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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Road Food

I am sitting in a cheap hotel off of I-40 somewhere in Oklahoma near the Texas border. I am pretty certain that I do not want to eat at any restaurant in town and that's OK because I have my dinner with me. Spinach salad with red pepper, red onion and a grilled chicken breast plus an Australian cabernet. Tomorrow I will snack on whole grain crackers with cheese, hummus and olives. The attached photo is of my breakfast, which was greatly improved by those adorable wine berries (wild raspberries) from the farmer's market in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I also found a great natural food store in Fayetteville where I could restock my cereal and soy milk.
I am more and more grossed out by restaurant fare where fries are the side no matter what the main course is. I'm constantly asking for substitutions and starting to watch what the people around me are eating. It's not pretty.
I love being on the South Beach diet but no potatoes and no white bread has made it very challenging on the road. Last night I ended up at a Denny's at 11:00 as my cooler was almost empty. Bad planning. After reading the menu back to front three times, I chose the "create your own" breakfast: two eggs, turkey bacon, fruit and grits - pretty sure that grits are borderline. I lived and promised my self I would be better prepared in the future.
Nashville and Memphis both proved to be excellent towns for dining experiences without totally busting my budget (it was the hip clothing store going out of business next to the restaurant that proved to be the problem), but having a cooler in the back of the car with my handy-dandy camping box has made eating on the road a lot of fun.
Now, finding the right coffee shop.... that's when the adventure begins.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stuck in Memphis with the Delta Blues, Amen

I have checked out of my hotel, which I thought would get me motivated to drive West but then I was so torn over heading to Little Rock, which is the correct direction, and taking Hwy 61 south to the Crossroads and Clarkston, MS that I just stopped the car in the South Main Arts District so I could contemplate my next move. That was around noon and now it is almost 3:00. I discovered a whole different neighborhood from downtown and Beale Street even though Main Street runs throughout. There is a trolley that runs up and down Main and over to the Bluff, where you can walk on the river.

This neighborhood has the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. King was shot so that was powerful to walk around. I am already torn up over seeing some of the ghetto neighborhoods here in Memphis (where Stax is) so I decided to not go inside the museum. I had lunch at Beignet's, around the corner. Yum.... gator bites, fried green tomatoes and steamed shrimp with green salad. The Bloody Mary just seemed the right thing to do. Hey, people, I am on vacation here!

I leave Memphis this afternoon with a long list of what I did not get to see: the Gibson factory, Mud Island park, walking the Bluffs, Graceland, the Center for Southern Folklore, the Cotton Museum, the Underground Railroad museum, a photo exhibit at the art museum called Who Shot Rock. Here is what I did see:
Rock and Soul Museum - spent over 3 hours inside with an iPod to go along with the exhibits
Stax Museum - was there at least two hours. Isaac Hayes gold cadillac is worth the admission
Sun Recording Studios - more of a guided tour but the collection of instruments was awesome

I also did things like drive across town to a camera shop for some repair work, walk around Overton Park hoping to see the rock photography exhibit but the museum was closed, and, this morning, search for my phone somewhere on Beale Street. Good news is.... I found it!

Beale Street is so much better than the music strips in Nashville or New Orleans. I don't know how many blues muscians live in Memphis but it's got to be in the hundreds. There are bands in all of the clubs every night and most of what I heard was very good. I was told that the really top players won't show up until Thursday or Friday. Everyone thought I should stick around. Everyone being a small group of locals, some being guitar players in a band called Delta Time that I listened to two nights in a row at Rum Boogie. I am now friends with a man whose cousins played on Love and Happiness with Al Green at Hi Recording Studio. Now those are credentials!

I know that my friends in DC are suffering a heat wave, but it isn't exactly cool here. 90 degrees and thunderheads means it is very sticky. Maybe that's a good thing, because if it was cooler I would go walk on the river right now instead of getting in the car and motivating. I'm pretty sure Hwy 61 is out of the question if I want to make Fayetteville by dark.

Oh, yes. I stuck my head in a Folk Alliance non-profit shop and had a delightful conversation with two young women who filled me in on an entirely different music scene here in Memphis plus told me where to get good coffee in Fayetteville. Get this, they gave me a free sampler CD and who should be on it but Chico Schwall.... an old friend from Eugene. Get out of here! He's part of some big festival they have in Memphis in the winter. There is also a big blues congregation in January that sound interesting.

Signing off for now. Oh, yes. Beignet's may be on the food channel for their Mac and Cheese balls. They basically freeze it and then make balls, roll in crumbs and fry them up. Not on my diet but they sounded pretty darn good. Traveling with South Beach is the topic of another blog.

Take care and as absoutely everyone says to me.... be safe.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Technical Difficulties

I'm not sure if it's really technical, although my laptop would not connect to a server in my Nashville hotel, or just me not being technically nerdy, but I have not been able to post to this blog until today, July 6th, a week into my driving trip. My iTouch can't handle Facebook posting so I haven't even done that. Partially, I just would rather be out enjoying myself than sitting at a laptop.

So, this post is just to let you know that I am alive and well and having a really incredible vacation so far. I spent three days in SW Virginia exploring the Crooked Road, a Virginia music heritage trail, and then three days in Nashville, where the music was great but the highlight was a Chihuly glass exhibit at the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. The last two nights I have been in Memphis and I have extended my stay one more night because there is so much to do here and because my hotel pool is really great.

My latest techno bomb is my camera, which is frozen and new batteries are not solving the problem. I just downloaded 240 photos from Virginia, Nashville and the drive to Memphis so you can see that I need my camera! I would rather be walking along the Mississippi River than trying to find a camera shop but so it goes. Bill tells me that that's what vacations are all about - one crisis to the next.

I'll do some backtracking blogs about where I've been because it has been beautiful and stimulating and I have been eating some great food. The photo here is from Columbia, TN. I was driving to Memphis on the 4th and came upon this gathering. I was suddenly a part of America and it really made the holiday right.

Next stop - the Bon Ton Cafe. Oh, my gosh ..... it's 9:30 and I've just spent my morning on a computer!