Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Theater in Clarksville?!?!

It was astounding to me to find an actual professional theater in this tiny Middle Tennessee city.  And a theater with a fairly robust schedule at that!  The Roxy Regional Theater is a small former movie theater in downtown Clarksville that has been providing professional theater for twenty years.  We had the joy of seeing their recent production of Spamalot.

The quirkiness of the show was apparent before we even entered the theater.  While we walked towards the door, a knight offered samples of Spam from a silver platter.  As soon as the show began, the quirk just continued from silly bios in the program to songs like "He is Not Dead Yet" and "The Song that Goes Like This."   Being a fan of Monty Python's Holy Grail, I was delighted by the familiar jokes.  Seeing the familiar plot mapped out in song was a joy.

The cast was strong overall although some members' voices did not carry as well as others.  The production did not use live music and instead had recorded instrumental.  This is not as nice as having live music, but for such a small company, I can see why they have to make this choice.  In fact, I think it is probably more difficult to act/sing along with a recording since there is no conductor making up for singer mistakes.

While there are downsides to a small production, the upside is the intimate viewing experience provided by a small space.  I look forward to seeing some of the Roxy's other 2013-2014 productions.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Summer Travel Wrap Up

Despite the heat in Tennessee, summer is officially over (forget about the solstice, Labor Day is it in my book).  It seems that every other summer ends up being a romp to many different places (and it seems we move every summer - oh wait, we do move every summer).  In 2008 we went to London, Scotland,  Paris, and Belgium then moved to Maine.  In 2010, I went to India and Italy and we both went to Greece then moved to NY.  This year, we moved first then came the romp!  So here it is the ten best things I did this summer!

10.  Miramar Beach, Florida
While this weekend trip to the Pan Handle was fun, Florida is just too hot in the summer.  I only lasted 15 minutes reading on the lovely screened in veranda at eight in the morning!  This trip also allowed for my second trip to an aviation museum this summer (hence the 10 ranking).   The Pensacola National Naval Aviation Museum did have a lot of interesting exhibits such as Blue Angel Planes, Marine One, and a bar brought in from Guam and reconstructed as the museums restaurant.  My favorite was the mock-up of the inside of an aircraft carrier.  I especially liked the 1960s contents of the commissary.  Miramar Beach was also gorgeous, such soft sand, and the water bath-tub warm.

Blue Angels Planes at Pensacola National Aviation Museum
Marine One at Pensacola National Aviation Museum
Beautiful Emerald Coast Beach
9.  Frederick, MD -Times Two
Frederick is hands down my favorite place in Maryland.  It has such a great old-city vibe, is walkable, and has some great eats.  I had the pleasure of visiting Frederick twice as the half-way point between Tennessee and New England.  While I love the people I get to visit in Frederick, it is coming in at number nine because I am still mad about my 2006 tax dispute with the great state of Maryland (what can I say, I hold a grudge).  I did have some delicious food at Brewer's Alley - the Chipotle Chicken Ranch Pizza - and some meh food at Magoo's - way dry Bloody Mary Sandwich (a brie and tomato sandwich should ooze with cheese) although the Killer Fries with crab were amazing.  I hate to say it, but the birthday cake ice cream - sweet cream with chunks of frosting - with rainbow sprinkles was by far the best thing about both of these trips (besides said people I love), but I hate to say it because it was a chain ice cream store (Bruster's) although I had never heard of it before.

8.  Wallis Sands and Hampton Beach State Parks, NH (Yes, NH has 18 miles of coastline!)
Wallis Sands is my favorite place to go to the beach in NH, by far.  It is less rowdy than some beaches with a huge beach side parking lot (the only downside is the $15 to park) minimizing the need to carry so much beach stuff all in one load.  My day there was relaxing and just what the beach should be - in New England anyway - quick dip in the frigid water followed by warming up in the sun and repeat!  Of course, a day at the beach wouldn't be complete without walking on the boardwalk, so we were off to the larger Hampton Beach to the south.  Nothing like a nice ice cream, some candy, and observing the "interesting" boardwalk attire and activities.

7.  Portland, ME
The better of the two Portlands (Yea, OR is not as good as ME) by far, we had a warm walk around the Back Cove Trail - a lovely walk despite the fact that part of the walk is right alongside I-95 then dinner outside at Local 188.  Because of the heat and our desire for a post-dinner ice cream, we decided to go tapas.  The best was the giant piece of flatbread with a heaping scoop of hummus.  Later we walked to the old port and had gelato at Gorgeous Gelato.  Frankly, I don't really understand the gelato craze.  Gelato is great while strolling down a narrow cobbled alley in Italy, but what I want on a summer day in the USA is a good heaping scoop of ice cream.  The dark chocolate and hazelnut mixed on one cone was wonderful, but still, I would have preferred ice cream.  As the evening cooled, we strolled around the old port; I just love the quaintness of this Portland.  As weird as the other one might be, it will never beat Maine's.

