Category Archives: United States

“New York, New York, so good we called here twice” (sorry Frank Sinatra)

“New York, New York, so good we called here twice” (sorry Frank Sinatra).

We made the most of our last morning in New Orleans to stroll the streets once more and for me to finally sample the famous beignets. We had been told they were a must and for sure these hot, sweet pastries (a cross between a donut and a light, fluffy Yorkshire pudding) arrived at the table covered in icing sugar. That was the beignets that were covered in sugar rather than the table, although eating one of those without exhaling the sugar coating is something of a challenge. How to eat 3 of them (the one portion size) was a marathon task – and that would be the daunting kind, not the now called Snickers bar. Even the Beignet Cafe gave us a morning jazz concert of a very high standard.

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We packed up rather reluctantly, sad that even though we had crammed a huge amount into our two day stopover, there was much we had missed. We hadn’t explored the ghost walks, the cemeteries or the voodoo ‘experience’. Chuckle. Actually, we caught sight of one of the cemeteries on our way to the airport. It was full of magnificent tombstones, presumably monuments to the great and the good, or maybe to the wealthy and bad. Ah well, New Orleans is yet another place on my “must return” list.

The car valet service at the hotel was excellent, even though the car park was 15 blocks away. The car was brought to the door at the appointed time, our cases loaded up, although the cheerful offer of directions was politely rejected in favour of ‘Sally the Sat Nav’. This time she didn’t play games or tease with alternative routes. We filled up the tank and rolled into the Budget car return in minutes. Even that was slick. No paperwork needed as everything was on a hand held computer with bar code readings. The car had done its job without incident this year and a mere 2065 miles added to the clock.

The timings of hotel checkouts plus the need to return the car on time, meant we had a long visit with Louis Armstrong, well, his airport at least. An internal flight with Delta to New York, a late evening arrival at our airport hotel and, apart from the small matter of an overnight flight from JFK on Sunday, that’s it! Our musical road trip is finished. We have experienced a wide range of musical genres, had a very large number of amazing times, seen, done, tasted a huge variety of memorable moments and appreciated all of it. Thanks for the fun times, Carolyn, and thanks to our families for their encouragement/indulgence of a couple of ‘girls’ of a certain age who like nothing more than an open road with places to see and people to meet at the end.

Goodbye New Orleans…..hello JFK

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

How to finish a journey which, through memories, will never end?

The final post is being written on a relative small plane doing the internal flight from New Orleans to New York. We are in Row 18 (four seats to a row) which, it transpires, is only two from the rear of the aircraft. Quite different to our transatlantic flight tomorrow back to the U.K. And, it has onboard Wifi!! (We haven’t paid for it!)

So, what of our journey? We set out to experience the music and the cities of the U.S. and we can count it as ‘mission accomplished’. It didn’t all go to the original plan when forces of nature intervened. We missed out Charleston and half of the Blue Mountain Parkway but those omissions can be rectified in the future, if we wish. We, unlike so many in that part of North America, were safe and in relative comfort. Our thoughts were with those who suffered.

The blog seems to be all-encompassing but a few quirks were missed out for brevity (and temporary amnesia – not caused by alcohol!). We added to them a few minutes ago when our pilot told us he was hoping to make “a smooth and speedy flight landing a few minutes early” and continued, “I’m hoping to make a few shortcuts!” Wot?!

Having recently accidentally emulated my mother’s admonishment, were I ever to have used bad language, “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and water!”, what else can I add?

From the wet, rain-soaked vision of the pair of us in New York, we went to a wet, sweat-soaked vision of us in New Orleans but, in between times, the sun shone, or didn’t, and we smiled, looked, listened, and sang… whatever!

