On Tucson in August

I went to Tucson at the beginning of the month so I could go to tri camp.

I drove down a day early, on August 2nd, so I didn’t have to rush getting to the first swim session on time.

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Driving.

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This really doesn’t do the clouds justice.

Tucson was still in monsoon season – or at least the tail end – and I experienced rain on my drive in. I don’t believe I have ever seen the desert that green – or, at the very least, have ever experienced it humid, which it was. Completely crazy. I texted my dad about it, and he said the best thing about the desert post-rain is the smell, and it did smell amazing, even by my hotel.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures during camp – my main focus was to get through it, and I did that. I did get to experience a new part of the region, though, in Sonoita and Parker Canyon Lake. The latter, about two hours southeast of Tucson, was like being in a whole other state. The saguaro? Didn’t exist down there. I felt like I saw more trees than cacti.

Post-camp, B came down so we got to spend a day together. Before I picked him up from the airport, I stopped for breakfast at Bisbee Breakfast Club.

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Menu. I had the Daredevil.

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Food.

I wanted pretty standard, so I went with pretty standard, but it was good. I’d go again to try something a bit more fancy for sure.

After I picked up B, we mostly just drove around. Neither of us wanted a crazy day (plus it was hot … that summer in the desert thing …), so it worked out. I showed him a lot of what I did in camp, which included driving where we rode at Gates Pass.

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You get a sense of how green everything is here. We even saw some blooms still on the saguaro, which is RIDICULOUS.

Besides driving around, I also wanted to bring home some green corn tamales for the family. I found a different place to try – La Mesa Tortillas – which was the smart move. Their tamales are so much better than Tucson Tamale Company (in my opinion), and their tortillas are to die for. Seriously. We bought some on a whim and it was the best decision.

We decided on a nicer dinner, so chose El Corral. I’m pretty sure I’d been there before, but it was probably somewhere back in the early 1990s, so I didn’t remember too much about it.

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We started off with their spinach artichoke dip, which had too much spinach in it to be good. Would not recommend (unless you like more of a spinach dip) or get again. For dinner, so many things looked good. Ultimately, B got their prime rib (delicious), and his baked potato was one of the best I’ve had. I got a combo, with mesquite grilled chicken (just a tad too heavy on the pepper; otherwise perfect) and their baby back ribs (cooked well; just didn’t like their BBQ sauce).

The main reason we chose them over another steakhouse we were looking at was solely for dessert. They had a mud pie on the menu, and a good, proper mud pie is hard to find.

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Not bad. Too much chocolate mousse, not enough cookie crust.

We were going to split it, but then B realized that the seasonal fruit cobbler was peach, so he ended up with that instead.

We met up with our TriSports friends Seton and Debbie after dinner at a local pub for a drink (well, B drank) as a great way to close out the trip.

The next day, a nice long drive back home with a killer sunrise.

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Tucson Spring 2017

If that “live where you vacation” thing is accurate, we’re probably going to end up moving to Tucson at some point. Probably when we’re old. When we can handle the 100+ degree temperatures in the summer. Probably. Maybe.

This trip was originally hopefully going to be in early May and comprise of a training camp, but then we kind of took a month off of training and we realized the May dates weren’t going to work but we still really wanted to go and long story short … we went in early April, instead, when we were originally in theory supposed to be in Chicago for the Frozen Four.

I think we were both happier in the desert sunshine as opposed to the rainy Midwest.

Tuesday, April 4:

We knew it was probably going to snow the day we headed out of town, but we didn’t realize it was as bad as it ended up being. I’m pretty sure the storm I was supposed to hit on the first driving back from Albuquerque got delayed and combined into this one. That meant that the three hours it normally takes to get across the border into New Mexico? Took over five. Walsenberg to Trinidad should take maybe a half-hour. It took us double that.

From home to probably just before Santa Fe, N.M., we were driving through snow and ice. Southern Colorado after Colorado Springs through the border was us going 20 to 25 miles per hour (35 if we got lucky), seeing multiple cars off the side of the road, seeing a car spin out in front of us heading up Raton Pass, feeling us fishtail at one point.

All in all, it meant a good seven hours of white-knuckle driving. It was TERRIBLE.

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Front of my car. Photo taken in Las Vegas, N.M., where it was thankfully just rainy.

We rolled into Tucson right around 8pm Tucson time so really 9pm our time. A 12.5 hour drive (usually) turned into a 17 hour drive.

