The Adventures of the Bridge 5 in the USA
A short time ago in a galaxy in close proximity to ours we commenced a journey of discovery to the land that is known as the mighty US of A. It was the first time for these newbies to head across to the centre of this Universe and we were both excited and felt a little trepidation not knowing what to expect.
3/9/2017 - Fathers Day
Fathers day amid the emotion of an unexpected family tragedy and the expectation of a pending tragedy we celebrated as best we could with the kids and then had a massive lunch with Dad, then it was head into Brisbane to be closer to the airport for tomorrows flights.
I was nervous about the travel and worried about those we were leaving at home to cope emotionally. I so wanted to hold my family close during this time. Maybe the distraction and grandeur of the Good 'Ol US of A will be what I need.
4/9/2017 - FLY OUT DAY
HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRISON
Harrison flew to Fiji on his first birthday and now turning 10 he fly's to the USA.
Nice that he also arrives in the USA on his 10th birthday so he was wondering if he gets two presents.
Brisbane to Sydney seemed tame in comparison of what was to come. But to traverse to the opposite side of the globe takes time. So at 12:30 pm we commenced what would be the longest leg of our entire trip. 15 hours from Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth. The kids handled the travel like seasoned veterans and we all managed to get some sporadic sleep. A couple of movies each helped us pass the time and the occasional snooze. I know the old saying "a watched kettle never boils" but flight status checks every now and then helped track our progress.
As i write this we are 52 minutes from Dallas, somewhere over Texas after skirting along the Mexican border. More to come as we celebrate Harrisons birthday US Style.......
The whole sleeping on the plane thing is never easy when you're 6ft 1 and the guy in front of you has to violently recline his seat 2 hours into the flight. I mean it's 2 PM buddy are you having an afternoon nap!!!!
Anyway we made it to the land of opportunity, home of the free and checked into to our hotel in Dallas.
Jetlag is a bugger...... just saying! We spent the afternoon by the pool with a couple of beers / ciders and the kids had a swim. We crashed out early, me by 7 the rest by 8 but at 1:30 AM, BAM!!!! Eyes wide open and hello world. News from home isn't great as mum was admitted to hospital again. Finally nodded off after listening to SEN Radio via my phone back in OZ. Although its hard to sleep on your side wearing whopping big headphones.
5/9/2017 - The Worlds Largest Honky Tonk
All awake and a Buffett breakfast kicks of the day. had our first language barrier this morning when Bec wanted Tomato with her omelette, well you know how the song goes "You say Tomato, I say Tomato ......." .
Going to head out to Billy Bob's, the largest Honky Tonk in the world. We headed out to Fort Worth where there boys were a little shocked to see a civilian with a gun on their hip! But we were in the middle of cowboy country. We went to the Rodeo Hall of fame, they had some amazing stuff including Roy Rogers (doesn't everybody) horse Trigger. Jackson and Harmony even got to sit on a longhorn!
And this man who was in the hall of fame as a Rodeo Clown. A hero Just the same!
Then we checked out Billy Bobs. They say everything is bigger in Texas but I couldn't imagine the size of this place. A massive stage and dance floor, bars everywhere, a massive arcade of games and pool tables and, wait for it, an indoor Rodeo arena!!!!! Yep everything is bigger in Texas.
Had my first "Bud" in the USA at Billy Bobs and this is the guitar bar in the venue.
We couldn't stay too long because we had to get back for our flight to Nashville.
AT 2:55 we headed out of Texas on American Airlines. As we boarded the two grey haired pilots offered the kids pilot's "wing" badges. I couldn't help but think these guys could be "Clarence Over" and "Victor" from flying high.
"Have you got the clearance Clarence" "Give me the Vector Victor" "You have Clearance over" "No No its Clarence Over"
A great flight and we landed safe and sound in Nashville Tennessee. We were met by Kristy and Trav and Jamie and then it was off to their beautiful home in Hendersonville. One quick stop on the way, the bottle shop. And they had 1.75 litre bottles of Johnny Walker Black label, so big you needed a handle to pour it, everything is bigger in the Home of the Brave.
