“Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”
State 37: Tennessee April 17, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Nashville well rested, and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, we learned about the pivitol role Tennessee played in Woman’s Suffrage, and could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead today! The first item on the agenda is to drive back across town for the Cross Country Couple's “Famous Food” for Tennessee; Goo Goo Cluster. Before there was Snickers, Kit-Kat, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Pay Day, Mars Bar, Charleston Chew, and Milky Way there was the lesser known Goo Goo Cluster! Invented by Howel Campbell in 1912 and named after the sound made by a baby, a Goo Goo Cluster is a cylindrical candy bar traditionally containing marshmallow, nougat, caramel and roasted peanuts covered in milk chocolate. The Goo Goo Cluster is credited as the first candy bar consisting of more than just one principle ingredient. People throughout the world with craterous cavities, rambunctious children and Type 2 Diabetes are the legacy of the world’s first combination candy bar: The Goo Goo Cluster.
Off we went to the Goo Goo Shop and Desert Bar in Downtown Nashville to partake in the combination candy bar which started its all! In case you have yet to have the privilege, let me be the first to tell you driving in Downtown Nashville sucks!!! Narrow one-way streets, zero parking options for high top vehicles, construction in progress on the grandest scale, hundreds of tourists obliviously walking into oncoming traffic, and more await your arrival in the Downtown Nashville!
After circling the block with the Goo Goo Cluster Shop 127 times, we finally found a parking space on the street with a 15-minute time limit five blocks away! This would have to do! Lori agreed to stay with Rosie to ward off the meter maids, and I ran the miracle mile through Downtown Nashville to lay claim to my Goo Goo Cluster! Time was not on my side! After dodging moseying pedestrians, taking a shortcut down a creepy alley, and almost getting hit by a car, long at last, I had arrived at the Goo Goo Shop and Dessert Bar! Please see the pictures below.
Upon entering the store, the scent and sight of confectionary excellence overwhelmed my senses. Before me lie a chocoholic's wonderland to the likes of which would make Willy Wonka sadistically smile! The far right wall of the store offered visitors the opportunity to view displays and artifacts from the Goo Goo archives pertaining to the 100+ years of the candy store's history. The left wall of the candy shop featured a Dessert Bar serving up all sorts of yummy treats including coffee, sodas, pies, sundaes, milkshakes and much more! Apparently, every Wednesday and Thursday night chocolate classes are offered! Tucked away in the far back corner of a glass encased confectionery kitchen, I discovered the candy shops crown jewel! Before me workers were hand making Premium Goo Goo Clusters!!! OOOOOH!!! AAAAAH!!! Although the Premium Goo Goo Clusters are made in store, the smaller sized traditional Goo Goo Clusters are made across town in the Standard Candy Factory where 20,000 are produced per hour! In the center of the candy shop lie a variety of Goo Goo branded merchandise, bulk retro candies, Nashville themed gift items, and of course ample Goo Goo Clusters in a plethora of shapes, sizes and quantities! Clearly, I was not standing in your average candy shop! Please see the pictures below.
Goo Goo Clusters come in 3 varieties, Original, Supreme, and Peanut Butter. After reading the ingredient labels, I discovered the supreme contained bacon, and the original contained marshmallow (AKA gelatin) (AKA boiled animal hoof). Since Lori and I are vegetarians, by default we could only eat the Peanut Butter Goo Goo Cluster. I purchased two of the traditional sized, and one of the premium sized Peanut Butter Goo Goo Clusters for $13.00!!! Whoa! That was expensive! Clearly, Goo Goo Clusters are a novelty and not an everyday item! Please see the pictures below.
I was so goo goo gaa gaa with my surroundings I entirely forgot I had left Lori and Rosie perilously parked in a 15-minute space 30 minutes ago!!! I would have to take these goo goo’s to go! After checking out with the cashier, I ran five blocks back across Downtown Nashville to reunite with Lori and Rosie, and fortunately we did not get ticketed! We drove to a nearby supermarket parking lot to long at last partake in the one, the only, the combination candy bar which started it all: The Goo Goo Cluster!!!
It had been quite the journey to get to this point. I illegally parked chancing my home being ticketed and towed, and risked life and limb running 10 city blocks through downtown Nashville! All of this was now behind me! Here I stood with my Goo Goo Cluster in hand, and the time had finally arrived to personally partake in candy bar history! I began with the traditional sized Peanut Butter Goo Goo. Lori and I each tore back the package from our respective clusters, and simultaneously took a bite. CHOMP!!! We chewed the peanut butter bolus in our mouths for a few moments longer than usual to experience all the flavors the Goo Goo’s offered, and washed them down with a gulp of ice cold almond milk! Please see the pictures below.
