Thursday, 3 June 2010


So finally back in the UK after a month on American Adventure 3.

How was it?

Every trip I have done has been different not only because I have been mainly visiting different parts of this vast country but also because of the original expectations.

It was all new and unknown on AA1

AA2 the route wasn't as scenic and I began to be aware of a number I didn't like about the U.S.

I have often said that I really like America and Americans but that doesn't make me want to be one. Nor do I want to up sticks and live there.

There is a lot we can learn from their "can do" attitude. We seem to have a "doubt we can do that and if we do try it it will probably fail and it won't be my fault" attitude which as a Brit can't be a mite galling.

On AA2 the recession was just starting to bite and suddenly America began to realise that it wasn't invincible. I am not a politician but it struck me at the time that the paranoia level was going through the roof. Particularly in the Mid West which can be a little unsophisticated in its view of the world: "If you ain't from here you must be an enemy." Also the rather curious view of "freedom and free speech" that they have.

In the Midwest I got the distinct impression from the Pro-Life and the Creationist billboards that you could have your say providing it was exactly what everyone else said.

Since AA2 for instance when I heard a Right wing talk show host refer to a Dr Tiller who was carrying on a perfectly legitimate practice as an abortionist. As "Tiller the Killer". (I am not siding with anyone here as far as the abortion debate is concerned however.)

The host was nothing if not inflammatory. Since AA2 someone has shot and killed Tiller as he was leaving Church one Sunday morning.

My point being. Better not debate with people who have guns.

This time as a casual observer I found a country still reeling from recession but with a few green shoots. A new President and sense of renewed hope. Although to look at the TV and listen to the radio talk show hosts it would appear that Obama was the worst thing to happen in the history of the world, a terrorist and he was probably going to slaughter the first born.

On this occasion as with AA2 I wasn't able to nab a Ford Mustang as a hire car instead I had to settle for a Chrysler Sebring once more. Practical. Underpowered. Reliable and dull. I think Jeremy Clarkson described it as one of the worst cars ever. It is an ideal hire car although with the top down there is precious little room in the boot so once the Dark Lady arrived in Orlando with her "small" bag. My case had to sit on the back seat. The rationale being that anyone who leaned in a nicked a bag full of dirty washing deserved all that they got.

The driving was pretty spectacular for the first week or two after setting off from Seattle and heading through Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. It gave way to miles of plain and then once I started to get down into Texas and attempting to skirt round large areas of population it was fast moving crowded interstate driving. Still it got the job done. Progress was always swift although not always enjoyable as you need eyes in the back of your head as people undertake and overtake and if they could would probably drive over your car to get in front.

An added bonus this time and one that made the final few days the best and also the speediest was the arrival of the Dark Lady in Orlando for the final 9 days up to New York via Nashville. Where I surprised her with Deirks Bentley tickets for the Ryman Auditorium.
Now to the statistics. Seattle to Key West Florida and then up to New York turned out to be the longest trip yet adding another thousand miles to the AA2 total:

7690 Miles in total.

This used $728.57 in petrol. Fuel is more expensive than on previous trips and the exchange rate is nowhere near as favourable.

AA1 it hovered around $2-£1. This time it was around $1.50-£1 sometimes dipping as low as $1.30. So I reckon my fuel costs for the month worked out at around £485. Which compared with the UK is still modest.

How many States did I pass through this time?

South Dakota
North Carolina
New Jersey
New York

20 States as far as I am aware although I may have dipped into a couple of others due to getting lost from time to time.

I had a Sat Nav with me this time which made things easier although occasionally when I programmed it incorrectly it made things far far worse. It was not infallible and was very slow which caused me to go wrong on a few occasions due to its "thinking time".

As far as technology was concerned. Once my computer problems were sorted things worked pretty well. The rule of thumb I found was that the very cheapest accommodation did have internet connections although sometimes rather weak ones so I had to stand outside the office in the middle of the nights trying to send a blog. Medium price accommodation was very good and the worst culprits were the three occasions I booked into upmarket places. There I found that A) The Internet was not free. B) On two out of the three occasions it didn't work.

This time as well as blogging I decided to Tweet as well via Twitter which was fun to do but was always aware that the cheapest way to do it would be via my computer as texting on a British Mobile is horrendously expensive. I also took a portable recorder with me to upload stuff onto "Audio Boo" which is in some way allied to Twitter I think. This worked although you do need a good internet connection as it can take an age to upload stuff. I sat furiously in the Lobby of a hotel in New Orleans where the in room Wi-Fi had resolutely failed to work watching a short sound clip upload for half an hour and just as it nearly got there the link failed.

I enjoyed "Booing" however it has the hallmarks of being a bit of a tyranny if you are on holiday thinking about potential sound clips and interviews to do. I will carry on doing it though if something presents itself that sounds fun or interesting.

Now to the songs featured in each day’s blog. America is a country held together by music. Which to me is why it makes for such a romantic destination? Everywhere you drive you have heard it mentioned in a song.

