"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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Orleans comes to Nashville...and then Nashville goes to New Orleans

Thursday, May 16 - We had some excellent prep work to get in a "Big Easy state of mind" before our anniversary trip this year thanks to a fantastic show by New Orleans' own, Big Sam's Funky Nation, at Exit/In with local groove-meisters, Captain Midnight and their self-described style of "waterbed rock" opening for them.  We caught BSFN for the first time a few years ago (almost two years to the day actually) down in Gulf Shores, Alabama (previous blog) and they were good then, but this show was even better despite a fairly sparse crowd on a weeknight. Thanks to our friends, Chris and Tarryn, for going with us, just as they did two years ago (but no cars were towed
following the  show this time, thank goodness!!).

Big Sam Williams is a singer, dancer and most of all, a kick-ass trombone player (formerly of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band), who works hard for the money on stage as you can see from the sweat around his collar.

Saturday, May 18 - We took a short afternoon flight down to New Orleans today with our friends, Danny and Brenda, who were also celebrating a wedding anniversary this weekend.  Our friends, Tiff and Brenda (yep, another Brenda), had come down earlier in the day from Chattanooga as well.
Per Tiff and Brenda's recommendation, we stayed at the very cool Place d'Armes Hotel in the French Quarter just off famous Jackson Square.  The place contains great New Orleans charm and history, along with all the modern conveniences including a very nice courtyard and pool.

Our "junior suite" was huge and we loved the exposed brick and the great view of the pool and courtyard.  The room's location at the end of the hall on the third floor (308 for future reference) made it nice for hanging out, entertaining and meeting some of the other guests.  We met some great folks from North Georgia the first night and some other nice folks from Canada the next night.
Beautiful Jackson Square was just a 5-minute walk from our hotel.  We ate dinner and had dirt-cheap drinks on our first night in NOLA at Cajun Mike's Pub & Grub out on the fringe of the French Quarter.

Sunday, May 19 - Happy Anniversary from New Orleans! We spent a fairly lazy 12th Anniversary Day sleeping in and then grabbing a delicious low-country lunch at Chartres House near our hotel. 

We wandered around The French Quarter in the afternoon and wound up for drinks at The Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel. This beautiful and famous watering hole actually does actually rotate at a slow pace (seems faster once you are seated at the bar).  With a little patience all six of us were able to sit together on the spinning libation counter plus our friend, Brad, who moved back down to New Orleans recently and was able to join us for the evening.  We got a great to-go dinner from the tiny and busy Coop's Place and ate back in the courtyard of the hotel (and, no, I did not wait 30 minutes after eating before getting in the pool!)  We had a ton of left-overs which we finished off over the next couple days thanks to the fridge and microwave in our room.

Monday, May 20 - Well, enough of this being lazy.  We got up bright and early (well, "early" for The Big Easy as least) and walked over to Saint Louis Cemetery Number One for a 10 AM tour hosted by Save Our Cemeteries.  This non-profit organization is dedicated to the preservation of several historic "all raised tombs" cemeteries throughout the city.  SLC #1 is one of the oldest and "most beautiful" in New Orleans.  The two-hour tour was informative and interesting.  Some of the highlights included the graves of the first, as well as the first African-American, mayors of the city; the voodoo queen herself, Marie LaVeau; as well as an unoccupied tomb owned by actor, Nicholas Cage.  Many of the tombs are in terrible (and shameful) disrepair, and it felt good to know 100% of tour fees would be going to help and try to honor the many lain to rest here in a more respectful way.
The city-block sized "City of the Dead" is loomed over by the hustle and bustle of downtown New Orleans.
We had a great "tri-anniversary" dinner tonight at GW Fins which has some amazing seafood.
Tuesday, May 21 - I was scheduled to fly back home today while Ashlee was going to pick up a rental car and work over in Mississippi (one of her new territories she's been assigned) for the rest of the week.  But before my late afternoon flight, we had enough time to go check out the relatively new National WWII Museum.  What we thought was going to be just an OK time-killer turned out to be on of our favorite parts of the trip.  This huge, beautiful museum is done right, and they have a couple of interactive add-ons to the entry price that are well worth the money including a 4-D (yes, 4) film narrated by Tom Hanks called "Beyond All Boundaries" that is outstanding, and an impressive and nerve-racking submarine experience called "Final Mission."

That's a full sized bomber hanging in the National WWII Museum.  Check out the people on the walkway above it for scale.  This was just one of several draw-dropping indoor displays.
We walked back to our hotel from the WW II museum along the mighty Mississippi River.

This little darling to me captures the essence of New Orleans: a full belly and a relaxed state of mind.  I took this photo right outside of Cafe Du Monde as we were munching on their famous beignets.   We love you, NOLA, and we can't wait to get back to see you as soon as we can!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Some Flaming Lips, a Couple Black Keys, a third Iron Man and a Great Gatsby

A great show and a couple of good movies filled up our first week of May:

Friday, May 3, 2013 - We were able to grab some general-admission tickets to the SOLD OUT show at The Bridgestone Arena for The Black Keys with opener, The Flaming Lips.  We had another tasty great dinner at Puckett's Grocery beforehand.
OK, they were a little weird (so what if lead singer, Wayne Coyne, cradled a baby doll through several songs) but the sound, fury and visual spectacle that is The Flaming Lips live was worth a look as the opener for The Black Keys.  We even "realized" that their song "Do You Realize" is actually a quite lovely ballad.  And their cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" was spot-on.  We had attempted to see them at Bonnaroo in the past but their set was well after midnight when the folks get even weirder on (and off) the stage.

