Dining on the Great Southern Road Trip

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.

I was wondering a bit on how to do this, and after much thought, I decided that a day-to-day “food journal” type thing would be the easiest for this part of the story. Because seriously, we ate. A lot.

Day One: 9.19
– Eggs at the house.
– Some Bantam bagels (and coffee!) at Starbucks.
– Free doughnut at King Soopers (thank you for winning, Broncos).
– Snacks in the car.
– Lunch at Iron Skillet (used to eat here a lot on road trips as a kid; not doing that again …).
– Chocolate shake from Steak ‘n Shake (made it during shake happy hour. Score).
– Delicious home-cooking at Norm and Emily’s.

Day Two: 9.20
– Breakfast at Norm and Emily’s.
– Coffee at Starbucks.
– Car and gas station snacks.
– Lunch at Waffle House.
– Dinner at Cracker Barrel (not as bad as I remembered; it had been a few years since we had last eaten there).

Day Three: 9.21
– Hotel breakfast.
– Lunch at Jack’s in Nashville.
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(delicious.)
– Ice cream at Mike’s in Nashville.
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(I may have added hot coffee on top of this coffee ice cream …)
– Dinner at some crappy burger place (Stax) in the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center complex (NOT recommended).

Day Four: 9.22
– Breakfast at Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A.
– Lunch at Puckett’s in Chattanooga.
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(Wasn’t bad. Don’t necessarily know if I’d return, but it did the trick.)
– Dinner at Totto Sushi (HIGHLY recommended. There were five of us, we ate (okay, mostly George ate) obscene amounts of sushi. They comped us an appetizer AND mochi ice cream. Fantastic service, tasty fish. GO.).

Day Five: 9.23
– Hotel breakfast.
– Coffee and bagel at Stone Cup Cafe, Chattanooga (recommended. Good coffee and one of the best bagels I’ve had in a long time).
– Lunch at Blue Plate/Local 191, Chattanooga (had a portobello sandwich. It was good, and I don’t know if it was because we were on the bar side of the restaurant, but our service was TERRIBLE. It took forever to get our food. Probably would not go back).
– Dinner at 1885 Grill, St. Elmo (DELICIOUS. Kind of expensive, but completely worth it. I had salmon, Jeremy had some sort of etoufee, Melanie had grits with something, I forget what Brandon ate, but we all loved our meals).

Day Six: 9.24
– Hotel breakfast.
– Attempted coffee at Chattz (so I like local coffee shops in general, but the girl working was totally rude and the (bottled) cold brew was way too strong. Waste of my money).
– Lunch at Maple Street Biscuit Company, Chattanooga (okay, so this place was really cute. The name for your order was the band you’d like to go on tour with. The food was tasty, too).
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(Brandon’s biscuit.)
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(My biscuit.)
– Breakfast for dinner at City Cafe Diner.

Day Seven: 9.25
– To go breakfast from City Cafe Diner (liked this place the night before, but it almost took too long to get our food that morning …).
– Bike course buffet (… Ironman. you eat what you can).
– A lot of fried crap at City Cafe Diner (bacon cheese fries were sadly disappointing, but their cheese sticks were good, and the fried mushrooms did the trick).

Day Eight: 9.26
– Hotel breakfast.
– More coffee and bagels from Stone Cup Cafe.
– Doughnut holes from Julie Darling Donuts, Chattanooga (so we like doughnuts, but these were disappointing. I couldn’t do a chocolate-frosted, because they do a chocolate-frosted glazed, which is just a no in my book. So, we tried some of the donut holes – sour cream, buttermilk, regular glazed – the glazed were okay, but the other two? Probably would not go back …).
– Gas station snacks.
– Taco Bell (when you’re hungry …).
– Hooters for dinner (all you can eat wings were fantastic …).

