Category Archives: Music

Cheyenne to Salt Lake City – 440 miles

One of the first instructions we got from Sally Sat Nav was, “Stay on the i80 for the next 429 miles”.  From that instruction we hoped we were in for a reasonably fast run on a decent road, and, true to form, we completed the journey in slightly over 6 hours, including two petrol stops and a bathroom break. We left Cheyenne in hot sunshine and brilliant blue skies and nothing changed the whole way…lovely.

 

For much of the journey we were in Wyoming, so the long dusty plains and the soaring mountains came as no surprise. What was a bit of a surprise was the number of trucks on the road. Maybe Sunday is their day? They are very speedy on the down slopes and swing in and out to pass each other at about 70 mph (although the regulation is 65 for trucks) but much slower on the inclines. Our aim was always to get beyond a bunching group before the climb, and ensure we had squatters’ rights in the fast lane. Not that we could stay there for too long as, unbelievably, people wanted to exceed the speed limit!!  The other surprise was the distance between civilisation and services.  We passed one stopping place with a loo, which declared the next stopping point to be in another 102 miles. OMG…even if you didn’t need a bathroom at the first point, the thought of having to wait for another 102 miles was painful. And, no, there were no trees, no hiding places off the roadside just the pain of trying to focus on something else.

The scenery changed as we crossed into Utah. In addition to the sandstone cliffs, there were verdant valleys with occasional houses, which grew in numbers and size.  Before long we were doing a fast cruise down the mountains with the number of lanes on the highway growing quickly.  Lots of exits loomed and almost without us realising, we were nearing the end of our journey.  It was the first city we had really experienced since leaving Vancouver and although the traffic was plentiful, the hurried pace of city life was noticeably calmer on a Sunday afternoon.

Having booked into another nice hotel, we decided some exercise was on the cards and Temple Square was about a 30 minute walk.  The Mormon Tabernacles in Salt Lake City are world famous, so of course we went to look. The setting and the two temples are quite spectacular, but of course you can only enter if you are of the Mormon faith. There is a visitors centre and lots of kind and friendly members who want to share their “unusual” brand of the Christian faith.  It would not be appropriate for me to be critical in any way, but suffice to say I was uncomfortable and happy to leave Temple Square. Dinner in a restaurant where we were the only customers was our next surprise. No music, no alcohol, blimey that was the situation last time we visited the State of Utah. However, further down the street on our walk back we found bars selling alcohol and one with live music.  We know where to go next time!  

 

We now have the luxury of another full day here tomorrow. Perhaps a visit to the lake that gives the city its name?  Perhaps some exploration of the city, and perhaps even via the electric scooters you log into via an app, sign off when you are done, and leave by the roadside.  Cool!

 

 

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

It is very tempting merely to write…

“Set Sat. Nav.

Left Cheyenne

Set Cruise Control 

Drove 440 miles on the I80 

Arrived Salt Lake City”

However, I am renowned for never using a word when a paragraph will do!

So,…

As we travelled, we listened to an odd playlist which had found its way, somehow, onto my iPhone. The tracks seemed to be a shuffle from albums I had purchased for some reason in the past. Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, Ian Dury, The Hollies etc. rubbed segues with Snow Patrol, Adele and In The Night Garden Dance! Wot?! The best inner smile for me came with Kath’s facial reaction to hearing Barbie Girl by Aqua for the first time (No.1 in the UK for three weeks) and her falling off her seat almost laughing to ‘Dogging’ by the incredible Fascinating Aida! The Hollies brought a wry smile from me when the lyrics, “The road is long; with many a winding turn” seemed particularly inappropriate in one aspect. Long, it was; winding, it wasn’t!

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Another smile along the way was the sight of a three wheeled motorcycle. Not humorous in any way… usually. Ours today featured a guy in full leathers driving at variable speeds and blocking overtaking by changing lanes. Not funny, neither.

On the pillion, though, was a woman who was not a ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ but one of older years who was wearing a pair of baggy cotton shorts and waved to us as we overtook them and then they accelerated past us at our cruise controlled steady speed. The speed was 75 mph and she must have had the wind blowing very hard in places the wind shouldn’t be blowing. 

Several curios occurred to me on the journey:

Imagine sending a letter before the telegraph arrived. Stagecoach? Pony Express? During the Pony Express’ “18 months of operation, it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about 10 days. From April 3, 1860 to October 1861, it became the West’s most direct means of east–west communication before the transcontinental telegraph was established (October 24, 1861), and was vital for tying the new state of California with the rest of the United States.”

