San Antonio and The Day of the Dead Parade

Well here we are in San Antonio. It is a huge city and pretty overwhelming but Rudy, like the tour guide he is, has researched the transit system and has our bus trip down to the centre of San Antonio all mapped out. We get to the bus stop and climb aboard. The trip to downtown is through a pretty rough area that has many derelict buildings and businesses and homes that don’t seem very prosperous. It is interesting how a person’s view of a city is based on the small part that they see and then it changes based on the experiences they have there. In the West End of Winnipeg my experience is coloured by the actual look of the neighbourhood but even more perhaps by who I meet, where I can grab stuff to eat and how close I am to the people I love. The large freeways, the garbage on the streets and the run-down buildings say one thing. On the other hand, the bus driver who is super patient with me as I jam the fare machine with coins and equally patient with all the riders on the bus as he answers their questions and helps those with wheelchairs off and on the bus. And so by the time we get downtown I like the place.

First we head to The Alamo. I have some vague idea that it was a place where a huge battle took place. And yes it is. Supposedly Davy Crockett fought and died there. Also it was a fight against the Mexicans lead by Santa Anna(the President of Mexico) who was denying Texas some of the autonomy that had been agreed upon. (Texas was not yet a part of the United States.) Well everyone at Alamo was slaughtered but other Texans from the surrounding area got a company of soldiers together and routed the Mexicans (killed 600 and supposed only lost 9) and they did this all to the rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo.” So there it is. Do I sound ambivalent about this. Well I guess I kinda am. My only comment is that it is always interesting how history is told. It all depends on perspective and usually the perspective is that of the winner. So the Alamo is in Texas and not Mexico so that is how the story is told.

Next we head to the Riverwalk. It is really cool. We take stairs down to the walkway that winds up and down the river on both sides. Each portion of the walkway is varied depending on which business built it. There are restaurants and hotels and loads and loads of people. It feels somewhat European with pedestrian bridges and car bridges criss crossing the water. The downtown is a mixture of historical buildings and new glass and metal buildings. We stop for snacks and  drinks at one establishment along the Riverwalk. It is beautiful what with the curving pathway and plantings and massive trees that line the river. We hear that there will be a Day of the Dead parade with barges on the river tonight if the weather holds. It has been rainy off and on. We decide to go back to the hotel and come out later for the parade.

In the evening we catch the bus again and head to the Riverwalk. It is even more packed out. They have sold tickets for chairs that line the walk but we manage to find a place on one of the bridges. It offers a great view of the river. After about an hour wait we see the first barge. It is dark by now and they are lit up with neon lights and many of the barges have singers and dancers on them. It is a neat idea and we enjoy it although it is not as spectacular as I imagined it would be. But excitement is in the air and people are streaming through the streets, and horse drawn carriages line the pavement so all in all it has been worth it. We buy some street food and sit on an iron bench on a bridge and eat. Then we head back for the bus and back to the hotel.


Rain And More Rain

Through the rain streaked window

It poured today! So there is no real sightseeing today except through the van window. We drive past the murals depicting the history of  New Braunfels. There are loads of historic buildings but we can only take pictures through the rain streaked windows because even opening them a crack lets a lot of water in. Hoping the rain will slow we drive back to Gruene district but still can’t get out. What should we do? The rain starts to slacken and we head out to the freeway but just as we merge it comes down in a deluge. We can’t see anything and the freeway is packed. Everyone puts on their 4-way flashers but visibility is minimal so we immediately pull off at the next exit and sit in the van until the rain lets up a bit. It seems like today is a bust for any outside sightseeing so we get on the road to San Antonio. When we arrive it seems overwhelming to me. San Antonio is big and the criss crossing roads over and under the freeway are confusing. Good thing we have GPS to find the hotel. It is a lot of back and forth and u-turns under overpasses to get there. Once we are there we decide to stay put and only to venture out for supper by walking. This limits are options. We chose a BBQ place thinking this is the lesser of the evils. Not sure if it is. The fried chicken is tasteless and we go back to our hotel room to plan for a better day tomorrow. Keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t get too much rain.

