Monday, August 29, 2011

American Roadtrip: Day 6 - Friends, Reunions and Conclusions

After a visit from friends the night before, I wiled the morning away sitting on deck reading the paper and watching life on the river.

I forgot what it felt like living in a city that is closely tied to a body of water. There is something about it that just slows life down and brings a calmness to the soul.

Three different United States Presidents have sailed on the Delta Queen: Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and Jimmy Carter. The Queen recreated historic steamboat races each year during the Kentucky Derby Festival, when it raced with the Belle of Louisville on the Ohio at Louisville in the Great Steamboat Race. The winner of the annual race would received a trophy of golden antlers, which was mounted on the pilot house until the next race. They also raced during the Tall Stacks festivals celebrating steamboats, held every three or four years in Cincinnati (the Delta Queen's former home port).

Next it was off to The Stone Cup, a local coffee shop to have a small Mercy Ships Alumni reunion for our ex-crew members in the area. Here is one of the reasons I love my job. These people have either never met or had some rudimentary relationship with each other. Their service spanned 13 odd years over two different ships, yet within seconds they were chatting and comparing stories like nobody's business. It was awesome. I could hardly get a word in edgewise! They also started our first official Alumni chapter. Thanks Amy (and sorry you left before the photo was taken, Amy) and well done Chattanooga!

Back to the boat to have a friend take some photos for her fair trade hammock making initiative called Color Cloud Hammocks. Every hammock is made by a team of skilled seamstresses in a family-owned business in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Knowing it costs more to pay someone fairly, they believe that it is worth it to have a safe and beautiful product. The hammocks are beautifully made so, support their effort by clicking on the link above!

What a trip! Early morning start for the 11 to 12 hour return drive to Texas and I will be sad to leave Tennessee. A great, diverse and oh-so-talented state and I have massively fallen in love with it! Thanks for a great time Tennessee and I will return!

Source: Wikipedia and Color Cloud Hammocks

Saturday, August 27, 2011

American Roadtrip: Day 5 - Meeting a Grand Old Lady, That's Right Jack!

Early morning start brought me to Lynchburg, which is a city in the south-central region of the U.S. state of Tennessee. Lynchburg is best known as the location of the Jack Daniel's distillery, whose famous whiskey is marketed world-wide as the product of a city with only one traffic light. Despite the operational distillery, Lynchburg's home county of Moore is a dry county. The population was 5,740 at the 2000 census.

Jack Daniel's is a brand of sour mash Tennessee whiskey that is among the world's best-selling liquors. It is known for its square bottles and black label. As of November, 2007, it was reportedly the best-selling whiskey in the world. Despite being the location of a major operational distillery, Jack Daniel's home county of Moore is a dry county, so the product is not available for consumption at stores or restaurants within the county, although the distillery does sell commemorative bottles of whiskey. Although the product generally meets the regulatory criteria for classification as a straight bourbon, the company disavows this classification and markets it simply as Tennessee whiskey rather than as Tennessee bourbon.

After a very scenic drive down to Chattanooga, I came to the whole reason for this trip, the Delta Queen and my home for the next two nights.

The Delta Queen is an American sternwheel steamboat that is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Historically, she has been used for cruising the major rivers that constitute the drainage of the Mississippi River, particularly in the American South. As of June 2009, she is docked in Chattanooga, Tennessee and has been converted into a hotel. It is possible that she will come back on the rivers.

The Delta Queen is 285 feet long (86.9 m), 58 feet (17.7m) wide, and draws 11.5 feet (3.5m). She weighs 1,650 tons (1,676 metric tons), with a capacity of 176 passengers. Her cross-compounded steam engines generate 2,000 indicated horsepower (1,500 kW), powering a stern-mounted paddlewheel.

The hull, first two decks and steam engines were ordered in 1924 from the William Denny & Brothers shipyard on the River Leven adjoining the River Clyde at Dumbarton, Scotland. The Delta Queen and her sister boat, the Delta King, were shipped in pieces to Stockton, California in 1926. There the California Transportation Company assembled the two vessels for their regular Sacramento River service between San Francisco and Sacramento, and excursions to Stockton, on the San Joaquin River. At the time, they were the most lavishly appointed and expensive sternwheel passenger boats ever commissioned. Driven out of service by a new highway linking Sacramento with San Francisco in 1940, the two vessels were laid up and then purchased by Isbrandtsen Steamship Lines for service out of New Orleans. During World War II, they were requisitioned by the U.S. Navy for duty in San Francisco Bay as USS Delta Queen (YFB-56).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

American Roadtrip: Day 5 - Good Till The Last Drop

A bit of history about the hotel I am staying in... The Millennium Maxwell House Hotel. The story of Maxwell House Coffee begins in Kentucky in 1873 when Joel Cheek, a traveling salesman for a wholesale grocery firm was asked by a customer what the best coffee that he sold was. In rural areas in the 1870's people bought their coffee green and roasted it at home. He naturally recommended the most expensive one, though he knew nothing about the differing qualities of coffee.

