Monday, May 31, 2010

Whack a Mole Memorial Day

 I am not much of a gardener, although my lovely wife seems to think that if I have enough tools, and spend copious amounts of times digging holes to plug plants in aforementioned holes, that as by some gift bestowed from Mother Earth herself, I will be magically transformed into a Gardener. I am stubbornly convinced that digging such holes through root snarled, and shrub strewn ground will only yield the results of a sore and aching back, and some dead plants. I probably should note here, in the interest of painting a fair picture (and mostly for matrimonial harmony) that I actually volunteer to perform these arcane tasks willingly. She encourages me to help her, but generally prefers me to keep my efforts to the lawn, which seems to appreciate my attention.

As a Lawn Boy extraordinaire, I can assure you that my loving ministrations to my roughly two acre sized lawn are not without result. I diligently cut my oh-so-cared for grass in a diamond pattern worthy of any Major League Baseball stadium. Sprinklers are generally running in a round robin of wet delight, and I carefully analyze the soil conditions to provide for the proper mix, and adequate amounts of fertilizer and weed control.  In short, I am a Grass Gawd. My lawn is my Kingdom, and my pride and joy. A few years ago, when our oldest was to be married, he and the soon to be missus decided that the field next door was to become their own Field of Dreams, and thus host the Reception. So son DJ contracted with a local orchard owner to plow and disc the field, and plant grass seed as well. Then it was my turn. I lavished water and attention and love on that field for three months. In the end, you could have walked across it barefoot, and been amazed at the velvety texture of the lush greenery underfoot.

Thus you can imagine my outrage when those varmints of villainy, those harbingers of doom, those malicious moles had the sheer affront to set up housekeeping in MY yard! How dare they! They mock the very principles that underlie the values and beliefs that make this the mighty and great nation it is today. In other words, it was my patriotic duty to exterminate the very last one of them.
Much like Karel Capek's War With the Newts, however, I am losing ground. Ever so steadily, oh so stealthily, those vermin of subterranean  dwelling have invaded my once proud lawns. Let me state this clearly and concisely, I hate those blighters!
The tools of the trade for relieving oneself of this particular tyranny are many and varied. Somehow, each claims to be the One And True Way To Get rid Of Moles. Really. Yeah.... right. The sonic disrupters just had them partying late at night, the gummi-poison worms were a nice dinner, and the anti grub stuff and the Diatomacrous Earth, that cost a fortune, only seemed to redouble their reproductive urges, like an Ecstasy fuelled rave.  So the ugly little blighters have shown no inclination to leave their dirty, grubby, Love Shack tunnels and migrate on to my neighbor's yard.

Just as I started to grow unconsolate in my despair, I remembered that today is Memorial Day.
Ah ha! Since our ever over achieving President is on vacation, surely he wouldn't mind if I borrowed a crack team of Anti Mole Terrorist Combatants? They could bring to bear all manner of Anti Mole Terrorist Technology! Surely they must have the means to extricate those beady eyed, long fanged, nocturnally dangerous evil doers of the underworld! Radar, Sonar, Lidar, M16's, tanks, submarines (obviously very tiny submarines, so they would have to be Autonomous Anti Mole Technology) and whatever ordnance was necessary. Yes sir, Mr. Mole, you have breathed your last in my good earth.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grand Ole Opry

Tuesday, 27 April

After a nice, warming lunch at our horse farm get away, we let Ace take us for a walk around the grounds. Barb always brings some apple chunks to donate to the horse's obviously limited diet. They saunter over and seem quite content that yet another two legged creature has done their bidding. But soon enough we are back in the car, and headed to OpryLand!

For a bit of history on The Grand Ole Opry, you can visit the website here. It has very humble beginnings as a radio show, and grew to the Internationally acclaimed, premiere venue of Country music. Mind you, Barb and I are not much on Country music, nor do we know today's big names, but when in Nashville, you simply *must* go to the Grand Ole Opry!

