"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.

Friday, March 25, 2016

You're Going on LeBREWski, Lebowski!!

Wait, hold up... it's a Bahamas cruise with live music from two of our favorite bands, O/A/R and Alpha Rev, plus many other artists, there's a ton of craft beer on board, and we would be celebrating the classic film, The Big Lebowski???  And, it's at a great discounted price?  Well, how could we not be in!?!?

Saturday, 2/27 -  We flew from Nashville today down to Ft. Lauderdale, rented a car and drove a little farther south to Miami today to start a long weekend as we awaited to board our cruise ship on Tuesday.  We booked a room at the lush Hilton Cabana Hotel on the North Miami Beach.

White sand, blue skies and aqua ocean!  What a beautiful day to fly in to South Florida!

After landing and securing our extremely nice SUV (thanks Ashlee's "Preferred Status" at Avis), we secured some  lunch at the nearby Tap 42  in Ft. Lauderdale.  The food was delicious and, as the name implies, the beer list was impressive.

After checking in to our hotel, we headed to the beach to catch the last bit of daylight and to crack open our delicious (and hard to find...thanks Tap 42!) limited Tiramisu-Hoo  Imperial Milk Stout from one of our favorite craft brewers, Terrapin, in Athens, Georgia.   What a great way to toast the end of our first day way down south!  Except it wasn't...we ended the night with some bubbly up on the third floor roof of the hotel under a starry sky with the waves crashing below.  So nice!!
Sunday, 2/28 - With an iffy forecast for tomorrow, we decided to go ahead and move inland this morning and try our first-ever air-boat ride over in the Everglades National Park.

Now THAT is a big ol' gator, folks!!  We saw several of them actually while on an hour excursion with Coopertown Airboats for a great price (thanks Groupon!).    This  excursion would have been worth full admission.  What a fun trip!  We would considering doing a longer, private tour that goes deeper into the swamp next time we are in the area.
The weather cooperated, albeit a bit cool, this afternoon, so we headed back to the hotel and back out to the beach!
We returned inland again for a few miles this evening to attend an event called Hollywood's Big Night Party for an Oscars telecast viewing at the Cinebistro movie theater at the Dolphin Mall. 

What a great deal!  For $40 each we got lots of wine, great heavy appetizers, four free hand-rolled cigars (the dude was on site making them in front of us!) and a hilarious caricature drawing of us as well from an artist on site.  Our seats were super-comfy and we watched the entire telecast of which the highlight was seeing Leo finally get his well-deserved Oscar!

Monday, 2/29 - Happy Leap Day everyone!  We spent our extra day of 2016 in South Florida again checking out the beach .  Afterwards, we picked up our friends, Laurie and Derek, at the airport who are also going on the cruise that starts tomorrow.  We had a late night drink (and dinner for Derek and Laurie) at the very cool Lou's Beer Garden near our hotel.

Tuesday, 3/1 -  Day 1 of The Lebrewski Cruise - This was our first time on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.  The Norwegian Pearl is a very nice boat with pretty darn good food in the buffet.  We started seeing performers almost immediately after boarding includig the hard-to-miss Andy Frasco (photo bombing our friend, Derek...nice shirt, D...lol...and then again later in the evening hugging on my wife!?!).   We saw performances from Kyle Hollandsworth of The String Cheese Incident and friends, Jared and the Mill and the aforementioned (and amazing) Andy Frasco and the U.N.  We had dinner in the Chinese bistro which was very tasty as were the three desserts we ordered!  You gotta love cruisin'!!

The young harmonious band from Arizona, Jared and the Mill, were rockin' the swim trunks (and boots?) in honor of the cruise and our tropical destinations that lay ahead

Wednesday, 3/2 - Day 2 of The Lebrewski Cruise - We woke up in the Bahamas in the Port of Nassau today to perfect weather.   We did a great small-group (just 8 people including us and Derek and Laurie) snorkeling trip excursion that included stops at a boat wreck/living reef that was sunk for the filming of the James Bond film, Thunderball, and then another stop at a larger natural reef.  Captain Mark with Blue Hole Watersports was a great guide.  On the way back to the cruise ship we stopped at Lukka Kairi Restaurant for some local beer and Bahamian bread.

We capped off the day (and the night) with a headliner performance by O/A/R  in the ship's main theater.  We got great seats down close for another solid performance by the boys from Rockville, Maryland.