6/9/2017 - The Tourists
First real tourist day and what a day it was. First Stop, the Grand Old Opry. We did the backstage tour and boy oh boy stood on that very circle of wood that Hank stood on all those years ago. It was a pretty emotional experience walking through the place where my heroes played. Seeing the plaques on the wall of all the guys who sang those songs that id heard my dad sing as a child.
As i stood on that circle of wood taken from the original stage at the Ryman Auditorium I felt the history run through me.
BUCKET LIST ITEM CHECKED - Stand on the Opry Stage
The next stop was the American Music History Exhibition at Madam Tussauds. A great exhibition of so many life like wax statues. A great way to finish our first day of Tourism 101.
Time to head back to Hendersonville for a few quiet Buds and to rest up for Nashville day 3.
7/9/17 - Music Royalty
Hendersonville is so close to so much music history.
10 minutes from where we are staying is the final resting place of the great Johnny Cash and the love of his life June.
And a few miles up the road is the lakeside block where they lived. I say block because the sad part is that the house was burned to the ground.
Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees bought the home in 2006 from the Cash estate. During renovations an electrical spark ignited some paint and the house was razed. When Barry planned to rebuild the outcry was so much that he gave up and sold the property. There are still charred beams lying in the driveway as an eerie reminder of the houses fate.
On the way back home we popped by to see Conway Twitty's old house now used as the heart of a musical museum and events centre. The only possible use this could have.
After an over the top Mexican dinner at Kristy and Trav's favourite mexican restaurant we headed home and settled in to watch "Walk The Line". Tomorrow Downtown Nashville.
8/9/17 - Downtown Nashville
It's Friday 11 AM and we are strolling down "Broadway" in Nashville. The big smoke of Nashville is party central and attacks the senses from every angle. Every bar except one, with a band stage in the Window and rotating bands starting from 10 am through to 2 am. Back to back they come through and obviously they improve as the day goes on. None of these bands get paid, they play for tips, so to earn a living they need to make the audience happy. Not a bad solution, it would certainly get rid of half the cover singers i see here who don't really care about their craft or audience at local gigs.
We walked around town right down broadway and crossed the river to check out the Tennessee Titans football stadium.
Then first tourist stop, the Johnny Cash Museum.
The kids were talking about the history of Johnny Cash and the Americans locals were suitably impressed they had so much they knew about Johnny. Parenting 101 - Teach your kids about Johnny Cash!
He's cool, he was always his own man and he blazed trails. Not a bad role model really (aside from the ugly parts of his life).
t just so happened that we'd stumbled across the grand opening, upstairs or the new Patsy Cline museum. It was Patsy's birthday so to celebrate her Daughter Julie came in to the opening of the museum. We got to meet her and talk to her about her mum and the influence on us that she had with her music. This was one of those Lucky moments of being in the right place at the right time. :-)
Headed ack to Hendersonville because it's Time for "Friday Night Lights" Henderson High School Football.
To say America does nothing by half is an an understatement of mammoth proportions. This was an event.
Another right place at the right time moment. We stumbled across the local "Derby" or Arch rivals game. The stands were packed, bands were stacked both home and away and the buzz around the ground was electric. The game itself seemed secondary as the standing room areas became the local meeting place for 100s of high school students. The stands were packed with the whole community. Parents, friends, grandparents, brothers and sisters, just about everyone was there.
At half time they even had a "band off". The opposing high school bands. First was the reduced size of the away team as they did their synchronised display. Then the home team and their theme, "Beatlemania" woo hoo!!
It was coordination at its finest as they marched, stepped, swayed and played in time with a medley of Beatles Tunes. THEY WON of course.
The game was fast and high scoring but the home team lost 37 - 21. Some amazing athletes on each team that are surely college bound.
All in all it was a great night under the Friday night lights!
