Minnesota State Fair, 2017

I’ve written about the Minnesota State Fair a few times (most notably last year, when it got its own post), but as we like to go most years … you get another one!

We snuck in for the day – left Denver at 6am and left Minneapolis about 12 hours later. A car was rented, street parking was found, and enough fair food was consumed to make me realize that this is getting harder and harder for my stomach to handle as the years go by. Urp.

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Pre-fair shot. Yay, excitement!

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We were starving, and Brandon still wanted something breakfast-y, so we headed over to the French Meadow booth. They sadly got rid of their doughsants (*tear*), so none of that for me, but we did try their breakfast croissant sandwich. It was okay. It tasted good until it didn’t … probably because of the (we think chive) in the eggs.

We headed into the DNR building to look at fishies after that, but it was hard to do as it was super crowded in there. Oh well.

Still hungry, we decided to try one of the foods we discussed last year: a Pronto Pup.

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With stands all over the fair, these are some of the most popular corn dogs at the fair, and apparently the ones preferred by adults. Neither of us was impressed (at all), and it prompted us to get better food.

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I waited in line to get the Fresh French Fries while B went and got a chocolate milkshake from the Gopher Dairy Bar. This year, both were delicious, but only when combined together for that perfect salty/sweet combination. When each thing was consumed on its own, it didn’t do it.

With that many calories consumed in that short of time … it was time to walk the food off. We looked at a lot of the animals, petting a gorgeous horse (that apparently was a world champion) and laughing at the chickens. And watching a cock fight try to break out (as best as it could despite the fact that all combatants were in separate cages).

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Really enjoyed the Libertarian Party booth and their commitment to the “on a stick” theme that the MN State Fair is known for.

After meandering through the agriculture building and the international bazaar, we decided to try a bit more food.

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Cheese curds are still the best, though maybe I should avoid the mutant curds that are like three-in-one. I think my heart still hurts from that one.

We sat for a little while after the curds, resting our feet and enjoying the shade. We did eventually get back up and stroll over to the Machinery Hill area of things. I heard that Giggles Campfire Grill had a fish (walleye) sandwich so I sort of wanted to check that out (for the next visit), but the pictures made it look like a thing that I would not be interested in.

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New Ferris wheel on grounds.

We thought some vegetables would be good to possibly settle things, so our next stop was the corn roast.

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We were planning on splitting an ear of corn like we had split everything else thus far that day, but the guy asked B if he wanted a two-for-one …

The corn weirdly enough worked to settle our stomachs enough (oh, beautiful vitamins) to be able to squash down our last bit of fair food, the Minneapple Pie.

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Mmm, delicious deep-fried apple pie.

On our way out, we encountered the parade, so we sat and watched it (because we never really do). I snapped only a few photos.

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Princess Kay of the Milky Way float (basically a “Miss (teen?) Dairy Farmer” award specifically for the fair. Not sure what her duties are, but she gets her head carved out of butter.).

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Vike-Bike. This was just too awesome to NOT get a picture of.

Parade done, we left and headed back to our car. With perfect timing, too, as it started raining as we drove off.

A stop at Starbucks for some iced tea and to change, and then back to the airport (where I bought a teensy tiny salad which tasted so dang delicious) to catch a flight back home.

If you’re interested, the fair runs for another few days, through Labor Day.

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Birthday Shinedown 2017

In general, I like getting the hell out of Dodge for my birthday.

There are a myriad of reasons for this, but mostly, I like hiding. Part of it is because I’m right around a holiday (4th of July) and no one is ever around to celebrate, part of it is because everyone always forgets (parents included) … I’m a weird one in that I generally loathe my birthday.

B, wonderful as he is, has taken it upon himself to make my birthday as awesome as possible. Which for me, means spending it just the two of us (if able; his job makes this iffy), and not in Denver.

Originally, our thought was to go to Boston for my birthday (so I could eat all of the wonderful things), but cost prevented that. So, plans changed. I thought if B wasn’t home and had to work, I’d treat myself to a ridiculously expensive hotel room in the mountains (either Vail or Beaver Creek) for a night and hike around and see wildflowers and whatnot. Or maybe we’d do that even if he was home.

But then we learned Shinedown was touring some in the summer and what do you know … they were playing a show on my birthday. In Lafayette, Ind. That’s what we both honestly wanted to do more … so that’s what we did.

The morning of July 4, we hopped a flight from DEN-MSP and then caught a flight to IND where we rented a car and drove the hour or so to Lafayette. I’d been to Lafayette (well, West Lafayette to be specific) years before – my parents met at Purdue University, and my dad played clarinet in the band, so we went back for an alumni band thingy for him where he played on the field during a football game. I don’t think Brandon had ever been, though.

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Across the street from our hotel.

