Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fontanel Mansion - A Biker's Destination?

Fontanel Mansion, formerly the 136 acre property and estate home to country crooner Barbara Mandrell, once one of twang towns biggest mega super stars, is now a great tourist and event destination that you need to check out if you're visiting Nashville.

I had the good fortune to attend and participate in their very first Music City Car and Bike show, what a great time. With my bike polished and clean including bright white side wall tires, I made the twenty minute ride down to the Whites Creek area all the while hoping I wouldn't collide with one of the millions of cicadas that have been buzzing around Nashville the past few weeks. Lucky for me I arrived without incident although I was prepared as I had packed and carried with me a container of Windex wipes and some dry towels just in case.

When I arrived at the welcome point I was greeted by a man directing traffic. I had no idea what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised to see so many show cars already being lined up during the 10am registration period. I was pointed a different direction as the bikes were being lined up front and center near the new Farmhouse Restaurant, just one the many new facilities on the property along with the old original farmhouse on the property which is now a quaint little gift shop and ticket counter. On the other side of the gift shop was a beautiful old leafy tree that stood tall enough to share a shady parking spot for all the show bikes including mine.

I found my spot in the lineup and went to the registration desk to check in and get my bike number. While at the registration table I signed up for a beautiful black Gibson guitar that was being given away at the end of the day. I don't play but it would look great in my house, so I dropped my name in the box along with all the other hopeful winners. I took my number 5 sticker and placed it on my bike. I was officially a participant in my very first bike show.

With several hours of down time remaining before the show was over I decided to go explore the area and view a few of the vehicles that were participating in the car show. My first stop was in the gift shop. The old farmhouse had been remodeled with an open floor plan to allow many visitors to stroll freely around the shop. The selection of merchandise was good - clothes, caps, jams and jellies, candles, picnic blankets, Barbara Mandrell memorabilia, art work and the usual little trinkets you'd expect to find as a keepsake treasure of your travels. I knew I didn't have room to carry anything back with me on my bike so I left empty handed but could have certainly dropped a bill or two on several things that caught my eye.

Next I walked over to the field that had been set up to display the show cars. I've never really been to a car show so I was like a kid with a new toy, eyes wide and a smile on my face. The cars were impressive, new, old, restored and some even for sale like the old classic baby blue Chevelle for $28,000, I passed on that as well.

There were plenty of Corvettes, both new and old including the timeless Stingray. Then there were the Thunderbirds. I know they brought that car back a few years ago but there's nothing like the original with the sharp lines and distinctive leather seats. How could you not love those cars back in the day.

Next I came across my son's dream car, the Dodge Viper. These are newer sports cars with a high octane of energy just in the looks alone. They had what seemed like all the colors of the rainbow represented, blue, yellow, green, red as well as a white one and a black one, but my favorite was definitely the red one with the matching red and black interior. A pair of red fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror was the perfect bit of tackiness needed to offset the shear sportiness that oozed all over that fast machine. What a car!

I finished my car viewing with a few old Chevy and Ford restorations as well as some other unique vehicles and headed back toward the bike area. As I approached the bikes I was pleased to see that several bikes had entered the show but that was nothing compared to all the bikers that had just ridden out to attend the event in general. There were large riding groups coming in one after another with pipes roaring and popping. Had this become the new biker destination I wondered? It's certainly not a bad choice for a nice afternoon or morning ride.

By now I was getting a little hungry so I decided it was time to pay a visit to the Farmhouse Restaurant. The crowds had gotten much bigger so I had to put my name on a waiting list and got my pager and decided to sit outside in the shade of the front porch until my table was ready. I sat right across from my bike and watch as people checked out our rides pointing, talking and making pictures. I had a nice conversation with a young guy named Chuck who just moved here from New York. He was showing his 1966 Honda Black Bomber. This bike was built with a 450cc engine that would turn out 10,000 rpm's sending a clear message to the British bike makers to check their rear view mirror. Although quick, even in '66 the styling was a bit outdated and by 1968 the design was completely changed but today it's a highly sought after bike for collectors. Chuck told me he practically stole it from a fellow in New York that had taken it apart to restore it but simply couldn't put it back together again. He picked it up in pieces in a couple of boxes for $300. Still not restored but it is running and looks pretty cool.

