Birmingham, Alabama

Leaving Nashville in the mid-morning for a casual drive south down the highway (one of the very many) to Birmingham, “Sweet Home” Alabama (which is on the big sign when you cross the border so not just something from me). Good fun getting used to opening the correct door but maybe not as much fun as remembering to drive on the right side of the road. This is actually not as hard as one may consider and it only becomes tricky when turning but doesn’t take long to pick up (also the fourth time I’ve driven over here).

BBBBQBBBBQ ribsBirmingham was only two and a bit hours away so we decided to call in for some BBQ on the way – as you do. We made a detour to Decatur and called in for some lunch at Big Bob Gibson’s. Not bad either, although most BBQ is pretty good (except I kind of got a bit crook that day, must have been the coleslaw or potato salad – not the ribs).

The Chief helping out

The Chief helping out

Made Birmingham easily and our room was ready for check-in. Birmingham was a rich source of iron ore and important during the early years of industrialisation and railroads. It later became a bit of a boom city and was coined the ‘Magic City’. More importantly, Birmingham was an important city in gaining attention for civil rights in America and worldwide attention. If you have any interest at all in civil rights, then you should visit Birmingham.

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Nashville in October

An early morning trip from our downtown Dallas Hotel to the airport. Dallas airport is big – you gotta know which terminal to get dropped at. We wanted terminal E, unfortunately an Australian E sounds too much like an American A – or an American A means a few more dollars when all along it was American E. Learning experience, taxis and airports = money. This extra few minutes also added to what we thought would be ample time at the airport to “why don’t you have more people checking bags”. Our we would have time to grab some breakfast at the airport ended up being no time for nothing. The flight out of Dallas was fine with AA, except as we are not their frequent flyers we get whatever seat allocation is left which means I was close to the front and Caroline was in the last row. Not too much of a problem except we again had no time for nothing at our interchange at Charlotte and our terminal being nowhere near the one we landed at. Again a very nice flight this time on American Eagle.

Landed at the very peaceful, laid back, relaxed Nashville and yes, went for the taxi + airport, which was actually very good. We were staying in the Vanderbilt area, which is about half an hour walk from what Nashville is renown for – honky tonk bars and country music. We’d done Nashville before so didn’t need to hit the bars – we could stay up our end of town, which is the university end of town so plenty of bars of its own. Our hotel was the Aloft which is a hipster kind of place and very nice – that nice the maid did not even take our tip. But the barmaid did add a couple of beers to our tab which I’d already paid cash for – she was very apologetic and the jack daniels pour made up for it.

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Left Austin and headed back north to Dallas (Tuesday 13 October). We’ve been to Dallas before so didn’t need to do the touristy things, and anyways, I was at the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (USA) conference for the Wednesday through to Saturday so no time. Dropped the rental off at Avis and unfortunately it was one notch from being full so we had to drive round the block to 7-11 for a fill-up (or pay over $20 for a tank – yes folks, $20 for a full tank). This was easily achieved, only cost a couple of bucks and an experience. This 7-11 was like the one you’d see in the movies in some seedy part of town – a cop car parked out the front (for looks maybe because it was still there the next day), homies fillin’ up next to red-necks, hooker ’round the corner struggling to stand up – ah, America it is just like the movies. (The picture is not the 7-11 but some other station we filled up at along the way – don’t where it was and sure don’t need to go back unless I need me some o’ them fireworks and deer.)

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Goodbye Fort Worth – Hello Austin

About a week back as I type this we left Fort Worth and picked up a rental to take us down the highway to Austin. No surprises there really as we have ventured to Austin previously and really enjoy it. But before we got to Austin we had to drive on by to visit a bucket list – the Salt Lick BBQ. This place always rates highly as far as Texas BBQ goes and this visit we made it a priority (well, it was quite easy with a car as we could cruise on past Austin, visit the Salt Lick for a BBQ feast, then back to Austin.

