TENNESSEE NECKVILLE

  • Part 1
    You Might Be a Redneck If ...

  • Opey and Christi (these are their real names) are driving down the road in Johnson City, Tennessee, one brilliant day, going who knows where, when they drive past a garden center with a sign out by the side of the street that says "Shrubberies for Sale." A look of confusion passes across Christi's face as she turns to Opey and says, "Opey, what's a shrew-berry?"
    I hear this tale for the first time as our boat approaches a large, gray 280-hp Baja, engine cranking, music roaring (I'm betting country, although I can't really hear all that well above the engine), party en route. Any doubt about the validity of the story is quickly erased after I learn that the boat belongs to the large gentleman with the rotund stomach and side-arm arsenal of canned beer - Opey - and the lovely bottle-blond chick at his side - Shrewberry (as I would come to know her).
    This is my first impression of Tennessee.
    Now, don't get me wrong. I've met plenty of people from Tennessee before and besides the soft drawl that makes everyone in the state sound, hmmmm, a little slow, they were all nice, intelligent folk. But something lingers in your subconscious when you hear the word "Tennessee" - usually visions of dark woods, brown dirt, small Little House on the Prairie-esque log cabins, moonshine by the door in a worn chestnut jug, a haggard woman stumbling after seven soiled rapscallion children, an even more hollow-eyed man swaying in a homemade rocking chair, drinking said moonshine out of what appears to be a coffee cup and stoking the fire, which happens to be the only source of light. (If this descriptive voyage isn't detailed enough, please rent the movie Deliverance for full effect.)
    Fortunately, electricity was brought to the state by 1909.
    Now, I cannot tell a lie. There are rednecks in Tennessee. You see them everywhere - well, chances are you'll actually hear them first - but the point is that the stereotype can be true. But not everyone is a redneck. If everyone was, I wouldn't be cruising along in a 1988 MasterCraft ProStar stacked to the Ten Foot Pole with 1997-model wakeboards, scrunched among nine Tennesseans who are distinctly not rednecks (not a mud flap in sight). Whew!
    So, why Tennessee, you may ask, which I did when I found out about this assignment. Believe it or not, Tennessee is a viable wakeboarding mecca. (Go ahead, scoff.) There are plenty of boats - MasterCraft's factory is in Vonore, Malibu's factory is in Louden, Aztec's factory is in Friendsville, and Supra's factory is in Maryville. There is plenty of water (over a thousand miles of ridable shoreline). NWZ Board Shop (formerly No Wake Zone) services all 95 counties in state, and you can find Bart's and Overton's in virtually every mailbox. But are there riders? Absolutely.
    Leading this renegade backwoods patrol is Chris Brown, who happens to be neither renegade nor backwoods. Sporting a tennis-ball-green hair color (courtesy of Manic Panic) that may just become the state's alternative to the hunting vest, Chris nails a solid arsenal of inverted tricks mixed with a slew of grabs and spins. "Home" is Piney-Flats, TN, where he lives in a kickin' house that he shares with fellow boarder Ray Bozwell right on Boone Lake. Neither one of them owns a country CD, drives a jacked-up truck or can be classified as a redneck, so it only made sense to make their digs our first stop on this Tennessee adventure.
    We - Chris, Ray, myself, Mike Rowell, Clark Carter, Sean Mahoney, Scott Wade, Scottie Cairns and a little "friend" that we picked up at Boardstock - made the drive from Atlanta to Tennessee in just under five hours, jusin time to drop the boat in, catch a couple sets before dark and get the opportunity to meet the best no-fear rider I've ever encountered - Clark "Superman" Carter. Jeez! Off the water, this guy is the nicest, most laid-back, no-worries, soft-spoken 35-year-old person I know. But once he strapped on that Liquid Force Squirt and hit the water, he was shouting expletives Gator-style in seconds. Now, no offense, but this guy isn't the best rider in the world. He can clear both wakes, do some 180s and catch some air, but what's so unreal is that you can talk him into trying anything. The guy's railing at Raleys like a pro, face planting with such force it could launch the space shuttle and getting up and trying again! And you can't convince him to stop! In fact, Chris and Mahoney are in the back of the boat encouraging him to try S-bends - and Clark was actually thinking about it! Fortunately, he stuck with Raleys and back rolls, and when he finally nailed one, you would've thought he'd won the lottery.
    Now, you might think that just makes him a crazy redneck, and if you choose to think that, then let me tell you this - Clark owns most of the property in Sullivan County, he's got a house on the water, and he's buying a new boat. From what I could tell he also doesn't listen to country, he doesn't chew cud, and he doesn't drive a four-wheel big rig. But if y'all still think he's a redneck, then I'd like to be one too.

