8 Things I Learned From My “Vacation”

As you may have read from this post, my wife and I went on a road trip vacation in April. Here are some of my observations:

1.) Mad Libs aren’t just for kids. After 35+ hours in a car together, my wife and I came up with some, um…pretty “Adult” Mad-Lib stories. Definitely great for some laughs! 1b.) My grammar knowledge isn’t what it used to be (as you’ve probably noticed from reading this blog).

2.) The American Autobahn exists, and its from Columbia, SC to Charleston, SC. The speed limit was 70mph and at one point, I was going about 85 trying to keep up with traffic and I was getting passed by some people like I was going in reverse. I like speed, although my co-worker/boss would laugh at that statement, and I thought it was a bit ridiculous. My poor 4 cylinder Hyundai Sonata was screaming to keep up. Also, here’s my PSA for today…people need to slow down in work zones. I don’t care how fast you want to go on the Interstate, but when there are workers with wives, husbands, kids and pets at home working 10 feet from where your 2,000lb car is flying by…you can slow down. You won’t be any later than you already are.

3.) Unfortunately, Kentucky and Indiana confirmed some stereotypes for me. I’m not going to say which ones, you probably already know. Go Hoosiers!

4.) The best on-stage county music talent in Minnesota is probably the worst talent in Nashville. This probably isn’t surprising, but ‘WOW’ there were some good artists singing. The unfortunate part is I don’t remember a single name of any of them. Not because I was drinking, but because they kind of all run together from bar to bar.

5.) Mother Nature can be a bitch and not care whether or not you’ve been planning a vacation for months. My wife and I never really had dreams of sipping cocktails on the beach, we’re not that type. We were hoping for shorts and t-shirts, however. Nashville was 35 degrees all day, every day on our trip. In Charleston, it was windy and rainy for 85% of the time we were there. I will say the night we arrived in Charleston, it was beautiful. The nicest days were when we were driving….obviously.

6.) Technology helps being away from kiddos. Video calling your kids before they go to bed is such a great way to remember what they look like when you’re 2,000 miles away. I’m kidding; there are probably other reasons, too.

7.) You need to try the local food when you go on vacation. This might be another no-brainer, but there was just such good food in every city that we stopped at! Specifically the BBQ & “Hot Chicken” in Nashville and seafood in Charleston was so good! We waited in line in 34 degree weather in Nashville for an hour and a half to get into ‘Hattie B’s‘ to try some authentic Hot Chicken and it was worth every second! It’s so much more fun to enjoy the foods that the region or city is famous for and venture out from the same restaurants you can enjoy anywhere. Also, macaroni and cheese is better in the south…like, way better.

8.) Most importantly, my wife and I can be in the same car, the same hotel rooms, and the same restaurants for 6 straight days (should have been 8) and still enjoy each other’s company! Despite starting the trip off with her being sick at 3am before we had to leave (NO, SHE’S NOT PREGNANT–DON’T EVEN START WITH ME), to having to make a decision to cancel some plans and come home early; I can say that we genuinely had fun the entire time! (awww)

Thanks for reading!

-ML

Nashville on Stage

Ahh Nashville, the destination of choice for our vacation! After leaving St. Louis about 11am, we took a quick refueling break completely by chance in Metropolis, IL (home of Superman).

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We arrived in Music City around 3:30 to check into The Capitol Hotel in the downtown area, across from the Capitol building…thus the name. The staff at this hotel was very nice; the hotel itself was OK. It was the cheapest downtown hotel. This may shock you-so please sit down or stop driving; the pictures were better than the actual hotel. It’s basically a 3 story motel with the room doors facing the outside. Not a big deal to me; as we were planning on going out downtown and having a good time until the wee hours of the morning anyways! However, if you’re looking for a cheaper hotel close to Broadway, I’d recommend it. I’d probably even stay there again-just don’t expect the Four Seasons.

About a week before we left for our trip, I had reached out to Minnesota Vikings long-snapper Kevin McDermott (who is originally from Nashville) via Twitter in hopes that he would give me some advice on local things to try. Well, he actually responded!!

