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I See Tennessee (First Impressions of the State)

Posted 05-09-2021 at 04:14 PM by Igor Blevin
Updated 05-12-2021 at 07:49 PM by Igor Blevin (I See Tennessee (First Impressions of the State))

Having just raced across the continental United States from Sacramento, California in 4 days, including a final all-night stint, I am finally on the verge of crossing the state line and get my first look at the Great State of Tennessee.

As I cross the border and roll into Tennessee, the natural scenic beauty of Kentucky continues. It is lush and green and wonderful, until about a mile or 2 down the road...

Ack! Holy smokes. Shortly after crossing into Tennessee, there is trash and litter strewn everywhere along both sides of the highway. This immediately brings to mind the City Data thread, “Garbage Everywhere”.


I am taking that thread seriously now and wondering if the rest of Tennessee is so heavily littered. I can’t imagine it.

A couple of miles down the road, it thins out and disappears. It was just a small local problem that happened to be right across the Tennessee border from Kentucky. Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe a California ex-pat jack-knifed his U-haul behind his Tesla and scattered trash strewn everywhere across the highway. Maybe it is just one local’s desperate attempt to get Californians to turn back and question their choice to move here.

Whatever it was, it ended as soon as it began, and the drive is virtually free from litter as I cruise along. As much as anywhere else.

Thereafter, a beauty like Kentucky’s resumes.

Beautiful green trees in rich tones line both sides of the highway and down the center median. It is a joy to drive along such inviting scenery. As I continue along toward Nashville, I am treated to lush scenic beauty all along the drive. Kentucky is a bit different, more open and less wooded. The interstate in Tennessee is just lined with trees. You can’t see much beyond the highway road bed.

I suspect that the countryside in this part of Tennessee is similar to what I’ve seen of Kentucky, just hidden from the road by a wall of green velvet. I see glimpses of farms and homesteads behind the trees, and when I take side roads it looks much like how Kentucky looked. Tennessee just boxes you in on the highway with a green leafy tunnel to slog through.

Every now and then, the green Tennessee hills reveal the secret of their geology beneath the ground, where highway construction required more than simply excavating the soil below, but required blasting through the broken black, craggy rock beneath. I don’t know if it is limestone or what. It looks too dark for limestone. Regularly along the drive where the interstate passes particularly high hills or steep declines, the sides of the road are lined with solid walls of rock, displaying millions of years of geology. California would do well to have such beautiful, natural-looking retaining walls.

The sky is medium dark with clouds. No sun in sight.

About 20 minutes in from the state line, this northern part of central Tennessee really changes character from Kentucky. Interstate 24 dives down a long cut with long runs of this craggy black rock walls on either side, changing from mildly open rolling hills to green woodland covering rippling hills in colors ranging from almost yellow to olive drab. The hills are tall and steep and jut up from the ground. Can you farm these hills, I wonder? Ranches maybe, or just homes? Who knows.

Very beautiful, these jagged green wrinkles on top of the earth. Just beautiful scenery. It makes for a lovely drive even after driving all night. Nevada pouts, sullen with envy.

My in-car Navigation sends me smack dab through the middle of Nashville’s heavy, aggressive traffic without consulting me. Slight exaggeration. I am on the other side of the river, but still traveling very near to the core downtown area and traffic is heavy and running fast. Welcome to Bristol Speedway west. Your leaderboard for this NASCAR race is…. Comparing it to NASCAR is too tame. More like Nashville Death Race 2000. It is not even the commute. It is not even a lunch rush. It is like, 1:30 or quarter to 2:00 in the afternoon. What is all this traffic doing here and where is it coming from?

I will say it again. We are in our computer Dark Ages.

It is 2021. Artificial Intelligence is improving by leaps and bounds. Is it too much to ask that my in-car Navigation simply says, “You are approaching a congested urban core with heavy vehicular traffic. Would you like to continue through it, or would you like to take a more lightly traveled bypass? The bypass is 2.4 miles longer but generally tends to be 13 minutes faster with free-flowing movement and fewer traffic accidents.”

Is this too much to ask for in 2021?

Nashville is big. Really big. And spread out. I had no inkling how big. Nashville is geometrically the 11th biggest US city at 475 square miles in area. It has a larger footprint than Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City.

What? Are you kidding me?