Day Nine: 9.27:
– Starbucks for coffee and Bantam bagels.
– Waffle House for *actual* breakfast.
The Varsity for lunch.
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(Varsity orange drink was … not good. Chocolate shake was okay. The cheeseburger was nothing special and the fries were above average. I get the local appeal … but I’d prefer In-N-Out over this.)
– Gas station snacks.
– Hotel dinner.
– Ice cream at Kilwin’s, Asheville.
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Day Ten: 9.28
– Hotel breakfast.
– Iced coffee from Green Sage Cafe, Asheville (cute little place downtown).
– Snack from Old Europe Pastries, Asheville (shortbread, not good. Croissant, delicious).
– Gas station snacks.
– Lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (they have a salad I like. I needed greens).
– Fries and a chocolate shake from Jack’s, Alabama (so. Chocolate shake was good (real chocolate ice cream!). Fries were different, but good (I swear they use that artificial butter flavoring stuff that’s on microwave popcorn on their fries). Not good was the fries IN the shake. That was a fail).
– Dinner at Corky’s, Memphis.
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(Pulled pork? Tasty. Ribs? Best I’ve had in YEARS. Cole slaw? Tasty. Mac and cheese? Ehhh … but the rolls were on point. Out of our two BBQ stops, I’d suggest Corky’s for ribs for dinner.)

Day Eleven: 9.29
– Hotel breakfast.
– Iced coffee and Bantam bagels at Starbucks (can you tell I’m addicted to those stupid bagel bites?).
– Lunch at the Germantown Commissary.
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(While it wasn’t the best I’ve had (too relish-y?), the deviled egg was a nice touch. The pulled pork was even better than Corky’s. The ribs weren’t my favorite, but they were also a dry rub rib, and I now know that I don’t like dry rub BBQ. I didn’t like the cole slaw (but that’s so hit or miss for me anyway), but their fries were fantastic, which is rare for a BBQ place. Go here for lunch to get pulled pork and fries. We got talked into the pie, which wasn’t bad, but not my favorite lemon. Shoulda gone with the chocolate …)
– Olive Garden for dinner.

Day Twelve: 9.30
– Hotel breakfast.
Lion’s Choice Roast Beef for lunch (needed food, wanted to grab something quickly … we decided on what appeared to be a local St. Louis chain. Think Arby’s, but higher quality. It was … meh).
– Ice cream at Cold Stone.
– Breakfast for dinner at Norm and Emily’s.

Day Thirteen: 10.1
– Doughnuts at Daylight Donuts (I don’t know why we keep trying Daylight, as they’re just not good).
– Gas station snacks.
– Lunch (well, more like brunch) at Pheasant Run Restaurant, Hays, Kan. (So. Food wasn’t bad, but we’re 99% sure we got our food after every single local got theirs, even if they arrived after us. Kind of bullshit. Would not stop by again. We usually like to avoid the chains, but this time, a chain might have been a better option).
– Dinner back in wonderful Denver. Thank you Whole Foods Market and your delicious teriyaki.

(Also consumed: a copious amount of candy corn. ‘Tis the season …)

The Great Southern Road Trip, Days Twelve and Thirteen

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 Twelve: 9.30

Besides race day, I think this was the day I was most excited for on the trip – St. Louis and the City Museum! I first learned about the place on Pinterest (glorious Pinterest …) and when I brought it up to Brandon, he was all for it.

So, hotel breakfast in Cape Girardeau, and off to St. Louis it was. We got to the City Museum not too long after opening and spent at least a good two hours there (if not more).

It. Was. AWESOME.

Giant artistic recycled jungle gym that’s adult friendly (well … kind of … there were some tight squeezes)? I get to not act like an adult? Win.

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Ten story slide. If there is one thing to tell me I’m getting old, it is that I was nauseous at the end of this …

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Pillar.

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Loved this staircase.

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Giant ball pit!

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Pilot in the plane.

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Very high up …

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It is high up, I am in a small tunnel, it is shaking due to the wind, and I may die …

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Told him it was easier to turn around before the end of the tunnel.

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Mosaic work inside.

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So on the fourth floor, there was this area with ramps and randomness and oh hey look, it’s an American Ninja Warrior-esque warped wall!

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And rope swings!

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Going down one of the slides.

This place. Seriously. It’s amazing. GO. Be prepared to be sore for several days afterwards, though; crawling around was one hell of a workout.

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Random place in St. Louis, Mo.

From the City Museum, it was back to Norm and Emily’s for the night.

But, before that, we stopped in Kansas City (Kansas side) for one quick detour …

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(Heard this was a thing. It was ridiculous and awesome. Will need to eat here eventually … even though it looks terribly overpriced.)

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

Day Thirteen: 10.1

I almost ended the trip story on day 12, because really nothing exciting happened on this day, except HOME, glorious HOME, but the food story *does* include day 13, so, um, here?