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Cowboys part 3

Now this was to be the highlight of DFW – Dallas Cowboys v New England Patriots at AT&T Stadium. This is American Football if you don’t know what this is. I know there are many who don’t like the game because it is so stop-start and they don’t understand the rules and they wear too much padding. But me, I reckon it’s a great game that can be won or lost in a blink of the eye (or about the length of the Stockyards parade in my earlier post).

I purchased the tickets quite some time ago through Ticketmaster ticket exchange where ticket holders sell their tickets for a price they set. This stadium is one the best in the world, this game was a highlight game (Patriots are the current champions with some the game’s greatest players and the Cowboys are a bit like Collingwood). Tickets were not cheap so I spent that little bit more and secured some seats in their club level – think Medallion Club at Etihad.

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Cowboys part two

You visit DFW, you must visit the Stockyards. This is kind of like Sovereign Hill and is the tourist mecca. But also hard to tell if the locals go there as well just for some fun on a Saturday afternoon. There are so many people walking around in cowboy gear – and I’d be pretty certain a fair majority of those were non-Texans. There is the customary get your drink and walk around the streets, a rodeo (which we did not attend), the original stockyards (hence the name), plenty of eating and drinking places, Harley Davidson’s cruising, and the parade.

Well, not really a parade it is a simulation of the herding of cattle down the street from the stockyards. If there were that many cattle in the olden days, there would never have been a Maccas. It’s okay to see the long-horns and cowboys but like a few other tourist parades – blink and you miss it (think those ducks in Memphis). However, if in this part of town you gotta visit.

Stockyards 1 stockyards 2 only in texas stockyards 3 stockyards 4 stockyards 5 stockyards 6 stockyards 7 stockyards 8 love shack love shack 2 stockyards 9

Cowboys part one

Seems like ages ago but really one … um, three days ago (I think – it’s the dateline, and my damn watch which keeps changing dates just to confuse me). Our first couple of days were spent at the Embassy Suites in downtown Fort Worth. Very nice hotel in a good location with a very good complimentary breakfast a highlight including cook to order omelettes. It was busy with many Patriot fans in town for the football, which is in another post, but also very laid back.

It was also where we signed up with Uber – big thumbs up there. For instance no hassles, clean, polite, came exactly when it said it would, charged exactly what was expected and unlike the taxi from the airport it accepted credit cards without a grumble. Some good eating places here, easy to walk around and Sundance Square is a nice place to sit back and watch the world.

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24 hours in a day – and we saw them all

Day one for USA 2015 and it was a long one. Started well with excellent service from West Taxis, then smooth check-in, through customs – okay not all smooth as they have new baggage scanning systems and we were the guinea pigs. I didn’t mind the system as they allocate you to a spot, only problem the line we were in it was rejecting everyone’s carry-on except for mine 🙂 And then breakfast at the Qantas lounge – lots of free stuff in there. And one young guy was making the most of it packing his bag with stubbies. Lucky there was free stuff as our flight was delayed.

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And so the journey begins

Sitting here in the Qantas lounge having a nice breakfast – so much nicer than sitting out with the everyday citizens (not that there’s anything wrong with joe citizen). Anyways good taxi trip out here (west taxis are excellent), easy through check-in and border patrol – although slight hiccups in the bag screening as they had a new system and it was rejecting everyone’s carry-on (except for mine).

So the blog is back up and whenever you are bored you can go back into the archives and read about all the boring stuff I get up to. For the doggy people there are plenty of posts from previous conferences. I will aim to have this updated regularly and may even get to finish it – note I still have not finished my last trip from 2  years back, and I never will.


Haven’t finished yet

Yes, so true, I haven’t finished stories from our last trip. Oh well, never mind – it’s all in my memory banks so I will never forget. But now there’s new stuff to write about. And where are we going – well, here’s a map. The green States are the ones we are visiting this time and the blue are where we have been before (except for Massachusetts, which was supposed to be blue as we went there years ago but for whatever reason decided it wanted another visit this trip and became green – but that won’t be happening). And see how many more States there are to see, looks like we’ll probably be going back.