I’ve only been home for 30 minutes at the time I post this, so it’s all fresh as I wrapped up my trip tonight.
I thought I had a really great idea. It’s the month of January, so I know the weather can be terrible “up North,” therefore I would plan a trip that would keep me in the South! Brilliant! I would fly out of Florida on Friday evening after work, connect through St. Louis (the northernmost point in my itinerary) and connect to Little Rock, Arkansas. I’d never been to Arkansas before, and I figured I could check out the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Up next, I would fly to Dallas to catch a flight to Nashville on Sunday morning, eventually returning home through Atlanta on Monday evening. I had a plan in place.
Mother nature doesn’t care about my plans. She brought forth a nasty winter storm across much of the country, causing a plane to slide off the runway at Kansas City, among other winter weather problems of snow, ice, and harsh winds. My flights were canceled Friday, and the earliest flight out on Saturday to get me to Little Rock was 4:05PM. Sad face. The flight wound up being delayed almost an hour. Double sad face. I was re-routed through Dallas on this rebooked flight, and found out upon landing that my flight to Little Rock was also delayed. Reality set in… I would be staying in Little Rock just long enough to check into my hotel after 10pm, catch a short night’s sleep and then back to the airport at 6am to continue my travels to Nashville (back via Dallas, as planned).
By the time I finally reached Nashville, I was exhausted. 4 flights in the span of 18 hours will do that to you. I’d traveled over 2,200 miles and still hadn’t seen anything besides the skylines of the 2 new cities I’d flown into.
I knew from some light Googling beforehand that there was a city bus that could take me to downtown Nashville for $2. What I forgot was that my flight landed 25 minutes early and I was traveling with just a backpack (TLS Motherlode Weekender bag from ebags.com), so I got to the bus pickup location 50 minutes before it would arrive. Oh well, I wasn’t going to spend $20 on an Uber, plus a tip, when a perfectly good express bus was going to arrive “soon.” It came along as promised, and it was a quick 15-minute ride into downtown, but I was unfamiliar with the bus route and didn’t know where the next stop would be after the first one downtown, so I got off about 10 blocks from my hotel. Trudging up the hills, tired and carrying my loaded backpack, I felt weak but excited to finally get to explore.
I walked past the Ryman Auditorium, past Broadway (after stopping to take a few pictures), and continued on to my hotel (booked with points, of course. I love travel hacking). After checking in at the Hilton Garden Inn and dropping off my bag, I walked back to Broadway to see what I could find for a late lunch (2pm Central, 3pm in my head) and stumbled upon the downtown watch party for the AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans, whose stadium rises above the east side of the Cumberland River right downtown Nashville.
Because of the extra (several) thousands of people downtown to watch the game, it was difficult to find a table or seat at any bar. I finally found an empty table for 2 at Luigi’s City Pizza near the Johnny Cash Museum, but service was expectedly slow and inattentive. This is all-too-common for a solo traveler and solo diner, because servers think they’re better off giving good service to larger groups than someone dining alone, in terms of expected tips. I finished my food quickly and wandered some more around Broadway and Painter’s Alley.
After walking along the waterfront, I made my way to The Gulch area southwest of downtown to get a picture of the famous mural #WhatLiftsYou Wings. The line was about 30 minutes long, and it was getting colder and windier as the day was nearing sunset. I befriended a group of young women who were there for a bachelorette party, and we were making funny comments about each person as they stepped up for their moments in front of the wings. Everyone had literally stood in line for 30 minutes, watching others, and many didn’t know what pose to strike or have their jackets off to be picture-ready. We agreed to take each others’ pictures, and the young ladies were making me laugh when I stepped up to strike my pose with the wings:
After that, I was pretty much spent, so I retreated to my hotel room to try and warm up, plus watch the rest of the AFC and NFC championship games. Tennessee had squandered their early lead, and San Francisco decided their game early on, running out to a 27-0 lead at halftime and never looking back.
I read for the rest of the night and fell asleep pretty early, which means, you guessed it, I woke up really early too! 4:22AM. Ughhhh. Reading Monday morning blog posts kept me occupied for a while, but I never did fall back asleep.
After finally deciding to get up and get ready, I went back downtown to the Another Broken Egg Café, because I’ve had beignets on the brain since Penny went to New Orleans right before Christmas! I nearly froze walking there, but thankfully I found a Starbucks along the way, so I enjoyed a toasty hot chocolate as I walked.
After breakfast, I was looking for another respite from the 20º weather and snow flurries, so I stumbled into the Johnny Cash museum for a while, then the Goo-Goo Clusters store across the street! After a little more wandering around, I figured it was time to go back to the hotel to check out and gather my belongings.
Backpack in position, I headed back towards Broadway to grab a quick bite to eat at Jack Cawthon’s Bar-B-Que and then catch the $2 express bus back to the airport. I’d tried to grab a bite at Martin’s BBQ, right across from my hotel, but both days they were out of sausage, which is my preferred BBQ meat. Jack’s was worth the extra steps back to Broadway.
Fortunately, the rest of the trip went off without a hitch. Both flights on Monday evening landed early, allowing plenty of time to make my connection in Atlanta, and I was already in my car and on the Interstate by the time I was schedule to land in Fort Myers. (Hint, I park in long-term parking, but walk to my car instead of taking the shuttle. There’s a row with dozens of ADA spaces and at the far end of that row, there’s some regular parking spaces that people don’t seem to know about… shhh!)
It didn’t start out great, but I’m still glad I went on this trip and I truly can’t complain because this was totally #FirstWorldProblems. I had $133 voucher from my flight to DC I canceled due to Hurricane Dorian. I had a $75 annual travel credit from my Southwest Priority card. I had a $50 Southwest gift card. And I booked 2 hotel nights on points (with the 3rd booked through the Dosh app’s new travel section, which I’m waiting to see get reimbursed since I was over 1,000 miles away when I was supposed to stay in Little Rock) That’s only $114 out of pocket for flights, a couple $18 Uber rides in Little Rock, two $2 bus rides in Nashville, $23 for the Johnny Cash museum, plus food. Less than $200 for a whirlwind 3-day trip across 5 states. I’ll take that, any day!
Do you have any “secret” travel hacks like my airport parking spot? What’s something that went wrong on one of your trips and how did you overcome it? Did you know there was a Billy Bass Adoption Center in Little Rock? 😊