21 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 15 - Nashville (TN)

Yee-Haw! In the City of Music today's day was dedicated to ... music. I used "NashvilleMoves", a family-owned shuttle service, from the hotel to The District, where the city was originally founded in April 1780.

On Broadway, there is everything a cowboy needs.

Most of them are Made in the USA, price range $250 - 400.


Um, not sure about this one.

I continued onto 5th street for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which is full of glittery stage costumes, instruments and (country) music history.

Interesting remake ...

I happened to have read John Steinbeck's novel "The grapes of Wrath" when I was in Germany earlier this year; German title "Früchte des Zorns". One level of the museum features this part of the American History: the dust bowl, a period of severe dust storms during the 1930s. This phenomenon was caused by severe drought and incorrect dryland farming methods in the U.S. and Canadian prairies. My Bed & Breakfast host in Pawnee City (NE) had told me that she still remembers her mom talking about this time as their farm was also effected. To prevent such wind erosions in the future, farmers had then planted bushes and trees. But she also criticized that these trees are being chopped nowadays, so farmers can plant more crops. And that they are repeating the errors of the past. ... Anyways, the dust bowl led settlers migrate to the promised land California. They brought the country music e.g., to Bakersfield. I was not aware that Bakersfield played such an important role in country music. (I was not aware that it plays an important role at all.) ;-)



During my stroll through the city I noticed some booths (near Victory Park), which looked like a Christmas market. I stopped by and had to find out that they were not for real but a set for the TV show "Nashville". The film crew was about to shoot the 9th series, to be shown in January 2015. From what I heard, the story is about the mayor of Nashville and his wife, who is - of course - a country music star. ...

Broadway at night reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but with focus on music and food instead of primarily alcohol. Restaurants and bars all had live music!

The "Honky Tonk Highway"

I selected "Rippy's Ribs" restaurant for some pulled pork, seasoned curly fries, coleslaw and Yazoo Pale Ale, a local beer. The food was great. It certainly had enough salt.

Yep, the beer is the focal point.

In case you were wondering: no, I did not finish the full portion, but took left-overs with me for tomorrow. Well, I ended up giving the box to some young homeless at Broadway who were more than happy about the food.


Savannah Candy Kitchen: Any room left for dessert?

Some of you might be aware that Starbucks had changed the design of their city mugs a few years ago. I collected them from several locations in Canada and the U.S., but - to Guido's delight - I stopped collecting when the new design took over. But I had to have this one! Sorry Guido.


More to come. (But no more mugs!)

20 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 14 - Henderson (KY) to Nashville (TN)

Driving through parts of Kentucky and Tennessee today was awesome. The total ride of ~ 230 km was comparably short and I took my time to explore off the beaten path. With success - for the most part.

Darn! I guess, I have to turn around.

There is obviously so much space that cars and junk (oh, I'm repeating myself in the below cases) are simply left sitting there. And sitting there. And sitting there. Well, at some point nature will have taken care of it.

Longterm parking?


I learned a lot about Kentucky today: Its nickname is "Bluegrass state" because this perennial grass species can be found a lot here. It is one of four commonwealths in the U.S.; the other three are Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Its state capital is Frankfort! It has the world's longest cave system (Mammoth Cave National Park in central KY and certainly worth a visit. Next time.). And it also ranks 2nd in tobacco production, behind North Carolina and outcompeting its neighbor Tennessee.

Open barn with drying tobacco leaves

Happy hay for sale!

Around mid-day I got welcomed by the "Volunteer State" Tennessee. Like Missouri, it has borders with eight states (obviously Kentucky and also Virginia to the north, North Carolina on the east side, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to the south and on the west side Arkansas and Missouri.) Many soldiers who volunteered during the War of 1812 came from Tennessee, which explains the state's nickname. Tennessee's state capital is Nashville, where I will be staying for the next 2.5 days.


As mentioned earlier, Tennessee is also very big in tobacco production. Three types of tobacco are grown in Tennessee: burley, dark-fired and dark air-cured and according to the USDA, burley is the most prominent one. Tobacco has been commercially produced in the U.S. since 1612!



One more snapshot from Tennessee's beautiful scenery.


I noticed one more thing today: I am obviously approaching the southern areas of this country because I'm having more and more trouble understanding people's dialect. Why can't they just take the hot potato out of their mouth? ;-)

More to come.

19 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 13 - St. Louis (MO) to Henderson (KY)

This Sunday morning I did what many Americans do: I went to church.

