Friday, March 10, 2017

Discoveries During a March Day in Tennessee

         Several years ago while touring Tennessee I experienced a series of serendipitous discoveries that kept me smiling all day long.

        My day began at the Highland Place Bed & Breakfast in Jackson where my less-than-enthusiastic hosts didn’t exude the graciousness I had come to expect in Tennessee. 
        Does southern hospitality end in Jackson? 

        A few minutes after leaving the B&B I made the first of my four “Best Ever” discoveries for the day.  Here’s the list:

1)  If you’re a Catfish Lover (and who isn’t?) I found the Best-Ever Restaurant.
2)  If you’re a Chocolate Lover (and who isn’t?) I found the Best-Ever Candy Store.
3)  If you’re a Horse Lover (and who isn’t?) I found the Best-Ever Campground.
4)  If you’re a Fast Food Lover (and I found the Best-Ever McDonald’s.

It's Back to the Future at this busy McDonald's in Jackson.

         First, the McDonald’s on Highland Drive in Jackson.  I never stop at McDonald’s but this one was different.  The gleaming white building, shining golden arches and parking lot full of cars—they called to me.  I pulled in.
        This McDonald’s was abuzz with business.  Cars pulled into and out of the parking lot; customers filed into and out of the doors.  A friendly patron held the door open for me and greeted me with a hello.
        Inside I noticed a cross-section of Jacksonites—black and white, young and old, fat and thin—all there and all smiling.  
        I stepped up to the counter.  The employee greeted me with an ear-to-ear grin and said:
       “Welcome to McDonald’s!  How can I help you?”  She literally beamed as I ordered my coffee to go.
        Wow, maybe southern hospitality doesn’t end in Jackson.  
         I grabbed my coffee, joined the line of people parading out of the establishment and was on my way, smiling.  

        This could have been a scene from 1955 when McDonald’s was brand new, when fast food was a novelty and not a disgrace—decades before Fast Food Nation soured me on the McDonald’s experience.  
        As I left I noticed the drive-through lanes, also filled with lines of cars. 
        Across the street sat a sad old Wendy’s with one car in the parking lot.  I felt almost sorry for it. 


         I traveled east on Interstate 40, my hot cup of McDonald’s coffee nestled in the cup holder.  Twenty minutes later I saw an exit for Natchez Trace State Park.  This led to my second best-ever find of the day—Wrangler’s Campground.

       Wrangler’s is a campground designed exclusively for equestrians.  Every site was filled with horses and their people.  People currying, saddling and riding their steeds, tying bags of hay from tree branches, shoveling manure.  Horse trailers parked alongside tents and recreational vehicles.  I’d never seen anything like it.   
        Imagine a campground with horses whinnying and nickering instead of ATV engines revving (as is the case in many Utah state park campgrounds).  I left the carefree campground and passed a sign proclaiming:  “Happy Trails!”  

Contented horses at The Wrangler's Campground.


        I returned to I-40 and exited at the town of Paris for my third best-ever find of the day—Sally Lane’s Candy Farm.
        I entered the old building with its peeling pink paint, unsure of what I’d find. But oh, the confections within!  Every sort of chocolate bar and candy you could imagine, including Sally’s original pink and green mints.  
       Sally Lane’s was started in 1958 and has had several owners since then.  New owner Rob Freeman and his sister Pam greeted me, ready to hand out samples and answer my candy questions.
       Rob makes all the bar candy, his Mom handles the hard-to-make confections like frogs and bunnies and filled-chocolates, and his niece creates specialty items like chocolate-dipped Twinkies.  I bought one of those tantalizing Twinkies.
       A specialty item like a chocolate-dipped Twinkie deserves a special setting and I found it at Boswell Landing Campground in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.  I chose an unoccupied campsite and watched whitecaps form on blue-green Kentucky Lake while enjoying the delectable Twinkie.

"I need some candy over here—STAT!"

       From the Land Between the Lakes I continued on to my destination of Clarksville which led to my fourth and final best-ever find of the day—dinner at The Catfish House.
       The Catfish House however, with its heart attack inducing menu, should come with this warning:  “If you suspect your arteries of being even a teensy bit blocked, DO NOT EAT HERE!”  
       My dinner began with fried okra, instead of traditional rolls.  And it was good.  Then I ordered the fried catfish platter which came with fried hush puppies and two sides.  I chose white beans (not fried), and fried corn-on-the-cob.  Yes, you heard me.  Fried. Corn. On. The. Cob.  Here’s how it’s made:  An ear of corn is cooked, then rolled in egg and flour and deep-fried.  And guess what?  It was good.  Oh, and how was the fried catfish?  Tender, flaky, outstanding.
       After that, time for dessert.  I chose the homemade chocolate chiffon pie.  My slice of pie came to the table with a foot of meringue on top.  I kid you not.  And it was great. 
       I rolled out of The Catfish House, vowing not to eat anything for a week.  I broke that vow the very next day.    
       But as for this day?  It was the Best Ever!  

Warning:  Dining here could damage your arteries, and your waistline,
and your blood sugar levels, and...
(But the food?  Um, um good.)