"Tears Fell like Rain” from “Aint that a shame” Fats Domino

"Tossed Salad and Scrambled eggs” Lyrics from the theme tune to "Frasier" which is set in Seattle

"Oh Montana give this child a home” from the song Wild Montana Skies. John Denver

“Smoke Smoke Smoke that Cigarette”. Tex Williams

“But Pleeease don’t help that bear” The Preacher and the Bear. Phil Harris

“Back in the saddle again” Gene Autry

“Ample parking day or night. People spouting Howdy Neighbour” Theme to “South Park”

“Rollin’ like a freight train” from “Hard Drivin’ Man.” By Sailcat

“Smalltown boy” Bronski Beat

“Bend those strings til the Hank comes out”. Crazy Town by Jason Aldean

“Miles and Miles of Texas” Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys

“Can we go to the Tastee Freez or maybe the Dairy Queen” “The Dreaded Spoon " Ricky Scaggs and Bruce Hornsby.

“Le Bon temps rouler” T Bone Burnett

“Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie” “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” Hank Williams

“Singing Margharitaville and minding my own” “Some Beach” Blake Shelton

“Boom Boom Out went the lights” Slight artistic licence here. “Boom Boom out go the lights” Little Walter

“Eased on down to the key” “Just another day in paradise” Bertie Higgins

“Its five o’clock somewhere” Alan Jackson

“Deres where de old folks stay” “Swannee River” Composed by Stephen Foster

“On the Beach” Cliff Richard

“Rainy Night in Georgia” Tony Joe White

“Lighting up the old Nashville scene” “Nashville Scene” Hank Williams Jr

“Stranded at the drive in” From “Grease”

“On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine” Laurel and Hardy from “Way out West”

“Greetings from Asbury Park” Bruce Springsteen

“Angels Sing in New York City” Modern Talking

“It’s a long road” Dan Hill

That is it for American Adventure 3. I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Now have to think where to go next!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


No trouble out of the car on our final leg from Asbury Park to JFK. I always drop the car at the airport as there is no point in trying to even take a car into Manhattan; the traffic is appalling and what parking there is cripplingly expensive.

Handed the car back and the woman at the rental check--in looked it over, asked if there were any problems and then struggled to input the mileage into her computer. Seems above a certain mileage per rental the software melts down. I will give you all the stats in the final AA3 blog.

Cab into the city and was we crested a rise and saw the skyline I noticed the Dark Lady had gone very quiet. She has always wanted to visit New York but has never managed it before. Her eyes were glistening.

It is always a heart-stopping moment. I have only visited four times now over a period of 20 years and the sight of all those skyscrapers never fails to affect me.

Some friends had recommended the Roosevelt Hotel midtown on 45th street. Tried to get in last time I was here but it was booked up. This time I had made reservations a week or so in advance.

It has the easiest telephone number of any place to remember given its name.

888- Teddy- NY! No idea why we don’t adopt this method of numbering. Saw a Gamblers anonymous type helpline advertised a few times as I crossed the U.S which was “888-Admit it”

Just think of the fun we could have and so much easier if all we had to do was dial 888 followed by what we wanted:




Hmm that last one may be a bit difficult to explain if your partner notices you have that on speed dial.

We were so early we had to postpone check-in and leave our luggage in a special room. This is where the soul-sapping, crushing weight of the tipping system came to the fore.

We had to follow the Bellhop to a left luggage room. Then tip him a couple of dollars. Then when we were able to check in properly later that day. We tipped him another couple of dollars to get our stuff back.

There is always the temptation when people have visited a place before to try and show it to someone who hasn’t. This is fraught with danger.

I still remember being in Barcelona with someone who’s friend ordered a drink for us in Spanish..or was it Catalan?

“You MUST try this it’s a wonderful sherry they make locally. It is a well-kept secret that only a few of us know about,” she opined.

Moments later the waiter returned and carefully placed a tray on the table containing three cups and saucers. Milk sugar and a pot of tea.

“What’s this???” Demanded our “knowledgeable” friend.

“What you ordered madam” said the Waiter.

Moments later we heard a commotion from the street outside. Mainly car horns.

“Oh divine, a wedding. You MUST see this” Said our friend trying to deflect from the drinks

We trooped outside to witness a traffic jam!

So The Dark Lady and I set out on an aimless walk round Manhattan.

We needed something to eat and the thought of a proper Seinfeld-like Diner was uppermost in our minds. Could we find one? It was difficult.

We walked south and I think slightly west until we hit Tribeca and there was a Greek one although it did the U.S dishes you would expect.

We sat at the counter and ordered Corned Beef hash and eggs.

It was fabulous.

After that we headed towards the Empire State Building. In my four short visits I have never been up any tall building which meant that I never experienced the World Trade Centre as my first visit was in 1989. Not been up the Rockefeller centre to the “Top of the Rock”. Nor the Empire State Building.

We kept getting side-tracked. We ended up at Grand Central Station which I had never been to before although I have seen it a thousand times in films. It is spectacular. We toyed with the idea of a future visit getting a train to Asbury Park. Seems the trains from this station head north so we could go but not from here.

By this time we had walked a fair few miles down as far as Wall Street and back up to the hotel.

After a brief freshen up, I needed to do some blogging and Tweeting which I discovered - to my horror - was going to cost $15 for 24hrs. Why it is with the most expensive hotels nothing is free?

By the time we left the Hotel it was dark and I had consulted the street plan, so was able to surprise the DL when we rounded a corner and found ourselves in Times Square.

