Armed with MapQuest directions, an atlas, and enough homemade butter cookies and snacks for us to survive a week in a blizzard, we set off for Nashville.
One day last month, I had been surfing the internet and realized tickets to the Grand Ole Opry were pretty inexpensive. I realized this after I discovered Trace Adkins was playing there. I fired off an email to Erika with a simple question: "It would be crazy to make a road trip to Nashville just to see Trace Adkins at the Grand Ole Opry, right?" To my surprise, she didn't say no. Within the next half an hour, tickets to the show were purchased, and we had a girls weekend planned.
From that moment, I had been very much looking forward to this trip. Especially when I realized my last girls weekend was in 1996!!
At the very first toll booth, we were both struck by the overwhelming urge to enthusiastically announce to the attendant "We're going to NASHVILLE!" We were able to contain our excitement until the van window was rolled up before busting out with the announcement, then laughing about it. We were able to spare each and every toll booth attendant we encountered, but only barely. We did, however, make our announcement to passing cars and trucks (with the windows rolled up so only we could hear and laugh each time).
Early into the trip, we discovered I have the bladder of a chipmunk, and Erika is a camel. No matter, we still made good time getting to Nashville. We only ran into a little light rain, and some minor construction, arriving at our hotel around 4:00pm. We thought we made pretty good time.
Once we were in our room, we called home to say we arrived safely, then waited FOREVER for the shuttle to the mall. We thought we would try to get some souvenir shopping done, and eat a really nice sit down high-caloric fattening dinner. We didn't find any souvenirs we were willing to spend money on (although we did discover a "stalker saleslady" in one store, yikes!), and the only place that didn't have a long wait to be seated at that time was TGIFriday's. It was during dinner that Erika and I decided we could never ever be vegetarians. (GO MEAT!) It was also during dinner that I discovered you can take the Mom out of the house, but she's still a Mom in Nashville. Someone had dropped a couple of rib bones on the floor and left them there. No less than six people walked past them without picking them up. I was afraid someone would trip on them, so I took my napkin, scooped them up, then gave them to the waiter who was standing nearby. "These were on the floor". Erika laughed at me when I sat back down. What? That bugged me!
Our waitress was unintentionally funny ("I don't know anything about the capitals of the states up North--Chicago, being the capital of Illinois, was great when I was there!"). The poor dear was floored when she carded me and realized I was nearly 40 years old. I thought her eyeballs were gonna pop right out of her head.
By the time we finished walking the mall and eating dinner, the shuttle was done shuttling for the day, so we opted to walk back to the hotel. On the way over, the shuttle driver told us it was a "10 minute walk" from the mall to our hotel. We were staying literally right across the street from the Gaylord Opryland Complex -- all nine acres of it. It was a long, hot, "way more than 10 minutes" walk back to the hotel, but it served to aid in the digestion of our dinner. The walk also gave us an opportunity to see a few little shops we probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise. We made a note to check those places out the next day if there was time.
Before turning off the lights and saying "Good night, John Boy", (and after discovering the knobs on the bathroom sink worked 'backwards' Seriously! Backwards knobs? WTH?), we made our plan for Saturday, set the alarm and dozed off to dreamland. That was the first decent sleep I'd had in a week.
Saturday morning came early in spite of a good night's sleep. After Erika shut off the alarm, the first thing I said was "TODAY IS THE DAY I FULFILL MY DESTINY!" and then I laughed like a loon.
A couple of months ago, Erika asked me what I wanted for my birthday. After thinking about it for a moment, I said "I would like to meet Trace Adkins, shake his hand, and talk to him for a moment." I do believe her reply was "Wouldn't you like something easier, like a million dollars?"
Seriously now, I really do have all I'll ever need. I thought that "Trace Adkins wish" would be something fun, different, adventurous -- out of the ordinary.
I know, I know... I sound like a completely dorky FAN... gah! So sue me. Why not have a crazy dream for a little while? This girls weekend Thelma and Louise-esque road trip adventure to Nashville had turned into a chance to possibly "live the dream"-- be my "brush with celebrity." And, if it didn't work out that way, it would still be a whole helluva lotta fun, right?