Gruene Hall

It is sometimes a bit of a crap shoot as to where we end up on any given night. Of course we have had specific destinations we wanted to see but it seems on this last leg of the trip we are just making it up as we go along. Today our destination is New Braunfels, Texas. It is close to San Antonio and basically we are heading here because I read some things that sound interesting. The most interesting of these being Gruene Hall. which is a dance hall where loads of famous musicians have played. I am talking John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams and on and on. Tonight some no name group is playing and we are going to see them.

But first we need to get to New Braunfels and it is a 5 hour drive.  There is loads of road construction and then lots of traffic through Houston and the driving for a lot of the time is terrible for Rudy. Finally, however, we get through it all and arrive at our hotel. These hotels are beginning to look all the same and I get the strange feeling of coming home when we drive into a parking lot and sign in. The upholstered chair, or what I like to call Rudy’s throne, always has at least one rip and one stain. The office chair, which is mine, is firm and has wheels so that I can sometimes drive it out onto the front sidewalk area of our hotel room to get some relief from the lavender cleaning solution they use. I have my side of the bed for my stuff and Rudy gets the suitcase holder. He generally unloads the drinks and food into the fridge and I flop down on the bed.

After our set up I suggest a sightseeing expedition starting at a walking bridge in a mill district. We walk over it and back and stop at 2 boutique shops seemingly randomly situated in a desolate area of town. She shops are super neat with one have loads of crazy out there clothing that I would love to buy. But I need browsing and thinking time if that is going to happen and my compatriot is ready for our lunch/supper. We head for Vietnamese noodle bowls.

In the evening we head to the district of Gruene which we find is an actual historical village. There are loads of people enjoying the warm evening air. In the dance hall the band is playing and people are sitting at old wooden tables with benches. The whole place is made of wooden beams and plank floors and siding and screen doors. There are a number of pool tables and the bar and loads of water coolers (I guess for all the hot sweaty dancers to rehydrate). And speaking of dancing, the cowboys and cowgirls are out in full force doing the Texas two-step. It is marvellous and I am tempted to haul Rudy out into the parking lot to teach him a few steps. It is actually heartbreaking to be in Texas at a dance hall and not be dancing.

But all is not lost. We go to the General Mercantile Store which is now an antique shop and I wander for ages looking at everything.  There are dishes and dresses, coffee cans and canning jars, motorcycle gas tanks and army tanks (replicas). Rudy has his fill after a while but I continue on through the shop. It’s like a walk through memory lane. The is a Honda 50 motorcycle gas tank just like the one on my brother Wes’s first bike. I remember driving it through the ditches. There is tin enamelware from my childhood, the same Miriam now collects. There are comic books like we used to read at the Rexall Drug Store in Boissevain. I never bought any but we would  stand for hours reading them. After enjoying all the old things I wander into a clothing shop. Wow!  Gotta love all the cowboy shirts. I want one! With pearl buttons and all! Just like the lemon coloured one my mom sewed for me when I was 11 or 12 and I wore on the Prairie Dusters Horse Club trail rides in the Turtle Mountains.

I limp back to the van with Rudy at the end of the evening. This old cowgirl is having some hip trouble. Did she fall off her horse. No Siree! She’s just old. Good thing her cowboy friend doesn’t dance cause if she would have kicked up her heels tonight it might be a lot worse.

This Day Has No Pictures

Today we spend a relaxing morning just lying around our Airbnb until checkout time. In fact we get so carried away there that the owner knocks on our door to see if we are leaving so that she can clean.  We still have a few minutes until check out time so we pretend that we are on it and quickly pack our stuff in the van and leave. We have had a relaxed breakfast that Rudy made and I have worked on catching up on blog entries.

