Monday, June 29, 2009

Ohio- Canton & Independence

Ohio all in all was pretty crappy. I now have a better understanding of the term "fly-over state". I'm glad I went, but would be happy never returning. The Hall of Fame was nice. A little bit disappointing though. It wasn't as "hall of fame-ish" as I had imagined. It was old and small. It was cool to be able to go though.
Ohio was definitely an adventure. Canton, Ohio especially... In reading our AAA guide, it appeared that majority of the restaurants were in Downtown Canton. It also appeared to be a pretty small city. So, we pulled right into the downtown area and into the first motel we saw. BIG MISTAKE... When checking in, I asked the guy if it was a non-smoking room. His response, "I can't tell you what you can and can't do in your room. But I can't give you an ashtray." OOOKKK. That should have been the first sign to turn around. But no, we paid for our room thinking it will be an adventure. The room smelled like overused air freshener. So much so, that I couldn't breathe. We opened the door to let it air out, but this just gave the nosey other vagabond tenants an opportunity to check us and our stuff out. After dinner, we decided to find another place. When I went to check out, the same guy was out front, but now with friends. I'm pretty certain they were all high and definitely saw booze. Even better, it appeared the only girl there was open for sale. Yeah, we found the classy joint in town.

After a good night's rest at the local Knights Inn, we made our way to the Football Hall of Fame. This museum opened in the late 60's and has not been updated since. Well, that's not necessarily true. There was an area under construction. Perhaps they are making it more up to do date. Either way, we got a free to ticket to return as an apology for the closed section. Sweet! The hall of fame itself was cool. A little football overload for me. But cool to see the history and really cool to see Superbowl rings.

We spent the next night in Independence, Ohio, and decided to splurge on a La Quinta Inn. I have a new appreciation for their beds. Well, for any sheets thicker than a sheet of paper and a bed not as hard as a rock. I do not, however, have a new appreciation for Ohio. I feel I've learned a lot on this trip. I had mis-judged the South. I have neglected our beautiful country while traveling through Europe. I have not however, mis-judged the "middle", have a new understanding of "the fly-over states", and have no desire to return.

Such a deceiving sign...

The original football & helmet

Hall of Fame

Johnny Unitas

Tom Brady

Professional Football Hall of Fame

Indianapolis- Go Colts!!!

When we first put together the road trip, Indianapolis was automatically added to the list. Last Christmas, my mom bought my dad a personalized brick at the new stadium. Since he hasn't had a chance to visit, it was my job to find the brick and make sure it really existed. Even though I have to be a Patriots fan, I mean with the boyfriend and new city and all, I am definitely a Colts girl. The only time it becomes a problem is when the two teams play each other.

The new stadium is beautiful. Unfortunately it was closed for the day, so we didn't get to see the field. I kept hoping Peyton would walk by. Unfortunately no sightings. The brick wasn't too hard to find. They have the sidewalk divided up into different football terms (touchdown, field goal, etc). We just had to find the right area and there it was.

While there, we saw a listing for Purdue University. I thought it would be cool to take a photo on campus for my girl Randel. However, we got confused. Turns out it was just a branch of the school and the really campus is in West Lafayette. Oh well. Guess we'll just have to plan a trip to meet up there for a football game soon.

We went to the stadium. It was nice. Then we left. Don't really have much to say about Indiana, as we did not spend a lot of time here. On to the football hall of fame!

The new beautiful Lucas Oil Stadium

Jim's brick!!!

Go Colts!

Downtown Indianapolis

Louisville, Kentucky


After yet another long drive (I know, it's getting old), we finally made it to Louisville. Because of the credit card incident back in Santa Fe, Des asked the CC company to send a replacement card out to Louisville, to a friends house. As Des says, it was not a big stop on our way originally, but because of this we had to make it a major stopping point on the trip, and it turned out to be a really good thing. The card was mailed to my mom's boss' mom's house (try to follow that one!) and that's where we headed to pick it up. The ladys name is Frances and she is one of the main reasons that Kentucky was such a cool place on our tour.

We got there around 8 PM and she made us our first home made dinner on the road trip so far, and even put us up for the night (talk about southern hospitality!). The next day, she took us to this really cool breakfast place and afterwards she drove us around town to show us some cool houses and the venue where her daughter got married. Louisville would definitely not have been the same without her, and if you're reading this, thank you so much for everything Frances!