Her face was a picture. Actually so was mine. No idea how often they change the lights and the advertising. It was totally different to two years ago and seemed 100% brighter and brasher. Even the Police station had a flashing sign.

The authorities have also built a grandstand for an even better view.

We were hungry and thirsty by this time as the city is hot and humid so found a branch of Applebee’s that I have waxed lyrical about before.

Surprise surprise it was time for another steak and a Caesar Salad for her and we watched the basketball on several vast TV screens. We are quite getting in to this game due its speed and skill. We marvelled as Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns was able to hurl the ball from miles away and still pop it in the basket.

I know this isn’t exactly the correct language but the sound is always turned down so we haven’t learned the jargon yet.

One downside is that over several days we have managed to watch Nash get accidentally head-butted, needing about 6 stitches. Then, in full 48 inch HD colour, we watched him in another collision which broke his nose.

If that wasn’t bad enough the camera swooped in for a close up of him manually resetting his hooter. Even though the bar was noisy and the sound was down I think we could hear the “crunch grind click” as he pulled it back into shape. Don’t think this is a game for softies.

In the morning we headed out and set off for Ground Zero on the subway. First time I went to NY I was too terrified to travel on the tube. Since the city has been cleaned up it is far nicer. Although I still find it a little baffling and can often spend some minutes staring at the map. Every time I have done that someone will come up and ask you where you want to go.

Muggers? Confidence men? Murderers? No, just friendly New Yorkers who are proud of their city and want to help.

The World Trade Centre is still the name of the station and a lot of work has been done since my last visit two years ago. There is still a lot of hole in the ground to fill though. In slightly dubious taste are street vendors selling books full of photos of the atrocity.

Food time again and we found a Deli with seating close by. Meatloaf Hero Sandwich. Not sure why they call them that. Perhaps it’s because you are a Hero if you can eat it all.

We then caught the subway uptown to the north entrance of Central Park. The park is over two miles long and we walked the whole way. Something that many would not have dared to do a few years back. Kids ran around and played. Joggers jogged and others walked their dogs.

Buskers busked including a gospel choir and drummers and street dancers. Intoxicating stuff.

We have been spoiled for music on this trip with New Orleans and Nashville. Into a bar which had a band on. It brought back memories of the Tracy Byrd song “Ten Rounds of Jose Cuervo”

“I walked in and the band had just started. The singer couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket”.

Still we had witnessed some amazing musicians.

A few drinks and some bar food and the song progressed:

“After one round with Jose Cuervo. I caught my boots (sandals) tapping along with the beat. And after two rounds with Jose Cuervo the band was sounding pretty darn good to me.”

Don’t think I have ever heard a covers band tackle “Baker Street” before.

Also bearing in mind my inherent meanness and the exchange rate luckily we had had enough and so left before the later verses kicked in:

“After round seven or was it eight. I bought a round for the whole damn place”.

We had most of the day to kill before our evening flight so once we had paid to put our bags back in the storage room and knowing we had to pay to get them out again and pay for the doorman to hail a cab. Would we find another authentic diner?

Well not exactly but an experience that we would not have missed for the world.

A quick internet search and sneaky look at the map.



“Let’s walk down here”

“Ooh look, Ellen’s Stardust Diner”

Phew! found it first try.

In we went. Hot dogs, fries and a singing waiting staff.

All desperate to be on the Broadway stage but needing a job.

They did everything: There were even chorus numbers. Singing atop the furniture and some extreme campery. In a word:


Which is pretty much what you can say about New York really.

To see a map of my travels across the States, click here, and to hear my Audioboos click here.

Friday, 28 May 2010


In the morning I approached the car with some trepidation. This is the second time that the hire company have given me a Chrysler Sebring convertible. AA2 there was no problem. AA3 until yesterday there had been no problem either.

The Americans like to change the oil in their cars a lot maybe due to the vast distances they tend to travel. There are constant ads for “Kwik Lube” type places where you drive in they change the oil and air filter and you drive out again about £20 lighter.

On American Adventure 2 the cars on board computer decided to tell me that an oil change was due.

This car is the very latest 2010 version which only had 1000 miles on the clock when I collected it in Seattle.

It too was bleating for an oil change. It also was flashing an engine management problem warning and when stationary would suddenly overheat and a red thermometer symbol would light up with an ominous “bong”.

As the engine was cold I opened the “hood” and saw that the expansion tank was nearly empty so borrowing a pair of plastic cups from the Motel reception I filled it up to the marker. Would this do the trick?

Actually yes. We had no more problems and the engine management warning light never showed after that. I also checked the oil level which was normal. Blimey I am an engineer!

So to Asbury Park with its Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny connections.

At one end of the prom there is a monument to musicians who had contributed to the


The Sound of Asbury Park.

In common with Atlantic City it has a boardwalk on the sea front. However the place has obviously seen better days. For some reason we were expecting an industrial landscape rather than a run down seaside resort. It had a sort of air of Bexhill about it. The good news is that there appears to be a lot of redevelopment going on.

The Dark Lady and l booked into the Empress Hotel which has a fabulous 50’s feel to it and has obviously just been redeveloped.

