redefining wanderlust

a life blog by Bekka

Posts for ROAD TRIP ACROSS AMERICA – SOUTH Category

VA : Red Dot Richmond

andrew hem richmond VA

Andrew Hem’s Mural

OCTOBER 16, 2014 | DAY 15 of #ONTHEROAD1014

In the gallery world when a piece of artwork is sold it is marked with a red dot. Knowing I would be visiting some major murals in Richmond, I had to bring a red dot with me! Our time in Richmond was short due to the reservation at Husk that night, a 6-hour drive from Richmond, VA to Charleston, SC. So Bowerbird and I woke up early, showered, grabbed a cup of coffee from a vending machine in our couch surfer’s apartment building and went mural hunting. Luckily, a handful of the murals from the Richmond Mural Project curated by Art Whino were right around the apartment. So we didn’t even have to move our car to find murals. We walked the streets of Richmond, putting the address of the ROA’s turtle tower in my gps as our initial destination. On the way to ROA we found the Angry Woebots mural. And the rest of the mural hunting was very similar, just stumbling on them while walking down this street and the next. It was really fun just discovering the murals. I was super excited to find Andrew Hem’s mural!

Time was ticking and our stomachs were grumbling. So after about an hour of searching for murals we looked on Yelp for a breakfast spot next to my bank. I had to finally get a cashiers check for the speeding ticket I received back in Colorado. We found a delicious spot in the downtown/business area of Richmond and fortunately a mail person was right in front of the building! I didn’t even have to look for a mailbox to send out the speeding ticket. I really appreciate the little things that make life magical.

Here are the murals I red dotted in Richmond, Virginia.

richmond (2)
Pixel Pancho Mural

Pixel Pancho Richamon VA
Pixel Pancho Mural

Roa Turtles Richamond VA
ROA Mural

Angry Woebots Richmond VA
Angry Woebots Mural

richmond (6)
I’m not sure who this is…but i love the mural! 

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VA: A Wet Day in Colonial Williamsburg

colonial williamsburg

OCTOBER 15, 2014 | DAY 14 of #ONTHEROAD1014

I’ve had a love for Colonial Williamsburg since I was thirteen and visited Virginia during an 8th grade trip to Washington DC. It was during my adolescent trip that I discovered how closely packed together states are on the East Coast and my love for pineapples. As Bowerbird had never been to Colonial Williamsburg I wanted to introduce him to the rich history and old buildings. It’s a 7-hour drive between Wheeling, West Virginia and Colonial Williamsburg on a good day and we were driving through a torrential downpour. We left for Williamsburg super early in the morning and arrived at the visitor center 2 hours before everything closed down. Since we were on a budget-friendly adventure we opted to just get the day pass minus all the fancy tours that get you inside the buildings. We walked around the grounds and popped into the open shops, Bowerbird and I are pro-window shoppers.

colonial pineapple

Apart from both Bowerbird and I’s general love of old building and history, the day was pretty mellow. Except I was tweeting the chef of Husk hoping to get a table for the next day, which you can read about here. The day pass does include access to the museums and we checked out the colonial asylum and art museum. I loved them both and ended up taking lots of pictures of furniture. I’m fascinated by craftsmanship; the artistic wooden carving and intricate inlay patterns all done by hand! I was almost not even going to share this post, but I can’t be the only one that freaks out when they see a gorgeous set of velvet chairs and foot rest.

colonial velvet chairs

Mason Chair

Illuminate stuff right here….

dressers

more colonial chairs

piano I

piano colonial II

needlepoint work

Before there was Netflix & chill, people had needlepoint. This is a wedding needlepoint tapestry. 

We booked a dinner at one of the Williamsburg restaurants, Chowning’s Tavern, for the novelty of the meal. It’s expensive for mediocre food, but in all honesty you’re eating dinner there for the town troubadour to come to your table. The website says you don’t need a reservation, but I say book ahead, we called them while we were in the museum. Plus we did hear people being turned away at the door because they didn’t have a reservation. The service was fantastic and the little pitcher of cream for our coffee was just my style. At dinner we were checking on the neighborhood of our Couchsurfing host and found out it was one of the most violent areas of Richmond. YAY! – not. But as we google mapped the address and studied the street view, we were able to talk ourselves off the ledge. I could only imagine what travelers think of when they google Echo Park.  Our Couchsurfing host is a medical student, like most people in that part of Richmond. It’s a neighborhood in flux. We chatted about music and our travels with our host and his girlfriend before heading off to bed. During that time I was still feeling anxious and was in a funk as explained in my Wheeling post. But Michael, our host, and his energy just wiped away all the bad moe joe and after that night I was starting to feel a lot better.

chownings tavern colonial meal

Michael – you’re the bomb dot com.

