"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Boxing - Boston - Booze

Saturday, August 26 - We were invited to a pay-per-view fight party tonight by our friends, Wendy and Charly.  We aren't much into boxing or MMA, but this much-ballyhooed match between Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor made for a great event to grill out and toss back a few.  We were only two of a few who thought Mayweather would not succumb to an upset and Ashlee even guessed the 10th round as to when "Money" Mayweather would cash in which he did with a TKO of McGregor, who did pretty well in his first professional boxing match vs. an undefeated champion of the sport.

Tuesday, August 29 - We took advantage of $5 Movie Night at our local Roxy Movie Theaters which is all recliners now by the way (hooray!!) so Ashlee could FINALLY see Wonder Woman (second showing for me). She loved it as did I again.

Friday,  September 1 - Well, we had Live on the Green backstage VIP tickets again  to see Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Sheryl Crow tonight.  Unfortunately, it got rained out due to Hurricane Harvey.  It was rescheduled for Sunday, but we will be in Boston. Too bad, but at least we are getting a refund.

Saturday, September 2 -  We took  off today for a long holiday weekend trip up to Boston, a city we have both been to together for a brief period several years ago (pre-blog) and have always wanted to come back to and spend more time in.   I had some flight credit on JetBlue Airlines to use, so we cheated on our usual Southwest carrier and we have to say it was a  pretty good little tryst.  While you don't get to check any free bags, you did get a comfy assigned coach seat, free drinks and snacks, fast and free internet and free TV.  We may have to use these guys again!

It was a beautiful day when we flew into Beantown.
We rented a small street-level apartment in downtown Boston through AirBnB.  It saved us a ton of money vs. a hotel and gave us more room and privacy.  The location was the best thing with a subway stop just around the corner and it is across the street from the Prudential Center Mall (where we got Dunkin Donuts breakfasts every morning).  Our apartment was still being cleaned when we arrived, so we hung out across the street at the Prudential Center and had lunch inside the giant Eatly emporium and had a delicious seafood lunch at one of the restaurants inside it called Il Pesce.  I had a swordfish dish that was out of this world good!
After walking a bit of the Freedom Trail and having a drink at the country's oldest bar, The Bell in Hand Tavern, but finding it and the whole area way too crowded, we jumped on the clean, safe subway (the oldest in the nation as well) and headed over to Cambridge to check out the Harvard University campus.  The ornate main entrance gate was closed to visitors, but otherwise the campus was fully open to explore. 
We stopped by the John Harvard statue  on campus to rub his left foot for luck.  So far, so good on that.  We honored the great man again later on by having a couple beers nearby at the John Harvard Brewery and Ale House before heading back to our apartment and calling it a night.
Sunday, September 3 - We woke up to rain this morning and it pretty much set in for the entire day. However, it didn't deter us from getting out and meeting up with our Secret Food Tour of Boston's North End around lunch time.  This 3-hour walking tour took us to some great spots in the historic and beautiful North End neighborhood.  We even got lucky that the rain subsided for the most part while we were walking from place to place.
Our first three stops were inside the enclosed Boston Public Market, a non-profit open market for regional farmers, fisherman, etc. to offer their wares in downtown Boston without the expensive overhead of having their own stand-alone store.  We had a fresh lobster roll at Red's Best which was excellent.  We then had some excellent flavored roasted nuts at Q's Nuts.  Finally, we had a presentation and honey-tasting at the Boston Honey Company.  The photo above show's the son of the company founder and a professional beekeeper himself showing us the actual  working hive they have at the market itself.  These bees can leave and return from outside thru a vent in the top of the roof of the building.  There are two yellow and blue stripes painted on the outside to help the bees orient back to where the hive is.  Amazing!  
We moved on into the North End proper for our next five stops on the food tour that included an amazing muffuletta sandwich from the Salumeria Italiana market, a slice of pizza from the tiny hole-in-the-ground  Monica's Mercato (photo above), some 1700's style liquid chocolate from Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate Shop, two types of delicious sausages plus local beer and cider at the Golden Goose Market and finally some fresh mini cannolis from Modern Pastry.  We were stuffed and happy after this tour for sure!
Our great  local food our guide, Leah, got very creative in finding ways to keep us out of the rain including stopping by her apartment in the North End and having her roommate throw us a towel down from their fourth floor apartment and then using that towel to dry off some chairs to sit in as we ate our pizza under the cover of trees and the shadow of the historic Old North Church steeple.  Despite the weather, this is one of the best food tours we have ever done.
We had a sunset sail scheduled for the afternoon, but the rain washed those plans out, so after our food tour ended we just did some shopping around the North End, checked out an Amazon historical film at the Museum of Science in their cool 180-degree IMAX Mugar Omni Theater.  It's a great venue but the film was a bit of snooze (literally for Ashlee!).  We closed out the day with an excellent dinner and some great craft beer flights at The Ginger Man.  We headed back to the apartment fairly early and fired up the free Netflix there and started getting into their popular new series, Stranger Things.
Monday, September 4 - Happy Labor Day!