Driving:
It’s different. The “concrete arteries clogged with the cholesterol of cars” was how I described American roads last year in Los Angeles. Our roads this trip were virtually all free flowing and, for much of the time, straight and well maintained despite the overuse of concrete for roads and, especially, bridges. Traffic lights go from Red to Green without the intervening Red/Amber and you can turn Right on Red unless told otherwise. It surprised me that after a No Entry sign on the inappropriate carriageway of a Freeway (our Motorway) there was usually a second sign about 50 metres down the road saying “Wrong way!”. Which idiot would go down the wrong way, I asked myself. Well, I did. Albeit briefly. Turning left on to a multi-lane dual carriageway at night in the dark (see how I’m building the possible excuses) where the Sat. Nav. showed a sharp left turn and then sharp right, I found myself, suddenly, facing potentially oncoming traffic. Fortunately, I saw the cars a distance away and had an exit. Phew.

I was impressed, as always, by the 53 feet length and over 11 feet tall trucks who, occasionally, on this trip suddenly had a ‘skirt’ underneath. Apparently, called ‘wings’ and, I assume, useful for aerodynamics. As a former Maths’ teacher, I do like the U.S. use of Median for the central reservation.

Nomenclature:
Soubriquets included: Babe, Sweetie, Honey and, of course, the ubiquitous Guys. Being described as the most beautiful woman in the bar was tempered by his inebriation! Ah, well! I was reminded there of a song which we frequently heard on the Country Music channels on our car radio:
🎼🎶🎤 “They say I’ve got a drinking problem but it’s no problem drinking at all.
They call it a problem but I call it a solution.”

The road from Nashville to New Orleans is known as the ‘Music Highway’ and you can understand why. Musical oddities? One of the bands (hillbilly) at the Grand Ole Opry was called, ‘The Possum Touchers’ and a member of another band (cowboy), ‘Riders in the Sky’, had a green pronged item as neckwear which he called his Cac-tie! And I’m told my jokes are bad. The worst joke of that evening had to be… “We give him laxatives at night with a sleeping pill. It makes him sleep like a baby.”

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In Washington D.C., we got half of our hotel bill returned together with a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries after a complaint and ‘blagged’ our way into a museum without online booking. We Seniors don’t take any messing with! And we showed the youngsters how to ride the Segways! Right on, eh?! We Rock!

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Another wonderful Road Trip nearly over. Our ‘Thelma and Louise’ will never emulate Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the ‘Roads to Wherever’ but we’ll try.

Bye for now.

 

 

“We fired our guns and the British kept a-coming”

“We fired our guns and the British kept a-coming“.

I was reminded of this Lonnie Donegan song for two reasons today. We are on our way to New Orleans where the British lost a war in 1815. Somehow that linked to our final stop in Memphis – The Civil Rights Museum.

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How could we leave without visiting the Lorraine Hotel (now housing the museum) where Dr Martin Luther King Jnr was murdered as he stepped out onto his hotel balcony? What an amazing place has been created. It uses powerful media to tell the story of the country’s reliance on slavery, to the election of Abraham Lincoln (who began its formal abolition), the States who freed their slaves but sent back escapees from other states to their masters, the struggles for universal suffrage, through the years of so-called ‘equality’ with segregation, to the freedom rides and marches and on to the very recent past – when acceptance of equality was finally achieved? The two hour visit had the same effect on me as my visit to Nagasaki a year or two ago. No matter what difficulties I may have experienced at any point in my life, it was nothing to the struggles of people who had almost nothing, who lost everything and yet still emerged with smiles and kindness for their persecutors.

The sounds, film footage, black and white photographs, and drawings, created a powerful story of extreme suffering and hardship. You would not want this for anyone – and yet…! We have talked with Americans all along our journey. Some have expressed views that black Americans have been given too much self belief as a result of President Obama. It is not yet over.

On a lighter, albeit wetter, note, we were about an hour into our journey south to Jackson in the very hot sun when Carolyn commented how lucky we had been to avoid the forecast storms. Half an hour later I pointed out the ominous clouds ahead. In no time, the same clouds had enveloped us along with a total deluge. I pulled off the freeway because we needed petrol but also because I couldn’t see road markings or further than the rear lights in front. Our attempt to fill up the tank, ostensibly under cover but with the rain driving horizontally at us, with the lightning flashing and the thunder crashing, was worthy of a comedy sketch. We both had quite a soaking and drove the remaining few miles still peering through the storm with the acquired raindrops dripping where they shouldn’t.

