Nashville Y’all

Another update … spent a week in a great airbnb in Music Row Nashville. Great location and free parking. This was our third visit to Nashville and it will not be our last. You can probably look through this blog and find earlier comments and pictures. Why do we keep going back – well, it’s my kind of town. Laid back, relaxed, great food, new things to discover, plenty of beer and all types of music – country and western (and other stuff too).

It’s pretty easy to get around, driving, uber, free bus in certain places and there is plenty to see and do. But don’t get stuck downtown where the honky tonks and people are – get out into the neighbourhoods such as East Nashville and Germantown, and make sure you visit the Vanderbilt area (walking from where we stayed), Music Row which is where all the music is made, and the Gulch which has some great places, including Lucchese boots where Jim was tempted but didn’t want to lay out about $1000 for a pair of boots – but I did get a great shirt with pearl buttons. Caroline, well she bought some more boots.

We hit the honky tonks for one night to catch a guy we have seen before – Joshua Hadley – great show. The honky tonks are great fun, cheap beer and music – and busy. Broadway is a party place where you walk the streets going from bar to bar and when a beer costs about $5 you can’t go wrong.

Also caught some music at Station Inn, which is one of THE places you should visit. It’s old and very original. Great band whose name escapes me but the fill-in guitarist for the night is blind and he was amazing.

We had some great food – three highlights: Hattie B’s hot chicken – how can chicken taste so good; Husk, which is more the fine dining and a top rated restaurant and also very good; and a new BBQ (for us at least) Martin’s and this was damn good BBQ, well worth the half hour or so in the queue.

Jim also had a few bucket lists in Nashville – cut a single at Third Man Records (Jack White’s label) and got on stage (for a photo) at the Ryman.

We also managed to catch up with a few work associates who were in Nashville for the special olympics torch run conference – this meet up also included getting into a free BBQ, drinks and music – great free night.

Nashville has not seen the last of me.

Meet me in St Louis

Easy drive from Chicago to St Louis and pulled up at our boutique hotel in the Delmar Loop area of St Louis (or University City as it is known) the Moonrise Hotel. This really was a great hotel with friendly staff, free parking out the back, a super rooftop bar, and easy walking to lots of restaurants and the park.

It was an easy drive downtown, which we did one day to catch a ride to the top of the St Louis arch. To get to the top you ride in these tiny pods – about 4 minutes ride up and 3 to get down. Reminded me of an alien pod. But the view up the top was really good, even if it was a little overcast. You have to do a bit of stretching to see out the windows as they are not large but there was plenty of viewing space and time as only so many can catch the train (8 pods at a time) every ten minutes. In a while this will be a nice spot as at the moment they are doing a few works – maybe have to catch it again another day.

Also in St Louis Jim was off to a conference with the International Association of Canine Professionals. Very good conference with some great speakers. Very friendly – for people and dogs. No special blogs on this but I will no doubt attend another year. Also picked up some great videos and other equipment – dog training is an expensive business/hobby – and Hank is still a rat-bag so he’ll be made to watch the videos.

We had a great meal at a new restaurant and highly rated Mexican – Nixta. The food here was truly exceptional. Only thing that spoilt the evening the food came out too quick.

Something that really could have spoilt that evening if we did not have an excellent Uber driver were some protests that started after a police officer was acquitted of murdering a black driver after a chase. The roads we needed to travel were blocked but she got onto Facebook and with a bit of local knowledge guided us through the back streets (which we would never have achieved) and to our restaurant door.

The protests continued and even came out to the area where we were staying – didn’t see any problems apart from a a bit of yelling at a service station and graffiti on the footpath – one shop had a few avoid this store because they are racists painted outside – not sure what the problem was there; and there were a few ‘black lives matter – blue lives murder’ chalked onto the footpath. But really, if it wasn’t for that and the very high police presence you probably wouldn’t have known when we were out – but we also didn’t stay out late either.

A good burger and St Louis specialty – toasted ravioli (deep fried ravioli – at Blueberry Hill, which was a great spot with good meals, cold beer, music and even a darts room – can’t go wrong there. Chuck Berry used to play there quite a bit and his statue is across the road. We also had some pretty good BBQ at Salt & Smoke.

St Louis is on Route 66 and if travelling that way you should stop and explore the neighbourhoods. We didn’t get as much exploring done due to Jim at the conference (which is why we were there in the first place and this was about 20 minutes from where we were staying) and the protests. A few people said they were disruptive even to the extent that U2 cancelled a concert because the police and security could not guarantee a presence.

Good stop and more exploring next time and make sure you grab something from Ted Drewe’s frozen custard.

