This Week on the Road - May 17th-23rd

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This Week on the Road - May 17th-23rd

I haven't gotten very far this week! When I wrote last week, I was in Nashville, and this week I am still in Nashville. I did spend three days in nearby Franklin, which was really great, but otherwise I've been in Music City. It's been a good week though, full of great music, good food and good times, so I guess I can't complain. Plus I finished a podcast and got some other work done as well. I have signed up to work at the Bonnaroo Music Festival the second weekend in June, so I won't be l leaving Tennessee until after that. That has left me with a little extra time in Tennessee, so I've been getting to know one of my favorite cities a little better. I've been able to explore some areas of the city I have been wanting to check out but haven't had the time, and been catching up with some friends too. In all, it's been a fun and productive week, even if I have been in one place.   

After I finished writing last week, I headed back to Bobby's Idle Hour to check out Sam's Jams, a local singer/songwriter show which is held every Wednesday from noon until 8 p.m. It really is a great thing to see, and very Nashville. The musicians were great, and I got to hang out for a little while with Sam Cooper, the host…

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The Franklin Rodeo

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The Franklin Rodeo

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the 69th Annual Franklin Rodeo in Franklin, Tennessee. I am a big rodeo fan, and this was a really good one. It has been put on by the Franklin Rotary Club since 1949 and is one of the largest rodeos east of the Mississippi River. The proceeds from the rodeo went to a whole list of worthy causes, including the Boys and Girls Club, the Williamson Hospital Breast Health Center and the Puerto Rico Libraries Fund. With over 18,000 people attending over the three day run, they were able to donate a lot of money to these great causes. It was also a really good time. For those of you who have never been to a rodeo before, I thought I'd write a quick post to tell you about some of the events…

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A Perfect Saturday in Franklin

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A Perfect Saturday in Franklin

I've had a lot of good days since this trip began back in November. I've had a good number of so-so days and a few bad ones as well. This last Saturday though, was a pretty awesome day out here on the road and darned close to perfect in my opinion. The stars aligned over Franklin, Tennessee to create a day which left me tired but feeling really good about life and this journey. If only we could all have a day like this last Saturday was for me now and again, the world would be a better, happier place. 

The day started off cool, allowing me to sleep in a little bit in my van. As spring has started to give way to summer here in the South, and as I have moved into Central Time, it starts to get warm in my van pretty early. Saturday I had myself parked in the shade of a nice tree, though, allowing me a little extra sleep and waking up well rested for my big day. Once I was up and caffeinated, I headed off to the gym for a good morning workout..

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This Week on the Road - May 10th-16th

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This Week on the Road - May 10th-16th

I started the week as promised in Falls Creek Falls State Park. This really is a beautiful and well done state park. I enjoyed it so much I ended up staying two nights. There are some great trails to hike, some fun suspension bridges to cross, and of course some beautiful waterfalls. When I arrived, I got my campsite organized and then hiked from there over to the namesake Fall Creek Falls. It was, I believe, the third waterfall I've seen this month which claimed to be the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi. Well, the waterfall didn't claim that but the signage did. I've always been fascinated at how difficult it apparently is to measure a waterfall. Either way, it really doesn't matter. They've all been awesome in my book. Along the path, I saw more of one of my favorite flowers: Mountain Laurel. A lot of them are just starting to bud, and the buds look like little vanilla soft-serve cones with strawberry syrup. They make me happy every time… 

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Jack Daniel's vs. George Dickel - A Tennessee Whiskey Tour

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Jack Daniel's vs. George Dickel - A Tennessee Whiskey Tour

I learned to really appreciate whiskey about ten years ago when I did my first tour of the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Before then, I could drink whiskey as a shot or in a mixed drink, but didn’t really appreciate it as a sipping drink. After that tour, though, once I saw how it was made and what went into it, I could pick up a glass of Jack and smell the wood burning in the charcoal production area and the clean, new barrels. It would transport me back to that chilly fall day, just before Thanksgiving, and then I could sip on it all day with a smile on my face. 

While my tastes have grown and changed and evolved over the last ten years, there is just something about the smell of Jack Daniel's which has cast its spell over me. Like a first love or a first car I guess, just something that is (hopefully) always remembered with fondness. I’ve been back to the Jack Daniel's distillery half a dozen times or more since then and I've always enjoyed the tour. Because most of these more recent visits have been while I was guiding, and on tours where the visit was included, I have usually just breezed through Tullahoma on the way to or from Lynchburg. I always knew that the George Dickel Distillery was in Tullahoma, but never had the chance to stop and see it. I finally got there this week, and really enjoyed my tour there as well. I figured I would write this post comparing and contrasting the two tours for you. If you have the time to do both, they are both well worth the effort, but if you had to choose just one, here are a few factors to consider. 

