Thanks to Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, I finally had a reason and a route to travel down Highway 82 to Miss Mary Bobo's neck of the woods. Last week Commissioner Susan Whitaker introduced media to the new "Jack Trail," the sixth of 16 self-guided driving tours in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program to be launched since 2009. The Jack Trail claims to feature "Sippin' to Saddles" as it covers 328 tourism sites across 348 miles in 11 Tennessee counties.
The initiative started from the suggestion of a private citizen, Aubrey Preston, who wanted to encourage visitors to get off the interstates and see more small towns like Preston's home of Leiper's Fork. The state's involvement seems like a great investment since they primarily only have to spend money on marketing in the form of signage and an excellent guide book and series of trail maps that are available at the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways web site. The individual counties contribute to the marketing efforts, and the cooperation between state and county governments (as well as many state agencies) has been a testament to what can get done when everybody is rowing in the same direction.
The Jack Trail radiates south and east from Nashville and points travelers to horse farms, festivals from the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration to Bonnaroo, distilleries for George Dickel, Jack Daniel's and Prichard's, wineries in Arrington, Nashville, Manchester and Shelbyville and more places to eat than you can shake a fork at. There is even a special section dedicated to barbecue with seventeen different joints featured. I'm smelling a porky road trip this summer.
Our press junket ended up at Martin's Bar-B-Cue Joint in Nolensville where pitmaster Pat Martin entertained the crowd and sent them home fat and happy. As an aside, downtown Nolensville has recreated itself as a charming little business district since I used to speed past the charity roadblocks at the one stoplight on the way to dove hunts in Eagleville 20 years ago, and Pat Martin should take a lot of credit for making the sleepy burgh a destination dining spot. The whole point of the Tennessee Trails & Byways is to encourage out of state visitors and big city Tennesseans to explore those interesting small towns like Nolensville, Bell Buckle, Winchester, Shelbyville, Lynchburg, Belvedere, etc. that we would normally never take the 20-minute detour off the mega-highways to discover.
When gas hits $4 a gallon, "staycations" will become a hot topic again this summer. Consider spending your tourist dollars closer to home at any of the many destinations on the Jack Trail, and I'll bet you discover something fascinating in your own back yard.