Monday, August 27, 2012

New Orleans

There are certain places in the world that by the shear mention of their names can bring either and smile or a cringe to ones face.  New Orleans is certainly one of those places.  Everyone has heard stories or has some of their own.  The funny thing is, sometimes those stories are only meant for the nights that they happen on.  The phrase used out west is, "What happens in Vegas, stays in  Vegas."  New Orleans is much like that.  So, no this isn't a story about a wild night down in NOLA.  This is about the feeling of the morning after!

Friday night, following the B.B. King concert, Andrew and myself met up with Matt to head over for a night of fun down in the Big Easy.  (This is the part where we fast forward and omit the next couple of hours)  As I was sitting around the house nursing an evil hangover, the next day, I started flipping through pictures I had snapped throughout the night.  I felt like I was reliving that final scene in the original Hangover movie.  One picture just stood out to me and really made me laugh.  I feel like it's the perfect picture to describe the conclusion on a night in New Orleans.  

This truly is the perfect description of the conclusion of a nola trip.  After a night of wandering about the French Quarter we always end up sitting around the tiny tables in Cafe Du Monde recounting the adventures of the night before.  Wondering if we've all smelled this bad all night. Trying to figure out how long the sun has been up.  "Was it light when we walked in here?"  Stuffing that beignet into my mouth before realizing it's the same temperature as the sun. Then breaking into overwhelming laughter when I throw powder sugar all over my friend.  Oh, the shenanigans.  Those are the nights I always remember.  

Until Next Time,

Saturday, August 25, 2012

B. B. King

Last night I got to check something else off of my bucket list.  I got to see the one and only B. B. King play live.  You have no idea how big of a thrill this was for me.  To be able to see a living legend do what he does best was truly a honor.  

I was excited to the point that I was telling everyone I knew that I was going to see this show.  The thing I couldn't believe, though, was the fact that so many people had so many negative things to say about going to a show like this.  They would say things to the effects of he's just an old guy sitting on the stage wishing he could be what he used to be.  After talking to several people I was under the impression that they would be wheeling him out on stage and basically just propping him up with his guitar and letting him talk a little.  I was surprised by the amount of people that were put off by the fact that he sits in a chair on stage.  I don't care who you are, if you are still on stage at 86 years old you deserve a chair.

Honestly, any number on scenarios was ok in my mind.  I was just thrilled to be in the same room as B. B. King.  But get this, it wasn't like that at all.  He was absolutely amazing!  From the moment he walked out on stage (yes, I said walked)  he had the entire audience in the palm of his hand.  He waved cooler than anything I do.  His stage presence and charisma at 86 years old were unmatched.  He absolutely captivated us all.  The man knew how to work an audience and I would have been totally satisfied to just sit there and listen to him tell jokes all night.  He was incredibly funny and retains a fine sense of comedic timing.  I got a kick out of him picking on a couple of young guys sitting in the front row.  He was making a game out of winking and waving at their girlfriends.  He really could make the women swoon.

I haven't even mentioned the music yet!  Someone told me a few weeks ago that he's really still got "it."  Trust me when I tell you this, he never lost it.  Lucille sounded just as sweet as she ever has as those notes traveled throughout the theater.  Sure, his fingers may not move as fast as they once did, but he still knows where to put them.  That blues voice of his still had an amazing strength that any blues singer would be glad to own.  When he first started singing I found myself with full body chills.  I've always ranked performances based on the chills i've gotten.  This show ranked right up with the best of them.

The other thing I was so impressed with was just how nice of a guy he was.  He loved interacting with audience.  After the show he basically had to be dragged offstage by his "handlers."  He was nonstop shaking hands, signing autographs, and talking to random concert goers until he finally made it offstage.  What a great experience.  I'm so glad that I was able to actually listen to B. B. King in the live setting.  He is also extremely proud to be from Mississippi!