We are heading to Lake Charles, Louisiana for night. The highways are basically miles upon miles of bridges through the swamps and over the waterways. Not much to say about that. Rudy drives and I continue to catch up on blogs. I have spent many days letting them lapse because of activity filled days but now I need to get them done. Rudy stops for a burger for lunch and I get an iced coffee.

When we arrive in Lake Charles we check in at our hotel and head to the local CVS pharmacy to get our Covid 19 vaccinations. We have booked appointments on line. After that we head for supper. Rudy has located a seafood joint and punched it into the Google Maps. Unfortunately he deleted that stop and when we arrive at our destination we find no Seafood Place. After driving around the block I mention that this place seems familiar. Ah ha. Yes.  We are at our hotel. What idiots. We are nowhere close to the eating place we wanted to be. We park the van in the hotel parking lot and cross the street to a Mexican place. Delicious. I have the Shrimp with Garlic plate and Rudy has a Shrimp Chimichanga plate. So there. We have seafood. Not Cajun style, but seafood nonetheless. We head back to our hotel for the rest of the evening, watch some John Oliver political commentary, some sort of Ancestory show and now a bit of baseball. Through it all I work on blog stuff. Whew. I am done. All caught up.


New Orleans!

I have always dreamed of coming here. Of all the places in the United States this place has so much rich history. It is formative in the birth of blues music, was central to much of the slave trade, surrounded by cotton plantations, defied prohibition, and has Spanish and French roots. And so we are here.

We wake up and have the lovely experience of cooking breakfast for ourselves. It has certainly been awhile since this happened and is a pleasure to do. We have a kitchen in our airbnb and we shopped for groceries at Rousse’s market just down the street last night so we are all set.  I fry eggs, pan fry mushrooms and yellow peppers, and make toast. Rudy brews some coffee and I make a delicious Earl Grey tea (the first of the trip) with milk and honey. It is just the way I like it.  We sit on the front porch in the sun and enjoy our food.

Then it is off on our adventure. But first we need to do our good deed for the day. Yesterday, on a walk in the neighbourhood I found a lanyard with keys and ID card for a grade 6 kid at a local school. We located the school and made the 20 minute walk there. At the door we had to buzz in through the metal covered doors and speak to the security guard on the intercom. He let me in and gladly received the keys and let me know he would make sure that they got to the young man. Wow. That was a first time experience with the security at an American school. Certainly a chilling reminder about gun violence.

After this we grab the bus and proceed downtown. Rudy has researched how the bus passes work and buys them  from the driver. Our passes are for unlimited travel for a 24 hour period are cheap. Mine is 3 dollars for the day. Rudy’s, due to his advanced age, is only 80 cents. He also gets to sit at the front of the bus due to being “a persona de edad avanzado”. I make sure that he is able to negotiate his walker to the elderly persons seating area and we head to the French Quarter. In some ways like a different version of Nashville. It has tacky souvenir shops with Mardi Gras masks and beads, restaurants with local cuisine,and  bars with stages for bands to play on. It is fairly quiet during the day but we do see some street musicians. For lunch we share on variety plate (or bowls in this case) of gumbo (chicken and andouille sausage, duck and andouille sausage and shrimp and andouille sausage).  We dump in Louisiana hot sauce and enjoy. By midafternoon Rudy is ready to go back to the airbnb for a break. I have a craving to wander a bit more myself. I stop at a coffee shop and order some beignets. They are a French donut drowning in icing sugar. I deem them okay. I sit for a while and just enjoy the people walking by. It is nice to be alone as I don’t have to think about whether a chosen activity is good for Rudy as well. With this in mind I decide to pop into some shops. The souvenir shops are just what I expect and do nothing for me so I look for something different. A place named Trashy Diva catches my eye. It is a modern vintage place where the designer has clothes in a wide range of sizes based on styles from the 1800s to 1960. This is not the usual beige linen wear that is the norm in most  touristy places. The fabrics are wild and colourful and rich, many of the natural fabrics or blends. The drop and flow of the fabric is fabulous. I imagine that if I was rich enough that I would buy some of these outfits for myself and the woman I love. I can sink into this imaginary world and don’t have to worry about Rudy standing somewhat patiently outside the entrance wondering whether I am purchasing anything and why it is taken so long. On reappearing outside he might ask where my purchase is. If Rudy wants something he buys it and doesn’t dilly dally. But buying  is not the purpose of these in-store visits. It is a trip into a land of colours and textures and patterns. It’s a journey into the imagination. So no, I didn’t actually purchase anything with money. But yah, I bought something. I bought an experience, an excursion into possibilities and worlds and experiences. This priceless experience didn’t cost a thing.