Just some old buildings

One of the special things about Chicago is that it is a bit of an architect’s dream location. There are so many styles and innovations, such as how to avoid buildings falling down in string winds and how to build a sky-scaper above the railway line. There are also some great condominiums and apartments and if you want to knock something down to build along the river, then you have to build a river walk for the people.

There are many different tours along the river, we took the one that is associated with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. We were not disappointed and nor did we have to wear a cardboard hat that other cruises gave their passengers. I would put this down as a should do if you ever visit the windy city (which it hasn’t really been, except for a few pockets as we came in for landing).

But one of the best parts of this tour, I didn’t have to walk – just sit, look, listen and drink a beer. Cheers!

Now that’s a good idea

Totally refreshed and ready for a day on the Magnificent Mile – not for Jim but for Caro’s shopping. First stop was Nike as Caroline was planning to buy shoes first day to replace the pair she did not bring. Nice area around here with great shopping but what caught my eye were these statues of painted dogs everywhere. Turns out they are there in support of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and there are 102 of them painted by various sponsors – known as K9’s for Cops. Labor Day they will be auctioned off and removed. It was special to be here during this time to catch these one-offs – made you feel kind of proud.


USA … again

Okay, so we’re off on another trip… and to the USA … again. Why do you ask – well, why not. We always find it enjoyable, interesting and lots of relaxing things to do. Relaxing if you call BBQ, beer, music and sights relaxing. We already have a few places booked – for instance Chicago we are booked in to see Hamilton; St Louis Jim has another conference and dinner booked for one night; Nashville we are going to Pilgrimage festival and dinner booked at Husk; Charlotte tickets booked for Jason Isbell. See, everything just falls into place.


Driving south east from Atlanta we headed through Walking Dead territory to our next stop, Athens Georgia. Most of Walking Dead is filmed around Atlanta and as we were taking quite a few back-roads (highways but they were like back-roads) it felt and looked just like Walking Dead territory – the trees, roads, railway lines, dumped cars and walkers (well, not quite the last two). But I think Ms TomTom was concerned as for about the first ten minutes or more leaving Atlanta all we heard from her was “keep left, keep left” – okay, okay.

This was an interesting drive away from the main freeways and through some interesting towns, none more so than one place where we had to slow as the car in front was herding a cow running alongside – not sure if this is how they always take their cow for a walk or whatever, but it was effective. And Athens was a real interesting place, in fact for an overnighter we enjoyed the little time we had. Continue reading

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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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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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.


Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down. And they all led me straight back home to you

Gram Parsons.

What does that have to do with anything. Well, Caroline is the expert on all things musical and she tells me the story of Gram Parsons, singer songwriter, who used to venture into the Joshua Tree desert and just think (if you don’t know about this, then think of when Homer Simpson went into the desert and had the coyote talk to him). One time in 1973, Gram Parsons was staying at the Joshua Tree hotel when he passed away, suddenly, one evening. He was at the place of two of his greatest loves – the desert and hard drugs.

Anyway, some relative wanted his body back in Louisiana possibly in order to claim the inheritance. However, Gram Parsons’ manager and some friends knew that Gram’s wish was to be cremated and have his ashes scattered in the desert. So, they stole his coffin from the airport, drove out to a location in Joshua Tree – Cap Rock – and poured petrol over the coffin and lit a match. The police were on the trail and put a stop, not before some ashes got scattered. The rest was shipped back, there was no offence for stealing a body; however, they did get fined $750 for stealing the coffin.

So, part of our trip from the magnificent Palm Springs (where the rich and famous and movies stars used to holiday) was to take a drive out to the Joshua Tree National Park and desert. Not necessarily to pay homage but more to see the desert and the trees known as Joshua Trees. This was another of our tourist treks of great things to see and again well worth the visit.

We left in the morning to beat the heat, although it was only 22 it felt much hotter from the beating down sun. It’s cool because it’s on top of a mountain, down below it was over 30.

There are plenty of walks and great things to see. Kind of eerie and you could quite easily imagine why you would want to just come out and watch the stars and think of anything and listen to the voices. We went for one walk and after about five minutes there was nothing there but us and nature. It was quiet and beautiful. And hot, and I wish I’d taken some water. And we could see our car after turning each rock but maybe it was a mirage because it disappeared as quickly as we saw it.

There were also great views overlooking Palm Springs and the valley and the San Andreas Fault line. If you go to LA and are looking for something else other than Disneyland and Hollywood, take the trip out for a night or two at Palm Springs – easy freeway driving (or you can fly).

Here’s a collection of shots (we stayed at a real ‘cool’ hotel the Ace and could recommend).

The first album is of Palm Springs, which as well as being the home of the movie stars, is probably more known for its architecture; the second is the Joshua Tree National Park.