Quite a number of rather camp men wandering about. It was only when we had a look at details of the hotel and the resort we realised it is a renowned gay resort with the hotel and its nightclub being one of its focal points.

Onto the beach in the sunshine and we just had to have a swim as it would be our last chance before New York. The surf was quite high so a number of men were trying and I may add largely failing to stay upright on their boards.

Last time I had been in the sea was in Delray Beach Florida. Where despite it being the Atlantic it was pretty warm. In New Jersey it was as cold as Bexhill!

We didn’t stay in long ……

Mid evening we sauntered along the boardwalk and eventually found a bar called “Wonderbar”.

There was us and a couple of men in there and in the corner a DJ was setting up his wheels of steel. Wednesday night was 80’s night so a debate ensued between the DL and me over some track that was playing. Was it Simple Minds or Depeche Mode?

A large screen told you what was playing and the title of the album….

It was Tears for Fears!

The woman tending bar was probably only about 24 but she had travelled. Which was a rarity for the U.S.? Although she hadn’t visited the UK. We are on her list.

Earlier in the day the hotel receptionist had quizzed us about where she should go on her 7 hour stop over in Britain in a week’s time.

Something had been nagging us for the last few days. The Bartender was a friendly face so we decided to ask her.

“I gather it is Memorial Weekend this weekend. It appears to be a holiday. What is it about?”

She pondered for a moment and said:

“I don’t know. I know I should. We regard it as the first day of summer.”

Internet researches reveal it to be a day to remember and honour war dead. Bit like our Remembrance Day I suppose.

Whilst she was talking I couldn’t help noticing her cash till.

It was electronic computerised and programmable. We had a tab open which I think is an eminently sensible way of going about things. We were down as “Couple” and the two blokes were down as “guys”.

Many of the drinks and cocktails were listen on the screen.

America is a cocktail nation and there are often ads in newspapers and magazines for bartending courses. New York even has its own Cocktail school. It is quite an art.

Having seen people rustling up the most complicated concoctions in an instant and serving them with a smile even in some of the roughest back woods bars does make me think of my time as a teenage barman back in the 70’s when the closest thing that I ever got to serving a cocktail was a “Snowball” or maybe a “Mackeson and Vimto.”

However on the list of cocktails on the cash register screen was one that stood out mainly for its lack of taste.

You may remember from American Adventure 1 me being in a New York bar which had a wall devoted to the memory of IRA Hunger strikers.

Well pop down to “WonderBar” In Asbury Park New Jersey if every you fancy experiencing the heady delights of an:

“Irish Car Bomb”.

Thursday, 27 May 2010


Ever had one of those days?
This turned out to be one of those days. Although it was funny with hindsight.
The Dark Lady and I now had the scent of New York City in our nostrils although the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains was pretty impressive we were looking to journeys end.

With that in mind we looked at the map and decided to head for Harrisonburg. This would break the back of the remaining 700 miles or so. So that we would not have to rush the last couple of days journey. I typed Harrisonburg into the SatNav. Selected “Shortest time” and off we went.
It was going to be an Interstate kind of day there was still some great views and suddenly you would find yourself on a bridge crossing a large river or a lake. A whiff of the woods would waft around the car and the sun was shining. We were in a good mood. In fact all in all we were I great shape.
We journeyed for a couple of hours until we stopped at a branch of “Cracker Barrel”. This is a good old time folksy chain store with restaurant attached. It sold the stuff the old West was famous for and probably never actually possessed. There were lots of reproductions of cattle feed and tobacco adverts and shop full of Beverley Hillbilly style rocking chairs.
Hungry as usual I went for the “Country Boy breakfast”. Just ordering it and I felt I should be dressed in overalls and thinking of marrying my 13 year old cousin.
It was steak, eggs, grits. Biscuits and gravy (which we have met and not particularly enjoyed before in the US). There was also some cheesy rice and fried apple.
This time I wasn’t going to be defeated by the grits nor the biscuits and country gravy. I have a suspicion that Americans don’t actually eat everything on their plates so they may profess to like gravy and grits but they probably just have a little taste and leave it.
Having had more than a little taste I was doing well until I got to the fried apple. The only thing I can say is Why?
The DL and I moseyed on out.

