Archives for category: Have MacBook, will travel.

(I never thought I’d actually get to use that…)

Current Location: Knoxville TN (visit the fabulous SunSphere!)
Mileage: 820
States Traveled: TX, AR, TN

The title pretty much sums up the day. Darren and I took one last look around DFW (you know, to see if we forgot anything) at about 8:30 this morning, and set out due east. Except for the occasional stops for food, gas, and el baƱo, we’ve been in the truck all day. We didn’t pull into our hotel in Knoxville until shortly before Midnight (eastern – DAMN YOU TIMEZINE LINE!). Nothing terribly exciting to report.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back to wrap this whole thing up. Presuming, of course, I can stay away from my bed that long. (Oh, I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed again!) Nite!

Current Location: Bedford (DFW) TX
Mileage: local driving only
States Traveled: n/a

Sorry to saddle you with another “it’s late and I’m tired” entry…but, well, it’s late and I’m tired. But here’s a quick recap of the day.

-Breakfast with Harlan, Stacey, Hoai, Bry & Lyn, and the family Busch. I’m starting to feel like a part of their family at this point…
-Spent some more time shuttling Bryan around in preparation for the afternoon. Had a chance to sit in their backyard and play with Lyn’s dog Howie. (Who has very bad breath.)
-El Groupo De Rock & Roll. The group known at one time as Bender (currently nameless, as two other DFW bands have claimed the name) rocked the house over at Caves Lounge in Arlington. The thing that makes this gig special is that Bryan is the frontman and lead solo trumpet – and performing in front of his family and friends has been a dream of his for the better part of the last decade. My face may very well have melted. The show was great – some familiar songs, some obscure covers, and some experimentation and ad-libbing. Darren recorded the show, and Bry will be putting it online in due time. I also have an extensive collection of photos of Bryan rocking out, which I will post shortly.
-The party continued well into the evening at Caves…until we got the boot for daring to rock too hard. (Well, mainly because we wanted to continue running our own music.) So we moved over to the ‘infamous’ Lucci House, where many of us hung out, drank, shared stories – which was great, because finally the NJ and DFW contingents were mixing. (Thanks again to Erica for letting us invade her home.)

The only thing left is the proverbial “run” home so that both Darren and I can get back to business as usual on Tuesday. We’ll be driving around 12 hours a day for the next two days – we’re stocked up on soda, snacks, and Mad-Libs to keep ourselves entertained. I hope. It’s a shame I only got those short instances to get to know the DFW bloggers..

Current Location: Beford (DFW) TX
Mileage: local driving only
States Traveled: n/a

It’s late, and I’m really tired. The wedding was ourstanding. Congratulations again to Bryan and Lyn – Mazel Tov, you crazy kids. I’m going to post pictures as soon as I can get them cleaned up, but I don’t think that will be this weekend. By Wednesday, if I have time.

I’ll talk about the wedding in more detail later. Right now, I am all about the sleep.

Current Location: Bedford (DFW) TX
Mileage: local driving only
States Traveled: N/A

Sorry to compress the entries, but we got in late last night, and I never got around to posting.

These last couple of days have been a lot of fun – and I’m not just saying that because I haven’t been doing insane amounts of driving. It’s nice to be able to relax a bit and take everything in. For starters, being able to slow down has made me realize just what Darren and I saw and accomplished in the first 10 days of this little escapade. We’ve been through 9 different states, visited 7 major US cities (if you include Charleston WV), and clocked somewhere between 1500 and 2000 miles. That’s really something, when you think about it.

Wednesday was laundry day, first and foremost. I didn’t know this, but apparently Darren doesn’t know how to do his own laundry. (I guess it’s nice to be married.) I got him squared away, and we were done early in the afternoon. That freed up the rest of the day to spend time with Becca. She showed us some of her favorite exhibits at the Dallas Museum of Art (where she works), after which we all walked into downtown Dallas (slogan: “Excellence in Boredom”) – turns out the area near Main & Stone isn’t that boring after all…there was a free concert going on, plus some interesting looking restaurants. (Tidbit of the day: The Iron Cactus is opening a Dallas location on Main and Stone. It’s still under construction, but they’re currently hiring.) We strolled around and listened to some music before heading out to the Studio Movie Grill to see “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. (SMG is a great concept, incidentally, and I wish someone would open something similar in Jersey.) Follow that up with gellato and coffee, and – well, that’s a pretty full day.