If you’re a furniture nerd too, leave a comment below, I want to feel less alone! 

Bowerbird and a well

I made a wish in the well and this handsome fellow appeared.  

colonial asylum

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WV: Haunted? My Night At Aspen Manor

OCTOBER 14, 2014 | DAY 13 of #ONTHEROAD1014

It’s important for me to express, as I go into this post about the haunted hotel in West Virginia, that the staff at Aspen Manor was very nice. I paid $60 dollars for the room we stayed in and now it’s just another interesting story for me to share.

***

I had booked our room at the Aspen Manor a few hours before driving into Wheeling, West Virginia. On my hotel.com app it stated that it was a nice B & B and former Catholic retreat. As a bad Catholic and someone who had her road trip blessed by a priest days before traveling, I found this information to be comforting. But as we drove up the long dirt road to the main house, passing smaller homes on the property, it was beginning to feel incredibly creepy. I tend to be able to separate heebie-jeebies and actual paranormal activity pretty well, and I was getting some weird energy from this place. A former mansion of sorts, that unbeknownst to me had been converted to a convalescent home at some point, was inside lit with hospital florescent lighting.

The lobby had a nice big-screen tv, that had the Discovery Channel playing in the background. It’s a pretty modest establishment. They had to photocopy my ID and credit card for later processing. Usually this would really weird me out, but then we were in the middle of West Virginia at 9:00pm at night. My identity and impeccable credit is still intact. The receptionist was a young friendly man, he definitely had the energy of someone juggling a million little things, but managed to still keep a smile on his face.

He took us down a long hallway, past a cafeteria-style icebox (you know the kind that serial killers store bodies in their garage – I’ve watched too much Criminal Minds) to our room; explaining how this portion of the manor had once been a convalescent home. I was sleeping where old people could have potentially and probably died!!!

I believe as the East Coast is much older than the West Coast its paranormal activity is off the charts. There are pissed-off spirits all up and down the east coast, heck the Warren’s home of possessed items is in Connecticut; and although I deeply respect the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren, I have no desire to ever visit their basement.

Our room was basically a hospital room converted into a hotel room. A dresser and matching queen bed were in it. To the left of the door to the room was a white sink affixed to the wall like you’d see in a public restroom room and the toilet was in a closet. I refused to use the toilet and close the door, afraid of being trapped inside, so I just told Dan to not look. The door to the outside grounds seemed to not lock, I couldn’t figure out how to lock the door and prayed we weren’t murdered in our sleep. My cell phone caused the turned-off TV to make weird sounds and I swore to Bowerbird that we would be going to sleep with the lights on. I never took off my shoes. There was something incredibly “off” about this place…

I wanted to post on this blog, so I went out to the lobby and tried use the wi-fi. This is when we had a little more time with the front desk/manor manager. He showed us the built in chapel on the property, and expressed he’d personally never had a paranormal experience, but other people said that they had. He told us bones has been found in the basement and paranormal investigators had come to the property before, but he didn’t know the results. The chapel was nice, but had limited lighting and did look like the perfect backdrop to a scene out of American Horror Story. He also pointed out the rest of the main house down a dark and hardly lit hallway that resembled the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

I’ve later read it was only chicken bones, but I still think the property harbors spirits that those sensitive to energy and aware of dark energy can feel. I know I might sound like a crazy hippy, but this is my truth.

As we were walking back to the lobby another older couple came in who were traveling to Pennsylvania from Ohio for a wedding and were caught in the storm outside. A storm outside!! Classic horror movie set up. It was nice knowing there was another couple staying in the creepy senior citizen side of the bed and breakfast, but it wasn’t any less weird. Deciding to leave at the reasonable hour of 5am, Bowerbird and I went to sleep fully clothed (me with my shoes on). I slept ok and at one point turned off one of the bed side lamps, I was getting slightly more comfortable. But the second our alarm went off, we were up and out of there. I didn’t put on makeup. Bowerbird put on his shoes. We dropped our key off at the abandoned front desk and were on our way. The sun wasn’t up yet but we were ready to leave. Driving away we saw a few deer grazing on the grass beside the road and it made the tense experience better.

Nothing floated by me and I didn’t see any apparitions. As I’m writing this out I know I could seem like I’m just being sensitive, but there are spirits on that property and their energy is affecting this plane of existence. The rest of the day our phones would never hold a charge. We always charged our phones in the car, no problem, but that day they just wouldn’t charge and completely died on us later that day. Also when I went to change at a McDonalds somewhere in Pennsylvania and put on some makeup, my face wash had leaked all over my toiletries bag. I had this bag zipped up, there was no reason for the face wash to have leaked – except for maybe some spirit mayhem.