My pager finally buzzed and I headed inside to get my table. With seating options inside and out I opted to go back out on the side porch where I could oversee the tourists and listen to the live bluegrass band playing out next to the old dairy barn and silo. The menu selection was just what you'd expect, country cooking, with breakfast served all day. I had a hard time deciding what to order, the menu had so many mouth watering options like the Buttermilk-Dipped Fried Chicken, the Creole-Seasoned Country Catfish and the Beer-Braised Beef Brisket or the 12-Hour Pork Roast. Heck they even had something called Toad in a Hole but finally I decided on just a regular old cheeseburger without the tomato, yeah, I know.

When my plate finally arrived the waitress told me she'd made a mistake on the order and actually ordered me the Farmhouse Cheeseburger, which she assured me I'd like but offered to take it back to the kitchen just the same. I told her I'd try it. What she sat down in front of me was a work of food art. The yeast bread bun was running over with ingredients that I wasn't expecting like the tobacco onions (kind of like onion ring pieces), pimento cheese, a layer of thin-cut country ham and finally a thick 8 ounce juicy beef patty - no tomato of course. I'm not a food critic or even a burger lover but this burger was one of the best I've ever had. Unfortunately, I didn't have room for one of their homemade pies or blackberry cobbler, but it gives me a great reason to come back later.

After paying my tab I walked over to the old dairy barn that has become home to Walden's Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. What a great concept. The center is a wonderful educational source not to mention the work they are doing to release rehabilitated birds and animals back to the wild on the Fontanel land, something that Barbara Mandrell herself has been especially fond of with all that's been done on the property. Recently, the center released four great horned owls along with a family of raccoons and grey squirrels.

Next stop on my sight-seeing tour is the newly built Studio Gallery. The Gallery is a 5000 square foot multi-use facility that can house art exhibits and memorabilia, but it's also designed for state-of-the-art television and video productions with a live studio audience. Just opened is a new production called Music City on Stage, a musical showcase and dinner or as they call it "dinnertainment". Later this year they will be performing again with a show called Music City Christmas. This is definitely an alternative to the General Jackson Showboat or the Opryland shows during the holiday season.

Just outside the Studio Gallery is where you catch one of the shuttles to head up to the actual mansion. Unfortunately, my time was running out on the day so that'll have to wait 'til my next trip not to mention the fact that I didn't get to hike along the trails that have been created in the vast woods around the property. Speaking of woods I also didn't mention the Woods Amphitheater. This may be the best part of the whole property. Although I wasn't able to see it on this trip as I understand it the setting is an open air 4,500 seat natural amphitheater nestled amongst the woods, nothing like anything else in Middle Tennessee. With upcoming shows like Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Steely Dan and Big and Rich on tap to perform this will certainly become a well-known event destination very soon.

As my day wound down to a close I was proud to receive a plaque for showing off my bike. There's no doubt that I'll be back and will probably do so on my two-wheel scooter, so yeah, I'd say it's a biker's destination.

If you'd like to more about Fontanel Mansion visit

Monday, May 30, 2011


30 May, 2011 - Memorial Day. Beautiful, careFREE, unassuming, lazy, relaxed, fun, that's what today was. Basking in the sun at the pool, a cold drink in hand with occasional passing clouds overhead while listening to the song of the cicadas and the SiriusXM 70's station . What more could you ask for other than a little less of the cicada? It's our God-given right to enjoy such a day, right? I suppose some may assume so. Afterall, it's built in to the calendar and it's an official day off from work for most people.

Memorial Day. Yes, seems that we've seen another one come and go. Perhaps, just perhaps you gave a moment of your day to remember what Memorial Day is really all about. It's about memorializing the men and women that have afforded you the FREEdom you have to do all those American things; being careFREE, lazy, relaxed, unassuming, on a fun, beautiful day with friends and family.

I hope you took a moment to remember all the heros in our wonderful country, those that have served, those that are serving and those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our FREEdom. Our brave young men and women of the armed forces step up each and every day to make sure that we are protected from those that have disdain and hatered for our country. We are FREE to enjoy ourselves not only on a day off from work but each and every day for a lifetime.