#67: See B.B. King live.  CHECK

This is a great little clip taken back in January.  You can tell just how much he loves what he is doing.  

One of my all time favorite B.B. clips!

Until Next Time,

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Natchez Trace Pt. 4

I've been trying to finish these posts for a long time, but for some reason it has just never happened.  I'm finally going to close this chapter.  It's only five months late!  I've actually got another trace trip planned for the end of September, so I figure I should probably finish writing about this trip before going on another.  If you are new to my site here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

I woke up with an optimistic spirit that third day.  I spent the previous evening thinking about where this trip would take me after leaving the trace.  I had some options with only 50 miles left to go.  I could head west back towards the Mississippi River and make my way home back through the delta.  On the other hand, I could head east and head up towards the Smokey Mountains for a little change of scenery.  As I left the campsite, that morning, I still hadn't made up my mind, but I had a little bit of time to figure that all out.  I just knew that I wanted to be off the trace by noon to allow myself plenty of time to make it to my next destination.  

After packing up my campsite I headed back to the grave site of Meriwether Lewis to pay my final respects.  That place really spoke to me and ended up holding some significance for me in the end.  I was just so amazed at all that one 35 year life could accomplish.

The final section of trace is rich with waterfalls, abandoned mines, and other caves.  Basically, full of things we don't have back home on the coast.  There are many worthy stops along those final fifty miles.  

View above a former phosphate mine.

Fall Hollow

Tobacco Farm

Section of Old Trace

Duck River Falls

Turkeys on the side of the trace.

After crossing this bridge into Franklin only a couple of miles of trace remain ahead.  I had a decision to make; East or West?  When I finally got off the trace, I stopped for gas and lunch and made my decision.  I was heading east towards the mountains.  I stopped at a visitor's center after passing through Nashville.  I was looking for info into campsites in the Chattanooga area.  I could make it there by dark and make some plans on continuing.  I pressed on into Chattanooga and picked out a campground, but this is when my plans all changed.

After spending the last few days on the trace, the traffic and population of Chattanooga was ultimately overwhelming.  It was hard to believe how crowded this place way.  I couldn't take it.  I just couldn't stand the idea of staying somewhere like that at the moment.  Hwy 59 runs right into Chattanooga, so I took the exit there and headed south.  I was back without plans.  My only plan was south.  I had decided that I would just start heading that way and if anything peaked my interest I would stop.  

Shortly after my turn south I knew the plan.  The only thing that was going to stop me was the Gulf of Mexico.  I was heading home.  From where I was it was going to be around a seven hour trip.  The traffic on Hwy 59 was nothing like what I had just seen, so it was a bit of relief to have long stretches of highway to myself.  I set my iPod to play and pressed on until I finally hit my driveway.  I unlocked my front door, walked in, closed the door behind me, and the trip was over.

Until Next Time,

You can view my full Facebook album here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Strengthen Your Back

If you've seen a sign like this before, you already know what you're in for.  Backpacking can be a bone jarring, abusive, hell of an experience if you're not prepared.  I will be the first to try and advise you against getting in over your head too early in your backpacking career.  

The first advice that most individuals will give you, in preparing for a trip, is to reduce pack weight.  Yes, this is an important aspect of backpacking; I can't deny that.  A lighter pack will always make for an easier hike.  For me, strengthening your back is equally as important as obsessing over pack weight.  If your back isn't properly conditioned and prepared for the rigors of the trail, you will find yourself subjected to bad hiking form and quicker fatigue.  

Q: What is bad hiking form?

A:  Leaning forward.  You may not notice it at first, but as the pack begins feeling heavier you will find yourself leaning forward in an attempt to alleviate strain and shift pack weight.  From personal experience, this does nothing but abuse your knees and wear you down at an even more rapid pace.  Your miles will be cut short and sleeping on the ground won't help with the soreness one bit.  

Q:  How do I go about building up the strength in my back?