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Fourth of July band concert. Oh small towns …

We didn’t stay out to watch fireworks, but could see about a good dozen or so displays from our hotel window. And, since it was Indiana, where fun fireworks are legal, who knows how many of those displays were actually “official.”

The next morning, we woke up and hit up a diner across from the theater for breakfast.

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Random street piano I made B play for the photo op.

We wanted to see if anyone had started lining up yet, and thankfully, they hadn’t. After breakfast, we went for a run – training never stops ’round herrre – then back to shower and to explore.

We popped over to the Purdue campus for a bit – I was taking random photos and seeing if my parents could guess where I was – so I could see if there was anything good in the bookstore (there wasn’t). If they had a “Dad-style” shirt I would have gotten him one, but nope. We wandered over to the stadium so B could send pictures of a rival Big Ten stadium to his Gopher fan dad and drove over to the airport so B could get a sense of their flight program.

After that, we drove my history nerd self over to the Tippecanoe Battlefield.

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(We took a serious picture, too, if you can believe it.)

We were starting to get hungry again at this point, so we grabbed some snacks from a gas station and then ate possibly some of the worst Chinese food I’ve had in my life. So terrible.

(As far as birthdays go, this one was awful in terms of food eaten.)

Back to the hotel for a tiny bit and then to the theater to sit outside for a good four hours so we could be up front for the show. We didn’t have a bad spot – 10 back, maybe? – and I had my phone and my nook and some snacks. The hotel was also only four-ish blocks away so if we needed to pee, we’d take turns leaving and going back. This way, we could also take back anything we had to entertain ourselves before heading in. B also left the line at one point to grab us more food – salads and, for him, wings from Buffalo Wild Wings. Worst salad I’ve had from them, too, btw.

Eventually, we were let in, rushed the stage … and were pissed to find VIP people (who were supposed to all be on the upper level in assigned seats) on the rail. Grumble. In any case, we were only one person back from the rail and by the time Shinedown really got going, B weaseled his way up on to the actual rail.

First up was Lacey Sturm.

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They were … okay. I guess she was the singer for Flyleaf back in the day. My thoughts in bullet point form that I made on my phone post-show:
– meh
– bassist good
– guitarist played ZM sig? (in reference to a PRS Signature Zach Myers guitar; proven accurate on Instagram a few days later.)
– (her) voice got drowned out a lot
– sings with passion, but don’t get her stage presence (not sure with what she was doing up there …)
– one of the worst covers of “Roxanne” ever (did not enjoy)
– one of the cymbals fell over and it was funny
– someone in the audience said she had a good vocal range, but I don’t see it. Honestly didn’t like her style.

Basically, it’s not like they were bad; just not for me.

Between sets, we got to see the set up, as usual, and our location enabled me to spot something I’ve never seen before –

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Zach Myers’ Grizzlies guitar case. Ha.

Since it was birfday show, I didn’t want to take a lot of pictures – I really wanted to enjoy the show – so I only got this one, and I normally would have deleted it because, crap, but whatever.

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As for the show itself …

– It was SO. FUCKING. HOT. inside the theater. I was sweating so badly and at a few points, thought I was going to pass out due to the heat.

– Someone apparently yelled “you suck” up at the stage, so Brent Smith legit stopped the show to go lecture him and the crowd and saying they didn’t need to be there and could walk off the stage. I’m super glad they continued the show (for obvious reasons), but seriously? Whoever that was? NOT COOL.

– In this, my seventh Shinedown show (third state!), I finally broke my streak of seeing a new song performed. I’d already seen every song at this show. Kind of sad day, but also not really.

– The crowd at this show? Sucked. Unfriendly people around, a lot of Facebook live-ing going on, a lot of pictures … Ugh.

– I think because I was so happy, I cried through about 75-80% of the show. Seriously.

– Brandon was able to get Zach’s attention at one point with a scribble on his phone to say that it was my birthday; Zach mouthed “how old,;” I said 34 with my fingers; he mouthed “older than me;” I mouthed back “BARELY!” (okay buddy, by like four months); and he flung a guitar pick our way. It didn’t quite make it, but the security guard retrieved it and got it directly into my hands. (I made sure to thank him again specifically after the show).

All in all, we were able to snag four picks, and it was mostly me! Usually B is the guitar pick snatcher; this time it was me. Yay.

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Marquee post-show.

Going back to those guitar picks … I was the happiest that I was able to catch both Eric Bass’ and Zach Myers’ show-specific picks because it had my birthday on them … so I tweeted a photo of the picks and a thank you out, and lookie who retweeted it:

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Hee!

As we were ranking Shinedown shows later the next day, I found it hard to properly place this show. Not the greatest set list, hot as balls, shitty crowd … but the birthday happiness aspect makes it have a special place in my heart.

