Tag Archives: Tennessee

Taking Stock (& Happy Birthday)

I’m starting to realize that my ability to affect change in the world is entirely dependent on capitalizing my skill sets, most of those being my energy, passion, genuine zest for life, with the ability to solve complex problems quickly. The flipside of this being my perseverance (the piss and vinegar if you will) to push through obstacles and take down my desired fruits from the tree of opportunity, when the aforementioned skills aren’t profiting me. This became apparent on my recent trip to Atlanta to take the DELF A2 at the Alliance Française…

It’s not often that I go to Atlanta, the “New York” of The South, the city upon which all others are judged in this region. I used to go frequently between 2004-2008 for raves at Opera and Wet Bar, so I’m familiar with enough with Midtown by night. But, this time, arriving in the afternoon of 23 March 2015, it was like seeing the city for the first time and the grandiosity of the area was inspiring. Which is just what I needed to smooth my nerves out before the exam. That evening, after studying several hours, I needed to take a walk to find some food and clear my head so I walked to the testing location at the corner of 14th and Peachtree, about 7 blocks or so from my hotel.

Navigating Atlanta streets are nowhere near as simple as GPS devices make it out to be. I can’t tell you the number of times that I made a wrong turn and got caught on one-way streets which forced me onto the interstate and then, 5 miles down the road later I was able to correct, and come back for another go. I didn’t want to repeat this bit of history the following morning of my exam.

Well, during the walk I passed by a place called Café Intermezzo, which upon first glance, looks like the combination of a Parisian and Viennese Café. I made a mental note to check this place out on the walk back. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this place, but let me tell you, it’s awesome! I ended up having a Greek-style salad with a negroni, and had a glass of Chartreuse Vert for dessert. The latter, after having lived in Grenoble, France, is my favorite way to end a dinner, especially with good conversation.

As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a girl (later found out she is a musician) talking to the server. She saw my glance, and we struck up a conversation. After speaking for several minutes, she joined me at my table to continue the conversation. We talked about many things and she told me several of her life experiences. One of them was how she tried to kill herself during a dark time in her life and how it obviously had failed since we were talking. I then told her that she had only one direction left to go, up. She looked at me cynically so I had to explain to her:

As your world was burning around you, the flames getting more and more intense, you saw only one way out, death, and after your attempt failed and you lay there stunned, crushed, and in disbelief of your unfortunate stroke of luck, the wind changed and you saw an opening in the flames and thus a path to salvation from your dark pit of despair.

Metaphors and allusions aside, she immediately understood what I meant and internalized my story. We talked about society, it’s perceptions, the judgmental nature of people, and how everyone tries to label and place everything into organized little boxes, more for their benefit and comfort and less for those being classified and catalogued. And the simple truth of this is, that for those of us being classified and catalogued, we are only affected if we allow ourselves to be. As the night went on, I had to get back to the hotel for a proper sleep before my exam. I told her this and then offered her 4 bits of advice in parting, writing each into her notebook (she’s a musician after all). I’ve included a picture below (my penmanship could have been much better):

Note to her

It’s funny. I’m no fatalist, but I just get this feeling that I was meant to meet this person. Not so much as in the “Oh my god it’s a girl I want to marry!” kind of way, but as in a person who was privately searching for answers, some known, some unknown, and found them in my willingness to listen and objectively respond. I should’ve figured that this would happen over dinner as I had previously met another person while at the hotel, having a pre-dinner beer.

The bartender, whose name I won’t say, hailed from Norway but, there was no way to tell from her accent. She spoke perfect American English. It was incredible. Anyway, she came to Atlanta for university and now, MBA in hand, works for a technology company close to the hotel. Given her personality, energy, and insights, it was quite evident that she is an entrepreneur. She left her home in Norway for the United States, because her dreams and aspirations and desires are much larger than what Norway could offer. She said the people there are too comfortable meaning: with the beautiful scenery, proximity to nature, beaches, and with the sea so approachable, it’s easy for natives to be content with their location. Don’t misunderstand, she loves Oslo as much as the next native, she just wants more out of life.

I’m exactly the same, just coming from a different country. And up to that moment, I hadn’t figured out a good way of explaining myself to my Nashville and Tennessee friends about why I had to get out of the state. I want more out of life than Nashville can offer, which really seems to upset a lot of people. I’ve always found that so confusing. Why should my wants and aspirations affect your life in any way shape or form? Simply wanting what a place can’t offer isn’t crazy! What’s crazy is getting upset in the first place about the fact that somebody finds a place of habitation much better or worse than someone else. Those are your thoughts, person, not mine. Chill out!

Positivity, love of yourself (not vanity), and drive are 3 of our greatest weapons against the naysayers of life. They are the enemy of negativity. I’m so happy that my year is ending like this! I will definitely let this view, and the realizations from my experience in Atlanta, propel me into my 29th year of life, on the morrow.

Onward and upward!

Brett

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Percy Priest Lake Adventure (Hunting Old Roads)

Percy Priest Lake is the largest and closest lake to my house in Hermitage, TN and as such, makes for an excellent place to explore via canoe when the weather is perfect and the wind is just right. The lake provides us landlocked folks an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and the quiet solace of the tides lend themselves to leisure. Most people, myself included, likely take the lake for granted, simply enjoying the cool, inviting waters on a nice summer day without much thought, but just like Nashville Shores (I used to lifeguard there in 2003) it is a more recent phenomenon.

