"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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Abiding at Lebowskifest

After a few years of wanting to check it out, we were finally able to attend this year's 10th Anniversary of the original Lebowskifest in Louisville, KY.  Celebrating absolutely all facets of the 1998 cult-classic film, The Big Lebowski, it's a two-day festival held every July on the lawn of and inside the huge Executive Strike and Spare Bowling Center near the Louisville airport complete with bands performing, an outdoor screening of the film, trivia contests, costume contests, outdoor games, hours of unlimited bowling, white Russian cocktails galore, lots of Miller High Life on tap and other "What Have You's" that related to the film.  Thanks to our friends, Danny and Brenda, for coming along with us on this strange little adventure.
We "recovered" from a long night of Lebowskism late Saturday morning with a visit to one our absolute favorite restaurants in Louisville, Wild Eggs.  Our brunch was delicious.  I had the enormous and delicious breakfast burrito plus one of their signature "Everything Muffins" while Ashlee selected her favorite menu item, "Kalamity Katie's Border Benedict."  It was so good we went again before leaving for home late Sunday morning when I chose the "Chili Verde Huevos Rancheros" and Ashlee stuck with her still-favorite: KKBB.  We made fans out of Danny and Brenda as well who both loved the place.
It's "me and Liam, man!"  James Hoosier who played the non-speaking role of "Liam O'Brien" in the film made a guest appearance at the festival and was nice enough to pose for a few pictures with all of us.  Despite his lack of dialogue in the film, he gets a lot of face time as the stern bowling partner of John Tuturro's outrageous "Jesus Quintana" character.  We came to find out he actually has several Middle Tennessee ties through his family.
The festival even gave away their original Dude-mobile, a rusted out Torino similar to the one The Dude drives in the movie...only catch....you had to take it with you if you won it and no battery  was included.  The festival has been gifted with an even closer-looking to the original one that has taken its place.  A young girl form Louisville "won" the drawing Saturday evening.  The car was still sitting in the parking lot when we left Sunday afternoon....

White Russians are the signature drink of "The Dude" and although none of us had ever really had one before, we all actually liked them a lot and partook of several during the trip including some home-made ones Ashlee whipped up for the road trip north.  We got a great rate on a couple of nice rooms across the street from the festival at the Springhill Suites by Marriot making for easy access to the fun and frivolities.

Danny made a great "Dude" and was actually singled out by a fellow festival-goer as being "effortlessly cool."  We couldn't agree more.  He was also the best bowler of the bunch, rolling close to a 150 (all while wearing a robe and sandals and usually with a drink in his hand!).  Brenda, Ashlee and I were just mere followers of our "Dude" as the ingredients of his yet again, signature drink, a white Russian.  We got a lot of compliments on our group costume.  Thanks to Brenda for the rockingly good idea for our group look.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jack's Mannequin & A French Broad

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We usually try to make it to Asheville, North Carolina, at least once a year.  It's one of our favorite cities/areas to visit.  The last few years has always been during the Bele Chere Festival, the last weekend of July.  We already had a room booked for the festival this year.   However, an opportunity presented itself a couple weeks earlier when a band we have been wanting to see for a long time, Jack's Mannequin, scheduled a Saturday night show at The Orange Peel, a well-known and respected live music venue that we had also been wanting to check out for a long time.  So, away we went for the weekend.

We arrived Saturday afternoon and did a little microbrewery crawling in downtown Asheville.  This medium-sized city is lousy with them: seven by our count with Craggie Brewing being one of the newest.  Their beer was very good.  See more about the beer in my beer blog.

During our brewery crawl before the concert we  stumbled on yet another amazing restaurant in downtown Asheville.  Storm was bustling, but we were able to grab a couple seats at the bar.  Ashlee had a couple of wonderful cocktails including a really good mojito.  I stuck with beer and was happy to see they carried the local Green Man Ales (another local microbrewery) on tap.  We had an appetizer of house-made pimento cheese that was delicious.