Wednesday, April 5:

We were staying at the Hilton Tucson East, more on the southern (and obviously eastern) end of town.

Wednesday was actually fairly chill, just driving around and exploring. We stopped somewhere if we felt like stopping – like at the La Encantada shopping center – but it was mostly just enjoying the fact that we were finally on vacation.

We went for a short bike ride that afternoon and played some cards by the pool, but all in all, it was a very chill, agenda-free day.

Thursday, April 6:

Thursday was an earlier wake up call due to where we wanted to hit breakfast (food post coming later this week) and then we went trail running up at Sabino Canyon.

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After the run, we went back to the hotel to shower and then went off to Tohono Chul Park to go look at cactus and use our botanic garden reciprocity. Because we like “free.”

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It was awesome and peaceful, just like any good botanic garden should be. We explored almost all of it, except for one of the longer trails because we were both getting hungry at that point.

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Crested saguaro! With a face!

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Tucson life goals: see a blooming saguaro done!

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Gorgeous blooms.

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Accurate.

We hit lunch and then were so stuffed from lunch that we spent a super lazy afternoon flopped at the hotel. Dinner really ended up not being a thing that night.

We did venture back out to Sabino Canyon to try to get my elusive sunset shot, but once again … fail. I finally did my version of one of B’s standard photos, though.

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Friday, April 7:

Friday morning saw us head to Saguaro National Park where we ended up purchasing the annual national parks and federal recreational lands pass. Since I’m quitting and we normally try to get a Rocky Mountain National Park pass, we figured the nationwide pass was a smart idea. As long as we do five more visits to parks/rec lands (easy as we need to hike a lot this summer), it’ll pay for itself. Seemed like a no-brainer.

We went to Saguaro mostly to hike around. And obviously take pictures.

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B and saguaro.

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Dinosaur perspective.

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“These are my people.”

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Hehe, it’s wavy.

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Dead saguaro.

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Desert.

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All the blooming ocotillos were stunning.

On the drive back … Tucson life goals: see a gila monster in the wild done! Almost ran the little bugger over with my car so unfortunately couldn’t get a picture.

We hit up lunch after Saguaro and that afternoon, met up to shop at SMASH HQ so I could try on some things before I bought them. Plus lots of time spent chatting with Hillary and Maik is never bad.

Dinner that night and then a way less stressful drive home on Saturday.

Arizona Trip, November 2016

Way back at the end of November, I road-tripped down to Arizona. This was ostensibly to volunteer at IRONMAN Arizona, but I also spent a few days in Tucson at either end, because why not.

Thursday, November 17:

The drive. Very long, very windy day. Worst gas mileage I have ever gotten.

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Sunset.

Friday, November 18:

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Dinosaurs at the hotel. Stayed at the Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon.

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I may have killed many tumbleweeds the day prior … My car still had one in its jaws.

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I wandered the Fourth Street District a bit, trying something new in Tucson. I came across this guy, a remnant of the ancient old Magic Carpet Golf mini golf course, i.e. the best mini golf EVER. R.I.P.

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Lunch was all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Garden. I technically should have been charged for some of my food, as I didn’t quite finish it, but the waitress was awesome and let me slide. Much appreciated!

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I spent a bit of time that evening trying to get the elusive awesome sunset saguaro shot. As you can see, I didn’t quite get there. Someday …

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I am so thankful that I can, because I know so many people who just don’t get the desert’s appeal.

Saturday, November 19:

Drove up to Tempe. Saw this guy on Mill:
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Hung out at the IMAZ expo, both simultaneously experiencing some FOMO and also VERY glad to not be racing. Ran into my friend Simon, because why wouldn’t I run into someone I know. Picked Brandon up from the airport.

Sunday, November 20:

Spectated IMAZ.

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Got the hardest high-five ever from Simon here at the bike turnaround.

Mostly spent most of the evening volunteering at the TriSports.com aid station, having a blast as always.

Monday, November 21:

Drove back down to Tucson.

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Got lunch at delicious Lucky Wishbone.

Checked into the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass.

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Went to Casa Molina for dinner.

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Mmm, cheese crisp. Weird Sonoran thing, but delicious.

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Dinner, with a demolished green corn tamale (the only tamale I will eat).

Tried out the Screamery for ice cream.