On and on we journeyed. We noticed that we were now on some slightly less congested roads and had turned off the interstate. Still the Sat/nav was saying we were on track.
Several hours later the Dark Lady could contain herself no longer and asked:
“Where exactly are we going?”
“Harrisburg” I said brightly.
“Yup Harrisburg”
“Er yes why?”
“We should be heading for “HarriSONburg no Harrisburg”
“There’s a difference?”
“Pull over and check the GPS”
She was right. My sausage fingers had mistyped and we were miles away from Harrisonburg. 420 miles away to be exact. Although we weren’t all that far from Harrisburg.
I blamed the grits and the gravy in fact I blamed everything and everybody apart from the Dark Lady of course.
So we had to turn round and head in a completely different direction. If not exactly in silence neither of us said a great deal for then next hour.
Then the car which had carried me for over 6,000 miles without a problem decided to assert its authority. A selection of lights came on telling me that:
1) Oil change needed
2) Engine management problem
3) Every time we pulled up at a stop sign there would be a warning “bong” from somewhere and the engine temperature would soar into the red. This was going to require some investigation when we reached whichever place we decided to stop at or perhaps the car decided to expire at.
We rolled into a selection of shopping Malls called Midlothian where we booked into a hotel.
We decided a nice meal and a drink and a comfortable place for the night would be the perfect restorative for my incompetence. I was never a success in the Scouts and thankfully for all concerned the Forces never came a calling.
“You attacked who???? We said Iraq not Center Parc!!!”
Things however were not going to be quite so simple.
The hotel gave us a nice room on the first floor. The only problem was that when we opened the door we saw that whoever had occupied it before had only left minutes earlier so it wasn’t ready.
“So sorry” said the desk clerk and gave us another room. This time on the fourth floor. When we opened the door we realised that it had been occupied by a mate of the person on the first floor as it too needed changing.
Back downstairs we trooped
“So sorry” said the desk clerk and upgraded us to a five acre room with a whirlpool bath big enough for two. This was more like it. All we needed was a bite to eat and a couple of cold ones.
“Can you tell us where we can get a bite to eat and a couple of cold ones”? I asked.
Before the desk clerk had finished explaining where a likely place was another guest waiting at reception chipped in with her version of where there was a good place. Until they were joined by a third. All arguing the toss as to the right direction and the right place.
We left them to it amid a scene reminiscent of one of those wonderful Mack Sennett silent films where a simple disagreement deteriorates into a full on fight with everyone involved from the policeman to the dog via the mother in law with custard and furniture being hurled.
We found a nice looking Italian Restaurant which boasted a “Lounge”. Perfect. Save for one thing:
“Excuse me where is the Lounge”?
“Lounge? We don’t have a lounge”
“The sign outside says you have a lounge”
“We never had a lounge”
“Well why the sign says you have a lounge”
“Does it?”
“Well we never had one”
We stomped across another car park the sign “Sergio’s Italian restaurant and lounge” illuminating our path until we found a place called “Taylors”
It had a bar and it had food.
It had everything we needed.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


So after all the rip snorting high low and medium jinks of Nashville Tennessee. We were heading to New York.
We decided to take a sort of hybrid scenic and interstate route as we were going to travel through the Appalachians and the Smokey Mountains or maybe they are somehow similar. They certainly looked the same. Mile after mile of hills covered in dense forest. With this amount of wood there was a pleasing smell. Occasionally the woods would give way to pasture with cattle and a less than pleasing smell. Bearing in mind the huge quantities of meat there is on offer. It is surprising that there are not more ranches. Having said that when I travelled west to East on American Adventure 1 I think it was Kentucky which apart from the horses was more or less entirely made entirely of dung. With an aroma to match. If you ever have a spare few minutes the first two Blogs are up on the website.
All this talking of meat and we were getting pretty hungry and there was one American experience I had not savoured thus far. The drive in!

“Sonic” styles itself as “America’s Drive in”.
So having passed a hundred branches at least since leaving Seattle we turned in to one.
Parked in one of the marked bays
Checked out the menu and we settled on our choice.
I pressed the intercom button and ordered.
“One cheeseburger combo with a peach flavoured ice tea.”
“One “Ched ‘R’ Peppers Supersonic cheeseburger combo with an unsweetened ice tea”
There was a pause and I entered my credit card in the card reader next to the driver’s door
“Authorised” flashed the readout.
The kitchen to car intercom crackled into life and a disembodied voice repeated our order:
“One chdreeicombteaice peachcombo meals drinkoffertots tfries combocombo unsweetened”
“Er yes…I think”
Five minutes later a woman appeared and handed us the first disappointment.
A brown paper bag with stuff in it. Where was the tray they attached to the car door like they did in “Happy Days”?
We rummaged in the bag and there appeared to be two burgers, one fries on “tots” and two drinks.
The iced tea was iced tea. Good
The Peach flavoured iced tea was just so sweet just holding the cup in your hand made your teeth hurt.
The burgers…..were colder than the drinks.
As only an Englishman can. I leapt from the car with the bag and marched determinedly up to the door marked: “Employees only”. Opened it and thrusting the bag into the hand of a startled employee. Said: “Um excuse me these appear to be a little on the chilly side. Do you think they could be warmed through a tad?” With hindsight there were about six staff in there I couldn’t see their hands. They were probably all on the trigger.“

Another five minutes passed and the waitress appeared holding another bag.

“So sorry about that. Enjoy.” She said flashing a gold toothed smile.
We tucked in. Yes our two Ched ‘R’ Peppers Supersonic cheeseburgers were piping hot. If not exactly what the Dark Lady had ordered. Her ordinary cheeseburger was no where to be found.
We decided that life was too short and we would chalk that one up to experience.
She daintily removed the deep fried green peppers and ploughed on.
She also noted that they didn’t provide any paper napkins but had given us 12 sachets of tomato ketchup.
However she did have wet wipes so was able to remove much of the evidence from my new beard which I am breaking in.
Think I am stained you should see what happened later.

