Appalachia & Bluegrass Country: First Conversations

Like Mondays and hot tubs, crisscrossing the Appalachians on a 100-pound bicycle is something best eased into. That’s one reason the forgiving West Tennessee Delta was the perfect place to begin CWU’s latest 1,800 mile, 6-week trek through America. While warming-up the legs along those flat cotton-field highways, though, I realized that it wasn’t just my physical conditioning that was benefiting. Chatting with the uniformly friendly and helpful West Tennessee locals also buttressed my optimism about the next few weeks, such that encountering those first hills around Nashville and into Southern Kentucky only left me wondering what incredible experiences might lie on the other side. So far, I haven't been disappointed--the folks I've met in Kentucky have been as warm as that first sip of bourbon.

Attorney Maureen Holland moved to Memphis, TN years ago to start her own law practice, which is based in a classic Southern home surrounded by dogwoods and azaleas that were in their full spring glory on the day of my visit. Maureen was part of a team of lawyers who represented folks fighting for equal marriage rights for gay couples in states, like Tennessee, that had chosen not to recognize same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court agreed with Maureen and her team, thereby codifying a change in the way America views relationships and matrimony.

Mary Hines of Brownsville, TN can show you the one-room schoolhouse where Tina Turner learned to read and write, take you through a collection of different instruments and outfits worn by famous West Tennessee musicians, and introduce you to the flora and fauna of the region’s wild places. She can also tell you how to avoid getting burned when using a MIG welder to liquefy and fuse metal parts.