Bananas and Other Missed Opportunities

Plans are few and far between on the road, as are reservations when Jenn and I travel, and traveling solo was no different for me. As I made my way from East to West across the states I pretty much stayed where I wound up by day’s end that had a vacancy and a cheap rate. And always only after a bedbug bed check Jenn had instilled in me whenever we traveled as I’d watch her strip the sheets of her bed while I was more worried with checking Yelp for what nightcaps were in the area. Once she was satisfied they were clear, we’d settle in and head out.

Sometimes we’d note places to go and things to see and even get to them if they were of utmost importance, and sometimes we’d see a road sign for a landmark or local must-see and take a segue from the path for that instead. For the places we’d wind up missing as a result or didn’t get to in time we’d just add them to our list for the future.

And then there are the fruitless but fun pursuits. Somewhere outside of Atlanta Jenn texted me that the Big Banana Car was on display. So with her as my co-pilot in spirit I turned around and drove in its direction. If you know anything about Jenn then you know she loves her bananas.

When it comes to costume parties I go glam and Jenn goes bananas
When it comes to costume parties I go glam and Jenn goes bananas

 

 

 

 

 

And if you know anything about GPS and map apps you know they’re not always right. Half an hour into my journey the directions sent me to some industrial park with a similar named street. There was no banana where I wound up, just an office building and a cop who pulled up alongside to tell me to pull into the parking lot nearby instead of the side of the road where I was attempting to re-route my route. Eventually I did see 3 banana yellow colored cars but no actual banana.

Not a banana
Not a banana

 

 

 

 

 

Not a banana either
Not a banana either

 

 

 

Finally I made it to the strip mall where they had tweeted they were at when Jenn texted they just posted they had packed up and were off to their next destination. Mission Banana was a bust. By this point I was hungry and saw something banana yellow nearby calling my name.

Moe knows it's lunchtime
Moe knows it’s lunchtime

 

 

 

It was named Moe’s and had a great big sign hailing it as the original Moe’s.

Moe's sign

I figured it was a local southern fave. Turned out it was more South of the border as it served up southwest fare and was a chain rather than a Mom & Pop’s type place I prefer, but new to these parts it wasn’t a franchise I was familiar with and I’m always up for a quesadilla to quell my hunger, so I ordered up a chicken club one and sampled the salsa bar as I took a bite of a new (for me) regional staple. I was less bummed I passed up something more regionally Southern in these parts, like the BBQ joint I passed back by the industrial park, than I was about being able to connect with a banana for Jenn. We have a very odd bond. But when someone has saved your life in the past you’re willing to jump on board and support what they live for.

Still not a banana
Still not a banana

 

 

 

 

 

Found these at a gas station/convenience store. So close.
Found these at a gas station/convenience store. So close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my way to Nashville that night I made a detour to Chattanooga and delighted myself (I’m easily amused) by standing on the tracks of where the Chattanooga Choo-Choo once chugged along.

Choo Choo!
Choo Choo!

 

 

 

 

 

tracks

 

 

 

 

 

tracks feet

 

 

 

 

 

Whiskey is another passion of Jenn’s. Bananas and whiskey, what’s not to love about that gal? She’s a fun friend. It’s a shared love, as I do enjoy a good whiskey sour time and again, so in her honor as I continued on and saw signs for the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in the distance I also made a sidetrack trip to see that. Sadly it was closed by the time I made it to its gates, which is ironically situated in a dry county, but the scent of the pungent forbidden spirits filled the air. I paid my respects and took a photo before moving on.

JD sign

Unfortunately Nashville would prove to be a dry stop for me as well even though it was soaking wet. After managing my hydroplaning car through a torrential downpour on the highway I could only find an affordable hotel on the outskirts of the city. I drove down the main strip of fun bars and listened to the live country music coming from each, but decided that to stop for a drink and try to find my hotel in the rain or bothering to go back was not particularly wise or safe (or would be near the legal limit if you saw the number of fun bars there were to try) so I stayed in and added a night out in Nashville to the future to do list for another visit.

2 of my favorite things. I will be back.
2 of my favorite things. I will be back.

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning I did find a funky banana yellow van in the parking lot registered to seekers of the paranormal. Proving that on the road you can count on the abnorm.

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

 

 

 

 

 

On my way out the random encounters continued as I drove through the city on a sunnier morning. I was greeted with participants dressed in tutus and even bunny ears gearing up in costume for some sort of run/walk fundraiser. I saw a big boot, a giant guitar, and the birthplace of bluegrass, Ryman Auditorium.