I’ve read reviews of Aspen Manor and people go on about the beautiful grounds and how nice the house is. I didn’t get to experience any of that. I arrived in the middle of the night and stayed in a hospital room. When I purchased the cheapest room, I thought I was getting a small bedroom with a shared bathroom situation, not the last days of the Golden Girls. I don’t discourage anyone from going to Aspen Manor, but I do think I need to work on my spiritual strength before I decide to spend a long period of time on the East Coast. It totally messes with my West Cost vibe.

 

Sorry, I have no photos. I was really creeped out. I didn’t want anything to come up on my camera.

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WV: What’s In Wheeling?

wheeling west virginia

OCTOBER 14, 2014 | DAY 13 of #ONTHEROAD1014

In the sidebar of this blog you will see I am currently reading “Drinking, Smoking & Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times”. It takes me an embarrassingly long time to finish a book, so that has been up there for months. And just last week I finished a passage where Wheeling, West Virginia was mentioned. Here is the section “-knock out drops, which had been familiar in American criminal circles since the first Grant administration. My own great-uncle, Julius by name, got a massive shot of them in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1870, and was never the same man afterward.”

I myself have visited Wheeling, West Virginia; and I would have never imagined coming across the name of this Ohio River city in my little bedside book. Having not written about my road trip for weeks, possibly months, and West Virginia being the next stop in my story – I took it as a sign it was time to make time to write the story of Wheeling.

After Louisville, my intention was to drive up to Chicago and see the David Bowie exhibit and then drive diagonally to Richmond, Virginia. That was until my mother, aghast, said “you’re not going to Wheeling, West Virginia.” Confused, I asked “What’s in Wheeling?” Well, my grandfather on my Dad’s side was born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. As I am a curious person, who is close to my family and interested in historical roots, I decided to skip Chicago and go to Wheeling. I don’t regret this decision, but I think the David Bowie exhibit would have been more fun and light-hearted.

We left the Brown Hotel early on October 14, explored Louisville for a few more hours, and then was on the road. Driving through Ohio on a very cloudy day, the fields and water droplets made for a scenic backdrop to the Sun Kil Moon album I insisted on playing. I sung about a whoopee pie I had purchased at Whole Foods and wrote in my moleskin journal. I was in a frightful state of melancholy, a dangerous place to be as I was supposed to be on the road trip of my dreams and yet I couldn’t shake this negative energy that lingered over me. Plus the gloomy weather seemed to feed my hum drum attitude.

It’s a 5 hour drive from Louisville to Wheeling, and we only stopped for gas, where I purchased some Popeye’s fried chicken. That chicken happened to be our only sufficient meal past noon. By the time we got to Wheeling, it was sunset. The gray clouds cast a blue shadow on the city. My aunt had given me all the details of my grandfather’s census records and we were searching for 48th street. Initially, we made a wrong turn and landed on the wrong side of the Ohio river on 47th street and could not find 48th, so we got out of the car to walk around.

wheeling wrong exit

Being from Los Angeles, I don’t think I’ve even seen the real effects of the downward economy. It seemed the bad neighborhoods were still bad, and the good neighborhoods just slowed down. It wasn’t till I visited Wheeling, did I truly grasp and feel what it’s like to be affected by a downwards economy.

wrong side of the river

 

The homes on the street we explored were old and beautiful in their own right, like an aged ballerina who was stunning in her youth, but now walks hunched and weathered from years of strain on her body. Paint chipped and walls likely creaky, they were solid homes in what felt like an unstable city. We drove to the other side of the Ohio River crossing a bridge where I attempted to snap photos of the West Virginia sign. Following our GPS, we finally arrived to 48th street. There was a historical marker on the street and a welcome sign, you could tell had been there a long time. Only about a few blocks long, between the river and the highway, we tried to figure out where my grandfather could have possibly lived and if the building still existed. The only buildings that looked old enough to have been around when my grandpa was a child, was an abandoned apartment building that sat across from a sad looking long house, and at the end of the street a factory.

wheeling signs

48th street

We saw a few gentlemen attempting to fix a broken electrical box at the river’s edge. One man in his seventies and two younger guys probably in their forties. The young men left the older gentleman to grab tools and a few beers from their house, and the old man guarded the broken box. Seeing an opportunity to talk to a local, I asked the man if the factory had always been there, wondering if at one point it could have been homes. He told me that for as long as he remembered the factory had been there. It’s switched manufacturers a few times, but when he was a kid it was a potato chip and pretzel cannery. The factory would throw out dented cans, and he would grab them to use for fishing with his friends. I could see the warm memories come to his mind, to be dashed by the current state of Wheeling. He shared things were better than, “the good ol’ days, when we didn’t make much money, but everyone had a job.” –“gas was cheaper too.” He shared with us how the box had been broken and it was a hazard, they had to fix it, not placing responsibility or blame on Wheeling for it not being fixed yet, but that it just needed to be done.

