Monday, 15 June 2015

Over The Borderline: A Tale of Two Cities

I’ve always loved travelling over state lines and getting unnaturally excited by the new signs at the side of the road.   One of my bucket list destinations is Four Corners, which is the point where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet.  They’ve even got a monument marking the boundary lines.  What could be better than having limbs in four different states at one time??   I know, nothing, right?  

Anyway, since I haven’t quite made it to Four Corners yet, and, on this trip, I was travelling through Tennessee, I felt compelled to find a border city.    In this instance the chosen place turned out to be Bristol, Tennessee, and its twin city, Bristol, Virginia.    I’d visited both states before, but was powerless to resist the temptation to visit them both at the same time.

The twin cities share a state line, which runs along the aptly named ‘State Street’ in the shared Downtown district.   Luckily, there’s no time difference between the states, or that would just be too mind-blowing.   I imagine it’s confusing enough living in one state with all rules and regulations and then popping across the road to another state and finding things are a bit different, despite the fact that you’ve only taken ten steps.  

I imagine living in Virginia and leaving the house one day.   ‘Where you off to?’ LT would ask.   ‘Oh, we’re out of milk, so I’m just nipping over to Tennessee to get some…’ As you do.


Both cities look similar (obviously) and are joined by a fabulously massive overhead sign telling you that either one is a good place to live.    Bristol, VA is officially known for being the birthplace of country music as the first recordings were made here.  Bristol, TN boasts the world’s fastest half-mile track, which is in the local Speedway.   

Personally, I was relieved that they both had claims to fame as I imagined all kinds of petty jealousy caused by one being famous for tons of stuff while the other had missed out on everything simply by being a few yards further to the left of right.   That would be quite annoying for the local tourist board on the other side.    As it happens, this is not a problem as they clearly work well together to promote the fact that they’re both as similar as they are different. 

After arriving in the Tennessean City of Bristol, we had to stop by and check out the Speedway.   Bristol Motor Speedway is the 4th largest sports venue in the US and 8th largest in the world.  That’s a pretty impressive statistic and the venue can seat 160,000 people.   Parking must be a right headache when it’s busy.  It’s famous for hosting NASCAR events, amongst others.   I know virtually nothing about NASCAR, with the extent of my knowledge being I’m aware that Danica Patrick was the first female driver to win a pole in the Sprint Cup Series.  I only know this because she’s in a Miranda Lambert music video and I Googled her after seeing it   

Bristol Speedway is also famous for being used to shoot scenes for the Tom Cruise movie, ‘Days of Thunder’, as well as being the inspiration for the racing track in Disney Pixar’s ‘Cars’.   I loved one of those movies.   My nephews loved it, too.

Bristol Speedway

Bristol Speedway

Heading on from the track, we entered the Downtown area and parked in what may have been Tennessee, or possibly Virginia, but almost definitely one of the two.   The wonderful thing about Downtown Bristol is that it’s retained its old world charm and is a lovely collection of restaurants, bars and antique shops with gorgeous window displays and friendly natives.   It’s a great area to go for a walk and, should you get puckish, there’s an abundance of options to choose from.   

Never one to be far from hunger, LT spied Quaker Steak and Lube at 629 State and, with the tempting smell of baby back ribs in his nostrils, we ventured in.  At this point, he hadn’t eaten for, ooh, at least an hour and so ‘lunch time’ was declared.  


Quaker Steak and Lube

After filling up the tank, we wandered some more and realised that there was so much to do.   We stopped by the Paramount Theater and City Hall and generally enjoyed the sunshine and atmosphere before heading back to our Smoky Mountain camp. 

paramount Theater Bristol

Downtown Bristol