Friday, September 24, 2010

Kentucky, A Mini Road Trip



Map picture

Leaving Nashville on Interstate 65 North, like a kid in a National Lampoon Vacation movie scene, I am looking forward to seeing the “Welcome To Kentucky” highway sign.


Pictures 286 Reminds me of the days of family road trips and the mandatory sometimes dangerous stops for pictures at the state border.





Here is where states make a statement about themselves. Georgia, The Peach State. Arizona, The Grand Canyon State. Kentucky, The Home Of Abraham Lincoln. I did not know that. I have always just thought of Kentucky as The Bluegrass State.



Sam 083 “Look kids, Welcome Center next exit. Anyone has to go?”




EYW 125 “OK, you grab the Room Saver magazine for hotel coupons while I collect brochures of all the things we can do in Kentucky but never will.”





Mammoth Cave National Park is still plenty miles down the road and our Room Saver comes in quite handy with a $39.99 room for the night at Microtel Inn in Bowling Green.

I fall asleep with nice memories from family trips on the road. However, I miss the bed jumping and hearing from the backseat, “Mom, tell Kai to stop looking at me.”


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tennessee, A Little Rock And Roll


Sam 061 Even after a fun night of honky tonk, no trip to Music City, USA, would be complete without a little Rock and Roll.







Sam 074 Tootsie’s about to celebrate 50 years on the Nashville nightlife scene is just the place to hear music that is as American as baseball and apple pie.






A narrow entrance but with a long bar, Tootsie's has the right atmosphere to give you that, “I want rock all night and ... everyday”, sing your heart out, head banging experience. A Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) provides me a little encouragement.



Sam 063 Entering Tootsie's, part of tonight's band is on a small stage while the bass guitarist and lead vocalist (with a shot in hand) are entertaining the crowd standing on the bar.








Sam 067 This band is fun and energetic




Sam 071 Maybe thanks in part to the numerous rounds of shots from a “Geraldo Rivera” look a like in the audience.

For once, Geraldo has done something honorable in public.






Besides being musically talented the lead vocalist even has a sense of humor. We are told that a few day ago, “It was so hot in Nashville that even former Republican Tennessee US Senator Fred Thompson has a fan”.



Sam 086 Comedy aside, the band along with it's cameo guest appearances is rich with talent and downright patriotic.

A solo electric guitar rendition by one of them of “Star Spangled Banner” gives the audience a dose of both.






Sam 077

Pulling a child of rock and roll from the audience we get a fired up bring the house down, “Welcome To The Jungle”. I begin to wonder if Guns-N-Roses is hiding somewhere in the building. This rocker is ready for American Idol.



Sam 087 Honky Tonked and Rocked out for the night, I take a stroll by Legends to snap a picture of a guitar displaying some of Honky Tonk Legends.

Willie Nelson, the man in black, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jenning and I think Patsy Cline.

Now it’s time to Roll.



Next stop somewhere in Kentucky, I am headed to Mammoth Cave National Park.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tennessee, Robert's Western World


Sam 044 It is Labor Day 2010 and for a Monday night Robert's Western World has a decent mixed crowd relaxing and enjoying the sounds of John England & The Western Swingers.





A popular Nashville Honky Tonk for decades and home of the Hillbilly Grill, Western World is a good place for a sampling of country music and fine southern dining.




Sam 028 “My sandwich has a lot of fat and calories but taste so very very good because it is southern cooking and Hillbilly Grill has a way with B O L O G N A!”







Sam 029Dancing Stars


Sipping a cold as the Rocky Mountain Coors Light beer, I sit back and take mental notes of a few of the moves from dancers on the floor. Now was that a twirl or a spin? Which leg did she just kick up?

Dinner and a few beers later, I am ready to see if I have any honky tonk in me. We wait for the right moment, a crowded dance floor and make our move.



Sam 035 A smile and a nod from the band leader gives a sign of approval.