6.  Woodlawn Museum
Speaking of Maine...I have been going on vacation in Downeast Maine for more than a decade but until this summer had never visited the Woodlawn Museum.  The early nineteenth century estate was home to five generations of Ellsworth's Black family.  The house is interesting because it has a transverse hallway, verses the typical front to back hallway, separating the office space from the rest of the house.  The house also includes the original furnishings since the estate was willed to the town in its entirety including a four poster bed with its original linens (apparently a very rare find).  In addition to the house and outbuildings, the museum hosts high tea once a week in the summer and has some public walking trails although one segment of the trail we walked was quite overgrown and swampy (mosquitos).  It was great to finally visit this since I have driven past it dozens of times.

Back of House through Garden Trellis

5.  Acadia National Park
Of course, our summer could not be complete without a trip to Acadia National Park.  Due to my increasingly pregnant state, we decided to take it easy on the hiking this year, so we only hiked five miles.  Since I generally steer away from trails labeled easy or moderate in the guide books, this was a perfect reason to try one.  We decided to hike the Asticou Trail from the Asticou Inn to the Jordan Pond House.  We started outside the park by hiking through the Asticou Terraces and by Thuya gardens (we didn't see the gardens because dogs weren't allowed).  We headed over Eliot Mountain then entered the park and walked the Asticou trail to the Jordan Pond House where we lounged on the lawn then had lemonade and popovers.  Since so many people bring their dogs to Acadia (thank you for being a dog-friendly National Park, which I have discovered is a rarity) there are always lots of dogs lounging under their owner's tables out on the Jordan Pond House lawn.  At one point on this visit, one dog began to bark then, like a symphony tuning up, dozens of dogs were all barking into one great cacophony.  It was a great laugh for all the humans.

Hiking the Asticou Trail

4.  Rockport, MA
For years a good friend of mine has been living in Rockport, MA for part of the year and this summer I got to visit her and another good friend who was vacationing there.  Rockport is a quaint New England fishing town that has been a bit of a destination for painters including Winslow Homer.  It became such a destination for painting one particular fishing shack that the shack became known as Motif No. 1.  The image was also featured on a 2002 postage stamp.  The shack is so iconic to the town that when it burnt down in 1978 an exact replica was rebuilt in its place.  The town is full of narrow streets with cute shops and eateries - what you would expect in a New England fishing town that is now a tourist destination.  My favorite was the two story bookstore with used books upstairs accessed only by a rot iron spiral staircase.  The beach in Rockport is very sheltered by a rock wall towards the back, and the water was fairly warm.  There was even a raft to swim out to showing how sheltered the beach is.

On the Pier in Rockport

3.  Ellsworth's 250th birthday
Oh the little known town of Ellsworth, ME!  This gets number three because I just love little known towns in Downeast.  This year was Ellsworth's 250th birthday.  Of the many festivities they had, I attended the community band concert on the city hall steps.  While it was buggy and the band was set up behind a hedge making it impossible to see them from the only level place to set up folding chairs, the concert was fun.  The music was what one would expect from a community band, but the community was what  was special.  I loved when the mayor was informally called to the stage to go through the rest of the week's events and later when someone else went up and took the microphone to make an announcement.  I loved how most people sat in their cars in the parking lot and honked instead of clapping.  And I loved meeting the most friendly veteran of three wars (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam) who told us all about his trips to the Bangor airport to welcome home troops no matter what time of day or night the planes come.  The whole atmosphere, while not fancy, was just what an American summer is all about.

2.  Sailing on Lake Massabesic
I grew up minutes from Lake Massabesic, Manchester, NH.  Lake Massabesic was where we would go ride bikes when we were old enough to go off alone.  It was where my husband and I went for a picnic in our first year of dating.  I have taken several dogs there on many walks and cross-country skied there.  I had been kayaking there but never sailing.  Lucky for me, a friend's father now has a sailboat on the lake (I had also never been sailing except on a one-man summer camp boat).  The day was gorgeous despite it not being too windy.  Several times we got going really quickly and the extreme tipping of the boat (who knew sailing was so dynamic) made me happy it wasn't more windy.  I learned one can't be in a rush when sailing without a motor as back up - it took us quite a while to tack back to the harbor - but that is part of the relaxation of the activity.  

