Hello there, how was your weekend? Bit of a wash-out here, which was such a disappointment to the endless numbers of folk who’d organised Street Parties and Summer Fetes! Thank Heavens they had a cover for Centre Court, I hear you cry!
I’ve so enjoyed reading all your comments, and now feel up to date with all that’s been going on in your lives, although I am sorry to know that for some of you, this last month has been particularly difficult … I very much hope July will be kinder.
Well, it’s taken me longer than I thought to collate all my photos, but I’m now ready to share with you the second instalment of our journey across America.
Having arrived in Nashville the day before the CMAs started, we needed to pick up our four-day passes, which would enable us to see not just the live evening performances in the giant LP Field Stadium, but also the daytime shows on the Riverfront.
It works out to be about £25 a day, which is amazing compared to the price of live gigs/concerts in England! Unfortunately this year we weren’t as lucky with the weather, and not only did it pour with rain, but it was chilly too. I had brought a waterproof jacket, but wouldn’t have been very popular if I had put my umbrella up – although I did bring it with me!
Headlining the Festival this year were Rascal Flats, Tim McGraw, Eric Church, Brad Paisley, the Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebelum. What is incredible is that none of the acts are paid for their performances – they do it for the love of Country Music, oh and for the fans too! We were also lucky enough to see Ray Stevens who sang his Squirrel Song, which had me in stitches – well worth a listen on YouTube if you fancy a giggle
The Band Perry were great musicians too, and even Willy Nelson put in an appearance on the final night. His rendition of ‘The Devil Goes Down to Georgia’ brought the house down! To get to the Stadium you have to walk almost a mile through Downtown Nashville, and across a very large pedestrian bridge, which is always busy.
Last year we each bought a pair of beautiful cowboy boots, but to be honest I’ve not had many occasions to wear them, so having brought them with me, on the one warm and dry night I wore them with my shorts and a top – CMA Uniform! I have never had such hot feet in my life! That definitely exacerbated my hot flushes, and I was very glad to take them off once we sat down, but I swear there was a heat haze emanating from where I was sitting…!
We actually missed the third night altogether because there was a dreadful storm and, as the stadium isn’t covered, we would have been soaked. Instead we holed up inside one of our favourite haunts from last year, Robert’s Bar. It was just like stepping back in time as The Don Kelly Band I told you about last year, still perform every evening, and the lead guitarist who was just 18 last year continues to rock the rafters with his playing.
It’s very traditional bass slapping, bluegrass Country, but with plenty of other recognisable songs too, and it is THE best night out. We had a great time, and although our friends had braved the weather and made it to the stadium, inspite of black bin liners to keep the rain out, they had given up and come home early. We did though spend our final day with them, had a lovely meal prior to the concert, and enjoyed for the last time, the incredible spectacle of 42,000 people singing along with their favourite Country artists.
I’m old enough to remember Barry Manilow‘s live concerts, and that special moment when everyone in the audience lit a candle or a match – for our final night, it was the light from thousands of Smartphones that lit the Stadium and was the perfect end to a packed four days!
Our next port of call was to be Dallas, and we’d booked an internal flight, which took only a couple of hours. Luckily, we left our hotel in plenty of time to get to the airport, because once there our baggage had somehow become too heavy for the aircraft! Apart from a few bottles of balsamic vinegar and oil as a gift for our friends, we couldn’t work out what was causing the excess, but our American Airways official advised us to buy another overhead baggage bag and decant our belongings, or pay $100 excess.
The bag was $35, so even with my limited grasp of mathematics I felt this was the better option…! I’m sure there is a perfectly good reason why the weight needs to be separated out, but essentially whether in the hold or the overhead bins, surely it’s the overall weight that matters?!
Our weighty problem a problem no longer, we were able to enjoy the short flight and arrived in Dallas to bright skies and sunshine. We had planned to hire a Mustang again, but unfortunately there were none, so we chose a huge Chevrolet Traverse 4×4 to allow for our extra bag, and set the sat nav for Carthage in Texas – about 200 miles away – which is where our friends Martin and Gae Lynne live.
The rental company had armed us with directions and so with the radio tuned to one of the many Country stations we headed out onto Highway 20.
Because these roads bypass the cities, there’s not a great deal to see, but as the sky darkened, we heard the ominous rumble of thunder… Although we’d experienced some pretty extreme weather in Nashville, we really weren’t prepared for the force of this storm. The rain hit the road like a river, sheet lightening lit the sky, and the thunder crashed overhead – it was terrifying!
There was nowhere to pull over, and what made it 90 times worse were the trucks who overtook us at speed, causing a massive wave of water each time. Colin was driving, and I was meant to be navigating but have to admit to having my eyes screwed shut pretty much the whole way! At this point the fact we weren’t in a convertible Mustang cheered me, but it was the only thing that did!
Finally we saw an exit and, having pulled into a layby, we called Martin for directions. We were infact on the right road, but his suggestion to “Look out for No 1246 – it’s written on the mailbox” was unrealistic as we could barely see the road! He did though come out and escort us back to their home which predictably we’d driven straight past!
Martin is originally from Norfolk, and met Gae Lynne (from Texas) on a train. He bought her a coffee, and they were married the following year – the most expensive cup of coffee he’d ever bought, she told us! Four years ago they gave up their corporate jobs in England and headed out to Gary in Texas, a small town with a total population of 311!
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They bought a cattle ranch on 200 acres of land complete with a herd of Black Angus Cattle, and have made it their home. It’s beautiful, as you can see here, but before we set off to look around their land, Martin warned us about the ’wildlife’ – six types of poisonous snakes, and three venomous spiders! It’s important to keep the doors shut at all times as the snakes come inside the ranch, and usually travel in pairs!!!
He does keep a gun handy but was once surprised by a Rat Snake (non-deadly) that he thought was a log … It reared up and hissed at him! By now my desire to explore had waned somewhat, so I plumped for a chair close to the back door and let the boys experience the outdoors! They weren’t gone long, and Colin came back with a crick in his neck having not taken his eyes off the ground once!
The next two days were spent looking around Carthage, Gary and Shreveport – where we had the most fabulous Mexican meal of sizzling Fajitas and refried beans – delicious! We visited a Goodwill Store – which is a like a massive department store filled with second-hand goods. However, all the clothes were washed and ironed and set out as new! The prices were very reasonable and I thought it was a cracking idea for those who fancy a bargain!
Our three days with Martin and Gae Lynne passed far too quickly, and on Thursday morning we were on the road again, this time heading south towards La Porte.
Well, I hope you’ll have enjoyed reading this blog, and if you’re not too bored, I’ll fill you in on Galveston and San Diego next time. Do write and let me know how you are, where you’ve been and what you’re up to and, as always, I promise I’ll write back.
Have a great week,
With my love, Ali xx
p.s: You can see a few more photos on my website too!