"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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

201O|A|R - Happy New Year Road Trip

Dec. 30 - Philly, PA to Atlantic City, NJ
We met today at the Philadelphia airport (Ashlee driving, Rob flying). Ashlee had left a few days earlier to visit her childhood friend, Starling, in Washington, D.C. From there we headed to the sun-lit (but not sun-warmed!) beaches of Atlantic City (photo above) to begin our New Year's Eve long-weekend extravaganza. Tonight we had dinner and drinks with Ashlee's co-worker and our friend, Eileen, and her husband, Mike. We went to Dock's Oyster House which serves a heckuva lot more than just oysters. Great fresh seafood was had by all. Thanks to Mike for researching this excellent place. It would definitely be worth another visit. We did a bit of bar-hopping before and after dinner at the Caesar's Casino and at the Tropicana Casino (photo below - Ashlee and Eileen in the back of a cab with the glitter of Atlantic City flashing by). Not much gambling was done by this group other than a few slot pulls that were to no avail, but a great time was had nonetheless.
Dec. 31 - Atlantic City Eileen and Mike had to head back home to Philly this morning, but we weren't lonely too long because our friend and Ashlee's former co-worker, Amy, and her husband, Jeremy, were safely fighting their way through winter weather driving in from New Hampshire to meet us for New Year's Eve dinner and the OAR concert we all had tickets to. Dinner was at PF Chang's and was delicious and technically free since Rob chopped a small poker tournament earlier in the day (while Ashlee slept in and then went shopping) with three other players for a $300 profit that went to paying for dinner for everyone plus some drinks. The concert was at The House of Blues inside the very nice Showboat Casino. There was a big crowd and we met several OAR loyalists who had seen them several times. This made the second time for us this year and could have been the third time except for a scheduling conflict. The guys were spectacular live again as we expected. They only took a few moments to count down the New Year, let the balloons and confetti drop, and then were right back into the music. The venue was good and spacious which was a relief because we had a bit of bad HOB experience on New Year's Eve a few years back in Chicago. Thanks OAR and Atlantic City for showing us how a great New Year's Eve concert is supposed to go down. January 1 - Atlantic City to Charlottesville, VA We all slept in to start 2010 as late as the great little Chelsea Hotel (highly recommended if you are in A/C) would allow us, and then packed up for our respective trips north and south. But before totally departing ways, we had a delicious Italian lunch with a friend of Amy's who lives in the area. Luckily, it will be a short goodbye for us four as Amy and Jeremy are going on our upcoming Caribbean cruise in early February where we are all looking forward to more beach time of a much warmer nature. The rest of the day was taken up with a lot of driving with good views of the Philadelphia and Baltimore skylines, the Beltway of D.C. and the bitter cold and darkness of Northern Virginia. We had been extremely lucky in terms of weather with the timing of this trip as most of the Northeast had been hit hard a week earlier by a huge snowstorm. Charlottesville and the rest of northern and central Virginia were no exception and still had plenty of remnants remaining (photo below). The roads, however, were in great shape and we had no problems traveling. January 2 - Charlottesville, VA to Johnson City, TN We chose to stop in Charlottesville for three reasons: first, it was about half-way home, second, it had a Doubletree Hotel we could stay at to rack up more points for future travel, and third, it's the home of Starr Hill Brewing, one of Rob's favorite regional microbreweries. After another good sleep in, we ambled over to the small hamlet of Crozet, Virginia, about 10 minutes from Charlottesville to check out the brewery (photo below). We got to taste six of their varieties on tap plus an extra secret one since we had driven so far to visit (shhh! don't tell anyone...thanks, Dave!). See Rob's beer blog for more on the beer itself.

After our tasting we took a short 20-minute tour of the facility led by Shelley, a Starr Hill employee who obviously loves his job and his product! Starr Hill got its start in Charlottesville-proper as a brew-pub and then expanded operation in this converted chicken-processing plant in nearby Crozet. They currently distribute to six states with plans to branch out farther very soon. After a few purchases for us and for friends, it was time for some lunch. From literature we found at Starr Hill we decided to try what else - another microbrewery! After punching in the address in the handy Magellan, we traveled east to another small town called Afton just in time to join a big crowd already assembled at the small, but obviously popular, Blue Mountain Brewery and Restaurant.

All the tables were full for lunch but we were offered a sofa, an armchair and a coffee table if we wanted immediate seating. Yes, please! Blue Mountain like a lot of this region we noticed by way of town and road names has a heavy German influence. Their beer offerings were of the Bavarian nature as was their menu (and our selections from it). We started off sharing a big soft pretzel dipped in their own delicious home-made mustard, followed up a bigger-than-we-thought-it-would-be Brat Pizza...yep, pizza with brat slices..ingenious and oh so good. We also got a beer sampler (photo above) which was also very impressive. So much so that Rob had another pint and we bought a 750ml bottle to take with us (again, more info on the beer in Rob's beer blog). With daylight fading in the cold winter afternoon, we decided to check out one more spot that Rob had researched and was recommended by Bon Appetit magazine for their wine, The Kluge Estate & Winery. This beautiful place happens to be just a few miles from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home and the area's most well-known attraction, but it seemed many miles away from any crowds. We were able to easily and quickly try a flyte of their wines (photo below where Ashlee might be enjoying the fire even more than the wine). The wines were superb as was the ambiance here and we would have loved to linger for a while more, but as the sun began to set in the Blue Ridge Mountains (photo above) we knew we had another long drive ahead of us into the darkness of southern Virginia to the state line and the city shared by two states, Bristol, TN-VA. Plus, we had one more thing to see before we crashed again at another Doubletree Hotel in nearby Johnson City, TN - the famous World's Fastest Half-Mile Bristol Motor Speedway decked out in Christmas lights and a chance to actually drive on the high-banked oval! The drive south did indeed turn out to be long (2oo+ miles), but we made it with just enough time to spare to drive through the impressive Speedway in Lights Christmas Display in and around the Bristol Motor Speedway Complex. This expansive display includes the grounds surrounding the football-stadium-shaped racetrack, the adjoining drag strip and then concluding inside and on the track itself with a carnival of food and rides available in the infield. Despite Christmas being over for a week, this experience was well worth it and highly recommended if you find yourself in the Bristol area around the holidays (or just want to make a fun holiday road trip). They have been putting on this show for several years now, and according to their advertising it only gets bigger every year. Plus, you get to drive on the steep-banked track! (photo above) Even at 5 MPH it's pretty exhilarating and addictive. It took everything we had not to get a speeding ticket on the way home the following day! January 3 - Johnson City to Home Four hours of squabbling over the radio and complaining about the car being a mess. Yep, it's a good thing this road trip is coming to an end! But in all seriousness, this turned out to be one of the best trips we've taken together(and we take a lot of trips!). We thoroughly enjoyed Atlantic City which has really cleaned up its act from the reputation it had gotten in the past of being dirty and crime-ridden. The Charlottesville area turned out to be a great surprise and a real hidden gem. Very undeveloped in terms of touristy crap and instead incredibly pristine in terms of the preservation of history and nature, while still having tons of things to see and do and interesting places to eat and perhaps have a drink or two. What a great way to usher in 2010! We got a feeling it's gonna be a wonderful year as well as a great new decade.!


Craig and Alison Harris said...

The guy I watched the UT game with says that the owner of the Bristol Motor Speedway has been trying for years to get the NCAA to let Va Tech and UT to play at the Speedway so they could have the largest crowd ever at a college game... sounds interesting.

Rob and Ashlee said...

yeah, heard about that...also heard recently it's all but dead as an idea due to conversion cost now that a huge tower sits in the infield