Monday, November 29, 2010

Home by Way of The Golden Lamb

We slept in.   The bed was huge and the comforter was comforting.  I could have stayed there all day, frankly, but Randy was up and ready to get going.  Darn.  We were in the car by 10 AM.

Now, a ride home is probably as exciting to a driver as a plane ride is to a frequent flyer. We drove from LaGrange, Kentucky to Akron, Ohio between the hours of 10 AM and 5 PM.  Obviously we stopped somewhere.

Lebanon, Ohio.  Small town.  But it was a good stop.  For me, it was the third time to have lunch at The Golden Lamb, but Randy's first. He told me he would have remembered it if he had been there before. My first time there, my mother, who was teaching Ohio History for awhile, surprised me with lunch on a trip to Alabama many years ago.

The Golden Lamb is the oldest hotel in Ohio, built in 1803, and actually opened in 1815 to the public.  It has 30 rooms which are still used as hotel rooms, and each one bears the name of a person from history who stayed in the hotel:  Mark Twain,  Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, to name a few.  It also has been the hotel of twelve US Presidents, most recently George W. Bush, in 2004.

There is even a hotel ghost who shows up once in awhile. Her name is Sarah, and her room is closed off except for a glass window that we could look into her room, just in case she showed up while we were there.  She didn't.

The menu shows all twelve of those Presidents, proudly, and tells the history of the hotel.  We ate a lovely lunch of chicken salad sandwich with fruit salad for me, and egg salad and the house soup of potato with ham and mushrooms for Randy.  They served rolls with apple butter that was made right there in Lebanon. (We moaned.)

The rest of the day was really uneventful, but the hour or so we spent at The Golden Lamb was worth mentioning. If you are near Dayton, or north of's off I71 N just a mile or so.  History and charm.  We are talking about going there and staying in a room once used by a President.  You know we will post about it if that happens............!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Greece in Tennessee. Not GREASE, GREECE!

This morning we had a Greek experience in Nashville.  We visited the only full-size replica of The Parthenon of Athens, right in Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States! Who knew?

This structure was actually built as a temporary building to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the USA, back in the 1800's.  It caught on, people liked it, and it was then built as a permanent site and completed around 1930 or so.  It houses an art museum and a 42 foot statue of Athena, which we failed to see since we were there on a Sunday and Athena is inside.   However, The Parthenon was amazingly huge and impressive.  Every tiny detail has been completed to perfection.

We decided to speak with Greek accents while we viewed this enormous building, and took self-timed photos of ourselves to add to Christmas cards, hoping to let you all think we'd been to Athens, Greece. Our Greek accents were not wonderful, either.

We fed some bread that we'd brought from home to some Canadian geese and a few lone ducks in a man-made lake nearby, then told Thelma to "Take us home!" and off we went. Lunch was at a Zaxbe's where we enjoyed chicken tenders and boneless chicken wings, (those poor birds!) then were off and away again.

We did take a side trip to Horse Cave, Kentucky, to revisit the birthplace of Randy's grandfather and the roots of his dad's family.  It hadn't changed much since our last stop, but had added a real motel and some directional signs, so we know there has been growth.

Once back on Rt. 65N, the Home-From-Thanksgiving traffic was hideous and bumper to bumper.  We drove at 3 miles per hour for about forty-five minutes at one point.  We put in our time, even though we may not have made the distance we would have liked to do.  We realize, however, that most of those people have to be back at work tomorrow, while we do not.  It seemed courteous to get off the highway and let them go on by.

Tonight we are in a beautiful Best Western in LaGrange, Kentucky, which is not far from Louisville.  My eyelids have been heavy most of the afternoon (I can't imagine why.......) and we've not stopped many times today.

 We just ordered dinner online from Domino's Pizza. What a hoot that was! I put in the information and they showed me a pizza shell which I decorated on my computer screen with the ingredients we preferred, then clicked in the place to deliver it.  A minute later a meter showed up on my computer screen on which we could know that they had received the order, were constructing the pizzas, baking them, and then they were out for delivery!  In 24 minutes the pizzas were at our hotel room door.  I am impressed with Dominos.

Actually, I would recommend Dominos in a heartbeat over for customer satisfaction.   :)

Nashville, the Music, and the Opry

It is well after 1 AM back home, an hour earlier here in Tennessee, and I just now got out of the shower, and really would love to collapse.  I  told Randy, however, that if I don't sit right down and write about this day, much of it will be "gone" from my memory by morning.  I've got to catch it while it's fresh.

We awoke at 8 AM, and by 9:30 were in the "music district" of Nashville, had parked our car at a meter, and were briskly walking down a hill.  Believe it or not, we still have some of that energy right now.

