Magical Mystery Music City

So, the holidays are over. The lights are off, the music has stopped, the commercials are gone (unless you're watching media center in which case they still haunt you as they do me), the fireworks have gone off, and for the most part people are home or finding their way back. So where was I during the week of festivities (my self-titled name for week of Dec 24th through Dec 31st)? I was in Nashville, TN. I went to high school and college in Nashville (Hillwood / Vanderbilt) and my parents live there still.

So from the top…

First of all, I should say that when I was younger, I used to love to fly. I thought the whole concept of starting in one place of the country and ending in another only a few hours later was great. However, that was before I lived on the west coast. Now when you want to fly almost anywhere (other than las vegas, or salt lake city), its going to be at least 3-4 hours for the first leg and another 1-2 hours for the second. I am usually guaranteed at least 10-12 hours in the whole process of flying, no matter where I want to go in the mid to eastern US. So because of this over the last 5 years or so, I have come to not liking flying as much as before. I would sometimes prefer a nice 8-9 hour drive (500-600 miles) to flying, since when driving I can see the countryside, listen to music as much as I want, and am not packed like a sardine into a flying tin tube. (ok aluminum) .

With that all in mind, I am extremely grateful that our flight did not go through Denver. They had so much snow that the airport was closed for 48 hours and a state of emergency was declared. Unfortunately some friends of mine DID go through Denver and got caught in the mess. Thankfully they had family there, but of course it was still a nightmare and was not planned. They also unfortunately got caught in Denver the SECOND time the snow came through as well on their way back home. They are now safely in WA state again, but had quite an adventure. As for flights, ours were mostly on time, and non-eventful. Except that on the way to Chicago (where we connected through) I volunteered to give up my aisle seat to someone so that they could sit together with someone else. Sigh, kind of a bad move. Unfortunately I had no practical reason for refusing though, so it was somewhat inevitable. I got stuck (once again) next to someone much larger than I was and who also had no flight etiquette. Now, whenever I fly, I am very self aware of where my arms, legs, and bags are and make sure that they are in my own space. Not only that, but I usually also yield control of the shared arm rests to the person in the center seat since their seat is smaller and has less room. However, once again, I was stuck next to a person who apparently does not follow the same concepts. They were in the window aisle, myself in the center (after giving up my original seat). This person immediately stretches out their arms and legs and not only uses up the entire shared arm rest, but sticks their elbow well into the area of the center seat as well (into my side). They do the same thing with their right leg as well. So by this point I am scrunched over to the right of my seat quite a bit. I suppose I was lucky that the person in the aisle seat was somewhat small and did not need the same space requirements, this way I at least got the space of the right-most shared arm rest. Then as-if I were to proclaim that "it couldn't get any worse," the person in front of me slammed back their chair right into my knees as soon as we took off. LOVELY. Now I have 4 hours and 30 minutes of this cramped agony to look forward to. To add to all that, I usually cannot sleep very well on airplanes. It does not matter how tired I am. In this case, I had not even gone to bed since the day prior (since we left for the airport at 4am), but I still could not sleep. So sure enough it was 4+ hours of me not being able to move and having to just wait for the plane to land. AWESOME. Thankfully I was able to sleep "some" on the flight from Chicago to Nashville, after taking this cool picture. But in general, I was pretty darn tired and went to bed pretty early that night.

The next day was Christmas day, and for the most part went much like many Christmas days have gone for me in the past (except for last year, when I awoke to water leaking in my living room on Christmas morning). This year though, I suppose one of my Christmas presents was that I setup a new Dell computer that my parents had gotten. (In general, I am usually always the one that sets up the PCs…go figure.) This took much of the day downloading and installing updates, patches, software, etc. Later on that day, I called a friend of mine and met up for some ping pong and snacks, and later that night went to see Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. Not my first choice, but I was somewhat outvoted and there was not much else playing. Over all I think that the plot was interesting and it had a good storyline. However outside that, I think that the name and the previews are misleading, its not very revolutionary of a film, and I kept expecting more to happen that just never did. So for those reasons, I did not have the best movie experience that I could have. Note to Mel and other producers: When making a film like this in the future, please advertise and market the nature of the story and the level of which it has impact appropriately. Being sensationalist may seem to get patrons in the long term, but from now on I am less likely to really believe that future titles will be all that grand.

