"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, October 12, 2011

Hail to the Walkers (5K and Butch)

October 8, 2011:  We had a fun, busy and long fall Saturday today in Nashville beginning with the 8 AM start of a 5K run/walk until well after 1 AM on Sunday morning with the conclusion of a concert.

With well over a thousand participants in the 12th Annual Germantown Bier 5K Run/Walk near downtown Nashville, it took us a while to even get over the starting line.  This was our first year participating in this event and we could not have asked for better weather.  The route through beautiful and historic Germantown was a lot fun and even included a path through the Nashville Farmers Market.  There is a all-day street festival afterwards with an Octoberfest theme.


We finished the 5K with smiles and despite Ashlee nursing a head cold, she finished in good time at under 40 minutes.  Since most of my 5K was walked, I got in under 48 minutes and was satisfied with my efforts.  With our entry fee we got the satisfaction of accomplishment, a cool T-shirt and a free beer at the end.  We happened upon our friends Chris and Tarryn (who are both pretty serious runners) at the finish line and they had already finished their beers by the time we got across the finish line and collected our brews.  We visited for a while, bought a couple more beers and talked a lot about our upcoming trip with them and another couple to Aruba in February.

Ashlee's new found love of corn dogs (she had never had one until a year ago - how weird?) was satisfied as we waited around after the race for our friends, Gary and Cary, who had texted us that they were coming down to have look around the farmers market and check out the Germantown festival.  We had a couple more beers and I grabbed a thick-sliced grilled bologna sandwich (yum!) for lunch.  There was some decent live music going on nearby as well to entertain us.

After resting up a bit back at home, we doubled-back to Nashville and met up with our friend, Ryan, and his date, Dawn, for dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, The Bombay Palace, on West End Avenue.  We chose our dinner locale because of its close proximity to the legendary Exit/In on Elliston Place where we had tickets to see one of our favorite live bands, Butch Walker & the Black Widows.  We saw Butch at this same location last year (see previous blog) and he put on such an amazing show that we knew we had to catch him again if at all possible.

All hail, King Butch!!  Walker concluded his SOLD OUT high-energy 2+ hour show by climbing up on the Exit/In bar and toasting his band and his fans with a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey.  Salute!  Behind him are dozens of names of some of the famous artists who have graced the stage of the legendary rock bar since the early 70's.  Thanks to Ryan and Dawn for attending the general admission concert with us despite neither of them hearing of Butch and the Black Widows before today.  They stayed for the entire show and became instant fans.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rombello Cruise

Well. we just couldn't pass it up.  Despite just getting back from a quick trip up to New England, working one day and then  flying back out that night, we headed south to board our second music cruise of the year.  The company, Sixthman, who organized the Best Cruise Ever musical voyage that we took back in late April/early May (see previous blog post: ) offered us a deal as previous cruisers that we couldn't afford to not accept ($298 ea. including tax!) for another one of their four-day music cruises out of Tampa, FL, to Cozumel, Mexico, and back. packed full of bands performing throughout the trip. 
Welcome to Rombello!

Thursday, September 29, 2012:  The lovely city of Tampa wished us a "bon voyage" again as we headed out of the same port on the same ship, the Carnival Inspiration, that we had taken on the last music cruise.  Bonus points if you can find the large "T" (for Tampa, I suppose) among the downtown buildings.  Wonder if that was done intentionally?

 Michael Franti & Spearhead, who happens to be one of our favorite live acts, kicked off the trip with a sail-away concert out on the Lido Deck.  Their recent hit "The Sound of Sunshine" never sounded better or felt more appropriate as we got underway under blue sunny skies with warm temps and with the beach balls a-flyin'.

 Our favorite "new-to-us" band we discovered on the Rombello Cruise was Gaelic Storm, an energetic and musically-adept Irish band.  Appropriately, here they are above ending their first set in the bar on the Lido Deck.  That's showmanship and drunkenness all at the same time, folks!

How do you like our new family Christmas card?  He's our boy and we are so proud of him!  One of our favorite performers, Brett Dennen, hosted a wine tasting and although we did this same type of tasting on the last music cruise with Jimmy Stafford, lead guitarist of the band, Train, and the wine offered by Carnival pretty much sucked (as it did again here), it was still a great chance to meet Brett and talk with him one-on-one about wine (even the crappy kind), his music and his upcoming show in Nashville that we were looking forward to seeing after the cruise.  Brett was funny and charming as the guest host and he and the ship's dining room maitre'd and wine representative, Omar, made quite the comedy duo.