We gambled on taking the Backstage Tour, and it was worth every penny, and each second! We never realized just what a treasure the GOO is! So many truly great entertainers have crossed that stage, and given such wonderful stories along the way. A little known fact is that the GOO has it's own Post Office backstage! Not only that, but each performer has his or her own PO Box, all arranged alphabetically. Except for "Little" Jimmy dickens, who can only reach so high, so they put his box within easy reach for him! It's that kind of attention to detail that makes the GOO such a beloved place.

For many years the GOO was hosted out of the Ryman Auditorium, in downtown. When they moved to the present location, a 6 foot circle was cut from the old stage, and placed in center front of the new stage. That way, they could carry all the greats along with them. We actually got to have out picture taken on the same spot that Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff, Garth Brooks, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynne, and so many others, have sung on!

The dressing rooms all have a distinct identity, and most have a performer that claims it, and decorates it. One dressing room was decorated by the current performer as a shrine to the previous occupant! And, of course, the biggest, grandest dressing room of all, Number 1, belonged to Roy Acuff. Roy was the real champion of the GOO, thru it's long history. He even lived in Opryland for the last 10 years of his life, and would make a point to greet each performer on the way in, and also on the way out. He always wanted them to feel at home.

After the Tour, and imagine how it just happens to let out into the Gift Shop (!), we toddle over to the Museum. Do not miss the Museum! There are some delightful surprises to behold, including Patsy Clline's study, and Marty Robbin's office. Numerous gold, and platinum records adorn the walls by each artist, as well as some very interesting history. some of the outfits that they wore on stage were truly incredible, talk about a "Rhinestone Cowboy"!

But all this is nothing compared to the real show. It still is a two hour long, live radio show! Still broadcast on WSM, and has been continuously on-air longer than any other radio program in our country! Since 1917! Yikes! We ended up with great seats, and had a perfect view of the stage. The first hour started with Riders In The Sky and they set the tone for the show. That group featured Western (as opposed to country) riffs and harmonies, and just enough humor to keep you either laughing, or clapping along. Following them was Bucky Covington (Idol winner), Cherryholmes (a large family act with an awesome fiddle player) and rounded out with Danny Gokey (who is a rising star). Quick intermission, some announcements from the radio announcer, and back to the music. Bill Anderson (used to be a big star) started off, followed by Jewel (really!), then The Whites (a so-so sister act) and the grand finale by Blake Shelton (a current star).

Woosh! What a day your intrepid pair had! It wasn't just the history, nor even the Culture that was so endlessly fascinating to us, it was the people. People that might not pronounce words the same we do, and might even have a different set of sensibilities than we do, but still very warm and friendly. People with good souls, and a hearty laugh. Willing to help their neighbors, and feel it's their duty to do so.  It's that kind of love, and respect that is so refreshing to still find very much alve and well, thank you very much. And you know what? It really doesn't hurt to have some manners while you're going through Life.
Tuesday, 27 April
Well, almost halfway thru our jaunt in Nashville, and still the weather just quite cooperating yet. It's another cold, grey day, with sunshine and mist alternating between fits and starts. No matter, our wonderful hostess has (once again) graced our door with a loaf of freshly baked bread, so we enjoy a wonderful start.

Today’s adventures begin with a jaunt to The Hermitage. This is the home of one our most controversial Presidents, Andrew Jackson. “Old Hickory” had a very fiery and contentious personality, much like the times in which he lived. As our 7th President, he came in to office when our nation was still very young, and indeed struggling with many issues that would later define our heritage. As a 13 year old boy, he served in the Revolutionary War, and was caught by the British. He suffered not only the usual deprivations of a POW in those less than civilized times, but was repeatedly cut with a sword as punishment for his independent spirit. Apparently young Jackson refused to polish an officer’s boots, and thus was reprimanded with corporal punishment. He carried those scars on his wrist, and forehead, and heart, for the rest of his life.
He later made good on his strong, intense hatred for the British by winning the Battle of New Orleans, in the War of 1812. This is also where he obtained his nickname.