Today was Bryan day – the three of us spent a good part of the afternoon at GameWorks in Grapevine, playing all manner of games. I tried my hand at DDR for the first time…and realized that I’m really no good at it – I’m just not coordinated enough to get it right. (They also had this hot air balloon game that was more like a ride – it’s kinda hard to explain, but the seats shoot up and down along with the balloon on the screen. It was bad-ass.) I found a new Fossil watch to wear with my suit, since my G-Shock is a little cumbersome, and Darren stocked up on Elvis and the Ramones at Virgin Megastore. That was followed by dinner at Salt Grass Steakhouse with Bry, Lyn, and most of the family Busch.

Stacey and Harlan arrived a little bit ago, and rumor has it Hoai will be at the wedding tomorrow. Plus I’m looking forward to seeing all of the DFW bloggers I met at Julie & Jason’s wedding.

Our next episode: Bryan & Lyn tie the knot!

Current Location: Bedford (DFW) TX
Mileage: 200
States Traveled: TX

Long day. Drove. Ate. Czech Stop. Drove some more. Got to DFW. Promptly got stuck in traffic. Dinner with Bry & Lyn at Texas Land & Cattle. Stuff afterward with Becca. Not feeling fantastic about myself right now. That’s about it.

Current Location: Austin TX
Mileage: approx. 200
States Traveled: TX

Today was just a flat-out nice day. Granted, the weather was still against us this morning. Also, it seems that every interstate in Houston is being rebuilt at the same time. Anyway, once we cleared the rain, the drive was uneventful, and we pulled into Austin around 3:30. After settling into the hotel, we drove down to the city…strolled around the “drag”, wandered around the capital, peered into store windows, etc. We had dinner on the balcony at the Iron Cactus – dinner consisted of more fantastic Mexican food, and several frozen margaritas. After dinner, we wandered down to Buffalo Billiards, intending to shoot some pool and kill time until the bars geared up for the night. 8 or 9 games later, it’s nearly 11:00, and we’re both kinda out of it. So we played Virtua Tennis for another half hour, then went back to the hotel. We had intended to go over to either The Ivory Cat or Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar, but we just didn’t have it in us. But I’m thinking that if I can afford it, and if I can fit it into my schedule next year, I’m considering coming back to Austin for SXSW next year.

And so, here we are. Tomorrow, the final push to DFW. We go “over the top”, as they would have said during WWI. I can’t say I’ll be sad to see an end to the driving – at least until the return trip – and there are lots of people (old and new friends) waiting to be seen.

Current Location: Houston TX
Mileage: Approx. 350
States Traveled: LA, TX

Today was another long driving day. The trip from New Orleans to Houston was pretty straightforward – I-10 all the way – although we took a scenic shortcut on US Route 90 through some of bayou country. Just before hit Texas, that rainstorm from last Sunday decided to show up (with some friends) and make my life miserable – but we pressed on. We rolled into Houston a little after 4pm, and settled into our room.

Houston was never meant to be much more than a layover point between New Orleans and Austin (another 4+ hour drive), but we still managed to cruse around and see some of the city. Darren and I were both utterly astounded by the sizes of some of the homes around the city – I guess it’s true about things being bigger in Texas. Tonight was pretty much a replay of last Sunday – dinner was at Canyon Cafe (some of the best Queso I’ve ever had), and the movie was “The Ladykillers” (very funny, and probably the most accessable Coen Brothers film to date – which is not to say the film is without those moments of the bizzare that make a Coen Brothers movie).

