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Friday, July 31, 2015

The Commodore and the Man in Black

A rather slow start to our day, most likely due to the two hour time difference from home and nothing to do with consuming Budweisers until after midnight. Yes, most likely the time change.

After finally getting in some shape to explore a bit of Nashville, courtesy of coffee and waffles at the sumptuous Best Western breakfast buffet, and some income producing work for both of us, Leslie and I headed out. The high heat and humidity had dissipated and with a cool breeze we walked to Vanderbilt University. There were two reasons for the visit, one I just wanted to see it, and two Vandy has sent some introductory marketing pieces to our oldest last year. Our timing was perfect, just as we walked into the admissions office a presentation was starting for a large group of parents and high school students interested in attending Vandy.

Sitting there listening to the very good and enthusiastic presentation I kept thinking about how in a couple of years we'll have a high school senior going through the application process and the amount of decisionsto be made between them and now. Such as what direction she wants to go. Small stuff like that.

Fun facts, a student a few years ago counted the squirrels on campus. The squirrel to student ratio is 3:1, we weren't sure if that is 3:1 undergraduates, or 3:1 undergrads and graduate students. So there are either about 18,000 or 33,000 squirrels. The stat was provided as a way of telling us that Vanderbilt is a national arboretum and has on campus every tree known in the state. You can even take a tree tour.

Next on our list was the Country Music Hall of Fame. But first lunch. In our walk to Vandy we passed a couple of establishments, including side-by-side bars called "Winners" and "Losers", one of which caught my eye, The Slider House. Fantastic. We each had two sliders, Leslie having a traditional burger with bacon and caramelized onions, and a hot chicken**, I also had a hot chicken and the Bay of Pigs, the pigs being smoked pork and country ham. **hot chicken is a Nashville thing, the hot spicy seasoning is added to the batter or coating before frying, delicious.

After walking back to the hotel to stop off our bag of Vandy material we Ubered to the Country Music Hall of Fame. We got there at 3:30, it closed at 5:00, so we browsed the gift shop and bookstore until 4:00 to get discounted tickets.

With only an hour we had to use some strategery, and decided our first exhibit would be one in Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. I'm not a music a music afficianado, I don't remember who sings what songs, can't remember lyric (though have no issues making them up which sometimes makes the girls say I'm weird...) so the learning experience was very appreciated.

The exhibit on Dylan and Cash was fascinating. The two are credited with causing Nashville to be labelled Music City. Cash for his take-it-or-leave-it demand when negotiating for his television show that it be filmed at the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, and Dylan for not only recording in Nashville but using local musicians and giving them credit on his albums. Dylan was a guest on Cash's first show and the two became close friends. Whether you like country music or not I highly recommend a visit to the Country Hall of Fame--and a trip to Nashviille.

For dinner we Ubered to Elliston Place Soda Shop, the oldest restaurant in Nashville in the same location. Stepping in was like stepping back several decades in time. I had to have a milkshake--which was about a two and a half size serving, to accompany my slaw dog and Leslie had the fried catfish filets. On the way back to the hotel we walked to Winners for some whiskey and then took a Joy Ride cart to another bar a block from the hotel for one more sip before hitting the sack.

One thing about Nashville, we enjoyed walking about but if you are planning on it be ready for hills; not quite as extreme as San Francisco but quite a few none the less.

I'm writing this from the beautiful Brown Hotel in Louisville, details on that journey tomorrow.

Smoky's Bandit at Country Music Hall of Fame

Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt

Don't tell Leslie but we are going here for lunch when we return to Nashville at the end of our trip
Elliston Place Soda Shop, timeless

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Music City

Last summer I felt something missing. The prior three summers Leslie and I had driven to Minnesota to pick the girls up from camp. Engaging in the Great American Roadtrip each summer, taking different routes to and from Minnesota, seeing some beautiful parts of our wonderful country.

Last summer however the girls flew home from Camp Birchwood, and instead of driving across half the USA Leslie and I drove up to San Luis Obispo where we meandered around the Central Coast for several days. When we got home Leslie said, "well there's your road trip."

