Through the south we go!

 

For our photo album of this part of our trip, click on the following link:

 

http://picasaweb.google.com/henderbalz/USRoadTrip2#

 

Off we went across Texas to the outskirts of Houston to see the Duffy Boys, Eddie and Joey, and Eddie’s wife, Denise. My cousins, not on the Italian side, but on the Irish/German biker nice guy side! When we finally got there we were welcomed with opened arms and opened icy cold bud-lights. Perfect drink for the extremely hot humid weather, even at 6:30pm. Right away, as we talked outside Joey’s, I noticed little bugs flying about, bugs I have not seen in a long time, and bugs Jim has never seen before ever. Love bugs all over the place, some flying solo, but most flying about in their rear ended attached way. On our trip from Houston we saw even more Love Bugs, smashed on the windshield, holding on for dear life on the hood, mushed on the front grill with bug juice running down the sides of the car. Poor little Love Bugs!

 

After we caught up some, we moved to Eddie’s shop, and got acquainted with the “Trike.” Eddie’s creation, half mustang, half motorcycle, all three wheeled red hot Trike. Of course, we had to check out all the motorcycles too. Then we went back to Joey’s for some yummy spaghetti dinner made for us by Denise. Thanks Denise! After dinner, we retreated to Joey’s man cave. I have to say I was a virgin man caver and I think this was the mother of all man caves! It was a mixture of war museum, teen hang out, train hobbyist and best of all, band practice studio. Great place and great stories to go along with it. Unfortunately we did not get to hear any of their musical talent, but I am still amazed Eddie taught himself how to play guitar in his late 40’s! When sleep was creeping in, we were walked to our guest RV in the field near the horses, yes horses. If we had more time, which I wish we did, I would have loved to go for some rides. The next morning we did go for a ride, on Eddie’s “Texas Independent Trike”. What fun, all the fun of a motorcycle, but in the comfort and shade of the back seat of a mustang! If you are interested in getting yourself a Trike, I have an in with the creator, email me and I will set you up! Thanks Eddie, Joey, and Denise for some more big time Texas hospitality.

 

We left thinking we would still try get to New Orleans. You see, although Hurricane Gustav did not hit New Orleans directly, it was close enough to force an evacuation of the city and the city was still shut down. Hurricane Dawn worked her wonders once again.  We could not contact our hotel or even the bigger hotels, so we decided to head north. We drove to northwestern Louisiana, then across the top of the state and sadly enough we left the state all in the same day. One day we will get to New Orleans! We stopped for a night in Vicksburg, Mississippi, the location of a great Civil War battle. We ate at our first Cracker Barrel chain restaurant…probably our last too. We got a good night’s sleep and hit the 16 mile battlefield drive early the next morning. Quite impressive, it just goes on and on and they did this all on foot, with large cannons and shotguns…for 47 days! Finally the Union soldiers won, but not until after they lost 17,000 of their men. The Confederates held their own for as long as they could and now we have this fine country of ours with a black man running for president. We have come a long way baby!

 

After our fill of American history for the day, we headed to Chattanooga, TN. We got a room at a hotel with many people that had fled the hurricane. They were waiting until Mayor Nagin gave the go ahead to go back. We hit a Cajun restaurant for dinner since we missed it in Louisiana. We were in the downtown area, although kind of empty, but still with people milling about and even living in local lofts. It is what seems like a pretty cool city, with up and coming inner city living. Had a great dinner of Creole shrimp, jambalaya, and red beans and we brought in one of Jim’s bottles of French wine from 1982. Oooh, a bit past it’s prime, but still yummy. Across the street was this huge Holiday Inn built into an old ornate train station, very cool.