Hmmm, is The Old 97's song, "Big Brown Eyes"  written by lead singer, Rhett Miller, pictured above with my brown-eyed girl about someone in particular??  It sure looks like it from these beaming smiles.  We got to meet Rhett briefly before his first show on the boat in the small nightclub venue, the Candlelight Lounge.  He was winging it solo on this trip without the rest of the 97's and his one-man-and-a-guitar performances (we saw all three) were impressive, not to mention he had the help of his great voice in accompaniment.

After the wine tasting, Brett Dennen took to the Lido Deck stage for an early evening performance.  We believe Brett may have had a lot of complimentary wine during and after the tasting we attended with him because it wasn't one of his best shows in terms of performance....i.e. we think he was sloshed!

Saturday, October 1, 2011:  We didn't have any luck securing an excursion for our stop in Cozumel before the cruise, so we stood in the excursion trip line on the boat (with Brett Dennen again!) and chose what looked to be an interesting cave tour and swim at Rio Secreto over on the mainland near Playa del Carmen.  It turned out to be one of the best excursions we have ever done.  It's a privately-owned cave system discovered only recently back in 2008.   The half-mile hike, wade and swim through this underground wonder was simply amazing.  The tour was very organized and went smoothly.  Hats off to Carnival Cruise Lines for providing such a great tour since our past history with some ship-sponsored excursions have not been that great.  Since personal cameras weren't allowed in the cave, I can't take credit for this incredible (and accurate) shot above.  I borrowed it from the website blog of Legacy Travel.

After the tour of Rio Secreto we strolled around in Playa del Carmen a bit and wondered into Tequila Town for a drink.  Who knew there were so many kinds of tequila!

As we boarded the ferry back to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen, this beautiful Caribbean storm popped up on the horizon.  It never affected us which added to our record of perfect weather during this trip.

Rhett Miller once again took the small stage on the back of the cruise ship on the Serenity Deck as we awaited to depart from the Cozumel port.  He gave another energetic performance even as the Carnival Elation headed out to sea behind him.

As the sun was setting and we got underway from Cozumel, Rhett Miller finished his set with flair and style.

Despite the fact that our favorite band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, were performing the headlining  7 PM show in the ship's huge Paris Lounge, we opted for a more up-close-and-personal experience with Gaelic Storm in the Candlelight Lounge.  We think we made the right choice as the band put on one hell of a show while all along taking good-natured jabs at "Franteeeee" for playing at the same time upstairs and stealing their crowd (which you couldn't tell since the place was packed).  After the performance which again ended in the lounge bar,  of course, we got a chance to meet lead guitarist, (and possible Keebler Elf?) Steve Twigger.

Well, here he goes again.  After telling us in the excursion line the day before that all he wanted to do in Cozumel was "snorkel a little, get drunk and eat a bunch of guacamole" - we think Brett Dennen did just that.  Donning his bathrobe from his cabin and a Captain & Tennille-style hat, Brett gave another less than stellar late-evening performance after we departed from Cozumel/  There were a lot of slurred lyrics and awkward fumbling pauses between songs.  He was hammered, folks.  Some people just can't handle Mexico I guess  (been there, done that, I confess)

We caught an energetic late-night show by JJ Grey & Mofro in the Paris Lounge to end the evening's musical journey.  Grey's booming voice and dynamite backing band were a treat to see and hear.  We had heard good reports of these guys and their live show, but had never seen them before..  Now we know what all the buzz is about.

Well after midnight and with his show in the main lounge over for hours, Michael Franti was still out and about in the open public areas of the ship posing for pictures, signing autographs and just being one of the nicest people you will ever meet.  Here he stops and poses for a picture with me and John and Jessica, a couple from Charlotte, North Carolina, that we befriended on the cave tour and hung around with the rest of the cruise.

Sunday, October 2, 2011:  Our last day at sea consisted of an afternoon and early evening of acoustic-style performances out on the Lido Deck with almost every band taking the stage for short sets as we lazed around the pool and cruised back toward Tampa.  The now-infamous Brett Dennen gave an intimate set back on the Serenity Deck and seemed to be more himself albeit probably hung over, but he was still all smiles and happy to pose for pictures as the sun was setting on the day and  another great music cruise.
ADDENDUM: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - We saw our boy, Brett Dennen, again (sober this time, thank goodness, we were starting to worry about the kid!) put on a great show as the headliner at the fifth week of Live on the Green in downtown Nashville.  Link below is part of his great performance.  We had VIP tix that gave us unlimited drinks and great food from B & C BBQ (their buffalo chicken grits were outstanding!) as well as up close viewing of the stage.  Before Brett's set we also saw some good performances by Rayland Baxter (performing with his legendary father, Bucky Baxter) and Nashville's own, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors.  Thanks to our newly-married  friends, Nate and Ginny, for attending with us.  Congrats, guys!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Hampshire in Early Fall

