"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, October 12, 2017

A Pilgrimage...to Bermuda and Virginia

Saturday, September 23 -  We attended our second and the 3rd Annual SOLD OUT Pilgrimage Festival today over on The Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin along with our friends Bridgette, Danny and Brenda.

Day One was full of good music with a couple of good smokin' tunes from The Texas Gentlemen to start off with and then a full set by one of our favs, Big Sam's Funky Nation, kicking off the day. We got a bonus of Big Sam next as he joined Better Than Ezra on stage next for their entire set also.
The new super-band, BETTER THAN BIG SAM!
Next, over on the biggest stage of the festival was another of our favorites, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, who put on a great show.
Trombone Shorty on the BIG stage and BIG screen!
We decided to stay at the big stage to assure a good spot for the headliner later on that evening and were pleasantly surprised at how good the band, Walk the Moon, was before that.
Walk the Moon in the broad daylight!
The headliner was the amazing showman and Tennessee native, Justin Timberlake, who put on a fantastic show to close out the night.  Thanks to our friends, Danny and Brenda, for letting us spend the night at their house in nearby Brentwood for the the two-day festival.
Justin rockin' the Pilgrimage Festival t-shirt...producer, co-investor and, now, performer!
JT had a helluva ban with him too.

New JT logo?  Channeling Michael Jackson maybe?
Sunday, September 24 - Pilgrimage Festival Day Two was a little less long for us with just a couple of big "must-sees" including Fitz and the Tantrums and Ryan Adams.  Before the two big shows, we did stop by the intimate new Shady Grove Stage and catch a couple fun songs by Texas troubadour, Charley Crockett.  Whether he's actually kin to Davey Crockett or not, he sure can wail.
The entertaining and quirky Ryan Adams was on his A-game today with blistering guitars and a made-up song on -the-fly for the "dude on the crane" behind the crowd that he could see from his stage vantage point. 
We closed out the festival with some good food (a cheeseburger biscuit for me!) and hearing a couple songs by tonight's headliner, Pearl Jam front-man, Eddie Vedder, before heading home with yet another good music festival under our belts.

Friday, September 29 - We flew up to Baltimore after work today (our second trip to this city this year) with our friend Bethany in preparation for our cruise out tomorrow to Bermuda.  We picked up a rental car (with a nice free upgrade) and checked into a hotel near the airport.  We grabbed a tasty dinner and some drinks nearby at DuClaw Brewing before turning in for the evening.
Our cruise was SOLD OUT by the time we sailed which was not surprising since Bermuda is one of the few tropical islands not to be devastated by powerful hurricanes recently.

Saturday, September 30 -  After a great and memorable breakfast next door to our hotel at a Bob Evans Restaurant (the manager, Mike, was awesome and very generous to us). He gave us some delicious flavored bread loaves (cinnamon, my fav, to the right here) at no charge, plus extra biscuits to take with us.  Doesn't he know we are going on a cruise where it's all you can eat??!!  Yes, we took it all on the boat with us and still ate on it for days anyway. 

We drove a short distance to the Baltimore cruise port to board Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas.  We met our friend and Ashlee's co-worker, Eileen, on board along with her sister, Kathy, husband, Mike, and mother, Betty.  The drinks and good times were flowing as we cruised south down the Chesapeake Bay for several hours before turning east to the Atlantic Ocean. 

We have never cruised out of Baltimore before so it was an interesting and scenic experience to sail down the Chesapeake Bay toward the Atlantic Ocean entrance near Norfolk, VA. 
Squeezing under the couple of bridges that cross the Chesapeake Bay was kind of thrilling.  This one is the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  The weather, albeit a little windy and cool, was just about perfect in terms of visibility.  
We all opted for the unlimited drink package ($55 a day, what a steal!) and  we got our swerve on early and often.  Here's one of MANY white Russians I ordered throughout the cruise
Sunday, October 1 - We had a leisurely day at sea today heading east and the Atlantic Ocean was full of huge swells from Hurricane Lee passing through earlier in the week, but the weather continued to be mostly clear.