  • Part II
    Local Flavor
    So, like any outsider visiting the Volunteer State for the first time, I had to wonder, "What do these people do for fun?" (OK, it was more like, "What am I gonna do for fun?" but that's not the point.) If you're envisioning country bars and line dancing, you're pretty close. Anyone inclined to big hats and kickin' cow patties will fare pretty well, but us city folk won't be spurred either. There's a variety of "regular" bars where you can catch a few rad live bands (Woodshed Dolomite, 30 Amp Fuse), toss back a frosty cold one and still manage a few rounds of pool. We spent our first evening at such a restaurant/bar called Bailey's. However, Chris' pool table in the basement seemed to be where we found ourselves in our spare time. (I told you it was a kickin' house). The team of Scott and Scottie seemed to think they dominated the table, so they spent the majority of their off-water time challenging the rest of us to a game, or seven, and after the first few rounds we stopped humoring them.
    Just up the lake was another little hot spot the locals frequent - Sonny's Marina and Runabout Cafe/Bar. It's your typical boat-in/drive-in kind of place, but the help is friendly and the place gets hoppin' on weekends with drink specials and live bands. This was also where I saw the largest carp known to mankind. We amused ourselves by throwing leftovers into the water, creating a feeding frenzy of sorts below us. Whilst we were struggling with engine trouble at the marina, Scott and Scottie found much entertainment in trying to catch one of these massive fish. They would lure the fish to the surface with a french fry and then try stab it with the silverware stolen from Sonny's. They were unsuccessful, although Scottie claimed he had a fish scale under his fingernail.
    FYI: These two might be considered rednecks. The jury's still out on that one.

  • Part III
    The NWZ Story
    Imagine: Here you are traveling east from Oklahoma working construction with your brother. Crisscrossing the country, doing your job and trying to get in a little water time whenever possible. Only you're driving a beat-up truck that keeps breaking down. And one time, in 1989, you break down in Goodlettsville, TN. Fortunately you actually have some friends nearby so you stick around for a few days, get your car fixed and go home. Then you come back, again. And again. Till one day, a few months later, you and your brother get the hare-brained idea to start a water ski shop. You know it probably isn't profitable, but you love water skiing and it might be fun, so you decide what the hell and do it. You choose a place in Goodlettsville 'cause the people were friendly, and there were lakes close by, and there's space in this little strip mall in the center of town. You start placing orders before you even

  • sign the lease on the space, meeting reps and agents out in front of the store you hope to call yours, and in December 1990 you incorporate - No Wake Zone is officially born.
    Meet Robin and Randy East. Their story is a little bizarre, a little different then most, but their passion is the same as that of the Bill Porters and Tommy Philips of the world. They still sell slalom skis and tubes, but wakeboarding has infiltrated their business like Croatians slaughtering Bosnians, and now both brothers ride almost daily - Robin on a Hyperlite and Randy on a DoubleUP. Business is doing well, although like most dealers they're being stalked by the mail-order plague, but they've never regretted their decision. These two are basically good guys - Randy's a little more "good ol' boy" than Robin, who wears the businessman tag of the family, but they both enjoy the good life, if you catch my drift. Fortunately, they've got some help. Craig Archer and Trent Hitchcock are manning the front lines as well, covering the shop every day and dropping bomber airs on Old Hickory every night. Together, the team at No Wake Zone (NWZ as it's now known) is spreading the wakeboarding vibe throughout Tennessee like a fart through a closed elevator.