Leaving the Harbor

Away We Go

Our Trusty Ship
1.  Lobster on Perry's Dock
Generally, my annual lobster is bought down the road from our camp at Perry's Lobster Shack then cooked at the camp and enjoyed on the deck with all the fixings - in my case, butter and potato chips and maybe a little vegetable on the side.  Since Perry has set up quite an operation with tables out on his pier, we decided to skip the mess and eat out.  I had the shore dinner, which was lobster, vegetable slaw, corn, and a roll.  The only thing I was missing was my plain potato chips.  It was a fantastic dinner for a fantastic price plus we only had to walk a minute up the road to get home!

Now it is time to explore Tennessee!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Last weekend I took a trip to southern Alabama.  While I am sure that Alabama has much to offer in terms of culture, history, and tourism, this particular area of Alabama was not that mecca.  The area - Enterprise - is the largest town near Fort Rucker, an Army base largely used for aviation training.  The most exciting thing about Enterprise is the story behind the boll weevils' attack of the county's cotton crop in 1915.  While the bugs devastated the cotton, the devastation forced the town to switch to peanut crops, which were widely successful.  By 1917, the area was the leading peanut producer in the US.  In honor of the boll weevils, the town constructed a monument that consists of a statuesque Grecian figure holding up a black boll weevil.  Enterprise is a poster-child for making lemonade out of lemons.  In the town is also an old hotel - the Rawls hotel - and the old train depot that now serves as the historical museum.

We never got around to experiencing some real southern cooking mostly because by the time I was ready for southern cooking it was Sunday evening and everything was closed, but we did sample that staple of the south - Waffle House.  While I had been to a Waffle House once before, it was Andy's first time.  Nothing exciting except it was greasy and delicious; who doesn't love cheese grits?  What was exciting was the town's ice cream shop, Milky Moo's, where I had the Boll Weevil Special - a peanut butter ice cream with peanut butter chips, marshmallows, and Oreos.  It was a true representation of the farming history of the area.  Brilliantly, the shop puts a single marshmallow at the bottom of the cones to prevent leakage.  Milky Moo's also was Food Network's Alabama pick for their 50 States, 50 Ice Cream Treats list - a list that I can't believe I didn't know about sooner!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hannibal, MO to Clarksville, TN

Today’s last day of driving was a mad dash.  We woke up before sunrise and hit the road.  We drove through more corn as we headed toward St. Louis then started seeing the markings of a large city – developments, strip malls then tall buildings in the distance.  Since we were in such a rush, we didn’t have time to stop in the Gateway to the West, but we did see Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play, and the Gateway Arch from the highway. 

South of St. Louis was more of the same – corn – as we crossed into Illinois and Kentucky.  Finally, just before noon we crossed into Tennessee and were immediately in our new city Clarksville.  And so ends our long distance travel for now.  It is quite the rite of passage to travel across the United States, and I actually hope to do it again.  Driving every day for a week is not too bad as long as the day’s driving does not exceed seven or eight hours.  I don’t think I would want to do more than a week; I definitely had reached my breaking point by the sixth night.  I look forward to exploring some more of America’s smaller tourist attractions.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sioux City, IA to Hannibal, MO

Today was by far the longest day of the trip.  We made several interesting stops, but that meant getting to our final destination much later than desired.  To top it off, when we got to our hotel in Hannibal, they had booked us in a smoking room and had no non-smoking pet friendly rooms.  They were nice enough to find us another hotel with a non-smoking pet room, but the new hotel was so dingy and smelled like mold.  I don't know what would have been worse - mold or smoke?  Despite that aggravation, we did see a lot in Iowa and Missouri.

The drive was mostly through corn fields.  Our first stop was the John Deere factory in Waterloo, IA.  We unfortunately couldn't take the 90 minute tour because the dog was in the car, but we did go to the gift shop.

Someone is excited about tractors!

After John Deere, we drove a bit further east and stopped at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, IA.  Along the way, we listened to Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella.  The movie Field of Dreams is based on the book, but basically everything that happens in the movie happens in the first chapter of the book.  I definitely prefer the movie.  It was neat to see a baseball field in the middle of a corn farm, but it was not the most exciting stop.

When we arrived at the Mississippi, we saw her might because the direct southerly route we wanted to travel was totally flooded.  We had to go further east into Illinois then swing back southwest before being able to head south.  It was a cumbersome detour that really cut the time we had in Hannibal.

