Sunday, August 2, 2009

Voodoo Rue’s PA-cation: Part 1

Though I love New Orleans, every now and then it’s nice to get away…from the crime, from the heat, from how easy it is to start off every morning with a drink, if one chooses. While I’m overdue for a real vacation (like say…to Paris), I did manage yet another road trip home in early July. The reason…my 20-year high school reunion.

It would have been much easier to fly, but I love driving. I especially love driving in the summer, when, unlike my trip home for Christmas, I know I’m not going to hit a major snowstorm on the way up north.

My co-pilot for this trip was Miss Pat, another New Orleans resident and PA native who happened to want to go home for a visit as well. While the drive is usually about 19 hours in total, we decided to break it up into a couple days and see a few sights along the way.

Fist stop, the Dickel Distillery in Cascade Hollow, Tennessee. While not quite as well-known as Jack Daniels, this distiller of Tennessee whisky has nonetheless been around since 1870. I’m not a whisky drinker myself, but I have to admit the tour was fascinating. Also interesting is that most of these counties in Tennessee where such famous liquors are created are dry counties. So while one might buy a bottle as a souvenir or gift, there are no tastings. Sucks for you whisky drinkers.

We soon hit the highway for our next destination, Nashville, where we checked into the Renaissance Hotel, napped, and prepared for a night out. After dinner at some restaurant whose food was clearly not memorable enough for me to remember the name, we strolled along Broadway and some of the side streets, stopping occasionally at random bars. This part of Nashville is fun and busy, yet somehow still quaint. Eventually we landed at Wanna B’s, a karaoke bar on Broadway. I don’t think we intended to stay until damn near 3 a.m., but we were having a good time, doing shots and enjoying the singers. While karaoke bars have the potential to be uber-cheesy and horrible, we were impressed with some of the talent we heard in this one. This is Nashville, after all, home of many aspiring country music singers. My personal favorite was the guy who sang “Come Sail Away”…as Cartman. A brilliant tribute to South Park.

We stumbled back to the hotel quite late, past the darkened back entrance of the Ryman Auditorium. Our hotel had beautiful glass elevators that looked out over the city on the way up to our 20-something-floor room. That’s just bad news for any hotel when an unstoppable mooner like me is about. Hope you enjoyed the pasty white full moon that night, Nashville.

Day two: Onward to Roanoke, Virginia, where my good friend Jen Bath has been living for a few years now. We arrived in the evening, tired and hungry. Jen drove us around downtown Roanoke, which definitely has its lovely spots, before taking us to dinner at Macado’s, a nice little pub with an impressive sandwich menu. The food was good, the weather beautiful, the service nice (our server even gave Pat and I free shot glasses in honor of our first visit there).

Afterward, Jen drove us up to see the Roanoke Star, also known as the Mill Mountain Star. According to Wikipedia, it’s the “world's largest freestanding illuminated man-made star,” clocking in at 88.5 feet tall. The star can be seen from all over Roanoke, including from Jen’s front yard. The top of the mountain near the star also boasts a lovely scenic overlook from which you can see all of Roanoke lit up in the dark.

Exhausted after our long day, we went back to Jen’s to retire for the night and get ready for the next leg of the trip…home to PA. In the morning, we avoided the highways by going through some of the more rural parts of PA, like Lancaster and Gettysburg. We arrived near Philly near late afternoon, and once Miss Pat was settled in at her folks’ home, I hit the PA turnpike north. I expected heavy traffic and delays, but while there was construction and heavy traffic, it moved at an impressive clip for most of the way. I pulled into my mother’s driveway just before dark.

It’s good to be home.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Voodoo Rue's PA-cation.

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