"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, January 28, 2013

Keane are Keen and Augustana are Awesome

We caught a couple of good shows this past week:

Wednesday, January 23:  We grabbed some under-face-value Stubhub.com "fire sale" tickets to see the English pop/rock quartet, Keane, at the Ryman Auditorium.  The one hitch was that we had to buy three tickets to get the deal so we invited our friend, Wayne, to with us.  The show was good despite not being completely sold out.  Below is a snippet of one of their most popular hits, "Everybody's Changing" from our vantage point in the balcony.   Before the show we had a great dinner at the always-delicious Suzy Wong's House of Yum.

Friday, January 25: We were excited to hear that one of our favorite bands, Augustana, included Nashville on their most current acoustic tour.  They were scheduled to play the tiny High Watt stage at the 8th Avenue Music Complex, but ticket sales were so brisk that they were moved to the larger Mercy Lounge (where we last saw them) and they sold that out too!. Not only is Augustana one of our favorite bands, but they are also one of the most schizophrenic - i.e.  they never have the same line-up when we see them.  This was the most stripped-down we have seen them with only lead singer (and heart and soul), Dan Layus, and an accompanying friend playing piano (and accordion on a few songs).   The voice and fire of Layus are really all you need though as the short clip below of one over favs, "Steal Your Heart" will attest.  The show was excellent. Although we do hope he's working on putting together another plugged-in version  of Augustana since he played several good new songs also.  Thanks to our friends Wayne, Mike, Chris and Tarryn,  for attending with us and grabbing some dinner beforehand at the great Music City Flats (the former Urban Flats chain, now locally owned and better than ever).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

10,000 Elusive Sandhill Cranes

For two weekends in a row recently, we tried to see an estimated 10,000 sandhill cranes nesting in the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge on the Tennessee River north of Chattanooga by boat, but weather was a factor both times.  Despite the setbacks, we actually had a pretty good time on both trips.
Heavy fog was the culprit on our first try on January 12, 2013.  Despite much warmer-than-usual temperatures, the fog never lifted enough for us to make it all the way to the nesting site.
Blue Moon Cruises were our guides on both trips and provided a beautiful boat with comfortable amenities.  Our first cruise was booked through and sponsored by the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.
It's not like we didn't see any sandhill cranes.  This little group was spotted heading back to the refuge from our boat.
We went north from the Sale Creek Marina to just past the Highway 60 bridge that connects Dayton and Decatur, TN, before having to turn around due to fog so heavy the captain was navigating only by radar and for the sake of safety had to call it off.  We still wound up having a nice cruise as the area is beautiful even shrouded in fog and we did see some wildlife.  Thanks to our friends, TIm and Lavonda, for tagging along with us and thanks to Blue Moon Cruises for the great lunch provided plus the chance to come back for another free cruise and try again to see the cranes and the refuge area.  We headed back to Chattanooga and caught a matinee showing of "This is 40" which was very funny and enjoyable as well as a delicious dinner at the always-great Urban Stack gourmet burger joint.
Saturday, January 19, 2013:  Now this is more like it!  We decided to go ahead and take our bonus cruise the very next weekend since the weather was clear (albeit a bit colder).  However, little did we know until we got to the refuge area that the heavy amount of rain over the preceding week had flooded the mud flats where the sandhill cranes usually hang out and forced them farther off the river and barely visable from the boat.  Again, the trip wasn't a total loss since we saw a several bald eagles, great blue herons, kingfishers, geese and ducks.

OK, yes, I love my new Smartphone for goofy stuff like this.  This screenshot also shows a lot of the over 1,000 acres of land encompassed in the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.

Great blue heron.
ALL parts of the Hiwassee Refuge Area are used by the nesting birds including this TVA transmission tower.
This HUGE bald eagle nest had a mother in it whose white head would pop up now and then and what we can only assume were some eggs or eaglets she was caring for.  We were surprised to hear that such nests can weigh over a ton!
The beauty of this place is hard to ignore.  Thanks again to our friends, Tim and Lavonda, for trooping out again with us as well as Ashlee's sister, Paige, and our niece, Ella.  We met back up with Tim and Lavonda again later that night in Chattanooga for dinner at a great new Mexican restaurant they suggested called Poblanos.  The food was marvelous.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year, Mon!

