Nashville, TN

We’re in the middle of a good stretch of flying now. The cold winds of winter are around the corner and we have a few trips we want to get done before they arrive in earnest. On the heels of my flight to Michigan we’re going to head down to Nashville, TN to visit a friend who has relocated there from Austin, TX.

Mary and I worked together pretty closely when I was employed by Univa. She is a marketing guru and we worked together to try and tell the world about our wares. Her husband is a major hiker and has done a through hike on the Appalachian Trail. I’m not sure we’ll make it, but we’d like to try. At a minimum I can’t imagine we won’t do a section hike at some point. So our proximate excuse to go visit was to talk about AT.

Mary is also the one who told me about Bob Schneider, he has become our favorite musician for the past few years. During one of my first trips down to Austin after we bought Mary’s former company I was excited to go see some live music. Beth and I used to go see bands all the time, but as the kids got older and we started spending so many weekends in Wisconsin it quickly fell by the wayside. Since Austin is the music capital of the world I started hitting up people around the office for advice on what acts to catch while I was in town. Mary got out a copy of the Austin Chronicle and pointed me toward Bob’s standard Monday night gig at Saxon Pub.

I went over to Saxon with Brian. Brian is a guy who was trying to sell me consultants I didn’t need, but was so good at his job that I suckered him into coming to work for Univa. We headed over to Saxon and had a blast. Matt the Electrician was the opening act and also was a lot of fun. He did a 15 minute extended version of one of his songs that was amply embellished with an elaborate story about Rick Springfield buying the Saxon Pub because it had the best remaining orignal Pac Man console in the US. Over a period of a few years after this first show Beth managed to get down to Austin a few times and we’ve seen Bob in Milwaukee as well, at Shank Hall no less. It was loud, but I’m not sure it went to 11.

On launch day we are fortunate to have fantastic skies. The FAA says that you have to have done 3 nighttime landings within the previous 90 days as the sole manipulator for the controls in order to be legal to carry passengers. With the days in the northern hemisphere getting shorter, I headed out to the airport a few days earlier to accomplish this bureaucratic hurdle. A few times around the pattern and I was, once again, legal.

Let me be clear, not everyone should treat such regulations as a bureaucratic hurdle. I certainly don’t take the safety of myself nor my passengers as a given. That said, I’m a reasonably active pilot and did a lot of night flying in the spring. In this case it really was a demonstration of capability because the calendar was working against me.

I was flying a plane that was relatively unfamiliar to me. The club recently bought a pretty nice Piper Archer with a glass panel so it was still a useful exercise to get up in the air and gain familiarity with a new plane.

Beth and I take off in the setting sun and enjoy our flight to Nashville. The rides are smooth and the workload light as we move from the Chicago area south. The skies are crystal clear and a gorgeous arc of the horizon is a beautiful crimson as the sun sets, a vibrant bald red head into the western hills.

We spend three hours listening to our reciprocating engine trying to tear itself apart and finally find ourselves in the Nashville area. John C. Tune Airport. There are several aircraft on instrument flight plans flying into Tune this evening. One by one we are handing off from controlled airspace to the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) for approach and landing.

Upon landing we are met by one of the happiest linemen we have ever met. He flaggs us in and, upon our disembarking from the plane, complements us on the “the nicest paint job on any Archer I’ve seen”. That alone was worth the trip, though I disagree pretty strongly with his opinion. Mary and Walker are standing on the patio on the edge of the terminal. Oh, did I mention that the dude who hiked the Appalachian Trial was named Walker?

We get our gear out of the plane and head out to get some dinner.

There is a lot of music in Nashville and Mary hooks us up with a local place that had some good music and good food. The music is actually surprisingly good. They play mostly instrumental songs, but do so highly competently. This wouldn’t be as notable except that there are only about 30 people in the whole place. I suppose in places like that the entertainment is there far more ‘for the love of the game’ than folks like the Rolling Stones.

