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.)


  1. What a clever and thoroughly entertaining blog posting, Rita!

    Just a couple of comments as follows:
    _ Regarding the McDonald's that you visited, the style of the building reminded me of the very first McDonald's that I saw. When growing up in a small town in Upstate NY, I had never seen a McDonald's until one day when we visited the big city of Syracuse, NY and there it was! Something we had previously only heard and read about!

    _ As often happens, I learned something new from your blog posting. I never knew that there were campgrounds designed exclusively for equestrians. And yes, how wonderful it must be to stay at a campground with horses whinnying and nickering instead of ATV engines revving.

    _ And lastly, you definitely had some experiences with food that were unique, including that slice of pie that came with a foot of meringue on top!!


  2. As always John, I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

    One of The Catfish House's trademarks is that "foot of meringue" on their cream pies. Restaurant patrons literally ooh and aah when the pie slices make their way from the kitchen to the tables.

    You're right, I had unique food experiences on that particular day, and while there's no way I would eat like that every day—well, that's what vacations are for!

  3. Hi Rita,

    Your descriptions of the food at the Catfish House are out of this world. What a serendipitous day of discoveries and goodwill (despite your B&B experience)!

    I love the idea of camping with your horse.

    Oh, and by the way, a chocolate-dipped Twinkie is called a "chocodile"! Hostess actually used to make those. :)

    1. A day filled with unplanned delightful discoveries is rare in our highly over-scheduled world. We should all allow for a few days like that one, at least every once in a while.

      I don't remember ever hearing of the "chocodile", although I probably ate a few of them at some point during my childhood! Thanks for that tidbit of information.

      The equestrian campground seemed like such a welcoming place. I also love the idea of taking a horse to a campground. If I had another lifetime I think I would take up horses at a young age with the goal of becoming an accomplished horse-woman—arena riding, trail riding, horse-packing, etc. But in this lifetime it will have to remain a dream...

      Thanks Vickie, for reading and commenting!

    2. I love your dream of becoming a world-class horsewoman!! It's never too late. My stepdad enjoy camping via trailriding groups all over the west - I think he worked just to be able to get into the wilderness on horseback and enjoy fly-fishing in unknown rivers.

  4. Hello, Rita, looks like you really enjoyed those little discoveries of yours, like that quaint little bookshop stocking mysteries and thrillers.

    Your header picture is also quite stunning!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Soumyendu. It was a great day of discovery.

      The header photo was taken at sunset from Panorama Point in Capitol Reef National Park. The native Americans called the area "Land of the Sleeping Rainbows" and you can see why they did.
      Capitol Reef is the least-visited of Utah's five National Parks and I hope it stays that way!

  5. I loved this post because I enjoyed hearing how your day turned around as you found and enjoyed small pleasures — though I'm not sure that phrase applies to your dinner. I also liked learning that you enjoy food the way I do, especially when traveling. And finally, I liked your creative and perfect use of punctuation.

    1. You're correct, Janet, that the day developed quite nicely after leaving the B&B.
      You've also noticed how much I enjoy discovering unusual eateries during my travels. That's why I never—oh, wait, except for this trip!—stop at fast-food establishments while on vacation.

      Thanks for noticing and commenting on the "technical"aspects of my writing. I appreciate it.