Nashville has the 23rd largest population in the America. I had no clue. Here I had thought that Music City was some medium sized backwater. This area of sprawling freeways is surprisingly urban and I am not prepared for what I am seeing. Why did I not know this? Because I know nothing about Nashville except that Dolly Parton got her start here.

Good thing Rolene came down from Dover.

Approaching Lebanon, leaving behind 30 miles of stupid, wasteful HOV lanes, the view from the interstate again becomes very beautiful, with a wide grassy median, the outside lanes lined with velvety green trees, while the occasional tall hill peeks over the boughs.

Still no sunshine, just a gray cloudy day. No blue sky to speak of. Is this normal for Tennessee this time of year? Normal, period? I will eventually find out, as well as how I feel about it.

The area around Gordonsville is beautiful as the highway rises and falls over green carpeted hills, adorned with scenic forests of trees on either side. It is especially beautiful to the east where hills tower above the valley floor, rising up to sharp peaks.

The traffic remains fast and heavy almost all the way to Cookeville. I think Tennesseans just like to drive fast.

I dump it off in Cookeville for lunch of chicken tenders at a Bojangles. We don’t have Bojangles in California. We were not missing much. It is nothing special.

After lunch, I drive north up Willow Ave. It is not very attractive. It is very commercial and built up all the way. It reminds me of dumpy Fulton Ave back in Sacramento. Just unattractive.

I drive until the road runs out at a nice wooded suburban area. After a while scouting this neighborhood, I am not too fond of it. It is just not my style. It doesn’t have a good feel. I couldn’t see living here. In my brief run, I don’t see anything about Cookeville to get excited about.

There must be nice areas of Cookeville. Willow Ave surely is not representative, a big ugly commercial district. I will come back for a closer look of why residents like living in Cookeville. I am in Knoxville for now, but I am still looking where I want my next forever home. At first glance, it is not looking like Cookeville.

As I approach Rockwood TN, the terrain returns to as beautiful a scenic backdrop as I have seen anywhere so far. The beauty holds up all the way to my hotel at the Country Inn & Suites on Campbell Station Road in Farragut, Tennessee.

I am exhausted from pulling an all-nighter and it is all I can do to unload the car, shower, and crash after snacking on gas station food. I can’t wait to see my apartment, the surrounding area, and West Knoxville in general.

Exciting times.
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  1. Old Comment
    Loving your blog and totally agree with your assessment of Cookeville. I drove up there last summer and scouted out homes in the area for a day or so. The suburban areas turned very rural very quickly, with very few services (e.g., gas stations, grocery stores) outside the main core. I was very happy to come home to Northern AL.
    Posted 05-10-2021 at 09:58 AM by AnotherBravesFan AnotherBravesFan is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Thanks for your feedback.

    My goal is to inform. I am trying to do that in a readable, entertaining way. Who wants to read dry, dull stuff? Mostly, my goal is to provide insight for people who can’t visit, into the Knoxville area primarily, as well as other home-search cities I visit.

    I will be giving Cookeville a deeper look. I am not writing it off after one very limited look. If I had only driven down Kingston Pike in West Knoxville, I wouldn’t like it either.

    One thing is that I may not be discussing much about Knoxville and surrounds here on this blog. Most observations will probably be posted to my thread in the Knoxville Forum. “Igor Blevin's, A Native Californian in Knoxville".


    While I am falling in love with the Northshore area of West Knox, I am still considering outlying areas of Huntsville Alabama, like Florence. I am looking forward to my first look at northern Alabama. I also want to see Fairhope and Orange Beach.

    I have a lot of places to search in Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, and possibly Florida.

    Thanks again. It is good to hear from you.
    Posted 05-11-2021 at 06:25 PM by Igor Blevin Igor Blevin is online now
    Updated 05-12-2021 at 05:40 AM by Igor Blevin
  3. Old Comment
    Appreciate your blog! Looking forward to your Florida visit!
    Safe travels!
    Posted 05-19-2021 at 02:36 PM by Kindness2021 Kindness2021 is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Thank you. I am still setting up the new home, so travel is back burner.

    This blog will go in fits and starts, with longish gaps when I don't have anything worthwhile to say. It is a long term work in progress. Travel is expensive and happens whenever you get around to it. I don't want to write things here just to write. There has to be something of value I can provide or something I am compelled to share.

    Thanks for the comment. I will get to Florida someday, for vacations if not for my home search.
    Posted 05-21-2021 at 07:24 AM by Igor Blevin Igor Blevin is online now

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