Cars and Cash

We love it when road trips have a theme and our recent trip to Nashville and Bowling Green certainly had it — Cars!

Just south of Nashville is the Nissan Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant where free tours are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Altima, Maxima, LEAF, Pathfinder, Rogue and Infiniti QX60 are manufactured here. In fact, about 640,000 vehicles a year are manufactured, making it the highest-volume auto plant in North America.

On the hour-long tour you’ll see various stages of the manufacturing process from beginning when the individual parts and panels are stamped from huge coils of steel to the finish when vehicles go through the final inspections.

From the fresh off the assembly line to the historic is the nearby Lane Museum. This is one of the few museums in the U.S. to specialize in European cars and houses more than 150 cars that date back to the 1920.

These are not your typical vintage cars. Some cars come with two heads, two engines or three wheels. One even has a propeller. The Lane Museum is certainly worthy of a stop. It costs $12 for adults; $8 for seniors and $3 for kids 6 to 17.

Nashville is one of our favorite weekend getaways. It’s a four-hour easy drive and we usually stay downtown but instead opted to go about a mile away in midtown, near Vanderbilt University. We found a fabulous boutique hotel, The Hutton Hotel, which features 247 rooms and 52 luxury suites, all with hi-tech amenities, custom-designed furnishing, sleep-inducing bedding and a dream bathroom. There’s a fabulous spa, gym, and restaurant, The 1808 Grille, and is pet and environmentally friendly. We actually walked back to the hotel from a Predators’ hockey game and it was a reasonable walk.The Hutton House will also chauffeur you in the house van or Telsa.

We go to Nashville every winter to attend at least one Predators’ game but we always try to visit one new museum or eatery and revisit some of the oldies but goodies. A trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame is a must, not only because it represents what Nashville is all about, but that they change exhibits all the time. We went to the Johnny Cash Museum for the first time and saw his costumes, guitars, influences and those who came up with him such as Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Walking around the Hutton Hotel we noticed a long line outside of a chicken restaurant that didn’t end until the place closed. Little did we know that we had stumbled upon one of Nashville’s most famous hot chicken places — Hattie B’s. Eating at Hattie B’s is a commitment of time. We stood in line (in the pouring rain) for about 45 minutes. Once you order, you stand around waiting for a table to open, another 15 minutes. Then you wait maybe another half hour for the chicken to arrive. But it’s worth it.  We ordered the platter with half a bird with two sides. One of us ordered the chicken with medium heat, which burned … still don’t know how we survived the HOT. Hats off to those who order the  Damn Hot and Shut the Cluck Up Hot.

We then went north for about an hour to Bowling Green, home of the Corvette.  Bowling Green is one of those small American cities that often gets overlook but shouldn’t. Our first stop would have been to the Lost River Cave, a walking and boat experience through a seven-mile cave system, but after a few rainy days, the cave was flooded.

There are a lot of franchise hotel options and the Hilton Garden Inn was perfect with a really terrific restaurant and bar. We wasted no time going to the National Corvette Museum that features more than 80 cars, a kid’s section and the Corvette Cafe, whose food is surprisingly good. Tickets are $10 adults, $8 seniors; $5 youth (6-16), And, for those looking for the sinkhole that swallowed up eight Corvettes in 2014, it’s been covered over.

Nearby is the Bowling Green Assembly Plant and its one-hour walking tour. Like the Nissan tour it shows hard workers putting together beautiful cars. American craftsmen at its best.

Before leaving Bowling Green, we stopped at Chaney’s Dairy Barn where the ice cream comes from cows a few feet away. Freshest at its best.

A trip to Nashville and Bowling Green combines music, food, history and most of all cars. It’s an easy drive and an enjoyable lesson about an industry segment that keeps the country and the world, literally, going full speed ahead.