To which I replied, "it was about four thousand miles short..."

With camp and school schedules, plus the girls not wanting to be gone for five weeks, we are again not driving to Minnesota. I spent most of the winter cajoling, bargaining, bribing to no avail, the girls were against a week in the car driving home--I even suggested we drive them there. No Dad!

Not wanting another summer without a substantial roadie Leslie suggested we take off and have our own road trip. When I enthusiastically agreed I asked where she wanted to go.

"Let's do a bourbon tour."

How much do I love this woman? She's stuck with me for almost twenty-one years and comes up with a vacation that entails riding in a car with me for days as I search out one whiskey distillery after another, with the occaisional barbecue joint thrown in from time to time (okay day to day).

After hugging her and professing my undying love, I hit the internet to research flights and routes.

All of which resulted in my typing this on my Kindle sitting in room 312 of the Best Western Plus Music Row in Nashville. A bit bleary eyed and slow of thought following our night carousing on Honky Tonk Row last evening.

Living up to its moniker "Music City", the Honky Tonk Row area of Nashville is door to door bars and restaurants with live music. Walking almost the length of Broadway, the main street, we crossed to walk back up the other side in search of a place for dinner when I looked to the end of the block and saw a neon sign with a neon chicken spinning on top.

"That's where we are going for dinner."


"The place with the spinning chicken?"

"What? What 'spinning chicken' ?"

"There, the 'Acme' sign with the chicken spinning on top."

"Oh, okay."

The Acme Seed & Feed was packed, a pretty good band was playing on the stage and when we entered we were handed a menu card and told, "order there and then find your own seat, it is communal seating."

After ordering (beer braised pork tacos for Leslie and beef brisket sandwich for me) Leslie grabbed two spots at the bar where we remained for a couple of hours enjoying our dinners and several local brews from the taps while listening to the band.

At one point I was ready to explore more of the Row but Leslie said she wanted another cold beer before going out in the heat and humidity--it was 90+ when we landed at 5:30 and by 9:00 had not cooled off much and the sticky was still hanging around, so much so that when we left Acme S&F my glasses fogged going from the a/c to the heat outside.

We meandered back up Broadway, bought some postcards, listening to the music coming out of door after door. We were walking past a boot store and Leslie pulled up, "buy one pair get two free.." and wandered inside.

The place smelled great, floor to ceiling leather boots in all sizes for men and women. Leslie began touching, she's a tactile shopper, and commenting on what boots would look good on the girls, how Blaire now is about the same size as she is, trying  on a few pairs. I looked around the store and said, "you notice there are two men looking at boots and about 15 women?"

Must be the two free pair of boots.

We left bootless.

A few doors down I heard a pretty good band and we walked into the Whiskey Bent Saloon. As soon as we grabbed a couple of beers the bad stopped playing and began breaking down. Ten o'clock and time for the next band to take the stage. After a few cover songs by the new band that consisted of three guys looking like good ole country boys and their dad on drums a tall guy takes the stage looking like a white rapper with hat backward, sleeveless t-shirt, big cross on a necklace, chunky large watch on one wrist and bracelet on the other. He starts to sing and he has a great country voice. It was Michael Scott who has recorded a few records, sung with several bigger country names and was a great entertainer.

After a few more beers, perhaps a few too many, we left around midnight I think. We hopped into what amounted to a extra seating golf cart for a ride back to the hotel where the driver said the cost was only a tip. It is a great system to keep the drunks off the road in Nashville as they have several of these "Joy Ride" carts in operation.

What a great introduction to the Music City.

Unlike LAX only one trash can, not 4 different recycling options

Welcome to Music City

Honky Tonk Row

It was the spinning chicken that lured me in like the Lorelei

You know you are in the south when the add over the urinal is for accessorize your pick up 

Michael Scott and his boys at the Whiskey Bent Saloon

When was the last time anyone saw one of these in California? $8 a pack?