Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Happy Endings

Well, it's all over. Jon and I have been back in LA for almost a week and, after a little bit of sleep, a lot of vegetables, and some exercise--we're starting to officially recover from the Country Fried Road Trip!

Thanks for coming along with us and sharing our little adventure. Some things we learned along the way:

1. Segways are totally awesome, but they kind of make your feet hurt. That said, I need one.

2. Elvis is Everywhere.

3. Shenandoah Caverns, home of the world's most frightening exhibit, is actually pretty cool. We got this comment after mocking the shit out of them for days on end:

(no wonder you guys are unemployed!) I am the Dir. of Marketing for Shenandoah Caverns and I was reading your Blog yesterday on my crackberry (google alerts) at the eye doctor sitting among perfect strangers in the waiting room LMAO, like out loud! You guys are hilarious. They didn't even have to dilate my pupils. Thanks for having so much fun at our Family of Attractions

Do I believe he's the marketing director? Yes. Do I believe he's also one of the parade floats? Absolutely. Probably this one:

Thank you for enjoying our blog, Director of Marketing Guy. Also: Please don't eat us. Thanks.

That's about all I've got. I'll leave you with a little slide show--set appropriately to an Elvis tune-- that will take you on the Country Fried Road Trip one final time. Please enjoy!

We'll see you next year!!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Here's the thing about the final few days on the Country Fried Road Trip...the best part was the food. Jeff and I sampled some of the best Southern Cookin' Tennessee had to offer and we lived to tell the tale.

Granted, we didn't really get much in the way of leafy green vegetables, so we might get scurvy. And yes, they love their salt in the south, so we might get adema. But we didn't care. The food was so delicious, so scrumptious, and so mouth-wateringly flavorful that we threw caution to the wind and just ate our faces off for days on end. In fact, I'm blaming our near-constant food coma as to the reason why our blogging slowed down over the past few days.

The morning after Dollywood, Jeff and I traveled across the highway to "Breakfast House," which beckoned us with the promise of 45 types of breakfast.

With all of the choices laid out before us (the menu actually offered OVER 45 types of Breakfast), I got overwhelmed and ended up trying the Buckwheat pancakes and Jeff ordered the Peanut Butter pancakes. 

As it turns out, the peanut butter was not IN the was ON TOP of the pancakes. In chip form.

It was all very nice, but we were slightly underwhelmed by the 45 types of breakfast.  It turns out that just because you offer 45 types of breakfast...doesn't mean any of them are anything to blog home about.

The Breakfast House meal also marked the beginning of our struggles to find a good cup of coffee in Tennessee.  Our waitress was lovely and brought us over a whole thermos full of coffee to enjoy during our meal.  But it was coffee that tasted like burning, so we barely could finish a cup.

Later that day, on the way to the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis, we stopped off in Nashville for a delicious dinner at Sylvan Park.

Sylvan Park is what the good people of the south call a "Meat and Three." This means that you order a meat of your choice and then you get to choose three sides (typically vegetable based).

Since this is the "Country Fried Road Trip," I had to get the Country Fried Steak as my "meat."  For my "three," I chose Stewed Tomatoes, "freshly baked" Squash, and Green Beans.

The country fried steak tasted like a flattened burger smothered in brown gravy.  The stewed tomatoes were exceptionally sweet and featured bread crumbs for no discernible reason.  The green beans appeared to be soaked in meat juice of some kind.  But the squash was the best pudding I've ever tasted.  Creamy, sweet, and juicy.  I couldn't get enough.  I wanted to lick my plate clean, but I restrained myself since I was around "real people."

Jeff went for the meat loaf smothered in sauce, creamy potato salad, mac-n-cheese, and an iceberg lettuce salad.

Jeff shoveled all of his food into his pie hole too, but left enough room to have something that Sylvan Park was truly famous for: their Chess Pie.

Chess Pie is a southern tradition that neither Jeff nor I had ever heard of before this trip.  The filling consists of egg, butter, vanilla, sugar, and corn meal.  The pie is exceptionally sweet and tastes like a moist corn bread custard.  I did a little digging to find out why Chess Pie is called Chess Pie and found that there is quite an argument over its origins.  The "Chess" in the Chess Pie has nothing to do with the game of Chess.  Some people claim it's some derivation of an English Cheese Tart...except there is no CHEESE in Chess Pie.  Others claim it was named after Chester, England.  But my favorite story behind Chess Pie goes something like this...a man asked his cook what he was baking and the chef goes "Oh not much, it's jus' pie."  Since it happened in the south, the "jus" sounded like "chess" and so Chess Pie was born.

The Chess Pie at Sylvan Park was indeed full of deliciousness, but it was SO sweet we could barely finish it.  It tastes like pie form.

The next day, during our time spent at Graceland, Jeff and I stopped into one of Graceland's many faux-retro-eateries to try out Elvis' favorite sandwich: the grilled Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich.

