SMASHVILLE, and the end of an era

Hi friends. We're on to the last few days of our trip, so it's my turn to cover our last and some of our favorite destinations: Nashville and Blacksburg. Let's start in Nashville.

chicken 1/3

chicken 1/3

We left Oklahoma City early knowing we'd have a long drive across Arkansas and most of Tennessee ahead of us. After a long night of gambling at one of OKC's finest casinos (probably), Dyl was a champ and took the first leg of the drive, getting us all the way to Memphis. There, we stopped at our first in a long series of fried chicken spots through this part of the country. Through the recommendation of a coworker, our detour took us to Gus's and we had no complaints.

After Memphis, we hit the road to Nashville and started to realize something: we were definitely getting back east. Through Tennessee, traffic picked up, speed limits slowed down, and cops were everywhere. It was a far cry from the open, empty roads of Montana and South Dakota.

When we got to Nashville, we decided to use our short day to get some chicken and hit Broadway. We'd both been there before, but never together, so it was exciting to be able to experience this place as a couple. We got Hattie B's, which Dyl detailed earlier, and went out, enjoying the smaller crowds of a weeknight on Broadway. 

The next morning we were so excited to have a full day in the same place for the first time in ages. We slept in a little, grabbed brunch in the morning, and went down to the arena to check out the Predators pro shop. They didn't have the SMASH hats we loved that we'd seen people wearing everywhere and throughout the playoffs last year. Fortunately, though, there was a preseason game that night so we decided to kill two birds with one stone: check another NHL arena off my list and see if the hats were sold anywhere else inside.

We left the area to run to Prince's, our third chicken stop. Not trying to brag here but I would consider myself a chicken tender connoisseur. The chicken tenders at Prince's were un. be. lievable. They were easily my favorite of the trip, though I would almost never recommend going there because in the time it took to get them, I probably could've driven to the nearest Cane's in Knoxville and gotten some nice (not as nice, but still nice) chicken tenders there. It was so, so good but seriously at what cost? Who waits over an hour for chicken?

selfie mirrors. how do the caps not have these?

selfie mirrors. how do the caps not have these?

Anyway, we finished eating and headed out to the game. Lemme say this - I loved this arena. It was my 13th NHL arena but easily jumped into my top five. Something I've noticed in cities with smaller hockey markets (Nashville formerly being part of that category) is that they tend to do way more for the fans to make sure they have a good in-arena experience. Bridgestone arena had air hockey, full length selfie mirrors, season ticket discounts on beers, and a bunch more fun stuff I wish we had back home at Cap One Arena. The fans at the game were so into everything too, and even though the Preds lost in a shootout (thx Bob I still love u), it was a great environment, especially for preseason. We didn't wind up finding any smash hats, but we had a good time anyway. 

The next day it was time for a new city again! After stopping quickly in Knoxville to grab gas and take a ride up to the world's fair sphere -- was not full of wigs btw -- we were finally headed to Blacksburg.

The trip got really bittersweet for me here. I was so excited to experience something so important to Dylan and get a real sense of what college football was all about. But once we crossed the hit eastern time and crossed that state line into Virginia, it definitely started to hit us that the trip was coming to an end. We'd be reunited with family and friends in a familiar place (for at least one of us), and the sense of adventuring on our own together was done. While I was obviously very stoked on this part of the trip, I couldn't help but wish we were still heading somewhere new for the both of us.

When we got to Blacksburg, Dylan gave me the campus tour. The big joke about BU is that we don't really have a campus, which is kind of true -- it's just a mile and a half long stretch of Comm Ave with all our buildings on it. I loved that about our school, and how it made college feel a little more like you're really living on your own in a city. Blacksburg, on the other hand, is very much not like that. The campus was enormous, with a quad ("drillfield") and everything, and it was all built out in Hokie stone. There was a golf course, and multiple huge college bookstores throughout the entire town, not just the campus. It was so different -- wildly overwhelming but completely remote. 

We went out at a bar on campus (there's like 5 of them total) to grab dinner and it was completely packed with college students ordering cheap doubles at 8pm. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I knew this weekend was going to be insane at Tech but BU kids, imagine going to T's for a regular dinner, only it's like midnight on a Tuesday and Jack Eichel is in the corner chugging beer from the Beanpot. It was totally wild.

After a fun night out waiting for the uber price to go down from $250 (seriously how do students do this? could you ever imagine being so isolated from society that there are only two cars in a 50 mile radius to take you home from the bar? unreal.), we grabbed some shuteye and got ready for the next morning -- GAMEDAY.

We headed down to Gameday to get there right before the picks and the environment was incredible. It was a gorgeous day and everyone came out to support the Hokies, except Lee Corso, which imo was rude. Like Dyl said, there was a dog in the crowd, and once they played Enter Sandman a dust storm broke out because so many people were jumping. It was wild.

After a long day of tailgating, we headed into the game. It was a beautiful night and Lane Stadium was packed. We were unfortunately in a very high key Clemson section though, and had a tough time making friends with the people around us. 

I think we all hoped that Tech would've done a little better in that game. The mood around the stadium and our tailgate when we eventually got back was somber and frustrated. Clemson stifled the Hokies for four straight quarters and it was hard to find too many positives in the night. It felt a lot like how I felt watching the Flyers play the Rangers at any time between 2011 and 2013 -- no matter what we did we just could never beat them.

The next morning we were the last to leave the house. We got in the car. We drove home. We were back in DC, and that was it.

Katie Spence