Day 7. The grand finale of our 2015 road trip. All that stood between us and home was five hours and a handful of stops. We woke up in Nashville with one last to-do list before we’d let I-65 guide us home.
We’d hoped to see a thing or two the evening before, but traffic coming into Tennessee on Day 6 had been stop-‘n’-go most of the way, made all the more disconcerting as we listened to radio reports of that day’s tragic shootings in Chattanooga, just a couple hours southeast of us. So we weren’t at our best on Friday morning. That buzz to keep seeking out new experiences was playing tug-‘o’-war with our yearning to return home to comfort and familiarity.
First stop: following in the footsteps of President Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory. King Mob. The Hero of New Orleans. He tied our week together nicely.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans. Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation…
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage is a former plantation and Presidential home/museum out in secluded woodlands east of downtown Nashville. Jackson bought the 1000+ acres in 1804 and lived there with his wife Rachel until his appointment as governor of future Florida circa 1818. After his two terms as President of the United States of America, he lived there only intermittently until his passing in 1845.
The Visitor Center is your primary Andrew Jackson museum space, with a variety of exhibits highlighting his history with assorted displays and memorabilia, from his days as a military commander to that time he ruled America to that time a bunch of scruffy fans partied too hard in the White House and gave him a bad name.
The Visitor Center is only the beginning of your Hermitage experience. Out the back door, paths lead to various parts of the plantation and grounds, which have been a government-owned tourist attraction since the 1890s.
At the center of the Hermitage is the Jackson family mansion, built in 1836 in Greek Revival style two years after the original plain-Jane domicile suffered a fire. Anne the history buff wanted to do the general tour, skipping the longer options as a compromise. Unfortunately the house tour is one of those understandable NO PHOTOS affairs that interfere with our sharing impulses. Fourteen rooms, 8000 square feet, lots of old furniture — not unlike Beauvoir to an extent.
Long walks around the rest of the campus will bring you to other structures and features, such as the cabin where once lived “Uncle Alfred” Jackson, one of the Hermitage’s most prestigious slaves. He was born into slavery there. He was among the few who stuck around to continue serving Jackson’s descendants after the Civil War. He was the first curator and docent once the family was booted and it opened to the public as a roadside attraction. He ultimately spent his entire life there until his passing in 1901.
The southeast corner of the Hermitage is Rachel’s garden, alive to this day with flora descended from the original flowers that flourished there during Rachel’s lifespan. Today it’s also the official Andrew Jackson Presidential burial site.
Other disconnected tidbits from my notes:
* The family owned pigs as big as motorcycles.
* Jackson once had a horse named Sam Patch, named after a guy who jumped Niagara Falls.
* Sample quote from my personal cartoon tour guide Poll, discussing the Hermitage’s cotton fields: “Most people today never think that their underwear started as a plant!” Good luck finding an honest schoolteacher willing to go in-depth like this.
* Jackson sometimes fueled his lamps with whale oil, which at the time ran $2.50 per gallon, the same price as five acres of land. I couldn’t find any modern websites that would sell me a gallon of whale oil, so I have no idea how many Andrew Jackson $20 bills you’d need to buy some today.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]