Let me say at this juncture that I’ve discovered that rude audiences are a nationwide epidemic. While I’m guilty of occasionally whispering a comment to the person next to me, the operative word there is WHISPERING. People sitting behind us at the AMC Studio 30 were talking to each other at full volume throughout the movie – sometimes raising their voices to talk OVER the movie. Then there was the man in the wheelchair (with the BRIGHTEST cell phone in the world) who apparently found it necessary to send text messages back & forth the whole time. I didn’t say anything, because – well, let’s face it, I’d get beat up by the locals (and Darren would probably help). But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a major annoyance. Ugh.

Anyway, bed soon. Then to Austin in the morning.

Current Location: New Orleans LA
Mileage: local driving only
States Travelled: N/A

Well, my suspicions were right – while my opinion of Bourbon Street hasn’t changed (it’s a hole), today proved to me that New Orleans really has some quaint, European flavor left in it.

We started the day with an aborted trip to Cafe du Monde, in the French Market. The Quarter is a bit calmer in the morning, although I was surprised to see so many of the bars open & serving patrons. I say it was an aborted trip because the line to get IN to the Cafe was halfway down the block. (You were right, Becca. We should have gotten there earlier.) We decided to drive out to the Garden District and have an early lunch (I had my first Po’ Boy) before catching our walking tour.

The Garden District was where I started to come around about New Orleans in general – granted, as our tour guide pointed out, the homes in the District were actually “American-style” (because none of the French would sell incoming Americans land in the Quarter), the neighborhood still has a tranquility to it that wouldn’t be out of place in a European city. The homes themselves were in various states of repair, renovation, or flat-out reconstruction, but the owners have the money to tend to the brick & plaster walls and cyprus wood columns and the cast-iron fencing. The tour itself took about two hours, and was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Seeing as how it was about 90 degrees here today, after the tour we jumped back in the truck and took a quick ride past some of the other houses on St. Charles. We passed by the Belfort mansion, home of the Real World New Orleans cast – Darren was surprised the place looked so run-down. I didn’t get to see it for very long, what with being behind the wheel, but I suspect that Belfort became something of a curiosity after the show aired, and rather than trying to get it back into shape after MTV pulled out, the owner just decided to let it go. A shame, really. Anyway, we came back to the hotel to relax a bit and get refreshed/recharged for the evening. We had dinner on the balcony at Carmellos (on Decatur, near the Jackson Brewery) – excellent, authentic Italian food, and a mocha cheesecake to DIE for. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees, making it just a little chilly before our Vampire Tour started. Similar to the Jack the Ripper tour I took in London last year, except that nearly all the buildings from the stories are still standing – we had a facinating guide (a native New Orleanian wearing a period suit and being led around by Xena, the tour dog, an imposing-looking German Shephard) who shared some gruesome stories about vampires in the Quarter. (Tidbit for the day: the concept of sunlight killing a vampire is pure Bram Stoker – vampires of folklore [there’s a difference] began hunting and feeding at noon and retired at midnight – or when their hunger was sated.) Moreover, it was nice to see areas of the Quarter that hadn’t been overrun with tourists and turned into an extension of Bourbon Street. If I had seen more of this last night, my initial opinion might have been a little cheerier.

We had considered hitting a jazz club tonight – we got the traditional Memphis flavor earlier in the week, and wanted the New Orleans funk/zydeco sound – but frankly, I’m looking at close to a six-hour drive to Houston tomorrow, and I wanted to call it an early night. We’re nearing the end of the driving – Houston tomorrow, Austin on Monday, and DFW (and a laundromat, hopefully) on Tuesday.

As a side note, the pictures from earlier in the week are sitting in iPhoto – I need to cull through the 269 of them before I post to the web.

Finally, I know it’s a little early, but I wanted to wish all my Christian friends a Happy Easter.

Current Location: New Orleans LA
Mileage: approx. 380
States Traveled: TN, MS, LA

As you can tell from the timestamp, today was another long day. So it’s just highlights for now. (Incidentally, Darren and I have shot over 200 photos in the last 6 days – as soon as I have a chance to import them from the camera, I’ll throw them on on the web.)