So off into the woods we turned and travelled some miles along the back roads which according to the Sat Nav would take us to our destination.
About 20 miles later we came upon a sign which said simply:
“Road closed”
By this time it was late afternoon and we needed to find bar and lodging. (Board and lodging?) No let’s go with the first one.
We had a choice to continue up a mountain pass with the sign
“No lodging gas or restaurants”
So we did the sensible thing and turned back until we found Maryville.
There is something about Mary…ville. Or the bit we found.
The first motel we tried a small Indian man shuffled to the counter past a bust of the Buddha and offered us a room for a very reasonable rate however he was very sorry but there was no internet. We wanted to make a Skype call as well as do a bit of blogging and Tweeting not to mention Audio booing! So we crossed the street to the other motel.
I opened the office door and lying in a “Lay Zee boy” reclining chair watching the TV was a heavily tattooed very heavy looking and very heavy man. He was also covered from head to foot in stains.
Mostly food. Some were oil. Wouldn’t swear to it but I think some were blood.
“Way’all wan?”
He barked staring up at me.
I was able to see right down his throat. I think there was a whole other world in there complete with countries, populations and its own climate.
Striking my most macho pose and barking with the full force of my new beard
He understood me immediately.
He could probably see that I had some burger stains on my shirt and my rough tough new beard could be hiding a similar population to that living down his throat so it was probably best not to mess with me/us“ .
“Broke. Theygoddit ad Hardees cross the street”
We had had one burger that day we didn’t fancy another.
I leapt on this as the excuse we needed and we headed off down the highway.
Another few miles and travellers Nirvana. A Holiday Inn Express and a bar and grill labelled “Texas Roadhouse. We had arrived in Alcoa
In we went to see a sign saying “No Alcohol without picture ID”
“The busboy couldn’t have been more than 12. Well he didn’t have a beard like mine.
“Er excuse me you don’t expect me to show you a picture ID. I am 54 years of age for goodness sake. Do I look under 21?”
“No ID no drinks”
The beard was losing its macho magic.
We trudged back to the hotel grabbed our passports and legged it to the bar.
The barman wandered over and beamed “Hi I’m Rick what do you youngsters want to drink. I need to see your ID”.
A bucket of beer for me and a glass of white wine for the Dark Lady.
“I’ve not been asked for my ID since I was 18” tinkled the DL.
“County law ma’am. Everyone has to show picture ID before we can serve them alcohol.
We looked at our bar stool neighbours. We were probably the youngest there.
No word of a lie. At one point a man tottered in who had a long grey beard and looked 80 if he was a day. If he was younger than me. Then maybe my beard may be attached to my face for slightly less time that we both think.
We were still full of “Ched ‘R Peppers Supersonic cheeseburger combo’s”. So didn’t fancy eating anything much. However sensing this Rick pushed two small buckets in our direction.
One contained monkey nuts. The other monkey nut detritus. As the evening wore on I think on several occasions I shelled the nuts and threw them and the shells into the detritus bucket without actually eating them.
We had a great evening and declined Ricks offer to move on to another bar and grill after his closed. Strikes me this is not a good business decision.
“I will shut my bar/restaurant and ten so I can go to a rival bar/restaurant up the street.”
Still would you split hairs with a big friendly funny man who had made you very welcome and given your free nuts? I thought not.
All that excitement and I was asleep by the time my beard hit the pillow.

By the way, you can add me on Twitter by clicking here and Audioboo by clicking here. It is the same login for both so if you do one you might aswell the other!

Monday, 24 May 2010


Out of Macon and up to Nashville. I had a surprise for the Dark Lady.
Something I had been working on for a week or so. I like nice surprises.
Gentle drive up to “Music City” which I had last visited in 2007 as part of American Adventure 1.
Earlier in the week I had stopped off at a branch of Wal Mart to start buying CD’s for the show. Ones that I had heard on the radio over here that I thought you might like to hear as part of “Lester’s Library.
Record stores and the poor exchange rate mean that things are pretty expensive over here this time.
So much so that I may have to draw my horns in a tad as I had jotted down about 50 tracks I wanted to buy.
Several of them I discovered I had on various CD’s at home when I checked them out and a number of others have not been released yet. I will keep my eye and ear out for the release date and maybe get them on import when I return.

After the previous night in a none too fabulous motel with our “intruder”. Obviously I was keen to make amends.
“We’ll find a Holiday Inn or something “
I said airily as we drove through the peach growing areas of Georgia. We tuned into country radio and wept along to the tunes until I we decided to play some of the CD’s that I had bought.
“This is nice” said the DL as on album came on.
“I’ve played him for you at home. This is his new album. He is the guy that did “That’s my Name”
“Dierks Bentley?”
“That’s the guy”.
We made Nashville about 5pm discovering that as we had headed North West from Macon we had gone back an hour so we were 6 instead of 5 hours behind the UK.
We came off the interstate and drove up Broadway which eventually turns into the main drag where all the bars are.
“There’s a Holiday Inn Express” I said . “We could stay there.”
“That’s an odd building the other side of the road” She said.
“Lets check it out” quoth I turning into the car park.
Valet parking swooped the moment we arrived.
“Do y’all have reservations?”
I had booked it the previous week as a welcome to the USA gift. The hotel was the old Nashville Railway station and was expensive but fantastic.
Glowing in her delight I then led the way to our room which couldn’t find.
“Excuse me “I said as we ended back on reception.
“We can’t seem to find room 291”
“That sir is because there isn’t a room 291. You are in 204!”
It is now three days later and I have not lived this down. I have a nasty suspicion wherever we go from now on every hotel room will be referred to as “291”. Not that I like to deal in stereotypes but it has been said women never forget anything.
I am currently typing this in room “291” of the Holiday Inn Express in Alcoa Tennessee!
It was only a few hundred yards from the hotel to the main drag of Broadway where all the bars with the music are.
“Fancy hitting a few music bars?”
We went and had a drink in “The Second Fiddle” and watched the band. I have recorded the sound of Broadway which I hope to post on “Audio boo” shortly. There are seeming dozens of bars all with excellent bands playing mainly covers and doing it brilliantly.
People shout out requests for all sorts of country songs and the bands seem to know them all. Admittedly I think we heard “Ring of Fire” at least 34 times whilst we were there. Twice in one bar.
“You know I told you about the time I was here last and I saw Earl Scruggs the banjo player at the Ryman Auditorium? Fancy taking a walk up there to see the place?”
“That would be fun” Said the Dark Lady.
We walked down the street to the main entrance.
“Ooh look Dierks Bentley” she said spying the poster.
By this time we were at the entrance.
Security guard stepped forward to bar our way and asked.
“Can I see your tickets please”
If I live to be a hundred I will never forget the look on her face when I said:
“I’m here to collect tickets for the show”