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Inside the Sideshow

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Inside the Sideshow

I met Charles Hoffmaster at Monkey Town Brewery in Dayton, Tennessee. In retrospect, I guess a place with a name like that is as good a place as any to meet a clown. But Charles didn't strike me as a clown at first, just an affable guy with a big smile and a cool hat. He had been talking to some guys down the bar while I was working on writing my next podcast, and while their laughter made me smile, I was paying more attention to my work than to the people around me. His friends got up and left about the time that I was finished writing for the evening, and he came over and introduced himself. It was then that he told me he was a professional clown who worked for Hawthorne's Circus Bizarre Sideshow at the carnival that just pulled into town. The carnival was part of the annual Tennessee Strawberry Festival to be held in Dayton the following weekend. He said they had just arrived and set up their tent so he thought he'd go for a wander and see what was happening. As a traveler myself, his story certainly caught my attention...

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This Week on the Road - May 4th-9th

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This Week on the Road - May 4th-9th

It has been another busy but wonderful week out here on the road. I curled my way up into the far northeast of Tennessee to visit the Tri-Cities of Johnson City, Bristol and Kingsport. From there I traveled across the north of the state to Big South Fork National Recreation Area and then headed south to the cute little town of Dayton. I've gotten to see some really cool and interesting sites, heard some great music and have done a lot of writing and research for my next podcast. The weather continues to get warmer and the flowers are really starting to come out in force. Unfortunately, with them have come my allergies, but I'm not letting them get me down. There is just too much to see and do in Tennessee to worry about a little pollen. 

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National Cornbread Festival

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National Cornbread Festival

I really love good small town festivals, and my visit to the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee was one of the best I can remember. Apparently, when the Tennessee Department of Transportation built a bypass around South Pittsburgh, downtown really took a hit. Town leaders gathered to try and think of a way to bring business back to town. Since they are home to Lodge Cast Iron, they decided to try and stage a cornbread festival. After all, who doesn't like cornbread? The first year they brought out their card tables and folding chairs and hoped for 500 people to show up. An hour after the gates opened there were 5,000 people there... and they were out of cornbread. In the 21 years since, they've learned a lot about throwing a festival, and it really showed…

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In Focus: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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In Focus: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Our National Parks are our greatest treasure here in the United States. They are magical places which thankfully our forefathers had the foresight to set aside in perpetuity for their children and our children and their children. They preserve some of our most amazing landscapes and ecosystems and protect all manner of flora and fauna. From the Everglades in Florida to Denali in Alaska, even the names call forth wildness in our imaginations. Have no doubt, these are our lands, and if we want to keep them that way, we need to protect them. But most of all, we need to enjoy them. This is the second post in a series I have titled In Focus, which will take a look deeper into our National Parks. These are primarily photography posts, trying to show you the beauty of our parks and take you inside of them with me. My hope is that you will get out and see them for yourself. After all, they belong to you too. 

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This Week on the Road - April 27th-May 3rd

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This Week on the Road - April 27th-May 3rd

Hello my friends! It has been a great first week in Tennessee out here on the road. When I wrote last week, I was on my way out to the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountain National Park in far western North Carolina. Today, I'm writing from Knoxville in north eastern Tennessee. It's been an exciting week of festivals and hiking in the park, and the weather has been just beautiful. Strawberries are coming into season and I love good, local strawberries which I'm thankful I've been able to find. I've also been trying to wrap up a few things from South Carolina and begin writing my next podcast. Thankfully the days are getting long down south and it seems like long ago and a million miles away that I was sitting in sub-freezing temperatures in the dark at 4:30 p.m. in West Virginia. Daylight and sunshine really do make a difference - I hope you are all getting outside and enjoying both. Anyways, this is what I've been up to this past week. I didn't quite get it done in time for my Thursday newsletter, but it has been busy out here…

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Iconic Food and Drink of South Carolina

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Iconic Food and Drink of South Carolina

I ate out a lot during my stay in South Carolina. South Carolina is definitely a wonderful food destination. With tons of seafood coming off the coast and wonderful farm-fresh meat and produce coming from the Piedmont, it's hard to go wrong. Unfortunately I didn't plan my meals out as well as I could have, nor did I do my due diligence by really researching the places I ate. These long days have kept me busy and I usually ended up eating wherever was open and grabbing a quick burger or a salad. This is something I hope to correct in Tennessee as I eat in a little more often and save my money and my appetite for some well planned out meals. I did, however, find a few cool places around the state so before I move on, I thought I would share some with you today. 

I had some really great seafood up and down the coast. When I was out on Daufuskie Island, I had a plate of fresh fried grouper over jasmine rice with green beans and slaw at Lucy Bell's Cafe. When I tell you it was to die for, I really mean it…

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Live Music in South Carolina

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Live Music in South Carolina

I was surprised at how hard it was to find live music in South Carolina. For a state with such a rich musical tradition, there weren't a ton of live music venues outside of the big cities, and even many of those only had shows closer to the weekends. I had so much success finding great live music in North Carolina (read about it HERE) and even in West Virginia (and HERE) that I was a little surprised at how difficult it seemed to find a good show. From the state that brought us the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, James Brown, Darius Rucker, Edwin McCain, The Marshall Tucker Band and so many others, I had hoped it would be easier. Maybe I was just spoiled by the wonderful resource that is blueridgemusicnc.com that I didn't dig deep enough. Either way, I did see some great music in the state, shows were just a little fewer and further between than I would have thought… 

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