After we said goodbye to Frances, we headed to the Louisville Slugger Museum (we're in Louisville, how can we not?) and Des bought a specially engraved bat for her dad for fathers day. Once we left the museum, it was off to Churchhill Downs (again, how can you not when you're in Kentucky?) to go watch some horse racing. It was a lot of fun, but unfortunately we could not stay long as we still had to drive to Indianapolis and start heading towards Ohio.

A Patriots fan in Colt's country, this should be interesting.....

We finally made it to Kentucky. After losing my credit card in Santa Fe, we decided to have a new one shipped to a Mario's mom's friend in Louisville. It wasn't really a major stopping point for us before that. However, we knew the card would be safe until we could get there and pick it up. This little twist of fate happened to be one of the best parts of our trip for me. It was in the great city of Louisville that we got to meet Frances- our angel. She made us our first home cooked meal in weeks, she gave us a place to rest, and she became our personal tourguide of the city. I think it is because of Frances that Louisville has gained a place in my heart.

Because we stopped in Nashville, we didn't actually get to Frances' until around 8. very excited for our first home-cooked meal in awhile. We had hot dogs, salad, coleslaw, potato salad, watermelon, and berry ice cream. YUMMMMYYYY!!! After dinner, we walked around her neighborhood enjoying the nice weather and fireflies. It was so great to be in a safe residential neighborhood. The houses had so much Southern character!

The next day we went out to breakfast and took a tour of town. Frances took us to Lynn's Paradise Cafe. That place was crazy. So much color and personality. I guess there is an ugly lamp contest every year at the Kentucky State Fair. There are the most random lamps scattered around the restaurant, along with a huge map to mark where you came from. Really fun! Turns out it was even featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

From here, Frances drove us around to show us a little bit of her history and what the city is known for. We went to the most beautiful cemetary. I guess people actually hang out there on the weekends and take their kids to feed the ducks. Its like their version of a park with a pond. Nevermind the huge headstones scattered around. We also saw where Frances' daughter was married. It is a huge estate in the middle of the Presbyterian Seminary. So beautiful!! If we ever moved here, this is where I'd want to work. It would be a pleasure walking through the rose gardens every day selling the venue to couples in love.

Eventually we had to leave Frances to head to the Slugger Museum. We happened to leave for our road trip right before my dad's birthday and father's day. I thought there would be nothing better to send home than his own personalized bat. They were pretty cool. I hope he hangs it up in his sports room.

Last but not least, we had to go to Churchhill Downs before heading out. My good friend Randel had told me all about going to the Derby and drinking mint juleps. It sounded like so much fun. We had planned to just visit the museum and be on our way. However, when we pulled into the parking lot, the attendant offered us box seats in the shade for $5 each. It seemed too good to pass up. Neither of us had ever been to the horse races, so we decided to check it out. I had soooo much fun. I'm not really a big gambler. So, we didn't do much betting. But it was really fun to drink mint juleps with a big hat on and cheer on the horses. I would definitely go back.

Lynn's Paradise Cafe- coolest breakfast stop in Louisville

Garden Court- amazing wedding venue

View at the Cemetary

Louisville Slugger Museum

Babe Ruth's Plaque on the Slugger Walk of Fame

Churchhill Downs

Mint Julep!!!

Tennessee- Nashville

Our time in Nashville was much too short. We stopped on our way to Kentucky just to make sure we saw it. I'm so glad we did. Granted, Nashville was nothing like I expected. I thought it would be more like Texas, and again people would walk around in boots and cowboy hats with guitars. I thought the Grand Ole Opry was something we could walk by in the middle of the city- not its own amusement park. So, I was very surprised that it was actually a very clean regular city. I was also surprised to see so much Greek influence in the architecture. Very beautiful buildings. My favorite part was the speakers built into various fixtures on the street that play music for people's enjoyment as they walk by. I really do want to go back. Right before we left, we stumbled upon Printer's Alley. The history of this place dates back to the 1800's. Just about every famous musician has played here. Again, definitely need to come back.

Can't really say much about Nashville because our time in the city was really short. We were there for literally about an hour, which is just enough time to look at the city capitol building, go get some lunch and drive back out. I must say though, the weather is starting to be not as hot as before, so progress is being made that way. The really cool thing about Nashville, and of course it would be something I like, is that the football stadium is spitting distance from downtown. It would probably be a 10-15 min. walk to go see the game. How cool is that!

Anywho, off to Louisville, more to come.

State Capitol

Government Building- isn't it beautiful

Printer's Alley- this place looks like alot of fun...must come back...