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I tried the Mississippi Mudpie, which is an “infused coffee ice cream with hand-made dark chocolate cookies and chocolate swirl.” It was … okay. Not sure we’d return. We’re both really realizing that we don’t like “fancy” ice cream.

Tuesday, November 22:

Went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, since we hadn’t gone in several years.

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Rare crested saguaro!

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Creative and funny.

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Standard “Brandon hugging a cactus” photo.

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Saguaro.

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Squeaky (Gustave) on a cactus.

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All the frogs!

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Cranky roadrunner.

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Dinosaurs in the desert.

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Brandon’s ideal backyard.

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The Desert Museum has sting rays now!

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Chilling back at the hotel.

We tried out the Catalina BBQ Company, one of the (off-site) hotel restaurants for dinner, partially because we had heard good things about it.

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I had the pulled pork; it wasn’t bad. Fries were pretty terrible, proving my theory that fries at barbecue joints just aren’t good.*

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Brandon had the pork, wings, and the macaroni and cheese. Everything tasted okay buuuut …

Wednesday, November 23:

… we think the wings gave Brandon food poisoning, as he was super sick for the drive home.

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Not a fun time. Except for the food poisoning, though, overall a good trip down to the desert with a few new experiences.

* Notable exception being, of course, the Germantown Commissary.

The Great Southern Road Trip: Days Ten and Eleven

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 Ten: 9.28

Kind of bummed to be leaving Asheville without more exploring, but getting to be on a tighter and tighter schedule, we headed out that morning after eating breakfast at the hotel and grabbing some coffee at a local shop in town.

Our actual destination for the day was Memphis, Tenn., but we weren’t going to go the most direct route …

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Really need to come back to this part of the world again. The drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains was so pretty …

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Cutest rest stop ever.

Ironically, we ended up driving back through Chattanooga, where we stopped and grabbed a bite to eat before continuing on our journey.

While we could have gone the most direct route to Memphis through Tennessee … I needed to hit up a few more states. So, we went a little further south, added on about a half hour … and I was able to knock off both Alabama and Mississippi.

Funny story about Alabama, though: our friend Melanie (whom you were introduced to back in Chattanooga) is from Alabama. She always raves about this local fast food joint, Jack’s, and said that if we had the chance, we had to eat there.

Not 20 minutes into the state, and what do we see? A Jack’s. If we had known it was there we would have waited for lunch, but alas.

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(Still got a snack, though.)

Driving through, we officially (okay, *I* officially) started to hit that point in the trip where I need to find different things to entertain myself. Road trip selfies are usually my first go-to.

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Our faces say all.

We were eventually able to make it to Memphis, though.

Dinner was at Corky’s, Brandon’s favorite barbecue joint.

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He’s so happy!

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We devoured our food. It was pretty dang delicious …

After dinner, I wanted to go play tourist a bit, so we headed to Beale Street.

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(This sign cracked me up.)

We didn’t really feel like hanging out too long, so we didn’t hop into any of the bars/clubs for a drink/live music, but we were also out a little early. There was also some sort of biker thing going on, with a lot of people and a lot of noise, and my introversion/social anxiety was kicking in a little.

States Hit: 5 (NC, TN, GA, AL, MS)
New States Hit: 2 (AL, MS)

Day Eleven: 9.29

We had a bit of a lazy morning in Memphis, as Brandon needed to get some studying done for Delta and I had a few things I needed to get caught up on. So, we grabbed the hotel breakfast, checked out, and parked our asses at Starbucks for a few hours (basically until lunchtime). Part of the reason we wanted to hang around until lunch time was we wanted to hit up one more barbecue joint before we left town.

By now, if you’ve been following along on the blog for a while (or if you just know me in general), you know I love me some good BBQ. Memphis is known for a lot of good ‘que. Corky’s, Interstate, Rendezvous, the BBQ Shop … the options are endless. By now, you should also know that I’m a fan of the band Shinedown. Guitarist Zach Myers is from Memphis, and his favorite place is called the Commissary. So when it came time to pick place number two, we could choose some random place, another tourist-y place, or we could go with essentially a local’s recommendation.

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The Germantown Commissary is in Germantown, essentially a nicer Memphis suburb. Seriously, it felt like we weren’t even in Memphis anymore. Small place, trains going by, and, most importantly, delicious, delicious food.

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Their menu cracked me up.

