The bucket list. Whether you’ve physically written it down or not, we’ve all mentally made a list of things we want to accomplish or see in our lives. One location that has been on my personal list for some time is Tennessee. I’m not sure whether it was the music, the food or the scenic views that first drew me to add it to this sacred list, but nonetheless I’ve always wanted to visit! Well, that dream finally came true this year! My name is Paul Tellefsen (@technopaul on Instagram), and I just got back from an incredible adventure around Tennessee with my good pal Steven Wallace (@stevenbwallace). For three days we toured three cities: Clarksville, Nashville and Cookeville, and got to experience everything the great Tri-Star State has to offer. As an adventure photographer, musician and self-proclaimed lover of food, there was so much to love about Tennessee! Here’s a brief log from each stop on our journey with some memories we captured along the way.
Beachaven Vineyards & Winery
After flying into Nashville International Airport in the morning, we picked up a car and made an easy 50-minute trip to Clarksville. We pulled up to Beachaven with a light rain falling. We made our way inside, but I remember thinking how beautiful the color of the fields looked with a light covering of rain! We were greeted by Louisa, the proud owner of Beachaven for over 30 years, and Michelle, our Clarksville tour guide! After a quick introduction, we were given a great tour of the grounds, where they grow, make, press and bottle the wine, and where they make their French-method champagne as well. One thing I picked up on quickly was Louisa’s love for the craft. You could tell that her whole staff were true artists, whose medium wasn’t a camera, like mine, but grapes. From the wine and jazz festivals they hold in the summers to the sweet aroma that fills the hearts, homes … and bellies of so many, you can tell this place is well-loved in the community!
Blackhorse Pub & Brewery
After a great morning at Beachaven, we hit the road to see historic downtown Clarksville. What better and more classic place to stop and refuel than the Blackhorse Pub & Brewery? We scooted in the door among other customers and entered Ireland! We sat down and were greeted by Annaleigh, who greeted us with a big grin on her face. She told us all about the incredible history of this spot and how it survived a tornado in the ’90s and had held onto its local feel and fare. We ordered, with her recommendations, and enjoyed a great meal that you could tell the staff was proud to serve us! The jury is still out on what the best item on the menu is. Their top seller is the beer cheese, but the best-flavored item on the menu is the Cajun pasta. So make sure you pick up both next time you find yourself in the Blackhorse.
After a great morning and afternoon in Clarksville, Steven and I hit the road again. This time we were headed for Nashville. We arrived after a quick drive and checked into our hotel in the late afternoon, where we relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Adventure Log: Day 2, Nashville
Loews Vanderbilt Hotel Nashville
Waking up this morning in the classy and modern Loews Hotel was the perfect way to begin a day filled with everything Nashville. I opened the curtains to a beautiful sunrise and to see the hustle and bustle of West End. We got ready super quick, grabbed a quick bite of their incredible breakfast, and then were on our way. One thing I remember most about my stay at the Loews was the hospitable and knowledgeable staff. It truly felt like a VIP experience.
Historic RCA Studio B
Before coming to Nashville, the one place I knew I had to visit was the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum. This place is legendary — quite literally. We began our day here with a visit to the famous Historic RCA Studio B where legends like Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton recorded their hits. After a short bus trip, we arrived. You step into the studio, and you automatically feel the music, not just from the speakers, but radiating from the walls. If only the walls could talk. Our tour guide unraveled the detailed and sometimes dramatic history of what happened in the studio, and you just knew you were sitting in a historic place. After learning more musical history, we were shown the highlight of this tour. And for the sake of this post, I won’t ruin the surprise of what you get to see. We were warned we might cry and I was on the verge for sure.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Upon arriving back at the museum, we were greeted by our tour guide, Casey. We hopped on an elevator and Casey began to explain a bit of the Museum’s history. We stepped out and were overwhelmed by the amount of history that appeared before our eyes. She walked us through each installation and space with incredible accuracy and detail. From the beginnings of musical instruments to spaces where kids can make music today, this museum covers everything. The history of country music is a lot grander and rich than I ever knew, and Casey was able to bring the music to life for us. My favorite space was the second floor, where we got to learn more about The Nashville Cats, those famous studio musicians who’ve played for all the greats. A close second was the huge wall of every platinum and gold country music album ever recorded. We were then shown into the Rotunda, were the Hall of Fame lives. The words “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” surrounded us as we observed each inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was the highlight of our tour.
