Tennessee: Highway Scenes, Music, Client Service and Context

By Tony Mussari

I am writing this note from Tennessee, a beautiful state with very few pretensions.  People drive very fast in the Volunteer State. The posted speed limit on I-40 is 70 miles an hour. For the most part, it is ignored. There are long stretches of concrete and asphalt that are bordered by lush farmland that reach from the shoulder of the road to the edge of the horizon.
State police set up speeding check points in several places along the highway, but they can’t be everywhere, and that’s what it would take to enforce the speed limit.
On this day tractor trailers,SUVs, sedans, and campers passed our Prius at speeds exceeding 70 MPH.
Our destination was Nashville by way of Gallatin and Port Juliet. In Gallatin, we sat in place for about 45 minutes while police and emergency vehicles surrounded an accident scene.  Much to our delight, no one blew their horn, no one screamed their displeasure peppered with salty language.  No one got upset.  People sat in their cars and waited patiently for the rescue workers to clear the accident scene.
In the south, people navigate the inconvenience of life with patience and prudence.
When the road reopened, Kitch and I made our way to an attractive red brick home in a suburban neighborhood.  There we spent the afternoon with a musician who plays the guitar with the mastery of a seasoned professional.  That’s exactly what Martin Young is, a professional. For 16 year, he was central to every performance of Clint Black. In his studio, there are several mementos of his accomplishments including a framed musician’s pass that lets every visitor know that on one special evening, Martin Young was a member of Paul McCartney’s performance.
Martin is the kind of person you would want to have as a neighbor and a friend. He is a positive, caring, helping person. On this day, he told stories about his experiences helping young, unpublished musicians take their first step into the business.
After our interview, he made our day with a performance of a few songs he has been working on. It was a special Face of America moment.
Our next stop was in Nashville at the historic Union Station. This architectural masterpiece is a national treasure. Once the epicenter of rail transportation in Tennessee, today it is a wonderful hotel where everything old is new again.  That includes a very personal and refreshing kind of service with a smile that was masterfully exemplified by just about everyone we met, and in our opinion, perfectly executed by a young man named Caleb Bennett.
From the moment we parked our Prius to the moment we left, Caleb did everything in his power to help us and give us a feeling of security about our car and its contents. He was accommodating in ways that made us feel very good about the hotel. In our opinion, Caleb Bennett has everything any employer would ever want in a person who is the first contact visitors have with a place like Union Station.
If you ever have cause to visit Nashville, we recommend Union Station as a place with friendly people, good food and a wonderful walk through the past in a way that meets all of the needs of someone traveling in the present.
Shortly after breakfast, we were on the road again matching wits with the guys who drive the big rigs along what we now refer to as the speedy car pike.
At 3:30 p.m. we stopped at a McDonalds in Brownsville, Tennessee to use the facilities.  There we met a man who has the quintessential Face of America, Bobby Johnson.
From the moment our eyes met, I knew there was something special about this Vietnam vet and grandfather of nine children. The story about his life on the road driving 18-wheelers is interesting and informative. His thoughts about America are blue collar solid and our brief encounter with him is one of the moments we will remember for years to come.
Our visit to Tennessee was short but very memorable and equally productive. There we got a good night’s rest thanks to the kindness and generosity of two of our dear friends who hosted our stay at Union Station.  We entered the state with the sights and sounds of the Trappist monastery in Bardsville, Kentucky in our hearts and souls.  We left the state with an extra bounce in our step thanks to a talented musician, an employee with a service-oriented disposition and a truck driver who explained in short sentences the rules of the road.

It doesn’t get much better than that, or at least we thought it wouldn’t, but it did. 
We will tell you about our amazing experiences in Arkansas the next time we have an opportunity to put our thoughts on paper.

Sometimes the face of America can best be found in the hearts of people who wake up every norning and try to ndo the right thing.

Until the next time, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.

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