Did he notice my side kick or was it more for our Coors Light and Busch beer liquid courage to get up and try?






Leaving the dance floor without falling or causing collision was a personal best accomplishment. However, I don't think I will be receiving any offers from the Grand Ole Opry anytime soon.

The Western Swingers are done for the night and as the next band sets up I check out some of Robert's Western World memorabilia. Can you remember a time when Burt Reynolds was hot and had hair? Be careful, don't date yourself.



Sam 039 Robert's Western World Memorabilia


From his light blue jacket and Marge Simpson hair do, you can tell that Conan O'Brien was always on the fashion cutting edge. Styling!


Sam 055 Too many beers and you might just walk out of Western World with a pair Justin or Tony Lama boots.

Although, I am told you can get them cheaper a few doors up the street but not at 2am!





Sam 051 A little Willie Nelson tune starts the next musical set and I am about ready to dish the Busch beer and find me some moonshine.

I think I am ready for a swim in the “Whiskey River”.







Sam 053 “Whiskey River don't run dry. You're all I got, take care of me”



Like the Western Swingers before them this band is also made up of members that have performed and continue to play with some of country music great artists. The drummer played for Buck Owen co-host of the TV series Hee Haw with Roy Clark from the late 1960's while one of the guitarist perform with Randy Travis on tour.



Sam 056 From tonight's performance, I think I am being treated to some of country's best and most talented musicians.

Steel guitars, banjo's, cello's, fiddles and twangy voices all for the price of a tip jar donation.

A heck of a bargain.






Sam 060 Robert's Western World


Tennessee, Not A Bad Retirement Plan



Sam 032 I am enjoying John England & The Western Swingers at Roberts Western World when I am approached by an older gentlemen with a question.

“Who do you think is going to win the next Super Bowl?”





Picture 086 “Well, I know two teams that are not, The Tampa Buccaneers my favorite but … and The Cowboys because I still don't know who made them America's team.”

I think it is going to be the Baltimore Ravens, I am told. As an ex professional fantasy football player, at least for now I don't disagree.




A few more minutes of conversation with this retired Raven's fan and I am given some insight on retirement living and a plan worth considering. This young man comes to Nashville every two months and goes to New Orleans every four months.

Along with tips for visiting these two great southern cities, I am told the best part of his retirement plan.



CPM 019 “I am going to spend the rest of my life listening to great music and dancing with pretty women”.

Probably not a bad idea since I imagine he is getting a better return on his investment than most 401K plans.




Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tennessee, An Ace In The Hole



Sam 025 From the concierge at the Hermitage Hotel, we get a dinner recommendation for Jacks Bar-b-Que on Broadway between 4th and 5th Avenue.

I am promised reasonably prices and the best bar-b-que that downtown Nashville has to offer.




The sweet smell of bar-b-que is lingering in the air as we approach Jacks. Chairs are turned upside down and tables pushed aside as I peer through the big front window. The aroma emanating from Jacks turns out to be just a big tease. On this Monday night at 10pm, Jacks is already closed for the evening. Right now life is so unfair, I feel like someone just done shot my dog.



Sam 026 A twang here, a twang there and I am distracted from my culinary sorrow as I am drawn to the sounds coming from Roberts Western World, home of the Hillbilly Grill.

“Life is a gamble”, and so is finding good bar-b-que on a Monday night in downtown Nashville.





Sam 030 Appropriate to my situation at hand, as I step into Western World, John England & The Western Swingers are entertaining the patron with an old George Strait song.

“Don't put it all on the line for just one roll”, like waiting to eat dinner at 10pm.






Sam 035 “You've got to have an ace in the hole”



Sam 048 As it turns out our “ace in the hole” is the Hillbilly Grill located inside of Roberts Western World.

Serving some traditional southern food like fried bologna sandwich, chips, PBR and Goo Goo Clusters which comes as “Recession Special” for just $5.00.





