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Presidents, pork ribs and parrotheads

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The Mathews/McCrary Trek Across Tennessee is in full swing.

We rolled into LIttle Rock, saw the impressive Clinton Presidential Library and headed east towards Jackson. The building is magnificent, set right on the Arkansas River. The $158 million facility was built with private donations. The first floor is a reception area and houses one of Clinton's presidential limousines.

The second floor has a small theater that shows a 12-minute film narrated by Clinton.

The floor also boasts an impressive interactive timeline of Clinton's White House years and also contains a replica of the Cabinet Room, complete with interactive computer screens that allow you to learn as much as you'd ever want to know about Clinton's team.

The second floor houses more personal memories of the Clinton's White House.

The library is staffed by volunteer docents who were anxious to answer questions.

We ate a place called Nick's Catfish and Barbecue in Carlisle, Arkansas. It's a popular gathering spot ... the parking lot was overflowing at 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon ... good food and lots of locals hanging out, drinking coffee and swapping stories. The barbecue sauce was good ... I'm bringing some home in a bottle. It's not Bodacious sauce, but it's tasty.

An observation about Interstate 40 from Little Rock to Knoxville: Trucks like this highway. A lot. I'll bet we saw over 2,000 18-wheelers in 2 days. I had told my crew - Mr. Mathews, Mrs. Mathews and my mom - that I40 traffic was replete with big rigs, but I don't think they believed me.

Yesterday we hit Nashville - which is a huge city, too - and headed for the Ryman Auditorium, the "Mother Church" of country music. I got goosebumps as we entered the venue ... just think of it ... Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Porter Waggoner, Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff stood on that stage.

After touring the Ryman, we headed just across the street for opening day of the Margaritaville Cafe. I have a friend from BuffettNews who has connections to Jimmy Buffett's mega-million-dollar corporation. We had planned to meet for lunch anyway, so when they announced Monday would be opening day for Buffett's new baby, it just fell into place that we'd go there.

It was a great experience. You would have never known it was the restaurant's first day. Our servers were attentive. The food arrived on time and the drinks (a Pink Cadillac and a Pomegranate Margarita) were spot on. The fried green tomato appetizer was amazing. Yum-o. Of course, the Cheeseburgers in Paradise were cooked to perfection. Margaritaville spent some $10 million and a year rennovating the place. It's located at the corner of Broadway and 4th, right in the heart of all the Nashville action, so the place should become one of the city's favorite spots. Those of us who've been to a Margaritaville before know how good the food, drink and entertainment is. (Jimmy's been known to show up and do a song or two.) What most people don't expect is the attention to detail - like fabulous customer service and a thoughtful menu.

Margaritaville Nashville is no exception. There are 2 floors, several bars and 2 stages for live entertainment. If you can hear above the crowd, listen for the musical notes that play as you hit each step on the way to the second floor ... think Tom Hanks playing that keyboard in the movie BIG ... there really is something for everyone! Here's hoping they have a long and successful run.

A special thank you to Jen Belzer, who took such good care of us. BuffettNews buddies rock.

We're staying at the Comfort Inn Suites in Knoxville. Found them through the Knoxville tourism website. Booked them for a great rate of $64.50 per room per night, and that includes a hot breakfast.

We ventured over to a Carraba's for dinner ... our first disappointment. Will post a complete run down of our night of Italian misfortune later. Right now, we're off to discover Knoxville.

Phins UP!




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