next day arrived crisp and cool, as I moseyed around another deserted downtown area and relished the exquisite angles of the low sun on stout brick structures softened by velvety ivory and pink blossoms.

Huntsville has a population around 200,000 - the second-largest city in Alabama - but you'd never know it by the quaintness of its old town and Big Spring International Park.

After this brief but exceedingly pleasant perambulation, I struck off to the east and squeaked into the extreme northwest corner of Georgia, doing a mini hike at the lovely Cloudland Canyon State Park.

From there it was a quick hop, skip, and jump back into Tennessee, where I explored Chattanooga and took the steep funicular up to Lookout Mountain.

I loved Chattanooga's laid-back vibe - I even struck up a conversation with a local family while waiting in line for the incline. I'll repeat that: I, introvert extraordinaire, actually began a conversation with a stranger. Didn't even use my cue cards.

The view from atop 2,389' Lookout Mountain was spectacular, giving me a good sense of why this was a valuable Civil War perspective. The Tennessee River languorously twisted below, belying the carnage that had taken place here 150ish years ago.

Back down in the city I didn't have much time to explore, as I had to get back to the airport for my return flight (strangely enough, flying back to NH from here had been cheaper than had I just stayed in Nashville) from the manageable-sized local airport.

After passing the modern-looking Tennessee Aquarium while roaming the riverfront area, my final stop was at AT&T Field, home to the AA Minor League Baseball team the Chattanooga Lookouts.

As a kid I'd had a red ballcap with a goofy pair of eyes peering from between the letter C. For whatever reason I have great memories of wearing that cap, so I stopped in the team's pro shop to get Julia one of her own. The cap I chose for her was a vibrant multicolor pastel version, but had the same silly logo. I knew she'd love it.

It was time to return home and check three new states off my list. Despite this being my first real foray into the southeastern US, I knew it wouldn't be my last. Next time, y'all can come with me.

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