9/9/2017 - Sliding Doors
Today we took a step back through history but on the way we had one of those "Sliding doors" moments.
Standing in the queue for tickets into the country music hall of fame the usher announces that there was a free songwriters show in the auditorium. So the Bridge 5 shuffle in to what turned out to be an awesome 45 minutes.
Wil Nance and Tim Hubbert. Who are they you may ask? Well you may have heard "She's Everything" by Brad Paisley or "In a round about way" by George Strait, both of them were written by Will Nance. Tim Hubbert had a number 1 hit with a song Kevin Sharpe Recorded "She's sure taking it well". It was a great 45 minutes of laughter and amazing songs. Right place, right time. A sliding doors moment.
In a round about way - Will Nance
She's sure taking it well - Tim Hubbert
Then we proceeded to take in the history that is the country music hall of fame. With so many of our musical heroes celebrated. Elvis' and Webb Pierce's customised cadillacs we there in all their gaudy glory but the piece that stopped me in my tracks and made me ponder the impact it had on all of us was a simple Martin D28 guitar. Why was it so special, it's was Hank Williams Martin guitar that he wrote so many of the greatest country songs of all time with. A moment of awe and inspiration.
Headed home back to Hendersonville and time to head out to Pucketts in columbia Tennessee to have dinner and watch Kristy and Trav play.
They invited us up for a few songs so this became of Debut in the USA. Pucketts, Columbia, Tennessee.
10/9/17 - A bit of Shopping
Today was the kids day, they'd loved their experiences but we wanted to let them chill a little. We took them down to Lebanon, not the war torn country but the city in Tennessee. It was outlet shopping day and the kids picked up a few sets of runners. Then "Chuck-e-cheese".
A few hours were killed on arcade games an an inordinate amount of tickets were won and the prize at the end, cheap plastic toys that would be lucky to last the day.
But winning them made them special and the kids had a ball.
11/9/17 - Cooling Down
Cracker Barrell, yep first Cracker Barrell breakfast. Eggs over medium, crispy bacon, hash brown casserole, "Biscuits", which are scones made of buttermilk, grits and gravy.
Well, i don't know what the heck grits are but it reminded me of the time i mixed sand with CLAG!!!! But the rest of it was great, except for the coffee of course. They just don't know good coffee here.
After breakfast it was off to be a fan again. Not music this time but TV, off to Antique Archeology's Nashville store. American Pickers. Picked up a few souvenirs and mercy then I was off. I mean, no Danni D, no point staying I say. We picked up some Hendersonville High T Shirts for the family on the way home, now were locals.
Thanks to the amazing Jess were were able to have a night out. Trav and Kristy were celebrating their wedding anniversary so off we went to stay at the Opryland Resort. Opryland resort is a mini city in its own right. Shops, two indoor rainforests and just massive.
Hurricane Irma brought some torrential rain to Nashville so it slowed down a little of the tourism.
12/9/17 - A Bucket List day
** THIS IS THE NIGHT WE PLAY THE BLUEBIRD CAFE **
We didn't do a whole lot on this day because this was a bucket list tick day.
We shopped for some early 10th anniversary presents. Bec got a ring and me a watch but today was all about the Bluebird Cafe, nervous excitement but I couldn't wait.
This picture says more than words can :-)
The bluebird cafe is a small place, unobtrusive but full of history. Just the thought that I was about to play where all of the greats of country have played was so humbling and exciting.
It was songwriters night. 4 sets of songwriters taking it in turn to play original songs to an audience that just wanted to listen. 3 songs was al we sang but we were up on that famous stage for an hour or so. I did Ghost town to a rousing reception,when it was Bec's turn she did Gypsy Heart to an even bigger reception. Then the last song of the set and it was us. (McManager Tip: get there early and find the best position so you end the night)
We told the story of the song then sang "We Knew"
We had people crying and at the end of the song one man at the back of the room was moved enough to give us a one man standing ovation. The songs moved people to tell us their stories and how they related to the song and what it meant to them after a single listen. But then again "We Knew"
If you can touch someone like that with a song then your job is done.