I salute the flag with pride as well as the men and women who give me the peace to do so FREEly without fear. I am an American, a proud American who believes in our democracy, who respects our FREEdom and recognizes the price that is paid to live as I do. I am thankful for the veterans that have served, for the soldiers that have died, and for the future that we shall continue to fight for.

Thank you, fellow Americans for your sacrifice.

You will not be forgotten.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Where'd It Go?

Are you kidding me? This is the last day of 2009 and another decade to boot? Where'd it go? I mean I know I was right here the whole time but I just can't imagine where the time went and how it went so quickly! Seems like just a few months ago that Beth and I were chasing our son Daniel around the mid-state watching his high school band competitions and football and soccer games - now he's graduated from college and married! That'll get your attention...

I started thinking about this just a few days ago and it just doesn't seem that it's possible we've just watched another year come and go much less the entire decade. I know it's very cliche' but I honestly don't know where the time went.

It has been a busy year and the Davidson home has been on the go a lot this entire year. Beth and I started a new hobby as many of you know, that being motorcycling. We both have our own bikes now and we spent as much time as we could learning to ride and ride well. We had a blast but the bikes have been put away for several weeks now because of the colder weather. Can't wait 'til spring.

I've been traveling quite a bit especially to Tampa, Florida where I've been involved in our company's purchase of a new property that we'll be moving in to on January 4th. Can't say that going to Tampa in December and January is all that bad, in fact I've been trying to figure out how to keep a winter office there.

Let's see, what else, we got ourselves a new president, the first African American president, who took office this year and we certainly felt the crunch of one of the greatest economic crises in our nations history over the past year and several months. These are just a couple of the big events from this past year but there are so many things to reflect on from the past year and decade so I thought that I'd just list some of them to jog your memory. I hope that you enjoy the memories but moreover I hope you enjoy all that the future holds - Happy New Year in 2010!!

* November 2000 hanging chad debacle from the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore

* January 2009 crash landing of a US Airways jet into the Hudson River in New York

* February 2003 - Space shuttle Columbia explodes over Tyler, Texas upon returning to Earth from a 16 day space mission

* September 11, 2001 - Terrorist attack killing nearly 3,000 American civilians

* July 2000 - Air France Concord crashed killing all 109 on board

* August 2005 - Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans and surrounding areas

* June 2004 marked the passing of former President Ronald Reagan

* March 2005 - Michael Jackson goes on trial, wearing pajamas, for alleged child molestation charges

* June 2009 - Michael Jackson's passing

* August 2007 - Michael Vick is convicted and goes to prison for his role in bank-rolling a dog fighting ring

*April 2003 - Saddam Hussein's statue is fallen in by soldiers in Baghdad

* December 2004 - The Indian Ocean tsunami claims over 200,000 Indonesian people in the deadliest tsunami in modern history

* August 2007 - Bridge collapse over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota

* April 2005 - Passing of Pope John Paul II

* January 2000 - December 2009 - California wildfires, the never ending battle

* April 2007 - At least 30 students were murdered when a gunman began randomly shooting inside a building on the campus of Virginia Tech University

* December 2008 - The fall of financier Bernie Madoff begins upon his confession of stealing billions from investors in an elaborate Ponzi scheme

* April 2003 - Hong Kong takes serious precautions after more than 100 people die from a SARS epidemic, an acute respiratory syndrome

* July 2009 - Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in as the newest Supreme Court Judge

* August 2007 - Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's all-time home run record - 756

* April 2009 - Chrysler Corporation announces bankruptcy

* November 2009 - Tiger Woods fall from grace begins among allegations of marital indiscretions and womanizing

* 2003 - Year of the Mini Cooper

Other interesting things and/or people from the past decade include:

* YouTube

* IPod and Podcasts

* MySpace

* Facebook

* Twitter

* Emails and Texting

* Sexting

* Blackberry or Crackberry

* Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift

* Kenny Chesney

* Snoop Dogg

* Steroids

* Windows Vista

* Smart Phones

* Jon and Kate Plus 8

* The Biggest Loser

* TomKat and Brangelina

* Survivor

* American Idol

* Lindsay Lohann

* Danika Patrick

* Tom Brady and Payton Manning

* Awareness Ribbons and Bracelets

* E-Books


* Reality TV

* Guitar Hero

* Wii

* Digital Cameras

What a decade - have fun the next ten!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering September 11...

