May 1 – June 10
Up early Monday morning we loaded the cars and hit the road for Nashville, our first stop of the trip, after bidding farewell to Ann and Rendy and of course, Joanna who I would see in about a week. We’d planned out the adventure so that no day of driving would exceed ten hours, a lot of time in the cars but not a marathon type of experience like the forty-four one we did in 2008 ferrying two different cars to North Carolina.
We pulled into Nashville late in the afternoon and arrived at our lodging, the Best Western Plus Belle Meade, located a couple of miles outside of downtown. After relaxing over a couple of drinks, we made our way to Drifters where Joanna and I had enjoyed a nice meal last year as JB had requested that we check out some BBQ given that where he lived was not known for this cuisine,.
We settled in at a table on the outside deck and while enjoying our first round of drinks watched that night’s entertainment being set up, a three-piece combo that would feature a variety of musical styles including some polka.
I ordered the hickory smoked pulled chicken sandwich with a side of slaw and beans and enjoyed the first taste of what would be a dive into BBQ across the nation.
The next day found us continuing west to Kansas City and a night at the Best Western Seville Plaza near downtown, where Joanna and I stayed last year when traveling east.
I’d made arrangements ahead of time with my nephew Dillon to meet he and his girlfriend McKenzie for dinner at Jack Stack Barbeque, one of KC’s finer establishments featuring that cuisine, and fortunately for all, my sister Bev drove up from Colony to join us.
I ordered the Sliced Meat combo, featuring brisket and ham along with coleslaw and baked beans, as I don’t believe I can recall having hickory smoked ham before.
The brisket was moist and tender, the ham equally so and I had a chance to sample one of McKenzie’s Lamb Ribs, the first time I’d ever seen them on a menu. Not a big lamb fan, I found them delightful, the flavor not overpowering and the meat sliding off of the bone.
Finished, we all gathered in the parking lot for a picture and bade each other farewell until July when I would see Bev, McKenzie and Dillon again.
On the road the next morning we had a long day ahead of us, our longest drive of the trip with Pueblo, Colorado our destination with our lodging at the Best Western Eagleridge Inn. As we pulled into town and checked in later in the day, dark clouds appeared on the horizon and so we killed some time in our rooms while heavy wind and rain stormed outside. Once the weather broke we made our way to the Cactus Flower for the type of Mexican food I associate with the west coast.
Along with a very good Cadillac margarita, I enjoyed two small tostadas, crispy corn tortillas topped with refried beans, beef, lettuce, cheese, salsa, and guacamole accompanied by a serving of rice. With just a couple more days of driving ahead of us, this meal began to make me feel like I was approaching what used to be, and would soon become, home.
At Doug’s request and my enthusiastic concurrence, we’d decided to take Highway 50 to his house in Cedaredge instead of having routed through Denver and over the Rockies on I-70.
A truly scenic choice, it takes you over Monarch Pass, at 11,312 feet, located on the Continental Divide at the southern end of the Sawatch Range.
Spending three nights with Doug and Sharon at their place in Cedaredge, a repeat of our visit last year in August, gave JB and Evan a chance to check out the new digs.
We’d hang out, drink a bit, indulge in other legal intoxicants (in Colorado at least), take a drive out to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (where we discovered that JB is afraid of ledges that lead to drops down a steep canyon (well honestly, who isn’t?).
Our last day in town we drove to nearby Delta to check out the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Devised by John Devitt, it went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas, in 1984.
Two structures of The Wall now travel the United States from April through November, spending 5 or 6 days at each site.
On the way back to Cedaredge we stopped in at another favorite from our visit last year, Needle Rock Brewing, where we each enjoyed a pint of their fine product. For dinner that night, we adjourned to RJ’s Steakhouse, an unpretentious dining establishment which featured one of the better steaks I’ve had in a few years, a fork tender Filet Mignon for the princely sum of $27. With a glass or two of house wine I got out of there for $51, including the tip.
Our next to the last day on the road took us to Kim and Marty’s place in Henderson, where Kim greeted us with homemade pizza on their stone cooked BBQ (Marty had a business meeting in Utah) and an evening of lively conversation. And then it was the last day of the drive.
We hit the road early to miss traffic going out of Vegas, although we’d timed the trip so we’d be leaving on Monday instead of the very busy Sunday that town experiences.
Just north of the junction of the I-15 and the I-10, Doug, JB, and Evan hopped into the BMW (yes, we have a 2007 BMW 335I with a six speed, a small and comfortable rocket ship) and would continue on to Evan’s first, then JB’s where Doug would spend the night before heading out to Indio to visit two of his sisters. I continued on alone in the Highlander, arriving in Mar Vista (two miles directly east of Venice Beach just below the Santa Monica Airport) a couple of hours later and pulled up in front of our house.
And so, I’d returned to what had been home for most of my life, eleven years in Charlotte evaporating in the seeming blink of an eye. But enough time away so that being there had become the norm having built a very satisfying life. It would now remain to be seen how we would adjust to being back in familiar and yet, changed circumstances, the nearby neighborhood now featuring shops and restaurants and a circle of old friends ready to welcome us back. As is often said, cliched though it may be, only time would tell.
Best Western Plus Belle Meade: https://www.bestwestern.com/en_US/book/hotel-rooms.43172.html?iata=00171880&ssob=BLBWI0004G&cid=BLBWI0004G:google:gmb:43172
Best Western Seville Plaza: https://bestwesternsevilleplaza.com/
Jack Stack BBQ: https://www.jackstackbbq.com/
Cactus Flower: http://cactusflowerrestaurant.com/
Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall: http://www.travelingwall.us/
Needle Rock Brewing: https://needlerockbrewing.business.site/
RJ’s Steak House: https://www.facebook.com/RJsSteakhouse/