Bucket List Tick: Play the Bluebird cafe
13/9/17 - Nashville generation on show
Headed into downtown Nashville today for a taste of Americana. A 50 seat only showcase put on by Sirius XM Radio and it happened to be Lukas Nelson and his band. The surname should give away his pedigree, yes the son of Willie Nelson. But aside from the distinctive Nelson twang he is entirely his own man. His songs are so well crafted and his musicianship is amazing. As was the rest of the band.
They did an hour long set of some amazing songs I'd never heard before. Everyone of them an incredible journey. There were distinct influences of his dad but that is a great thing, as Molly would say, do yourself a favour and check him out. You won't be dissapointed.
Then came home picked the rest of the tribe up and headed into Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville for lunch, then home and out for Mexican........ the food coma is effecting my ...................off to bed, Memphis tomorrow.
14/9/17 - Nashville to Memphis
Took a three hour drive west to Memphis this morning. A musical spiritual day lay ahead, first stop, Graceland, the home of the King.
Graceland is a tacky, gaudy, ridiculous place with carpeted walls, too much bling and shine but it was perfect. The yellow and blue TV room looked like it was designed by Minions the sparkly dining room by Leanardo Da Vinci and the Jungle rom by Tarzan but they were perfect for their time.
The sad part is I suppose is that the museum and display is totally commercial, as you would expect and is no longer owned by Lisa Marie.
The prefabricated concrete warehouse buildings house his gold and platinum records, costumes etc. But for the fact that it was Elvis' house I could have given it a big miss.
But I did have the opportunity to have a spiritual Elvis moment, not at Graceland but at our next destination.
Yes Sun studios, the birthplace of rock 'n roll. It's a tiny building in an old converted car garage but it's soul is much bigger. To be able to stand where Elvis, Johnny, Jerry Lee, Roy, Carl and so many other stood to record was absolutely overwhelming and brought a tear to my eye.
***** BUCKET LIST ITEM # 3 - Sang "Thats Alright Mama" on the very spot where Elvis stood to record it.
Headed back to Nashville with a smile on my face :-)
15/9/17 - Nashville
After the big day that was Memphis it was time to settle for a day and have a quiet one.
Headed into the Aussie BBQ show as part of Americana Fest at a venue called the 5 Spot.
There were some great acts there including Tim Wheatley (Son of Glen) but when former Men at Work front man Colin Hay came out he blew me away. His songs were amazing but his banter between songs was the stuff of legend.
Whilst introducing a song a single person cheered and applauded. Colin's retort, "the one person clap, that's when you have to make a decision ........." :-)
After I returned home from that gig we continued the "Quiet one" by packing the family in to the mini van with picnic baskets in tow and headed out to the town of Franklin and a picnic at Arrington Winery.
Arrington is owned by one half of the amazing Brooks and Dunne, Kik Brooks. We had a beautiful evening on the lawn with some amazing wine, great friends and finished the evening off listening to some amazing bluegrass music. The bluegrass bands here, playing for tips, are amazing. They're better than any bluegrass band ive ever seen. And as they finished they played "you are my sunshine" and Harmony and I sat on the lawn and sang along.
15/9/17 - Nashville to Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge
Family List and family Bridge went on our "Griswold's" getaway to Pigeon Forge, TN and Gatlinburg.
Based in the Smoky mountains of Tennessee it is a beautiful place interrupted by the tourist mecca's that are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Gatlinburg is nestled at the foot of the Smoky mountains. Gatlinburg has attraction after attraction and tourist spot after tourist spot.
Ripley's believe it or not, The Bubba Gump Shrimp company etc this is both a summer and winter retreat. Ski runs turn into mountain bike / hiking trails.