Once again, thank you to my husband as well as all of the guys in Shinedown – Eric Bass, Barry Kerch, Brent Smith, and especially Zach Myers – for making this one of the best birthdays in a long time.

On the Latest DMNS Exhibits

We’ve been a little lazy in using our Denver Museum of Nature and Science membership … lazy in that we hadn’t gone in a while AND we were getting notifications that it was going to expire SOON. So, since there are two current exhibits that we hadn’t checked out … we decided to just go and do it.

The first one is Vikings: Beyond the Legend, which, clearly, talked about the Vikings. And how horns on the helmet? Not a thing (thanks, Wagner). How “viking” is more of a term like “farmer” or “explorer” rather than an actual ethnic group. In any case, cool exhibit, but both B and I agreed that it wasn’t quite as cool as the Maya exhibit.

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Entrance.

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Badass Viking jewelry.

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Closest I could get my name in runes.

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B’s name was a bit easier.

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Awesome Viking glass.

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LEGO Vikings!

If you’re interested, Vikings: Beyond the Legend goes through August 13.

If you go, you’ll also be able to see Nature’s Amazing Machines, which is on display through the end of the year. I didn’t take too many photos, but it was a cool exhibit on the way animals are awesome, basically – how the dome shape is around so much in nature and how well it protects various species, how amazingly the cheetah is designed, why giraffe hearts are so cool … you get the picture. Probably better for kids, but still fun for adults.

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Exhibit entrance.

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Electronic majestic flap flap (sorry, funny term I found online for rays) that was able to trick real rays.

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Because when one sees a cast of part of SUE, one takes a photo. ESPECIALLY if one has a thing for dinosaurs (ahem).

On Star Wars and the Power of Costume

So there has been an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum for a few months now titled, “Star Wars and the Power of Costume.” The exhibit is a traveling one that shows the whole journey of dressing the Star Wars universe. The exhibit has everything from storyboards to final costumes, and has different in-depth stories about the various pieces.

Like how the Jedi are purposefully made to look biblical because they are “good.”

Like how Han Solo’s outfit is more reminiscent of an old west gunslinger as opposed to how we’d think some space dude is supposed to look.

Like how ridiculous of a process it was to put on the Darth Vader costume.

And so on. The exhibition closes here in Denver April 9 and I really wanted to make it to the DAM before it closed, so we picked a day last week and went. The following are a smattering of pictures from the event.

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Explanation.

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Luke Skywalker’s outfit on the left and I believe Anakin on the right. While most Jedi are in white and brown, Luke’s outfit is black at this point (I believe this one was from “Return of the Jedi”) due to the nature of the dark side creeping in.

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I totally remember using these iMacs in high school …

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Princess Leia’s dress.

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The iconic bikini as well as the disguise Leia uses to free Han Solo from Jabba.

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Chewy and Solo.

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Rebel fighters. Joked to B that if he were in Star Wars, this is what he would wear.

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… B’s response was that TIE fighters were cooler so he’d be in these flight outfits instead.

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Droids.

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Darth Vader, I believe from the Hayden Christiansen days.

Cool exhibit. I think there’s a more permanent version of the exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., but after it leaves Denver, it’s also heading to the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, Oh., and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

On Washed Ashore

The Denver Zoo recently had a traveling exhibit called “Washed Ashore – Art to Save the Sea.” I had seen the banners for it while driving and we finally got the chance to go about three days before it ended its residency.

From their website: “Washed Ashore builds and exhibits aesthetically powerful art to educate a global audience about plastic pollution in oceans and waterways and spark positive changes in consumer habits.”

The pieces? Are stunning. I took photos of almost every piece at the zoo (missed one behind glass) and I’ve included my favorites here.

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I adore this marlin.

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The jellyfish in the background is almost all entirely water bottles. Insane.

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Gorgeous parrotfish.

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Close-up. The artistry that went into these is amazing.

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Shark.

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Shark close-up.

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Turtle out of cans.

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Salmon.

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American sea star. In USA colors to bring attention to firework debris.

As I said, the exhibit is no longer in Denver, but they currently also have pieces in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (which might be permanent?). They are also coming soon to the Science Museum of Virginia (Richmond, Va.), Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (Tacoma, Wash.), and Reiman Gardens (Ames, Ia.).

The Great Southern Road Trip: Day Nine

For our fifth wedding anniversary this year, we decided to take a road trip to race Ironman Chattanooga and cross a whole bunch of states off my list. This is the story of that trip.

Day Nine: 9.27

I had an errand or two to run before we started the fun part of our day, so after we woke up and checked out, we grabbed coffee, hit up a Target, and then went to Waffle House for breakfast. I don’t know what it is about traveling through the south, but the Waffle Houses taste better.

