Trip Summary Calendar - Where we went and when

June 03, 2004

Photos from Raleigh!

Please take a look at our photos from Raleigh, NC. You'll find 56 pictures of Heather Felter and her family, various woodland (and not so woodland) creatures, some of the Raleigh-areas finest eating establishments, and a flaming marshmallow.

We'll have a follow-up album to post later, too. We took a ride on Heather and Will's new boat, and took along a single-use waterproof camera. It uses that old-fashioned substance known as film. Film? What's that? It actually needs to be developed in a darkroom (or a very dark machine in a drugstore). But we'll be sure to get scans to share the experience.

Posted by Mitch at 11:39 PM | Comments (2)

On to Nashville...

Our brief three-night stay in Asheville, NC is coming to an end. Tomorrow morning we're heading west to Nashville, TN. We're driving through mountains and expecting rain, so hope for the best! :-)

We had a great time here. Yesterday we toured the Biltmore Estate, and today went white-water kayaking. Photos of both will follow after we've settled into Nashville. We'll be at the home of country music for six nights. Next Thursday we're heading to the Bonnaroo music festival which starts Friday 6/11. We still haven't picked a destination following Bonnaroo, but I'm sure it'll be further south.

If you've missed any entries, just look to your left in the "archives" and "recent entries" sections to catch up on our U.S. tour.

Posted by Mitch at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2004

Howdy from Nashville

We've arrived safe and sound in the home of country music. Upon arrival we realized this is an odd place for us to be, considering we know nothing about country music, nor Nashville. But we'll make do! We hope to see the Grand Ol' Opry either Saturday or Tuesday, then see what else is in the area.

The drive out here was excellent. Including two brief stops, roughly six hours. The truck handled the mountains of western NC and eastern TN without difficulty. While driving we crossed into Central Time, the first time I've actually driven into another time zone. I guess we can't call it jetlag.

Posted by Mitch at 11:05 PM | Comments (2)

June 09, 2004

Nashville update, our next stops

We're nearing the end of our Nashville stop, so I thought I'd post a few updates as to what we've done here... (There's a bit to read, so click the "Continue Reading" link below to see the whole thing.)

Saturday night we went to the Grand Ole Opry. We weren't sure what the Opry was before we went, other than it being somehow important. Well here's the scoop: The Grand Ole Opry is a long-running live radio show, performed in front of an audience, consisting of a huge variety of country-related acts. Our show was two and a half hours, split into 30 minute segments. Each segment had three performers. Between each segment they do commercials live from the stage (a few are pre-taped). While we're not huge fans of country music we really enjoyed the show. Radio shows are right up our alley, and the live nature of it all gave it a fun energy. We didn't recognize any of the performers but most of the audience sure did - they were going crazy. At least two were members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

One odd thing about the Opry is at it's current location (here about 30 years) it's essentially part of a large shopping mall ("Opry Mills"). It's an independent building, but shares the same entrance and parking lot. Pretty weird for what is perhaps the biggest icon of Nashville.

Earlier Saturday we walked through the massive, almost incomprehensible Opryland Hotel. While not a tall building (roughly floors of rooms) it is HUGE. The building consists of (from memory) four interconnected sections, each with a very, very large interior open space. All have waterfalls, small streams, and the largest has a (I'm not making this up) river and offers boat rides. Wait until you see the photos.

Sunday we visited The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson. It's a modest mansion (five or six bedrooms, comparible in size to some large homes built today), but very nicely decorated and preserved and on 1100 beautiful acres. While much smaller than the massive Biltmore we saw in Asheville, overall we liked The Hermitage even more.

Sunday night we met up with Natalie, a friend of Jessica's (see the New Jersey entry for details of our time with Jessica). Natalie was in Nashville for a convention of librarians, so we met up for dinner at the local Macaroni Grill.

Monday we toured the Frist Center for Visual Arts, a museum in the downtown area. While we didn't see anything I'd consider earth-shattering there was a nice variety of paintings, prints, and some sculpture. We had the most fun at the "make your own art" section where we sat down and painted a while.

Monday night we spent some time with the locals. While looking through the local events calendar we came upon an interesting item: "Kerry-oke". Yes, a karaoke party to benefit John Kerry. Turns out there's a big movement within the country music industry to dispel the notion they're all right-wing conservatives. So some music executives organized the "Music Row Democrats" and this was one of their events. Among the speakers was the former NEA chair, Bill Ivey. And for singers they had real singers. Again we didn't know them, but we recognized their music. Which begs the question - if a good singer sings karaoke, is it still cheesy? We chatted at length with one member of the industry, a songwriter, performer, and reviewer, who has been out of work over a year. He, seemingly like many others there, blame the downturn in the music industry on the monopolization of radio stations (and the Bush deregulation that allowed it). An interesting night.

