Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving is over-on to Arizona

I have spent the last 3 weeks in Oklahoma visiting family and friends, splitting my time between Eufaula and Oklahoma City. But Thanksgiving is over and I head west tomorrow. Checking the weather on my route is not looking good. I chose to head south, then west because I-40 west is known for its snow and ice this time of year, but checking the weather south hasn't been good either. One planned stop is Van Horn, TX, just east of El Paso. You would think that far south you wouldn't have to worry about snow, but according to, snow is in the forecast. Yuck! So I thought I would rethink heading west on I-40, but no, snow is in the forecast there too. Maybe I can just tap my heels like Dorothy of "The Wizard of Oz" and close my eyes and wish myself to Apache Junction........

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back to Oklahoma

Following Talladega, we started back west. Me to Oklahoma, Max on to Arizona for the holidays. But we stopped at an RV park our first night out and the next morning I had a close encounter with a tree.
It broke the outer pane of my duel pane window, the lower mirror (actually it tore the mirror completely off but I didn't get a picture-this is after Max helped me remount it) and..

this piece of molding on the front corner. The mirror glass has been ordered and I just need to find a new piece of molding. I'm thinking I may just have a single pane window from now on.

Leaving Alabama we stayed at a COE park outside of Columbus, MS, before heading to Tunica. It wasn't for the casinos, but instead for a restaurant we had heard about on the Travel Channel.

"Deep Fried Paradise" was the show and this restaurant, The Hollywood, was featured for its fried pickles. In fact, they claim to be the originator of the fried pickle. So we stopped for lunch and had, of course, fried pickles.

Although the outside is old and not very impressive, inside was nice. The floors look like the original wood floors, uneven and all, but it was decorated quite nicely. They even have live music on Friday nights. Marc Cohn sang about this restaurant in his song, Walking in Memphis.

I haven't figured out why the pickle is smiling, he is about to be dropped in hot oil!

Talladega and NASCAR

We arrived at Talladega Speeday in Alabama on Tuesday morning before the race.

Looking out my front door across the street to the speedway and the stadium.

Between I-20 and the race track is about 1 mile of open field. The part closest to the speedway is reserved for car parking on the day of the races, but the rest of the area is open to for camping to anyone with race tickets. And best of all, the camping is free.

We got there early and this is what the field looked like before it started filling up. You can't tell it in this picture, but it was pretty wet and we saw several people get stuck in the mud.

This is what is looked like on Thursday. I am standing in the same place as I was in the previous picture.

Lots of people camping. There were semi's, vans, tents and rv's. The gate keepers only required one person to have a race ticket, so some people came, even if they had no plans on attending the race. Even your tow vehicle had to have a pass to get in and out of the campground. The main stadium holds 143,000. The small stadium holds another 25,000. It would not surprise me to find there were close to 100,000 people camping in the area. The RV parks with hookups were charging as much as $350 for the week. The speedway itself had some reserved parking which started at about $75 for boondocking for 4 days. Some of the spots went for as much as $1600 for full hookups, and 4 tickets on the infield.

Another shot of the almost empty campground. Oh, btw, it was halloween weekend.

When we were in Panama City, FL, we stayed at a Moose Lodge and found out a group was coming to the races. We parked with them at the campground. Some of them have been coming to Talladega for 10 years and they have this tailgating thing down pat. Here you see the bar under the big tent. They had karaoke and everything.

And of course decorations. This nice guy invited everyone to join us.

He was the greeter at the tent.

They even had an ice maker. You can imagine the number of generators, going 24 hours a day, to keep all this running, i.e., the ice maker, the lights, the music system, the blender...

They even had a wedding at the campground on Saturday. I think this should qualify for the Redneck Wedding show.

We did visit the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

The previous picture was on the first day, this is the second day. By the third day the tent had been replaced by a trailer. And yes, the people did pick up the beer cans before they left on Monday.

The police patrolled by car as well as horseback.

We got some free tickets for Fridays practice.

By Friday night the campground was pretty full.

It rained on and off Thursday and Friday and Saturday morning.

I'm glad I wasn't staying in this pop up.

Saturday night was a concert on the infield for anyone with Sunday tickets. The Zac Brown Band was the featured artist. If you don't know who this is, he is country/western. Have you heard the song "Chicken Fried", or "Toes" in the water, Toes in the Sand? Those are his latest hits. It was a great concert although the entire audience was standing in a mud pit from the rain earlier.

Sunday's big race is finally here. They are all lined up to start.

And I'm all ready with my headset and Talladega race shirt.

Talladega Speedway has one of the most controversial tracks. The banks are 30 degrees on the turns on this 2.6 mile track. The cars can actually get 4 wide as they race around. But with the bank being so steep it creates the potential for any car losing control to go airborne. Several years ago a car went over the fence and killed someone in the stands. They raised the fence following that incident.