Size does matter
Size does matter

 

 

 

 

 

 

guitarBlues sign

 

 

 

 

Somewhere outside of Music City there was no love as I came across a very likeable little place called the Loveless Café.

No love, no vacancy
No love, no vacancy

 

 

 

 

Well in lieu of love they had something even better, lots of bacon! bacon sign

 

 

The BBQ smoker house adjacent was at it filling the air with rich smoky goodness for the dishes being served up inside but there was a line out the door and a wait for a seat so sadly I passed on some ribs and got some of their Piggy Popcorn, candied bacon popcorn, which they sold in their shop alongside an assortment of bacon concoctions and themed gifts as well as a variety of another local fave, pralines, including whiskey ones. I was really enjoying my taste of Tennessee.

Oink if you love bacon
Oink if you love bacon

 

 

 

 

 

 

bacon sign 2

 

 

 

 

Mmm, that's nuts.
Mmm, that’s nuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I drove out a loveless-themed tune called “Merry Go Round” by Kacey Musgraves came on the radio with the lyrics, “Mary Mary quite contrary, we get bored so we get married… Jack and Jill went up the hill, Jack burned out on booze and pills and Mary had a little lamb, Mary just don’t give a damn no more.” I turned it up as I was even starting to enjoy Country music too. They sure do know how to turn a phrase and tell a story. I looked forward to my next new story on the horizon as I headed down the road.

Happy trails,
Sara

© 2013 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

King Me

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home
ticket
I’ve got a golden ticket!

On a recent cross country road trip I grew giddy when I discovered I’d be passing through a must see city on my list, Memphis, and was sure to stop to see its local treasure, the hallowed home of Elvis. It was even apropos that my visit to Graceland would fall on Easter weekend to take in where the King of kings once lived.

 

With my AAA card I got a discount for the Platinum Tour which included a tour of his 2 planes and his beloved car collection.

planes sign

 

Daddy’s little girl, Lisa Marie, got a plane named after her. And what a nice ride it was. My dad gave me the keys to the family station wagon to borrow once in a while and later the spare Hyundai we had parked in the driveway growing up. This was definitely a different kind of dad.

LM plane
Now this is flying First Class

 

 

 

 

 

 

TSA Elvis style
TSA Elvis style
You ain't nothing but a Hound Dog II, but still nothing to sneeze at
You ain’t nothing but a Hound Dog II, but still nothing to sneeze at

 

 

 

There was plenty of leg room on the Lisa Marie luxury liner. The couches and chairs were plastic wrapped for their protection from the public, as well as his bed. And oh what a bed. Would you expect anything less than a blue suede bed for the the man who sang about blue suede shoes?

Blue, blue, blue suede bed
Blue, blue, blue suede bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend whose young daughter, Zoe, who was the same age I was when I first fell for the King had just discovered him and wanted to know if it was true Elvis had died on the toilet as she’d heard. I told her I didn’t ask but I did get her a photo of his bathroom on the plane.

A leather padded throne fit for a King
A leather padded throne fit for a King in the on board bathroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to tour Graceland you take a shuttle bus you board across the street where you are given a headset device which talks you through the home, room by room, and throughout the total Elvis experience. It was lightly raining that day (or was it the angels shedding tears for the King?) as we drove through the gates and up the driveway to the entrance, decked out with lion statues, naturally.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home
lion
A noble lion king for the King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was surprising was how in comparison to today’s celebrity homes and suped up cribs of those with lifestyles of the rich and famous how much smaller Graceland is than I had imagined, but what was lacking in size was made up for in the grandeur of decadence as only Elvis could do. Upon entering the residence you are greeted by one of 3 nearby chandeliers. chandelier hall
Off to your right is the peacock themed living room housing a 15 foot couch and a grand piano in the adjoining room reminding you of the music that built this palace.

Pretty as a peacock
Pretty as a peacock
That is one long lounge
That is one long lounge
Art featuring the artist
Art featuring the artist
Dear ol' mom and dad
Dear ol’ mom and dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The upstairs is off limits, as Elvis preferred his privacy and out of respect for that (and for the fact that may very well be where the bathroom is that he passed) you are kept to the first floor and below. (Sorry, Zoe, I couldn’t get close enough to find out.)

The bedroom his parents stayed in is on display just down the hall.parents

 

 

 

 

 

The one love Elvis and I share is for TV, and he loved to have one in almost every room, including his formal dining room.
tv

 

Gourmet peanut butter and banana sandwiches, anyone?
Gourmet peanut butter and banana sandwiches, anyone?