Tuesday was a work and errand day. Only interesting tidbit was a visit to a local outdoor megastore, Bass Pro Outdoor World. It's like a Home Depot of outdoor/sporting products - boating (about a dozen boats IN the store), more fishing equipment than I've ever seen, camping, etc.

Today is Wednesday. We hope to spend some more time downtown later this afternoon. Tonight is another big country music experience - the taping of a Country Music Television special on the 100 greatest country music love songs. The top 12 songs will be performed by stars including Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Lee Ann Womack, Brad Paisley and others. We've actually heard of these folks! The special should air on CMT this Sunday night, June 13th. Someone please tape it for us!

Tomorrow we're headed for Manchester, TN for the massive Bonnaroo music festival. 80,000+ people are expected, and the traffic nightmares are legendary here. Apparently two years ago they had a 30-mile highway backup that took 24 hours to get through!

Monday we're heading to Montgomery, Alabama for three nights, followed by a week in New Orleans. I'm not sure if we'll have internet access (let alone electricity) while at Bonnaroo, but if we do we'll post an update then. We also have photos from Asheville to post (to prove we really went white-water kayaking). So stay tuned!

Posted by Mitch at 12:53 PM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2004

Hello from Bonnaroo

A quick Bonnaroo update

Currently Friday night nearing midnight, we're ending our first day at Bonnaroo. If you haven't been following along, Bonnaroo is a truly massive music festival held annually (three years now) in central Tennessee. Last year's attendance was over 80,000. This year they sold out; I haven't heard the official total attendance. This is our first time here.

While in Nashville, we heard rumors and read stories of the traffic. So we weren't terribly surprised, but still awed. Nashville is about an hour's drive from Manchester, TN - location of the festival. We thought we'd be smart and left Nashville at 8:30am on Thursday (the first performers didn't hit the stage until noon on Friday).

We finally pulled into our camping spot at 8:30pm - twelve hours after leaving Nashville. The highway drive was fine. The signs sent us roughly 17 miles further east than the closest exit to the festival. We then had a long, very slow drive, mostly through a quiet country town (Hillsboro). We have some funny stories from that stretch which we'll write up later (and post photos).

In camping terms we're "boondocking" here - we have no electrical or water hookups of any type. We're just parked in a field. We have water storage so we've been able to shower, and battery-operated lights. I've also been using an inverter in the truck to charge various batteries.

The first day of the show was great. We saw Xavier Rudd, Yonder Mountain String Band, Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan, and Dave Matthews. Seeing Bob Dylan is my highlight so far. Dave Matthews didn't bring his own band with him. Playing with him were various other folks, including Trey Anastasio (who is playing himself later this weekend). That's quite a selection just for one day! Tomorrow's big acts for me are Steve Winwood and The Dead.

We'll have lots to write later, and many photos to post, but we wanted to provide at least a few updates. In case you're wondering I'm posting this from my battery-operated laptop using my battery-operated cell phone as a modem. Three cheers for internet access without electricity!

My only other thought - whoever came up with the idea of hosting a music festival in Tennessee in the middle of June is NUTS. It's incredibly hot and humid. If one could bottle sweat and sell it, this would be the economic boom we've all been waiting for...

Posted by Mitch at 12:44 AM | Comments (2)

June 14, 2004

Bonnaroo and Montgomery too

Hello from Montgomery, Alabama. We'll be sure to write more, much more, about the Bonnaroo music festival we attended in Tennessee over the weekend. First just a brief update.

After three days of incredible heat, wild rain, sweat and mud we made our way out of the festival late Sunday night. Initially we'd planned to leave Monday morning but after our traffic experience getting in we opted for an earlier departure. The exit took three hours, as the sudden exodus of fans (partially brought on by heavy rain) took organizers by surprise. We drove about 30 minutes to a campground in Monteagle, TN where we regained electricity and water, showered ("washed off the Bonnaroo") and had our first quiet evening in a while.

Today's drive was roughly five hours, including a 20-minute foray back into the Eastern time zone and 15 minutes in northwest Georgia. We're here in Montgomery for three nights. We'll do a little touring but first some R&R and catching up on some very muddy laundry.

If you'd like to read more about Bonnaroo, Google has many news stories linked on the topic (some good news, some not so good).

If you're looking for our Bonnaroo photos, stay tuned - they should be posted in a day or two. If you're one of the people we met at the festival, please drop us a note!

Posted by Mitch at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2004

Montgomery to New Orleans

Our brief stay in Montgomery, AL is coming to an end. Tomorrow we're headed to New Orleans for a seven-night stay.