When our fit of giggles ended, we got dressed, had breakfast and waited for Jerry the tour bus driver to pick us up for our "Homes of the Stars" bus tour. This trip to Nashville was nothing if not completely cheesy. Our tour included "a brief tour of the Historic District of downtown Nashville, including 2nd Avenue and the Ryman Auditorium. Then we are off to the land of the stars. You will enjoy a driving tour through the neighborhoods of the elite Country Music Artists who call Nashville their home..." Oh, hey! Trace's house just happens to be on the tour! Well, whaddaya know?!
Jerry the tour bus driver seemed very knowledgable about the area and the stars (who knows how much of it was b.s. but it was fun), and that's what we were there for. We didn't see any stars at any of their houses, even though we had heard that a couple of them sometimes come on the bus to say hello. Jerry the tour bus driver did tell us what kinds of cars some of the stars drive even! (We were on the lookout for Trace's pick up from that moment on. In fact, I think I've seen it three times since I got home...)
After the bus tour, we did some walking around and souvenir shopping. We went to Cooter's and the Wax Museum before going over to the Opry Shop and getting an idea of where we had to go later that night. We took a lot of pictures, then headed over to John A's for a late lunch/early dinner. Their sign promised "good food", and they delivered. Erika and I gave John A's restaurant the "best buns" award -- seriously the rolls they served with our meal were FABULOUS. The waitress was very nice, too. We asked her if she knew where the nearest Harley Davidson dealer was (more souvenir shopping) and she went so far as to draw us a map! We found the place with no problem at all. (I'm going to take a moment here to say that I never once got lost the whole trip. NOT ONCE.)
Once all of our souvenirs were purchased, we went back to the hotel to freshen up before the show. I had received an email before I left (I didn't take a laptop with me. A decision I regretted more than once over the weekend!) that there would be a fan club photo taken before the 7:00pm show. If any fan club members were going to be in the area, they could stop by and be in the photo and sign a card for Trace commemorating his five years with the Grand Ole Opry.
Yes, I'm 12. In an effort to "fulfill my destiny", I recently joined the Trace Adkins Fan Club. You can continue reading whenever you're done laughing.
So, it's hot and we're standing around waiting for a group of Trace fans to congregate and head in a particular direction. We spotted them, and Erika and I parted ways (they were checking membership cards -- Erika didn't have one, so they could not let her "in"). Erika went to find our seats, and I followed the group around to the back of the Grand Ole Opry. My ID was checked, I signed the card and then waited for what seemed like a long time. Erika called me on my cell phone at one point, but I had to go because we were starting to gather for the photo. I decided to stand by a man wearing a yellow shirt so I could find myself later in the photograph. As the Fan Club President gathered us, she announced "Now, we're going to take the picture from up there, so when Trace comes out look up for the picture. Also, he has a lot of people inside waiting for him, so he won't be able to sign autographs..."
(blink) Did I hear that right?
"When Trace comes out....?" Whoa. Now I REALLY wish Erika would have been with me!
We waited another few minutes and then he was there! Trace Adkins walked out of the Grand Ole Opry and came over to our group and stood with us and took a picture! Oh... that was too cool! I can be seen in the group picture, standing near a man wearing a yellow shirt, taking a picture of the back of Trace's head... and NOT looking up at the camera. (DORK!)
HE WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE!! OH MY GOODNESS!!
My inner 12 year old went into overdrive, and while I could stop myself from jumping up and down and chanting "OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!", I couldn't do much of anything else. I remembered the note I wrote, though.
Yes. I wrote a fan note to Trace Adkins. (stop laughing) Why? Because, I know that I go all stupid when face to face with celebrity and I knew I wouldn't get a chance to have any kind of conversation with him, even if I could find my voice, and I didn't want to say anything idiotic, so I wrote it down.
After the last group picture was snapped, I quickly scooted myself around to the front of the pack, clutching my note in one hand, my camera in the other. Yellow Shirt Guy stopped Trace and talked to him for a moment (and I remembered to snap a couple of pictures, yay me!) while Striped Shirt "Security" Guy said something to me "I just want to hand Trace this note..." I said. Striped Shirt Guy said *he* would give it to Trace. HA! Over my dead body! Trace was within 10 feet of me. Not a chance Striped Shirt Guy. "No, thanks, I'll give it to him..." I turned and Trace was standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. (eep!)