When the younger guys came back, Bowerbird and I received, are these strangers bothering you eyes. So I thanked the old man for telling me about Wheeling, and we walked back to our car. Under the glow of the street lights, the melancholy I had been feeling on the inside was now full blown manifested in a city.

apartment building in wheeling

old house wheeling west virginia

I had been trying to find lodging in Wheeling, which was difficult, but finally found a reasonably priced B&B thirty minutes north. We drove along the Ohio River to the hotel. At one point in the darkness we saw a huge flame illuminate the inside of a steel factory. It was a dark. Even driving through neighborhoods it was dark. We were hoping to find a restaurant to get dinner but it seemed everything was closed. The two illuminated signs I remember, was one announcing the new talent Candy at the local strip joint and a men’s homeless shelter.

When we finally reached the hotel, it was like a scene from the Shining, and it didn’t get less creepy from there.

I promise not to leave a month between describing the haunted hotel in Wheeling, West Virginia and now. But that experience needs its own post. This is only my experience of Wheeling, West Virginia. If any local happens to read this and I have completely gotten the sense of the city wrong, I sincerely apologize.

ohio river

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KY : Louisville’s Art Hotel

 

OCTOBER 14, 2014 | DAY 13 of #ONTHEROAD1014

On the day we left Louisville and headed for West Virginia we woke up early to explore two more spots. It was gloomy and rainy, which is never that fun for exploring, but we didn’t let that stop us – and in turn it set the mood. Our first stop was the Seelbach Hotel one of the oldest and finest hotels in America, where F. Scott Fitzgerald was inspired for parts of the Great Gatsby. Sadly, all my photos from inside the hotel are blurry, perhaps the ghost of the Seelbach feel it’s a no photos establishment.

After the Seelbach we went to the art hotel, aka 21C Museum Hotel. A hotel with a full-fledged modern art museum off the main lobby. It’s been so long and my notes have gone missing, so I don’t know what the show’s title was or the name of most of the artists. I checked their website for past exhibitions and recall the Gina Phillips work, but there was a whole second collection I can’t find any information on. All I recall is that it was work from artists all around the world.  If you know any of the artists below please comment with their name and link to website and I will correctly label the work.

chain link skull

Artist – Walter Oltmann

Lalla Essayoli

Artist – Lalla Essaydi

david

art teacup

tea cup II

gina phillips stitching

Artist – Gina Phillips

gina phillips stitching

Artist – Gina Phillips

Jennifer and Kevin McCoy

Artists – Jennifer and Kevin McCoy

While we walked down hallways and continued to explore the hotel as much as we could without a room key, we found this photo of John Waters. Mr. Waters is one of my idols, I love his creative spark, relentless spirit and authentic self. Now I don’t know John Waters personally, but like Dolly Parton, he owns who he is regardless of what the world might think of him and doesn’t apologize for being himself.  Seeing his photo was like getting a sign I was on the right path, I was supposed to be on this trip and just experience what it was going to bring.

John Waters

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KY : The Bourbon Trail – MAKER’S MARK

bourbon trail makers mark

OCTOBER 13, 2014 | DAY 12 of #ONTHEROAD1014

I’m playing Ryan Adams to get me in a Kentucky mindset, and I have to share the somber cloud that hovers over my heart. It was recently announced Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams are getting a divorce. They were my favorite celebrity couple, even more than Brad and Angelina, and I just thought they could make it work. Now with 5 years of marriage being thrown into the celebrity wind, I have to take a moment for over-dramatic mournful silence.

***

Now back to the bourbon trail. While driving down the bourbon trail we saw large square buildings with windows, scattered across rolling hills. If a corporate building and a country barn had a baby, it would be these boxes.  They reminded me of something out of a horror movie, where all the zombie are kept or is storage for twisted experiments. Now the sky was cloudy and gray that day, and since I’m fairly morbid my imagination got a little carried away. In actuality, they are rack houses, where the bourbon goes to age and rest. So I guess technically it is storing an experiment – in awesome flavor!

bourbon resting house

We made the last Maker’s Mark tour and were the first to purchase our tickets. Letting us have that magical alone time the early bird gets to savor. The waiting house is a real Disney style attraction, with talking picture reciting the history of Maker’s Mark and a replica kitchen showing how Margie Samuels, the wife of T. Williams Samuels came up with the signature Maker’s Mark bottle. Margie was a marketing master and designed the Maker Mark’s bottle inspired by the unique shapes of cognac bottles. She wanted Maker’s to be distinctively different from the other bourbons on the market. It was also her idea to have the distillery painted black, as she was tired of it always looking dirty.  See there is a naturally occurring fungus that grows around distilleries called, Baudoinia Compniacensis, and it turns trees and objects black. Margie was annoyed with fighting the fungus so she painted the buildings black with red trim, and her branded esthetics has lasted through the decades.  Oh yeah, the distillery you tour is the same one that produced the first bottle of Makers in the 1950’s, how cool is that!!!