Hatch Show Print
You know those famous concert posters you’ve seen around Nashville and replicated around the world. Those are what we call Hatch Show Print posters. Started by the famous Hatch Brothers, these classics are still being used today by artists. The shop where each print is made is now located on the first floor of the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, a space brimming with history, even down to the bookshelves. Celene, the manager of the shop, sat among her staff as we were given a rundown of the history and process of Hatch Show Print. I learned that Hatch Show Print hasn’t just been used in music, but also in news and even presidential races of the past. At the end of the tour, we were able to create our own print that we could take with us. This Hatch Show Print technique is very intricate and detailed — and sometimes unforgiving, but the results of each print are unique and stand the test of time.
Frist Center for the Visual Arts
One thing I learned while in Nashville is that it is not only home to country music, but also has a thriving visual arts community. Only a ten-minute walk away from the Country Music Hall of Fame is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, home to contemporary and modern art installations from international artists. Buddy gave us a tour of the Center, which is housed in the old post office. The architecture of this space alone was worth the visit, not to mention the incredible gallery it housed inside. Make sure to stop and visit my favorite person I met while at the Center: Candy. She runs the information booth when you walk in. Tell her Paul sent you.
After a rousing day understanding the foundations of Nashville and the future it holds, Steven and I grabbed a bite to eat and hit the road for Cookeville. And I could barely wait for what this great city held for us adventurers.
Adventure Log: Day 3, Cookeville
Burgess Falls State Park
After a great night’s sleep at TownePlace Suites, we got dressed for a day of adventures. We arrived at the famous Ralph’s Donuts and were greeted by Molly, our Cookeville host. We grabbed some doughnuts and hit the road for our first stop, Burgess Falls. Only about 20 minutes outside of town, these falls are some of the grandest in the area. With over 150 documented waterfalls in the region, we knew we were in for a treat. With a 45-minute hike and three waterfalls behind us, we arrived at a landing where we were greeted by the highlight of this hike: a 130-foot waterfall. It was glorious! After a few photos, we hiked down to the top of the falls and took in just how powerful it all really was.
Red Silo Brewing Company
Food was the only thing on our minds when we arrived back in town. We grabbed some pizza from World Foods and headed to Red Silo Brewing Company and took in the town and its community. This place was filled with people from the community enjoying life together. We met the three owners, whose passion for this craft was evident with every word they spoke and small-batch beer or soda they poured. They opened Cookeville’s first brewery, and it’s clear why. Their dedication, hard work and the community they’ve formed created a momentum that helped them open their first store. If you are ever in Cookeville, you’ve got to visit Red Silo. You’ll be happy you did!
The mayor of Cookeville is dedicated to the city and bringing it into modern times in an incredible way. On the way to our next stop, we passed by several art installations and mural walls that encourage expression in the city. Pretty cool!
Cummins Falls State Park
We arrived at Cummins Falls with the sun shining. Ray Cutcher, one of the Park Rangers at Cummins Falls, greeted us and took us to see this grand waterfall. Ray, or as we call him, “Ranger Ray,” was an experienced and caring guide. Along the way, he helped guests and picked up trash. You could tell he really loved this place. Thankfully, I wore my water hiking shoes, because part of our journey was through a river. You could hear the sound of the falls long before you could see them. We turned a corner and Cummins Falls were revealed to us in grand fashion. Families and people filled the area, enjoying time together. I could’ve hung out here all day. Steven and I were brave enough to jump in the pool at the bottom of the falls, even though it was ice cold. It was a great cool down after a warm hike. Be careful, though, those rocks are slippery! Ranger Ray flagged us down and pointed out the storm clouds moving in. So we picked up our things and began our trek back to the car. I’ll never forget this hike. It was strenuous, but a worthy adventure.
The Tri-Star State has shown us that it is a worthy bucket list addition. From the incredible artists to the fare, the music and the glorious views, Tennessee is a place filled with passionate and talented folks who love what they do and the people they get to serve in the process. If you’ve never been, there’s no better time than now! I’ll see you again soon, Tennessee! Steven and Paul signing off. I hope you’ve enjoyed our adventure. Until next time.