You could see that the hills hadn't fully recovered from the previous season's wild fires but there were signs of life. We shopped, tasted smoky mountain moonshine and soaked it all in. After an afternoon up and down the shopping strip we headed back down the mountain to Pigeon Forge to check in to our accommodation.
Check into to "margaritaville" Jimmy Buffett's hotel chain. The kids were straight into the pool.
After dinner we headed to one of the plethora of mini golf for our Innagural Presidents cup of mini golf. The world mini golf championship team event. Thanks to Jackson on his "tin arse" around the tin cup he and I were crowned world champions.
A good fun night for all. Now's the time for some rest as tomorrow were off to "Dollywood"
17/9/17 - Dollywood and the Dixie Stampede
Headed out to Dollywood. It is a wonderful place, a theme park full of stuff for little kids and big kids. We spent the day on and off rides including the "Thunderhead". The worlds largest wooden roller coaster was fun but I got off feeling like I'd gone 3 rounds with Mike Tyson. Jackson of course tried every ride and the scarier the better.
One of my favourite photos is this, Harmony and Adelaide have a shoulder ride form Trav and I decided they needed to hold hands.
At the end of the day we liked Pigeon Forge so much we decided to stay on another day and go to the Dixie Stampede. Dolly's themed event with a spectacular horse show, bluegrass music and wayyyyyyy too much food. When the first course is a whole chicken you know you're in for another food coma.
The night started in the "bar" (a dry country so only soft drink) and listening to three amazing Bluegrass pickers. Each award winners including the world champion Banjo player.
It started with a bluegrass show from 3 award winning pickers.
Then into the arena for the spectacular show. Horsemanship, patriotism and music at its finest.
The Americans know how to tug on the heart strings and in this North v South battle they slugged it out.
I even got to be part of one of the battles in the water relay, poor girl who was holding the bucket second in line to me got a little soaked.
But in the end the united banner of the stars and stripes brought them all together. And hand on heart i nearly shed a tear. They do patriotism so well.
18/9/17 - Pigeon Forge to Nashville
We had a lazy morning followed by a few hours at the Nascar themed go kart track. We all had fun on those karts. The drive home was eventful driving through a heavy Queensland style storm slowed us down.
We went to the local chinese restaurant for dinner that proudly displayed a picture of Taylor Swift there. She is a former Hendersonville resident you see. In fact she donated lots of money to the town, they built a great playground and park area for the kids.
Nice work from the superstar.
19/9/2017 - Nashville
A bit of a lazy home day today after all of our travels but that night we were lucky enough to head out at night as Jess looked after the little ones and we went into town with Kristy and Trav.
First Stop "The Brewhouse" funnily enough the only bar in Nashville without live music. Bec and Kristy shared a couple of "Bushwackers" a milky liquer drink with 12 different liquers, knocking socks off material that.
Not really my cup of tea though. A bit like a potent thick shake.
We headed to Roberts bar to listen to the Don Kelly band. The double bass player was insanely good. Something you gather by watching these guys play for tips is that there wouldnt be too many Australians who realise how easy it is playing gigs for a guaranteed $100 bucks an hour.
I did come away from Broadway thinking it wasnt really my scene, loud boozy crowds and over the top boozy people everywhere, maybe im just getting old.
Then we headed off to see the music city playboys. Apart from some very drunk bikers making us weary the place was great. The music was classic country all pre 1980 with Merle, Vern Godsin and Jerry Reed songs. The players in this band all work for the stars and each player was amazing.
Capped off the night.
20/9/17 - Nashville
Went into town to do the Ryman tour. While it was amazing to walk through the Ryman backstage stour was no where near the Opry experience. No backstage photo's allowed so there is a hole in this piece.
But heres a few inside the auditorium.
If you go to the Ryman save your $10 and do the self guided tour.
The three Thursday nights we were in Nashville we all went out for Mexican as is customary for our hosts. 2 for 1 margaritas and $1.99 beers!!
And the food is great too. Thanks to our mate Lupe and the crew at Ol El Paso for some great nights.