However, we soon sorted ourselves out and went in search of food and live music. We found both. The food was good – monstrous American portions – and the music had been advertised as everything from the 60s to present day. Three guitars (or two guitars and a mandolin), the same rhythm and beat throughout and the harmonies a bit hit and miss…but we knew the tunes and enjoyed old favourites like the symbolic “Take it easy” from our Route 66 trip.

Onwards to New Orleans tomorrow!

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

We sacrificed one of our music targets – Delta Blues Museum – to go to the Civil Rights Museum. We weren’t directly involved in the struggles against slavery and for human rights because it was before our time; we weren’t directly involved in the civil rights movement in the U.S. but supported it from afar. I’m frequently embarrassed when I talk with African Americans when I’m reminded of how they were treated within my lifetime. Why did their struggle need to happen? The museum went through the history. There could never be any moral defence of slavery but there was a strong economic case. At the time, that was sufficient. There could never be a sound logical argument to avoid the seeming imperative of the American Constitution which asserted boldly, “All men are created equal”. However, they tried. How about… “Negroes are so obviously inferior to a white man that the founding fathers didn’t feel any need to mention it!” Plausible? I think not!

And then, try this one which was used to justify segregation. “Negroes are equal but different. They should be educated separately. They should sit separately on buses. They should eat, sleep, live in different places.” Segregation (or Apartheid in S.A) was a sham. Schools were not equal. African Americans were disadvantaged from birth to grave merely because of the colour of the skin. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr in his ‘I have a dream’ speech said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” How can anyone gainsay that? But, yet, they did… and some still do. In the UK as well as the US.

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Successive Presidents succumbed to electoral pressure by denying basic human and civil rights. And, the fight is not over as Kath remarked.

As we began the museum visit, we went into a room of photographs showing some of the struggles for basic rights. For me, it was ironic that the photos were in black and white. Those photos weren’t really in black and white. They were in various shades of grey. In light, it is worth noting that between black and white is not grey but every colour of the spectrum rainbow! At the end of the final film we saw, there was reference to modern day slavery, modern day lack of quality education and mention of various civil right movements including the original Stonewall and Prides.

Musically, buzzing round my head were songs like, “We shall overcome” along with other protest songs. Usually, these songs were gentle and peaceful. But then, Dr King’s passive resistance was ended by violence. However, his legacy is that change has taken place successfully through the law – and the changing of it – and through the ballot box. People like Mandela, King, Rosa Parks etc. deserve our utmost respect and thanks. As Blue Mink sang, “What we need is a great big melting pot.”

On our journey towards Jackson (Johnny Cash song with the name chosen for sound not destination), we passed over a Tallahatchie Bridge and remembered Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’. The original was demolished some time ago but the song endures.

And, tonight, we had a range of country rock songs from Twisted Grass at a local restaurant. Enthusiastic and talented in presenting a wide range of genres somehow delivered in a similar laid back style with an almost identical tempo. We sang along to more than a few but the band needs to be tighter if they are to secure a bigger audience. Nice people though and ‘Copperhead Road’ was very well delivered.

Tomorrow… New Orleans… the British kept a-coming!

When I was walking in Memphis…

“When I was walking in Memphis…

Were we to plan this trip, knowing what we know now, I would definitely choose to come to Memphis before Nashville to avoid a disappointing comparison. Last night we came down to the famous Beale Street and at first sight, in the late afternoon heat and sun, I was certainly underwhelmed. Whatever I was expecting, this was not it. So, OK, there were bars blasting out music but the whole place was run down and, to be fair, a bit seedy. Memphis generally, or at least the parts we have seen, appears rather run down and the contrast with the fun, happening, smart and sophisticated Nashville was marked.