We took a quick trip down to Jamaica to celebrate New Year's.  While this trip had been planned for a while, it was up in the air if we would actually go until the last minute due to the ongoing medical condition of Ashlee's mom, Evelyn.  But, with improved progress in her health and an understanding and blessing by Evelyn herself, we decided to go.  This trip had a couple of "firsts" for us.  It would be the first time we would be staying in an "all-inclusive" resort and it's the first time we had bought a package deal (i.e. flight, ground transportation and lodging) from a travel company.  Our usual modus operandi is finding cheap airfare and building a trip around it ourselves, but we got a decent package rate and wanted to try an all-inclusive resort at least once in our lives.

Saturday, December 29, 2012 - We drove down to Atlanta to catch our direct flight into Montego Bay.  While we enjoy the convenience of flying out of Nashville, we always check Atlanta and a lot of times their airfares are much lower to certain destinations.  This was the same with the package deal we bought which was a much better overall rate out of Atlanta than out of Nashville.

The descent into Montego Bay was breath-taking.
Our resort, the Riu ClubHotel, was just outside of Negril, Jamaica, on the far west tip of the island.  The hour-and-a-half ride from the Montego Bay Airport was a bit long, but at least it hugged the coastline for most  of the way providing us with some nice views here and there.  Jamaica is an extremely poor country which is evident fairly quickly.   However, the roadsides and small towns we passed were fairly clean and tidy.  This was not case, for example, in Belize which we visited a few years ago on a cruise where not only was the country poor, but the residents there didn't seem to care about upkeep or trash removal.

This was the view from our room at the resort looking out on Bloody Bay.  One interesting thing about Jamaica, at least here, were the number of hardwood trees near the beaches instead of just palm trees.  Yes, that's a bar on the beach.  It opens at 10 AM every day..just FYI.  Until then we had a stocked fridge and bar in our room...just sayin'.
Sunday, December 30, 2012 - A great day to just hang out by the pool.

This was our favorite of the two pools at the resort.  Probably because that's a swim-up bar under the patio on the right and the bartender there makes a great White Russian and another  delicious "secret" concoction of his own called "The Green Dragon."

Not top-shelf, but a big shelf.  The bars, bar service and drink selections were the best part of the resort.

Monday, December 31, 2012 - It was just another lazy day for us around the resort today before we loaded up in a van to our one and only planned excursion of the trip:  a swim in Bioluminescence Bay.  This was an amazing experience.  The moonless but clear sky made it perfect for this endeavor.  We honestly can't say we have seen more stars in the sky than we did tonight.  And they seemed so much closer than at home.  The bioluminescence experience was surreal.  Every movement in the water left a glowing trail behind it. Unfortunately, we were not able to capture any of it on film.  We did find the link below to a National Geographic feature about a similar area in Puerto Rico.  A hint of the amazing stars we saw comes at :55 and the swimming experience is at 1:55 if you don't want to watch the whole thing (although it's all very interesting).


The only downside to the bioluminescence excursion was that it was on the other side of Montego Bay, meaning we had an almost two-hour ride to get there and then another back for only a one-hour experience.  The views as above were sometimes nice, but fleeting, and overall the transportation endeavor almost cancelled out the actual experience itself.
New Year's Eve back at the resort was a bit of a let-down.  They had a terrible band playing, unimpressive food and no fireworks.  What the??  We decided to see 2013 come in on our patio with a bottle of champagne and a (legal here) Cuban cigar (our first one and it was pretty smooth). 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - Happy New Year!  On our last day at the resort and the first day of the new year, we decided we just had to go so see a little more of the island. We made arrangements with a cabbie to take us into the town of Negril and drop us off at Rick's Cafe, a famous bar on the cliffs there overlooking the ocean which is supposed to be a good place to watch the sun set.

The famous diving alcove at Rick's Cafe with the Negril Point Lighthouse in the background.
A panoramic sunset view of Rick's Cafe from the balcony above the main bar.

What can you say.  Jamaica's pretty nice.  Yeah, mon!

Wednesday, January 2, 2012:  Heading Home

We said goodbye to tranquil  Bloody Bay this morning and headed back to the airport for our early afternoon flight.

Jamaica's worth coming back to someday if we have the chance.  It's a beautiful, diverse place.