Nashville's Music District, mainly Broadway, is a busy busy place.  The street is populated with musicians either out of work, working, looking for work, or on their way to work.  Most of them are carrying a guitar case.  I really felt out of place with just a large purse over my shoulder. We each needed a guitar case, too! 

We also didn't have our cowboy hats and boots along, darn it. We did, however, wear our jeans, and I had on my fur vest which seems to fit into any environment I wear it into, so I wore my MSNBC ball cap instead of a cowgirl hat.  A few aspiring musicians seemed to think that I was from the press.  I heard one singer who caught sight of my hat yell out to the rest of her fiddle-playing crew to "give it all you've got!"  I hated to disappoint her, so I nodded appreciatively to their act and waved as I left.  I hope they are not waiting for the phone call from MSNBC.

One street musician into whose hat we'd dropped a bill sang for us (while his dog lay sleeping on top of his car) and then asked timidly if we were actually from MSNBC.  I answered, "You wish! But no, it's  a hat my son gave to me." (Thanks, Stephen! )

First we located the Ryman Auditorium where we had selected tickets for the 7 PM Grand Ol Opry show from    .We wanted to be sure we knew where we were going and how to get there for the show.

Then we walked slowly up and down Broadway for two hours until our parking meter had run down, then moved the car to an all-day lot with a fixed price. The parking attendant assured us that as long as we didn't move our car out of that lot, we wouldn't have to pay for parking again until long after the Opry let out.  A deal!

We looked at fabulously expensive Western boots, souvenirs, CDs of country stars we'd never heard of, postcards, tee shirts, and any other thing that you can imagine in those shops that cater to tourists.  We bought very little, but had a good time looking. We met a young man from Struthers, Ohio, in a boot shop. He knew exactly where I had lived in Poland and knew of our family!

We ate lunch at a place called Rippy's that served me a fried catfish sandwich and Randy a pork loin BBQ sandwich along with some twangy music performed by some of those musicians who have a job. Wonderful catfish!

Back on the street, we bopped in and out of bars and luncheonettes, took  seats, listened to the current performers, dropped them a tip, and wandered on to the next venue.  By the time we'd turned around and headed back up the street the other direction, the musicians had changed and we couldn't tell which bars we had already stopped into.  We continued up and down the street until about 3 o'clock when we went back to the car to freshen up for the Opry. We planned to have dinner after the Opry. 

However, when we checked our printed tickets from, we realized that we had tickets for the 9:30 performance instead of the 7 o'clock one that I had clicked on. I know you're wondering how I did not know this before then.  Here is my excuse:  I printed off the tickets, knew what I had clicked on, saw the bill was correct for the amount I had ordered, and went back to work as a teacher that day.  My own fault, for not checking immediately, but we did have a hotel and tickets for the show. We just didn't have the right hotel or the right showtime.  We also will not be using again, needless to say.  Our method of non-planning seems to work better for us.

Now, please don't call us "cheap," but we didn't want to lose our parking spot and have to repay for it!  So, because both of us are capable of  "winging it," that's what we did.  First we laughed, then we freshened up anyway, and went back down to the music district.

We roamed a little further away, seeing some other lovely buildings, and did the rounds of all the bars again (they all had different musicians by then, after all....) and then discovered Demos Restaurant at 300 Commerce Street. (  We had time to kill, seats at the bar, and a great bartender named Michelle who also was our waitress. We drank good wine, and Randy had a rib eye steak which he said was beyond wonderful, and I had a baked potato stuffed with an entire bowl of chili, cheese, and sour cream that was absolutely delicious.

We also made friends with a couple from San Diego, a group of people from Ann Arbor, Michigan, a young man who eats lunch and dinner at Demos every day since he works nearby in his first job, a man and his partner from Charleston, South Carolina, and were now best friends with Michelle and her co-bartender, Dustin.  The time flew.

By 8:30 PM we were in line at the Ryman Auditorium for the Grand Ol Opry along with busloads of people who had come from the Opryland Hotel that I told you about yesterday.  What we were not totally aware of is that the Opryland Hotel had just opened on November 15th, so it has a few glitches to iron out, we learned.  Too many people, high parking and valet fees, not enough places to eat...........these were what its guests were saying about it.  They all agreed it is beautiful and will probably get its act together shortly, though.

At the Ryman, we met a couple from Toledo and a group of five who had come a two-hour drive in Tennessee to take an older man in their group to see the Opry.  He had been saying for over fifty years that he wanted to see it, but had never gone the two hours to get there until tonight.

I expect that you think I would have slept through the Grand Ol Opry.  WRONG!  I'd had a cup of coffee after dinner, and the auditorium was so cold that NO ONE could go to sleep.  I have seen it all.