We took a quick, long-weekend trip up to New Hampshire to visit our friends, Amy and Jeremy, thanks to a wonderfully cheap airfare I found ($130 RT each!) into Manchester.  This was a late birthday present for Ashlee who is close friends with Amy.  We hadn't seen these guys in over a year since we took a great Caribbean cruise together back in February 2010. 
See the blog entries: http://collagebarrage.blogspot.com/2010_02_01_archive.html

The thought of checking out early fall in New England was also a bonus since Amy and Jeremy live in the lovely coastal town of Portsmouth about 45 minutes east of  Manchester.
Saturday,  September 24, 2011:  Fresh off the plane, our first stop once we got into the Portsmouth area was the east coast branch of Red Hook Brewing, a great craft beer pioneer which originated in Washington state.  We grabbed a late light lunch in their cool brewpub and took the 3 PM brewery tour which cost $2 and was chock full of samples!  Salute!

After resting up a bit and settling into Amy and Jeremy's spare bedroom of their apartment in downtown Portsmouth, we strolled a few blocks toward the waterfront and had dinner at on of their favorite places, Spring Hill Tavern.  This bar in the basement of The Dolphin Striker Restaurant serves up great seafood from upstairs.  Our choices were the Chilean sea bass cooked Asian-style for Ashlee, and the lobster omelet for me.  Delicious!
Sunday, September 25, 2011:  We all slept in this morning and by the time we had collected ourselves, our stomachs were grumbling for some lunch and we decided on a place we couldn't get into the night before due to it being so crowded, The Portsmouth Brewery.  I appreciate Amy and Jeremy accommodating my always-fervent interest in craft beer, but even they admitted that as usual in good brewpubs,  the food is darn good as well.  More on the brews themselves will be in my beer blog soon.

After lunch we strolled down to the beautiful, busy and historic Portsmouth Harbour.  We bought in for the 3 PM harbour cruise on the MV Heritage.  As we waited to board our hour-and-a-half-long cruise, we checked out the waterfront which offered dramatic views of the swift-moving Piscataqua River as it surged out to sea and the charming views such as the chubby Moran Tugboats (above) tied up at dock taking a well-deserved Sunday off.

  The weather, which had been rainy the day before we arrived and overcast on Saturday with some sprinkles of rain, cooperated beautifully for our harbour cruise.  The sun emerged from the breaking clouds giving up warm temps and beautiful views north to southern Maine, Whaleback Lighthouse (above in the distance), the Portsmouth Harbour Light,  Newcastle Island and the distant Isles of Shoals to the east and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.  We finished the evening with cocktails at the very cool bar, The Library, and grilling out back at Amy and Jeremy's on a wonderful early fall evening in New England.

Monday, September 26, 2011 - While Jeremy had to unfortunately head to work for the day, Amy had the day off and we decided to head north into the White Mountains for the day.  The weather was perfect and the leaves were already starting to change as we gained altitude.
Our main destination in the vast White Mountain  National Forest was Mt. Washington, the highest point in the Northeastern United States.  We took the self-guided Auto Road all the way to the top.

At the summit of Mt. Washington was a very cool visitors center and several historical buildings including the small observatory used back in 1934 when the highest surface wind speed ever recorded by man was clocked at 231 MPH, hence the chains on the building preventing it from blowing away.

Not bad for a Monday....

 The Mt. Washington summit is frequently shrouded by cloud cover, but we were fortunate to pick a very clear day to visit.  Despite a bit of haze, the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, to the south was stunning.  Here above the tree line, the landscape took on a very different look and reminded us a lot of Iceland.

 The Auto Road coming up and down Mt. Washington reveals some amazing views.  The above shot was taken as we descended back down the winding, tiny road which is glaringly absent of guardrails!

We concluded our trip with a pretty cool Haunted Pub Walk in downtown Portsmouth that evening.  After saying our goodbyes to Amy and Jeremy the next morning, we headed back to the airport.  What was supposed to be a short trip back to get us home by the late afternoon turned into a fairly long and grueling day of flight delays in Manchester and our connector city, Philadelphia.  Heavy fog that morning in Philly had disrupted the whole day of flights, but we finally made it home late that evening exhausted but content with our brief visit to see our friends and the lovely area in which they live.