Daniels and Lewis

Dar, at JD visitors center.
We got an early start Monday morning and continued west on US-64, which runs along with the Interstate System through the Chat. metro area. At Monteagle TN., US-64/I-24 intersects with TN-15, which we took west through Sewanee to Winchester and then took little Lynchburg Road up to the community of Lynchburg... which is home for the Jack Daniels Distillery. I've wanted to visit old Jack and the nation's oldest registered distillery for some time.

Our tour guide was a fella' named "Goose"... the quintessential Jack Daniels employee... exactly what you'd expect a JD tour guide would look like. Goose is so right for the part, he's been in a number of print ads for Jack Daniels. With a booming voice and slow methodical style, he entertained us for almost an hour and a half as we meandered from the rickyard, through the cave spring, original office, the still house, the charcoal mellowing vats, and a barrel house. The business has 1800 acres around Lynchburg and an astounding 77 barrel houses where the whiskey is aged for 4 to 6 years. Each barrel house, four or five stories high, contains about a million gallons of whiskey. All the water used in the production of JD comes from the Cave Spring, naturally pure iron-free water that's been flowing from the hills for longer than anyone can remember. The grains used in the product are primarily corn (80%), barley, and rye... a total of almost 20,000 bu. per day.
Thom, with "Jack on the Rocks"
Lynchburg itself is located in a dry county, so it's illegal to purchase or consume the product that keeps the town on the map. There is one exception to the rule however... the State of Tennessee passed a law not long ago that permits the sale of special limited edition or commemorative bottles of JD whiskey at the White Rabbit Store in the visitor center. Due to the price (high), I didn't see many purchases being made by our group.

Before noon, we were back on the road again, continuing west on US-64. About 15 miles west of Lawrenceburg we hopped on the Natchez Trace Parkway northbound. We've driven about half the Trace, mostly in Mississippi, before this, and thought we'd take advantage of this opportunity to knock out a good chunk of the part in Tennessee. This section includes the Meriwether Lewis National Monument, the place where the leader of the Lewis & Clark expedition died in 1809. Since we explored the L&C route from Astoria OR. to St. Louis, MO. a couple years ago, we've been interested in visiting here... perhaps for some closure.

Dar, at Lewis's grave.
Meriwether Lewis was somewhat of a head-case. He'd suffered from bouts of depression and withdrawal for much of his life. It's suspected that in 1809 he was despondent as a result of his inability to write the final report of the expedition for Thomas Jefferson, who, by this time, had been waiting more than three years for it. In September of 1809, Lewis set off for Washington along the Natchez Trace, stopping at Grinders Stand, an Inn along the Trace. He was reportedly acting in a strange manner at dinner that night and was heard talking loudly to himself in his room later. One theory is that he shot himself later that night; another is that he was shot by an unknown person; neither was ever confirmed. Those that knew him best believed the suicide theory while family stuck with the murder theory. Regardless, Meriwether Lewis, the intelligent, accomplished leader and explorer died the next day and was buried a couple hundred feet away from the Inn and right along the Trace. He was only 34.

We visited the replica of the Grinders Stand Inn built by the CCC during the depression. It's situated just a few feet from the remnants of the original's foundation but now believed to be a different floor plan than the original. A portion of the original Trace runs through the area and a short walk down the trail is an old Pioneer Cemetery where a dominant memorial marker was erected on the confirmed Lewis gravesite by the State of Tennessee.

We finished driving the Trace, arriving in the Nashville metro area late in the afternoon. Braving rush-hour traffic we found a motel just before heavy rain started falling, and hunkered down for the night.

Slightly Better than Most