His political career was much like his personality, forceful, fiery, and always of a firm conviction. He was an aristocrat, a General, a President, a husband, and a father and a slave owner. All this and much, much more.
So, Barb and I trundle off to see this resplendent example of life in the South, in the early 19th Century. As we approach the ticket window, an elderly couple in front of us was demanding to get their money back since the wait to see the inside of the mansion was one and a half hours! Yikes! Well, we asked the ticket gal about the wait time, and were politely told that the wait time really was only half an hour. Oh, ok, two tickets please.
As we stroll thru the Museum, another couple asks for a Raincheck, as they weren’t willing to wait for an hour and a half to see the Mansion. Hmmm… We decide to skip the Introductory movie (which we caught on our way out, and was quite good), and check out the line for the Mansion. So we walk thru some chilly, not quite sunny, almost misting, ok it really is cold conditions to get to the real line to see the Mansion. Happily, our wait was only about half an hour, but that’s because we befriended some Canadian tourists who included us in their group, which was allowed to jump the queue in front of the all the school field trips! Whew… thank goodness Barb and I know to speak like a Canuk, eh?

So after some brief introductory comments from a costumed worker, we, at last, could get out of the light rain and cold, and into the Mansion! The tour was conducted by another woman who dressed in a period costume. The house is a wonderful example of how the truly wealthy of that time lived. Almost everything is actually original! Unfortunately, the only places you can walk thru are the main hallways on the two levels of the house. All the real rooms were visible thru doorways that had been glassed off.
So the trip thru the Mansion was shorter, and quicker than we really would have liked, but still enjoyable. After exiting the house, we decide to take a turn thru the Gardens, and saw the General’s final resting place. It’s an impressive grave for an impressive man.

After the family burial plot, we decide to stretch out legs on the Quarter Trail, and see the Slave’s Quarters. Somehow we wind our way around a creek, and end up in a pasture, next a bunch of black cows with white belly bands! Apparently they have some meaning, but we are getting wetter, and colder by the step, so we decide that the car is our best friend. Back to the Museum, catch the movie, and find the car. A nice jaunt, but it could have been so much better. Ah well, we’re still on vacation, and having a great time.

Another brief trip thru Nashville, (I just love the way that a city of this size had the good sense to actually plan a highway system that allows you to flow thru so easily!) and back to the wonderful, cozy cabin for lunch and Peacock looking. Greeted by Tom the Turkey yet again... yes, Life is good! 

Next on our plans for the day is the Grand Ole Opry, but I am going to let that bit become it's own post as well.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

BB King and Downtown

Monday, 26 April, 2010

BB King and Downtown

Waking up to yet another grey, cold morning was not in my plans. Fortunately for me, my beloved Barbara had made a nice, steaming hot cup of coffee, and soon a marvelous breakfast was in front of me! She never ceases to amaze me.  The Weather Channel was promising that, finally, really, today would be different. Wink, wink. A few sprinkles in the morning, and then it would clear off and become the kind of day that we drove South to appreciate.

Well, it is what it is, and we're a hearty family from Northern Michigan, so a little drizzle isn't gonna get the best of us, no way, no sir! We set out for the nearest local library to get our Internet fix, and (not really) catch up on all those hundreds of oh so important emails that we really weren't missing. Not that we both weren't twitching a bit, but we are on holiday, and the cyber world will just hafta fend for itself for awhile. But thank the Cyber Gawdz that I had put my StarFleet Commander game in a mode that me untouchable. After all, would hate to have all my hard work in building fleets, and such, become rubble merely because I neglected to take care of them. *giggle*

After spending not too long at library, we trudge ahead, thru the "sprinkles" that somehow seemed much more like sleet and freezing rain, determined that our day would not be marred by something so inconsequential as inclement weather. Nashville really has put a lot of thought and planning into it's Interstate system, and we crisscross the city in a mere 15 minutes. Into a parking garage, and get Ace settled in the car, then GPS and PDA in hand, we hoof to the nearest intersection. Our simple plan was to get to know the city by Geocaching, and it appeared that we would not be disappointed, not in the least.