I took a deep breath, and my brain fell right outta my head. I held out my note to Trace and I may have said "Hi... this is for you." but I'm not really sure I said anything. He looked right at me (RIGHT AT ME) and said "Thank you very much" in that deep voice, and he smiled at me. I remember thinking "Wow... wow... he's got nice eyes..." I could smell his cologne (it was either his or Yellow Shirt Guy's cologne). My inner 12 year old passed out as Trace walked past. I turned to go, and put my hand on his arm. (Dude works out, jus' sayin'...)
He was caught up by other fan club members and I turned and casually walked away. For about 10 seconds. Then, I ran as fast as my killer-heeled boots would carry me to where Erika was. I called her as I waited to get into the Grand Ole Opry "Where are you?" "I'm in the seats, and you'll be surprised at how good they are." HA! She'd be surprised too!
The seats *were* very good - we were on the Mezzanine. Even though we weren't close, we had a very clear view of the stage. That was fantastic.
Erika looked at me and said "What? What happened? Did you meet him?!"
And that's when the sleep deprivation of the last week combined with shock and emotion all bubbled to the surface and spilled out everywhere like boiled over mac and cheese. I started to shake and cry like all those damn silly fans yelling for Elvis or the Beatles. (I know!) I told her about it, showed her the pictures, and eventually calmed down. I swear I sat there in a daze for the first half of the show until Trace appeared on stage.
I had done it! I had REALLY FULFILLED MY DESTINY!
It was crazy and lucky and just nuts! I couldn't believe it. It was awesome!
We watched the show, hootin' and hollerin' and clapping until our hands were nearly raw. We had a great time. The first half of the show was broadcast on the radio, the second half was live on the GAC channel. The televised version had more "Trace" in it because it was his fifth anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry. (I TiVo'd the show so I could watch it when I returned home)
After the show, we went out to celebrate with a shot of Jack Daniels. When in Rome you drink wine with the Romans. When in Tennesse, you drink Tennesee Whiskey. I'd never tried it before, and I figured "Why not?" We went back to John A's where they carded us. Apparently, my ID passed the test, but Erika's did not. She is over the legal age (not very far over, but over all the same), but after the bartender and restaurant manager both scrutinized her TWO forms of identification in the bright light of the kitchen, they came back and told us they would not serve her. HA! (See, Erika, gray hair comes in handy sometimes!)
No worries, we just went back to the hotel, and opted for a drink in the hotel bar. After all, Jack is Jack, right? Besides, this way, we wouldn't be driving anywhere. We walked into that Applebee's like we owned it (Yeah, I said Applebee's! What? You don't do shots of Jack at Applebee's? Come on! We're bad ass!), did our shot of Jack and walked back to the room. By the time we shut the door, we were already dissolving into giggles. We may or may not have drunk dialed. We did however, laugh our asses off for the next hour or so.
All too soon, it was Sunday and the day we were to return home from our adventure. It was good that we had only opted for one drink the night before because we had a long drive ahead of us. Any more than that and I would have been asleep at the wheel, I'm sure of it. I wasn't hurtin', but I was tired. Saturday had been a busy, busy day. Fulfilling your destiny is exhausting!
We got dressed, packed up, and checked out of our hotel. Shoney's was right next store, so we headed over to their breakfast buffet. Sylvia was our waitress and she was a hoot and a half! Smiling, laughing... just great. She brought us what she claimed was the best chocolate milk on the planet, and she wasn't lying! We left her a good tip, and offered to bring her with us. She declined. After breakfast, we stopped at the gas station, then pointed the Externally Flameless Mommyvan back home.
Our trip back to Illinois was non-eventful, and that's ok. We didn't have the urge to yell out to passing cars or toll booth personnel, but we had plenty of time to listen to the radio, reminisce about the previous day and make plans to go back to Nashville again someday.
They say what happens in Nashville gets written into a song. Well, if you hear a song about a couple of midwestern Thelma and Louise wannabees stalking Country Music singers, shootin' Jack, cussin' just because we can, laughing hysterically in their hotel room late into the evening, and hitting up Shoney's before burnin' rubber outta town Duke-style, I'm sure that's just a coincidence.
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Click here for all the pictures we took this weekend