The enormous distance required travelling across this country is mind blowing. Even crossing one State, Wyoming, is demanding even using modern means.

Talking of distances, today was the second longest distance we are travelling and you may ask, “Why?”. We did! The reason is that there are almost no staging posts on the journey. Mile after mile of countryside and… well, almost nothing else. Hints for tourists from these two travellers: go to the toilet before you set off, fully fill up with fuel whenever you can, carry water and the odd snack.

Oh, and be aware of ‘Semis’. (Stop chuckling!) Warning signs told us that Semis need the length of two football pitches to stop. As Kath indicated, they’re agile in changing lanes but not as agile climbing hills or accelerating. Seemingly, not as agile at stopping, either! Yes, this is a Semi!

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So, we arrived in Salt Lake City. As we walked to Temple Square in a very dry heat we felt a little breathless and checked to find we are 4226 feet above sea level. For comparison, the height of the highest mountain in the UK stands at 4413 feet. Only four mountains in Scotland are higher than we are and there are none as high in England or Wales! No wonder we felt a little breathless. 

Kath wanted to see the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints) temples but felt uncomfortable when we got there and I can understand why. Again, I had a couple of events from my past which resonated. The Mormon Church mission to the UK started in our home town of Preston which now (actually in Chorley) has a brand new temple.

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Of course, that was way before either of us was born but I remember going to a Mormon youth club as a teenager. Indeed, I played my drums on the stage which was above and hid the baptismal font – full body baptism – underneath. Adding to that, my dad had tiled the font! The young men who did their two year obligatory missionary service were polite, well-dressed and suited and… chewed gum. No alcohol; no tobacco. What’s not to like, we thought. What’s not to like is the hugely mistaken beliefs they have, in my view. I suggest, the premise and practice of their religion is deeply misguided and potentially dangerous in a number of ways. I don’t want to dissuade anyone from their personal belief unless it will do them harm. If their views don’t correspond to my own, that’s fine but I will object strongly if their beliefs interfere with my basic human rights. I’ll leave it there.

Tomorrow is another day. Planning is already underway with live jazz a possible for tomorrow evening.

“Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville….”

Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville…..”.

And, by the end of today we had heard quite a few of them. What a fabulous city Nashville is and how we wish we were staying longer. Nashville’s self proclaimed status of “The Music City” feels right, and although the main focus here is country and western, we have heard quite a mixture. Nearly every bar downtown offers live music, played at considerable volume to draw in the very willing visitors.

 

We began our visit with what we thought was a quick trip to The Grand Ole Opry to collect our tickets for the evening performance. The sat nav takes you to the Convention Hotel, some distance away, and the venue hides itself away in a corner of vast car parking facilities. There are no row numberings or markings in said car park, so you just have to remember where you abandoned your car. Finally, tickets secured and time for lunch. The closest place was Dave and Buster’s, which turned out to be a sort of casino, 10 pin bowling arcade and games and slot machine heaven for kids and adults alike. The food was OK, with waitresses who check your progress every few minutes and the noise was deafening.

Come on, let’s go downtown, which is actually a 20 minute drive from The Ole Opry. This was just amazing…bright, brash and fun with everyone clearly having a good time. Plans made. We were spending the day there tomorrow. We were not staying in the centre of Nashville as the cost of the hotels, to say nothing of the cost of parking, is like any major city in the USA – expensive. We had a 15 minute drive from the centre, checked into the Holiday Inn Express and turned ourselves around for a night at the Grand Ole Opry.

 

The performance began at 7 pm and as you quickly find out, you are taking part in the Saturday night broadcast…Live from the Grand Ole Opry. We laughed at the regular breaks for “Messages from our Sponsors”. These were commercials read by a guy on stage and advertising various products. Chicken featured and one ‘lucky’ member of the audience was selected by seat number to receive a quantity of the stuff delivered to his door (“But not just yet”). Fortunately it wasn’t us.

The performances were interesting/good/and excellent. Crystal Gayle was a featured artist but, personally, I thought she was outshone by Wynonna, Patty Loveless and Brandy Clark. The night belonged to Jeannie Seely, who is a bit of a legend in terms of the Opry, and was celebrating her 50th anniversary since first singing there. She still has an amazing voice and a wicked sense of humour. The whole show was a mixture of music, comedy and even some square dancing.

When leaving, we actually found our car easily after walking some distance and, although I thought the escaping 4,400 members of the audience might present a degree of difficulty because of the sheer volume of cars exiting at the same time, we were back at the hotel in about half an hour. Result.

