Driving Across Southern Tennessee

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Somerville

My original travel plan would have taken me on Interstate 40 across Tennessee, to Nashville.  Unfortunately, I was running out of time, and needed to head towards home.  Nashville would have taken me too far out of the way, and given me too much to see before my return to Florida.  So, I chose a path across the Volunteer State that would take me east, but keep me further south than the Interstate.  US Highway 64 looked like the best way to go — and it offered up several nice small towns, to make the drive more interesting.

Somerville is about 40 miles east of Memphis — far enough away to feel like a small town, and not a suburb.  There’s a nice downtown district…

… that encircles the Fayette County courthouse.

The town of Somerville now owns the Fair Theater.  It purchased it in 1999 from Mr. and Mrs. Norman Fair.  The Fair family built the theater in 1935.  Nowadays, it still shows movies at times, as well as plays and orchestra performances.

Somerville was the birthplace of Lizzie Bolden, a woman who once held the title of World’s Oldest Living Person.  She died in 2006 at the age of 116 years, 118 days.

Bolivar

The next stop on the Highway 64 trans-Tennessee route is the town of Bolivar, the county seat for Hardeman County. The county courthouse faces Main Street (Route 125), but it’s right on the corner of US 64 (Market Street).

The Luez Theater is still hanging on.  A couple of current releases were slated to play on the night I visited, so it must still be in operation.

Maxwell’s Big Star grocery store is across the street from the Luez.

Back on Market Street (US 64), the town of Bolivar has suffered an unfortunate loss.  There used to be a restaurant — Joe’s Restaurant — next to the old Bank of Bolivar building.  Joe’s burned to the ground in 2007…

… and judging by the window in the side of the Bank of Bolivar building, it didn’t fare too well either.  Hopefully the city can find a way to save this old structure.  If it can’t, it will have lost an entire block of the town’s history.

Selmer

I made a brief stop in Selmer, Tennessee, to check out this impressive (and new) mural at the corner of Court Avenue and 2nd Street.  This part of US 45 is designated the Rockabilly Highway (from the Mississippi state line to Interstate 40).

The mural artist, Brian Tull, was just putting the finishing touches on the mural when I visited; the town had planned a big celebration to go along with its completion.

Across the street from the mural, Selmer still has an old-fashioned Rexall Drug store…

… and a few other storefronts along Court Avenue, making it worth a brief stroll.

Adamsville

You can’t drive through McNairy County, Tennessee, without seeing the name Buford Pusser.  The former sheriff is the town’s biggest celebrity — even though he passed away more than 35 years ago.

Buford Pusser served as sheriff of McNairy County from 1964 to 1970.  His efforts to rid the area of illegal moonshining and gambling became so legendary, his story was retold in the movie Walking Tall, as well as several books and even a TV series.

Pusser’s wife was shot and killed while accompanying him on a call in 1967.  Pusser was also shot — in the face — and nearly died.  He vowed to bring the murderers to justice.  In the years that followed, three of the four who were accused in the shooting were shot and killed.  Since then, some have claimed that Pusser ordered the hits.

Sheriff Pusser’s home in Adamsville is now a museum.  There are plenty of signs that will help you find it, if you’re so inclined.

The only other attraction in Adamsville that caught my eye was the Old Home Motel…

… simply because it was so overwhelmingly ugly.  A different primary color for each door, that’s classy!

After leaving Adamsville, I drove on to Savannah, Tennessee, then turned southeast on Route 69.  Route 69 turns into Route 20 at the Alabama state line. As the day ended, I drove across northern Alabama to Huntsville. I didn’t get to stop and see many of the attractions along the way, thanks to my hurried schedule and the on-again, off-again downpours of rain.

One place I noticed in Florence, Alabama is worth mentioning.  If you’re a fan of Dale’s Seasoning, you’ll want to stop for dinner at Dale’s Restaurant.  I saw the familiar logo from the marinade bottle on a huge sign for the restaurant, on U.S. Highway 72/43, just before crossing the Tennessee River.  Until then, I didn’t know the history behind Dale’s.  Later, I learned that there have been several Dale’s Restaurants, starting with one in a cellar in Birmingham.  As far as I know, the Birmingham restaurants are gone, but the one in Florence remains.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a dash-cam time-lapse video of my drive from Memphis to Somerville…

…from Somerville to Selmer, which includes Bolivar…

… and the drive to northern Alabama…

… and from the state line to Huntsville:

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