Deep blue sea indeed
Monday, October 2 - We arrived in Bermuda just after lunch today and we had a 5-hour island tour set up with Winsome Tours (highly recommended by the way: http://winsometransport.com/).  It was fantastic.  Our guide and driver was, Julie, a co-owner of the company along with her husband, Ralph.  Julie is a native of Bermuda and her family has a long history on the island.  With all seven of us going on the tour, it was a private outing for us in a roomy and comfortable van at a very reasonable price per person.
Our first glimpses of  of the island of Bermuda were stunning from the start with the amazing color of the water and the rugged cliffs plunging into the ocean. At only 20 miles long and two miles at it's widest, it really is an amazing little place all by itself in the wild Atlantic Ocean.   That's Gibbs Hill Lighthouse rising up from the green island which we would get a closer look at soon on our arranged tour.  
At the Royal Navy Dockyard in Bermuda we got great views of the old fort on the NW end of the island.  The two-story building there is their national museum.
Our first stop on the island tour was at one of the first homes ever built on Bermuda (circa. 1609).  This tiny structure now serves as a church.  The support beams inside are made of Bermudian cedar which is now quite rare and expensive.
Next stop:  Somerset Bridge, the smallest drawbridge in the world.  Note the huge school bream in the water waiting for us to toss some more bread in the water for them.
Next up was a quick stop at the Gibbs Hills Lighthouse which we saw when we first cruised in.  There are commanding views here of most of the island and that's radar on top of the light tower.
We drove by famous and beautiful Horseshoe Bay Beach and although we didn't stop here, it was our first glimpse at the unique pink-hued sand beaches of Bermuda.
We did stop at the much quieter Warwick Long Bay Beach nearby for a walk on the pinkish sand.
We had a brief walk through the bustling capital city of Hamilton next.  The entire island is clean, safe and very quaint.
The east end of the island is the most beautiful in my opinion.  This is Tobacco Bay near the historic town of St. George.
More east-end beauty at the beach near Ft. St. Catherine
We got to walk around the historic and quaint town of St. George and I spotted some large parrot fish feeding just off the docks there in the clear water.
We had a fun stop before heading back to the ship at the east-end location of the famous Swizzle Inn where we had their signature Rum Swizzle drinks and their tasty Bermuda fish chowder which had quite the gumbo taste I thought.
Tuesday, October 3 - After spending the night in dock (first time for that while cruising) we woke up in Bermuda and had a half a day ahead of us for some more fun before we set sail at 2 PM.

On the opposite side of the fort where we were docked is Snorkel Beach where for $5 you can kick back on the sand and take a dip in the ocean within a 5 minute walk of the ship.  The wind was still strong with the after affects of the hurricane that went by earlier in the week, so it was a little too rough for snorkeling, but I did manage to get in the beautiful water for a swim.  The ladies did some shopping afterwards and met up with me and Mike at The Turtle and Onion Pub where we had pints of local craft beer from Dockyard Brewing before heading back to the ship.  
Sailing out of of Bermuda was just asbeautiful and we hated to leave this lovely place.  We definitely want to come back and spend more time here perhaps with a flight in and a few days in a rental house on the island....puttin' it on the to-do list!
Wednesday, October 4 - It was another day at sea cruising back from Bermuda with much smoother waters and nice temps.  We spent a lot of time out on deck enjoying the sun and ocean breezes.
We ate like kings and the food on the boat was very good. I continued my supper tradition while cruising of ordering double entrees.  I had steak every night with my usual seafood selection.   The unlimited mojitos were great also.
While she is an older boat (1996), the Grandeur of the Seas, is still a classy lady.  She was refurbished in 2012 and even had a fire on board in 2013, but our trip was perfect, and the old girl served us well.  This shot is looking up the main Centrum area to the many decks above.  
We got back into U.S. waters under a super-moon and watched the lights of  the Chesapeake Bay Bridge disappear into the water becoming the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel.  A very cool experience to cruise through.  
Thursday, October 5 - We got back into port in Baltimore early and after dropping off Bethany at the airport, we headed south into Virginia to finish out the week.  We continue to have great luck with AirBnB and found two excellent places to stay the next two nights as we toured the beautiful Shenandoah Valley region.

