Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Orleans, Breaux Bridge, Orange, Texas

1/18/2012 The Big Easy The weather turned sunny and warm as we rolled in to New Orleans. Our hotel was on Decatur Street right next to Jackson Square and Cafe du Monde.

There is music everywhere and Frenchman Street has displaced Bourbon Street as the place for good music. We did find a good Zydeco band at Turtle Bay on Bourbon Street one night and Brenda launched her career as a washboard player as revealed in the video below. We had breakfast at Cafe du Monde every day and the sugar high lasted well into the afternoon. We also toured the aquarium and took a trolley car ride.

We're putting most of our photos/videos on YouTube now because the quality is better so click on this link  to see our video blog of New Orleans.

1/20/2012 Breaux Bridge, Louisiana Breaux Bridge is the Crawfish Capital of the World where you can hear great Cajun/Zydeco music and meet some really friendly people (and of course eat crawfish – see video below). We went to Cafe des Amis for the Saturday Zydeco Breakfast – Crawfish etouffee omelets, Tabasco Boody Mary's and dance lessons (big shout out to Karen and Nicko). My high school friend, Ken, and his lovely wife Linda met us there.

Our last day in Breaux Bridge we went to Whiskey River Landing to hear Geno Delafose at the Sunday afternoon dance. Our GPS got us on a road with a river on our right and a 40 foot levee on our left. After driving a while she (GPS) said “Arriving at destination”. We looked around but there was nothing there. We made a U turn and noticed a narrow, steep shale road heading up the levee. We went up it and at the top could see Whiskey River Landing perched way down on the edge of the swamp – neat setting.

On our way to Orange we stopped at the Tabasco Plant at Avery Island. When we got out of the car you could actually smell Tabasco Sauce. They produce 770,000 bottles of Tabasco Sauce a day there. The gift shop had samples of some new products including Tabasco ice cream and Tabasco cola.

Click this link  to see our video blog of Breaux Bridge/Avery Island.

1/24/2012 Orange, Texas I grew up in Orange, Texas (Okay - some may dispute the idea that I actually grew up but that's a separate issue.) Thanks to Sandye and Van for setting up lunch where we could see who could come up with the most episodes of “Do you remember when......” It was fun to reminisce with Scott, Van, Ken, Katy, Cassandra, Judy and Sandye.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chesapeake to Nashville

1/11/12 Our first stop was Chattanooga. It rained all the way getting there but the next day it cleared enough to look out from Lookout Mountain. We were surprised at all the houses there. There were several large neighborhoods and a row of mansions along the rim. We visited Fairyland Country Club which we saw perched on the edge of a cliff as we drove up.    

I wanted to see how far I could hit my driver off the edge but alas they have no golf course. Note the sign indicating children are not wanted in the bar.

Rock City ROCKS!!. There are so many natural formations and narrow passages. 

The owners have added walkways and foot bridges. They decorated one of the long caves with scenes of children's stories. On our way down the mountain it started snowing. It must be exciting getting up and down that steep, windy road after a snowfall.

1/13/12 Lynchburg, Tennessee is in a dry county but happens to be the place where all the Jack Daniels  consumed in the world is distilled. Jack bought his first still at the age of thirteen from a minister whose flock didn't like him making devil's brew. Four stills pump out a continuous two inch stream of 140 proof alcohol. The distillate is blended with pure mountain water above their damn to bring it to 100 proof. They say the downstream water which has a duck pond and is inhabited by farm animals is diverted to Kentucky to make bourbon (ha, ha).

The whiskey is then put in 55 gallon barrels and stored in two large warehouses for 4 to 7 years. The federal tax that will be paid on these 20,000 barrels is around $13 million. They actually sell barrels of their top blend for $12,000 (Dave want to go halves?) and you get your name on a plaque in the “Hall of Fame”. There are 370 employees there and one third of them are quality control tasters. (I asked but they weren't taking applications.) On the third Friday of every month every employee gets a bottle of Old No. 7. Our guide told us that day always has 100 percent attendance. The sculpture is aptly named Jack on the Rocks.

1/13/12 We went to the Grand Ole Opry our first night in Nashville (we almost arrived an hour early because we didn't realize we had crossed a time zone). Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Riders in the Sky, Bill Anderson and other performers (including two new unknowns) were on the bill. 


The next day we toured Belle Meade Plantation, the birthplace of thoroughbred racing in America. Belle Meade was the scene of a Civil War battle with bullet holes still in the pillars. Virtually all of the top thoroughbreds in America can be traced back to Bonnie Scotland (the brown horse) who was purchased by  Williams Giles Harding in 1872.

Bonnie Scotland's descendants include Native Dancer, Never Say Die, Sunday Silence and Triple Crown Winner Secretariat. Gamma, the white horse, was the ultimate "Working Mom". She would birth a few future champions and then go out and win a few races. Horse racing was the national sport at this time with Nashville having seven race tracks. Belle Meade prospered until 1903 when a severe recession occurred. Also in this year the last two male descendants died leaving ownership to a young widow with four children. The property had to be auctioned off and horses whose siblings had sold for $30,000 the year before went for as little as $25.

The Opry Land Resort has nine acres of indoor tropical gardens. The flood two years ago put twelve feet of water in the lobby. There was no power for six months. You can see that it has recovered beautifully since then. (Click the arrow to play.)

Our last night in Nashville we went to the Station Inn to see the Doyle and Debbie Show. We laughed for two solid hours at their trailer trash country duo humor. A "tender" moment in the show was when Debbie sang "You Wrote My Name in Golden Letters in the Snow". They've really developed these characters and this hilarious show. If you're ever in Nashville go see them.