 

It would not be us to be downhearted for too long and we started off by watching an outside performance from a local group. The truly fabulous bass guitarist, we soon discovered, couldn’t sing, the equipment was giving them trouble but they got people to dance. “Do you want to dance?” asked Carolyn. “No”, was my quick and curt response!

 

We had explored Beale Street (15 mins max) and so opted to eat at a bar with professional musicians who, minus a drummer, belted out a variety of blues numbers. A bit stylised but an excellent keyboard player and I was intrigued by the lead guitarist who played better when he had a fag in his mouth. The ribs were good and I was delighted to sample fried green tomatoes for the first time. I had loved the film ‘Fried green tomatoes at The Whistle-stop Cafe’. Unusual but tasty and definitely recommended.

So on to day 2 in bright sunshine and punishing heat. (Apparently it is unseasonably hot – temp is 33 C whilst writing this section). What should we pick? Somehow it felt rude to be here in Memphis and not visit Graceland. We both came to appreciate Elvis more in our later years and, to be honest, it was not a “must do”. However, despite the cost, Graceland won the day, well, the morning. The tour, accompanied by iPad, was slick, Disneyesque in its operation, and quite superb. We restricted ourselves to the mansion and avoided the clothes, the discs and many exhibition halls, sound stages and aeroplanes (?!). Sorry, Elvis.

 

From there it was a musical voyage of discovery via the Stax Museum and the Museum of Rock and Soul. Stax was the recording company which brought on writers and performers of blues, soul and into the more modern musical genres. It was a multi racial company and performers worked alongside one another very happily regardless of race. It was the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King which drove the wedge between the races in Memphis and brought about the downfall of Stax. Fortunately, the music lives on, wounds heal (at least in the world of music) and Memphis continues to pride itself in bringing its own sound to the world. Both museums were excellent with audio sets providing even more enjoyment, even to the point where you could listen to juke box hits from the period being illustrated. Memphis welcomes performers from all over the globe to perform there – the FedEx Stadium is about to host, amongst others, The Foo Fighters in October. No big names whilst we are here but we came for the local Memphis sound.

 

What did we need after a hot and heavy day? A swim in the guitar shaped pool. 6.30 in the evening was a perfect time, although the water was cooler than I expected. A warm shower and ready to go again – but a local restaurant this time. We had gone in search of a late lunch between the Museum trips and, naturally, some would say, decided to check out the quirky sounding bar for a quick bite to eat. It was only after ordering a drink to go with the food that we discovered the kitchen had closed, so had to down cocktail slush puppies on an empty stomach. One trip to Wet Willies for frozen cocktails is fine for one day, and I still say it was the strongest strawberry daiquiri I have ever experienced, so a local eaterie will be just fine.

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

Well, Memphis was, as Kath said, ‘rougher’ than Nashville but, without many expectations on my part, I could have anticipated it. Nashville is being regenerated and, frankly, it’s more White! Why does that matter? Ask an African-American. I went to Graceland because it is next door to our hotel and, whatever I thought of Elvis in my teens, there is no doubt that he changed the face of music and teenagers generally. But, I wanted to go to Stax Records and see Beale Street. And, tomorrow, remembering that Martin Luther King Jnr. was shot here, we will go to the Civil Rights Museum.

Graceland? Well worth a visit if only to ‘tick it off’. The mansion was smaller than I’d imagined and we weren’t allowed upstairs into the ‘private quarters’. “Elvis always met people downstairs”, we were told. It was interesting but I sensed, for the first time, some real sadness in his life. The house seemed somewhat claustrophobic, somehow. I could imagine the ‘entourage’ (hangers-on?) boosting his ego and filling his life and his home barely giving this amazingly talented, rich and worshipped man opportunity to explore his human needs. I’m sure he exuded happiness many times but that home caused me to wonder about the man not the icon. Mirrors were in evidence…

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Without doubt, the whole slick operation of the Graceland business was very impressive – well done and thanks but would the man behind the image have approved? I hope so.