We continued to have good weather as we made our way into northern Virginia.  We drove through the quaint and beautiful  town of Leesburg after our first stop nearby at the hip and interesting Vanish Farms Brewery for a libation or two.
Our next stop was Bluemont Vineyards with its breathtaking views perched atop Blue Ridge Mountain.  The wine was decent but the views are amazing.  Northern Virginia is known for its many wineries in this area.
Our AirBnB lodging for the night was nearby in the same town of Bluemont, VA.  It was the private bottom floor of a nice house with a great view into the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia beyond looking northward from the same mountain that Bluemont Vineyard is on.
We had dinner tonight in the beautiful little town of Purcellville, VA, at Magnolia's at the Mill.  The food and ambiance were great.  Before dinner, we walked a few doors down and had some pre-dinner libations at Jack's Run Brewing.
Friday, October 6 -  We slept in a bit this morning and then continued south to the Shenandoah National Park.  We spent most of the day touring along the beautiful and famous Skyline Drive where an amazing vista seems to be around every curve.
While the fall colors were just starting to show themselves, the views and weather along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park were amazing nonetheless during our trip.
Like I mentioned earlier, we got a sweet free upgrade from the full-size car we reserved.  Thanks, Alamo!   This  new Jeep Grand Cherokee had all the bells and whistles and was a perfect touring vehicle for our trip.
Did we mention the views are outstanding along Skyline Drive?
The higher the elevation the more the fall colors were starting to pop.  Outside this tunnel along Skyline Drive was our best find of the day.
We exited the Skyline Drive in search of some food and wine in the late afternoon, and found both in great fashion at the lovely Veritas Vineyards in Afton, VA.  They were setting up for a wedding  while we were there and it was a beautiful place to have a ceremony.
Our lodging for tonight from AirBnB was a tee-pee...yep, a tee-pee set up on a working farm in Fairfield, VA.  It was "glamping" for the most part with a  comfy sleep-number bed inside and a nice private bathhouse nearby.  Besides the idea of staying in a tee-pee for the night, our quick visit here will always be memorable for other reasons like the hosts' half-naked kid running around, the flock of guineas squawking us a greeting, the giant pot-bellied pig nosing around the yard, and various other animals like llama and goats throughout the farm, and our unique hosts, Sara and Jeremiah.

That'll do, pig.

Saturday, October 7 -  We packed up pretty early and headed back north today to meet our friends, Starling and John, who live in nearby Frederick, Maryland, who we visited with earlier this year during the Women's March in Washington.  

I call this one the tee-pee, pee-pee view.   This private bathhouse was excellent.  Those are just screen windows, so a morning shower in here was invigorating to say the least! 
Our one stop on the way back north was for a quick fun factory tour (and unlimited samples!!) at the Route 11 Potato Chips factory in Mt. Jackson, VA.  Our fav flavors are BBQ and dill pickles.  Just like Jack Daniels, these babies are all made in just one place no matter where you find them for sale.
We met Starling and John at the 868 Winery back in the adorable town of Purcellville, VA.  We had a great wine/food tasting there and then hung out on their beautiful grounds for a while to chat and catch up.
We moved on toe Dirt Farm Brewing over next to Bluemont Winery from the other day with even more great views and a huge crowd thanks to it being a Saturday with nice weather.  Their beer is excellent also.
We closed out the night with dinner back in lovely Leesburg, VA, sitting outside at  Lightfoot Restaurant where I had the amazing Cajun spaghetti with mussels, shrimp and sausage.  Delicious!
Sunday, October 8 -  After a nice late checkout at the fancy Ritz-Carlton hotel in Tyson Corners, VA, just outside Washington, D.C.  today, we headed back to BWI to fly back home after a nice "double-vacation" squeezed into a week's amount of time.

Not one pot-bellied pig was spotted at the Ritz-Carlton that we stayed at last night! 

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.