Inside Printer's Alley

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tennessee- Lynchburg

I know this is probably getting old to some of you, but the drive to Lynchburg was loooong. It was another 6-7 hours in the car, but once we got there, it was completely worth the drive. We got into town around 6 PM (it was too late to take a tour of the JD brewery), so we decided to stay at this cool little inn that off the main highway.

After checking in and unloading all of our stuff, it was off to find a meal. We decided to drive into the main square because we didn't know how far it was going to be, but the square ended up being a 30 second drive in. Lynchburg is a very small town (probably 1 L.A. block, not kidding) and obviously everything revolves around the tourists that come to see the brewery. Everything was pretty much closed except for one restaurant so our meal establishment was basically chosen for us. Now, when we were looking at the distilleries, we knew that one was in a dry county but we couldn't remember which one it was, but we found out after I tried to order a beer at the restaurant which one it was. After the waitresses had a good laugh at my expense, we got our food (it was pretty good, and down right cheap).

After dinner, we decided to head back to the inn and update our blog. On the way, we stopped to get some 24's of Bud Light (apparently they can sell beer, not the hard stuff).
After a good night's sleep and some catching up on blogging, we headed off to the JD distillery to take the tour. The place was really cool. It was great to walk around the distillery and see how everything is made. The tour guide knew all the little secrets (meaning he got us a little tipsy without ever actually drinking anything) and he was a pretty funny guy.

Of course we had to stop at the gift store and get some stuff. Apparently, they recently got a permit from the county to sell "gift bottles" rather than bottles for consumption. I got a bottle of 1981 Gold Medal Jack which you can only get at the distillery.

Afterwards, it was off to Nashville to explore the city. Hopefully it will be as fun as Lynchburg and not as shady as Memphis, we'll see.

We had originally planned on driving to Nashville to stay the night and just visiting the distillery during the day. I'm so glad we went to Lynchburg. It was the small Southern town we needed. As Mario mentioned, the main area was literally as large as our street made into a square.

The highlight of the first night was definitely dinner. You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl. Right??? When we sat down to eat, the waitress handed us a silver fork in a plastic bag. Not a plastic fork that would have made more sense. And why didn't we get a knife??? I never did get an explanation for any of that. Mario immediately asked the waitress what beer's they had on tap. From that point on, we were pegged as the tourists. We could hear them laughing in the kitchen about us. This only motivated me more to ask questions (definitely my mother's daughter). I actually had the audacity to ask our waitress what they did to have fun in the town and if they threw parties in the barns behind their parents' backs. She said they waited until the town meeting to throw a party at someone's house. I swear, this was the town I had always seen in movies but didn't know actually existed. To add to this, the high school coach was eating dinner at the table behind us, and the table next to us was planning their booth for the upcoming fair. At one point, the son, I kid you not, actually said, "I think you should strike the whole menu, bring out the fryer, and throw some pickles in." Oh baby, we are in the South now!!!

All kidding aside, Lynchburg was quite fabulous! It was refreshing to be in such a quaint town that seemed to not have any worries. Their biggest crime was probably jaywalking. We even went down to where the fair was going to take place and were amazed to see nothing locked up or even put away. All of the toys and prizes were scattered around the booths. We were definitely not in LA anymore. That night we drank beer on the front porch in our rocking chairs watching the fireflies and stars. Not a bad way to spend the evening.

The next day was reserved for Jack Daniels. The distillery was so beautiful and so full of history. Majority of the people that worked there had family working there and were somehow related to Jack himself. All of the workers were so full of pride for their product. The company slogan is, "Every day we make it, we'll make it the best we can." I don't think there is a better slogan for any company. Very proud! Along the tour, we were very pleased to discover you could get buzzed off of fumes alone. As a dry county, they cannot offer tastings. So, instead our guide taught us how to put our noses inside of the mashing stills and fanned the brewery fumes into our faces. You could definitely smell the fumes in the barrel room. I'm not a Jack fan, by nature, but I've gained a lot more respect for the company and product.

Along side the Tennessee roads

Rolls of hay along side the road---
we saw these everywhere and fell in love with them.

Look at the old car

Kike enjoying the Jack Daniels rocking chair
with his Tennessee bag on our front porch

Downtown Lynchburg

The distillery

Just for you mom!

Our guide & Jack

Illegal photo in the barrel room

Well put!