I catch the bus back by myself and relax for an hour or so before Rudy and I head out for an evening on the town. We catch a bus on a different route only a block from our place. What a win. Even in this short time we are getting our bearings.

The French Quarter is hopping. We end up on Bourbon Street and it is crazy. Even though it is Monday night, loads of streets are blocked off to traffic and people stream down the streets from bar to eating place. Music is blaring out of many of the places. It is louder and grittier than Nashville. Jazz and Rock are blaring onto the street. We stop at a place that offers food and I get a shrimp Poboy (sandwich) and Rudy gets some Jambalaya. While we sit, the band (2 old guys), strike up a tune. One gentleman plays trumpet and does vocals and the other one is on the keyboard. It is lovely in so many ways. They may have a playlist but it seems that one song just melts into the next. The singer starts into a song (maybe just some woo hahs) and within a few bars the pianist joins in. How does the pianist know which key the song is in and even which song it is? But they improvise and slide on into what they are doing. A few lines of singing and then the vocalist grabs his trumpet and it starts to sing. This music probably isn’t anything I would choose from my music library but, because it is live, I totally enjoy it.

We walk the length of the street stopping at the doorways of various bars listening to the music. One place is a piano bar and we enjoy a number of familiar tunes like Benny and the Jets and I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues. Although the music was great, it was a bit of a juggling act. A young handsome man who was probably hired to bring people into the venue gyrated in and out of the venue, making advances into the crowd. I keep myself small and try to avoid his attention. I imagine Rudy is feeling much like me as he has shuffled off to the side away from the doorway. I half hope that Rudy will be singled out so I can see him get down and boogie. Luckily some other old people (and young ones as well) are targeted and we just get to enjoy the tunes. The next bar we stop at has a 5 piece band. It is energetic and I love it and so we get get our ID checked and go in. They are playing loads of great familiar stuff and lots of people are dancing and singing on the floor in front of the band. A so enjoy a number of the band members but soon we decide we should catch our bus back to our place. It’s a short ride home and it feels so easy. We arrive home satisfied with all the days activities.


The Confederacy Celebration!!

In the morning after breakfast I immediately head to the beach to collect a bottle of sand. I have been collecting leaves, cotton bolls, a nest, acorns and other bits and pieces. Some of these I throw out after a few days, but others I pack in a little box in the back of the van. Collecting is so satisfying. There is something about examining things that are unfamiliar.

Speaking of examining the unfamiliar, we are given the opportunity to do this just a few miles down the road. We have just started driving when I recognize a sign for a place that I read about yesterday. Beauvoir is a historical house that was the home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States. (Yes we are talking about the head of the South before and during the Civil War.) On a whim I tell Rudy to pull in. Men, waving confederate flags, direct us into the parking lot. What is this? What kind of event happening? We learn that The Sons of Confederate Soldiers are having a reenactment day. We are uncomfortable with all the flags and men with leather vests and confederate insignia but we get out and proceed to the museum building to see what it is all about. I have read some reviews of this place and many of them are glowing. One says about how you need an open mind to find out some of the true history of the Confederacy Movement. So here we are. We wander to the part of the grounds where the enactment will take place. There are lots of people in costumes, and loads of army tents and cannons and other paraphernalia.