Sam 028 Although this is generally a conservative area of the country there is also a special that even President Obama might appreciate.

A $5 “Stimulus Package” offers a beef hot dog, Ken Lay's potato chips, A President Busch beer and a Moon pie.





Add a side of fried sweet pickles or low fat fried lard and you have got a southern cooking culinary experience. I enjoy an ice cold Coors Light while I wait for my order from the grill then it is time to come down from the Rocky Mountains and show my manly side. With a juicy Angus burger, cold Busch beer and Lay’s classic potato chips.



Sam 038




For a Monday night Roberts Western World has a decent crowd and by my measure a great band. Members of the Western Swingers have performed with many of country music's great legends. From Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline to Merle Haggard and Vince Gill.



Sam 029 John England & The Western Swingers have been performing at Roberts Western World every Monday since July 2001.

To experience a bit of honky-tonk in Nashville, they are worth seeing.




Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wyoming, A Yellowstone Grizzly


Re-entering Yellowstone through The South Entrance, I ask a Park Ranger if there has been any recent bear sighting in the park.

“No, but there is a wolf chewing on a carcass about ten miles up the road”.

I hope he is right that it is a wolf. I will be disappointed if instead it is Fantastic Mr. Fox.


CanYNP 160 About 9 miles down the road traffic begins to slow, a tell tale sign that an animal or something interesting is happening down the road.

Slowing pass the gathered crowd, I park and grab my Canon Rebel.





CanYNP 159 From the highway, I can see a freshly killed elk lying in the middle of the river below.

The wolf and or Fantastic Mr. Fox are nowhere to be found, I am somewhat happy.






However, a nice surprise. “There's a grizzly down there”. “Where?”, “Where?”

Down on the river bank a grizzly is camped out. Getting as close as I care to get to a grizzly, a big brown head pops up from behind the bushes that separates us.




 Yellowstone Grizzly Yellowstone Grizzly



Although it does not have a “pic a nic basket”, it is the highlight of my trip to Yellowstone. To be about 50 yards from a grizzly bear is way, way frigging cool !!


Wyoming, Grand Tetons A Geological View


Grand Teton Range Returning from my detour down Antelope Flats Road, I make a right turn and head north on an open Highway 89.

Traveling at about 55 miles per hour I seem to be standing still against the great expanse of the Teton Range.




CanYNP 151 With Snake River to my left, I can now witness some of the geological history of the area.

In view, a deep and wide valley lies in the foreground of the mountain range, a result of movement on the Teton fault about 10 million years ago.



Massive earthquakes caused the mountains to rise and the valley floor to drop. Over time the work of melting glaciers re-leveled the valley floor.

Along Highway 89 northbound open fields and dude ranches offer opportunities for horseback riding and great hiking. At Highway 26 a left turn and I am at the Moran Entrance to Grand Teton National Park. With my National Parks Annual Pass in hand I get another free admission to one of America's natural treasure.



CanYNP 158 Just beyond the Moran Entrance a small crowd has gathered along the highway shoulder. Curious I stop but could see no reasoning for the gathering except the fantastic views across a reflecting lake.




Keeping my eyes on the serene lake surface a smooth green cover small mountain into focus with the towering snow spotted jagged Tetons ever present in the background.



CanYNP 154



More time spent here and maybe this part of the park would have offered more than fantastic views as I see others now gathering with binoculars as I continue north.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Tennessee, A Brief History Lesson


Greek Parthenon Did you know Nashville has the only full scale replica of the Greek Parthenon?







Nashville Parthenon If you cannot afford to go to Greece or want to avoid the crowds then visit the Parthenon located at Centennial Park in downtown Nashville.





Who was the 11th President? He was a former Governor of Tennessee and oversaw the opening of the US Naval Academy, the Smithsonian Institution and issuance of the first postage stamp.



James K Polk Give yourself a Brand New Car if you guessed, President James K. Polk.