-Graceland. The house that Elvis bought for $100K when he was 22, and is now a worldwide tourist destination. I was very impressed with the fact that while the “visitors center” (the area from which the shuttle busses run up to the actual mansion across the street) had the requisite gift shops, Elvis’ memory is treated with extreme reverence in the mansion exhibits. The house is largely unchanged from how it looked when Elvis passed on – yes, folks, the TV room is real – and all of Elvis’ gold & platinum records and awards are on display (which, incidentally, requires a room the size of a raquetball court, and then some). (Today’s factoid: Elvis was an extremely generous man – he gave to damn near every charity in the Memphis area, and frequently gave cash and other assistance to GIs who had hit hard times, or just needed a hand.) Also on display – Elvis’ many cars, and his two personal planes.

-Driving. Driving. Driving. There was a lot of it today. We killed the time by taking EW’s 90’s pop culture quiz. Needless to say, we both did quite well. (Mental note: wash truck on arrival in DFW to get dead bugs off front grille.)

-Dinner in the French Quarter. Remember that stuff I said last night about how I loved the vibe on Beale St. in Memphis? Well, Bourbon Street in New Orleans is the photo negative. It’s very loud, very in-your-face, and SUPER crowded. Not to mention the fact that EVERYONE has booze. It’s like M-Street from Syracuse turned up to 11. I didn’t like it. Fortunately, some quick browsing of our guidebooks lead us to a small neighborhood cafe called Quarter Scene – I had jambalaya for the first time tonight…liked it quite a bit. Also, it turns out that Tennessee Williams used to frequent the Quarter Scene – his regular table was not too far from where we were seated. Unfortunately my initial impression of New Orleans was not a good one – but I’m sure tomorrow’s activities will change my mind.

Current Location: Memphis TN
Mileage: approx. 200
States traveled: TN

Today started out like many other days – eat breakfast (Waffle House today), gas up, drive for an insanely long time. Things picked up quite a bit when we got into Memphis, tho. Our first stop was Sun Studio, essentially the birthplace of rock & roll, and the place that launched Elvis, Johnny Cash & many others. The tour was quite informative, and managed to fill in some missing pieces of the Sun story from what Darren and I learned at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Monday. Between the Rock Hall, Sun, and the “Elvis in the Army” exhibit at the Patton Museum, I think I’ve probably learned damn near everything about Elvis’ early days – and presumably a trip to Graceland tomorrow will fill in the gaps. Incidentally, it’s really refreshing to see a tour guide who genuinely enjoys his work.

After the tour at Sun, the combination of long hours behind the wheel, bizarre sleep patterns, and the sudden heat (it got to about 90 degrees in Memphis today – bear in mind it was 30 degrees in Cleveland on Monday), and my energy was tapped…but we pressed on. We walked up and down Beale Street and the Prospect Place shopping area, tried to get onto Mud Lake Island (operative word: TRIED – the park was closed, despite the fact that we got there an hour before the ‘scheduled’ closing). Finally, dinner time rolled around – I never thought I’d see the day when my dinner choices are between BB King and Isaac Hayes, but there you are. We opted for BB King’s Blues Club, and I think we made the right choice, because not only did we have a great dinner (and some LOVELY booze), but we also got to see two sets with the Queen of Beale Street, Ruby Wilson, and the BB King All-Star house band. At the beginning of her first set, Ruby told the audience that she was there to “destressify” us – and she certainly did that. I’m going to have to see if I can dig up some of her albums.

Over on Eh…, Darren professes his love for Memphis in general, and I second those opinions. But Beale Street in particular really struck me. I’m not a club guy. Or a dance-hall guy. Or even a fun guy. Generally, when someone talks about going to a bar or club, the image I get is something like what I remember from the bars at college – dirty, crowded, smoke-filled places that were packed so tight you couldn’t stand up without bumping into someone or having beer spilled on you. But in Memphis…I don’t know if it’s the more laid-back attitude, or what…but in Memphis, the club scene really appealed to me. Every club and bar on Beale Street had this fantastic music wafting out the front doors. The people milling about from club to club weren’t rowdy, or rude – just having fun with friends. I could never imagine myself LIVING in Memphis, but if I ever had reason to go back, you’d find me on Beale Street every night.