The lake was formed after the completion of J. Percy Priest Dam in 1967 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The name of the dam project and the reservoir was originally the “Stewarts Ferry Reservoir” but was later changed by an 1958 act of Congress to its current name. Nothing against Congressman Percy Priest (I never knew the guy) but I wish the lake had retained its original name since it payed homage to the regional history better than the current name. Stewarts Ferry, as I’ll show later in pictures was in most recent times (pre-1967) a cable ferry across the Stones River. Before the invention of a cable system, it was likely a boat ferry, although the latter is purely speculation on my part as it is rather difficult to find information on the subject.

Before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flooded the low lying farmland to create the lake, several of the present-day disconnected sections of roads, most notably: Old Hickory Blvd, Stewarts Ferry Pike, Smith Springs Rd, Lavergne-Couchville Pike, and Bakers Grove Rd, all ran through the network of farming communities. This is quite easy to see using the “Satellite” view on Google Maps.

Flash forward to the perfect day that was yesterday and bearing in mind the aforementioned information, I set out from the Nashville Shores Marina in the “Big Blue Beast,” aka my dad’s 17′ Blue Hole whitewater canoe, with the intent of finding the “lost” sections of Old Hickory Blvd (OHB) and Stewarts Ferry Pike (SFP). And for those who are wondering where the canoe’s name came from, if you’ve ever tried to tandemly maneuver a 17′ canoe in whitewater (that just so happens to be blue), its analogous to a semi-truck merging across 4 lanes of traffic: a beast of a thing to do! After 2 km of paddling around the Nashville Shores peninsula I arrived at the sunken section of OHB, which is quite easy to miss from a distance unless you know what to look for!

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View of Old Hickory Blvd looking south from Percy Priest Lake. This worn piece of road is all that remains after 47 years of lake tidal action!

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View looking north from above position with the submerged section of Old Hickory Blvd heading into the center of the picture. In the clearing in the center of picture is the present-day road.

Continuing south for 0.5 km around the shoreline I came upon another section of OHB, this one quite large and above the waterline! After landing the canoe on the shoreline, I got out to walk the old road and explore the area! From the beer bottles and other bits of trash it appears that those people with faster modes of nautical transportation have frequently been here. But no matter, it was still good fun exploring and shooting photos of the area! I even came across what appears to be a bald cypress tree! I was quite surprised to find one in the lake as they’re normally found in swamplands and other wetland areas.

Looking north of an exposed section of Old Hickory Blvd with the Big Blue Beast beached on the shoreline.

Looking north of an exposed section of Old Hickory Blvd with the Big Blue Beast beached on the shoreline.

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The most surprising find of the day: a bald cypress tree in the lake!

Bald Cyrpess Cones! I never thought I'd see these naturally in Middle Tennessee!

Bald Cyrpess Cones! I never thought I’d see these naturally in Middle Tennessee!

NOTE: From here OHB continues to the Cook Public Use Area, a local park and boat launch ramp. The area is quite lovely, especially now with the flowing trees, and has plenty of picnic areas and pavilions for outdoor entertaining.

After packing my things, the Big Blue Beast and I continued for another 8 km to what I’ve named “Stewarts Ferry Island” since this section of SFP is normally encircled with water during higher water levels. Upon arrival it is immediately apparent that this used to be the cable ferry crossing station. I’m glad that vandals or others interested in sign memorabilia haven’t torn down the signs and removed some of the last remaining historical elements of this pre-lake history! Although my pictures don’t show it, the area does have several places to camp. The cable crossing sign and some building foundations are all that remain of this once important river crossing point.

View looking east of Stewarts Ferry Island with old cable crossing sign and the Big Blue Beast on shore.

View looking east of Stewarts Ferry Island with old cable crossing sign and the Big Blue Beast on shore.

View looking west from the island of Stewarts Ferry Pike. This was once a cable crossing point of the Stones River. On the far shoreline you can see another blue sign and the old section of SFP.

View looking west from the island of Stewarts Ferry Pike. This was once a cable crossing point of the Stones River. On the far shoreline you can see another blue sign and the old section of SFP.

View looking east from Stewarts Ferry Island toward eastern shoreline. Only the island-section of the road remains. Note on far shoreline the old section SFP continuing through the woods.

View looking east from Stewarts Ferry Island toward eastern shoreline. Only the island-section of the road remains. Note on far shoreline the old section SFP continuing through the woods.

View looking south of the eastern side of Stewarts Ferry Island.

View looking south of the eastern side of Stewarts Ferry Island.

View looking west from Stewarts Ferry Island. Note the old building foundations. I looked around for clues of their purpose but was unable to find anything.

View looking west from Stewarts Ferry Island. Note the old building foundations. I looked around for clues of their purpose but was unable to find anything.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints (I had to make a birthday dinner) I wasn’t able to continue to the last remaining lake-section of SFP, which is another 20-30 minutes of paddling east. I will save that for another day. After taking the above photo, I returned to the canoe and the Big Blue Beast and I set off for the Nashville Shores Marina. All in all, I paddled 18.2 km and had plenty of adventure to show for it! Its amazing what can happen when a persons says “I wonder…..” and then follows it up with action!