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

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: Days Four through Seven

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 Four: 9.22

We left Nashville early … so early that we couldn’t eat the hotel breakfast. Athlete check-in started at 9am, and we wanted to be there as close to time as we could. We did find a Starbucks along the way for some coffee (the essentials, you know) and a snack before winding our way to Chattanooga. The drive is marginally confusing as you exit Tennessee, continue to enter and then exit Georgia, while ultimately ending back up in Tennessee for good.

We arrived in Chattanooga right before nine and we were both STARVING, so we found a Chick-Fil-A on the UT-Chatt campus (okay, so B found one in their student union). Brandon went to grab it while I did loops around campus, ideally finding a place to park, but really just waiting for him to come back out with food. Food gotten (and consumed in the car), we headed to athlete check-in.

We got checked in, saw a few Colorado friends (because why wouldn’t we?), and then decided to drive the bike course. Back into Georgia we went. After that, we could check in to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express off MLK in Chattanooga), so we did that and went for a short run back to Ironman Village and downtown so we could eat lunch.

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The town really embraced the event.

Lunch was at a place called Puckett’s. Ironman works out a deal with some of the local restaurants where we athletes each get a $25 food voucher to use. Since there were two of us, we got two vouchers. Puckett’s, right next door to the aquarium, was one of the places on the list, and used to be an old grocery store back in the day.

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We did not eat this.

After lunch, it was back to the hotel for a bit.

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Chattanooga stores embracing the Ironman.

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Choo, home of the Moon Pie.

We grabbed dinner with a friend from Colorado, George, and a few of his buddies later on at an amazing sushi restaurant called Totto.

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

Day Five: 9.23

The start of our fifth day was us waking up late for a practice swim in the Tennessee River, but we still managed to get to it in enough time. Post-swim, we grabbed coffee at an awesome little place called Stone Cup Cafe (great bagels. Highly recommended).

After the swim, we hung out until lunchtime, at which point we wandered back downtown for a bite to eat. Our friends and cheer squad for the weekend, Jeremy and Melanie, arrived in town and met us after lunch to hit up the aquarium, which we had heard great things about.

The Tennessee Aquarium is divided into two buildings (well, three, if you include the IMAX, which we didn’t go to) – a River Journey and an Ocean Journey. I personally enjoyed the Ocean Journey better, but both were quite good. I might put this aquarium on my list of top aquariums, but there’s a few I’d need to visit again to be sure …

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Wall in the Aquarium.

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Butterfly. They had a room with butterflies flying around everywhere that you could walk through.

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Japanese spider crab. You see these and it’s no surprise why Japan made/makes so many monster movies …

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Glass jellyfish.

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Jellyfish.

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Crazy jellies!

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Poison dart frog.

After the aquarium, we split up for a bit before reconvening for dinner at a place in St. Elmo, just outside of town.

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Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. We did not ride this.

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1885 Grill. Very delicious.

States Hit: 1 (TN)
New States Hit: 0

Day Six: 9.24

Brandon and I woke up fairly early on Saturday as we needed to run a couple of errands: Chick-Fil-A for chicken minis (bike nutrition), CVS for more sunscreen, a grocery store for bike special needs stuff, and a bike shop for an extra spare tube and CO2 cartridges (just in case). Errands completed, we headed back to the hotel to prepare our bike and run gear bags which needed to be checked in that day.

Bags packed up, we loaded them and a change of clothes onto our bikes and took a quick spin down to transition to get the legs moving. We also stopped by the Quintana Roo tent to get Brandon’s rear derailleur checked out. Bike fixed, we dropped off our gear bags and bikes, threw on normal clothes, and met Jeremy and Melanie for lunch.

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Fun place.

We split up from them and headed back to the hotel to put our feet up … with a stop at Jimmy John’s along the way for more bike food for Brandon.

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The history and journalism nerds in me appreciated this.

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Art in an alley.

We ventured out to dinner at a diner down the street from our hotel (breakfast for dinner! pre-race tradition) and got in bed early, as we had to race the next day.

States Hit: 1 (TN)
New States Hit: 0

Day Seven: 9.25

Race day. For knowledge of how the race went down, please visit my tri blog.

(spoiler: we DNFed.)

The diner we went to the night previous ended up being dinner again, where I drank beer and ate all the delicious-sounding appetizers I had seen on the menu.

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)