We end up at the grave to an unknown Confederate soldier and watch a reenactment paying tribute to Confederate Soldiers and their families. It is very telling that no black people are in the crowd or represented in the group of actors even though it is a fact of history that there were black Confederate soldiers. It is hard to be disrespectful of  of a 16 year old (the Unknown soldier whose bones were found on one of the Civil War battlegrounds just a few short years ago) who died for his belief in his state and its stand for states rights. But the whole bigger picture makes me uncomfortable  sitting here and seemingly siding with slavery. It only gets more confusing as we continue on with our visit here.

Next we go to tour Beauvoir which is the home of Jefferson Davies after the Civil War. Beauvoir looks out onto the Gulf Coast and was originally built for a plantation owner. It is magnificent (built with help from slaves). Again the confederate flags on the front of the mansion to celebrate the day are disconcerting.

We learn about how Jefferson Davies was a great soldier and superior statesman and how he worked tirelessly for his country (first the United States and then after secession for the Confederate States). We also learn how he was never really for secession and felt very uneasy about the breakaway. It minimizes the issue of slavery stating that the discussions in government were dressed up to be about slavery but that was not the actual issue.  Jefferson himself owner 116 slaves and was not opposed to slavery. As he said in 1860 in the Senate, “(Slavery was) a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves.” All this information I had to look up on the internet as none of it was stated at the Museum complex. Instead the narrative here at Beauvoir is that the Civil War was about State’s rights.

Even though it is interesting to be reminded about the differences and some of the issues between the North and the South pre and during the Civil War, I feel very uncomfortable about the number of Confederate flags and the lack of narrative about the issue of slavery. The question that kept coming back to me was how these Sons and Daughters of Confederate Soldiers feel now about so many issues surrounding the history and present issues involving Black Americans

Anyway, we pack up and head to New Orleans after we have a sandwich beside our car.. Once in NOLA, we check into our Airbnb and have a relaxing evening around the place. It is nice to be settled somewhere for a couple of days.




The Gulf Coast

Funny how a new day can change the whole way I view our adventure. Last night I was all down in the dumps and this morning it all seems brighter. We hop into the van and head to the McDonald’s by our hotel. Rudy and I grab a coffee each, Rudy’s hot and black and mine iced with a shot of milk. It jump starts the both of us and we head south having a great conversation about everything from soup to nuts. The landscape is changing. Gone are the mountains and beautiful fall colours of Virginia, Carolina, and Tennessee. The trees no longer crowd the roadways and everything becomes flatter and greener, and the sky bigger. It almost feels like I can smell the salty ocean air.

One thing that remains the same throughout this country is the frequency of Dollar General stores along the road. But here, it seems, the baptist churches begin to outnumber the Dollar General stores. We make a game of pointing out both the churches and the dollar stores.  What is the ratio between the two, we wonder. The plethora of Dollar Generals seems to indicate the economic decay of America and the large expensive churches  indicates otherwise.

One thing that is different here in the south and that is the temperature. The high in Tupelo today is 30 degrees celsius and it is going to be 26 in Biloxi. We’ve packed away our down vest, jeans, and sweaters and dressed in shorts and summer shirts. As we drive into town we see mansions with pillars and large curving stairs up to second floor verandahs.  The houses are various shades of  pink, peach, minty green, and light turquoise. Our highway takes us straight to the ocean and we turn right along the coast until we hit the Star Inn. It is perfect. The perfect 50s motor motel. Love it. It is right across the road from miles and miles of white sand beach.