Makers Mark Kitchen

Makers Mark Distillery

Of course, there have been upgrades, like the beautiful copper distillers. But the room which ferments the sour mash was totally vintage. We got to poke our finger into the brew, which looked like captain crunch and tasted like sweet watery white bread. We also got to take home our own Maker’s Mark label, made on the same printing press from their early days. These kinds of true to tradition touches gave the distillery real charm. Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of Maker’s Mark. I enjoy rye bourbons, and I found out they don’t use any rye in their recipe. Just corn sour mash and red winter wheat. So the tasting was a little underwhelming to me, but still very enjoyable.

Makers Mark Distillers

makers mark sour mash

We found out there is an ambassador program you can join, where they mark a barrel of bourbon with your name on it, and in 7 years you can purchase ‘your’ bourbon. I was so excited about this program, I told Bowerbird that I would need to plan my ovaries around the ambassador program, because I wouldn’t want to be pregnant when our bourbon was ready. I also said this out loud, and one of the other gentlemen on the tour remarked it was the best statement he’s ever heard.  What can I say, I love bourbon.

The coolest thing, about bringing home a bottle of Maker’s Mark from the distillery, is that you can dip it in the hot wax yourself. This was our epic road trip across the country, so we had to experience a dipped bottle. I was nice and let Bowerbird be the dipper, and the second it was cooled and handed to us I tried to carve the date into the wax, but it was too solid. Unfortunately, there was too many liabilities when it came to carving the wax when it was still hot. I hid a few of my road trip postcards in the gift shop too, and was tweeted on the road a week later from a fella who found it in a feminist book. Getting tweets while on the road was so cool. I still wonder about the postcards floating out there.

dipping makers mark in red wax

It was a bummer we were unable to go to any additional distilleries. Bowerbird was really looking forward to Four Roses, but we both agreed Maker’s Mark was worth it. We had been told it was a must see distillery, and for not even liking Maker’s that much, I absolutely loved my experience there. The bourbon trail hands out these passports you can get stamped at all the distilleries, new life goal is to get it filled. Bulleit distillery, you’re next on my list.

cute couple at maker's mark

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KY: The Bourbon Trail – Heaven Hill

Bourbon Trail Heaven Hill

OCTOBER 13, 2014 | DAY 12 of #ONTHEROAD1014

Bowerbird and I have decided to stay off the booze and abstain from spirits in 2015*. Not because either of us has a drinking problem that has made our lives unmanageable. But because we both really dislike the lethargy and mild headaches that just one glass of alcohol can induce. 2015 is a big year for the both of us, and we want to be on top of our game. So it’s a good thing we hit the Bourbon Trail in 2014. We are both sad to be giving up whiskey and bourbon, our favorite spirits because of the aroma and smooth finish. Yet I don’t think we will be able to top the sampling of a $400 bottle of Evan Williams either.

The portion of the bourbon trail we visited was in Bardstown, which is only thirty minutes from Louisville, and where essentially most of the bourbon distilleries reside. Also the ‘trail’ is a paved highway, just for clarification. Welcoming us to the Bourbon trail was a sign propped on the front lawn of a lovely house that read, “Bourbon destroys lives.” Our first stop on the trail was Heaven Hill distilleries and Bourbon Heritage Center. It had great interactive displays of how Bourbon is made, with buttons and knobs that lit up and made noises. At the touch of a button one of the displays released the sharp and hypnotizing scent of bourbon. I felt like a kid in a science center. There was also a history of distilling bourbon; describing why corn is used as the mash, and the ways it was hidden from officers during prohibition. Bowerbird and I were mostly just interested in a tasting, and not the full 2 hour tour of the distillery, so with our souvenir tasting glasses we enjoyed an array of premium Heaven Hill bourbon.

Bourbon Heritage Center

Heaven Hill Bourbon Tasting

Sadly I can’t find my notes from the tasting, and apart from knowing that one of the bottles (seen below) is $400 and only sold in Japan, I don’t recall the specifics of the other bourbons. But they were delicious. First enjoying them neat and then with a dash of water. The water changing the flavor ever so subtly. I remember one of the bourbons evaporated on my tongue. Another one tasted sweeter after the drop of water, giving a more caramel and syrup quality to the bourbon. We were with three other couples during the tasting and it was fascinating hearing everyone’s take on the flavors.  It was so much fun to geek out with other bourbon and whiskey nerds.