 

Did I mention the heat and humidity? In such fabulous sunshine it seems churlish to complain but when the temperature climbs high into the 30s….ouch, blisters. For the second time this trip we took a ride downtown with Uber. We had no idea where to park, no idea how long we wanted to stay and the cost of the door to door service was only marginally more expensive than parking charges. Which is how we found ourselves right outside the Johnny Cash Museum. Carolyn was humouring me as I used to quite like Johnny Cash but, although interesting, the Museum was not a standout feature of the day.

 

That belonged, without a doubt, to Nudies Bar. Not the bar itself because, as Carolyn has said on Facebook, we went for the fun of the name and stayed for the fabulous music. By this time we had taken a tour around Nashville on a hop-on, hop-off bus. In the intense heat we were in need of a drink so we’re attracted to the bar with the quirkiest name and the loudest music. Carolyn will talk about this further on but I must just say it is a long time since I sat watching music with the beat vibrating up my bottom!! It took a couple of hours for my ears to readjust…pardon?

 

The rest of the day was spent doing more hopping on and off the bus, seeing music venues, music museums, recording studios, etc, and loving every moment. We should have spent a week here, but perhaps better to leave wanting more. Memphis is waiting, so on we go.

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

Wow! Wow! Wow! Not merely a wow-wow pedal but the whole Downtown of Nashville producing sounds and sights which provoked even more than possibly imagined. I’m starting my section at the end of the two days here because I’m still buzzing more than a little.

 

Jarett McAlister and his band were well into their set when we arrived but we, immediately, became entranced. Jarett with his guitar led each song with laid-back vocals, a fiddle, bass and lead guitar joined on vocals as well as contributing to the musical tapestry. But, then,… the drummer! Oh, my word. Imagine a combination of The Who’s Keith Moon and Nirvana’s/Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl at their best. The rhythm was precise and forceful, punctuated and decorated in sound with a combination and variety of fills utilising every element of the kit – including the cowbell – with flair, expertise, elegance and showmanship. Visually, stick twirling and tossing added to the seemingly effortless drive. Not only did he continue playing whilst drinking at least four bottles of Bud and accurately disposing of them in an adjacent bin, he didn’t  miss a beat! Wow! Wow! Wow! I chatted to him at the end, thanked and praised him and pointed out that I’d drummed in a band before he was born but not, in any way, at his level! His response was to thank me, call me awesome and then, in the manner of a Southern gentleman, I imagine, took my hand and kissed the back of it. Oh, my word, indeed!

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Before we left, a second bar visit was needed as I felt I had to try my first Jack Daniel’s as we were where it came from. The No.7, by the way, is the number of the liquor licence awarded to them and, we were told, licences are handed down within families.

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Yesterday, was much more sedate with the music just as professionally competent but, somehow, lacking in rawness and edge. The very practised and loved artists who were heroes to the audience put on an excellent show. The star was Jeannie Seely and the other artists took every opportunity to praise her ability, sassy humour and work to allow other women to raise their profile in Country Music. She was the first to perform in a miniskirt at the Grand Ole Opry, we were told, but her real innovation was in her writing and performing. At 77, still a formidable lady!

Of course, we were thrilled to have seen the Opry but, would I go again? Probably not. Although very, very competent, it was a little formulaic for me. And the quirks of adverts being read out like a latter day Rowan and Martin from Downtown Burbank distracted as did, I’m sorry, every artist, male and female, except for those wearing cowboys hats, seemingly wearing wigs. In fairness, Crystal Gayle still appeared to have her own sitting on length tresses as she sang, “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue” her 1977 hit.

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But, look what we two Prestonians found?!

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Curios on the way included a new-to-me road sign and then Kath trying on a hat! (Didn’t buy it!)

 

The bus tours of Nashville were interesting with the hop-on, hop-off giving us four different driver/tour guides. Always good to listen to different descriptions and interests. The most fascinating for me was twofold:

The incredible concrete replica of the Parthenon (left over from an Exhibition in the early 20th Century) much more complete than the real one we saw earlier in the year), and…

 

The recording studios side by side for hundreds of metres along adjacent roads. The studios were hidden behind facades which made them look like the protected architecture they were. What was inside was left to imagination except for the almost universal garish signage outside proclaiming for each studio their latest artist and No. 1 hit! The signs deprived much visual value from the protected frontages. My favourite memories were provoked was RCA Studio B (appropriate heritage sign) which was formerly referred to as just RCA Studios. It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious studios in Nashville. Gaining wide popularity in the 1960s, RCA Studios recorded artists like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and many others.