Hannibal, MO was a bit of a dumpy town, but the downtown area where Mark Twain's house is was cute.  We ate at Lula Belle's restaurant, which is in a former bordello.  Afterwards, we took a quick tour of the street where Mark Twain lived, which has been preserved.  We saw several landmarks from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer including the white picket fence and the home of Sawyer's crush, Becky Thatcher.  I would have liked to be able to actually tour the attractions, but we were there way past closing time.

Twain's House

HIstoric Hannibal, MO
While this road trip has been a great experience, we are all ready for it to be over.  Six hours to Clarksville, TN!

Someone is ready for this trip to be over!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rapid City, SD to Sioux City, IA

Today was a long day of flat driving.  For as far as the eye could see everything was flat.  There were the occasional herd of cattle clustered in a grassy field, but otherwise, flat grass and corn.  Before leaving Rapid City, we of course had to visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base.  It was an air and space museum not much different from all the others we have been to (Andy loves planes!).  They did have an interesting exhibit about the Berlin Wall and the Berlin Airlift since some of the pilots involved in the Berlin Airlift were from Ellsworth AFB.  This base was also home to many underground nuclear missile silos during the cold war, and the museum had a replica of what one of the control rooms would look like.  They also offered a bus tour to a silo, but we unfortunately did not have enough time to see that.

South Dakota Air and Space Museum

The other interesting thing today was the world's only corn palace!  The small town of Mitchell, South Dakota decorates the outside facade of their civic center with corn.  There are panels of corn cobs making different designs and sections of the outside walls shingled with hay.  They also have the hallways of the civic center busting with corn history and facts.  They use the space in front of the stage in the hall for a giant gift shop and some other exhibits.  The walls of the inside area are covered with corn cob artworks.  It is truly ingenious because it gets people into the town and utilizes the space in the civic center on a daily basis.  As if that was not enough, across the street is a little village of gift shops.  Definitely the kind of thing I hoped to see on a cross-country road trip!

Corn Palace - all decorations are made of corn
Wall panel on inside of building made of corn cobs
Display of everything that is made of corn
After a lot of time in South Dakota, we entered Iowa and soon stopped for the night in Sioux City.  Sioux City has undergone a lot of downtown revitalization.  There is a lovely park along the river and a rejuvenated historic district where we ate a great Italian meal.  Tomorrow there will be much more flat driving through corn fields and hopefully more kitchsy Americana to stop and see! 

Billings, MT to Rapid City, SD

First thing in the morning the dog and I took a lovely walk around Billings.  The area of the city we were staying in was flanked by a rim of rock that was probably seven stories high.  It was very picturesque with tree lined streets and a beautiful green park near Montana State University Billings.  Soon after, we hit the road and stopped at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  Being very ignorant of this aspect of American history - thanks Manchester school system - it was very educational to drive around the battlefield.  The whole situation is so sad and embarrassing for our country.  It is terrible that a group of people's whole way of life was canceled out by greed.  The landscape of the area is vibrantly green and hilly with very few trees dotted along the river.  I could just imagine the Sioux and Cheyenne peoples roaming the area on the hunt for buffalo.

Little Bighorn Battlefield

After this brief stop, we spent the rest of the day on the interstate traveling through Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.  Despite being on the interstate, there was quite beautiful scenery.  It isn't like driving on the interstate on the east coast where there is so much traffic and commercial strip after commercial strip.  The interstate we traveled on today rarely went through a town and if it did the town was teeny tiny.  Take for example Buffalo, Wyoming where we stopped for lunch.  This town was very picturesque with lovely little western buildings.  We ate at a pleasant city park along a creek where I saw the most amazing playground ever - three stories with six slides!!  After lunch we passed into South Dakota.  Our first stop in South Dakota was a rest area with some very informative signs about the Black Hills and two very friendly welcoming committee members.  We were soon on to Rapid City where we ditched the dog and headed to Mount Rushmore (again, the difficulty of traveling with a dog in summer).

I-90 in Wyoming
There is nothing much to say about Mount Rushmore except that it was cool and touristy.  It was a lot like traveling through Crawford Notch in New Hampshire where tourist attractions like Storyland, Santa's Village, and Six Gun City abound.  The towns just outside of Mt. Rushmore were like western towns on a movie set with lots of neon lights added.  I am glad we went though so now we can say we have seen it with our own eyes.  We rounded out the day with a very heartland meal of fried cheese curds, chicken fried steak, and lemon meringue pie - good thing I had a salad for lunch!

Mount Rushmore