Me, myself, and Jack

The first time I tried Jack Daniels was in college… Probably because I’m boring and that’s when I started enjoying adult drinks. No high school keggers for this nerd. I tried it because, for some weird reason, my body seems to have a high tolerance to alcohol. Now some people may think that would be awesome… or maybe that I’m bragging. But actually it kinda sucks. My friends could enjoy some beers and get that happy buzz one seeks when consuming alcohol. Where as it’d take a lot more to get me there. And lets be honest the social lubricating effects of booze is the main reason to consume them.

So my goal at that time was to find something with a little more kick. That I could afford as a poor college student. But wasn’t bottom of the shelf rotgut. And I found Jack Daniels. Is it the smoothest drink in the world? No. But upgrade Old number 7 to Gentleman Jack and it’s moves pretty far up the list. You pour it in some coke and it’s down right delicious… In my humble opinion anyway.

Of course… That was all long before discovering I had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Sipping on a regular old carbonated drink with IPF would cause me bad coughing fits. Tennessee Whiskey probably would have caused me to cough my lungs right up. And despite their scarred interior. They were doing their best to keep me alive. So Jack Daniels and other alcohol had to go. Not that it was a hard decision. I didn’t have adult beverages that often. So missing it occasionally wasn’t a terrible burden in my mind.

Post transplant, I am allowed to drink. But it is definitely something to be done in moderation. Having a night cap or drink with every meal is probably not the best idea for organ recipients. As alcohol messes with the body chemistry. Plus it can effect how are medications behave… and our medications working right is super important. So alcohol is best consumed occasionally rather then regularly. It doesn’t have to be avoided all together. But maybe best saved for special occasions.

Driving up and down I-24 and I-65. Traveling from the Hoosier state to those further south and back again… One sees signs advertising the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. And every time I’ve passed one, the urge to take the exit has always been rather strong. Not necessarily because I enjoy their product. But a combination of that… along with my love of historic places, my curiosity to learn how things are made, and a simple adventurous spirit to get off the beating path.

So when I was I decided to drive to my Cousin Wendi’s wedding in Florida. And knew that I would be taking my time exploring things along the way. Marking Lynchburg on the map was a no brainer. I honestly don’t think there was a seconds deliberation about it in my mind. I just naturally started knitting it onto my planned path south… And I am really glad I did.

The distillery and the surrounding town are really nice. It’s tiny and has a very comfortable homie feel to it. The distillery itself and all the barrel houses take up a ton of acreage, of course. But it’s not located in the middle of a huge metropolitan area. The drive there is relaxing. Upon arriving you learn the town has a single stop light. And the people have that easy going midwestern cheerfulness feel about them. Yes, I’m sure they have jerks there just like every where else. But I didn’t meet any as I ventured around the town.

The Jack Daniels employees were all super nice. And even though they were jumping through the “pandemic” hoops to stay open. I never felt any pressure about anything. Yes they took your temperature at the front door. Yes they required you to wear a mask. Et cetera. But they never seemed freaked out, terrified, or pushy about anything. It was a nice change from some of the places I’ve visited during this crazy time. The same goes for the souvenir shops I perused. As well as the local restaurant where I had myself a meal.

The distillery grounds themselves are actually quite pretty if visited on a snowy day, like I did. Parking is in front of the visitors center and a little to the side. Because there is a loop for tour buses directly in front. Meaning you’ll have about a 50-100 yard walk from the car to the door. Unless you arrived in a bus that is. Or get dropped off before the cars parked. Though the tour is a walking tour. Sooooo if your lungs can’t get you from the parking lot to the inside… this may not be for you.

Inside there is a spiffy statue of Mr. Daniels, whiskey making displays, old bottles, past advertising, and neat little things to view while waiting. Tours leave at preset times. With three options to choose from. The dry county tour. For those who can’t or don’t wish to drink. The flight of Jack Daniel’s tour. Which includes samples of their common products like Old #7. And the Angel’s share tour, which I went on, that includes samples of their higher end/more expensive spirits.