Before we left we got to experience a bit of Halloween tradition American style, just a little early but Trav and Kristy wanted to make sure the kids (and big kinds) did miss out on pumpkin carving.
The kids all picked a design and carved with some amazing result.
22/9/2017- Say Goodbye to Nashville
As sad as it was to leave our amazing friends behind the last part of our adventure has begun.
Here we sit at Nashville Airport waiting to fly out to the city of the Angels, Los Angeles.
Adventures at Universal Studios and Disneyland await.
We flew into LAX from Nashville today and checked into the Ramada West Hollywood.
Santa Monica Blvd, There’s so many songs with these streets in their lyrics. Sunset Boulevard Santa Monica Boulevard they’re all here.
We ate and then settled in to our digs as tomorrow is a big day, the first LA theme park, Universal Studios.
23/9/17 – Hollywood and Universal Studios
Our first night in LA at the Ramada West Hollywood was remembered most for the great coffee i finally got to have.
First decent coffee of the trip. When will Americans learn that drip feed coffee that sits on a heating element all day tastes like burnt water???
Anyway, today wasn't about coffee, today was about Harry Potter!!!!
Well to me it was!
Universal Studios has the Life size Hogsmead, with Ollivanders wand shop and the lolly shop with Bertie Bots all flavoured beans.And of course, Butter Beer!!! We went on the Hippogriff ride and then into the Harry Potter ride itself. The line wasnt bad and it was made easier by the Hogwarts style halls with talking pictures which made the wait seem to fly by.
The ride was fantastic, a virtual ride that took you on a wild broom chase through the fields of Hogwarts. Pretty happy. All the kids including harmony braved the ride which was scary at time with death eaters etc but she was a trouper. We did the Indianna Jones ride too, and went down to Krusty Land and on the Studio Tour, Norman Bates decided to follow the tour bus and Bec and Harmony got a fright when he came right up to their seats. It was a wonderful day and the kids won the biggest stuffed toys on a basketball shooutout, now to work out how to get them home! A fun day was had by all, the kids got Potter wands and cast some spells.
Happy place this and tomorrow the Happiest place on Earth, Disneyland.
24/9/17 - DISNEYLAND
Our transfer out to Anahiem was a hairy LA freeway ride which included a truck fire and all sorts of Oh S#$t moments. We got to the hotel and were greeted by Mickey and Minnie and Daisy and Donald and Pluto and all of the crew.
Checked in and now off to Disneyland on a Sunday afternoon.
It was busy but we braved the lines and fast tracked on the rides. We did Space Mountain, the matterhorn, the tea cups of course and a few others. Try get this song out of your head when you ride the boat through and hear it about 20 times.
It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small samll world
la la la
We stayed for the Disney parade, and this was a moment that ill always remember.
Harmony was so excited to see the floats she was jumping with joy. Then Rapunzel came around. We had got some minnie mouse ears for her because she was so brave on the rides and Rapunzel looked at her, blew her a kiss and said i love your ears.
Well Harmony had the bigest grin ever, thanks Rapunzel.
We watched the fireworks and headed back to the hotel. Another disney day tomorrow, but it's monday so shouldnt be too busy.
25/9/2017 - DISNEY DAY 2
We had breakfast with the characters from disney, including Stitch who cheekily wanted to eat our food.
Then back to disney land for some more fun. Finding Nemo, Star Wars, Thunder Mountain and a few more then we hopped over to California land for some more. For some reason i think our photography wained a little so there no many more to share.
California Screaming was a great rollercoaster, we did that twice. And yes once again we all got on.
Cars ride was a great way to finish the day in this wonderful place. it truly is magical.
26/9/2017 - LAST DAY
Well this brings to an end a great adventure. We did do the obligatory shopping outlet tour on the way to the airport but i wont bore you with that.
We had a great trip home and met some amazing people along the way.
Its an adventure wed like to do again, net time we will see more of the USA but until then.