(I’ll be doing a food post in this series where I’ll go more in depth on most places you’ve read about thus far.)

Bellies full of more delicious barbecue, we hit the road once again. Goal for the night: St. Louis, Mo.

We almost made it, through Tennessee, and Arkansas, and the sketchy part of southern Missouri. Brandon was looking for a hotel outside of St. Louis and wasn’t finding anything. As I mentioned earlier, we were starting to get antsy being cooped in the car so much (I love road trips, but I was hitting my time limit). We were about to hit Cape Girardeau, Mo., when I saw a Holiday Inn Express. I asked B if he just wanted to stop for the night … we made the decision, they had rooms … life was good.

States Hit: 3 (TN, AR, MO)
New States Hit: 1 (AR)

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

The Great Southern Road Trip: Day Three

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 Three: 9.21

While eating breakfast at our hotel, we almost considered going back up into Kentucky and hitting up Dinosaur World (near Mammoth Cave National Park), but we planned on Nashville, so off into the city we went. We were totally unsure on what to do (plans, sometimes we need them), but since we have our DMNS reciprocity, I found us a science museum to waste some time at.

The Adventure Science Center is a great place for kids – very hands-on type of activities – but for adults? Maybe not so much. While we had fun for an hour or so, both of us were very glad we didn’t actually spend money on admission.

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I am a child of the ’80s/’90s, so catching a ride with Ms. Frizzle and the gang? Totally awesome.

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It’s a T. rex!

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The center of the center was essentially an interactive science playground. Mmmaaaayyybe we shouldn’t have been on it as much as we were, but there weren’t signs telling us not to …

After that, we headed into downtown Nashville to hang out.

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Johnny Cash Museum. We did not go inside.

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We were hungry and needed lunch before anything. We were debating on a few different places, but when an easy barbecue option presents itself, you take it.

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Jack’s Bar-B-Que.

After lunch, we decided to check out the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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Walk of Fame-type deal across the street.

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A friend of mine pointed out that the windows make the building look like a piano. Can’t believe I didn’t notice it at the time …

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Old posters inside.

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Love this.

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Tons of records inside.

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The original “Jolene,” a.k.a. Brandon’s favorite Dolly Parton song.

I haven’t been to any of the other music Halls of Fame, but I enjoyed this one. Very cool seeing the evolution of apparel and instruments as well as the early “outside the box” collaborations that happened. We might think Big and Rich, for example, was strange for adding some rap into the mix, but similar mash-ups have been happening for years in the business. I only got into country in college and I kinda sorta have been able to get B into it, but even he really enjoyed everything.

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Ryman Alley.

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Stopped here.

After an afternoon downtown, we found ourselves another hotel near the Grand Ole Opry (if it’s a thing, it’s a subtle thing …) and went on to the Opryland grounds for dinner.

While both of us enjoyed ourselves, we think that Nashville would have been a better stop in the evening as opposed to the day (so as to really see all the neon in its’ glory and to just stop in a random restaurant/bar and hear some live music, kicking back with a beer), and that we might have been best served just getting to Chattanooga a day early.

States Hit: 1 (TN)
New States Hit: 0 (got this yesterday)

The Great Southern Road Trip: Days One and Two

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 One: 9.19

We left Colorado fairly early Monday morning. As I did before IMAZ, I marked up Fiona the Rav before hitting the road.

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(144.6 as opposed to 140.6, because the IMChoo course has an extra four miles on the bike.)

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Bye, state. See you again in about two weeks!

The first day saw us drive to Lansing, Kan. (just outside of Kansas City), to stay with our friends Norm and Emily. Norm was recently stationed in Leavenworth and while in general we believe we’re beyond couch-surfing, if our friends offer a free bed and free food, we’ll take them up on their hospitality.

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Oasis on the Plains. Fancy rest stop in Kansas.

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Downtown Leavenworth.

States Hit: 2 (CO, KS)
New States Hit: 0

Day Two: 9.20

We left Norm and Emily’s house fairly early so as to get back on the road. We continued our long haul on I-70 towards Tennessee.

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Bugs on my sideview mirror. Gross.

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St. Louis Gateway Arch.

We powered through, knowing that the first two days of the trip (and probably the last day or two) would be the boring days. We stopped for the night just outside of Nashville, Tenn., where we planned a layover day.

States Hit: 4 (KS, MO, KY, TN)
New States Hit: 2 (KY, TN)