Eight years ago today beginning at 9:03am our country experienced the worst attack ever carried out on American soil against innocent civilians during our nations 233 year history.

I remember being in my office when someone first said a plane had crashed into a building in New York. At that time I didn't even know it was one of the twin towers. What a horrible accident I thought. Moments later I heard it was a major commercial jetliner and it had hit the World Trade Center south tower.

I remember several of us in the office scrambling to hook up a small twelve inch color television set desperately trying to see if we could find out what had gone wrong. Within minutes we were watching with disbelief and sadness. As we watched the ensuing fire spread in the building from the first airplane a second plane entered the picture and within a split second had impacted the second tower creating a firebomb like nothing I had ever seen. At that very second I realized we were not seeing an accident but were witnessing some sort of terrible attack.

I remember the news reports as they started pouring in from various sources from everywhere with speculations, accusations and questions of why. Then the inevitable reports from the third and forth jetliner attacks surfaced. The third attack was on The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and then the forth, a diverted attack which resulted in a crash in a field in Shaksville, Pennsylvania thanks to several of the heroic passengers and flight crew as it was supposedly heading toward Washington, DC, presumably to target our nations capital.

I remember my utter disbelief of what I was seeing play out before my eyes.

I remember the image of seeing people jump to their deaths to avoid the shear pain and torture of being burned alive.

I remember seeing the people on the streets below as they scattered and ran in terror trying to avoid being maimed, mutilated and killed from falling debris.

I remember the thickening of my emotions and the tears as they began to swell up in my eyes. How could this happen, I thought, and why would anyone want to kill and hurt so many innocent people?

I remember watching until I was sick to my stomach and finally couldn't watch anymore.

I remember leaving the office early and having a feeling of such emptiness. It was painful to see such a horrific event and I wondered if it was safe to be or go anywhere. Where would the next attack take place and when?

I remember watching the sky, waiting for a plane to fly by and wondered where it might be going. It wasn't long that the sky became empty as a nationwide grounding of all air traffic was put into place.

I remember later in the day the eerie silence of the sky and knew that on that day, September 11, 2001 would be a day I'd remember the rest of my life.

In all, on that fateful day, 2977 civilians (not including the 19 hijackers) lost their lives including 411 emergency responders from firefighters to police and EMT workers. Another 6,291 were victims of injury.

In the hours and days that followed we learned that the attacks were the master-mind of Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. He had plotted, along with other high ranking Al-Qaeda leaders, for several years to fulfill these vicious attacks on Americans. In the Koran it is interpreted as saying "slay the pagans wherever ye find them" and in Osama's mind all Americans are pagans. Osama bin Laden's radical beliefs were consumed with hurting and killing as many Americans as possible. He said, "it is the duty of every Muslim to kill Americans anywhere".

As we know, bin Laden is an extremist and that is certainly not the belief of all Muslims. In fact shortly after the attacks Muslim nationals from all over the world denounced the attacks and stepped up to offer whatever means possible to help in the recovery of victims and aid the injured throughout the aftermath.

Today, eight years later, the American spirit and desire to be free as a nation remains solid and constant. Our flag has never flown higher or more proud. Our soldiers and troops are still fighting, giving their own lives, to ensure that we as Americans can be free and that we can live daily without fear. We are a giving country and a land of opportunity. At no time in our history have we resolved to submit to threats and terror nor shall we start today. We are a peace loving country and have and always will continue to stand as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nashville's Biltmore?

I like big houses. They're interesting. They make you think "what if". The story behind a big home is usually pretty facinating when you start learning how it came to be. If you're like me then you'd understand the interest. Some people just view the home as a big guady structure and accuse the owner of simply show-boating the family fortune. That may be true but what was the reasoning behind the home; there's probably a really good story.

