Mama’s Boy in Athens Takes Care of All Your Southern Breakfast Needs

One of the things I’ve realized on trip is how much I’m missing out on Southern cuisine in terms of barbecue, biscuits and all things fried. We all think that our Northeast versions of these things are “the best” around. It ain’t.

That’s evident with my first stop in Georgia. After a 50-mile drive on a one-lane highway through Georgia backwoods and farmland, I ended up at Mama’s Boy. The 12-year old restaurant  serves southern goodness in biscuit, breakfast and fried form. Then smother all that in gravy and you’ll need a nap afterwards.

Since I have a full-day of activities ahead, I went gravyless, but asked for a little taster cup like you would ask for a taster at a craft brewery. It was so good, thick and savoy I was taking my finger and digging around the cup for every last part.

I also had a fresh-fried donuts in Asheville beforehand, so I didn’t want to kill my waistline in one day. I went with the fried chicken breast on a biscuit, sweet tea and a side salad, like that salad would make a difference. Wait, there’s more! Jalapeno raspberry jam to spread on parts of the biscuit not covered by fried chicken. All this was served by a fine southern gentleman in a trucker hat. He could have been a roadie for the B-52 for all I know.

Since this is a popular local spot with a positive reputation in the region, there’s a wait unless you do what I did … sat at the counter. It takes up to 4 people, and you skip waiting outside in the hot Georgia sun. I was even lucky in the small parking lot and got a space right in front of the door. It’s one of those situations that you think it’s a handicap spot, but in reality, it’s the best spot. If there is overflow, there’s some open lots behind the joint.

You can even take the food to go, but why would you? You can soak up some southern hospitality in the dining room. I did take home their coffee and stickers. For this trip, I’m all about the free stickers.

The Next Destinations — Louisville and Columbus

Completing my loop around the South and heading back to HQ will be a couple of day trips. Louisville wasn’t on my radar as a place to stay, but there’s a couple of interesting things that make the Kentucky city worth a look in. Then, in Columbus, Ohio, I have to visit the new BrewDog U.S. headquarters.

More than anything, I wanted to break up the trip back to New Jersey from Nashville. A 13-hour drive is much more tolerable if done over three days and two overnight stay overs.

You might not realize it, but Louisville is known for many things. You have Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby and mint juleps. There’s the iconic Louisville Slugger, where there’s a museum and factory tour. It’s the birthplace of Muhammad Ali, where there’s a large museum dedicated to his legacy. Finally, for booze hounds, it’s the epicenter for whisky and bourbon.

Let’s not to forget that it’s the headquarters for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which I’m sure is a mark of distinction in the town. I shall pass, but there’s no shortage of fried chicken places in the city.

For my beer adventures, Against the Grain brewery is located in town, and will meet my beer needs.

It’s a lot to pack in for 24-hours, but I got to move onto …

Columbus, Ohio! Umm, yeah? I joke, but the capital of Ohio has also become a small beer destination in the state. Being that it’s the home to THE Ohio State University, a dozen or so craft breweries have popped up. The Scotland-based BrewDog being the big new player in their push to get into the growing U.S. market. The facility will eventually house a hotel/spa where you can bring your four-legged friends.

The only other attraction is the city’s large German immigrant population, bringing with them some fine German foods and baked goods.

After the visit, it’s an easy 8-hour drive home, where I plan to diet and exercise off all this added fun weight I’m putting on.

The Next Destination — Nashville

When you are sad and lonely and have no place to go
Call me up, sweet baby, and bring along some dough
And we’ll go honky tonkin’, honky tonkin’
Honky tonkin’, honey baby
We’ll go honky tonkin’ ’round this town.

Nashville has been on my bucket list of cities to visit. It’s almost criminal that I’ve never gone to Music Cty, U.S.A. considering that my whole life was once centered around concerts and discovering new music. Well, next week, it’s time to check the Tennessee city off the list when I drive up from Atlanta (with a stopover at the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg).

With the music, it’s mostly about country music. I’m atune to the old country western style of the 50s, 60s and throw in some 70s, which I’ll explore at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The modern douchey country I ignore completely. Then there’s the rockabilly scene that I get into from time to time. The epicenter of that is Robert’s Western World, which is a tourist destination, but who cares, it looks like a fun place for a quick look in.

Food wise, HOT CHICKEN. I hope I can handle the heat at Prince’s, Hattie B and Bolton’s. Beyond the chicken, I’m looking for some fluffy goodness at the Nashville Biscuit House.

There’s so much to see and do and I have three nights to achieve it. There’s record hunting, jeans shopping and local poster art to buy. Not to mention, a growing beer scene with Yazoo being the main place.