I looked at Lori in the eyes, and said on the count of three say what these Goo Goo Clusters remind you of. One, Two, and on the count of Three, we both simultaneously said, “Old Easter Candy”. You know the miscellaneous rack in back of the supermarket selling reduced candy a month after a holiday had passed? That is exactly what these Goo Goo Clusters tasted like! Next, we tried the Premium Peanut Butter Goo Goo Cluster, which was just as disgusting as its traditionally sized counterpart. We read the package labels and noticed the Goo Goo’s were made with preservatives and poor quality ingredients, so they were doomed to be disgusting from the beginning. Actually, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups taste better than the Peanut Butter Goo Goo Clusters! Clearly profit comes before the production of a quality product! How very anticlimactic!
After forcing down our Goo Goo Clusters, we drove 208 miles East to Sevierville for the Cross Country Couple's “Famous Person” for Tennessee; the Backwoods Barbie, Aunt Granny, The Smokey Mountain Songbird, The Queen of Country, The Book Lady, The Queen of Nashville, The Leading Lady, The Iron Butterfly, the one the only: DOLLY PARTON!!! (APPLAUSE!) (APPLAUSE!)
Born on January 19, 1946 in a remote region of Eastern Tennessee called Locust Ridge, Dolly Parton is a singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, author, businesswoman, and philanthropist known primarily for her work in Country Music. In a musical career spanning 7 decades, Parton has released a remarkable 42 albums, and written over 3,000 songs! With smash hits such as “I Will Always Love You”, “Jolene”, “Coat of Many Colors”, and “9 to 5”, twenty-five of Dolly’s songs have reached #1 on the Billboard Country Music Charts! A few of Parton’s many accomplishments include: selling 100 million records worldwide, 25 certified Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum Awards, nine Grammy Awards, ten Country Music Association Awards, three American Music Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, recipient of Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year Award, and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame making Dolly Parton the most honored female country performer of all time! In addition to all of the aforementioned, Dolly Parton is also the Godmother of the pop singer Miley Cyrus!
Aside from being a Country Music icon, there is a lot to personally love about Dolly! She is witty, funny, spunky, genuinely nice, caring, full of life, light-hearted, speaks her mind, stands up for what she believes in, and possesses a personality which lights up any room she enters! With her big blonde wigs, gaudy caked on makeup, countless public plastic surgeries and outrageous and provocative costumes with enough rhinestone to safely land a 747 in the middle of the night, even Dolly know she looks absolutely absurd; but she owns it! Occasionally, Parton even playfully pokes fun at herself by saying, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”, and “I’m an entertainer! When I’m out there, if all else fails, I just do a boob joke.”
There is another side to Parton besides her public persona. Despite her stereotypical “dumb blonde" appearance, Dolly is an extremely successful businesswoman who has not forgotten her roots. Parton co-wrote a Broadway Musical based on her 1980 movie “9 to 5,” runs a production company called Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, and in 1986 partnered with the Herschend family to create Dollywood near her hometown of Sevierville, TN. With a name like Dollywood, I initially pegged Parton as an egomaniac, but my preconceptions were clearly misplaced. Parton once said,
“I always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area”.
Dolly’s motivation for opening the theme park named in her likeness was to create jobs in her hometown community, promote tourism to the area, provide a venue to host local country musicians attempting to find their way as once was her story. Today, Dollywood sprawls over 150 acres, employs 3,000 people, hosts 3 million annual visitors, and is the most frequented ticketed tourist attraction in Tennessee! YEEE! HAAA! Dolly Parton does not just sing Country! Dolly Parton is Country, and proud to be from Eastern Tennessee!
Parton is also a Philanthropist. Inspired by her father’s inability to read and write, the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was founded in 1995 aimed at improving children's literacy rates. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program mailing free books monthly to children from birth to Pre-K regardless of a families income! All a family has to do is register their preschool child, and each month a free book will arrive in the mail to read to your rugrat! What began as an effort to promote children’s literacy within her hometown, has expanded throughout Tennessee, across the US, and into Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia! Awarded The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, and Library of Congress Literacy Awards, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library mails over 1 million free books each month to preschoolers around the world, and since its founding, over 100 million free books have been mailed to preschoolers around the world!
We were going to visit Dolly Parton's childhood home and the Dolly Parton Museum, but both were located inside Dollywood. Nate and I are not a fan of theme parks especially ones which cost $69.99 per person. EEK! There must be some other way to tangibly connect with Parton!!! A quick Google search revealed a life size bronze statue of Dolly Parton is on the lawn of the Sevierville County Courthouse. TN. Erected in honor of Sevierville’s most famous resident, artist Jim Gray created a life size bronze statue depicting a young starry eyed Parton perched upon a large boulder beneath a shady tree with guitar in lap. Parton was present at the statues 1987 dedication, and shared of all the awards she has been bestowed throughout her career, being honored by her hometown of Sevierville has been her proudest moment!
After departing the statue of Dolly Parton, we drove across town where we found a Walmart to spend the night.