The amazing Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys with one of several beautiful guitars he sported (and cranked up) throughout the show.  It was an excellent performance from start to finish and while it did not have the glitz and glamour to outdo our favorite show at the arena by Pink, it was definitely the solid second-best performance we have seen there.  With our general admission tickets allowing us to get just 20 or 30 feet from the stage, it was easy to forget you were in a full arena of people as these garage-band rockers did their magic.

Patrick Carney (aka Cymbal Face) keeps the driving beat that The Black Keys are known for. 

Below is a quick snippet of the duo blasting away along with a touring bassist and keyboardist.

Saturday, May 4, 2013 - We caught a showing of Iron Man 3 in IMAX 3D tonight and it was great.  Lots of action, humor and some good twists we didn't see coming.
Saturday, May 11, 2013 - We caught a showing on opening night of the remake of The Great Gatsby in 3D down in Chattanooga with our friend, Mike.  This film had a little extra significance to us three since we listened to the audio-book of it on the way down to Tallahassee back in February to see Duke play basketball against Florida State (see previous blog).  The book was quirky but we found it to be quite a kick, old sport!!  The film followed the book loyally and the acting performances were solid.  The sweeping grand visuals made it an even better experience.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Prince, LOVE, Zip = Vegas

We took a sort of impromptu weekend trip to Las Vegas this past weekend for one specific purpose: to see the one and only Prince in concert. After seeing that tickets were actually available and actually  affordable at a general admission venue and then finding decent airfare out there and back, it kind of became a no-brainer as to whether we should go or not.  Our Bonnaroo-made friend, Bridgette, came along as well, as she too is either as crazy as we are or has the same vision we do to see a great opportunity and take it while you can.
Saturday/Sunday, April 27/28th: His Royal Purpleness came on stage at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for his second show of the night at 11:30 P.M. PST (that's 1:30AM at home) and played for a solid 90 minutes without a break. It was excellent from start to finish. Besides new songs and classic oldies of his, he and his all-girl band belted out some great covers including Wild Cherry's classic, "Play That Funky Music" and "Let's Go" by The Cars. With the show ending at 3 AM (CST), we were pretty dang tired...by the way, did I mention that Ashlee and Bridgette each completed a 1/2 marathon earlier that same day in Nashville as well!!! Amazing job, ladies!!
Sunday, April 28th - We rented a pool cabana at our hotel, Treasure Island (TI), on the strip and planned for a day of relaxation and recovery from the very long previous day.  Those plans were dashed somewhat by a huge group of Canadian businessmen who invaded the pool area with their "party favors" (obviously-rented young female escorts) to the tune of an entourage of easily 50+ people.  Amusing to watch at first, they quickly started to ruin the day for everyone else with their antics and sheer number by hogging the pool, leaving a huge amount of empty alcohol containers everywhere and basically being a loud, disgusting nuisance.  But, hey, it's Vegas.  What ya gonna do?  Their bar bill was much bigger than ours, so they are who gets catered to in Sin City where money talks.

Our evening improved by taking in a great show next door at The Mirage.  It's called "The Beatles LOVE" and is put on by Cirque Du Soleil.  We had front row seats for this dazzling spectacle of sight and sound that was trippy and cool.
Monday, April 29th - We had to get away from the hustle and bustle of Vegas for a while today and get out in the desert some.  We headed over to Boulder City, the home of Hoover Dam, for a planned afternoon of zip-lining.  Before that, we stopped and had a revisit of Hoover Dam and checked out the new Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that serves as a bypass of the dam and just recently opened.

A back view of Hoover Dam with the massive and impressive (this picture does it no justice) Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge now open for use as a bypass around the canyon and dam.
The new bridge even has a pedestrian walkway on both sides of it allowing for some amazing birds-eye views of Hoover Dam and the cool hairpin curve coming down into the canyon toward it.
Our first zip-lining experience ever.

One of several beautiful collared lizards we saw on our hike to the top of Red Mountain for our first of four zip-line rides.
One of our great guides, Cody, checking out the breaking system on Run # 2.  Unlike many other zip-lines that are tree-top to tree-top, this experience blows those away since it's desert ridge to desert ridge as you can see our starting point far into the distance.   Each run is over 1,100' in length and we reached speeds in excess of 60 MPH.  The weather was perfect with warm temps and a slight breeze.  The views were outstanding.  To say this was one of the best experiences in our life would not be a lie. The line for Run # 3 can be seen above this one running east to west.
Showing off our best sides!  Yep, that's us.  Legs out and ready for launch!! (Photo courtesy of Flightlinez)
Tuesday, April 30th - Our flight home was late in the day and this gave us ample to time to check out a few other places in and around Vegas.
Blissful beauty just 20 minutes out of the glitz and noise of Las Vegas.  The 13-mile loop through the canyon is stunning.
Rock climbers in Red Rock Canyon.  See photo below for scale of this massive wall of rock.
Where Red Rock Canyon gets its name.

The whole of Red Rock Canyon from Highway 157.

We stopped by the MGM Grand Casino and Hotel on The Strip when we got back to Vegas to check it out for a future trip we have planned here in late June.  We happened upon some under-card introductions of the upcoming boxing event: May Day: Mayweather vs. Guerrero. It certainly was creating a buzz and it was fun to be mingling among it.