Nashville and the surrounding areas of middle Tennessee, most notably, Williamson County, is home to several enormous residential dwellings. Over the years I've enjoyed scoping out some of these properties and even visiting some of the newer ones during the construction phase when you can walk through the home and get a chance to see how the other half lives. Some of them are without a doubt guady but doesn't it make you want to know more about it? We recently learned about the Alan Jackson estate, Sweetbriar (photo above), on Moran Road being listed for sale; 19,000 square feet, 125 acres, a boathouse with rather large private lake and a few other modest necessities along with a $38 million price tag and it could be yours. Good luck with the light bill payment! Go to for a virtual tour.

Most all of us know about Alan Jackson and his march of fame in the music industry but what about all those others? It just makes you wonder.

A friend of mine in the construction industry recently tipped me off to a project taking place on Hillsboro Road at the intersection of Sneed Road just outside of Nashville in Williamson County. It seems that back in 2004 a 207 acre tract of prime land was bought at this location by a couple of local Tennessee entrepreneurs, Preston Ingram, chairman and founder of AIM Healthcare Services and private investor Scott Sohr, for the smooth pricetag of $2.3 million. The two partners had amassed over $200 million worth of land options by the early spring of 2005 in hopes of capitalizing in the booming development of homesites in the hot middle Tennessee housing market. As we know the market took a nosedive and the hot home sales quickly simmered as developers watched land values slide and their portfolios shrink. For Ingram and Sohr, however, it seems they were able to foresee the future of the housing market and were able to dump the Hillsboro tract of land for a cool $9.2 million profit back in 2007 just prior to the housing crash. Enter Todd Wagner.

Records show that the transaction of the land sale went to a trust in Palm Harbor, Florida called Remington PH Trust. While I don't know anything about Remington, I do know that the trust is linked to Todd Wagner. Wagner is the longtime business partner of Mark Cuban, controversial owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban and Wagner both University of Indiana alums partnered up in 1995 to begin a venture called AudioNet which broadcast live sporting events and radio stations over the internet. In 1998 they changed the name of the company to and took the company public. The venture proved to be sucessful, so much so that it got the attention of a little company with a funny name called Yahoo! Yahoo! bought the business during the boom of the .com era and made Cuban and Wagner instant billionaires, $5.7 billion to be exact. Wagner stayed on with Yahoo! for a few more years before resigning to persue other entertainment ventures. Today Wagner is heavily involved in the movie and TV industry with his company 2929 Entertainment.

So, what's all this got to do with big houses you may ask. Well, it seems that Mr. Wagner has begun developing the property on Hillsboro Road. No, he won't be trying to develop and sell homes to the Nashville's rich and famous. Instead Mr. Wagner is in the works of designing and building his own home on the property. Recent insider sources are reporting that Wagner intends to build an estate that more than quadruples the size of Alan Jackson's simple dwelling. That's right, you could very well soon see Google satelite images of a home that rivals that of the one in Asheville, North Carolina known as Biltmore. My sources indicate that the home plans have been estimated from anywhere between 85,000 to 130,000 square feet (that is not a typo). Now granted, Biltmore is said to be 175,000 square feet but does it really mater? (Photo to the right shows the front entrance to the Hillsboro Road property at the entersection of Sneed Road. A guard can be seen in the photo as well as around the clock 24 hours a day)

I can't help but wonder why Wagner has chosen this area for his dream home site. Could it be that we could soon have a new professional sports team owner in town? The question is entertaining and has validity. At one time Mr. Wagner had serious interest in purchasing the NHL's Dallas Stars. That deal never developed but with the state of the current Nashville Predators organization it could offer Wagner a quick deal letting the current local owners group off the hook for what seems like a never ending uphill battle in ticket sales and attendance. With Wagner's buddy Cuban not far away for sports team owner advice, you could reason that it could just be the ticket for the Nashville Predators franchise in hopes of a fresh step toward financial success. But let's not stop there. Could you even foresee a scenario where Wagner might be interested in taking our fair city to new heights with a proposed professional baseball or basketball team? Or how about this for conversation - could he be positioning himself as future owner of the Tennessee Titans? Probably not but it's not an outrageous question. Let's face it, Bud Adams is a bit long in the tooth and who knows if one of his daughters will want to carry the torch or not.