 

 

 

 

As Lisa Marie informs us on our recorded headset presentation the kitchen was the central core of the home with ’round the clock meals thanks to there being so many guests and friends over and was a favorite hangout area and has been left intact as it last was actively used and decorated in its current 70’s tone. It was rather homey vs. luxe, and there is a TV there too.

Order up
Order up

 

 

 

 

 

 

And speaking of TV, again, next up is the downstairs, where you descend a mirrored wall staircase to discover Elvis’ triple threat of 3 TVs on a wall, which we’re told he had airing the 3 different networks at the same time so he could keep up with what was going on just like world leaders and newsmen of that day as he’d heard. Decorating another wall of that room is a lightning bolt, an image he became associated with during the 70’s and liked to have emblazoned on items and clothing. The monkey sculpture is funky and strangely makes sense in that setting.

3 TVs are better than 1
3 TVs are better than 1
Bam!
Bam!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pool table in the adjoining room, where the walls are covered in cloth vs. paper, still has a tear on the tabletop where one of his buddies messed up a challenging pool shot as he tried to shark the King.

rip tear by the far back right pocket
Rip tear by the far back right pocket
Oh so quilty
Oh so quilty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you ascend back up another staircase you encounter the jungle, or rather another popular hang out room and recording space, The Jungle Room. Complete with tropical wood carved furniture, a waterfall wall, animal prints and the ever classic floor to ceiling green shag carpeting, it was inspired by Hawaii, one of Elvis’ favorite vacation spots. Talk about a man cave, this is about as groovy as they get.

Welcome to the jungle, baby
Welcome to the jungle, baby
A "wild" room
A “wild” room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just outside is a brick enclosed space once used as a smokehouse by his dad, Vernon, and then later converted into a firing range so the King could get off some shots.

Smokin'!
Smokin’!
Bang bang!
Bang bang!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with his passion for karate Elvis also took up a love of racquetball and oversaw the building of his own personal court and leisure space, including a piano, for that pastime.

Fun and games
Fun and games
Personalized space
Personalized space
The piano he last played before he passed
The piano he last played before he passed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The court has now been converted into a space to showcase his performance wardrobe and several of his many awards.

It's the suits that made this man in his later performances
It’s the suits that made this man in his later performances
Stylin'
Stylin’
Best dressed
Best dressed
A wall of accolades
A wall of accolades

Another whole room on the premises, The Hall of Gold, has been built to house the King’s gold, his extensive gold record collection and other outfits that marked his well lived life, including his wedding attire and his G.I. uniform.

The Holy Grail Hall
The Holy Grail Hall
Give it up for Heartbreak Hotel
Give it up for Heartbreak Hotel
Here comes the bride
Here comes the bride
Paisley for Groom Presley
Paisley for Groom Presley
He had those hup, two, three, four occupation G.I. Blues
He had those hup, two, three, four occupation G.I. Blues

 

 

Presley enjoyed a little poolside time and an area to relax with the Meditation Garden right next to it. Today fans can pay their last respects to where the King now rests alongside his parents.

Splish splash
Splish splash

Med Garden

A tranquil setting
A tranquil setting
Long live the King
Long live the King
An eternal flame for an eternal talent
An eternal flame for an eternal talent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elvis has left the building
Elvis has left the building

Last stop on my tour was the Elvis Presley Automoblie Museum.
Quite a roomful of classic cars.
Rolls
cool car
Purple

Priscilla's sweet ride
Priscilla’s sweet ride
Now that's a classic car
Now that’s a classic car, and for his mom. What a sweet mama’s boy.
Elvis' car he last drove through the gates of Graceland
Elvis’ car he last drove through the gates of Graceland

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all of that Graceland gawking it was time to go get me some good eats. As I was in Memphis there was only one thing on my menu: some good ol’ Memphis barbecue! And luckily just down the road was a sweet spot to go get some.

I pulled up to Marlowe’s Ribs and Restaurant.
Just look for the Pink Pig and you’ve found it.

Oink oink
Oink oink

 

 

 

 

If you’d like, they’ll even give you a little Southern hospitality via their VIP service and pick you up in one of their pink limos.

VIP, the P is for pink
VIP, the P is for pink

 

 

 

 

 

I opted for their pink drink, called the Pink Cadillac of course. As you can see, even Elvis is a fan.