Whether bothered by his conscience or simply out of curiosity, that night he roasted some of each type of coffee that he sold and sampled them side by side. He decided that actually one of the cheaper brands had the best flavor. The next day he returned to the grocer that had asked him the question and explained why he would be shipping him the cheaper brand.

Many years passed before he would move to Nashville in 1884 and meet Roger Nolley Smith, a British coffee broker who could reportedly tell the origin of a coffee simply by smelling the green beans. The two became fast friends bound by their passion for coffee. This friendship would be the beginning of Maxwell House Coffee though it would be several more years before either of them knew it.

So there.

Had a quick drive through of music row where all the music label offices are and then on to a stop at the Ryman Auditorium. The auditorium first opened as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892. It was built by Thomas Ryman (1843–1904), a riverboat captain and Nashville businessman who owned several saloons. Ryman conceived of the auditorium as a tabernacle for the influential revivalist Samuel Porter Jones. After Ryman's death, the Tabernacle was renamed Ryman Auditorium in his honor.

It was used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts from 1943 until 1974, when the Opry built a larger venue just outside Nashville at the Opryland USA theme park. (In an effort to maintain continuity with the Opry's storied past, a large circle was cut from the floor of the Ryman stage and inlaid into the center of the new Opry stage.)

The Ryman then sat mostly vacant and fell into disrepair until 1992 when Emmylou Harris and her band, the Nash Ramblers, performed a series of concerts there. The Harris concerts renewed interest in restoring the Ryman, and it was reopened as an intimate performance venue and museum in 1994. Audiences at the Ryman find themselves sitting in pews, the 1994 renovation notwithstanding. The seating is a reminder of the auditorium's origins as a house of worship, hence giving it the nickname "The Mother Church of Country Music".

Then on to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum functions as a local history museum and as an international arts organization, the CMF. On May 17, 2001, the CMF held the grand opening of its new $37 million facility ten blocks away in downtown Nashville. Inside, the museum presents its collection to illustrate country music's story as told through the turns of two centuries. Included are historic country video clips and recorded music, as well as a regular menu of live performances

The original Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened on Music Row in 1967. Operations of the museum came to include educational programs, the CMF Press and CMF Records, the Country Music Foundation Library (1968), and the historic sites RCA Studio B (1977) and Hatch Show Print (1986). The Music Row location of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was closed December 31, 2000. The building was later razed and a private parking lot for employees of music licensing firm BMI now occupies the site.

So there, happy parking BMI employees!

Source - Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

American Roadtrip: Day 4 - Bluelights and Bluegrass in Nashville

So... about 30 minutes outside Memphis I got pulled over by a cop. Psheesh. I was overtaking a truck at 72 mph in a 70 mile stretch. He said that he pulled me over because I was speeding. Me, not the truck that was limited to 65mph which I had to overtake at 72... He must have seen my incredulous look and said that well, he saw my Texas plates and he was from Dallas etc... blah, blah, blah. We talked about Jamie Foxx and that he was from Terrell etc. Shooting the breeze for 10 minutes, he hands me my license back warned me to keep it below 70 and bids me a good day.

I had to laugh. Well, after I drove off that is. 

So I made it to Nashville, which happens to be the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home to a large number of colleges and universities. It is most notably known as a center of the music industry, earning it the nickname "Music City".

Tomorrow I will explore the city more and I will let you now. For today though, it was all about Bluegrass music. First I ended up in Robert's Western World and Honky Tonk Grill. well it is Cowboy Boots and fried Bologna sandwiches with a band playing. After a quick visit to Hatch Show Print who is one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in America, who over the years' posters have featured a host of country music performers, ranging from Country Music Hall of Famers Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, and Johnny Cash to contemporary stars such as Garth Brooks and Wynonna.

I ended up at my original target, Layla's.

I listened to a band of siblings that used to be in a band called Jypsi, but the band disbanded and now the siblings just play. I lost the plot here a bit as Lillie Mae, the sibling in charge explained it to me later on. Maybe it was the beer, I had to concentrate a lot just to look interested and not look as confused as I felt, so I nodded a lot with a very stupid grin on my face.