The weather improved dramatically this morning and we headed across the street from our apartment to the Prudential Center and took the elevator 50 floors up for some stunning 360 degree views at Skywalk there.  The view above is looking south toward Fenway Park and along the James River
Ashlee's co-worker and former boss, Michelle, and her boyfriend, Adam, live just outside Boston and offered to pick us up today for some lunch in the North End and a tour on the famous DUCKS this afternoon.
We had a lot of laughs and a good lunch at the Florentine Cafe in the North End.  Don't ask what Ashlee is doing here...
A great view of The Old State House out the window of our bright pink amphibious DUCK vehicle at the start of our fun tour on  the streets of Boston and in the James River.  Thanks to Michelle and Adam for buying the tickets for us and hanging out with us today.

It was a perfect night for some baseball.  Michelle and Adam dropped us off near beautiful Fenway Park.  We grabbed a couple beers and a snack at Cheeky Monkey Brewing  next door before going in to find our seats in right field .  We had a couple Fenway Franks for dinner and watched the hometown division-leading Red Sox get pushed around by the cellar-dwelling Toronto Bluejays.  Oh well, still a fun time overall.  It was an easy walk back to the apartment afterwards.
Tuesday, September 5 -  It was time to head home but not before we got a make-up harbor sail for the one that got rained out on Sunday.
It was a perfect morning for sailing in the Boston Harbor.  We were only two of five guests aboard the beautiful old Liberty Star schooner for an hour and half sail.  What a great way to end our stay!
Before jumping on the subway to the airport, we stopped back by the Boston Public Market and had some delicious fresh fish tacos at Red's Best for lunch.  Now THIS is the second great way to end our stay!
Thanks, Boston, we hope to be back as soon as we can!
Saturday, September 9 - On our way to Chattanooga today to celebrate Ashlee and Paige's birthday, we made a couple of fun stops...

After passing by the sign for it hundreds of times, we finally made our back into Cascade Hollow near Tullahoma for a visit to the George Dickel Distillery.  We had an interesting tour and a good tasting of four of their productions.
We also made a quick stop to a place we haven't been to together in quite a while, beautiful Signal Point Park on Signal Mountain in Chattanooga.  Sunset was just starting when we arrived for the awesome view of the Tennessee River below.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

We are always striving to stay on The Path of (Collage) Totality

Friday, August 4 -  We drove through some very hard downpours of rain today to one of our favorite regional towns, Brevard, North Carolina, for a long weekend of mountain fun.  We had a very nice house rental there in Sherwood Forest, a neat Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary development, where the houses blend into the natural woods very well with as little disturbance as possible.  Our friends Wayne, Charly, Wendy, Partick and Michelle joined us for the weekend.

We had dinner at  Magpie Meat and Three, a hip joint  with great food built within the town's old converted lumberyard.
Saturday, August 5 - Despite a bit of cool mountain temps, we headed over to the Pisgah National Forest to take a few runs on the famous Sliding Rock Falls.  This was a repeat for me, Ashlee and Wayne from a couple years ago (https://collagebarrage.blogspot.com/2015/07/some-more-summer.html), but a first-time experience for the others.  The place was super-crowded, but we all finally found parking and were able to do at least a couple of successful and breathtaking plunges down the rock and into the cold, cold pool at its base.
Here's the whole gang after surviving Sliding Rock Falls just down the road at beautiful Looking Glass Falls.  Nice shot by Wayne thanks to his long arms.  We also swam beneath this waterfall which was a new experience for us.
After a long day in and out of the mountain waters, we headed back to the rental house and enjoyed the evening on the large deck and in the hot-tub there.  We stopped at the excellent little Whistlestop Market near the house and loaded up on some excellent fresh veggies, grass-fed beef cuts, fresh pasta, etc. for a quality dinner we probably couldn't have found in town.
Sunday, August 6 - After another great breakfast prepared by Patrick, we reluctantly packed up to head back home, but we had beautiful weather at least for the drive so we decided to amble back north to the interstate via beautiful NC Highway 215 which winds its way back through more of the Pisgah National Forest.
Our first stop on scenic NC Highway 215 was at Living Waters, a private religious retreat that graciously allows visitors to explore the three waterfalls on their property.  This is the confluence of French Broad Falls (background) and Mill Shoals Falls (foreground) creating quite the idyllic setting.
A short walk downstream reveals Cathedral Falls just below another cool sliding rock cascade.
Highway 215 overlook as you approach the intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Our last stop on Highway 215 was Sunburst Falls, a long, stair-stepping series of cascades that flow under the road itself.  Before jumping on the interstate for the drive home, we stopped in beautiful  downtown Waynesville, NC, and had a tasty lunch at the Boojum Brewing Company.
Thursday, August 10 - Live on the Green 2017 started tonight and we bought Backstage VIP passes for this opening night of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Michael Franti and Spearhead.  There was also a good opening set by The Arkells out of Canada.