A final note is the roundabout based group of nude statues which is nicknamed the ‘round-a-butt’ for obvious reasons.

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I wouldn’t go to the Opry again, perhaps, but would I come back to Nashville? Yessiree, Bob!

 

Carolina on my mind

 

Carolina on my mind

Who would have thought that the wrath of Hurricane Irma would just keep on bringing a deluge to many more States? We found this morning in Virginia we were in receipt of many inches of rain, to the point where our intended route along the Blue Ridge mountains was closed due to storm damage. Our exit point in North Carolina was also affected, so we were forced to follow the interstate for over 200 miles in driving rain, low cloud, poor visibility and generally miserable conditions. We also found that the music centre on the Parkway was closed, so we tuned in to a great radio station playing classic rock and sang our way here.

‘Here’ was not quite what I had anticipated. I thought I had found a rather glamorous hotel, up a mountain, with beautiful scenery and somewhat indulgent in luxury terms. It took a few attempts to find it and several miles to boot as TomTom refused to recognise the address. I think I became concerned with the whole area when I saw large and very elaborate churches, many with their own fleet of buses outside, one after the other. The houses were ordinary but the churches were anything but. Of course we were not so far from Charlottesville and other places where the infamous Bible Belt breeds its own kind of supremacy. It was not the most comfortable feeling and I seriously wondered about giving up the search for the hotel and getting as far away as possible.

Carolyn refused to be deterred and eventually we found the hotel which appeared to have stepped out of a bygone age. It resembles a southern colonial mansion with a row of rocking chairs on the front porch. The main rooms are large and a little homely. No wifi in the bedrooms and no TVs anywhere. There is a library and the bedrooms are reached via long, wide hallways. As for the bedrooms and bathrooms themselves, they are nothing like modern hotel bedrooms. Carolyn almost did herself an injury trying to access the loo in her tiny bathroom. Paint peels off the ceilings and the beds are made up with floral sheets. Dinner was the standard I had expected on booking and the longer I sit in the hotel lounge, the more charmed I become. Perhaps ‘modern’ is not what we always need and the southern charm of the hotel owner and staff is much appreciated.

So, Irma has not only provided an interesting journey today but has had a considerable impact on our route. We are recommended to avoid Charleston and Atlanta, to have been the focus of our next 3 days. Instead we are heading for Chattanooga tomorrow and will decide then about how to spend our days before Nashville. No problem at all and it is all great fun.

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

We’re at the Balsam Mountain Inn and, despite the undoubted charm and quirkiness of this first decade of the 20th century building, I’m battling to get rid of images and sounds of Twin Peaks.

 

 

 

 

The toilet, which Kath referenced earlier, barely fits my shoulders or hips. ‘Convenience’ it is not! However, there are no mains services connected to the hotel so we should be grateful for small mercies… or small loos!

 

 

Seriously, on a summer’s day or even a crisp, autumnal day in the Fall, the hotel’s history and former grandeur would allow it to present itself really well. On a dank, dark, mist and cloud enshrouded day, we were apprehensive about even entering. The staff are characters from an Appalachian period piece but the food was lovely and was eased down with a reasonably priced, very palatable Malbec. The building is made of wood and we are advised that, as sound travels, would we please be quiet after 10pm. Lights are dimmed on the corridors at that time. Rooms are not equipped with any electronics – no TV, coffee machine etc. but coffee, tea, chocolate and… Apple cider mix are available in sachets in the Library. Breakfast starts at a very leisurely 8 am. The furniture is made of wood but sometimes repaired with gaffer tape. Pictured one of the bedheads

 

 

 

As for the bears…?!

 

 

 

Reading the history provided, it is proud that the bedroom doors didn’t have locks until relatively recently relying on an “honors (sic) system”. The curtain is thin but good quality and, they say, at 3500ft elevation, neither thermostats to the heating nor air conditioning is needed – or provided. There are wide opening sash windows for summer and layers of bedclothes for the winter. We were pleased there was hot water, though. Having said all of that – what an experience and we wouldn’t have wanted to have missed it.

The journey here qualified for a high ‘Interesting’ on my descriptive scale as 53ft long trailers proclaimed their presence on the road with engine noise and copious amounts of spray. We went up the mountains – steeply and lengthily – and then down avoiding the run off ramps for the trucks which appeared like inverted ski jumps. All the time, conscious of the reality of being in rain bearing clouds.