The next day for lunch we went to Blackstone Brewery in Nashville, where they have good burgers and pretty good beer as well. Afterwards, we headed to the Parthenon in Centennial Park. It was originally built for the Tennessee 1897 Centennial Exposition, and has been re-built and remodeled several times since then. However, there were two problems we ran into. The first was that it was cold outside. (REALLY COLD, probably the coldest time the entire 7 days I was there.) The second was that the Parthenon was closed the day after Christmas, so it was not possible to go inside. So we walked around it for a bit, took a few pictures, and then moved on to the next item: Vanderbilt. I have a Bachelors of Engineering from Vanderbilt, and like to go back and walk around every now and then and see what has changed. Also the grounds are a national arboretum, so you can count on the grounds being well maintained year-round. Also since I had a few friends along, it was nice to show someone else where I went to school and what it looked like. (Though so many buildings are new or remodeled that it seems like a brand new school in some places.) One thing that has never changed it seems is that during the day, the buildings around campus (almost all of them) are unlocked. They all lock up at night and you need your student card to get in, but during the day, almost nothing is locked, so I was able to give a decent tour of many of the buildings and classrooms as well. (Also since it was so cold out, it was nice to go inside and thaw out for a little while at one point.) After a hearty home-cooked meal that night, we headed to see the Nashville Predators play the St. Louis blues. I like watching NHL hockey, and I miss the fact that we don't have any here. (I tried watching minor leagues once, but it was pretty boring since they are not as good.) The game was relatively uneventful though until the third period where most of the goals were scored. Additionally there was a LOT of fighting and penalties in the third period as well. Probably the best moment of the game was watching Jordin TooToo simply LEVEL another player with a cross check immediately after getting released from the penalty box for another fight earlier. This of course incited a team fight from both sides and several people started fighting for quite a while. It was a HUGE hit though and the whole arena got on their feet and cheered when it happened. (The audience overall cheered more for fighting than they did for scoring it seemed.) Well at the end of regulation, the score was tied. This meant a tie-break round for 5 minutes. Again, after that round, there was a tie as well, so the match went to 6 1:1 shootouts. (3 per team) No one scored their either, so finally it was to sudden death 1:1 shootouts. Basically the first player to score in alternating shootouts won the entire game. The Blues led off though, so they could win it just by scoring. Thankfully Chris Mason did a good job at blocking the shoot outs and they did not score. However, on the first sudden death 1:1 shootout that the predators had, they DID score, and the whole arena stood up and cheered. I even took a video of the winning shot. If you look real closely you can see the puck go into the net. That night we met up with some friends at the Flying Saucer for some more local brews. Also as a note several of my friends have rings (plates) of honor on the wall there, one even has two. (for each plate, that's 200 pints with different kinds of beer) Also of note is that the same group of them achived this honor faster than anyone else ever has (which is the minimum possible 67 days, since they only allow you to progress 3 beers every 24 hours towards your goal). That's pretty crazy. I can't imagine 48oz of beer a day (336 a week) for 67 days in a row. But somehow they managed to do this. Most people manage to achieve this honor in multiple years. I think I am comfortable with my 1 or 2 pints per 1-2 weeks.

At the suggestion of several friends, we went to Judge Beans the next day for lunch. It was pretty good, but my two favorite places in Nashville to go for BBQ are still at the top despite having tried Judge Beans. It WAS very good though, and I would recommend it to anyone. (After you visit Jack's and Corkys though. :)) After lunch, we went BACK to the Parthenon, since we knew that it would be open today. I had a 2-for-1 coupon thanks to my parents which helped out. But I think it was only 5$ anyways to get in. After reading about the history, we went upstairs into the interior. In 1990, a statue of Athena was constructed inside, and in 2002 was guilded in gold leaf. (I am not really sure why, but it is somewhat impressive.) Also impressive are the massive doors on both sides of the interior. They each weigh 7.5 tons and are 24 feet tall, but easily move to the touch. After the Parthenon, we actually went ice skating at Centennial SportsPlex (across the street from the Parthenon). I had not been ice skating in probably 7-8 years, and especially since the accident in 05 either. It was quite the challenge. My ankles are both very weak and with the fact that the rental skates were not that grand, I had a tough time since my ankles would hurt almost the entire time. But I suppose I had a good time though. I am doing some physical therapy right now on my ankles actually and that seems to be helping. Possibly after more of it, I can try skating again. I would guess that I would also have similar problems snowboarding when I take that up again. After skating we headed east out to opry mills. It's on the previous site of Opryland. After visiting stores such as the Bass Pro Shop and Past & Presents as well as a walk around the mall, it was time for dinner. Originally, I had planned to go to Jillians, which I knew was in the mall. I knew that they had drinks and bowling, and would hopefully be a good time. Well I came to find out that this particular one was now a Dave and Busters. I did not know the difference really (having not been to either), but was willing to check it out since it seemed fun. Well we get to the hostess desk to put our name down, and they get ready to seat us when they then pause, check something on the computer and then say it will be 20 minutes. We are all confused because looking at the seating, there is NO ONE THERE. There are a few tables with people sitting at them, but generally, there are many empty tables being that its early on a week night. We decide to wait and see though since it may in fact be quicker than the 20 minutes that they said it would be. However, it seemed to have taken longer. Also during this time, they were not seating anyone and the whole waiting lobby is now full of people waiting to be seated. (Still the same empty seats we are all looking at as well.) After a while, several families (who only waited 5 minutes or so) started just sitting down since they were apparently tired of waiting. Of course the waiter then came by, and got them menus, took orders, etc. We were pretty fuming at that point since not only did they cut ahead of many other groups, they also were taking seats that would not open up until they were done as well. After the second group of people did this (after seeing the first), most of our group went to do the same thing as well. I then took it upon myself to call out to management (who had showed up by this point to also stand around and stare at the computer) that several families had done this. Of course, who do they then go to and ask to leave? The families which just walked in and sat down? No, they went to my group which was just about to sit down somewhere and had started talking to the waiter. We all got so upset at this point that we decided to leave, and the other party in our group just decided to head home since they did not want to deal with waiting anywhere else. So that is my one and only experience with Dave and Busters. It seems that the only people they employ can only look at a computer screen to try and figure out how to seat people (including management who also came out to stare at the screen for a while) and can't just look behind them and see, hey there is a whole room full of empty tables. Awesome. I don't plan to return, and would recommend that no one else go to one either. So instead that night we went and had a GREAT dinner at J. Alexanders on West End followed by another trip to the Flying Saucer to get Pint Glasses since it was Brewer's night (where when you order a specific drink you get to keep the glass). (Which was my 3rd and final Pint glass for the trip I would be taking home.)