Religion plays a very important role in this country. There is a large variety of religious beliefs and practices. And if I want to learn more about people, what better way is there than to join a service. I selected Grace Church in Maryland Heights north of St. Louis, because their website looked inviting. It is considered an inter-denominational church. Thus, a church that worships God without an affiliation to a specific religious group.

Wow, this is not simply a church but a full campus including a cafe, bookstore and lots more. The 1.5 hour long service is held in the auditorium, which resembles a conference room. Several hundred people of all ages and colors showed up. A band started playing modern christian music. The lyrics were displayed on the large screens left and right. People were standing and singing, clapping their hands and got all enthusiastic. After an update on community events, money collection and several prayers the sermon was held for 45 min. More songs and prayers concluded the service. This is what I would call 'modern church', so vivid and different to what I had ever witnessed before.

Grace Church auditorium

Sermon to Romans, chapter 6

For the first time ever it came handy that hotel rooms all provide the Holy Bible. If I want to I can revisit what the Reverend talked about. :-)

Back on the road, I followed Hwy 50 east into Illinois  - the "Land of Lincoln" - and Indiana.


Not sure if Hwy 50 was such a good idea. For the most part the pavement is poor, in consequence driving is slow and the worst: the curbside is mostly too narrow to stop for pictures!!

Even I started to define this as 'boring'. ;-)

Some entertaining spots along the road.


Sadly, I noticed lots of road kill: roughly one killed raccoon every other km! After passing by Darmstadt I finally arrived at Henderson, Kentucky. No state sign picture either. The sign was located on the median strip, right before a bright with no place to stop. Didn't I complain about this already?

There is a KFC next to the hotel, should I really? Ah, probably not.

More to come.

Across the U.S., Day 12 - St. Louis (MO)


Overall, I am impressed by St. Louis. It has lots to offer, particularly in terms of architecture and culinary specialties. I started the day with a visit to the Soulard Farmer's Market, south of downtown. It's the granddaddy of the farmer's markets - the oldest west of the Mississippi River.



It has a large variety of locally grown fruits and veggies, locally produced cheese, eggs, honey and baked goods. I picked up some wild honey (unfiltered, uncooked & pure, as it says on the label and produced in nearby Illinois), a jar of bee pollen (supposed to be a healthy adjunct to oatmeal) and some tomatoes. Mine in Sunnyvale have more flavor though. BTW, the St. Louis area has a total of 38 farmers markets!

Pumpkin time!


On my way to the Gateway Arch, I came by the Citygarden. This little park really speaks to my inner child, with its sculptures, native plants and fountains.

"Big White Gloves, Big Four Wheels",
artist Jim Dine brings Pinocchio to life.

Untitled (two rabbits in marshmallow style), Tom Claassen

"Big Suit", Erwin Wurm

St. Louis celebrates its 250th anniversary this year and birthday cakes are all over the place.

Celebrating historic "Laclede's Landing",
the site of the city's original settlement

When I got to the Gateway Arch, many people were already in line to get up on this 190 m tall monument. It commemorates St. Louis's role in the westward expansion (gateway) of the U.S. and is the nation's tallest monument.


However, I decided not to spend my time waiting in line to get to the top. Also, I happen to have my pepper spray with me which would have caused trouble at the security check. Nevermind, there is so much to see on the ground.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

This massive Romanesque building, completed in 1914, is decorated on the inside with over 41.5 mio. individual pieces of glass, marble and stone to form mosaics. Covering over 7,700 square meter, they took more than 75 years to complete.


The Cathedral has its cake, too.

St. Louis is also known for its blues music tradition, especially its more piano-based type of blues. To be honest, I'm not very familiar with this music, but names like Chuck Berry, Ike Turner and Miles Davis sound familiar even to me.

St. Louis Blues cake

I finished the day with a stroll through The Hill, St. Louis' little Italy, in the south-east of town. A cafe latte and an Italian ice cream were exactly what I needed before heading back to the hotel.

Even the fire hydrants wear
Italian colors in The Hill.

I would definitely come back to St. Louis. There is so much more to see, such as the City Museum, Missouri History Museum, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery including Clydesdale stables and of course to explore the night life. The above however shows only the positive, sunny side. We have all heard about what happened in Ferguson, in the north of the city, and the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer. Investigations are still ongoing and conflicting information can be found in the news. What I noticed when walking through certain parts of the city where many homeless, like in most large cities. They were all black. So much about equality of opportunity.

More to come.