After a quick bite we head back to Mary and Walker’s place and enjoy a few beers while playing Bob Schneider on the iPod. They have a wonderful old home that has been modernized. We finish the evening around easy-to-start gas fireplace laughing and telling stories.

The next morning we are treated to a yogurt bar in the kitchen and discuss plans as we shrug off the nights sleep. As Beth is a collector of state capitals we decide that we will go to the capital building and take a tour of the place. Mary and Walker haven’t been there in ages, so they are happy to use the excuse of out-of-town guests to get back over and see it again.

We drive downtown and I’m more surprised than I should be by how active it is. Nashville is a legitimate city, so I don’t know why I expected a quiet little country town, but I did. We drive up one of the two main drags and see building after building filled with bars, gift shops and music stores.

Presently we arrive at the state capital and are disappointed to learn that it is closed on weekends. However, from the hill upon which the capital rests we enjoy a lovely view of the surrounding area and spy a famers market nearby. Walking downhill we find a massive map of Tennessee and spend some time roaming between cities.

After a quick and savory lunch we head back into town and see things closer up.

When I was in high school one of my favorite classes was print shop. We had a wide range of tools from old school movable type letterpresses with California Job Cases to the then start of the art laser imagesetters. We produced a lot of different kinds of stationary, books and posters. The posters, in particular, were brought crisply back into memory as we entered Hatch Show Print.

Hatch has been around for well over a century and uses a type of printing even older than lead type, wooden block printing. Wooden blocks have images carved into them and these are then arranged into a frame to create the image for the poster. Having been around for so long the shop is a library of alexandrian proportions. Having been in Nashville for so long, they have a vast collection of posters from classic country stars.

Beth looks around for a while and picks out a poster to bring home. While she does this Walker steps out of the crowded shop to enjoy the afternoon sunshine. We pay the eclectic staff for the poster and walk outside to find Walker sitting on the pavement begging for spare change.

Laughing, we ask what could have caused such a precipitous slide into homelessness in the two minutes that it took to complete our purchase. Apparently he just has that look about him. As Walker exited the shop a busker approached him to watch his guitar case while he took a need bio-break.

We huddle up and decide that we should next go to a nearby pub for mid-afternoon beer and music. The band is decent, but we are all the way in the back of the building. Too far to appreciate the band and too near to have a conversation. We quickly decide to bail out and head back to the house for a bit before dinner.

It’s a beautiful fall day in the neighborhood (slogan: “37206: we’ll steal your heart and your lawn mower”) and we sit out front playing dice to pass the time. Friends stop by to say hi and Walker and I solve most of the worlds problems with the help of his famous margaritas. All is right with life as we watch the world spin by.

Beth had been fighting a stomach bug so after a much needed nap, she arises. We start to plan dinner and wander down the street in search of the restaurant. The sun is setting and the sky again fades from blue to yellow to red and finally to a starry black. It’s about 50 degrees out with no breeze, perfect conditions to enjoy a meal on the patio under the warm glow of the propane heaters.

Unfortunately the next morning arrives on schedule and we must depart for home. One of the things I like to do whenever possible is take people up for airplane rides. Walker is game, but Mary is hesitant. This is pretty common. A lot of people don’t like flying in general and the notion of going up in a small plane with an amateur pilot seems edgy and worth skipping.

Mary, however, decided to gut it out. We had some lunch and headed over to the airport. The skies were still quite clear and there are moderate winds at the surface. Not the greatest of conditions as the skies are likely to be bumpy. I give her another chance to bail out, but she decides that having come this far she may as well do the flight.

We take off and, indeed, the skies are quite bumpy. Instead of doing a longer flight I take us around an extended pattern that allows Mary and Walker to get a good view of downtown Nashville without bouncing around for an extended period of time. Even with the bumps it is wonderful to be able to share a flight with friends. We land and hug our goodbyes.

Beth and I launch for home and once we climb above the lower level turbulence, enjoy a smooth flight back to Chicago.

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