3 more days to go, and we have already done so much and had a good time. It was now Thursday and we were going to drive to Lynchburg and take a tour of the Jack Daniels distillery. Remember the friends I mentioned earlier that got stuck in Denver? Well, they were also in the Nashville area as well, so we met up with them at Cracker Barrel for lunch for some real southern cookin (if only we planned ahead and went to Miss Mary Bobos we could have had quite possibly the most authentic southern meal you can find in middle Tennessee). I have managed to eat their twice before though, and it's quite an experience. After lunch we all headed on to the distillery. After the drive through "Shugh Bugh Vugh" we arrive at Jack Daniels only to find a LOT of people there. When we arrive, we obtain passes for Group 4, and they soon after call for group 6 (meaning that the numbers have to go all the way around again to get back to us). However we waited in the lobby and looked around and took some pictures as well. After almost an hour or so I would say we were finally called. One of the first things that they do on the tour is take your picture and post it on their website. I have also copied it to my site as well (pictured) since they take down the picture after a few months. Yes, those bunny ears are over my head. Thanks Jacob. The tour at Jack Daniels really gives a lot of information and you really get to know the process and the product pretty well. Its one of the more informative tours I have taken. Of course since the county is a dry county, there are no samples given on the tour, and only in the 90s did they change the proprietor run for office to be able to change the laws to allow for the sale of commemorative bottles in the gift shop. (which I now have two from, one of which was signed by the master distiller Jimmy Bedford.) That night was relatively uneventful including another home cooked meal and more local drinks at Boscos this time (now the 3rd local brewery tried on the trip).