Evan William Bourbon Trail

adding water to bourbon

By the time we left Heaven Hill we could only make one other distillery and another couple from the tasting highly recommended seeing Maker’s Mark. As you drive up onto the Maker’s Mark property, the buildings and trees are all black, windows trimmed with red. I didn’t know much about Maker’s Mark before my tour, but I’m so happy we went there.  The history and marketing behind Maker’s would make any feminist fan of branding drool – and that’s basically me.

I’m going to break this up into two stories as the tale of Maker’s Mark deserves a post of its own.

Tell me what’s your favorite bourbon? Have you been on the bourbon trail?

*Exceptions to our 2015 resolution includes vacations and one double date to a whiskey bar we couldn’t get to in 2014. Update: 9/20/15 – our resolution went out the window in March, although we are currently not drinking. Go figure.

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TN: DOLLYWOOD

Dollywood Road Trip

OCTOBER 10, 2014 | DAY 09 of #ONTHEROAD1014

I adore Dolly Parton. She’s the queen of the south with a colorful personality that sparkles brighter than Christmas lights. A feminist with a sense of humor, she’s guided her career with brains and beauty. Did you know Elvis Presley wanted to sing one of her songs, but she turned him down? She would have loved to have the King sing a song she wrote, but he was also asking for full rights to the music. Dolly knew it was a bad business deal. My love for Dolly Parton made her amusement park, Dollywood, a MUST SEE destination on the dream road trip.

Its located in the smoky mountains not far from where Dolly grew up. She built the park because she wanted to give back to her community, and she figured what better way than to give them jobs. This savvy carries into the personalities of those that work there as well. When I asked the cashier of a food stand if they took credit cards, she gave me a sweet smile and said “Darling this is Dollywood, we are happy to take your money in any form”. I got such a kick out of that statement, I walked away with my delicious fried green tomatoes giggling.

Fried Green Tomatoes

The day we were driving to Dollywood it was pouring rain in Tennessee. A three hour drive from Nashville, traffic was not on our side, and we were in the car about four and half hours. When we finally pulled off the freeway, a burst of sunlight broke through the thick grey clouds. I joked to Bowerbird that it was over Dollywood, because Dolly can do anything, even part the clouds. Driving closer to the park, we were both stunned that my prediction was right, it was bright and sunny over Dollywood.

Because of traffic by the time we arrived we only had a few hours before it closed, but I wouldn’t let lack of time sour our experience. We decided we wouldn’t leave until we were kicked out. The park is “Backwoods Themed”. There are tongue and cheek representations of country people sprinkled around the park, from the signs to animatronic characters inside the rides. I swear there was a robotic fella in overalls holding a jug with X’s on it inside a fireman inspired attraction. But Dollywood also celebrates the charm and character of the smoky mountains, from the ‘County Fair’ to the artisans that still know how to loom and whittle wood.

dollywood signs

Artisans Looming

The number one question I’m asked is if there are Dolly Parton impersonators walking around, and I’m sad to report there are none. But just go to your local drag queen show and I’m sure you’ll find a few. However, there is a Dolly Parton museum, where you can meet a holographic projection of Dolly Parton. It’s an amazing building that houses many treasures of her childhood and countless sparkly costumes from over her career. You can even ask Dolly Parton questions on touch screen televisions. I was able to get Dolly Parton’s feelings on dieting and following my dreams. But what touched my heart the most was being able to see the coat of many colors.

Dollywood Chasing Rainbows

Dollywood Coat of Many Colors

Dollywood_Costume

We spent a majority of our limited time in the Dolly museum, but it was well worth it. As the park was closing and people walked toward the exit, we raced to the opposite end of the park for Wild Eagle. A ridiculously tall coaster that made you feel like you were soaring like an eagle. It had started to rain so we speed walked, and by the time we reached the ride and ran up the stairs through the line ropes and hopped on the ride, we were both out of breath. The restraint was tight and I tried to not get claustrophobic as I was already hyperventilating. We went up at a 90 degree angle, the click clicks of the gear below, and at a 210 feet drop we wooshed down at speed of 61 mph. The twist and turns of this coaster are the best, especially while whipping past bright red and orange leaves. Dollywood is seriously the most nature loving amusement park I’ve ever been to, it’s simply gorgeous. There is a creek running through it!

Dollywood_WildEagle

After Wild Eagle, we exited through the gift shop. Now as Christmas is around the corner I feel incredibly stupid for not picking up more souvenirs as gifts. I know lots of Dolly lovers, and one Dolly fan I am particularly regretful for not picking up a coffee cup or magnet or something. I purchased a keychain for myself and few postcards, but if only they had an online shop I’d get all my holiday shopping done in one place. Dollywood was as magical as I imagined it. And even though we didn’t get to spend all day there, everything fell into the right combination for a fun adventure.

