"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, October 24, 2017

Two Canadians walk into a Nashville bar...

With fall here and our friend, Sharon, and her niece, Lauren, in for a visit from Canada, we found a few fun autumn-themed things to do in the Nashville area for the long weekend while they were here:

Saturday, October 21 -  We checked out a quite large Nashville Predators-themed Corn Maze over at Lucky Ladd Farms in Eagleville, TN today.
Here's an overview of the corn maze (photo stolen from The Nashville Predators email).

We made pretty quick work of the corn maze and its six check-points.  We think the goat did it with the corn cannon in the outhouse (don't ask...you had to be there).  This was our first visit to this area and the Lucky Ladd Farm is a huge complex with a lot of activities besides just the corn maze which made it a good experience for us since the crowds were huge when we arrived but evidently spread out and not just packed onto the narrow trails in the tall corn.
We moved on from the farm to the vineyard with a late afternoon/evening stop at the beautiful, and also quite busy, Arrington Winery, for a picnic with some sketchy cheese (thanks, Eagleville Market and Deli) and several bottles of their pretty darn good wine.  
The evening continued pretty late when we got home with a backyard fire and s'mores along with, you guessed it, "s'more wine." ( Thanks for the photo, Sharon).
Sunday, October 22 - It was another day of sightseeing and revelry in and around Nashville today...we headed to the 12 South area first for a little shopping and a little sipping at The Filling Station which has an amazing selection of craft beer.

Per Lauren's request, we located several large murals around Nashville, some of which Ashlee and I hadn't even seen before.  Evidently, our little big city is known for them now and they have become quite a collection to seek out by visitors.  
We had an early delicious dinner (and more drinks, of course) at Saint Anejo Cantina in The Gulch where we met up with our long, long-time friend, James (Doug) Garza who I went to college with back at Tennessee Tech many moons ago.  We both said that neither of us had changed much over the many years and  we quickly caught up over a lot of laughs and memories. Thanks for the photo, Ashlee
Our next stop after seeking out another mural before dark was the L27 Rooftop Bar on top of the new Westin Hotel downtown.  The night was perfect and the views were jaw-dropping.  What a great city this little town is becoming!
Our final stop of the evening was north of downtown in White's Creek, TN, at the Fontanel property where a national event called The Glow: A Jack O'Lantern Experience was being presented.  We had grabbed some discount tickets through Groupon for their latest entry time, 9:30 PM.  The weather wasn't predicted to work out for us, but somehow it did and we enjoyed the exhibit with no rain, decent night-time temps and very few other people.  

With over 5,000 hand-carved  and hand-molded pumpkins displayed in a dozen or more different scenarios within a 3/10 of a mile walking loop, The Glow was quite an interesting and unique experience.
Monday, October 23 - Ashlee and I had to work today so Sharon and Lauren explored more of Nashville on their own, and we met them for dinner in East Nashville at The Pharmacy for some tasty burgers and tots.  Afterwards we walked off our meals at the always pleasant Opryland Hotel with its magnificent displays and indoor gardens.  We seem to forget what a nice place this is and how it's always changing.  We need to stop by here more often! 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Pilgrimage...to Bermuda and Virginia

Saturday, September 23 -  We attended our second and the 3rd Annual SOLD OUT Pilgrimage Festival today over on The Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin along with our friends Bridgette, Danny and Brenda.

Day One was full of good music with a couple of good smokin' tunes from The Texas Gentlemen to start off with and then a full set by one of our favs, Big Sam's Funky Nation, kicking off the day. We got a bonus of Big Sam next as he joined Better Than Ezra on stage next for their entire set also.
The new super-band, BETTER THAN BIG SAM!
Next, over on the biggest stage of the festival was another of our favorites, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, who put on a great show.
Trombone Shorty on the BIG stage and BIG screen!
We decided to stay at the big stage to assure a good spot for the headliner later on that evening and were pleasantly surprised at how good the band, Walk the Moon, was before that.
Walk the Moon in the broad daylight!
The headliner was the amazing showman and Tennessee native, Justin Timberlake, who put on a fantastic show to close out the night.  Thanks to our friends, Danny and Brenda, for letting us spend the night at their house in nearby Brentwood for the the two-day festival.
Justin rockin' the Pilgrimage Festival t-shirt...producer, co-investor and, now, performer!
JT had a helluva ban with him too.

New JT logo?  Channeling Michael Jackson maybe?
Sunday, September 24 - Pilgrimage Festival Day Two was a little less long for us with just a couple of big "must-sees" including Fitz and the Tantrums and Ryan Adams.  Before the two big shows, we did stop by the intimate new Shady Grove Stage and catch a couple fun songs by Texas troubadour, Charley Crockett.  Whether he's actually kin to Davey Crockett or not, he sure can wail.
The entertaining and quirky Ryan Adams was on his A-game today with blistering guitars and a made-up song on -the-fly for the "dude on the crane" behind the crowd that he could see from his stage vantage point. 
We closed out the festival with some good food (a cheeseburger biscuit for me!) and hearing a couple songs by tonight's headliner, Pearl Jam front-man, Eddie Vedder, before heading home with yet another good music festival under our belts.