The next day, we were headed out of town again, this time to Bowling Green, KY, where all Corvette's are "born." This was also the same day as the Music City Bowl which was Kentucky against Clemson. Now, you can imagine the traffic going the OTHER direction (thankfully) FROM Kentucky TO Nashville to see Kentucky play in the Music City Bowl. For at least 30 minutes driving on the interstate out of town, the southbound lanes of I-65 were just a parking lot. After a while, we realized that most of those people were going to miss much of the game just because of the amount of time it was going to take them to get into town. Thankfully traffic was light on our side though. So after another lunch at Cracker Barrel, we headed to the official Corvette Museum. This was also another tour I had done before, but my friend had not and he loves corvettes, so it was a perfect destination. They have lots of older corvettes inside, as well as the history of the corvette, and even had a few brand new ones as well since one of the options when you purchase a corvette is to take delivery of it INSIDE the museum, and drive away after taking all the pictures you want of course and after a small party thrown by GM. We saw at least 4 new corvettes waiting in a line to be picked up by their new owners including a new C6 Z06 (pictured). So after a thorough tour of the place, we headed back to Nashville, where our next destination was to be the Yazoo Brewing Company, where we thought we would get a tour of the "facility." We were early however, so we killed some time at the Bicentennial Mall. Next it was time to try and find Yazoo. I had the address and knew how to get there, which I thought would be enough. Apparently I was wrong. We found the intersection where it was supposed to be, but there was no signs which said Yazoo anywhere or large complexes with people, or anything indicative of a brewery. Just warehouses and affordable housing. So we pulled over to the side of the road and I went back to their website on my phone, where I read "located in the old Marathon Motor Works factory." It just so happened that we were parked next to this building at the time, so we just pulled into the parking lot for the building and walked in. It appears that it was renovated to make generic office space. There were fitness clubs, photography studios, a restaurant, and other random offices inside. I was somewhat surprised because this was basically the worst part of town and not where you would imagine a somewhat upscale office complex to be. Finally we found it (with the help of some random person we found in the building) all the way at the other end of the building from where we parked and behind an unmarked door. (of course it was well marked if you came in from the OTHER side of the building, but seeing that the outside of the other end was not marked at all either, who would have known. In the end the Yazoo brewing "facility" is essentially a small warehouse type office area with a front room they use as a bar/pub, and a second front room they use since the bar area ALWAYS is full of people. One of the things that we noticed there was that lots of people either purchased growlers or brought several in to be refilled. Sometimes 3 or 4 at a time. (They were 10$ for the first and 7$ for a refill. At 1.75$ per pint (after the first one at least) that's a great deal.) We also saw people bringing in kegs and half kegs for refill as well. We were there for at least an hour or two and there was a constant stream of people coming and the place was always packed. They seem to have gotten the word out because they were doing good business. The second day we were there, there was a line either to or out the door for the entire 90 minutes or so that we were there (out of the 2 hours that they were open that day). That night, my friends went out dancing and I met up with a high school friend for drinks at Jonathans (which is yet another local microbrewey/sports bar).

On the final day, we got to sleep in, watch a movie, and then have a late lunch at Jacks downtown (which I mentioned was one of my 2 favorites) where we also met up with another one of my friends from high school / college. One thing we had not counted on though was that there were still a TON of people in the city after the Music City Bowl the previous say and there was another NHL game against Boston that afternoon as well (which is just across the street from jacks). When we got there, a line had formed out the door and around the front. After one smell, we decided to wait for the food though, and personally I think that it was worth it. It's some of the best BBQ available anywhere. After lunch, my friend took us on a tour of her seriously sweet condo. It was just built in 2006, and with LCD TVs in every elevator lobby (and three large ones in the main lobby), as well as a roof-top pool, roof-top exercise room, and roof-top common area with XM satellite radio free in all these areas, it's a seriously cool place to live. Add to that the fact that the views of downtown Nashville and surrounding area are stunning, and she really hit a home run I think. That would have been a tough wait for me I think while it was being built, but it seems that it was well worth it. We went straight from their back to Yazoo again (since we had nothing better to do), but I already talked about their, so no need to elaborate again. After another dinner at home, and watching the President Ford ceremonies on tv, everyone went to bed pretty early since we had to be up at 3:30am CST (1:30am PST) to leave for the airport. UGH.

It was going to be a long day as well. Since we had a new year's party to go to that night. So potentially, it looked like we would be up for at least 24 hours straight. UGH! This time, I had a somewhat more enjoyable flight experience. I got an entire row on the flight to Chicago, so got to sleep pretty soundly. Then from Chicago to Seattle, I had the aisle seat again and the middle seat was occupied by a small kid. He liked putting his head down on the arm rest though, which was annoying and for a while, the guy in front of me jammed his seat back, but at least at one point when I had to get up to let the kid out to go to the restroom and the only way to do so was to grab the seat in front of me (since it was vertically directly over the edge of my seat, meaning I had to slide out at an angle) he then moved it forward again a little bit. This made the rest of the flight (though long) at least tolerable. I played around 40 games of solitaire on the flight. After getting back, I soon realized that I was coming down with something, which was the reason I felt bad when I woke up that morning. The whole rest of the day, I felt horribly sick. I went back home in the afternoon and took a nap before the party that night. I don't think this helped much. Probably the only difference it made was it meant I did not completely pass out before making it home that night, which was a good thing. Once again, the fireworks at my friend's condo in belltown were great, and I got some good pictures as well. However, I was not drinking much (in fact nothing at all after around 9pm or so) and felt horribly sick from around 10 until 1am or so when I finally convinced the person I was giving a ride that I had to go (since it was 35 minutes to their house and then 20 back to mine). I then spent new year's day entirely in bed with a headache, stuffed nose, sore throat and crazy muscle aches. These symptoms continue somewhat to this day (Sun Jan 7) though I can at least think somewhat straight now, and most of the symptoms seem to be going away finally, but man, that was the worst cold ever.

And on that note, that completes my tale of what I did over the holidays. Hope that you enjoyed it!


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