A great big smile on Michael Franti's face is easy to catch because he always seems to be upbeat and happy...just like his music.  Another great show by one of our favorite live artists ever.

The backstage view with our passes led to some interesting perspectives as St. Paul and his Broken Bones band performed before the huge crowd.

Saturday, August 19
-  Our good friends, Amy and Jeremy flew in today today from California to visit and stay with us during the solar eclipse happening on Monday.  They Uber-ed over from the airport when they landed and met us as for dinner  and drinks at 3rd and Lindsley downtown before the Dan Layus opening for Will Hoge SOLD OUT show.

We had great balcony seats as Will Hoge put on a great show as usual.  Dan Layus sounded great as usual although we were a little disappointed that he didn't play any Augustana tunes during his set.  

Sunday, August 20
-  We headed up north today to show some of  the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail to Amy and Jeremy who had not been to the area before but are fans of that style of whiskey.   We had great visits to Maker's Mark Distillery, Limestone Branch Distillery and the Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown.

Although we had been to Maker's Mark Distillery before, it's still a beautiful place to visit and  they give a great tour.  Plus, we had the added treat of seeing several pieces of glass art by Dale Chihuly on display throughout the campus for a limited time and the tour now includes being able to go inside the new Maker's 46 Cellar facility built right into the limestone hill and keep at a cool 50 degrees year round  We also had a delicious lunch here at the new cafe on site called Starr Hill Provisions.

The gang in their goofy eclipse T-shirts (thanks, Amy!) on the Maker's Mark campus with more Chihuly in the background.

Our next stop was the relatively new facility for Limestone Branch Distillery.  While the building is new, the history of this distillery is long and they have a large amount of interesting artifacts from the distilling past.  We had a great (and generous) tasting here of several of their wares including a great Jalapeno Sugar Shine.

Monday, August 21 - The 2017 Solar Eclipse finally arrived today and it lived up to all the hype.  What an amazing event.  We threw a pool party for the occasion and had a great time.
This amazing photo was taken in our back yard by our good friend, Wayne Hutton.  The diamond-ring effect in its perfection.
Ashlee snapped this photo during the mid-afternoon during the eclipse went it went dark for nearly two minutes.  Eerie and amazing all at the same time.  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Robtoberfest and beyond

Saturday, June 3 -  It's Robtoberfest!   My 50th birthday was way back in April and was spent way over in Japan, but my wonderful wife wanted to throw me a real party with lots of our friends around and it was a doozey thanks to her great planning and generous pocketbook!

The pool party was complete with a blow-up Irish pub with 50 different canned craft beers.  We had brats and other tasty food throughout the day.  We watched the Preds that night on the big screen outdoors (thanks, Charly) from the pool with a big win at home in the Stanley Cup Finals. With over 40 people in attendance from near and far (Indiana, Atlanta, Paris (TN), Chattanooga) it was an amazing fun-filled day.   I got a ton of very cool presents as well.  Thanks again to Ashlee for such a great party and to all our great friends for dropping by to share in the fun.
The calm before the storm that was Robtoberfest! 

Thursday, June 15 - We went to see one of our 90's throw-back favorites, Third Eye Blind, at The Ascend Amphitheater in downtown Nashville tonight.  We got up close to the stage in the pit thanks to a Stubhub "fire sale" on tickets.  We had a tasty dinner and drinks beforehand at the new Fat Bottom Brewery locale in West Nashville.

