‘Southern Voices’ is a reader-submitted platform for stories from the heart. Today’s submission comes from Mikell Hazlehurst of Nashville, Tennessee. If you have a story to tell, see our guidelines for submission here.


Having a baby during the coronavirus pandemic is actually a pretty good way to keep yourself busy and pass the time when travel hasn’t really been an option, albeit a safe one. After four months of near isolation and quarantine, my wife and I decided it was time for a break. We needed a quick trip to recharge our batteries and get a much-needed mini-vacation of sorts.

While there were a number of short overnight trips we could have taken, the small town of Florence, AL, seemed like an easy drive from Nashville for just one night. So we loaded up the car, headed south down I-65, and put on this Muscle Shoals Sound playlist on Spotify.

My wife didn’t know where we were going, and I preferred to keep it that way since we were also celebrating our second year of marriage. The first stop was our hotel for the night: The Gunrunner. A local couple recently bought the brick and wood factory building and turned it into 10 large suites, most equipped with balconies. We checked into the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio suite, which had a wide front-facing balcony and many records hung on the walls from the famed studio’s historic recordings. “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar” were both recorded locally by the Rolling Stones, and the hotel certainly exudes a confidence that sets the tone for your stay.

Muscle Shoals Sound suite at The Gunrunner
The Rosenbaum House is Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in Florence, AL.
Due to Covid-19, the tour consisted of just us and the tour guide.

After our tour, we drove back to The Gunrunner and had a few drinks at the bar before walking up a flight of stairs to their rooftop deck. We overheard several other conversations, one amongst a few artists and another from an Australian man. You could tell the hotel got its fair share of visitors, and it was at full capacity that night.

For dinner, we walked a few blocks to Court Street and sat down for dinner at Odette. I read it was Billy Reid’s favorite restaurant in town, so I couldn’t argue with his recommendation. We had our temperature taken by a masked hostess and proceeded to our table.

I brought a 2013 bottle of Silver Oak from Napa Valley along with us for dinner. The bottle of wine had become something of an illusive object since we were supposed to have consumed it after our first year of marriage. 2013 was the year we started dating, so I thought it would be the perfect vintage to commemorate our wedding and celebrate our first year together.

A week before we were about to open the sucker, my wife came into my office and told me that she was pregnant. While a pleasant surprise, I quickly realized our bottle of wine would have to wait another year. So, pending a second pregnancy, we were about to enjoy two years of pent up oenophilia. My wish was granted this time, and the waiter opened our bottle after we each had a few appetizers and cocktails. I had the ribeye special and my wife had their steak frites. The wine did not disappoint, nor did the food. In fact, they perfectly complemented one another. After dinner, we walked back to our hotel and crashed for the night. Being our first night away from our 4-month-old, it was nice to get 12 hours of sleep!

The Gunrunner bar
At last! We enjoyed this 2013 bottle of Silver Oak — and it was perfect!

The next morning, we walked down to Big Bad Breakfast and had a feast. We then loaded our car back up and made the two-hour journey back to Nashville via the Natchez Trace Parkway. I would recommend taking that route both ways, as it is much more beautiful and has lots of turn-offs for trails and views.

So if you’re looking for a quick little 24-hour getaway from Nashville, look no further than Florence, AL!

Mikell is a software consultant who lives in Nashville with his wife, Lindsay, and their son, Waring.



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