We did some touring of downtown Montgomery today, and saw some very interesting sights, related to both the Civil War and the civil rights movement.

First we toured the Rosa Parks museum, located at the same corner where she was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white woman. The museum is small, but really quite interesting. It also has an amazing multimedia presentation of the events of that day, including a movie playing within windows of a real 1950's city bus showing what happened.

A short walk down the road is the state capitol building, which is remarkable for its beauty and (in my opinion) dark history. The building currently houses the state's executive branch (governor, lt. governor, treasurer, auditor, etc.). It used to also house the legislative branch, and the former chambers have been restored to their mid-1800's appearance. We stood in the old senate chamber, the same spot where the Confederacy was formed and the Civil War essentially began.

Also obvious to us was the lack of activity in the capitol building. This is a working building, on a regular business day, and the halls were nearly empty. We freely walked nearly everywhere; only the governor's end of one hallway was off limits. We had a nice brief chat with the secretary to the auditor. I've been through the state house in Boston; you can't walk six feet without bumping into someone. Even with the state reps across the street it was eery how quiet it was.

The same lack of activity was reflected throughout the downtown. Even in front of the capitol we crossed streets without having to wait for cars. Many storefronts are vacant. On-street metered parking was plentiful. We parked in a city lot (truck too big for the street spots) and the attendant felt bad charging us $2 for the day. We ate lunch at a local tex-mex restaurant, at the height of lunch hour just three blocks from the capitol and there were still vacant tables. Weird.

Then we walked less than a block from where the civil war started to where the fight for civil rights started - the baptist church where Dr. King served as pastor for six years. (The short distance between the two was a real shock.) We stood in the same church basement where Dr. King, Rosa Parks and others organized the bus boycotts of 1955.

Another short walk and we were at the First White House of the Confederacy, the home to Jefferson Davis for a year before the confederate government moved (against his wishes) to Richmond. I never understood the South's love of its confederate past, and don't think I ever will. Walking through the home (which is lovely) you'd never know the house is famous for housing the fight in favor of slavery and ultimately the deaths of so many Americans. Davis is consistently referred to as President Davis, and the home could be considered a low-budget presidential museum. We saw his old furniture, rooms where he met with members of his government, and odd artifacts like a bottle of wine he made (still full!) and his old shoes. There was little mention of the fact the South lost the war. The whole thing was a bit creepy.

That was it for our walking tour of Montgomery. We're looking forward to a week in New Orleans, one of our most anticipated stops on our journey. If you've been there and have a suggestion for something special to do or see, please add a comment here or send us an email.

Once we're settled in New Orleans we'll post photos from our last few stops.

Posted by Mitch at 10:44 PM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2004

Photos from Asheville, and more from Raleigh

Oh my - how times flies! We've been in New Orleans nearly a week, and no updates at all! First we have some photos to take care of.

The first set are a few additional photos from our time in Raleigh. All are from our trip on Heather and Will's new boat. We used one of those waterproof single-use cameras and didn't get it developed until the end of our Nashville stop.

The second set are those from Asheville, NC. This includes a trip to the massive Biltmore Estate. They don't allow photos inside the mansion - but I snuck a few anyway. Also are some photos on our white-water kayaking trip (again, using a throw-away camera).

Posted by Mitch at 01:27 AM | Comments (0)

Wrapping up New Orleans

We'll post a full update of our time here in New Orleans, but we've had a great time. There is SO much to do here, but we've done and seen quite a bit. Lots of live music, Bourbon Street on a Saturday night, three museums (and possibly another tomorrow), and some good local food.

We've determined our next two stops. Thursday we're driving to the Houston area. We're staying at a campground a bit southeast of the city for three nights. We hope to get a tour of NASA's big facility there. Then we're on to Austin for about a week. We hope to see Erin, a family friend since I was very young (and is now a big-time Blues singer), take a trip to the Dr. Pepper museum in Austin, and see what the capitol of Texas offers up for the Fourth of July. We also have a secret mission planned - but we can't tell you about it just yet. Let's just say it has something to do with the 23rd letter of the alphabet and someone who will hopefully need a moving van in a few months...

Stay tuned for more updates and photos, and keep those comments and suggestions rolling in!

Posted by Mitch at 01:46 AM | Comments (1)

June 25, 2004

Photos from Nashville

We're having a relaxing day in Baytown, TX today, just east of Houston. This gave me the chance to post 81 photos from Nashville. Take a look and you'll see photos from the Grand Ole Opry, President Andrew Jackson's home (The Hermitage), a gigantic hotel, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and more ducks.

Posted by Mitch at 05:03 PM | Comments (1)