The Opry is a two-hour show.  Every half hour they close the curtains and an entirely different group of people take over the stage, except for this man who has a marvelously deep voice and does commercials every few minutes.  When I say "commercials," that is exactly what I mean.  He reads the same ads over and over again into a microphone that goes out to radio land, since this is all a live broadcast. The Opry audience has to listen to this spiel, too.  The only good news about this is that every half hour the sponsor changes along with the stage performers, and at some point the performers started making fun of the advertisements too, so it was tolerable.  Barely.

We saw some wonderful fiddle players, and some tap dancing square dancers.  Little Jimmy Dickens hosted the first segment.  He is nearly ninety years old, but he sang and played a guitar like a much younger man.  He was tiny up there with his bright blue spangly suit on.

Brett Eldredge was a highlight. He is an attractive young man with a great voice and lots of enthusiasm. Then a group called Riders in the Sky performed some country songs and told some jokes.

Crystal Gayle was the headliner.  Her hair is STILL down to her ankles, although it looks as if it could use one good blunt cut across the bottom. She sang two songs, neither of which I could name.  I was too busy watching all that hair swing back and forth as she swayed and moved while she sang.   I kept wondering how long it takes to dry when she washes it, how she can even shampoo it, and if she ever wishes she could have a different hair-do.  And would anybody recognize her without the hair?  I even wondered if she had already cut the hair and this was a long hairpiece that she tied on before the show so the audience would know it was she.

Oh well.

At eleven o'clock (Nashville time) we exited the Ryman Auditorium and drove back to our hotel.  My pedometer says I've walked five miles today. I think it must have gotten reset sometime during the day.  I walked a million miles today, saw a million happy people, and really loved Nashville. There are still a couple of places we want to see before we leave tomorrow.  I'd better hit the sheets so I can get up in the morning and do just that!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Turkey, the History, the Pig, and the Glitz

We arrived on Thanksgiving afternoon at Jerry and Susan Meyer Kornegay's beautiful home at about 3 PM on Thanksgiving, having driven through both rain and sunshine. On arrival, it was 71 degrees in Knoxville !

The Kornegays put on a Top Chef cooking show for us while we nibbled on cheese and pita crackers and sipped good wine from Australia.  Dinner was a traditional Thanksgiving feast with magazine cover turkey, stuffing with gravy, cranberry salad, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes with the most divine maple butter on top.  Yes, of course I got the recipe!

Susan and Jerry live on top of a very high hill with a fantastic view of mountains in the distance.  They also have a koi pond that they put into their back yard.  They have a koi named Tyson and then some other koi and goldfish living in this delightful running pond that makes tinkling sounds of running water. We forced Susan and Jerry to sit on their screened porch late into the night, long after it had gotten chilly outside, partly to listen to the running water in their pond.

We didn't get to bed until nearly midnight, then slept through the night peacefully, and awoke at 6 AM today.  After another culinary fete in the Kornegary kitchen, this time steel-cut oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon bagels,  Randy and I were on the road heading west.

We gained an hour sometime along the way to Nashville, so by the time we arrived at The Hermitage, it was only 10 o'clock. 

The Hermitage was the home of  President Andrew Jackson and his beloved wife, Rachel.  Since my last visit to The Hermitage, a huge visitor center has been added complete with museum, gift shop, and a 22-minute movie during which I took a cat nap.

I've been to The Hermitage several times as my mother used to stop along the way to visit her family in Alabama.  Back then you didn't need a ticket to walk around the grounds and get the feel of the place.  Mom and I took one full tour on an early trip, then sort of just stopped by to check on things, eat a snack, peek into the kitchen and slave cabins, and then we'd be on our way again.  I was there last in 1972 on a trip to Phoenix with my first husband, also.

I have a thing for Andrew and Rachel, actually. I must have read Irving Stone's The President's Lady about four times and seen Charlton Heston's Andrew play to Susan Hayward's Rachel another four or five times. I don 't know what it is about their love story that I found so appealing, especially when I was very young, but I did.

We enjoyed the entire tour. I took a particular fascination with the hand block-printed wallpaper that depicts stories of Homer's classic literature. Randy decided to build a smoke house in our back yard (to go along with the koi pond) that can also smoke roughly 300 pigs per year. It was a good three hours.  It doesn't seem like a real vacation unless we add something historical into it.

We then asked Thelma to take us to the new Opryland Hotel.  We really did not know what to expect, but we've toured large and famous hotels before, so wanted to see it, whatever "it" was.  After charging the $18 parking fee and finding a parking space in a lot filled to the limit, we entered a combination of Disney World and Las Vegas all wrapped up into one enormous building.

