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Louisiana to Tennessee — part 5 of the great American road trip

Nashville, Tennessee

As I drove east from Texas, the road trip took on an unmistakable feeling of wrapping up.  I was back in the southeast.

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Bossier City, Louisiana

Bossier City sits on the east bank of the Red River, opposite Shreveport, in northern Louisiana.

It’s home to four riverboat casinos that offer table games and slots and all-you-can-eat crawfish buffets:

Horseshoe comped me a spacious hotel room with a view of the other three through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Though not as updated as my room at Harrah’s Ak-Chin, it was comfy with Louisiana charm and featured a large bathroom with a soaking tub deep enough to indulge my Sue Ellen fantasies.

The soaring hotel itself has a Beau Rivage feel, with its front fountains and small shopping esplanade.

In addition to the buffet, it hosts several restaurants, including 8 Oz., where the burgers are excellent.

The attached two-storey riverboat casino is fairly small.  Central tables encircled by slot machines fill the first level.  The high-limit room on the second level offers a lovely view of the sunset over the Red River.

Ever since my early visits to Las Vegas, I’ve loved waking up in hotel rooms to the sight of neon casino signs through wall-length windows.

I set out to see a couple of them up close, taking a long walk first past Boomtown and then to Diamond Jacks.

Sporting running shoes, sticky from the humidity, and generally looking like I’d just been camping, I didn’t go inside.  But I did peruse Diamond Jacks’ small walk of fame, featuring well-worn stars for entertainers like Wayne Newton who’ve performed there.

Tunica, Mississippi

After a fun couple of days in Bossier City, I headed to another casino town:  Tunica, Mississippi.

Horseshoe Tunica stands in the middle of Casino Center.

It’s between Tunica Roadhouse, another Caesars property, and Gold Strike Casino, an MGM property.

The casino at Roadhouse is closed, but the hotel still operates, giving it the sad empty feel of Atlantic City‘s Showboat, with hints of past glory hidden in dark rooms behind draperies.

Gold Strike stands tall and gleaming, like Horseshoe Bossier City, on the outside; the hotel lobby inside is open and spacious, and the casino is big and busy.

Horseshoe has a downtown Vegas feel to it, with its big but not as busy casino.  The hotel comped me a cozy room for a night, and I moved on to Tennessee.

Nashville, Tennessee

It’s been six years since I last visited downtown Nashville, but it seems like another life ago.  My companion then had previously been a reporter there and knew it well.  He was also one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and a great travel companion, mostly because he was like me:  curious about everything, with a taste for the finer things.  He passed away last year, but I wonder whether he’d even recognize Nashville now.  It has really changed.  The Southern streets we strolled are now a tourist mecca with more bus and truck bars per capita than I’ve ever seen.

I toured the crowded Johnny Cash Museum.  It displays artifacts from the singer’s life, including Country Music Awards, badges from Folsom Prison, and the hand-written lyrics to I Walk the Line.

From there I went to walk along the Cumberland River and found my way to the reconstructed Fort Nashborough, built for the protection of early settlers in the area.

Today, the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium stands on its opposite river bank.

Partly for memory’s sake and partly to escape the heat, I popped in to the trendy Hotel Indigo.

I sat on a comfy stool at its black lobby bar and sipped my second cocktail of the trip, called a Kelsi, a refreshing cucumber-y vodka-based drink.

The road trip is drawing to a close.  It’s been amazing, but it hasn’t given me much time to sit quietly and think.  One of the purposes of the trip was to see places I haven’t seen before.  A logistical quirk had brought me back to Nashville, but I realized it’s changed so much that it’s almost like seeing it for the first time too.

I wonder what other old places I can visit anew.


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