KMcDermott
We’re basically best friends.

Big “Thank You” To Kevin for taking the time to actually give a thoughtful response to me, I was impressed. So anyways, after checking into the hotel, we decided to take him up on his recommendation of great BBQ and headed to Peg Leg Porker to try some authentic Nashville BBQ. It was pretty good! I’m not going to say it was the best I’ve ever had, but it was very, very good. I really liked the flavor, but honestly–the ribs were a bit dry. The mac and cheese was phenomenal–something about shells and cheese that drives me wild.

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My meal at Peg Leg Porker, Dry Rub Ribs, southern style baked beans, and shells and cheese

That night we went out to Broadway and checked out some of the bars and I was immediately blown away by the amount of talent on every single stage. So we enjoyed some music and some long-neck bottles. It was really a good time! Also, I think Nashville must be the Bachelorette Party Capitol of the world. I think there was at least one at every single bar-unless it was the same one and they were following us…Either way, we both had a blast and enjoyed some really good music.

SO, anyone who knows me also knows that I get borderline obsessed with taking recommendations from people I know. Well, that obsession goes to a whole ‘nother level with a celebrity. So, I was ready to go right down the line of suggestions from Kev (yes, I can call him Kev); but Kate thought maybe we should do what we had already planned to do instead. #marriage (KIDDING, KATE …if you’re reading this …if you’re not, then #marriage…)

Well, I was in luck because one of the things we had planned to do anyways was go to the Ryman Auditorium. This got us out of the 35 degree weather that plagued the city all weekend anyways. I was indifferent about seeing the Ryman, I’m not a giant country-music fan and I generally don’t like old buildings (right now, my mother is reading this and nodding in agreement–and now she’s laughing at that statement). Kate and I splurged and bought the “behind the stage” tour, and I will say that it was really cool. We were in the same dressing rooms that once had Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks, Hank Williams, and most importantly, Carrie Underwood getting ready for a show at the Ryman (The Grand Ol’ Opry was also held there from 1943-1974). That was a pretty cool experience, as well as actually standing on the same stage as some of the greatest musicians ever. Our tour-guide was terrific and really made sure we understood the history behind the building. Basically, the building started as a church to offset the number of saloons that the city had. #History101

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View from the stage at the Ryman
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Hank Williams, Johnny Cash & other stars’ memorabilia

After the Ryman we needed to get something to eat, and although the on-site cafe looked REALLY good; we opted to try out Nashville’s famous “Hot Chicken”. Apparently the place to eat Hot Chicken is at Hattie B’s . We arrived at the closest one to our current location (I believe there are 3 around Nashville) and the line was out onto the street and parking was tough, so we found one about 5 minutes away and figured that would be a little quicker. It wasn’t. We arrived and again saw the line into the parking lot just to get in! Well, that obviously means there is something inside worth waiting for. So we did…for an hour and a half…in 35 degree temperatures. Once inside, you can order chicken with six different flavor levels: Southern, Mild, Medium, Hot, Damn Hot, and Shut the Cluck Up. Kate had Southern and I had Medium (could have handled hot); and we both agreed they were the best chicken tenders we had ever eaten. They were giant, juicy, and just enough breading to make them crispy without overpowering anything. Absolutely delicious! Again, I had Mac and Cheese because…just because.

After we ate, we checked out the Parthenon. It’s big….its fine. I dunno what to say about it… It was cold and rainy/snowy..so we were already kind of hating being outside walking around. Worth seeing…I guess? Judge for yourself.

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If you got all hot and bothered by this picture, then you’ll probably enjoy it. We didn’t go inside either.

After the Parthenon, we went back to the hotel to regroup for a bit and then headed back out in the cold. We decided to walk to the Wild Horse Saloon because of how famous it is and Kate wanted Deep Fried Pickles. After walking for quite awhile, we finally got to the front door and saw a sign that read “Closed for a Private Event”.

Terrific.

So, we decided to check out the pedestrian walking bridge that went over the river. This was really cool both literally and figuratively. The view of downtown Nashville is awesome from the bridge!

