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.