Dollywood_Holigram

Thanks for reading about my time at Dollywood! Comment below with your favorite Dolly Parton song.

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TN: Little Bit More Nashville

We spent so much time in Tennessee and even more time in Nashville. The following happened over the course of a few days, but I thought writing about it in this fashion would be the most efficient. Also easier on the ADD blog reader.  Promise, I’m working on getting my post shorter! Well here is my Nashville…

PRINCE’S HOT CHICKEN

The hottest chicken in the south, Prince’s Hot Chicken, will bring tears to your eyes, no doubt about it. On the outskirts of downtown Nashville, located in a strip mall with a clothing store and nail shop as it’s neighbor, Prince’s Hot Chicken is as much an experience as visiting classic landmarks. We found out about Prince’s through Mind of a Chef, yes Sean Brock visited Prince’s Hot Chicken and recounted the burning sensation on film.

Filled with families and people who were picking up dinner before headed home, Bowerbird and I had to wait for a table to open up like sharks circling a boat. Fortunately, the food isn’t served quickly, so we were able to get seats before the chicken was ready. I couldn’t imagine having tried to eat it standing up. It’s served up so hot it burns your fingertips as well as your tongue. We ordered the ‘hot’ chicken and were told by a regular the two of us were crazy and would be feeling it in the morning. Sensory overload: our immune systems kicked into high gear to fight off the invasion of flavor, eyes filled with tears and noses began to run. Sharing a tiny side of potato salad, we nibbled on it trying to stretch the only way to give our tongues some relief.

An hour after our chicken dinner, our lips were still completely numb.

Prince's Hot Chicken Nashville TN

GROOVE RECORD STORE

After dinner, we drove around Nashville until we could head out to the home of our host that night in Hendersonville. Gazing out the window, I spotted Groove Record store, a house on the corner of a quaint street with an illuminated sign on the lawn. I love just coming across cool places, versus having it programmed into the gps. It makes the discovery that more special. It was 5 minutes to closing, making a joke about being the assholes who are coming in right before the doors are locked, the clerk was friendly and assured us he had enough cataloging to do, and that we were fine. The walls are covered in local artist and music posters. Christmas lights strung beside an in-store stage. The selection of new and used music was phenomenal, and since we didn’t I bring many CD’s for the road trip we picked up Deerhoof and HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock). We even spotted the cd of a fellow label mate, ERRAS. We didn’t stay too long, but it was a great little find to shape our time in Nashville.

Groove Record Store Nashville TN
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THE HOUSE OF CASH

Thirty minutes outside Nashville, Hendersonville was where Johnny Cash and June Carter stayed until till their passing. It’s also where the Father of Bowerbird’s friend lived who graciously offered to host us for a night. I will refer to him as Mr. Radio because of his amazing voice.  Mr. Radio lived just down the street from the original Johnny Cash museum, The House of Cash, before it was moved to Downtown Nashville. Now a real estate office and dental practice, the buildings were originally an old train depot where June Carter had a little antique store along with where the museum was located. Being so close to more Johnny Cash history tingled the fan girl in me, but my mouth dropped when Mr. Radio offered to drive us up to Johnny Cash’s old home. It was the middle of night and unfortunately no moon, but he drove us along the fence as we peered from the car to see the faint outline of Cash’s home (which had burned down in 2007). Being so close to where this legend had lived gave me chills. As we drove away two fawns were walking on the road and ran into a neighboring yard.

Sign from House of Cash Johnny Cash

**The sign from House of Cash is now housed at the new Johnny Cash Museum in Downtown Nashville**

 

 

GRAND OL’ OPRY

When I purchased tickets to the Grand Ol’ Opry’s 89th birthday show, with no musical act yet listed, I was making a commitment to the dream. Seven months in advance, the tickets were will-call only and non-refundable. I had to be in Tennessee by October 11, and that’s exactly what I did. The act ended up being Craig Morgan. I’d never even heard his music before, but it was an amazing show. A down to earth musician, former military man, his songs were heart felt stories. Good country music is a story to a melody. He even made me cry, but then again country music always makes me cry. As it was the birthday celebration radio stations, activity tents, and food vendors were set up outside the auditorium. I purchased myself some rainbow kettle corn that tasted like fruity pebbles. The Grand Ol’Opry is located in a shopping center, the Opry Outlets. for me the shops took away from the magic of “The Grand Ol’ Opry”. I’m glad we took a tour at the Ryman. Next time we are in Nashville, I’m buying tickets to a Ryman show, even better I’ll make sure to get tickets to The Grand Ol’ Opry at the Ryman.