Unbelievable is probably the best word for the Opryland Hotel.  The glass structure has several levels with different names.  We walked through somewhat of a rain forest with plants and trees that are gigantic.  Christmas decorations of mammoth size hung from the beams under the glass panels, and on the lowest level the entire Riverwalk of San Antonio seems to have been recreated where poor weather cannot bother the traveler. All of this glory is surrounded by tall inner walls of the hotel itself (yes, they actually have hotel rooms in this hotel....) and cute little balconies with black tables and chairs (all facing the same direction) on each balcony.  We even saw a few people who were staying in this hotel!

It lacked the grandeur of Mackinac's Grand Hotel, and lacked the dignity of Hot Springs and The Greenbriar,  but the clientele of this place is mainly Country Western devotees, after all. 

Forty million people shouldered their way past us, around us, and over us. All of the employees killed us with kindness. Nobody hummed twangy music at us, and two people even volunteered to take photos of us together, without being asked!  (That's usually what I do for others, so today must have been Payback Day.)

We had hoped to find a barbecue place for a late lunch there, but there were too many people and not enough restaurants.  Instead we went to locate the Comfort Inn that had reserved for us.

Now, I am an open-minded consumer, and I have already confessed to you that I used that website to book the hotel and show tickets in Nashville.  Suffice it to say that I have already made one phone call to VME this evening to let them know that the hotel they sent me to is NOT the one I ordered when I chose a Comfort Inn closer to downtown Nashville.  Not a huge issue, as the one we are in seems to be  fine, but it is NOT the one I clicked on during this transaction.  The desk clerk has been more than accommodating, and it is not his fault.  Nevertheless, we are not downtown.

SO, if you have been even considering using their service since I first mentioned it,  hold off.  I could have made these reservations for the same price, or less, frankly, so I am not giving high praise, and actually only warnings about it at this point.  I will let you know if that opinion should change after we get home.

We had dinner at Jack's Barbecue, which has been in Nashville since Jack Cawthon started it in 1976.  We had Texas Brisket, which was delicious.  The hotel desk clerk recommended it, and the pink pig out in the front was the final lure. You can sing the jingle and read all about it at

After our BBQ dinner we took a ride downtown to see the big city lights, locate where everything is, see the state capitol, enjoy the crowds a bit, and then go back to our room.  It's pretty cold out there, the parking spaces were few and far between, and we are tired from our touring.  We've agreed to go back downtown tomorrow morning when the crowds thin out and we can actually see what we're seeing.

More later!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On the Road Again! We've Gone South!

I failed to mention this trip because we planned it so quickly, and really haven't had time to digest the fact that we are out of town!  The plans were all made via computer this time, too.  With a five-day weekend, we had to figure a time-line. I discovered a website called  which seemed to have hotels and sightseeing available with the click of a we are trying that out.  I will let you know how that goes.

Remember that high school reunion that Randy and I helped to plan for this past October?  Well, during the planning process we became "new best friends" with Susan Meyer Kornegay and her husband, Jerry, from Knoxville, Tennessee.  As things turned out for the Thanksgiving holiday, neither of  us had real "family" to share a turkey with.  My kids are with Mike for Turkey Day, and Randy's daughter's family is with her in-laws in Pennsylvania.

So...........where have we NOT been?  Nashville, Tennessee!  We had seen the reopening of the Grand Ol Opry Hall on the Today Show a few weeks ago, said, "Gee, we haven't been there," and the seed had been planted.

Contacting Susan to see what they would be doing this weekend, we were invited almost instantly for Thanksgiving! Their family had other plans this year, too!

So here we are, Wednesday night,  in Walton, Kentucky, a town not terribly far south of Cincinnati, Ohio. We left Akron immediately after I got home from school today, drove 5.5 hours, and landed at a Comfort Inn here.  Rain slowed us down a bit, and the Thanksgiving traffic in Columbus was bumper to bumper and took an hour to get through, but the rest of the driving was a breeze.

We had Thelma along, of course. (You remember Thelma, our GPS unit).  As Randy was driving the last half of the trip, I discovered that I could change Thelma to Theodore.  We didn't like the man's voice, however, and found him a bit intimidating, so we tried out an English-Aussie female voice.  She took on a snooty air, so we brought Thelma back, voice-wise, and have decided we are definitely attached to HER.  Besides, we felt like murderers.

Stay tuned for the next few days to find out what our "plans" include.  I confess that we actually made a reservation for tonight in Walton............I know, I know.......totally out of our normal behavior, but it's Thanksgiving Eve, and we've been to New York State, remember?........we wanted the security of a waiting room.  We also made reservations for the weekend, just to let you know that we are more normal than you had thought.  It doesn't mean that we are not "roaming," just "roaming with reservations" this time!