The music was awesome though! From cover songs like Mule Skinner Blues to Jolene to a lot of self written stuff, I enjoyed it all. Take a listen to Lillie Mae HERE.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

American Roadtrip: Day 3 - Finding the Sun in Memphis

After a lazy morning, I started the day visiting Sun Records. Sun Records is a record label founded by Sam Phillips.

Sun Records was known for giving notable musicians such as Elvis Presley (whose recording contract was sold to RCA Victor Records for $35,000 in 1955 to relieve financial difficulties Phillips' Sun was going through), Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash their first recording contracts and helping to launch their careers. Before those days Sun Records had mainly been noted for recording African-American artists, as Phillips loved Rhythm and Blues and wanted to get black music recorded for a white audience.

It was Sun record producer and engineer, Jack Clement, who discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis, while owner Sam Phillips was away on a trip to Florida. The original Sun Records logo was designed by John Gale Parker, Jr., a resident of Memphis and high school classmate of Phillips.

After this I headed to the Lorraine Motel and the The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, is a privately owned complex of museums and historic buildings built around the former Lorraine Motel at 450 Mulberry Street, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Major components of the complex on 4.14 acres include a museum which traces the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1600s to the present, the Lorraine Motel and hotel buildings as well as the Young and Morrow Building at 422 Main Street on the west side of Mulberry up a small hill across the street from the motel which was the site where James Earl Ray initially confessed (and later recanted) to shooting King from a second story bathroom window as well as the Canipe’s Amusement Store at 418 Main Street next door to the rooming house where the alleged murder weapon with Ray's fingerprints was found. Included on the grounds is the brushy lot that stood between the rooming house and the motel where a differing theory says the fatal shot came from a different weapon at ground level in a conspiracy involving Loyd Jowers who operated Jim's Grill which opened onto the lot.

The Lorraine Motel had not only guests, but residents as well. The last resident of the motel, Jacqueline Smith, had resided there since 1973 as part of her work for the motel as a housekeeper. When faced with eviction for the museum project, Smith barricaded herself in her room and had to be forcibly evicted.

The neighborhood surrounding the Lorraine Motel was a lower-income, predominantly black area. At the time, the area had run-down homes that rented for $175 a month. The homes were demolished and later replaced with more expensive apartments and condominiums, as part of the rejuvenation of the downtown area.

Smith stated that the Lorraine "should be put to better uses, such as housing, job training, free college, clinic, or other services for the poor... She has also stated that Dr. King would not have wanted $9 million spent on a building for him, and would not have wanted Lorraine Motel residents to be evicted.

Smith has maintained a vigil across the street from the Lorraine Motel for up to 21 hours per day for over 20 years, regardless of weather. She still holds vigil outside the Lorraine, although not as consistently as she has in the past.

My last stop for the day was a visit to St Jude's Children's Research Hospital. St. Jude was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, with help from Dr. Lemuel Diggs, on the premise that "no child should die in the dawn of life." Thomas named the hospital for Saint Jude Thaddeus, the Catholic patron saint of hospitals, desperate cases and lost causes. Thomas was a struggling young entertainer when he knelt in a Detroit church before a statue of St. Jude Thaddeus and asked the saint to "show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine." Thomas believed his prayer was answered, and he soon moved his family to Chicago to pursue career offers. Memphis was chosen at the suggestion of Samuel Stritch, a Tennessee native who had been a spiritual advisor to Thomas since he presided at Thomas's confirmation in Thomas's boyhood home of Toledo, Ohio.

Discoveries at St. Jude have completely changed how doctors treat children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. Since St. Jude was established, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, has increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent today

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, August 22, 2011

American Roadtrip: Day 2 - Picking My Way To Memphis!

After waking in a very comfy America's Best Value Inn (I concur) in a gunshot free Carlisle, AR, I possibly got connected to the slowest Internet in history. One page took 37 minutes to load. I know, because I sat and counted the minutes! Giving up I loaded my car I noticed that I am across the street for a picker store named Pickers Stop! Being a fan of American Pickers, a reality television series on History Channel, I HAD TO stop and pick as commanded by the shop's sign!

After a few hours drive I made it across the mighty Mississippi River into Memphis, and a new state for me, Tennessee!

Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers.

Memphis had a population of 646,889 making it the biggest city in the state of Tennessee, the third largest in the Southeastern United States, and the 20th largest in the United States.