A:  Have I got an answer for you!  In just a minute i'm going to give you a link to a pro tips page through Backpacker Magazine's website.  This page directs you through 3 basic exercises:  kneeling halfmoons, loaded step-ups, and low back complex.  I can tell you from experience that these work.  Not only do they work, they work fast!  You can feel the localized muscles used after your first session.  These workouts won't consume your whole day, but you have to be committed to actually doing them.  Follow the link to learn more.  Pro Tips!

A little bit of pre-training will make your backpacking experience significantly better for everyone involved.  Prepare so you don't wreck yourself and maybe i'll see you out there!  

On a side note:  I'm less than a month away from my Colorado trip!  I'm in the process of checking all my gear out and deciding on what's going and what is staying at the house.  I'm down to exactly 12 work days before the trip.  Fingers crossed for an amazing experience!  

Until Next Time,

Trying out a new template, so bear with me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I'm always pretty cautious when driving at night, but last night I saw a first.  I was coming home from my friends house on the other side of the coast.  I had the radio loud and was enjoying my drive along the beach.  It was around 1:30 am when I was approaching casino row in Biloxi.  I saw a set of headlights up ahead of me.  I initially didn't think much of it.  I honestly assumed it was a car in a turning lane.  Then I realized that car was NOT in the turning lane at all and was coming down the wrong side of the highway directly at me!

My mind went into overdrive as I looked into those bright lights.  I quickly considered what to do.  Before I had the chance to make up my mind the idiot car in the wrong lane made the decision for me when they turned their car hard to the left.  Interesting thing was that there was nothing to the left; only a curb and then the beach.  They ended up stopped perpendicular to the oncoming traffic.  They put the car in reverse and I was sure they were about to back right out in front of me, but they actually stopped for the line on cars to pass them before they tried anymore shenanigans.  

A barrage on expletives freed itself from my mouth as my heart worked on coming back down to a normal rate.  I've heard of things like this happening, but it's never happened to me.  Often I see stories to individuals that are killed by drunk drivers in this fashion, so all the scenarios of what could have happened were running through my head.  Thankfully nothing happened.  It reminded me of what my dad told my sister multiple times.  He had said that if you're driving late at night, like that, to stay in the far right lane.  He said that drunk drivers will often get into the right hand wrong lane of a split highway and think nothing of it.  I guess he was right. 

Keep your eyes peeled.

Until Next Time,

Friday, August 10, 2012

Alabama Shakes

I don't do music "reviews."  I'm not a critic.  I'm a fan.  Just to set that straight!  When I write about a particular band it's because they've really knocked my socks off.  The latest band that has really blown me away has been Alabama Shakes!  Yes, i'm jumping right into the hype!  I've been hearing about the Shakes for a few months now through Twitter, Facebook, and all other social media outlets.  I tend to shy away from anything with that amount of hype.  I guess I just hate following the crowd.

My first exposure to Alabama Shakes was a couple nights ago at work.  Their video for Hold On came on while I was working in one of the rooms.  I didn't know who it was at first.  I just started hearing the song and before long I wasn't doing anything but staring at the TV.  I was enthralled by this band I was seeing and couldn't wait to see who it was.  When Alabama Shakes came up on the screen I instantly knew what all the hype was about.  I feel like I got to see them with a completely unbiased outlook by not knowing who it was at first.  Lucky me!

When I got home I quickly got on YouTube and looked that video back up.  I was just so blown away that I watched it over and over until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.  I downloaded their album soon after and was thoroughly impressed.  The album sounds like something straight out of the fifties.  It has an amazing motown, bluesy, soul, rock feel that I just adore.  They also have perfected the "quality crap" recording style.  What does that mean?  It's got plenty of fuzz and crackling to give it the feel of being recorded in a garage 40 years ago and being played back on a janky 8 track player.  Don't take my word for it though, have a listen for yourself!  The hype is worth it!