See (can’t you feel the cold?):

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View from the Pedestrian Bridge

After walking for quite awhile around downtown, we were hungry (almost hangry) again. This time we went to Puckett’s right down from our hotel. Again, I had BBQ and mac $ cheese. Are you sick of hearing what I had to eat yet?…Me too..sorry…but here’s a picture anyways.

Pork, Sweet Potato Fries, Mac & Cheese
Yum!

That night, we went out to some more bars–this was probably the first time that Kate had actually started feeling better since we left Minnesota. Unfortunately, we had a long road trip to Charleston the next day. (Read about Charleston)

We are definitely heading back to Nashville for a long weekend when we both feel 100% healthy and it’s not the same temperature as the place that we escaped from.

‘Till we meet again Nashville!

-ML

Here’s some more pictures:

My Crazy Super Bowl Story

What a night!

We made the decision to bring our daughter down to Super Bowl Live (Thank you Grandma!) on January 30th and had an interesting “mishap” before we even got there…
While sitting at a stoplight on Marquette and 10th, about 3 blocks from our parking ramp, we got rear-ended. Not bad, but enough to scrape up our bumper pretty good. Not how we envisioned starting the night. I got out of the car and the approached the guy who hit me. He was driving a very nice, early 2000’s, very dusty Impala. He obviously had taken very good care of his car over the years, so much so that he had replaced his driver’s window with a plastic sheet….I suppose this was to keep the original in that pristine “Mint condition” that window collectors covet so dearly.

As he got out of his car, his phone dropped on the road (I wonder why that was). His girl friend yelled “THANK GOD THERE’S NO DAMAGE, HUH?”. In my most pleasant, passive-mostly aggressive, Minnesota-nice, yelled back “Thank god you have insurance, right?!”. Remember-the young lad didn’t have a driver’s window. “Oh yea, I got State Farm”, he replied confidently. State Farm is great, I’ll take it!

Blocking traffic, I yelled for instructions to the traffic cop directly in-front of me; “pull over right here and call 911” she said. I told him to do the same, he agreed to do so. I pulled over, he did not. You read that correctly…away he went. Now, in my most Minnesotan “I’m done being nice and passive, now I’m aggressive” tone, yelled back at the traffic cop pointing at the car speeding away “THAT’S HIM!”. This is where this gets good; the Minneapolis Police Traffic cop told me these exact instructions: “Call 911 and chase him.” You also read that correctly. “Chase Him”.

So, I did. Jason Bourne-style, in my AWD 7-passenger Acadia. Dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and dodging in and out of traffic, narrowly missing buses, pedestrians, armored vehicles, and helicopters (OK, most of these might have been there for other reasons-but still), all while on the phone with the super nice 911 lady explaining every turn the guy (whose brakes must not have worked-otherwise he probably would have stopped) and myself were making. My wife was an exceptional second set of eyes, keeping a visual on the car at all times and telling me cross streets as I burned up downtown. Finally, after I got a really good description of the car (Dark Blue Impala, early 2000s, License Plate XXX-XXX; if you see him, tell him ‘Hi’ from me). I let him go. Remember, I had my kiddo in the backseat.

Now, before everyone who gets nervous about everything nowadays says “YOU DID ALL THAT WITH YOUR DAUGHTER IN THE CAR??!” Relax. Everything was on green lights, and ‘basically’ within the speed limit. We were a couple cars back. She was on her kindle–had no idea what was happening.
Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story, right?

After I let him go. That’s right. I LET him go, he couldn’t shake me. I had All-Wheel Drive. He had a plastic sheet. We sat outside Target Field for the police officer to file the report (Thank you Officer Hernandez). He told me it wasn’t standard protocol to tell civilians to chase down a suspect, but he was glad that if anyone was going to–it was someone with my sheer driving talent. (I may have added that last part).

Anyways, we finally did make it to Super Bowl Live about an hour and a half later than expected and even though, we were rushed–had a great time! I would recommend taking in the sights and sounds of the Super Bowl!

ML