The photo below is of our last performers of the night, Alpha Rev.  I snapped this pic before the crowd filled in the area in front of the stage.  While lead singer and heart and soul of the band, Casey McPherson, was there, several other members of the band were not including their awesome lead guitarist Zak Loy (who is still touring with Ed Kowalczyk of Live - see previous blog entry).  It was also evident in their performance which wasn''t the best we've seen from them, and was basically turned into a jam session that included the help of some other bands on the boat like Jared and the Mill and Hollis Brown.

Thursday, 3/3 - Day 3 of The Lebrewski Cruise was a relaxing  day at sea that started with a perfect  pool-deck performance by O/A/R.  We also caught some of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers later on this stage  as well.  We took in  as much of a late-night screening of The Big Lebowski in the ship's  main theater as we could before calling it a night.

Friday, 3/4 - Day 4 of The Lebrewski Cruise - We awoke anchored off of  NCL's own private Bahamanian island, Grand Stirrup Cay. for a day of beach fun and an amazing performance by Andy Frasco and the U.N.  again (video below).

We had to tender over to shore but it was worth it.

Yes, we saw Andy Frasco and his crew in the elevator on the way to the island that morning, and yes, Andy said he wanted to crowd surf to the ocean from the stage...and he did just that!!  And we were privy to that information before anyone else...you never know what you are gonna learn in an elevator...(this is not my picture...thanks LeBrewski Cruise...but that's me under Andy's right knee in the yellow hat (Go Preds!)  and Ashlee is behind me holding a guy's arm that I guess she thought was Andy's leg?? 

Beautiful Great Stirrup Cay.

Back on the boat that evening it was time for some craft beer tasting, some Hollis Brown tunes, more Alpha Rev jamming and a few tunes from Nashville's own, Tyler Bryant  and the Shakedown.

The craft beer was very abundant on board.  This was one of our collective favorites  and the name of it seems quite appropriate for this cruise.

Besides Andy Frasco, the young  band out of New York called Hollis Brown was one of our great new-to-us "discoveries" on this trip.  They have a fantastic sound and some great original songs.
Saturday, 3/5 - We arrived back in port this morning and rented another car (with a sweet large sunroof) and drove down to our beloved, Key West, for a long weekend.  

One of favorite drives anywhere.

From a distance this looked like a religious or church vehicle carrying a cross...as we got closer we realized it was just a tiki bar being moved from on place to another..ahh, The Keys.
Our one stop on the way to Key West was for some awesome tarpon-feeding at Robbie's Marina in Islamorada.  These suckers are huge and will eat small fish-heads right out of your hand!
We arrived in Key West late in the afternoon and checked into the nice, albeit a bit loud due to traffic on Truman Avneue , La Pensione Inn.   We took a walk in Old Town had a few beers at The Porch (photo above), a quiet beer bar with a great selection just off  the always-busy Duval Street.  We wondered some more along the water and had some more beer and a delicious snack at the relatively new Waterfront Brewery.
We ambled back along the water and were fortunate enough to witness one of the best sunsets we've ever seen in Key West (and we've seen many) at Mallory Square for the daily Sunset Celebration.  The air was a bit chilly after sunset, but otherwise perfect throughout our stay.
 We opted for a late dinner at our favorite restaurant in Key West, the always-awesome Blue Heaven.  I had the daily special which was grilled hog fish (photo above) and
Ashlee had their signature yellow-tail.  Both were delicious!

Sunday, 3/6 - We slept in a bit this morning and then after breakfast at the inn, we strolled over to Nancy Forrester's  Secret Garden, a sanctuary for rescued or abandoned parrots.  

We got an impromptu and private tour of secret garden from Batman and Jerry.   What a great place!
With great dining views and the prospect of more good food (and beer) we decided to have lunch back the new Waterfront Brewery.  It was a good decision.  Cheers!

Despite just getting off the water for several days with the cruise, it's really hard to come to Key West and not get on the water at least a little, so a sunset wine-tasting sail with Danger Charters was just the ticket for us, and a great way to wrap up our way-too-short visit back to one of our favorite places in the world.
Monday, 3/7 - We had a nice, leisurely drive back to Ft. Lauderdale today to fly home.  Before taking off, we had another great lunch at Tap 42 again near the airport.

Stunning views and good weather as we headed north on Highway 1 and back to reality.

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