Since we wanted to have a proper southern lunch a little later, we split one sandwich.

And polished it off in the span of a minute.

An hour later (after seeing Elvis' plane and his "private" life), we were starving once we set out to find a delicious Southern BBQ joint in Memphis.  Luckily, the security guard at the Heartbreak Hotel suggested that we go to "Rendezvous" in downtown Memphis for our midday meal.

Rendezvous was located in an alley in the midst of Memphis.  There were interlopers lurking in about, so we almost didn't make it there...but driven by the smell of charcoal and pork fat, we faced certain danger and forged our way to the local eatery.

As it turned out, Rendezvous isn't technically open for lunch.  But the man who greeted us by the front door said that if we wanted ribs, we could come in a sit down.  We did indeed want ribs, so we sat.  In the process of ordering drinks, the man from the front asked us if we wanted a "small" or a "full."  He even showed us the difference between the small and the full by using our napkins.  Since we were both thirsty, Jeff and I ordered a full.

Well, apparently the man from the front was referring to our rib order NOT our drink order, because moments later...out came two giant FULL baskets of ribs.

I took one look at the giant plate of ribs and told Jeff, "Oh.  Whatever we don't eat we can save for a late night eat."  And so, we dug right in and began chewing away.

The ribs at Redezvous are not drenched in sauce.  Instead, they are rubbed in spices and cooked on a real charcoal grill.  Below the ribs was a pool of tangy liquid (either meat juice or vinegar or some combination of the two).  It didn't matter what that juice was, because it made the already extraordinarily scrumptious ribs taste even better.

It was a good thing that the man from the front confused us with the size of our order, because Jeff and I both ended up eating the full order of ribs.  There were no leftovers for a "late night eat."  As we wiped our mouths clean with Rendezvous branded 'Wet Wipes,' Jeff declared "This is the best meal of the trip."  I couldn't have agreed more.

Drunk on rib juice, Jeff and I eventually maneuvered our fat asses out of Memphis and back to Nashville.  

By the time we were ready to eat dinner, everything seemed to be we ended up going down to the touristy area of Nashville (Broadway Street).

Jeff and I stumbled into a joint called "Jack's BBQ," where the man behind the meat counter started doing bits about how they were out of every meat.  Jeff did a bit right back at the guy, pretended to be all disappointed about the lack of meat.  I'm sure it was all veryfunny.

The BBQ brisket could have been more than passable, but we were still so in love with our Rendezvous ribs that we could barely focus on anything else.

The next morning (after our night out on the town in Nashville), Jeff and I woke up on our final day of the trip and decided that we needed pancakes at "A Nashville Tradition."  The tradition that is "Pancake Pantry." 

Despite a line that spilled out onto the sidewalk, Jeff and I were seated within 15 minutes of our arrival.  

We were served by an adorable older waitress who referred to us as "babies" the entire meal.

I ordered the Pancake Pantry's famous Sweet Potato Pancakes, grits, and sugar cured Southern Ham...while Jeff went with the Sugar & Spice Pancakes along with a side of Home Fries.

I have run out of words to describe the morning meal we scarfed down.  Needless to say, it was filled with devine delectable decadence.  (But the coffee was still terrible)

Post Pancake Pantry, Jeff and I thought we were done with food for the day.  But then inside the Nashville Airport, we found ourselves standing in front of another Nashville tradition: "Swett's"  

"Swett's" is a popular chain of Southern Cookin' restaurants in Nashville (and was even one of the closed places that we tried to eat at the night before).

Despite our location, we able to enjoy a meal that didn't involve fries at McDonald's.

I sampled the Mac-N-Cheese, Corn, and Baked Beans...while Jeff had a BBQ pork sandwich he described as "actually very good."  

With our bellies about to burst, Jeff and I boarded the plane back to Los Angeles. We couldn't felt more "country fried" if we had been dipped in batter, deep fried in animal fat, and served with a slice of Chess Pie.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nashville: The Athens of the South. (But not the one in Georgia.)

Jon and I arrived in Nashville on Wednesday night, and I don't mind telling you that we were both pretty much crawling to the finish line. But, we were determined to rally for our final night on the Country Fried Road Trip! And so, after dinner downtown, we walked a few blocks from our hotel to the Nashville Gayborhood. We weren’t really sure what to expect. As Jon pointed out, when you’re in LA or NY or Chicago, there are just people everywhere all the time. But even when we were in the “downtown” part of Nashville for dinner, we didn’t see a whole lot of folks. In fact, at 8PM, a few of the places we had called for dinner were either already closed for the night, or were preparing to. So the city was pretty much... quiet, and we were scared of another Santa Fe incident.

However, we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at a place called Tribe. It was bigger than I thought, and not at all sad like I had expected--and there were a good number of people in there for a Wednesday night. Of course, it was Drag Queen Night...