The majority of the tour is outside… You go into Jack’s old office, a barrel house, as well as a few others. But getting from one to the next involves walking outdoors. Plus the rickyard, where coal is made, and the distillery’s spring are both outside. With several inclines, a staircase to deal with, and only one place to sit along the way. So be prepared with your supplemental oxygen. I had no issues being post transplant. But I think I would have struggled pre new lung instillation.

I’m sure I could have pushed through it at say… 3lpm or higher. But a trip like this is supposed to be enjoyable. And it physically would not have been fun at the “carrying O2 everywhere” stage. If you are not walking however… But are instead using a wheel chair to get around and help carry your oxygen. You should still be able to enjoy yourself. I didn’t have to experience it myself. But they do offer a “accessible distillery tour” for disabled visitors. And I saw some tour buses with wheelchair lifts.

Something else to consider, along with the simple need to get around the grounds. Is the smell… No it doesn’t stink there. If you’re a fan of spirits it actually smells pretty darn good around there. But, as you’re walking through the grounds. You’ll get constant whiffs of the evaporated alcohol in the air. Then when you are taken inside and shown the actual distillation process… the alcohol fumes are extremely strong. Pre-transplant it would have caused me an absolutely terrible coughing fit.

But if you’re still early into your diagnosis, haven’t suffered to much progression yet, or are post-transplant… and like Jack Daniels and/or history. Then I would suggest giving Lynchburg Tennessee a visit. It about a half an hour west of I-24 or about an hour east of I-65. Depending on where your travels are taking you. So you’ll need to be sure and allocate your O2 appropriately. Just try to ration enough O2 for the souvenir shops and maybe a meal at Barrel house BBQ. They have grilled cheese on crack… No no… that is the actual name and it deserves it. It was a really really good grilled cheese sandwich.

I am so thankful to my donor for the opportunity to visit all the places I go now. For the second chance to visit locations I’d drove past on numerous times. But had never taken the time to stop and enjoy. Though it saddens me to think that she wasn’t even old enough to legally enjoy something like Jack Daniels when she passed away. Sure, might have she done so underage… maybe not. But regardless she was still a kid.

Ja’lynn missed out on on a whole life time of memories. But gifted me the chance to make many many more… I don’t know how long I have to make them. But I plan to accumulate as many as I possibly can with the breaths she’s let me borrow. And I look forward on day to sharing them with her and telling her how very grateful I am.

Jack Daniel’s Distillery Visitor Center, 133 Lynchburg Hwy, Lynchburg, TN 37352


Thank you so very much for taking the time to read my blog. I hope if you’re a fellow patient, a care giver, or just into travel. That you got something positive out of my blog. If you’d like some pulmonary fibrosis merch, check out the BorrowedBreaths Store. Or if you’d like to simply encourage me to keep writing, a tip in my virtual tip jar would be greatly appreciated.

3 thoughts on “Me, myself, and Jack

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  1. In my book Partners 4 Life, in the Sully chapter you will learn of my mentor John Sullivan, who has had two lung transplant and a kidney. Still doing well and enjoying Jack Daniels his beverage of choice.

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  2. Nicholas,

    I don’t know if this will get to you or not.  I’ve tried a couple of

    times via FB and your website.  Charlene over at IPF Foundation said

    keep trying.

    I’m a 72y/o IPF guy, dxed 3 1/2 yrs ago.  Doing okay, though some progression in the past year.  Still debating about transplant list,

    though my Pul. keeps  asking.  But the reason beyond that in trying to get in contact with you is about your bus, as well as IPF, etc.  My life history involves such a vehicle and some good stories from the 1950s and a bus(es).  I’m going to stop here, as I don’t know if this will ever get to you through the internet ether, or if you answer emails.

    Be well, give me a shout.

    Rand O’Brien

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    1. Hello Rand, I’m sorry I’ve some how over looked or not seen your messages. This site is supposed to forward messages but it and FB pages can both be wonky about doing so. I will try to find your message on FB and reply.

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