Here's a look from the bar at the brewing tanks at Wedge Brewing, Asheville's newest microbrewery, down in the River Arts District and the last stop on our Saturday afternoon microbrewery crawl.
The Orange Peel is a great venue, albeit a little warm when we arrived for the show.  They did have a "big-ass ceiling fan" (as Jack's Mannequin, front man, Andrew McMahon, referred to it as) going, but it wasn't near enough.  I guess usually they are not having to deal with a lot of heat and humidity up amongst the mountains here, but this summer's been a scorcher.  The place has great acoustics and a nice elevated stage with good site lines.  A good beer selection was not a surprise in this town either.  This is definitely a place to come to again when the performer and timing are right.

We arrived in time to hear the last couple of songs in the set by the third opener, Steel Train,  including a good cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl."  Bands always love covering Uncle Tom, don't they?.  Headliner, Jack's Mannequin, took the stage around 9:45 and proceeded to dazzle us for the next couple hours.  Lead singer (and basically the main drive behind the band), Andrew McMahon, is a gifted singer and piano player.  He's also quite an inspiration since he was diagnosed with leukemia a few years back as the band was just starting to get some real national notice.  He battled back to full remission and you sure couldn't tell he had been through any such thing with all the energy he emitted on stage.

Sign behind the bar at The Orange Peel.  Just thought it was funny.

Sunday, July 10,  2011

Another advantage to not coming to Asheville for the popular Bele Chere Festival is that you can wake up Sunday morning and actually have a reasonable change to get into the Tupelo Honey Cafe, an enormously loved restaurant in downtown Asheville.  We still had to wait about an hour and felt lucky to get in since we have never been able to on a Sunday during Bele Chere.  The food was amazing and well worth the wait.  We went brunch-style with Ashlee ordering from the breakfast menu that is available all day.  She made a great choice of sweet potato pancakes.  I picked the catfish taco off the sandwich menu which was huge and superb tasting.
After brunch we headed northwest for about 40 miles to the small town of Hot Springs, North Carolina.  We had 2 PM reservations with Huck Finn Rafting Adventures for a 5-mile trek down the French Broad River.  We had a great time.  The weather was perfect and although the river water was as brown as chocolate milk with sediment after recent rains, it was pleasant in temperature and running well over some fun Class I, II and II rapids.  Our guide, Justin, was great and we only had to share our raft with one other couple, Rick and Liz from Charleston, SC.   During a break on the bank we saw a bald eagle soar overhead.  There was no mistaking what it was with that brilliant white head.  We found this great outfitter through Groupon.com and hope to come back sometime and do their longer 9-mile trek which includes a couple Class IV rapids farther downstream.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

U2 Three-6-Tee Tour

As soon at tickets went on sale last fall for U2's 360 Tour at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on July 2, 2011, we snatched some up as quick as we could.  With only 9 shows left in this historic tour, we knew this was a rare opportunity we could not pass up.  We were not disappointed....
Installation of "The Claw"set for the  U2 show in the Vandy Stadium started Tuesday, June 28 for the show that didn't start until Saturday.  Yep, it's that freakin' big!   Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Sports.
Here's a full shot of the completed set at a different stadium with center stage, outer performance ring and retractable video screen above the stage.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


The last time we saw U2 was way back in 1992 in Atlanta for the Zoo TV Tour at The Omni, a building which has since been torn down.  Photo courtesy of PearlJam.com/Forum

The last show we saw at the Vandy Stadium was The Rolling Stones back in 1995.

Opening act, Florence Welch, of Florence & the Machine, is English, but did quite an Irish tribute with her flaming red hair and flowing green outfit.  Photo courtesy of The Tennessean.

Before the U2 show began, the huge screen above the stage transmitted tons of information from around the world including current times, facts and statistics truly showing the global nature of the this world-wide tour now in its 3rd and final leg after starting back in 2009.  Photo courtesy of The Tennessean.

We opted for general admission tickets and stood in front of the stage about 30 feet from the outer ring.  It was putridly hot with high humidity, but the show was amazing from start to finish and we loved our viewing location.  This was the 100th show of the tour.  Photo courtesy of The Tennessean.