Saturday, June 17 - After a  lazy, delightful day at our pool today, we were privileged to get to stay overnight in our pal Wayne's new Airstream trailer at his house in Nolensville tonight.  He invited us to stay with him since we agreed to get up early tomorrow and go with him to Columbia, TN, to test some kayaks he's thinking of buying.  It was a great sleep!
Sunday, June 18 - As I mentioned above, we went with Wayne as he tried out some really nice Tennessee-made Jackson Kayaks on the Duck River in Columbia, TN via Higher Pursuits Outfitters.   They were kind enough to let us test some of the boats too while we were there.
Jackson Kayaks test runs on the Duck River near Columbia, TN
Friday, June 23 - We were invited by our friends, Danny and Brenda and their son Kyle (who turned 21 today) to his birthday dinner tonight at the delicious Rodizio Grill Brazilian Steak House.  This was our first visit to a Brazilian all-you-can-eat steakhouse and it was fantastic!   We followed that up with a visit to the new Headquarters Beercade with free classic video games and great craft beer. Finally, there was a stop at the always-fun Big Bang Dueling Pianos Bar.  

Sunday, June 26  -  We had a fun day in Nashville today with a visit to the Pride Festival where The Grilled Cheeserie food truck was serving their delicious Pride Melts (photo below).   We stopped at Jeni's Ice Cream in East Nashville on the way home for some enjoyable pool time.

Tuesday, July 4 -  We headed down to Chattanooga today for the the mid-week holiday.  We found a good way to spend the day by hiring the Jungle Float Mobile Water Park for a couple hours at Chickamauga Lake with about 20 of our friends and family.  It was a grand time, however, we were all pretty sore the next day from all the hi-jinks including a slide, two trampolines and high dives off the floating platform into the lake.  
A bit blurry, but still a fun screen-grab from a video that my sister-in-law, Paige, shot from the shore.  That's me on the left in mid-air going off the lower trampoline.
Saturday, July 8 - We finally found an occasion to check out the Acme Feed and Seed multi-level bar/restaurant and especially their sushi bar down on the corner of Second Avenue and Broadway today.  The place was packed with soccer fans like us on the way to the US vs. Panama CONCACAF Gold Cup Round 1 Game at Nissan Stadium across the river, but we managed to grab a couple seats at the sushi bar and had a great meal delivered to us fast enough that we didn't miss the start of the game.  We will definitely be back!

The game wound up being a frustrating 1-1 tie (we let an easy goal get in to blow our second-half 1-0 lead), but our seats were prime midfield in the club level and Ashlee especially enjoyed the air conditioning just a few steps away since the heat was pretty oppressive on the east side of the stadium.  We did break another crowd-size record for soccer in Tennessee which looks good for our future of hosting USNT events and perhaps even an MSL franchise.  Thanks to our friends Craig, Alison and Ryan for getting tickets with us.
(EDITOR'S NOTE:  The USMNT went on to win the 2017 CONCACAF GOLD CUP, and the attendance record was again broken later this month here with an EPL game with over 50K in attendance.)
Tuesday, Jully 11 - We had our friend, Mel the Kiwi, fly in today from New Zealand to stay with us for 10 days.   We think we showed her a good time especially with our new pool and with the following events: 

 -  Friday, July 14 - We booked a ride on the new Pontoon Saloon in downtown Nashville on the Cumberland River tonight.  
It was a beautiful night for a boat-ride with cooler temps making it very enjoyable.

The Pontoon Saloon is so new that we even made the paper (literally) and on their website as well.  That's Mel in front.  Wendy and Charly, me and Ashlee, Bethany, Brenda and Danny.

-  Saturday, July 15 - We attended our friend, Emily's wedding, today in Nashville and Ashlee even had a small role in it as a reader (from the Bible no less!).    It was a nice ceremony and a good reception afterwards at the historic Buchanon Log House in Donelson.

-  Sunday, July 16 -  Mel's official pool party was today and we celebrated with some Pimm's by the Pool, a tasty and refreshing British gin concoction that Mel introduced us to.

-  Tuesday, July 18  - We attended a live SOLD OUT Alan Alda interview and received signed copies of his new book over at Vanderbilt University and hosted by Parnassus Books.   He's as sharp and as articulate as ever despite being over 80 years old!  We introduced Mel to some Nashville hot chicken with dinner afterwards at Party Fowl.

Long live, Hawkeye Pierce!!

Mel headed home on Friday, July 21 after a fun and relaxing visit.

Sunday, July 23 - We checked out the new "Lay-down Movies of Lebanon" as we like to call it (also known as the new-and-much-improved Roxy Theaters with all recliner seats in all theaters) with our friends, Lisa and Emily, to catch a showing of the funny and touching comedy, The Big Sick.  We had dinner next door afterwards with Lisa and her husband, Toney, at the always tasty and affordable Demos' Restaurant.

Sunday, July 30 -
We took a ride today down to Jug Creek Distillery here in Wilson County for some more new-to-us local fun.  I sampled all of their impressive products and Ashlee and I had a couple of their signature cocktails.  Good stuff!