President and Mrs. Polk are buried at the Tennessee State Capital along with William Strickland.

Strickland, a noted Philadelphia architect designed Tennessee State Capital building and  the tower of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.






Sam 008 Tennessee State Capital Building


It is nice to see that Nashville not only serves up good portion of country music but also offers a modest piece of American history as well.


Tennessee, Home Of A True Friend



Map picture


Surprisingly my recent visit to Nashville, Tennessee gave me not only a history lesson but a friendship lesson as well.

It is a beautiful night in “Music City USA” as I exit Interstate 40 in my Alamo Rental Car for a visit to the state capital area. Except for the homeless congregating near the Tennessee War Memorial the area is practically abandoned on this pleasant  Monday evening.

However, surrounded by high end hotels like The Renaissance and Hermitage Hotel along with The Tennessee Performing Arts Center nearby, I envision this area being quite alive on the weekends.


Sam 004 Below the steps of the State Capital building I am moved by a statue and plaque honoring one of Tennessee’s fallen sons.

“I would die a thousand deaths before I betray a friend”






During the Civil War Sam Davis was captured while acting as a messenger. Instead of revealing the source of his message, Davis was tried by court martial, condemned to death and executed.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”

Although I have never been put to the test like Sam Davis, it is a tough self examination on the steps of Tennessee’s State Capital.


Waving_American_Flag Today, I believe Davis's courage and commitment lives on in the heart and minds of many Tennesseans and Americans who serve our country and the defense of freedom.




I take a moment to give thanks for the sacrifice of these men and women. Once again, I realize how fortunate I am to be an American.


Texas, Remember The Alamo



Map picture



Canon 152 Staying at The Crockett Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, I am just steps from the area known as the Alamo.

However, the “Alamo” is more than a single building most associate with the old mission church.





Canon 099 Over the years the building has had many uses but today it is recognized world wide as the “Shrine of Texas Liberty”.

Unable to remember the origination of the phrase “Remember the Alamo”, I pop a few Ginkgo Biloba pills and set out on a mission.




Canon 097 Unlike Pee Wee Herman, I know I will not find my answer or a bicycle in the Alamo basement. It does not exist!

Originally named Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo got it's new name in the early 1800's.

Alamo means “cottonwood” in Spanish.



Used as a military outpost, Spanish soldiers stationed at the mission renamed it in honor of their hometown, Alamo de Parras, Coahula. The Alamo also housed the first recorded hospital in Spanish Texas.

Today, the facts surrounding the siege of the Alamo is still debated. What is not debated is the heroic struggle men like Davey Crockett along with Texians (not Texans) and Tejanos made against overwhelming odds on March 6th, 1836. Their struggle ended in the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, death.



Canon 098 Strolling through the Alamo gardens, I make my way to the front entrance of the Shrine where on the right side cannon ball damage can still be seen from the 1836 siege.





Canon 102 Out of respect, no hats or photography is allowed inside the Shrine.

Alamo artifacts including guns belonging to Davey Crockett are on display and volunteers from The Daughters Of The Republic of Texas are glad to answer questions.





Canon 096 The Daughters of The Republic of Texas are The Guardians of The Alamo



Apparently my Ginkgo Biloba pills were just placebos as I still cannot remember where “Remember the Alamo!” comes from. I get my answer outside at an Alamo History Talk which is scheduled every 30 minutes throughout the day. No talks between 12:00pm and 1:30pm.

Weeks after the siege on the Alamo, a Texian named Sam Houston knowing the whereabouts of General Santa Ana and his men launches a surprise offensive attack. With about a thousand men the the victors at the Alamo in 1836 are defeated in less than two hours.

Sam Houston's battle charge, “Remember the Alamo!”.



Canon 103 Today another monument stands tall at the edge of the old Mission San Antonio de Valero.






Canon 104 A reminder to all that Texans will never forget the defenders of it's liberty.








Canon 156 The Shrine Of Texas Liberty