...and there was a toilet in the middle of the floor (for a contest, thank God). By now, I think you know my policy on Drag Queens and potties, so you won't be surprised to learn that we had a drink and decided to explore the rest of the small strip of 'mo bars. First, we checked out "Blue Genes." Of course, the moment we heard the screeching sounds of karaoke pouring out of the place, we immediately turned around and ran away. The only other place on the strip was charging a cover, and so we went back to Tribe (which was now Drag-Queen less) and ordered up another round with our new bartender, Chad--who was kind enough to take this photo:

Although he was no Jesse, this kid was pretty much a mess. He was young--maybe 21--and he's one of those guys that is constantly looking around the room and, once he catches someone looking in his direction, immediately begins dancing and humping the air as if to say, "HEY! Look at me!!! LOVE ME!!!" Since he's a bartender, these antics seem like they might get exhausting. As Jon said, "Mommy and Daddy didn't pay enough attention to someone."

He seemed genuinely nice, if not misguided, and we wanted to show you a photo of him. However, we were afraid that if we asked for a picture, he'd take his clothes off and start humping everything. And so, using the methods Jon and I learned while at the Spy Museum in DC a mere five days prior (even though it seemed more like five months ago), we managed to snap a few good ones:

Like I said... we were pretty loopy by this point and when Jon asked what time I thought it was, I said "Midnight-ish." Turns out, it was only 10:40PM. Between driving for five days straight, doing about three days' worth of activities each day, and Chad dancing up a storm around us, we decided that it was maybe time to call it a night. We wanted to explore daytime Nashville before hopping our flight back to LA, and so as we were finishing our drinks, I asked Chad if there was anything we simply MUST see during our remaining few hours in Nashville. Something fun, something weird... something all people must do in Nashville that isn't Opry-related.

He thought about it for a while--a long while--and eventually decided that we should go and see the downtown area (where we had just come from) and maybe do some karaoke. Is this really the best Nashville has to offer, Chad?

The next day, Jon and I discovered that Chad neglected to mention THE GIGANTIC REPLICA OF THE PARTHENON located about two miles from the bar.
Really, Chad? Really?

Anyway, we explored the exterior of the Parthenon...

.. but couldn't seem find our way inside--Which is weird, cuz it had a few sets of 24 foot tall, 7 foot wide doors:

As we were wandering around, a crazy woman started screaming at us about ice cream. Jon was on the phone with Anonymous Ra and tried to tell her that we didn't want her ice cream, because we had just eaten 11 pounds of pancakes (Mine tasted like Christmas!)

But she was undeterred, and began to shout: "Maybe you didn't hear me. I SAID FREE ICE CREAM!"

Terrified, we walked over and discovered she's part of the wacky morning show on Nashville's Mix 92.9!

Clint, Anna, Kim!

As we chatted with our main harasser (Kim) about our vacation and LA, she told us that she's very good friends with Bean of KROQ--an awesome LA radio station (with Bean being half of their morning show.) Within moments, Kim revealed that they were actually exes. As it turns out, people in the South like to tell you deeply personal things five seconds after you meet them.

They were also kind enough to tell us where the entrance to the Parthenon was, while giving us lots of delicious ice cream that we did not want. So when we posed for this photo...

...I used the distraction as an opportunity to put mine down (Thanks again, Spy Museum!) but Jon was still carrying his...

... even as we approached the museum entrance. He was going to chuck it, but Kim was suddenly also at the museum entrance, glaring at him. Jon again tried to tell her that we had just eaten our faces off and she reluctantly took the ice cream back before frowning and walking off.

Awww, we're sorry, crazy radio lady!

Anyway, inside of the structure, we learned that this is the only full-scale replica of The Parthenon in the entire world. It was constructed for Tennessee's Centennial celebration in 1897, because Nashville is known as the "Athens of The South," due to the high number of universities there. I'm not sure how Athens, Georgia feels about this title, but I guess it's hard to argue with a 42 foot tall statue of Athena:

The beauty of this ancient Greek structure combined with the convenience of being right in the middle of America is really just...

... astonishing.

Overall, the I found the exhibits to be a lot friendlier than the ones we saw in Virginia...

...although Jon may not agree:
There are many busts that were recreated using castings of the originals in Greece...

...and as with all great art, you can kind of see at least a little part of yourself in it...


Even Greek Gods couldn't escape the horrors of Diabetes.

After leaving the Parthenon, Jon and I made our way around Nashville's Centennial Park...

... took in some more sights...


...and after making one final stop to a gay bar we didn't have time for on Wednesday evening, despite it having the best name ever...

...we sadly made our way to the Nashville airport...

...dropped off the car after 1309 miles...

...caused some trouble inside the airport...

...and headed back to Los Angeles...

...which is currently on fire.

Jon has one final post coming, and I am putting together a little video recounting our Country Fried Road Trip--so stay tuned! There is (somehow) more to come!