I throw my stuff in the hotel room and immediately head to the beach. The beach is mostly empty except for random families, kids catching crabs and digging in the sand and occasional couple. The water is incredibly shallow. I can walk way out on sand bars and only are ankle deep at most. The sand is the colour of maple fudge and it is so soft. There is no variation in the size of the grains of sand. It is so fine. I have never seen anything like it. There is also a board walk that seems to run for a mile or more. I pass beach bars where people are having beers and snacks while their children dig in the sand at their feet. After some time I head back to the hotel to get Rudy and we head out for happy hour. It is after 5 and according to our phones the sun will set at 6:18. We find a beach bar and get a table on the balcony right beside the railing looking out to the gulf. It is glorious. We sit and visit and wait for sunset. Then we walk along the boardwalk in the dark under the street lamps. What a magical surprise this visit to Biloxi and the beach is…no casinos, no busy interstate highways and truck stops, no McDonalds….just the water and the sand and the sky.

Kinda Feel Like a Touring Band

We went to bed late last night after the concert so we slept in until 8 am and woke to the sound of hammers tapping and construction workers calling out to each other, mostly in Spanish. It reminds me of our time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico last winter where we were wakened each morning to the sound of work at the construction site immediately beside our airbnb.

Anyway, we quickly get ready and get out on the road. We are heading south towards the Gulf and stopping in Tupelo, Mississippi tonight. We have to get through the centre of Nashville in order to catch the highway south. We want to travel on the Natchez Trace Parkway at least part of the way but Goggle wants to direct us otherwise. Rudy puts me in charge of navigating, using Google as a backup. The long and short of it is that Google and I fail miserably. There are a lot of u-turns, wrong turns, and missed turns. When we finally get ourselves back on track in Franklin, Rudy is thoroughly exasperated. Not only has he missed the opportunity for a breakfast sandwich, he has not had his morning coffee. Franklin looks like an incredible Civil War Era historical town and I would love to wander around and experience the beautiful buildings and stories associated with them. There are log homes still inhabited, front verandahs galore, and other old frame and stone houses. It all reeks of Southern gentility. But the driver is  not in the mood for a stop so we press on.

The new mansions south of of Nashville is just what you would expect from watching TV. Huge multi-storied with large columns in front, huge verandahs, swimming pools, etc. etc. As we continue along the curving roads there are miles and miles of  rail paddock fences, beautiful horses, estates, and mega churches. There is a lot of money here. Eventually these places give way to more modest houses and even some trailer parks. We eventually hit the Natchez Trace Parkway and the driving is slower and there are no houses along the road. After a time on this Parkway we head across country along a busier road. I get the great idea that we should visit the childhood home of Helen Keller. Rudy is not as excited. But I remember the story written about her with great fondness so I insist on it. It takes a lot of winding down roads and streets in Muscle Shoals, Mississippi. Muscle Shoals has seen better days. This is an understatement. There are so many abandoned malls, gas stations with rusty pumps, and parking lots covered with weeds and dead grass and other signs of decay. We finally make it to Ivy Green, the childhood home of Helen Keller. There are magnificent massive trees (Magnolia) and a huge grounds. We wander around. It is super weird. I guess the Lions Club had become of huge supporter of Helen Keller and blind initiatives  when she spoke to a club as a young woman. The result is a garden filled with curling rocks from the Scottish chapter and Maori sculptures from New Zealand. An it went on an on through the gardens surrounding the home. It is a mishmash of so much junk and we leave feeling like it may have been a waste of time.

Oh well, off we go to Tupelo and the birthplace of Elvis. we get there and find the museum closes in 20 minutes so we don’t get to see the inside of his house or the church he went to. What a bust. Both Helen and Elvis did not deliver and so we head to our hotel.

Some days it feels like we are a touring band. We just see the inside of the hotel rooms and the road between them. Unlike bands however, we don’t have the fun of doing a big show for anyone. One day melts into another and I can hardly remember which hotel we stayed in and when. The roads stretch out before us each morning and we need to head on to the next stop down the road. Some days this is exhilarating and somedays tedious. Today as we sit in our hotel room, the TV blaring depressing news from the Gaza Strip and Israel or the ridiculous news about the clown show in the US government as they try to vote in a speaker for the house,  I am tired and depressed and wonder if  this road trip is too long. I know I probably won’t feel like this in the morning. At least I hope I won’t.

