The drive from Nashville usually only takes about four hours, but we intentionally didn't take the most direct route. In addition, we had plenty to do before we left town, which made the trip take longer -- but it was totally worth it.
After leaving the hotel, we met with some of the guys at Nissan's corporate headquarters to talk about the future of the Frontier and Titan. Good news: both trucks are sticking around. After we discussed some off-the-record info (sorry for the teaser; we'll be able to talk about it later this year), we then went to the plant in Smyrna to see where our long-term Frontier was built. They wouldn't let us take photos inside, unfortunately, but the facility is HUGE -- vthe equivalent of 94 football fields, and a mile long -- and quite modern. This is the site where the Frontier, Xterra, Altima, and Infiniti JX are currently being built. (We counted about 35 JXes that we saw being built there.) The Leaf will also be built here in the near future, as will the 2013 Pathfinder. With such a large facility, it made more sense to ride in a tram than walk the whole thing. We passed assembly robots, plus some smaller robots, each with a flat platform on top, that sometimes rolled along similar routes as the tram. I think the office could use a robot like that: we could send snacks and drinks (and work-related things, I suppose) to and from other parts of the building.
By the time we said our goodbyes and left Smyrna (sadly, without one of the mini-robots), we didn't hit the road until 2:30. Sure, if we had taken I-40, we would've gotten to Memphis by 6:30 at the latest, but what fun is that? So, thanks to Melissa Spiering's route planning, we took roads like TN-99, US-412, and TN-152 before eventually giving in and getting on the I-40 for the last 50 miles of the drive.
The roads we took often had two lanes in either direction, becoming narrower as they went through small towns. These secondary highways were flanked by lush, tall trees; the big payoff for the area's humidity is that everything is green. In some cases, the trees covered hills that seemed to go on forever. In other cases, when I peeked past them, spaces between the trees revealed idyllic meadows. Later, more meadows went all the way to the road, some bisected by our lonely two-lane. There were massive estates adjacent to smaller homes and the occasional “fixer-upper,” and we found that many of the towns we passed through had classic early 20th century architecture and plenty of charm. There were some spots that were so appealing, we had to stop and get photos of the Frontier as it passed through farm and ranch country.
So far, the truck has been great -- the V-6 has plenty of power, and thanks to the six-speed manual, it's easy to downshift and pass big-rigs and slow cars, and power up hills. While the Crew Cab may be more popular, this King Cab layout offers plenty of room for luggage and two people.
Many hours of enjoying these smaller roads meant we didn't get to Memphis until after dark. We checked into the Heartbreak Hotel near Graceland. Yes, there are multiple Elvis TV channels, and yes, every room has photos of Elvis on the walls. There's also a heart-shaped pool and lots of Elvis stuff for sale in the gift shop. Oh, and there are pink Cadillac limos that serve as shuttles for hotel guests. On day one, we'd hoped for Southern food for dinner and things didn't work out. We made up for it tonight, with excellent smoked turkey, ribs, and brisket at Central BBQ, about 10 miles away. Then it was time to sleep, as we already knew Day Three was going to be busy.