17 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 11 - Kansas City (MO) to St. Louis (MO)

This day was comparably uneventful. I started the day by chasing one of the Missouri State signs for a photography. On Wednesday when arriving at Kansas City, there was no safe way to stop at the curbside of the highway for such a picture. Victory! Here it is:


Some interesting facts about Missouri: it borders eight different states - Iowa in the north, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee in the east across the Mississippi River, Arkansas on the south side, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska across the Missouri River in the west. Only Tennessee has that many borders with other states. The two large rivers are the Missouri River, which flows through the state west to east, and the Mississippi, the 4th longest river in the world and the eastern boundary of Missouri. Just for completeness: state capital is Jefferson City, (named after Thomas Jefferson and only the 15th largest city in Missouri).

On my photo hunt for the state sign I came by another sign that immediately caught my attention: Aldi! I did not know that they have Aldi in the Mid-West. I restocked my water supply and was pleased that they had established the same system than in Germany, which requires you to have a quarter for the shopping card and prevents the shoppings cards from being left on the parking lots like we see this all the time where we live. I'm wondering whether Aldi in Virginia does the same. Ingrid can certainly tell me!


Missouri is also Tornado country.


Those ~ 500 km to St. Louis, I travelled mainly on Hwy US-50, the "loneliest road in America".


Fuel is particularly cheap in this part of the country. For diesel (some gas stations use the black handles for diesel, while the green handle dispenses gasoline!) prices can get as low as $3.24/gallon, which compares to 0.67 Euro/l. Gasoline is even cheaper.

To get a change from loneliness, I stopped at an Indian store along the route. The 81-years old owner of the store had lived part of his life in Eureka (CA), 5.5 hours north of where we live. He complained about his doctor who told him to lose weight but did not share the secrete with him of how to do this. Apparently, the doctor does not know either. He is bigger than his patient. ...

Driving through Missouri reminded me of Germany, with its brown or black and white cows and mixed forests. Germany however, does not have any signs along the highways addressing abortion.

More to come.

16 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 10 - Kansas City (MO)

Kansas City has received many different nicknames, such as "The Paris of the Plains", "Possumtrot", "Barbecue Capital of the World" and probably the best-known: "The City of Fountains".

Kansas City has ~ 200 fountains. In 1973, Kansas Citians Harold and Peggy Rice established "The City of Fountains Foundation" to enhance the city and its surrounding areas. To me, the fountains give the city a very nice touch. Even without them, there would be lots to see, such as the Money Museum (located in the Federal Reserve building), Jazz Museum, Union Station, World War I Museum and the city hall's observation desk. The latter is currently closed due to a wasps infestation. Therefore, I was unfortunately not able to check out the view from the 30th floor. Well, not a big deal. I have to come back with Guido, also because I left the Harley-Davidson Assembly Plant and Visitor Center off my list.

18th & Vine Historic Jazz District

My plan to take the hotel shuttle to the airport and then public transportation to the city did not work out this time, ... because there is no suitable public transportation. Instead, I had to take the car and parked it downtown for $3, the whole day. Yes, in Cologne you only get 1 hour for this price!

Henry Bloch Fountain in front of Union Station

Union Station - Kansas City's train station - celebrates its 100th birthday this year. With its marble floors, almost 30 m high plaster ceiling and three 1,5 tons chandeliers it reminded me of Grand Central Station in New York.


Firefighters Fountain, my favorite one

The best-known fountain and present on the cover of every tourist brochure is the J.C. Nichols Fountain. It was dedicated in 1960 in memory of J.C. Nichols, developer of the Country Club Plaza. It's pretty with its four equestrian figures, said to represent four rivers and sculptured by French artist, Henri Greber. But why does the water have to be blue?!

J.C. Nichols Fountain, near Country Club Plaza
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

The Kansas City Royals, the local baseball team made it to the 2014 World Series yesterday. Yeah! Actually, I couldn't care less. Just wanted to mention it. :-) This annual baseball championship series is only played in North America. "World" Series? Well, so be it.

City Hall: Abraham Lincoln, his son Tad and the KC Royals
Andrew Jackson &
Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The Kansas Citians have an interesting sense of (giant) art which I liked a lot.

Giant wasp in front of Union Station. It actually moves.

Crying Giant at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art 

Halloween? No, another piece of contemporary art

I walked ~ 20 km today up and down and across the city. No question that I totally deserved a good dinner. And to honor the Barbecue Capital, I went to Jack Stack, which is said to have the best BBQ in town or even in the country.

Beef & pork "Burnt Ends" with coleslaw and fries

Excellent food! If I had to make the coleslaw myself, it would definitely be less sweet. And I did not use any French Fry Seasoning which adds 240 mg sodium (~ 10% daily allowance) per 1gr. serving.

More to come.