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Is it a little pretentious using the name of an entire state for a post on my lowly blog?  I don't know, but i'm doing it anyway!  I've been asked daily, since I have returned, about my trip to Arkansas.  I have just been so tired after work and sleeping too late into the day before going back in that I haven't been able to post about it.  The truth is, I don't have a big deep emotional heart felt post.  I can fit this entire trip into one paragraph.

My week in Arkansas was quiet.  The nights up there were a degree of quiet that we don't have here on the coast.  I was far from home and able to really relax for a few days.  We swam daily.  It was HOT!  I took a few hikes and battled the ticks and poison ivy afterwards.  I found a benchmark! (of course I would be excited about something as silly as that)  I took a little road trip to visit my Aunt Sharon, that I haven't seen in years.  It was really just nice to be away from the normality of everyday life and clear my head for a little bit.  Simple enough?  Good!

I will be doing a full post on Blanchard Caverns because that place was just awesome!  Also, when I finally get my full album uploaded to Facebook I will be placing a link on here.  Now, here are a few select pictures from the trip.

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Road Trip Conundrum

It should be easy to see, at this point, that I love going on trips; especially road trips.  What may not be as widely known is that I love going on road trips alone.  I surprisingly get a lot of feedback about that fact.  I get a lot of questions to the effect of, "don't you get lonely by yourself out on the road like that?"  My answer?  

That's half the fun!!

No, I don't like feeling lonely.  Who does?  I'm not trying to say that I thrive from loneliness and that's where I confuse a lot of people.  My go-to answer is to go experience it yourself!  I live alone, but am no recluse by any stretch of the imagination.  Living alone gives you all the alone time you could ever want, but for me it oddly non-productive.  I do everything better when i'm out on the road.  I'm more inspired by the simplicity of the world around me.  The pages of my various journals are filled with scribbles and nothing from my journeys.  Those pages are where the majority of content for this blog comes from.

I think it has something to do with the fact of the familiarity of my apartment that I can't find inspiration in here.  There are memories, good and bad, in the walls of this little place.  I almost get into the routine rut of life in here.  That's why I find that i'm so often overtaken by wanderlust. Sometimes i'll even set off in the middle of the night simply for a drive down the coastline to clear my head.  

I just got back (last night) from a great trip up into the Ozarks of Arkansas.  According to Google Maps this is a 9 hour and 55 minute one way trip.  Just the thought of a minimum of 10 hours alone in my truck (which I managed to stretch to a hearty 14 on the way home) had me anticipating the trip for the weeks leading up to it.  Again, I heard endless individuals tell me that I was crazy for wanting to drive all the way up there by myself.   The pondering for answers just makes me smile at this point.  Once you've experienced it for yourself, you will truly know what i'm talking about.  Maybe you won't.  I've come to realize that not everyone tends to be as introspective as I am.

There is just something great about the open road.  There is no hiding from yourself on a trip like that.  I find myself really digging deep within and thinking about everything that I've been avoiding.  Like I said, there is no hiding.  Sure, you could pull out your phone and instantly have that connection back to the world, but what's accomplished with that?  You turn the music up as loud and you can stand it and lose yourself for a while.  Turn it off and ride in silence for a bit.  Windows alternate from up to down.  I find myself laughing like a crazy person at jokes i'm telling myself.  Who is there to pass judgement anyway?  This last trip I laughed for a half hour about down-playing the nothingness of the Arkansas farm land.  I asked myself, "Hey, did you see that field back there?"  Just something about the absurdity of that question had me in knots for a while.  It's ok to be a crazy person from time to time.

Ultimately, the final reaction is always the same for me.  Optimism is the word I would use for it.  I always seem oddly optimistic when I return home.  Hey, maybe things aren't really so bad are they?  I suggest you give it a shot yourself.  Don't go with an attitude that you'll take nothing away from an experience like that because you won't.  Allow yourself to be completely taken in by the experience.  Give the introspective road trip a try and I assure it won't be regretted.  

Until Next Time,