At the same time as booking the hotel I had managed to buy a couple of tickets for his sold out show.
It was the last date of his tour and was going to be filmed for a TV special.
Unlike his normal work he had been going out as a bluegrass act.
He was amazing. So were his backing band The Travelling McCoureys. He was also joined by the Punch Brothers and Del McCourey.
If these names mean nothing to you and frankly they meant little to us. Check them out. You will not believe instruments could be played so fast.
By the time the concert finished both our jaws were aching from smiling. It was a magical evening.
We stayed two days in Nashville and headed for the Country Music Hall of Fame which had been affected by the recent terrible floods. It had been billed as having reopened.
However on the day we turned up it has closed again ready to induct the 2010 members. Ferlin Husky. Jimmy Dean. Billy Sherrill and Don Williams. We had to wait until the following day to get a look around. It is not completely back to normal after the floods but is still well worth a visit. There were plenty of Brits there with the same mind as us.

Back to the bars of Broadway and some great bands.
On the way back to the hotel a man stepped from the shadows and said:
“Money for food for the homeless”
There are signs in town warning people against giving money to beggers.
This is always a difficult one. Do you give people money hoping they will spend it on food rather than on drink or drugs?
Should it matter if they spend it on drink and drugs rather than food?
Is this fuelling a cycle of dependence?
Generally I tend to give to charities rather than individuals. So I shook my head and said:
“No it’s alright thanks”
Quick as a flash he replied -and I can see his point:
“No it ain’t alright bitch!”

By the way, you can add me on Twitter by clicking here and Audioboo by clicking here. It is the same login for both so if you do one you might aswell the other!


The idea was to make Nashville for a Saturday night whooping it up in the bars of the main drag. Broadway. So we hit the interstate and headed north to Georgia. Scenery changing slightly and bright sunshine. Judging by the bill boards by the roadside North Florida and southern Georgia seem to have a bit of an identity crisis going on. We like the directness that you get in the US whereby if you have a service to sell you tell people about it. You don’t wrap it up in a clever advertising message which may win you an award. but garner no sales. You tell people: 1) I am selling this stuff. 2) Its cheaper and better than everyone else’s. 3) Call me and we’ll do a deal. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is. Be it trucks to health care. To British eyes the idea of haggling over a heart transplant seems a little… well Un- English! “Sacred Heart Memorial hospital across town said they throw in a Lexus if I got my new ticker there” “We’ll give you a free kidney too” “Hmmmm” “How about a vasectomy as well?” “Done!” Open me up here’s my credit card. There was a radio commercial the other day I heard that utilised a recently returned Iraq war trooper to tell us that he wanted a new truck and “Bobs trucks” (Or similar) did him the best deal. By the time we reached the Georgia border we were under no illusion as to what lay ahead. With a wonderful juxtaposition of huge road side signs which are on poles twenty feet high and the placards themselves which are about ten to fifteen feet across. The first sign had a stars and stripes with the American Eagles glaring imperiously at us mere mortals rattling past at 65 miles per hour. The caption read “America Come back to God” Immediately next to it was one of equal size which boomed “Strippers. That’s all you need to know” With stylised pictures of pole dancing women and in smaller letters: “Truckers welcome”. I think this establishment knew its target market pretty well.