Friday, September 29 - We flew up to Baltimore after work today (our second trip to this city this year) with our friend Bethany in preparation for our cruise out tomorrow to Bermuda.  We picked up a rental car (with a nice free upgrade) and checked into a hotel near the airport.  We grabbed a tasty dinner and some drinks nearby at DuClaw Brewing before turning in for the evening.
Our cruise was SOLD OUT by the time we sailed which was not surprising since Bermuda is one of the few tropical islands not to be devastated by powerful hurricanes recently.

Saturday, September 30 -  After a great and memorable breakfast next door to our hotel at a Bob Evans Restaurant (the manager, Mike, was awesome and very generous to us). He gave us some delicious flavored bread loaves (cinnamon, my fav, to the right here) at no charge, plus extra biscuits to take with us.  Doesn't he know we are going on a cruise where it's all you can eat??!!  Yes, we took it all on the boat with us and still ate on it for days anyway. 

We drove a short distance to the Baltimore cruise port to board Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas.  We met our friend and Ashlee's co-worker, Eileen, on board along with her sister, Kathy, husband, Mike, and mother, Betty.  The drinks and good times were flowing as we cruised south down the Chesapeake Bay for several hours before turning east to the Atlantic Ocean. 

We have never cruised out of Baltimore before so it was an interesting and scenic experience to sail down the Chesapeake Bay toward the Atlantic Ocean entrance near Norfolk, VA. 
Squeezing under the couple of bridges that cross the Chesapeake Bay was kind of thrilling.  This one is the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  The weather, albeit a little windy and cool, was just about perfect in terms of visibility.  
We all opted for the unlimited drink package ($55 a day, what a steal!) and  we got our swerve on early and often.  Here's one of MANY white Russians I ordered throughout the cruise
Sunday, October 1 - We had a leisurely day at sea today heading east and the Atlantic Ocean was full of huge swells from Hurricane Lee passing through earlier in the week, but the weather continued to be mostly clear.

Deep blue sea indeed
Monday, October 2 - We arrived in Bermuda just after lunch today and we had a 5-hour island tour set up with Winsome Tours (highly recommended by the way: http://winsometransport.com/).  It was fantastic.  Our guide and driver was, Julie, a co-owner of the company along with her husband, Ralph.  Julie is a native of Bermuda and her family has a long history on the island.  With all seven of us going on the tour, it was a private outing for us in a roomy and comfortable van at a very reasonable price per person.
Our first glimpses of  of the island of Bermuda were stunning from the start with the amazing color of the water and the rugged cliffs plunging into the ocean. At only 20 miles long and two miles at it's widest, it really is an amazing little place all by itself in the wild Atlantic Ocean.   That's Gibbs Hill Lighthouse rising up from the green island which we would get a closer look at soon on our arranged tour.  
At the Royal Navy Dockyard in Bermuda we got great views of the old fort on the NW end of the island.  The two-story building there is their national museum.
Our first stop on the island tour was at one of the first homes ever built on Bermuda (circa. 1609).  This tiny structure now serves as a church.  The support beams inside are made of Bermudian cedar which is now quite rare and expensive.
Next stop:  Somerset Bridge, the smallest drawbridge in the world.  Note the huge school bream in the water waiting for us to toss some more bread in the water for them.
Next up was a quick stop at the Gibbs Hills Lighthouse which we saw when we first cruised in.  There are commanding views here of most of the island and that's radar on top of the light tower.
We drove by famous and beautiful Horseshoe Bay Beach and although we didn't stop here, it was our first glimpse at the unique pink-hued sand beaches of Bermuda.
We did stop at the much quieter Warwick Long Bay Beach nearby for a walk on the pinkish sand.
We had a brief walk through the bustling capital city of Hamilton next.  The entire island is clean, safe and very quaint.
The east end of the island is the most beautiful in my opinion.  This is Tobacco Bay near the historic town of St. George.
More east-end beauty at the beach near Ft. St. Catherine
We got to walk around the historic and quaint town of St. George and I spotted some large parrot fish feeding just off the docks there in the clear water.
We had a fun stop before heading back to the ship at the east-end location of the famous Swizzle Inn where we had their signature Rum Swizzle drinks and their tasty Bermuda fish chowder which had quite the gumbo taste I thought.
Tuesday, October 3 - After spending the night in dock (first time for that while cruising) we woke up in Bermuda and had a half a day ahead of us for some more fun before we set sail at 2 PM.