Pretty in pink, even better to drink
Pretty in pink, even better to drink

With its Elvis-themed kitsch adorning the place, in case you didn’t get enough at the Graceland gift shop, Marlowe’s is a tourist’s delight, but that doesn’t take a thing away from its BBQ. In fact I was in for a tasty treat, and award winning at that. The scent of rich smoky goodness envelops you as you walk through the doors courtesy of the barbecue pit in the kitchen.

I ordered the 2 entree combo plate featuring my two BBQ favorites: ribs and pulled pork, accompanied by coleslaw and corn fritters and the most delightful fried bread concoction. At first I thought they were just larger corn fritters but they turned out to be dinner rolls, if you deep fried them like a donut, lightly crispy on the outside but with soft warm delicious bread baked inside. I’m more of a sauce gal vs. a dry rub when it comes to my meat but they feature both and I was not let down. My plate came served up with some of the best sauce that has smacked past these lips. Their sweet tender pulled pork was a delight and the ribs had a deep dense smoke flavor that went beyond the pit and straight on into the bones themselves. I’ve never tasted anything so smoked through and through and it could darn well set off a smoke detector if it too had a tongue to take a taste.

Mmm mmm Memphis BBQ
Mmm mmm Memphis BBQ
A little somethin' on the side
A little somethin’ on the side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With my belly blessed with some BBQ and my everything Elvis experience checked off my list I hopped back in my Honda, as no King ever got me a plane or a personalized Mercedes, but Memphis had loved me tender and it was time to hit the road.

-Sara
Elvis sign

An Ode to BBQ

Along with the adventures we’ve embraced on the road, one of the mottos I live by is to “taste life” and there is no better time to do that than when meal time rolls around.  Pizza is a pretty perfect food item. Growing up on the East coast I tend to prefer the flat crust New York style pie whereas Jenn, a Chicago gal, goes for the deep dish.  But our explorations of the West together have increased our exposure to the cuisine of BBQ.  On a trip I once took to Texas I attended the BBQ Cook-Off at Rodeo Austin. My initial goal was to kiss a cowboy, which I accomplished, (just a little cheek action) but I then topped that by kissing a clown. Those actions were soon overshadowed by the Cook-Off and the assortment of barbecue available including dry rubbed cuts of beef, smoked sausage rolls wrapped in tortillas, and BBQ brisket Frito pie.  For a girl who grew up in New England with grilled chicken brushed with barbecue sauce from a bottle counting as BBQ I soon tasted what I had been missing out on and it created an appetite for more.

In California Jenn and I took off for a day in Pioneertown.  The town originated as an Old West set and even includes a mock gunfight by the local re-enactment performers. After taking in the gunslingers (Pew! Pew!) we popped into Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace to get some grub.  On the way in we were greeted by the BBQ smokers out back and a cast of characters inside- a mix of locals, tourists, cowboys and bikers- who were even more entertaining than the shoot-out show on the street.We preferred to pose rather than draw our pistols A jukebox fills the air when a band’s not on stage, pool tables are available for a game to pass the time, although we didn’t play this time around, and drinks come served in mason jars. The friendly staff makes you feel at home as you indulge in an assortment of Tex-Mex tacos loaded with thinly sliced tri-tip, baby back ribs smothered in tangy sweet BBQ sauce, savory homemade chili poured over pinto beans and mesquite grilled chicken capturing the smoky spicy flavors of the Southwest.

Now if you want the true taste of mesquite then you have to go there, so we did. Mesquite, Nevada was a pit stop where we found a pig roast fresh off the spit. Jenn sticks with chicken and I’m partial to a slab of ribs slathered in sauce but at The Smoke Shack I opted for the pulled pork. The pig on the table might be enough to make most cringe, and I apologize to my PETA peeps and those of the vegetarian persuasion, but even Charlotte would have climbed down from her spider web and chowed on Wilbur too, if she knew he tasted this good. The Shack is focused on the food. You order up at the counter, grab a seat in the dining area to enjoy your BBQ which is simply served in a basket. After lunch if you’re feeling lucky head on in to the attached casino.

In a sea of strip malls in Phoenix, Arizona we discovered Bobby Q, offering up both tasty BBQ and an adjoining nightclub, the Q Lounge. After consuming some super creamy mac n’ cheese, pecan coleslaw, roasted corn or ranch beans among the side choices you can select to accompany one of their great big barbecue platters you can shake it all off as you dance next door. You’ll need to once the sugar rush hits from the fresh warm complimentary donut they serve you to complete this mega meal. And if dancing’s not your thing you can play some beer pong or get bottle service in their VIP section and be a voyeur as the smoke machine and laser lights create a pseudo-Vegas styled atmosphere as the patrons hit the floor.  We even made some fun new friends before finally succumbing to the food coma and calling it a night.