Yesterday, after our drive here, we ‘hit’ Beale Street. Kath has said she was ‘underwhelmed’. It was more than that. Her optimism and usual cheerfulness took a blow. We picked up some live music as we had planned but there was an air of disappointment. I described it elsewhere as Blackpool on a weekend condensed into two blocks with lots of live music. At least two police cars at each end of the street and a police station on the street paints a picture. None of the police got out of their cars to smile and chat adds some shading. However, the music was what we came for and we got some. A great funk bass player at the outdoor set which included a great segue version of Ride Sally Ride and Walking the Dog followed by a blues band playing various classics many covered by Eric Clapton was our musical repast.

After Graceland, we had two more visits planned – both less expensive and, as it turned out, both giving great value for money. The Stax Museum and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum are very much worth a visit – musically and socially.

Despite extremely eclectic tastes, if I had to pick a favourite genre, I’d pick Stax Soul. If I had to pick a band, I’d pick Booker T and the MGs! The MGs were not, as explained by the label’s publicity arm at the time, named after Memphis Group. They were named after the British sports car! They were the house band for Stax and played on so many hits – Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Delaney & Bonnie and many others in the 1960s. My link with Stax goes back to my college days when I was asked to join a band as a replacement for their injured drummer. My previous experience had been with a band/group playing mainly Shadows, Ventures instrumentals. The college band played Stax Soul tracks and my experience was broadened. I remember playing at a USAF base near Oxford and an African American asked if he could sing with us. He was great but asked me if I could cut out some of my fills. (I was a little slap-happy and loved running around the kit! I was pre-punk punk drummer, I reckon). Anyway, I got a groove, as they say, and the band had never sounded better.

What is special for me is, also, that Stax was multi-racial. Booker T. and the MGs had, for their most successful period, two African Americans (Black!) and two Caucasians (White!). Until the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr, race “never entered the door”. Steve Cropper (great guitarist) has said that Stax would still be going in racial harmony if that event hadn’t happened. Stax folded in 1974 but its music, heritage and, now, museum and academy, live on. Racial segregation is not long gone and it’s roots still cast a very long shadow.

The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum repeated some of Stax’s history but added Sun Records and Hi Records. It traced the history of pop(ular) music back through the blues of the cotton sharecroppers (black and white) to the church choirs to jazz and to rock ‘n’ soul. As a museum, it was impressive in that the audio tour allowed dozens of songs to be chosen to listen to on the equivalent of a juke box. (A Juke, by the way, was a ‘rowdy whore house’!) We both listened intently with occasional involuntary hip wiggles.

A final note… my favourite Booker T. track is not their biggest hit, ‘Green Onions’, nor the Test Match Special theme music, ‘Soul Limbo’. My favourite for a variety of reasons is, ‘Time is tight’. The title is, I’m sure, related to the tight and crisp rhythm of the band. However, as I listened to it as we came out of the museum – and at least four other times today – I was reminded that time for us all is finite and limited. It’s a resource to be used not wasted nor stored away. Carpe diem – seize the day and… do what you can for yourself and for others… whilst you can! Time is tight, indeed.

 

 

“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!

 

Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike…

“Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike….they’ve all come to look for America”

What we actually found ourselves doing, when we got on the road again, was counting the lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike – 14!!! So, the sun shone again today to see us off from New York. A very speedy cabbie took us to pick up our hire car at JFK and soon we were loaded up like a couple of pros and off down the road to Philadelphia. This time our car is a very nice Nissan Sentra.

 

Why Philadelphia? Well, neither of us had been, it’s an historic place and it seemed a good idea at the time. And so it has proved. This is the place where the American Independence was signed, it is the home of the Liberty Bell (which symbolised the freedom from slavery) and, if you are not too steeped in cultural history, we have visited the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where Rocky did some of his training in the film! It is a city of old and new, beautifully preserved, full of magnificent buildings juxtaposed with modern skyscrapers. A very classy city, highly recommended and earmarked for a possible return one day.