Part of racing is the draft, where they get just inches from the car in front going 180 miles an hour. Sometimes they bump draft, meaning they bump the car in front. It has the risk of causing a massive accident if the driver starts spinning. So the race officials warned the drivers they were going to penalize anyone caught bump drafting. Twice during the race the drivers lined up, single file, racing around the track for 20-30 laps at a time. Not much excitement there! Lots of discussion the next day went on about this move. I believe the drivers did it on purpose to protest the officials trying to control the racing.

Even so, they still had several wrecks, the last happened on lap 183 of 186 so the race actually finished under a caution flag. But it was still exciting and I enjoyed it immensely. Can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fayetteville, TN

The next stop was as close as possible to Lynchburg, TN, home of Jack Daniels and the 21st Invitational Jack Daniels BBQ Cookoff. Lynchburg itself is a small town of about 400, so we looked for someplace closeby. Fayetteville, 15 miles away, had an Elks, which was glad to let us park there for a few days.

All around this area we found beautiful, old homes. This was one block off main street in Fayetteville. I just love the wrap around porches, especially on both floors.

We visited another whiskey distiller, George A. Dickel and Co. Ever heard of them? Me neither, but they are supposed to be one of the larger distillers of fine sipping whiskey. Since they were in a dry county, no samples, but is was a good tour. We were the only people on the tour, so we got the in depth story. Like most distillers, this one has been around for about 150 years. It was shut down and dismantled during prohibition, but the secret recipe and secret yeast was passed on and in 1939 it was rebuilt and reopened. Located in Cascade Hollow, they even have their own post office. One of their claims to fame is the way they filter the whiskey through charcoal and a wool blanket, filtering out all the impurities and fats and oils, leaving only the pure, smooth Tennessee whiskey.

But what was more interesting was Prichards'. I didn't even know rum was made in the U.S., thinking it all came from the caribbean islands. I was wrong. Right there in Tennessee a man distills rum.

Yes, above is the entire operation. They do have a small shed where the rum ages but otherwise, this old school building, then a community center, is now the distillery, offices, and bottling of Paul Prichards' Rum.

His first still. He has only been in operation commercially since about 1996. Yes, that is his wife's canning pot.

This is his current distiller. He still only distills small batches, around 300 gallons at a time.

His test still. Yes, it is a turkey stainless steel turkey fryer and salad bowl.

The packaging operation. All by hand. He employs a total of 8 employees.

And on to Shelbyville, home of The Celebration, the largest Tennessee Walking Horse Exposition and Horse Show. Not as large or impressive as Lexington Horse Farm, but still impressive.

The courthouse on the square in Shelbyville. It was like a blast from the past. Inside on the walls were copies of: The Ten Commandments; The Magna Carta; The Declaration of Independence; The Mayflower Compact; all the verses of Star Spangled Banner; The Bill of Rights; and The National Motto. These should be on display more places and people should really read them.

If it weren't for the newer cars, this could be a scene from Mayberry RFD and the 1950s.

Outside of town were horse farms.

Again, not quite as plentiful or as impressive as those around Lexington, the Tennessee Walking Horse Farms are still pretty large operations. I guess just not the same money as in Thoroughbreds.

But I think this barn needs a little work.

Shelbyville is the home of the Tennesee Walking Horse Celebration Arena, but the museum is in Lynchburg. Go Figure! They are pretty horses.

Jack Daniels was only 5'4", and learned distilling at age 14 from the Lutheran minister who raised him. When the preacher's church members insisted he get rid of the still, he sold it to Jack when Jack was 16. Once he started making money he ordered fancy clothes from the east and dressed flamboyantly with his long coat and hat.

Jack Daniels makes their own charcoal from the sugar maple tree. Here are stacks of wood ready to be incinerated.

After it has burnt it is placed in this box waiting to be used. Jack Daniels also filters their whiskey through charcoal, which is why it is not bourbon, but only whiskey.

The spring and cave where the original still was located. They still use the fresh spring water for their whiskey.

You can see here the still, the fermenting plant and above is one of the warehouses. They would not allow pictures inside.

The Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ Cookoff started on Friday with a parade. Most of the 83 participants marched around town. There were BBQ teams from Germany, Britain, Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Luxemburg and several countries. Plus over 20 states were represented from the U.S. To be invited you had to have won a BBQ contest which had over 50 participants or a state or regional contest.

Many of the teams had their own banners and sometimes, even dress.

Not only did Roy have great lemondade, but we found out they are full time RVers too. They now do about 28 festivals a year, but he franchises his lemonade and has many others selling his lemonade throughout the U.S. and many other festivals and even casinos. We have invited them to come out to the west and come play sometime.

Whiskey barrell totems.

I loved this t-shirt. (No offense to any vegetarians out there, I just don't like the PETA organization)

The presentation was 1/3 of the points in judging. Taste and tenderness were the other 2/3.

Entertainment was happening all day on the town square.

Ice cream being made using a John Deere tractor engine.

Training for the rodeo.

Even some of the locals played on the corner.
And yes, the BBQ was great. We wandered around getting samples until we couldn't eat any more.