Nashville Day 3

We have decided to stay one more day in Nashville. We have had the good fortune to snag some tickets for the Jason Isabel concert at the Ryman Auditorium, known as the Mother Church of Country Music, and will see him and his band at 8 pm tonight. Not only is it a great concert but also a super fabulous venue. It served as the Grand Ole Opry for 31 years until 1974. It will be something to be at this place that has heard so many music greats.

We have to relocate ourselves to a different hotel. Rudy has spent a load of time figuring out the bus system and getting us bus tokens so that we can bus to and from the concert. So I am spending some time this morning trying to catch up on my blogging. I have let it slide because I have been deep in a book (The Constructed Mennonite by Hans Werner). It has been riveting both because of the story of the author’s father’s experiences in Stalinist Russia and World War 2 but also the reflection of how people construct memories and stories and the narrative that they want to project. It was really good. Now I have cut myself off from any reading until I catch up on this blog.

After we check out from our motel we go on a grocery run. We will get back to making lunches once we are on the road again tomorrow.  We stop at Kroger’s for fruit, veggies, and sandwich fixings. We also do a run around town to find some specific beers. A Tennessee brewery (Yazoo) makes a smokey dark beer called a Sue. Rudy discovered this on a sibling cycling trip a couple of years ago and we thought it was time to toast Sue again. After multiple stops we are able to find these beers at a place called Frugal McDoogals.

After this it is lunch time so we stop for some Nashville hot chicken and gumbo and then head off to sign into our new hotel for the night. Apple Annie’s Inn is a pleasant surprise. Everything is clean. However, some things are missing. We have washcloths and bath towels but are missing the hand towels. No coffee or shampoo, although they do provide a coffee machine and a shower. 🙂 Well you can’t win them all.

We organize ourselves and head to the bus stop. We can’t locate a stop where it says it should be and I start to hoof it on down the street to find the next stop. Rudy is sure this is stupid and that the bus will just stop here when he waves it down. I am not so sure. I know that technique works in Central and South America but it has never worked for me in Winnipeg. Even though a person is madly rushing for the bus stop, the driver may or may not pull over, but never just at a random place. The bus driver only stops at designated stops and this does not appear to be one of those.  Rudy is convinced that it will happen although I am left with a bad feeling that his assumption will not hold.

Do you not trust me? I will jump out in front of the bus and it will happen.

Well, it doesn’t happen. The bus rushes past us and we chase it down the road. There is no way we can catch it. We keep going and make it to the next bus stop, check our app, and realize that we can wait another 10ish minutes for the next bus and will still make it downtown for the concert.

After a quick Banh Mi that we share at the biggest food court I have ever seen (3 stories with everything from sushi, to pho, to burgers) we head to the Ryman. It is a beautiful old building originally built as a church venue. Our seats are on curved church benches and we are 6 rows from the stage. The stage is chock full of equipment. The opening act is someone we know nothing about. We have checked him out on the internet and based solely on his looks, we have determined that his music will not be something we will like. Surprisingly he turns out to be good. In fact Rudy comments that he is not as weird as he expected  and his songs fit loosely in with the country genre. He has a band of 9 others so there is a lot happening on stage. A couple of songs in, Jason Isabel joins him on stage to sing a co written song. The crowd is totally into this act and I think perhaps that he is well known to the concert goers.


