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A Few Cool Things I Did

July 14, 2019
Sue at Opry

Pickin ‘and a grinnin’.

…and forgot to tell you about.

Grand Ole Opry

I was just going to stop by the Grand Ole Opry early in the morning to take a few photos, but when I heard an announcement coming over the loudspeaker “The backstage tour begins in 12 minutes,” I changed my mind, threw down some cash and got in line with eight other early birds.

I felt like a bit of a fraud because the other people were real country music fans, and I know about six Johnny Cash songs and can hum along with “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

But the Grand Ole Opry knows what they’re doing. The first thing you do is sit on couches in a comfy lounge for a 20-minute movie on the Opry’s history (projected on a cool fringe screen), and by the end, I had a lump in my throat, tears of appreciation in my eyes AND knew who Brad Paisley was. These people know showbusiness and how to work a crowd.


Peeping out from backstage.

The tour takes you through the hall of Opry members (I didn’t even know what Opry members were) and through the delightfully decorated green rooms, each of which has a unique story and use. Porter Wagoner’s is fanciest, of course, because he was famous for his elaborate costumes. Still, when they said “The next green room is decorated in purple and you can guess who that is for,” I thought “Prince?” Miss Dolly Parton always uses that dressing room when she plays the Opry so she can feel close to her old partner.


Porter Wagoner’s fancy green room.

The tour’s culmination is a moment on stage in the circle, where a mike is set up and you can sing if you want to (no one did on my tour. Everyone should have thanked me personally for not doing so). They shoot a photo (which is available in a variety of sizes and digitally for $25 in the gift shop, already printed and packaged for convenience. No, I did not. I’m cheap and I want LESS stuff, not more) and you get a chance, for a moment, to imagine the crowd cheering your debut.

If you’re going to the Opry to see the show, you should definitely do this tour.

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

Across Nashville in Mount Juliet, a pretty yellow building houses a place I have seen 100 times before, even though this was my first visit to Tennessee – the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary. The reason I’m so familiar is that this home for dogs 10 years old and above has a famous live video stream. I find it relaxing to watch the dogs stand around and sleep, which is mostly what old dogs do, so I will visit the stream on one computer while I work on another.

3 beagles

They keep bonded dogs together for life.

They offer tours on weekends, just one tour per day for 10 people, at $10 each. This supports the shelter and is low-key enough that it doesn’t wear out the dogs, and also gives them a way to politely decline the hordes who want to stop by and visit every day.

The dogs who live there are old, grey, slow-moving, one-eyed, blind, three-legged, scruffy – but the most important part is they are happy. They snooze on couches and old recliners, walk around in the big yard outside, and hang out with each other. The shelter also has 250 foster dogs out in people’s homes and a full-time vet to go do home visits and to care for the shelter dogs.

The place smells like pee and you’ll get covered with fur, but also gives you plenty of chances to interact with dear old doggies and perhaps even to take a couple home, as one man on our tour did. I left with a t-shirt and some stickers from the irresistible gift shop. They take donations here. Places like this give me hope for humanity.

Mammoth Cave National Park

How are sandstone caves formed? Acidic water collects in depressions in the earth and begins to flow downward over centuries. The acidic water carries away limestone and leaves sandstone behind. Channels form and grow bigger.Mammothcave

350 million years later, you are left with the Mammoth cave. At 420 miles of KNOWN passageways, it is the longest cave in the world.

And yet somehow I managed to choose a tour that took us only about 1/4 mile back into a cave. It was cool (both literally and figuratively) and the Frozen Niagara structure was impressive (though a good deal smaller than the actual Niagara), but it wasn’t what I expected. The bus ride to and from the site was almost as long as the tour.

I was chickenly trying to avoid the tours that have 500 or more stairsteps, and a good thing, too, because my knees were feeling it when I went up the 50 steep steps on this tour (which are an optional section). I have to work out and go back when I’m feeling stronger.

The area around Mammoth Cave is filled with small private roadside-attraction-type caves and rock shops. There are fascinating stories of “cave wars”- different cave owners battling it out for attention when tourists began showing up after automobiles became common.

The best part of my tour was the time I spent chatting with a fellow traveler, a Canadian man who had lost his wife of 22 years to cancer the year before. He was on a US-wide tour of places they had been and had wanted to go. His grief was raw and real, but his determination to walk without her while at the same time carrying her memory by his side was pure and strong, and I’m glad I struck up the conversation.


  1. July 14, 2019 14:38

    All three sound so neat. Thanks for sharing!

    • July 14, 2019 16:27

      All fun in their own different ways.

  2. July 15, 2019 01:05

    oh fab thanks for this as we will hopefully be touring around this part of the world soon & its given us some good ideas for places to visit

  3. July 15, 2019 07:31

    We did that short tour of the caves because we had people in our group that couldn’t handle being in the cave. We split up the next day so some of us could do a longer tour. It is worth going back for the longer tour.

    I want to hug everyone of those old puppies.

  4. July 15, 2019 13:26

    You are always an inspiration to me!
    I truly enjoy “hitching” along on your travels via cyberspace. 🙂
    I hope some day soon to start RV travels with my family and make some great memories of our own. ❤️

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