After Wagner graduated from Indiana he obtained a law degree from the University of Virginia and moved on to Dallas, Texas where he became a CPA. He has deep roots in Texas and has been involved in organizing charity events in the Dallas area that involve the likes of Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner, as well as several players from the squad. He has been associated with several people involved in the Dallas Cowboy organization over the years and can certainly be considered more than just a casual fan. With longtime friend Cuban's involvement with sports team ownership I think it makes reasonable sense that Wagner could be looking to engage himself in that line of work as well.

Realistically, the Predators gig seems that it would be the most appealing and available venture for an aspiring local sports team owner. Who knows, perhaps Wagner has ambitions to become the next big country music star. Probably not but his deep pockets will allow him to play and frolic around Middle Tennessee for as long as wishes. Only time will tell, just as only time will tell just how big the house on Hillsboro will become.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paducah Photo 09 Exhibit

Thanks to everyone wishing me luck in the PaducahPhoto09 contest and exhibit. From the galleries point of view the exhibit was a huge success. The opening night reception was packed with artists and art enthusiasts. I was impressed with the gallery and the work that had gone in to putting the show together. Exhibits of this size and nature are always a challange to produce so, my hats off to Michael Crouse, the gallery director, as well as his staff for a job well done.

I am sad to say that that I did not place but I was pleased nonetheless to have been selected as one of the 70 exhibits from 685 entries accross the country. The juror, Antonio Martinez, an art professor at Southern Illinois University, chose six photos overall, three places and three honorable mentions. I'm posting the winners for you to see and you can decide for yourself how you like them. Frankly, I'm still biased toward my photos, especially Three Trees and Seven Horses, but it's the jurors decision and what strikes him in deciding the winners. Again, I was proud to be a part of it.

The show will continue through August 29th. If you are in Paducah and have an extra moment stop by to see the exhibit. You'll have a chance to see some wonderful photography and show your support to the Yeiser Art Center. The gallery is located in the historic Market House on lower Broadway just a block from the river. Maybe next year we'll have better luck!

By the way, don't forget you can always order a giclee print of any of my fine art prints by going to my website Go to the Fine Art gallery for more information.

The winners...

1st Place - After the Water by Charity Valentine

2nd Place - When the Bough Breaks by Libby Rowe (a fellow Nashvillian)

3rd Place - Fallen Friend by Amy Bishop

Honorable Mentions

Clouds by Amelia Fletcher

#2 by Luca Tommasini

Support. by Karen Pierce

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Famous words from a famous Tennessean, Ms. Minnie Pearl.

What a fabulous day it was to jump on the Harley and head down the great Natchez Trace Parkway. With sunny skies over our heads and the wind in our face Beth and I set out to do a little exploring and indulging in some terrific Tennessee jewels along this grand road once known as the Devil's Backbone. The Natchez Trace Parkway which starts in Pasquo, Tennessee is within just a few miles of our home and makes it way 444 miles down to Natchez, Mississippi.

The 8,000 year old trail began to see modern day travelers in the 1700 - 1800's during a time of war between new settlers to the area and the native Indians that hunted the land, not to mention bandits that would seize the moment to raid and rob travelers along the trail. The trail was so unruly that wise travelers would often team up together and even traveled with postal workers that used the trail as a delivery route. Today, the All American Road trail is a beautiful byway of scenic farmlands, hiking trails and historic landmarks; safety in numbers not necessary.

Just a few miles down the Trace was our first stop in a little village known as Leiper's Fork. Settled in the 1790's by early pioneering families from North Carolina and Virginia, Leiper's Fork is today known as the only historic village on the Tennessee portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is home to some of the most beautiful rolling hills of farmland in the Middle Tennessee area.

Beth and I went to the little town for one purpose - lunch. We pulled into a parking spot in front of Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant along with seven or eight other bikes. Obviously, this was a good choice. When we walked inside we stepped back in time a few years. The old market is dead set against the ways of modern restaurants. With grocery options in the back of the store and an assortment of makeshift tables and chairs, none of which matched, in the front of the store we knew we had found a source of good country cooking. A made to order grill was awaiting for our selection. Beth had a thick hamburger with garden fresh toppings and I had the home-style hot ham and cheese. Needless to say this was not your typical Burger King nor Arbys, neither of which could come close to the tasty sandwiches that filled our appetites.