On the opposite side of the fort where we were docked is Snorkel Beach where for $5 you can kick back on the sand and take a dip in the ocean within a 5 minute walk of the ship.  The wind was still strong with the after affects of the hurricane that went by earlier in the week, so it was a little too rough for snorkeling, but I did manage to get in the beautiful water for a swim.  The ladies did some shopping afterwards and met up with me and Mike at The Turtle and Onion Pub where we had pints of local craft beer from Dockyard Brewing before heading back to the ship.  
Sailing out of of Bermuda was just asbeautiful and we hated to leave this lovely place.  We definitely want to come back and spend more time here perhaps with a flight in and a few days in a rental house on the island....puttin' it on the to-do list!
Wednesday, October 4 - It was another day at sea cruising back from Bermuda with much smoother waters and nice temps.  We spent a lot of time out on deck enjoying the sun and ocean breezes.
We ate like kings and the food on the boat was very good. I continued my supper tradition while cruising of ordering double entrees.  I had steak every night with my usual seafood selection.   The unlimited mojitos were great also.
While she is an older boat (1996), the Grandeur of the Seas, is still a classy lady.  She was refurbished in 2012 and even had a fire on board in 2013, but our trip was perfect, and the old girl served us well.  This shot is looking up the main Centrum area to the many decks above.  
We got back into U.S. waters under a super-moon and watched the lights of  the Chesapeake Bay Bridge disappear into the water becoming the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel.  A very cool experience to cruise through.  
Thursday, October 5 - We got back into port in Baltimore early and after dropping off Bethany at the airport, we headed south into Virginia to finish out the week.  We continue to have great luck with AirBnB and found two excellent places to stay the next two nights as we toured the beautiful Shenandoah Valley region.

We continued to have good weather as we made our way into northern Virginia.  We drove through the quaint and beautiful  town of Leesburg after our first stop nearby at the hip and interesting Vanish Farms Brewery for a libation or two.
Our next stop was Bluemont Vineyards with its breathtaking views perched atop Blue Ridge Mountain.  The wine was decent but the views are amazing.  Northern Virginia is known for its many wineries in this area.
Our AirBnB lodging for the night was nearby in the same town of Bluemont, VA.  It was the private bottom floor of a nice house with a great view into the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia beyond looking northward from the same mountain that Bluemont Vineyard is on.
We had dinner tonight in the beautiful little town of Purcellville, VA, at Magnolia's at the Mill.  The food and ambiance were great.  Before dinner, we walked a few doors down and had some pre-dinner libations at Jack's Run Brewing.
Friday, October 6 -  We slept in a bit this morning and then continued south to the Shenandoah National Park.  We spent most of the day touring along the beautiful and famous Skyline Drive where an amazing vista seems to be around every curve.
While the fall colors were just starting to show themselves, the views and weather along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park were amazing nonetheless during our trip.
Like I mentioned earlier, we got a sweet free upgrade from the full-size car we reserved.  Thanks, Alamo!   This  new Jeep Grand Cherokee had all the bells and whistles and was a perfect touring vehicle for our trip.
Did we mention the views are outstanding along Skyline Drive?
The higher the elevation the more the fall colors were starting to pop.  Outside this tunnel along Skyline Drive was our best find of the day.
We exited the Skyline Drive in search of some food and wine in the late afternoon, and found both in great fashion at the lovely Veritas Vineyards in Afton, VA.  They were setting up for a wedding  while we were there and it was a beautiful place to have a ceremony.
Our lodging for tonight from AirBnB was a tee-pee...yep, a tee-pee set up on a working farm in Fairfield, VA.  It was "glamping" for the most part with a  comfy sleep-number bed inside and a nice private bathhouse nearby.  Besides the idea of staying in a tee-pee for the night, our quick visit here will always be memorable for other reasons like the hosts' half-naked kid running around, the flock of guineas squawking us a greeting, the giant pot-bellied pig nosing around the yard, and various other animals like llama and goats throughout the farm, and our unique hosts, Sara and Jeremiah.

That'll do, pig.

Saturday, October 7 -  We packed up pretty early and headed back north today to meet our friends, Starling and John, who live in nearby Frederick, Maryland, who we visited with earlier this year during the Women's March in Washington.  

I call this one the tee-pee, pee-pee view.   This private bathhouse was excellent.  Those are just screen windows, so a morning shower in here was invigorating to say the least! 
Our one stop on the way back north was for a quick fun factory tour (and unlimited samples!!) at the Route 11 Potato Chips factory in Mt. Jackson, VA.  Our fav flavors are BBQ and dill pickles.  Just like Jack Daniels, these babies are all made in just one place no matter where you find them for sale.
We met Starling and John at the 868 Winery back in the adorable town of Purcellville, VA.  We had a great wine/food tasting there and then hung out on their beautiful grounds for a while to chat and catch up.
We moved on toe Dirt Farm Brewing over next to Bluemont Winery from the other day with even more great views and a huge crowd thanks to it being a Saturday with nice weather.  Their beer is excellent also.
We closed out the night with dinner back in lovely Leesburg, VA, sitting outside at  Lightfoot Restaurant where I had the amazing Cajun spaghetti with mussels, shrimp and sausage.  Delicious!
Sunday, October 8 -  After a nice late checkout at the fancy Ritz-Carlton hotel in Tyson Corners, VA, just outside Washington, D.C.  today, we headed back to BWI to fly back home after a nice "double-vacation" squeezed into a week's amount of time.

Not one pot-bellied pig was spotted at the Ritz-Carlton that we stayed at last night!