The outer ring allowed us close views of all the members of the band (guitarist, The Edge, above) as each one took their turn at least once performing while walking the 360 degree circle for all to see...even drummer, Larry Mullen, with bongos.  Photo courtesy of The Tennessean.

The boys played for over two hours without much stopping.  They played most of their hits from the last 30+ years (see set list below).  Lead singer, Bono, was very gracious in his appreciation for Nashville and its music-based history and heritage.  It's hard to believe it's been over 30 years since they played this town.  A couple of special moments included playing "The Wanderer" - a song they recorded with and wrote for Johnny Cash that they have never played live at a show before.  They ended the show by bringing a blind fan/guitar player up on stage with them and letting him strum the chords to "All I Want is You" which he nervously dedicated to his wife.  Photo courtesy of The Tennessean.
Even Better Than the Real Thing [see video below for a little of it's beginning - sound isn't great, but it's worth a look especially at about 30 seconds into it ]
The Fly
Mysterious Ways
Until the End of the World
I Will Follow
Get on Your Boots
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
The Wanderer [never played live before at a U2 show]
Stay (Faraway, So Close)
Beautiful Day
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Miss Sarajevo

City of Blinding Light
I'll Go Crazy (If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight) 
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On

Amazing Grace/Where the Street Have No Name

2nd Encore:
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
With or Without You
 Moment of Surrender
All I Want Is You [with blind fan/guitarist pulled from audience to play]

All in all a wonderful, maybe once-in-a-lifetime, experience.  Thanks to our friends Linda, Sharon, Bethany and Wayne for coming out and hanging with us before the show in our room at the Hilton Garden Suites nearby.  Thanks to Wayne again for accompanying us to a pre-concert tailgate party which we were invited to by our friends, Richard and Jenni.  Thanks to U2 for including one of the smallest venues on their tour (photo below) and not charging obscene prices to see their show, plus for all they do to try and promote good in the world in the name of rock and roll.

Friday, July 1, 2011

OMG! We love the OBX!

We briefly visited a small portion of the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina several years ago when our friends, Craig and Alison, lived nearby.  Ever since then, we have wanted to come back and explore more of this beautiful area and thanks to a dirt-cheap flight sale to Norfolk, VA, on Southwest Airlines recently, we were able to do just that for a long weekend.  We rented a car and made the easy hour and a half trek south.

We stayed two nights in the lovely and quiet little town of Manteo on the sound-side
of the Outer Banks at The Outdoors Inn B&B.

Located in Nags Head and voted "the best seafood dive in North Carolina" by Coastal Living Magazine, we had a wonderful dinner here on Friday night, June 24,  at Tortugas' Lie.  Ashlee had a huge spicy shrimp skewer while I had the nightly special of peppered mahi.

Saturday, June 25, 2011.  Looking east from atop Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at the 6/10 of a mile path that the lighthouse travelled a few years back to save it from possible collapse due to beach erosion.  The 12-story, 268-step stair-climb to the top of this American classic was well worth the effort.

A view of our rental car as it takes a ride with us on the Ocracoke Island Ferry.  The free 45-minute boat ride from Hatteras was a lot of fun and afforded great views of the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean beyond it.

The lovely Ashlee at the lovely Ocracoke Lighthouse.

A little muskrat love on Ocracoke Island.

The visitors center perched over the bright green, swampy water of
the Nature Conservancy's Nags Head Preserve.

A sound-side view from atop the Currituck Beach Light in Corolla.
 Only 214 steps needed to get to the top of the red-brick beauty.

Tooling down NC Hwy. 12.  Yep, the beach north of the town of Corolla is still considered part of the highway and it's the only way to reach a large number of rental and private beach houses located in this area.

A grazing "Banker Pony."  One of just over 100 pure-bred Spanish mustangs that roam wild and free on the dunes and beaches north of Corolla.  We were able to see several of these beauties thanks to a very cool two-hour, open-top Jeep tour that we had booked.

How much fun did we have in the Outer Banks?  Well, enough, to say "Heck, yeah!" to another trip out here in mid-August.  We got the same great flight deal into Norfolk and this time we are going to stay right on the beach.  We might even try our hand at some kite-boarding??