 

We went walking again! Past the Rodin Gallery complete with a bronze cast of ‘The Thinker’, Logan Square with its impressive fountain, past the Franklin Institute, the Free Library, and on to “Rocky’s Steps” before finding a cab to take us right across town to see the Liberty Bell.  IMG_7894 Fortified by one of the best cups of coffee I have tasted (sorry Costa) at La Colombe, it was time for another good walk.  We eventually gave in and found a cab, one with a driver who also liked his music, although I must say he was the first I had come across who treated his passengers to Faust!!

 

Our journey today was filled with chat (and quite a bit of singing) as we reminisced about movies and music with connections to Philadelphia. Once again we were up for a live music experience and were recommended by the hotel concierge to a jazz bar. Chris’ Jazz Café provided good food, expensive wine but an excellent trio that provided good long sets of modern jazz. I have seen jazz before but never modern jazz played by 3 guys who could each wander off into realms of their own whilst contributing to the total sound and rhythm.  A truly excellent musical experience.

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Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

As we set out from New York. as well as driving, I had my mind on the musical notes. As we were heading to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the tracks which came to mind was Glenn Miller’s ‘Pennsylvania Six-Five Thousand’ which, I confess, I thought was about a train. It’s not! It’s the telephone number of the Hotel Pennsylvania in… New York! #coincidence

As well as Canned Heat’s ‘On the road again’ and the very different Willie Nelson song of the same name, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ came through mists of memory illustrating Rocky’s step climb but, again, a little research confirmed that the music played as he mounted the steps was, actually, Bill Conti’s ‘Gonna fly now’. Hmm!

Talking of research, the State of Philadelphia isn’t designated a State – it’s a Commonwealth – as are Kentucky, Massachusetts and Virginia. Hmm!

Other musical note… the fabulous ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ by Bruce Springsteen. It was the award winning theme for the award winning film ‘Philadelphia’ which is the only film to provoke me to tears. Self-referenced, self-pity on my part when difference led to the ostracism of the Tom Hanks’ AIDs affected character. Its 1994 release in the UK coincided with an emotional period of my life. Today, the streets of Philadelphia brought light, warmth and security!

My final musical note is ‘Philadelphia Freedom’. A huge hit for Elton John who had asked his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, to write a compliment to Billie Jean King whose professional tennis team was called ‘Philadelphia Freedoms’.

Moving from music, the link between the Liberty Island and Statue of yesterday and the Liberty Bell today was summed up by a quote on the wall next to the Liberty Bell Exhibition Centre. There were references to slave freedom, the emancipation of women but it may significant that the Liberty Bell is badly ‘cracked’. It’s certainly ironic in present times, I fear.

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IMG_7889Philadelphia was named by Penn from the Greek for ‘Brotherly Love’. The city we saw today exemplified that but there is a malaise, not just in the U.S., where the love of our fellow human beings is being questioned and repudiated. #sad #wrong

Tomorrow we head for the site of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Much still remains from those heady 1960s to be still merely a dream. The Blues we saw in NYC illustrated it in part – only one black man in the audience whilst none of the performers were Caucasian.

 

 

 

 

 

We got our kicks on Route 66

“If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.
It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.
Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, Missouri,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.”

And, this morning, we motored through San Bernardino to complete our last port of call from the song…except that wasn’t where the road ended!  We could have taken a photo of the sign but, no, it was a proper visit to the City Hall, the County Court and even the Sheriff’s Department Rehabilitation Center!!

Santa Monica Pier is the officially designated end of Route 66, so 5,080 miles after leaving Chicago we proudly posed underneath the sign which declared we had reached the end. We did it!!  We have been everywhere and then some. We have walked miles, as well, around all the places of interest we found along the way and have loved the diverse experiences throughout our journey.

Even today, we were having random conversations with a group of Hillary Clinton supporters and a couple of American ladies who had done part of the 66 but via the direct route, i.e. on the freeway. I met a guy, whilst queuing for iced coffee, who was convinced I was Australian.  He had made a long trip to the coast from south of Las Vegas!!  Whacky folk some of these Americans  spotted on the road today:

i feel so proud and pleased that we have completed this huge adventure but at the same time would love to go on and do more. Not this time. Thanks to both our families for encouraging our dream and thanks, particularly, to Carolyn for making sure we did everything we set out to do and never giving up… even if finding some of the places proved geographically challenging! I’ve said it before but it has been a truly awesome experience.