But even before we could begin hunting for caches, we decide that we need to hunt for lunch. An army travels on it's stomach after all. As soon as make that decision, then the alll important consideration of just where to have lunch was immediately solved, by simply looking ahead. Aye yup, right there in front of us is BB King's Blues Club! We are saved! Barb and I love the Blues, and especially BB. A couple of years ago, we had great seats at Interlochen, when he played there for his 80th Birthday Tour. It was a true privedlge for us to be in his audience, so we figured we would return the favor and let him make lunch for us.

Apparently, BB doesn't do the cooking at his restaurant, but it was a great place anyway! On weekends it hosts many great bands, including BB himself. The decor was Southern Funk with a side of Soul, and the food was pretty good too. We enjoyed chatting with our waiter, and he gave us several tips about where go while in town. After we left, we wandered thru some of the establishments and enjoyed the local culture.

Then we decide to do the Nashville Downtown Walking Tour, and cache along the route. The Historic district has a lot of history to ofer, and not all of it is sanitized, nor pretty. But then, a lot of every city's past has a few skeltons rattling around in the closet. In Nashville, the majority of skeltons seems to be in Printer's Alley. And since the printing presses left a long time ago, the more adult oriented establishments have taken root. For some odd reason Barb didn't seem to be interested in visiting any of them to get some more local "history"? Which actually was just fine be me as well, but I did feel it my duty to offer her options. Not easy being me, after all.

So back to the map, and our promenade. We spent half an hour scouting for a bathroom, before we ran into a Subway, probably the only time I've even been quite that ecstatic at seeing one! Downtown Nashville has a lot to offer a pedistrian tourist... and also a lot of hills. Combine that with the now persistant chilling wind and rain, and after about three hours, I felt that really, it's ok, I've seen enough for now. My leg muscles were cramping, my bum knee was squawking, and no matter where we were going, it was uphill, and into the rain and wind. Nope, I just wasn't enjoying the experience just then. Oh, but look! The wind subsides, and the clouds break, and all of a sudden, we are (finally) looking downhill! Yes, I might just live yet...

We slog back to car, and collect Ace to give him a stretch down by the river. And yes, we searched for some caches along the entire way. some we found, some we didn't. After another grueling, pissing chilly and damp hour, I wave the white flag, and plead for mercy. The rain and cold had taken it's toll on my old body, and I had simply had enough. Not that Barb, of course, would ever admit that she was cold and that it was icky out, but she wisely demurred to my requests for a warm cabin, and dry clothes. Even Ace seemed to be happy as we arrived at the car to head back.

It should be noted, however, that the day really was an adventure, and we made the most of it! We got to explore places previously unknown, and get a feel for the history of what makes Nashville the city that it is today. What the weather lacked in warmth, the locals made up for, and even though we were quite wet and too damn cold  when we left, we both had smiles. I don't think you can ask for more than that from a city.

Old Geezers and BBQ

Sunday, 25 April, 2010

Old Geezers and BBQ

Our first full day in Nashville, and what a wonderful way to start. Our hostess enjoys greeting the early day by baking bread, and delivering it to us, accompanied by home made apple-cherry butter. There is no better way to start a lovely day, than by having fresh, warm bread, with butter and jam, and a strong cup of coffee. Sitting on the front porch of our little cabin, overlooking the pond with whumping willow trees, and listening to the cacophony of many different species of birds was an absolute delight! The gently warming sunshine dimmed our memories of last night's marvelous thunder busters, and a gentle breeze would bring us the sweet scents of many flowers in bloom. In short, I really didn't want to get out of my jammies, and break the spell.

But we have adventures to begin, and a whole new area to explore, so off with the sleepy jammies, and into my 'sploring clothes! My ab fab wife, and bestest exploring partner in the world, looks jaunty in her best Geocaching get up, and Ace the DufusDog proudly knew that his many talents would be called upon as well.

As an area, Nashville is known as "Cache Heaven", due to it's incredible density of high quality caches. Barb and I, aka TeamSandrich (in the Geocaching world) have been pining for some years to make the pilgramage to this particular Mecca of Geocaching.