Leaving Jack Daniels

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tennessee- Memphis

Due to our brief detour in Vicksburg, we didn't get to Memphis until after 8pm. While this isn't too late, we had decided to be adventurous at this point and find a place to stay once getting to the city. This is the true test of a relationship. While most would think my bug is a very patient person, he does not do well when things are not planned out. He may tell you he's spontaneous. However, the last thing he wants to do is drive around a strange city in the middle of the night looking for a place to sleep. But that's just what we did. The first few we tried out were WAY out of our price range. We settled on the downtown Motel 6. Honestly, this is the first time on the trip that we were both a little nervous. I'm not sure if it was all of Memphis, or just this particular part, but it looked a little shady. I saw all of the horror films I've ever seen replaying in my head as a warning of what not to do in order to remain safe. I even went as far as not letting the front desk boy see us leave because I was afraid he would call his friends to come raid the place.

With a bit of trepidation, we headed to Beale St. I could see how this place would be great in its time. It was a bit like Bourbon St, but not as smelly and with much better music. We walked up and down to take it all in and settled on a Johnny Cash cover band. I ate chili and Mario had ribs while listening to some of America's best music. It was pretty great!!!

The next day, I had only one request. We had to go to the Peabody Hotel to see the ducks march. They walk along a red carpet to the fountain every morning and back every evening. We got there about 15 minutes before show time and were surprised to see such a large crowd. There we stood as a large group waiting for the show. It felt like we were waiting to see the Electric Parade at Disneyland... only we were waiting to see ducks walk. When I said this out loud, I was quickly scolded by a Southern woman and assured it was well worth the wait. IT WAS!!! They are the cutest things ever. They walk in their little line along the red carpet with camera flashes going in every direction. It was like a Los Angeles premiere.... only better.

Memphis was a little bit shaddier than what I had expected. The area where we finally ended up wasn't exactly out of Pleasantville, but what can you do. I had to hide our stuff under the bed cushion and behind the drawer where the TV was. After some thinking, we headed off to Beale Street. Beale Street looks like it would be a fun street on a weekend when the crowd is there. Of course, we got there on a Monday night and by the time we got there most places were closing down. We did end up at a restaurant with a Johnny Cash cover band and had some good southern cookin'.

After the restaurant, we wanted to walk the street to see everything, but after encountering a few bums that wanted us to pay them money for telling us what bar to go to, and another one that just tried to sell us some stuff, we opted to hop in a cab and head back to the hotel to make sure our belongings and the car were still there (and to our surprise, they still were!)

I'm glad we got through the night without any incident (I did hear a few ambulances and cop cars drive by the hotel in a 30 min. span). Tomorrow it's off to Lynchburg (Jack Daniels here I come!) and possibly Nashville.

Stay tuned, more to come.


The restaurant we chose
Mario's ribs, Texas toast, & fries

Restaurant shown on Man vs. Food with the big burger.
We didn't eat there, but thought we would take a pic for our fellow fans.

Can you see the ducks jumping into the fountain???

Here they are swimming...

Memphis duck Walk of Fame

Vicksburg, Mississippi

On the way to Memphis, I navigated my pilot a little out of the ways to Vicksburg, Mississippi (only about an hour round trip but that's nothing when driving cross country). As frustrated as he was, I had my reasons. 1. I really wanted to add another state to the map and couldn't do it until we stopped & 2. I really wanted to see a civil war re-enactment. So, off to Vicksburg we went. The only problem is it was 115 degrees, plus humidity. Mario and I mastered what we have now named "drive thru tourism." You simply drive up to the monument and snap your photo in the car. If you get good at it, you don't even have to roll the window down. The tour could take up to 6 hours if you allowed. We managed to do it in about an hour. Much more efficient and MUCH cooler. However, if you are a history buff (Ben), I would highly recommend it in a cooler season.

I'm really glad we went. It was incredible to see the battlefields and vessels used. It was also interesting to see things through the eyes of the South. The stories told and monuments definitely rooted for the South to win and portrayed them as the victim. I have learned a lot on this road trip. I promise we will do a whole blog on that after it is all said and done. But for now, it has been unreal learning more about our country's history. I was the first to hop on a plane to explore Europe. But there is so much to see here. So much more than I ever believed.

Vicksburg was fun. It was fun to see the the old civil war sites and see all of the monuments erected in honor of the war. The really fun part was when Des became a Care Bear (we won't go into details, but it was pretty funny). That's everything we did in Vicksburg, so nothing much to write about. After about an hour of doing our drive through tourism, we headed back towards Memphis.

More to come from Tennessee,

Looks like ladies are cheap in Mississippi on Wednesday

Battle Grounds

Depiction of the caves they used in battle

Illinois memorial

Ohio memorial

Cemetary on-site- most of these were unknown soldiers

View of Mississippi river banks