  • Part IV
    Hey Y'all ... Watch This!
    Now Goodlettsville is basically just a suburb of Nashville, so you can imagine that the night life there is a little more creative then that in, say, Kingsport (no offense). The biggest tourist attraction being The Grand Ol' Opry, which I did my best to stay away from, although we did venture a peek at the Opryland Hotel. Can you say, "Plush!"? No wonder the place costs $179 a night.
    Anyhow, Nashville itself is an industrial waterfront community. A brown wiggle of a riverbed (the Cumberland River) comes through the north side, slicing a wide girth through the city, separating downtown Nashville from the highway and surrounding commerce. Fortunately, this riverfront acreage provides the backdrop for Nashville's most happening night life - Dancin' in the District. Every Thursday evening thousands of people cluster to the riverfront for live music, drink and general revelry. The best thing is that the Cumberland River is ridable! So here you have a unique opportunity to showcase your skills (if you have them) to a bunch of people (namely, women) who might just be impressed. A good time to be had by all. Too bad it rained the only Thursday night I was there; well, actually it rained every night I was there, but that's not the point. Murphy's Law at work again.
    If the downtown scene isn't your gig, there are plenty of smaller bars and clubs sprinkled throughout the countryside, but the biggest and best thing about Nashville is its proximity to good water. You'll find Robin, Randy, Craig, Trent and their friends Bob Knapp, Marcus Marzette, Keith Whitley and Shane Pate (among others) riding daily at Old Hickory. But if you get bored with that there's Percy Priest, Center Hill, Lake Hull, Dale Hollow, Chetham Lake or any one of the marinas on the Cumberland - all within driving distance. Tennessee as a whole has over a thousand miles of man-made ridable shoreline, but what's more impressive is that yoy you actually have some friends nearby so you stick around for a few days, get your car fixed and go home. Then you come back, again. And again. Till one day, a few months later, you and your brother get the hare-brained idea to start a water ski shop. You know it probably isn't profitable, but you love water skiing and it might be fun, so you decide what the hell and do it. You choose a place in Goodlettsville 'cause the people were friendly, and there were lakes close by, and there's space in this little strip mall in the center of town. You start placing orders before you even sign the lease on the space, meeting reps and agents out in front of the store you hope to call yours, and in December 1990 you incorporate - No Wake Zone is officially born.
    Meet Robin and Randy East. Their story is a little bizarre, a little different then most, but their passion is the same as that of the Bill Porters and Tommy Philips of the world. They still sell slalom skis and tubes, but wakeboarding has infiltrated their business like Croatians slaughtering Bosnians, and now both brothers ride almost daily - Robin on a Hyperlite and Randy on a DoubleUP. Business is doing well, although like most dealers they're being stalked by the mail-order plague, but they've never regretted their decision. These two are basically good guys - Randy's a little more "good ol' boy" than Robin, who wears the businessman tag of the family, but they both enjoy the good life, if you catch my drift. Fortunately, they've got some help. Craig Archer and Trent Hitchcock are manning the front lines as well, covering the shop every day and dropping bomber airs on Old Hickory every night. Together, the team at No Wake Zone (NWZ as it's now known) is spreading the wakeboarding vibe throughout Tennessee like a fart through a closed elevator.

  • Part IV
    Hey Y'all ... Watch This!
    Now Goodlettsville is basically just a suburb of Nashville, so you can imagine that the night life there is a little more creative then that in, say, Kingsport (no offense). The biggest tourist attraction being The Grand Ol' Opry, which I did my best to stay away from, although we did venture a peek at the Opryland Hotel. Can you say, "Plush!"? No wonder the place costs $179 a night.
    Anyhow, Nashville itself is an industrial waterfront community. A brown wiggle of a riverbed (the Cumberland River) comes through the north side, slicing a wide girth through the city, separating downtown Nashville from the highway and surrounding commerce. Fortunately, this riverfront acreage provides the backdrop for Nashville's most happening night life - Dancin' in the District. Every Thursday evening thousands of people cluster to the riverfront for live music, drink and general revelry. The best thing is that the Cumberland River is ridable! So here you have a unique opportunity to showcase your skills (if you have them) to a bunch of people (namely, women) who might just be impressed. A good time to be had by all. Too bad it rained the only Thursday night I was there; well, actually it rained every night I was there, but that's not the point. Murphy's Law at work again.
    If the downtown scene isn't your gig, there are plenty of smaller bars and clubs sprinkled throughout the countryside, but the biggest and best thing about Nashville is its proximity to good water. You'll find Robin, Randy, Craig, Trent and their friends Bob Knapp, Marcus Marzette, Keith Whitley and Shane Pate (among others) riding daily at Old Hickory. But if you get bored with that there's Percy Priest, Center Hill, Lake Hull, Dale Hollow, Chetham Lake or any one of the marinas on the Cumberland - all within driving distance. Tennessee as a whole has over a thousand miles of man-made ridable shoreline, but what's more impressive is that you can find almost half of them within two hours of Nashville.
    All in all, I'd have to say my impression of Tennessee has been altered. It's not the cud-chewing redneck, I-want-to-go-tubing haven I thought it would be. It's a viable wakeboard mecca of sorts with good people, great food (The Mason Jar rules!) and, of course, tons of quality riders ripping it every day (almost nine months of the year in most parts of the state). However, I will urge this one word of caution before you trailer up your boat for that road trip: If you hear someone yell, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" get ready for quick trip to the local hospital. It's usually the last thing a redneck says before he gets hurt.t you can find almost half of them within two hours of Nashville.
    All in all, I'd have to say my impression of Tennessee has been altered. It's not the cud-chewing redneck, I-want-to-go-tubing haven I thought it would be. It's a viable wakeboard mecca of sorts with good people, great food (The Mason Jar rules!) and, of course, tons o

  • f quality riders ripping it every day (almost nine months of the year in most parts of the state). However, I will urge this one word of caution before you trailer up your boat for that road trip: If you hear someone yell, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" get ready for quick trip to the local hospital. It's usually the last thing a redneck says before he gets hurt.