About 20 miles from Macon (Allman Brothers territory). The radio suddenly cut in with a severe weather warning. Apparently there had been 60 mile per hour winds and golf ball sized hailstones. Trouble is it mentioned counties that meant nothing to us. However we did notice the sky was darkening. Without too much warning over perhaps 5 miles the temperature dropped 20 degrees Fahrenheit and we got to see the most spectacular thunderstorm with blinding forked lightning on both sides of the road and deafening cracks of thunder that made the car vibrate. I had taken the precaution of shutting the roof just in case although there was no sign of ra… Then it looked like someone had just poured several buckets of water over us. Imagine driving in a car wash with added hail. We decided (it is a mutual thing we have going here.) It would be a good idea to pull over until the rain slowed. Turned off the interstate and into a motel car park opposite the aptly named “Flash Flood” gas station. For the next half an hour we just sat there as it poured and poured and poured. As it began to let up we eased back onto the Interstate to find the storms legacy: For the next fifteen miles we passed pile up after pile up. Luckily most just appeared to be fairly minor collisions. However in one a bright red pick up truck was at right angles to the concrete crash barrier its tail lights pointing accusingly at passers by. From time to time we saw slightly more severe accidents with ambulances in attendance. “Had a fender bender? Bleeding and injured? You need Al’s Ambulances. We get you to ER quicker as we only employ ex racing drivers”. Some of the hospital billboards we saw did in fact have illuminated readouts telling us how long the current waiting time was for treatment. Arriving in Macon we started looking for a motel for the night. There was one next to a branch of “Applebee’s Bar and Grill”. Perfect. Booked in and then went next door. I visited a branch of “Applebee’s” up near Niagara Falls on American Adventure 2 when a huge Canadian Couple ate their way through the card. With a lot of loud smacking of lips. That is when the difference in scale made me decide that it was ok to have a dessert despite pigging out on a 14 oz Steak covered in shrimp and Parmesan. This time as I was with the Dark Lady and still hoping and trying to create the right impression. I had the more sedate Fajita combo while she pecked delicately at a shrimp salad. We also ate sitting at the bar. Closer to the drinks.

After an hour or so we went back to the motel and turned in. Round about one AM the DL shook me awake and whispered. “Someone’s trying to get into the room”. Quick as a flash I was out of bed and heading to the door. “Don’t go outside” she pleaded. I may have been dumb and er naked but I was not mad. Most hotels give you security advice and one of the things they tell you is never to open the door to strangers. So I peered through the spy hole. There was a middle aged guy with black hair and a carrier bag. He seemed to be trying his cardkey. I banged on the door from the inside. Not sure what this was going to achieve but it did the trick. The message sent was probably: “You are standing at a door. Someone is knocking on it. This must mean you are inside already. So go and sit down.” To our relief he slunk off down the corridor. We drifted back to sleep and then 20 minutes later there was a knocking on the door and a voice said. “I need to know your last name.” This is ridiculous. This time as I peered through the spy hole there were two of them. I pondered what to do. Should we call the cops? “Why do you need to know that?” “I just need to.” “Lester now go away or I will call the police” I phoned reception and after seemingly an age a mans voice answered. “This is room 114 someone is trying to get in.” “Yes that was me Mr Lester. According to our computer that room is vacant. The evening manager had forgotten to enter your details”. I could feel that good old fashioned British “dudgeon” begin to rise. “DO YOU REALISE” I barked “YOU SCARED THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF MY GIRLFRIEND?!” (And me to be frank). You can always rely on a Brit when the chips are down to sound effortlessly pompous. We slept like babies until the babies in the room above started running around about 6. We were on the road by 8. We were on our way to Music City USA…Nashville!

By the way, you can add me on Twitter by clicking here and Audioboo by clicking here. It is the same login for both so if you do one you might aswell the other!


Annie said...
At last we see the beard and the striking new look! I must say, it's much better than I was anticipating - you look cool.Of course there will need to be a new photograph for the Radio 2 website.Thank you for continuing to tweet and blog - especially now that you have K for company - who I think has the patience of a saint.Take care of you both and enjoy the drive!
23 May 2010 23:57

marianne said...
Wow the beard looks great glad the dark lady likes it I agree with annie above thanks for continuing with our insite to your holiday now you have the Dark Lady for company enjoy your week maybe a picture of you together on the next blog
24 May 2010 00:59

Grant said...
Glad there are already two comments here, Alex. I was going to ask who the bloke in the picture is, who looks like a bloke from a rock band. The 'look' suits you - I hope the DL agrees!I hope both of you enjoy the rest of your 'holiday' - although, for the amount of work you put into your blog etc, I think the term 'holiday' is a little exaggerated.
24 May 2010 03:37

DamoIRL said...
LOL! Sorry, Dark One, I had to laugh at the photo. More the hat than the beard! (at least its not a baseball one. Note to William Hague) I'm gonna break the cozy consensus here and say, its doesn't look great. As a fellow struggler in the battle with the scales, I feel beards don't do a great job concealing one's other chin. Maybe thats just me, don't take my word on it! All the same, top blogging as per usual! :)
24 May 2010 07:50

mwhite229 said...
Fab blogs once again Dark Lord - over and above the call of duty to write all of this for us while supposed to be on holiday - but we do appreciate it. Like the beard too -- sexy -- might tip Jancie Long over the edge next week tho - but nice to see something other than fotos of your feet - just need the middle bit now!! Enjoy your remaining days.
24 May 2010 09:10

Chris said...
Looks like a young Charlie Daniels to me LOL!
24 May 2010 11:43

Mary said...
The beard looks great on you! It's added a whole new level of cool to the character we all know as The Darklord...Or, could this be the reincarnation? Could this be the world-famous Johnny Havoc, live and in-person?Glad the intruder situation ended a lot better than I had anticipated. Glad you and the Dark Lady were able to weather both storms, the intruder and the hail, with no injuries!
24 May 2010 18:22