Memphis grew into the world's largest spot cotton market and the world's largest hardwood lumber market. Into the 1950s, it was the world's largest mule market.

During the 1960s, the city was at the center of civil rights issues, notably a sanitation workers' strike. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel, the day after giving his prophetic I've Been to the Mountaintop speech at the Mason Temple.

Memphis is well known for its cultural contributions to the identity of the American South. Many renowned musicians grew up in and around Memphis and moved from the Mississippi Delta. These included such musical greats as Elvis Presley, Three 6 Mafia, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, W. C. Handy, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones, Al Green, and many others.

Tonight, I am hitting Beale Street looking for good music and good food.

I found both at BB Kings... Although part of a chain, it has been recommended for its good music and the best dry rub ribs in town. True dat! The ribs fell off the bone and melted in the mouth. Very, very good! I also fell in love (as I do) with the local brew... Ghost River Brewery. Will have to go check them out tomorrow.

If you want to hear the music of The King Beez, click HERE

American Roadtrip: Day One - Certainly, it's Uncertain!

So, starting this roadtrip with some uncertainty... with a visit to Uncertain, TX!

Uncertain is a city in Harrison County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 150. The City of Uncertain was incorporated in 1961 as a Type B, General Law City with a mayor and five aldermen on an at large basis. Uncertain is located on the shore of Caddo Lake and derives its name from surveyors who were attempting to delineate the border between Texas and Louisiana and discovered that they were "uncertain" as to which side of the line they were on as they began surveying that particular part of Caddo Lake.

I learned a valuable lesson, while in Uncertain... NEVER make fun of the house of the Lord. Even if it is called Church of Uncertain. After taking the photo above, I promptly drove into a ditch. My driver side back wheel was completely up in the air. No matter how much grass and soil I tried to displace, I could not get out.

In the end I had to flag down a very nice local young man, who happen to have a chain in his truck and he had to tow me out. Very embarrassing, esp after he greeted me with a 'You're not from around here, huh...'

After skirting Caddo Lake I headed north to Little Rock, Arkansas. Caddo Lake is an internationally protected wetland under the RAMSAR treaty and features the largest Cypress forest in the world. Caddo is one of Texas' few non-oxbow natural lakes and is the 2nd largest in the South; however, it was artificially altered by the addition of a dam in the 1900s. Most trees are eerily draped with Spanish moss (see below) and I am promising myself a return trip to spend a long weekend here.

After making it to North Little Rock, I checked into my motel for the night, I was a bit nervous as on the drive in I realized I might be in the ghetto part of town. It was confirmed a while later when I drove to a local pizza place to pick up dinner and there was a sign in the door advising patrons that they will be closing at 9 pm for a safety meeting!!!! The rest of the evening was spent listening to drunken screaming and running footsteps. About 11 pm there was a volley of gunshots and I checked out. High tailing it out of town on the I-40 I stopped a while later in Carlisle, AR to spend a very peaceful night in rural Arkansas!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Roadtrip planning!

Yep, roadtrip coming up! Expect LOADS of posts next week.

I am off to Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga, all in Tennessee of course!

  • In Memphis I am planning to hang out on Beale Street and listen to some good blues...

  • In Nashville I am planning to go to Layla's Bluegrass Inn for some good ol' bluegrass music...

  • On my way to Chattanooga I  am stopping off at a certain distillery in Lynchburg. That's right, Jack!

  • In Chattanooga I get to stay on the Delta Queen Steamship!!

  • I am also planning a side trip to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama!
  • And end it all with an Alumni Reunion in Chattanooga! If you are a Mercy Ships Alum who happens to be in Chattanooga... meet me at the Stone Cup Coffee Bar on Frazier Ave, Saturday the 27th at 3pm.

    To end it all ... a mad 11 hour dash back home.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Rend Collective Experiment - You Are My Vision

    The Rend Collective Experiment took an old Irish hymn based on the writings of St. Patrick that was written at least a millenia ago and retranslated it from the Irish and the old English to give what they feel is the best modern version. Then they added some Irish Folk sounds and of course a trash can and BAM!!

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    The Mississippi Squirrel Revival

    A fantastic little gem on rural life in Missisipi with a song about a squirrel that gets loose at church and the revival that ensued!

    If you cannot see the video below, watch it HERE!

    Source: Ray Stevens Music

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Perfectly Timed Photos

    So I found this website called of, well, perfectly timed photos. Where the photographer just happened to push the shutter at that unbelievably perfect moment.

    Here are a few of my favourite shots.