Carolyn’s Curios

So, for the last time (this trip!), I get to add some outtakes from our travelogue. Would it be about tonight when two staff at the hotel separately responded to my request, “Excuse me but could you tell me where the restaurant is, please?” by providing directions to… the Rest Rooms?!

Or, the discussion with the Hillary Clinton team on Santa Monica Pier where we agreed both on the distaste for Trump and the Brexit decision? Politics often divides but here it brought us together.

Maybe, the girl drummer of a family rock band playing “Twist and Shout” amongst others on the Pier. I mentioned to her that I had been playing drums to that music before her parents had been born! But, they were a good young band – a combination of White Stripes and Hanson, if you can imagine that.

Perhaps, that there were three separate and competing evangelical preaching groups on the Saturday afternoon in the sunshine at the seaside.

This journey has reached its natural geographical conclusion and, like Kath, I must say, again, my thanks to the family, especially Ann, for encouraging me to take up this opportunity and, of course, Kath, herself, for sharing the dream. We doubled the planned mileage; we added on every single day to the activities we had originally envisaged. We laughed consistently, marvelled frequently and enjoyed immensely.

A final couple of curios… why did they name this town as they did?!

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And, as I was driving on the five lane traffic jammed roads in Los Angeles after leaving the deserted, scrub surrounded, traffic-free, seemingly endlessly straight Route 66, it occurred to me that:

“The obese body of L.A. was sprawling across the canapé of the California landscape

with its concrete arteries clogged with car shaped cholesterol.”

And, we had fallen in love with the Original Historic Route 66. Its reputation is justified, its magic is real and its attraction, albeit being slowly submerged, is worth visiting and preserving. Catch it while you can. We did.

On the road again… 🎼🎹🎤

Having gone to bed with the promise of a replacement car being delivered by 9 am, it was disappointing for Carolyn to get a call from Dollar at 8 am asking if we were still in need of “service”. No, we needed a car!!  The second call at 9 am was a little better, but it was going to take 3 hours to get one to us. Wait a minute, we were being offered something with a tiny boot space. Carolyn wasn’t having it and, what do you know, the next call offered something much bigger. In fact, we got a nice upgrade. It meant hanging around with nowhere to go in this small desert town but, undeterred, I made good use of the guest laundry facilities and we set off in our nice new car with suitcases full of clean clothes.

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It was good to be doing what we have done consistently well…disobeying the sat nav and wandering off the main highway in search of Old Route 66. One of the guide books had  mentioned an iconic road house where you cooked your own burgers, steaks, ribs, etc on a huge indoor BBQ, accompanied by as much salad as you could eat.  There was a choice of about 40 draught beers and a clientele of bikers and ranchers, all served by a petite, if indominatable, lady of a certain age wearing shorts and a pony tail.

Our determination to stick with the 66 for the rest of our journey caused a problem. We ran out of road. No indication, but a couple of miles along the way the potholes became plentiful, as did the grass growing on the road.  Round the bend we found the reason…a concrete barrier across the road. You could sense the glee from the electronic voice, “Turn around when possible”.

Carolyn’s Curios

So, the day after the night before. No-one was hurt, merely inconvenienced. We’d done everything we’d wanted to do (plus some more!) and we’re now back on schedule without missing a beat from our road trip.

Today has been a steadier day but we agreed it was important to keep to our plans where we could and maintain our momentum. We did.

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As we passed Camp Navajo, I couldn’t resist, on the sight of equipment being moved, to title the photos below as ‘Army training’! #sorry The flags are those of the U.S.A. and Arizona.

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It was also interesting seeing the old parked Santa Fe train with a modern diesel behind. Day ends back at Williams. Tomorrow Kingman, Arizona.

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