Stop one was the Georgia Aquarium.

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Brandon had gone years ago and loved it; I love aquatic life, so obviously I was all for it.

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There were a couple points where you walked underneath the fish.

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Sarcastic Fringehead. Best. Name. Ever.

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Another fish tunnel.

I enjoyed the aquarium, but out of the two we visited, I would honestly have to give the edge to the Tennessee Aquarium. Even Brandon thought that Georgia’s was a little disappointing. Either that, or aquariums have just gone way downhill since I was a kid …

Our next stop was across the plaza at the World of Coke.

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Coke memorabilia.

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I approved once they came out with Sprite.

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The story behind the bottle was REALLY cool, especially if you know anything about marketing/advertising …

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Coke rumors.

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… highly doubt the *actual* recipe is in here …

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Coca-Cola company products. Some of these took me way back …

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Coke art.

The niftiest part of the whole thing (in my opinion) was the tasting room. We get a lot of flavors of Coca-Cola here in the states, but around the world? There are a lot of different sodas …

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Asia.

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Africa.

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Europe.

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North America.

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North America.

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Brandon trying Surge for the first time in years.

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Central/South America.

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Coke core.

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North America. I forgot how good fruit punch Powerade was …

After the World of Coke, it was off to lunch and out of town.

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Oh hey look, Olympic torch from 1996.

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Lunch was at the Varsity. I’d heard many things about it, and since I was being a tourist … that was lunch.

From Atlanta, it was off to North Carolina for the night. The original plan (back when I sketched this trip out almost a year prior) was to head to Charlotte, but the more we thought about it, the more we decided we didn’t want to go with Charlotte. Well, that, and the political unrest going on didn’t make it a prudent decision. So, we decided on Asheville, so off to Asheville we went.

On a plus, it meant that I hit a few more states, too, thanks to traversing through South Carolina.

We rolled into Asheville late afternoon, got a free dinner at the hotel, and checked out a local brewery.

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Wicked Weed, Asheville, N.C.

I had wine, but Brandon had some seasonal pumpkin something that he really enjoyed.

After a drink, we wandered around, enjoying window shopping as not much else was open. However, we got just enough of a taste to know that we’d like to return someday.

States Hit: 3 (GA, SC, NC)
New States Hit: 2 (SC, NC)

The Great Southern Road Trip: Day Eight

For our fifth wedding anniversary this year, we decided to take a road trip to race Ironman Chattanooga and cross a whole bunch of states off my list. This is the story of that trip.

Day Eight: 9.26

It’s funny how DNFing an Ironman halfway through the bike means you sleep fairly well that night because you’re NOT in the massive amounts of pain that you usually are …

It was hard going down to breakfast at the hotel that morning, seeing everyone in their finisher’s gear, even though we accepted what had happened the day before. Less hard was seeing the ugly finisher’s hats. Justification, absolutely, but whatever.

I would like to give massive props to the lady working the breakfast buffet, as she let me use their kitchen to wash and sanitize all of our water bottles so they wouldn’t be moldy and disgusting when we got home. I’m not sure if she should have let me back there, but I greatly appreciated it.

After breakfast, we met up with Jeremy and Melanie once more before we all rolled out of town. We grabbed coffee at Stone Cup again, because it was just that awesome. We also checked out a local doughnut shop.

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Cool place, but unfortunately, mediocre doughnuts. Although we’re picky …

Post-coffee, back to the hotel. I couldn’t find my iPod in the process of packing and was kind of freaking out. I rush to the car to find it, thankfully do … and somehow manage to lock my keys in the car. With my phone. And my purse. Thankfully, Brandon still had his phone, so he called up our insurance (free roadside assistance) and got a locksmith to come bail us out.

An hour later, we were on our way. I wanted to see the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, so we stopped there while heading out of town.

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(Also a hotel.)

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While en route to the highway that would take us to Atlanta, we saw signs for the Chickamauga Battlefield. As I wrongly thought the bike ride would take us through it, I still wanted to check it out. Brandon agreed, so off we went.

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Such the Civil War.

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Pretending to fire a cannon.

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Cannon.

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Memorial stone.

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You can kind of see the leaves blowing; a storm was rolling in.

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More artillery.

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After the battlefield, I asked Brandon if he wanted to see the scene of the crime (the point where his day on the bike ended). He said yes, so we essentially ended up driving the bike course again; this time, in pouring rain. We stopped at a gas station for a snack and then drove to Atlanta.

By the time we got to Atlanta, we were starving, so we found ourselves a hotel and then went out and grabbed some dinner. After that, it was bedtime, as we had a busy day planned for Tuesday.

States Hit: 2 (TN, GA)
New States Hit: 0