Other BBQ breaks we’ve enjoyed include The Smoking Apple, an unexpected Utah treat in Lindon, the Toll Road Restaurant in Death Valley where I got a rack of ribs and afterwards Jenn racked up the points playing me in pool at the Badwater Saloon next door and in case you think that BBQ can’t be classy well the Wild West Cowboy Steakhouse in Buckeye, Az serves up barbecue along with suggesting that you keep up the art of meal-time conversation thanks to their guide posted at each table.

This is just the beginning of what I sense to be a long-term love affair with true barbecue and there are so many regions yet to travel to and try. Bring it on and any suggestions for some future finger licking good places we should go to.  Mmmmmmmmm!

-Sara

© 2012 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved – Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

I thought I was in heaven, but found out it was Spring Training


I have always wanted to check out Spring Training, but assumed it would be extremely expensive. Why did I never even LOOK at the prices? Oh. Because I am a total dufus. I was so convinced I would be disappointed that I was afraid to even look! DUH! Ticket prices  depend on the ballpark/team, but the parks are small and there are no bad seats. The cheapest is $8… EIGHT DOLLARS! Double DUH to me! Nay, triple duh.

Due to a car accident (someone else caused), I had a free rental car from Enterprise for a week (unlimited mileage!!) and decided it was time to see some baseball in Arizona!  Sara and I arrived in, uhm, beautiful Glendale, Arizona with no hotel booked. (See? Still have not learned our lesson.)  We drove around the endless strip malls aimlessly for a bit, until we decided on Ramada Arrowhead Towne Center for the night.  When our stomachs started to growl, we met up with a friend of mine at The Lodge in Scottsdale, AZ. They had fried pickles. You heard me! FRIED FRICKEN PICKLES! The food was great and the view of the good looking baseball players sitting next to us was great, too.

The next afternoon, we were off to the Peoria Sports Complex for the Chicago White Sox @ San Diego Padres. I was in such an excited daze that I liken my behavior to a pinball machine. Thankfully, Sara was there to keep me from running into things.  The stadium is crazy small. We had seats behind HOMEPLATE for only $20!! Are you kidding me!?!?!?! Oh.. And check out our view!

Yea. That’s the White Sox and they were that close to us!  In front of us were a lot of scouts with their radar guns.

This ballfield was a bit on the quiet side. I am used to loud music to get the fans pumped and that wasn’t happening here. I still LOVED it, even though Sara and I were sort of reprimanded for leaning on the railings and standing on the wrong side of the walkway.

 

I even ate a hot dog!

That evening, we ate at Bobby – Q. I definitely recommend this place! It was delicious AND was NOT in a strip mall! We made two incredibly awesome new friends there that kept us laughing all night. There is a lounge in the room next to the restaurant. Not at all my type of music, but WOW was it crowded for a Tuesday night!

Ramada only had one night available, so we switched to Thunderbird Executive Inn. I highly recommend this place! Very nice! It is on a college campus, which is different. It was clean, quiet and close enough to the ballparks for us! We got free passes to use the very nearby YMCA for our morning workouts, too. Rock on, Sara, for this find!

The next day was Anaheim Angels @ Chicago White Sox at the Camelback Ranch. This felt much more like a regular game. There was music to get everyone excited for the game and it was noisier.. Oh, and the Sox won. : )

After the game, there was a Senior Stroll. As in Senior Citizens. So you can understand why this photo is so hilarious!

I hated leaving the ballpark, but…

alas.. there was one more game to attend that day…

Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields.

We high-tailed it to Talking Stick and grabbed our tickets. My friend works for the Rockies and was able to take us on a tour of the facility. We got a behind-the-scenes tour that rocked!

We trained hard where the ball players train hard.

 

 

 

 

And we learned hard lessons about

not following the rules!

 

The last day, I was DETERMINED to meet the White Sox. It seemed logical to me that they would warm up at the ballpark at which they were to play. I was wrong. Duh, again. We did find them at their own park, watched them do batting practice and patiently waited for them to pass so I could meet a few.

This was a very amazing experience. Watching baseball on tv or even at a big ballpark is absolutely awesome, but seeing them in small parks and having access to actually meeting them is priceless. I highly recommend this trip for everyone that loves baseball!!

aaaaaaaand PLAY BALL!!!!!!

Jenn

© 2012 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved — Copyright notice by Blog Copyright