After a good lunch we hit the Trace again heading several miles on down the road before making a rest stop at the old Captain John Gordon House. Captain Gordon was a famed Indian fighter commissioned by the government in the late 1700's to acquire land from the Indians. For his efforts he was given over 600 acres of land on the Natchez Trace trail along the Duck River. This was prime land perfect for agriculture and trading posts. The Gordon home was built in 1818 and was said to be one of the finest all brick homes of it's time but unfortunately the captain only spent one year in the house before succumbing to pneumonia and dying in 1819.

Just about 100 - 150 yards from the Gordon House is Highway 50 to Centerville, Tennessee. We decided to jump onto 50 all the way in to Centerville where we could catch Highway 100 back toward home. Not being familiar with Centerville we took in the scenery along the way. Much to our surprise, upon our arrival to Centerville we came across a sign to a winery that we had been told about just the night before, naturally we decided to check it out. What a hidden jewel out in the country!

Grinder's Switch Winery was nothing like what we expected but was everything you would hope for. A quaint little cabin in the woods in a primitive setting would not be what you'd expect in a typical winery but that's just what the the proprietors Joe and Gail Chessor had in mind when they opened the business a few years ago. Beth asked Joe how he got into wine making and when his wife gave him that look he just said it was a long story. After talking to him for a while it was obvious that it was his love of good wine that must have started it all which was lucky for us because we were able to take home a wonderful award winning Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Chessor's vineyard and aged from Tennessee white oak.

Just before leaving, the Chessor's urged us to visit Minnie Pearl who had recently taken up residence in the side yard gazebo of the winery. You may have heard of the now famous Minnie Pearl statue dispute that had been covered by national media outlets several months ago but if not here's the scoop. A sculpture of the Grinder's Switch native was commissioned back in 2004 for about $150,000. The money was donated by an anonymous citizen with one restriction; she had to remain on the downtown square in Centerville. The city government said no problem, as they had hoped to see some additional tourists come to town to see the great Grand Ole Opry star. All was fine until a few years later when construction around the town square required that Ms. Minnie needed to be moved. After much hostile debate, the sculpture, commissioned by Bill Rains, was shipped down to a hotel in Linden, Tennessee for a short visit in the lobby. There is no connection to Linden other than the hotel management thought it would be nice to offer Minnie a place to stay while the city leaders in Centerville worked out their differences.

In the end I'm really not sure who had finally had enough, but one day out of the blue Joe got a call and was asked if he wanted Minnie to oversee his establishment. Joe said absolutely, afterall, what a better fit for his Grinder's Switch Winery; and the rest, as they say, is history. She's quite a sight and I'm glad we got a chance to visit with her.

After grabbing a few photos of the winery and Beth with Minnie we took off with another close by stop in mind. Just a couple of miles down the road from the winery was it's namesake, Grinder's Switch, Tennessee. Not knowing what to expect we traveled down an old unmarked two lane country road until we reached some railroad tracks. Just off to the left of the tracks was an old abandoned train depot and a simple little sign that read Grinder's Switch 1940. Apparently, back in the day, the area was a bustling spot for shipping and became famous thanks to the fictional tales of Minnie Pearl.

Once we finished our visit in Grinder's Switch we were back on the road again heading down Highway 100 with one more stop in mind before heading to the house. Just as we completed our full circle back to the head of the Natchez Trace we stopped for dinner at the world famous Loveless Cafe. Even though it was clearly early evening breakfast was the choice of our appetite's desire. You just can't beat those homemade preserves served up with the secret recipe biscuits that the Loveless is known for. If you've never been there or it's been a while since you were there, then it's time to go back.

Since shutting down the motel operations back in the mid 80's the business has expanded not only the restaurant but several shops including the Hams and Jams retail and mailorder shop. Recently, the new owners added a huge event barn behind the restaurant for special events and entertainment. Some of the shops include unique gifts and arts as well as a high-end bicycle shop. $25 later plus tip, Beth and I headed to the house catching the beginning of a rain storm a couple of miles before we rolled back into our driveway. We were a little wet but it was well worth the trip on the bike.

All in all it would be hard to beat such a great day but I can assure you, we will try.

To learn more about some of the places we visited in my blog go to the following websites.