Grand Ol Opry Birthday Show

Couple ‘Selfie’ After the Show 

Dolly Parton Pumpkin

 

They had a fantastic Jack-O-Lantern display of Country Music Stars

 

Rainbow Popcorn and Grand Ol' Opry

 

 

My Popcorn and Dolly 

 I missed going to the Blue Bird and a dive bar in an Airstream trailer, but it just gives us a reason to return.

Have you ever been to Nashville?

p.s. Notice all the Dolly Parton pics I snapped? Well next post will be all about Dollywood!

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KY: On The Way to Louisville, We Found Zanzabar.

October 14, 2014 | Day 15 of #ontheroad1014

“I know it’s all very charming with the pickled things in jars and the Southern Charm” – Hollie Baylor

The Bluegrass state stole my heart, and I don’t think I’ll ever get it back. From the moment we drove into Kentucky I felt like I was driving home. We had Ryan Adams coming through the radio, and the brilliant colored leaves whipping outside the window. The plan for day was to land in Louisville to sleep, and on our way there we would visit Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and Elizabethtown.

I feel very close to our 16th president. After taking a 50 question survey on which American president I would be, I am most similar to Abraham Lincoln. I find this to be my greatest testament of character, and wish I could add it to my resume. “Personality type for problem solving, leadership, and community is identical to our most beloved president Abraham Lincoln,” says the online 50 question survey. Abraham Lincoln was also an Aquarius.  Sadly because of our other detours on our way to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, we arrived after it was closed. Thirty minutes too late, the yellow barrier fence blocked me from visiting the cabin off in the distance where Lincoln took his first breath.  The barrier fence was as tall as my knee. I could easily jump over and run like a maniac down the hill, but considering it’s federal land, I didn’t feel like trespassing that day.  We later drove over to Abraham Lincoln’s ‘boyhood home’ where he lived till his family moved to Illinois.  It’s not the actual house he lived in, but it’s in the same area and gives travelers a sense of the land that shaped Lincoln.

Lincoln Birthplace

The detours that delayed us from Lincoln’s birthplace included fossil washing at Historic Diamond Caverns, and using the restroom at Dinosaur World.  I loved the days when we could just follow signs and billboards we saw off the highway. Totally spontaneous, it was the unplanned moments that shaped our most memorable encounters.

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One of my top ten favorite movies is Elizabethtown. I’ve watched it countless times, love the soundtrack, and have quoted Claire in my own life. I even reference Elizabethtown in a past blog entry when talking about Bowerbird before we started dating. Elizabethtown is this small town in Kentucky, and although most of the small town scenes weren’t even filmed in Elizabethtown, I wanted to visit it. In the center of the downtown area is a court house that doubles as a fallout shelter. As it was after 5pm, everything was closed. Practically a ghost town, we received a few confused stares from the drivers going in the roundabout. I probably looked ridiculous as I was trying to capture buildings in the background of my multiple (failed) selfies.  We weren’t there long, but it satisfied my Elizabethtown fantasy. Plus Bowerbird took a picture with a field of corn on our way out. Corn stalks are very tall.

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elizabethtown

Louisville is only about two hours from Elizabethtown, and sitting in the passenger seat I coordinated our Airbnb stay and found us a place to eat dinner. Searching Yelp I came across The Zanzabar, a bar and restaurant with pinball machines galore. I went to the website to view the menu and saw they were having a trivia night and would be showing the season premiere of The Walking Dead. It was a no-brainer we had to visit this place. A family run establishment, two brothers created their dream hang out. Good beer, great food, and lots of fun. The menus are inside vinyl record covers, we had Abba and BB King.  We order the shrimp po-boy and fries. Both delicious and seasoned well, we loved that the po-boy had avocado inside. Zanzabar is all about that unexpected extra touch.

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We met the co-owner Antz after he apologized for a drunk patron he had thought was bothering us. We told him everything was fine, and then started talking about music.  We saw Surfer Blood was playing there in a few weeks, and we chatted about the other bands that have graced The Zanzabar stage. I impressed Antz by knowing the name of Sean Lennon’s band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, when he was recounting how cool and nice Sean was. I’m still dying to see GOASTT. Not because of Sean Lennon’s famous father, but because I really love the music and artistic concept behind the group. Plus I have a total girl crush on Charlotte Kemp. Chatting about Los Angeles and traveling, we totally bonded with Antz. He gave us some Zanzabar swag and fun memories. Bowerbird kicked my butt at Dolly Parton pinball.

My one regret from this trip was that I didn’t take pictures of the people we met. I’d love to have an album filled with the faces of the interesting people from the road.  Fortunately Antz and his brother were on Offbeat Eats with Jim Stacy, the “Game On” episode. You can see Antz in the video below playing a live action game of Donkey Kong. He has the green hat on.

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