Pictures, reports and mouth of fire pictures to follow, so make sure you check me out on Instagram along the way.

 

Notes on a 10-Hour Drive and First Impressions of Asheville

“Arrived in Asheville without incident” is what I sent out to friends and family. Left the Jersey homestead at 8:30am, arrived at my AirBnb in Asheville at 7:40pm with three rest stops in between. I am the solo road trip master.

My first thought was that road trips are gangster and people need to do it more often. Gas is cheap these days, cars are more dependable and with GPS, your trips are using the best algorithms to get you there. Even as solo traveler, I was never fatigued because I followed my own guidelines for safety and comfort. The only discomfort I experienced was that my sunglasses were causing me a little discomfort around my left ear.

Also, my gadget guide works well. I used the Rohto drops when I left my air conditioned car and went outside. My eyes instantly became irritated. Dropped some Rohto in them and they were normal instantly. Then my Zojirushi mug still had ice in it at the end of the trip. Amazing! Big ups also to Wawa for making killer hoagies for $5 that travel well. It help me avoid any temptation to go to Bojangles.

The trip itself didn’t seem like 11-12 hours. I brought in my favorite music, listen to some podcasts and amused myself with observances like these:

— Not to be outdone by the sky-high McDonalds signs on Rt 81, the large crosses in Virginia are impressive. You don’t see 20-foot high concrete crosses in Europe or Jerusalem.

— In Pennsylvania, three billboards had lofty claims. One claimed to have the largest cigar bar and store in America. Another, the largest Lazer Tag arena in America. No word if that comes with a time machine to take you back to the early 90s when that was last popular. Finally, the largest “adult novelty selection in the area.” That’s what you need while traveling through rural Pennsylvania.

— I saw PA plates for SXY DVA and above it, large lettering that says SEXY DIVA in case you didn’t know what the license plate meant. In case you are wondering, SXY DVA rides a Nissan Pathfinder.

The best part of the trip was the last 90 minutes through the mountains of eastern North Carolina. It was all stunning scenery of green trees, rolling hills and clouds over mountains.

When I got off the my exit for Asheville, at the end of it was brewery. Now I know I’m in the right place.

So far, Asheville is just chill. Every one has been nice. It’s definitely a beer destination because the people I met were all in town for the beer. A quick look at map shows 20 breweries within a five mile radius of where I’m staying. They don’t mess around.

While I’m here, I’ll be using Lyft to get around, even though everything is tightly packed. I’m using it for bonus Delta miles you can earn, not some slight on Uber. First driver was great, second guy was a little off. He asked that I put on my safety harness (seat belt), wondered why more people don’t do hula-hoops for exercise and followed me into a brewery asking about the history of the building. He means well, he was your typical grungy-looking hippie.

That’s it for now.

 

 

The Next Destinations: Atlanta and Athens

Atlanta is hot right now — literally and figuratively. The TV show is up for a slew of Emmys and rightful so, it brings into spotlight the odd nature and social, economic and racial dynamics of the former Olympic city. It’s also home to the world’s busiest airport (depending on what list you look at), which why the Donald Glover character works there.

This is a just a quick two-day weekend drive-by where I’ll be splitting my time between there and the more eclectic Athens, which is a 90-minute drive away. I’ve never been to either, and I’m sure there’s plenty to do, but it’s one of those situations where I eventually I had to visit.

Besides the TV show, two high profile summer movies filmed on the streets and on soundstages. Baby Driver takes place in Atlanta proper while Spider-Man: Homecoming took advantage of the Georgia tax breaks to film in studios there. Add in the fact that their football team lost in the Super Bowl, and Atlanta is in the spotlight.

As for Athens, it was the home of two of the most beloved bands in indie and modern rock, R.E.M. and the B-52s. The mid-sized town has always attracted artistic types. Today, it’s a destination for those seeking a quieter, more low-key scene then Atlanta.

My list of things to do is relatively small. Atlanta has the big touristy Coke-Cola World where I’m hoping I can swim in a lake of soda. Athens has the state botanical gardens and natural history. Unfortunately, Atlanta’s big history museum is under construction until 2018. It does have a respected High Art Museum.

Beer wise I should be taken care of but Georgia has some whack laws limitin hours and beer sales on premises. Athens is home to Terrapin and Creature Comforts, while Atlanta boasts one of the nation’s largest craft breweries, Sweetwater.

Food wise, I’ve got my eyes on the small regional chain, The Varsity, The Vortex and JR Cricketts. No word if the Clermont Lounge has a decent food menu.