For the uninitiated, Geocaching has been defined as "Using billion dollar satellites to find Tupperware containers, that contains dime store trinkets, in the woods". You go to a website ( and download the Geocaches. They each have a story, a description, and maybe a Hint, plus past logs of previous finders. If you think that's just too easy, then go find one before you tell me that there's no challenge.

OK, so Barb, Ace, and I head out to do some 'caching in Nashville, hurray! The Sun is bright and just warm enough, the wind is calm, and there's about half a gazillion caches nearby! Woot! Woot! For us, this fun little sport combines the fun of getting outdoors, with the sexiness of playing with tech. But yes, it's very family friendly as well. So, with technology in hand, a full tank of gas, a Mountain Dew in the coffee cup holder, and (finally) a sense of adventure in our hearts, we drive to our various destinations du jour.

Well, kidz, I'm so not gonna bore you with all the details of our various finds. We had a wonderful day, and discovered some great, out of the way parks, and also a nifty overpass! For all those stories, you will hafta read our Logs in the various caches. The real highlight of our day, however, did come from Geocaching. The particular cache in question took us into a typical suburban neighborhood. The Description did clearly state that the cache was on private property, but placed with the property owner's permission. We roll up to a driveway that appears to be the correct coordinates, and saunter down, as if we really belonged there. At the garage we discover a nice, red haired gal that tells us that she has seen a lot of people "do that treasure hunt thing over there at that shed" Said shed being at the end of the driveway next door. Oops. Well no harm done, and once again, we saunter, over to the tool shed. Barb is the true pro at finding the things, (once I get us there), but is crestfallen when the electrical outlet on the outside wall isn't a cache.  I quickly locate a decoy (!) then Barb follows up with finding another fake cache. Hmmm... this is gonna be tricky! The Description tells us that the cache is no further from the pavement than an arm's length, so we stay at the front of the shed.

Well, after a very fruitless search, high and low, under and in, over and out, we reread, (yet again), the Hint, and the Past Logs. The Hint was to Tell The 2 Old Geezers Hi... Hmmmm.... ok, past the RV that is also a Travel Bug, and to the front door we stroll, once again as if we belonged there. When they answer, with a smile and a laugh, we all proceed back to the shed. The 2 Old Geezers, (not their real name) and TeamSandrich become great friends instantly! They are in their 60's and are such warm, and friendly people that ot's impossible to not like them. Oh sure, they give us some "guidance" to find the cache... oh my gawd! What a clever, and evul hide! Well that just starts up a whole conversation about our fave caches, which ones were truly twisted and evul, and where all we've been caching.

The 2 Old Geezers were the true find of the day! Making new friends (as opposed to merely meeting new people) is what makes this hobby so very special. Oh I know, there are some twisted souls that are in the sport just to rack up as many Finds as they can. We know some very good people that have actually bagged over 100 caches in a day! And yes, we do respect that dedication. But TeamSandrich and Ace the DufusDog prefer to take Life as an enjoyable journey. And 2 Old Geezers are a very wonderful part of our adventure. Mrs. Geezer can't get around very well these days, but she is still sharp as a tack, and has a twinkle in her eye. Mr. Geezer has placed some truly evul and clever caches, and also has a hearty laugh and a warm smile. Yup, this is what we cache for, and why we love to be on the trails so much! But eventually our little confab must wind down to a close, and off we go again.

About the only thing that could possibly compare to making new friends in a foreign town is... food! And nothing says Nashville style cooking like BBQ! Once again, the Food Gawdz bless us with a small, family owned, southern BBQ joint. As soon as you walk in, and smell the sweet, spicy aromas permeating the air, you know you're in the right place. Getting your order in a plastic basket, with plastic forks and knives is just an added bonus. Napkin? You want a napkin? Well, there's a roll of paper towels on the table, next to the 6 Pack of various Hot Sauces. You just know that your taste buds have died and gone to Southern Cooking Heaven... with a Rebel cap on and in a Cammo  4WD Pickup, no less!

What a day for your humble adventurers! We get to explore places previously unknown, make new, wonderful friends, and discover a great, local BBQ joint! There are just some days that you simply must smile over, and be thankful about. This is a day that we will look back upon, many years later, and smile over...