Paul Rudd and Jackalope Brewing Welcome Me to Nashville

When you have a stately Paul Rudd and his Wet Hop American Summer beer welcome you into the Nashville scene, you know you’ve come to the right place.

Jackalope Brewing is one of the best known craft breweries in the town. It’s surprising dense with new breweries, and even though I had my fill in Asheville, I’ve been making the rounds here in Music City USA.

It’s located in an upscale, warehouse district with fancy eateries that have valet parking because, the area is severely lacking in it. Pretty much every building has a sign warning you not to park there.

In any event, $8 gets you a flight of four ounces — perfect for sampling and taking home a six-pack. Here’s what I had:

  • Bearwalker Maple Brown Ale
  • Peach Tea Pale Ale
  • Thunder Ann Pale Ale
  • Peaches & Cream Ale

Just make sure you tip in the jars as directed:

 

Atlanta is Great If You Want to Get Stuck In Traffic and Be Among Dude Bros

Atlanta’s motto should be: “Atlanta — What Can You Do?”

Two days were plenty to get a sense that I wouldn’t be able to fit into the city. I’m sure lifelong residences swear it’s the greatest city in America, and bully for them.

I had this internal debate at which city has the biggest preppie/post-fraternity brother dickheads — Boston, NYC or Atlanta. I have ample evidence that ATL is pulling in from behind. Case in point … Sweetwater Brewery on a Friday night at 7pm.

I see about one and half women in a sea of backward hat-wearing dude bros.

This is indicative of Atlanta traffic, you’re going to be stuck in a crowd by yourself with no place to go. Yes, it’s Friday, there’s going to be traffic, but on a Saturday at 8am! Where are you people going? I’m just trying to get donuts.

I had two things on my agenda that I didn’t get to because I just gave up. I would have liked to have visited the Museum of Civil Rights, which is next door to the World of Coke. After my Coke visit, I was walking over to the Museum and there were a sea (and I’m not exaggerating) of 100 to 125 people all wearing the same t-shirt blocking the ticket the booth. The t-shirt — Johnson Family Reunion 2017. I think it was every Johnson living in Atlanta. In any event, I couldn’t figure out if there were just standing there in line or waiting for something. There was one person at the ticket booth. They might all be still there for all I know. I gave up.

Plan two, visit Atlanta’s modern art museum, The High Art. Well, it’s open for a whopping 7 hours — closing at 5pm. I get my car, follow the GPS, 12 minutes, I’m looking for the building. I don’t see any signs. Next thing I know, I can’t make a left or right, have no choice but to go forward. Forward is onto the highway, loaded with traffic.

I gave up and went back to Athens. More on that later.

 

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.