Whisky River's Main Street features a post office, barber shop, a bank, a general store, a sheriff's office and a church with a 75-foot steeple. / Jeff Gluck, USA TODAY Sports
If you're a NASCAR fan, you've likely already heard about Whisky River.
No, not the uptown Charlotte bar owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. I'm talking about the original Whisky River - an Old West town Earnhardt built on his property.
Like many of you, I'd seen it before on various NASCAR-related shows - such as ESPN and SPEED's programming - but never in person until Wednesday.
Earnhardt opened his property for a commercial shoot - the Sprint All-Star Race has a Western theme again this year - so I got to visit Whisky River and watch some of the action.
Since I was viewing the town through a first-timer's eyes, I figured some of you might be interested in what was there.
First, the basics: Earnhardt got the idea for the town while watching an old 1990s-era episode of 60 Minutes, in which Willie Nelson was profiled. Nelson had an old movie set on his property and filled out the buildings to make them functional.
"I thought it was a great idea, and I'm really into the Westerns," Earnhardt said. "I'm into the Spaghetti Westerns and all the stuff (Clint) Eastwood did in the '70s and '60s. It seems like a fun, mysterious time."
Earnhardt and his buddies drew up the plans for the town on a napkin. They started with the Silverado Saloon - a full bar for the driver and his "Dirty Mo' Posse" group of friends to enjoy - then added more Western-style buildings around it.
There was an adjacent hotel - complete with several rooms and beds upstairs where friends could crash after a party - a sheriff's office with real working jail cells and other buildings like a post office, pharmacy, bank, barbershop, general store and church.
Whisky River wasn't built all at once; the church, for example, was constructed roughly two years after the saloon was started. Earnhardt hasn't added any new buildings in "a long, long time" though, he said.
As a first-time visitor, it was pretty cool to stand on the dirt road that runs through the center of the town with buildings on both sides. Honestly, it wasn't that much of a stretch to imagine Whisky River had been around since the 1800s instead of the early 2000s.
For one thing, Earnhardt used some wood from an old mill that shut down in the Mooresville area. So while some of the walls and floors looked newer, there were a few areas which showed some age. In Earnhardt's "Hilton," for example, there's an old wooden beam with paint chips ready to flake off at any second. The floors creak with every step.
Despite all I'd heard about the town before arriving, I was very surprised at Earnhardt's attention to detail. I figured guests could go into a few of the buildings, but it turned out it was possible to enter every building. None of them were false fronts like you'd see at, say, Universal Studios.
For example: When I walked into the barber shop, there was a very old-school barber's chair inside. The post office had slots for mail, the bank had teller windows and the pharmacy had more than a dozen medicine bottles straight out of yesteryear.
It seemed like every detail was accounted for. There were old wagon wheels leaning up against the buildings, and there was even a tumbleweed tucked under a railing.
Earnhardt said most guests don't go into the individual buildings, but he wanted the town to seem as real as possible. If he or one of his friends found a reasonably priced piece of memorabilia in an antique store, they'd buy it and add it to the collection inside the buildings, he said.
So what's Earnhardt's favorite building aside from the saloon (which is clearly the best, thanks to the billiards table, pinball machines and alcohol)? He likes the sheriff's office, he said, because his uncles Robert Gee and Jimmy Gee built the jail cells for him as a favor.
"They look really realistic," he said.
Earnhardt appreciates when he has visitors to the property like Junior Johnson, Mike Helton and Richard Petty (who was part of the commercial shoot on Wednesday), because he imagines their reactions are similar to how his late father would have felt if he'd lived to see it.
"It means a lot for me to be able to show it off to people like that," he said.
These days, Earnhardt only comes down to Whisky River every two months or so. It's harder to find time now that he and his friends are older, he said.
But the memories linger, much like the nostalgia hanging over the Old West buildings.
"We've had a lot of fun down here," Earnhardt said. "We've had a lot of good times in this place."
Follow Jeff Gluck on Twitter @jeff_gluck
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Read the original story: A look inside Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Whisky River