Bicycling in North Nashville: The Fox Tour

Sometimes when I tell people how I spend most Saturdays – on my bicycle, riding 25, 30, 40 miles or more – they ask things about the bike: How fast, how many calories is that, do I like riding as much as I love running? That sort of thing.

But everyone, without exception, asks “Where?”

So I thought I’d start a blog series about my rides. Or, I should say, about OUR rides. (I can’t remember the last time I rode without my dear friend and enthusiast-of-all-things-on-wheels cycling partner Andrew Duthie.)

Andrew and I always start our rides at his house at the dead end of Woodland in East Nashville. I figured out a while back that stashing my bike in his garage is a heck of a lot easier than hauling it from my house in Franklin.

From Woodland, we have several well-traveled routes, inclusive of all parts of town: East side, Inglewood, the greenway out to Percy Priest dam; downtown, Germantown, TSU; Sylvan Park, the Nations, north Nashville; Belle Meade, West End, Percy Warner; 12 South, Wedgewood-Houston, Chestnut Hill, Rolling Mill Hills, and on and on.

Usually we name our rides based on what we see, sometimes what we talk about. I will call this week’s ride The Fox Tour because a) it included the Nations (home to hipster stop Stone Fox) and b) I made Duthie watch that ridiculous “What Does The Fox Say” video when we stopped for a break at Cafe Coco. Subsequently, every time we would go down a big hill, I would “talk like the fox” – loud, crazy gibberish. I could not make Andrew do this.

Anyway, The Fox Tour:

1. From East Nashville, we crossed the river on the Jefferson Street bridge and headed toward the Jefferson Street business district. Stop one is an underpass on DB Todd Jr Blvd that has been turned into a really unique art exhibit honoring the community’s black music history. A huge improvement over the weedy eyesore it replaced.

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2. We then headed over to Charlotte, toward the community north of I-40 known as the Nations because, well, hang on a minute; this is apparently a controversial topic…

I have always been told The Nations is called The Nations because the streets are named after states in our nation. This is admittedly confusing because wouldn’t it be more logical to call it The Nation (singular) or The States?

Alas, writer JR Lind says this isn’t the right explanation for the community’s name in the first place, and I’m inclined to take his word until I have time to do some further digging. Here is what he said on Twitter in response to an earlier version of this post that took the states-in-the-nation explanation at face value:

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Anyway! This is becoming a new haven for young creative people buying and renovating their first homes. It’s still affordable and it’s way cooler than I am. Think East Nashville 7 or 8 years ago. Betty’s is there, and you can stop in for the best greasy spoon hamburger in town (according to Andrew).

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3. Then we rode past this thing on one of the state-named streets. We have no idea what it is and are hoping someone can tell us.

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4. We then pedaled super fast down some big hills and down a boat ramp and almost into the Cumberland. At this boat ramp, we talked to a guy wearing shorts and cowboy boots who was afraid we were going to crash our bikes into the water.

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5. Then we rode through a residential area where all the streets are named for Ford models. JR Lind says this is because the neighborhood was worker housing for the Ford glass plant. Andrew had theorized that during our ride, but wasn’t sure.

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6. On our way to lunch at Cafe Coco, we pedaled past a heron hanging out at an interstate overpass. Nashville is countryside built into a city.

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7. Twenty-odd miles in, lunch! Cafe Coco off Charlotte is one of my favorite places for patio lunching. If you stop in, get a sparkling Italian drink from the fridge. Ours today tasted like really high end bitters, which might sound weird but was delicious with the melon and procuttio we had for lunch.

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8. We took parts of the greenway back toward downtown, wrapping around the Ted Rhodes golf course and Metro Center, where a piece is missing in the pavement. We think this is related to flood prevention, but I need to check The Tennessean archives to be sure. Also, it sure would be nice if the city would let you know about this when you get on the greenway at that stretch, instead of having you ride a couple miles and run into a surprising dead end.

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9. Once we were back downtown, we were at about 30 miles and wanted to stretch that to 40, so we went up Hermitage Avenue and did a tour of the Trolley Barn development where the Entrepreneur Center is located. The view is incredible if you ignore the scrap metal heap on the east bank. Also, it is super fun and kind of scary to ride the steep zigzag down from where this photo was shot.

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10. We took Korean Vets back across the river, then rode around Shelby Park and Riverside Village for a while until we hit 40 miles and Duthie realized he was late for a motorcycle rally at Barista Parlor. The man loves wheels, I tell you.

And I love Nashville. THAT is why I enjoy these rides so much. The exercise, yes, but most importantly the city and the company.

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