As for the Clermont Lounge, It’s not yet an UNESCO World Heritage site. In any event, let’s see what I discover in two days.

 

Road Trip Tips You Might Not Think About

There are ways you can avoid the above picture. If you don’t have Mad Max as your wheel man, there are certain things you go to make your road trip safe and hassle free.

Whether you’re by yourself, with your crew or your family, here’s some tips and suggestions for that six plus hour trip on the highway.

— Check your tire pressure before you leave and during. This is the most important guideline to follow.  The correct tire pressure will give you peace of mind that you can prevent a flat and will improve your gas mileage.

Take advantage of free car check-ups. Most dealerships can give your car a free and quick once over to see if you are good to go.

— Clean your car out before you leave. Get rid of the coffee cups, receipts, used tissues, hamburger wrappers and extraneous items from your trunk. Less clutter will make you organized so you can fit more things in for important stuff like camping equipment and luggage.

— Check that you have roadside assistance. While AAA has been the go-to for roadside assistance and discounts, most car manufactures and auto insurance companies offer their own. My MINI comes with an app for assistance, and my State Farm coverage covers the cost.

— Pack like you’re flying. Just because you have a lot more room to bring your stuff doesn’t mean you should. It’s all about being mobile and compact when your going to and from the car. I plan on getting some cases of beer from some Asheville breweries to bring back, so I’m using my carry-on bag and pilot case — that’s it.

— Bring a spare key. Back ups will save you the hassle in the rare case you loose them.

— Wear shoes and boots. It seems like a dumb suggestion, you want to avoid flip flops, crocs and other light footwear. You need something sturdy and supportive on your ankles for the constant gas and break use.

— Pick your music before hand. If you prefer to be your own DJ rather then letting the radio/Sirius dictate the mood, than find your old CD envelope and go nuts. You can use your phone’s Bluetooth to connect Spotify to the car’ stereo, but that will be a massive battery drain even if you’re charge and you might not always be in data range. Often the battery will drain faster than can charge.

— Turn off push notifications on your phone. It’s an unnecessary distraction to find out about some one liking your Facebook or Instagram posts. When you stop to take a break, then you catch up on texts and the like.

— If somebody is waiting for you, you can send them your location on Google maps. It’s a little stalkery, but it saves them texting you during your trip, “What’s your ETA?”

— Print out directions anyway. If you reply on the graces of Google maps for directions, the printouts are a backup in case your Samsung Galaxy Note explodes on you or you’re out of data range.

Don’t drink alcohol for 24 hours before you leave. Pilots don’t drink the night before they fly or 12 hours. It takes 10 hours for alcohol to completely leave your system. You want your body in top shape for operating heavy machinery.

— Stop every two to three hours at a rest stop. Just like when you’re at your work desk, you need to stand and stretch.

— Go to the bathroom even when you don’t have to. You never know.

— Avoid drinking soda. While being the worst thing you put in your body, the carbonation and acids can irritate your stomach when you’re in a stressful situation like a traffic jam. Water or ice tea is the safest bet.

— Don’t be afraid to cruise in the right lane. There’s no need to speed in the left lane to make up for lost time. You won’t make much of a difference. Also, cops are ticketing more those riding the left. Relax in the right, enjoy the ride.

— Bring lots of change. While EZPass is readily available, you never know if you come to a toll that doesn’t accept it.

— Text friends/family when you stop. You just want to let know that you’re good in case of alien invasion.

— Be spontaneous. If you see a great landscape, pull off at a scenic overlook. Soak it in.

Frozen Pimm’s Cup is a Thing for Wimbleton

Me and my Pimm’s, representing at the The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

The most British of all cocktails, the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, is synonymous with one of the great British sporting events, the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament.  There’s only one way to make it better, freeze it in popsicle form.

According to the official website, the original recipe as follows to serve in a highball glass:

  • 50ml PIMM’S No.1
  • 150ml of Lemonade
  • Mint, orange, strawberries
  • Cucumber to garnish and ice

You can also mix lemonade and ginger beer for a little bite.

The evil geniuses at POPS, a London-based boozy cocktail purveyors made them in push pop form to sell at the tournament this year. They rank in at a refreshing 4.3% ABV.

I made a batch myself in ice cube form and they are a delight, although I used the Pimm’s Strawberry & Mint Special Edition bottle I got at London Heathrow Duty Free shopping. I made a basic Pimms cocktail without the fruit, poured into an ice cube tray, froze and made the cocktail with fruit and cucumber. It’s like discovering fire, I was pretty amazed by the results.

In the meantime, Wimbledon continues this week. Strawberries and creme is must for at-home viewing.