And then Jason Isabel and the 400 Unit hit the stage. Jason starts out strong, singing solo, and the band joins  a few lines in. He is fantastic. He announces the band is doing the whole album Southeastern, celebrating the 10th anniversary of its release.  This explains the ceiling banner that is hung on stage complete with lights to augment it.  Southeast was a very formative album and they are going to play it start to finish. I am elated. I know this album very well and although I don’t sing along like most of the people beside me, I sure could for a lot of it. Speaking of people beside us, there are many who are worth mentioning. Ms. Leopard Print beside me is antsy. She is so excited to be her at the concert that she practically misses the whole thing. She is on her phone much of the time texting to those not there or maybe in other parts of the theatre. Mr. Grey Hair, sitting directly in front of us, with an adoring wife attached to his arm, has brought his sons to the concert to share his love of Jason Isbell. He is very active, leaning over and constantly talking to the boys. Two of them seem quite interested but the youngest (about 17 years old) is either not well or simply bored. He leans with his head on the back of the bench in front of him most of the concert. Has he vomited?  Maybe.  His dad hops around, sometimes sitting on the back of the church pew, much to the dismay of the lovely 4 foot nothing woman behind him. He is gregarious and apologizes profusely. Ms. Leopard Print tends to the sick? son. She waves a paper fan over him and an unpleasant smell wafts my way. It is a combination of old sweat, bad perfume, and something else. Vomit? Bad Gas? Not Sure. But don’t let this information suggest to you that we are not completely enjoying ourselves.  We are all enjoying ourselves, this whole great swaying mass of human weirdness is taking in this glorious concert.

All the musicians are fantastic. I especially like the guy who plays accordion, hammond B3 organ, keyboard, meletron, etc. His energy (and his good looks) are riveting. As soon as Jason and his band walk on stage the whole audience stands and stays that way for the rest of the concert. I know it is the cool thing that everyone does at concerts but seriously we could be just as excited and full of energy and actually exit the concert without sore backs from straining to see and aching feet from standing too long in our ill-fitting orthotics if we remained seated.

After a break for the band and some adjustment to the sound equipment on stage, the musicians are back for more. These songs are newer and some from his newest album. The show goes until 11:30 and we have to hustle to make it to the 11:45 bus, about an 11 walk away. The bus trip home is smooth. Well almost. When the driver takes off Rudy lands on my lap and any worries I have about sore back or feet is immediately forgotten. Rudy has a sore throat and can’t hear. I guess all the loud music have temporarily deafened him and his wild screaming and singing along wrecked havoc with his throat. (You know Rudy. He is quite the wild concert goer 😉 All that is to say is that the concert, music and weird people combined, were a complete and total success.

Nashville Day 2

No breakfast in the hotel this morning. Rudy makes some watery coffee and deems it somewhat acceptable. I am craving a real delicious cup of tea so we cross the parking lot and head to the Starbucks where I order a chai tea latte. Delicious. We head out for a walk and end up in an area called Salemtown. As per usual I am super interested in the architecture. There are old small houses here but also newer duplexes that incorporate a lot of the old style of old buildings. for example, front verandahs feature prominently and this seems to be a feature that has remained important throughout the years in this neck of the woods.

After our walk we grab the shuttle down to Broadway and take a walk over the river.

After walking on the Broadway strip and having breakfast at a pancake breakfast place we head back to the hotel and almost get sucked into an evening of lying around.

Finally we manage to rouse ourselves and head back downtown for supper (some bbq), beers and more music. The shine has worn off a little and we don’t find any great music that we can sink our teeth into. We finally stop in at a VERY LOUD and busy bar. The young woman fronting the band is working hard to keep the crowd in front of her dancing and having a good time. Rudy orders a couple of beers and we sit at a small table near the front and watch the old and the young shake their booties. The beer is good, but we are tired and when they’re empty we head back to the shuttle drop-off point. There are already a few other couples waiting at the curb. The shuttle is late; very late. By time it finally arrives there are at least a dozen people trying to cram into the 8 van seats in the van.

When we get back to the hotel we don’t wait long to call it a night. Rudy turns on the tv and shortly after Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue he is fast asleep.