Yesterday, the description that I was “hot” referred to my speed and today’s “Sweetie” from a young woman five decades my junior was a mere colloquialism, y’all!

So, onto the musical miscellany…

I have to start with Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’ which was popularised for some by Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1977 rendition of ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’. A classic, for me, of Prog Rock. Ok, it isn’t Spring but Appalachian we are.

As Kath indicated, our journey was helped by the Classic Rock Station on the car radio: Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits, Beatles, Elton John, Whitesnake, even Rod Stewart, punctuated our journey and prompted our own attempts at harmony.

After miles of struggling against the elements, our eventual arrival gave rise to a mental, “In the middle of nowhere” of Dusty’s 1965 hit and the memory of her being deported from South Africa for refusing to play for segregated audiences. Perhaps, I also felt for her as she was struggling the whole time with her own sexuality fearing exposure.

Needless to say, on several occasions of the journey here via some winding, unmade roads, “Get back” by The Beatles came to mind

‘Carolina on my mind’ is a good title and it is an impressive and beautiful pair of States but the trucker with a tee shirt proclaiming ‘Redneck’ and then passing houses flying Confederate flags together with churches more regal than the houses, reminded us that there are underlying issues which cause some concerns.

It is relatively trivial that we have had to change our itinerary and route. We have missed some music and could have done more of the Parkway. But, we are safe and intact – tomorrow we head for Chattanooga instead of Charleston and Atlanta with Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” buzzing round our brains. (Did you know the recording of it was awarded the first ever official Gold Disc? Hmm!)

 

 

No lullaby on Broadway today

If anyone is in need of inspiration in the art of filling a day, look no further. I hadn’t realised when we left the hotel this morning how far we would walk or even that it would be 12 hours before we returned, tired with a capital ‘K’.  Which pair of idiots would walk almost two miles from the hotel to the start of the very beautiful High Line walk and then walk another 1.5 miles along this scenic route?  We even walked a few blocks at the end whilst deciding what to do next!

 

The ‘next’ took us to lunch at the Chelsea Market which is a delightfully revamped warehouse full of individual outlets selling every kind of food you can imagine. We fell for the one selling fresh lobsters (served every which way), huge oysters, crabs, etc, but settled for bowls of chowder.  Now what?  More walking before hailing a cab at the Flatiron and heading for the 9/11 Memorial.

 

The queue for the observatory at the top of the One World Trade Centre snaked endlessly around the front of the building. After yesterday’s mammoth queuing experience it was a line too long or a queue too far, so we headed to the beautiful memorial pool and the more recently constructed monument which is based on a white dove of peace and a phoenix rising from the ashes. Onwards to the church which survived the collapse of the towers and a short break for peaceful contemplation of the restoration of the whole area.  New towers are going up – 2 already built and 5 more in process or planning.

 

Now where? By this time we were hurting and it was hot. There was only one solution – the Big Bus hop on hop off tour. A few more blocks and we could sit for a while and enjoy commentaries on the delights of downtown, uptown and midtown New York. We made our final hop off at Times Square and headed for dinner and great blues music at BB King’s. Ribs and a performance by guys who can make their instruments sing. What could be better?  The only downside was that we had stiffened up and had almost a mile to walk back!  Phew.

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

As we’re on a Music Tour, I decided to change the subtitle. No other reason, I suppose, than I like it.

So our first full day in New York was a… full day! Lots of walking but compensated with stunning cityscapes and the incredible High Line. Very well worth the walk – including the extra we walked back to find Ann’s preferred Tee shirt! We chatted to one of the many volunteers and she had a distinct London accent. She told us that she came over for a fortnight every year to volunteer and help in the garden areas. Commitment and a belief in the ‘cause’.

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I like listening to music and, frankly, don’t do enough of it. However, I, also, have fun with musical miscellany. So, today, walking past the train sidings and bus storage at the start (North) of High Line, I had in mind Debbie Harry’s New York post-punk band Blondie and their classic album ‘Parallel Lines’.

 

As we walked through Herald Square, the song in my head, of course, was “Give my regards to Broadway” and, when we got to Chelsea Market, Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” became my ear worm for more than a few moments.

 

In between times, a sign about nude bodies which we didn’t know whether it was a warning or an invitation, an advertisement for Shawn Mendes’ fragrance (forwarded to my granddaughter who has him as her favourite singer of the moment) and the ubiquitous Rainbow which was irrelevant as we brought our very own.