 

Another early start the next morning, off to Radford, VA, the home of my alma mater. The drive went very smoothly, but Jim did go a bit crazy when we stopped by the Fireworks store Tennessee. It is just crazy they sell some of this stuff…things that explode up to 300 feet in the air and 100 feet wide, things that are illegal in all other states. It is an adult male’s explosion dream come true! And I have to say I am bad because we bought some for a friend’s boys, right now I do not want to say which one as she does not know it yet! Hello, wouldn’t we be the coolest people ever if we showed up at their house with things that blow up, spark, flame and go kaboom?! Okay, as far as the rest of the day’s trip went, we did have a little snafu at the Waffle House. Let me explain, Waffle Houses are at every exit along the highway and we just could not resist any longer. We finally broke down when Jim was dying of hunger. Jim orders up some waffles and just before the cook throws down some batter, they realized they are out of batter. The Waffle House is out of waffle batter, go figure! Jim says out loud “how can you run out of waffle batter at a waffle house?” and the cook turns, does not apologize, but says gruffly, “So, we are out, it happens!” IHOP makes pancakces and they never run out, Waffle House should change their name to IFLOP because they suck. Thank goodness we could watch him cook the alternative meal, so no “extras” ended up in Jim’s hash browns dish.

 

Now back to reminiscing of my college days gone by…Dred the Red, Radford University! Ha, the mascot is a Scottish guy and the school is plaid, scary and tough, eh? The town around the campus has not changed much, some of the streets are a bit bigger, I think fewer trees, and more buildings, but it really has not gotten huge. It still has the small college feel I liked. The funniest thing is when I went to school there, the preppy look was in with plaid shorts, checkered vans shoes and all, and scary enough, these same fashions are back! It is like I never left, except that I finally gained those freshmen 15! We hit one of my hang outs back in the day; BT’s celebrating their 25th anniversary, but had a much earlier night than back in the day. On a sad note, the fountain changed a bit and that is not the sad part. The new fountain was a donation in honor of an alumni and Sig Ep brother. Chip Perkins, a friend of mine back in the day passed on in 2004 at only 40 years old. I remember clearly, Chip’s wavy thick blonde hair, long lanky body and Frisbee throwing skills. A moment of silence was in order. [Jim apologizes for his wife’s wannabe Daneille Steele writing moment].

 

Slept in on Saturday and went off for a ride in the country, because the 6,000 miles we are driving on this trip was not enough. Jim was just as amazed as I though he would be with the real Shenandoah Valley. He fell in love with the beautiful, green, rolling hills, old farm houses, small towns, rivers and idea of living so close to a great place for weekend outings. You see, there is a tiny baby Shenandoah Valley in California around 1 hours East of Sacramento, where we have gotten many of our wonderful California wines. Now, Jim has seen the real one! And we did another first for Jim; we went to a covered bridge. Jim was amazed with the architecture, and it still stands! On the way back to our home away from home, the Super 8 Hotel, we hit Floyd, famous for Bluegrass music. But in this little town, one event a weekend is aparently more than enough and there was a celebration the night before. Although we did not get bluegrass, we did get some nice music, the cool jazz kind, but yet still good. The dinner at Oddfellows Cantina was outstanding, but wait, the Virginian wine I tried was not!

The next morning, right off the bat we hit the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. It is a road right along the top of the mountain range, with great views on both sides. Unfortunately, it was not late enough into fall to get the real treat… millions upon millions of trees changing colors. I did get one photo of a tree with around 5 leaves that had turned a nice warm red already. One day, we will have to go back; Jim needs to see it and I can never get enough of it. We slid off the parkway to check out Charlottesville, home (Monticello) of Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd president, and University of Virginia. What a great town, I do not remember it from my days partying at Easters! It is like a tiny posh city in the middle of the mountains, and Monticello was even more beautiful. Jefferson had a nice set up, we like how he rolled. Big library, beautiful gardens, great food and libation… he knew how to live! The dinning room came complete with wine bottle dumbwaiters hidden in the sides of the fireplace, for easy access to his basement wine cellar.

 

Off to Baltimore by sundown! More to come, stories of bad to worse neighborhoods, eating food of the American colonial days, falling in love with America even in this time of political unrest, and great cocktails at a hip rooftop garden bar.

 

 

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~ by HenderBalz on September 19, 2008.

One Response to “Through the south we go!”

  1. When I was driving from Tampa to Gainesville, it seems like there was a Cracker Barrel on every exit. When I tried it, I was impressed. Any restaurant with a gift shop that is an exclusive provider of a Kenny Rogers CD can’t be all that bad. I liked the food too. Good American comfort food. It seems that in CA, a lot of that is either served at Denny’s or at a 50’s diner. I’m looking forward to my next Cracker Barrel experience. It seems like the nearest one is in Flagstaff, AZ.

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