Monthly Archives: November 2015

Nashville Rocks! Halloween at the Grand Ole Opry and Gaylord Opryland Hotel

I have a confession to make. I am not a country music fan.  I blame that on not being exposed to it while growing up.  I mean, back in the days when I grew up in Boston we didn’t have a country music scene.  We had one place in Boston called Hillbilly Ranch (true name) and it was somewhat of a joke.  Even its location was a place that you didn’t want to go into – The Combat Zone.

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Photo:  Getty Images/Boston Globe

While I was in college, we were all listening to the current pop music. Then I moved to Virginia and there was a lot of bluegrass music which was too twangy for me.  Honestly, I didn’t know the difference and thought it was all country music.  So I shied away from that genre of music and stayed away.  I just was never interested in it.

You’re probably wondering why I am telling you all this and it’s easy.  I was going to visit Nashville – home of country music – on our Road Trip. We would be arriving on Halloween and wondered what we should do on that night.  There was only one answer – go to The Grand Ole Opry. Yes, I was going to listen to country music.  We looked at the schedule and believe it or not, I had actually heard of some of the performers like Vince Gill, Charlie Daniels and his band, and the Gatlin Brothers were the main performers with others also on the show.

We first called the Opry box office ten days before we would arrive and realized that the only tickets left were behind the nose bleed sections.  Not what we wanted to hear.  We put our two great minds together and we came up with an idea.  What if we called the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and inquire if they had any packages that included tickets.  Gaylord hotels are part of the Marriott chain and although I did have a few points in my account, they weren’t enough to get us anything.  The operator found what we considered very good tickets, on the floor, off from the center a little bit and on an aisle. Cha-ching.  We booked the package even though it was expensive  but we figured that it was a unique experience.

After we made the booking we heard from several different people what a fantastic property it was – large, gardens, a river runs through it and that it would take us a few days to go all through it.  In my mind, it just didn’t make sense that this large hotel that would be minutes from the Grand Ole Opry because in my mind the Opry is in downtown Nashville.   Confusion reigned as we drove up this long driveway in the outskirts of Nashville.  We pulled in at 5:30 and elected to do valet parking at $32 per day (yikes, don’t tell Blogger Hubby) because we needed to get to our room, do a quick shower and be at the appropriate door to ride the shuttle to the show.   Still thinking that the Opry was in downtown Nashville, we knew we had to hurry or we’d miss the shuttle and we didn’t know how expensive a taxi would be.  The show began at 7:00 and here it was at 5:30 and we had to be at the door at 6:00.  First tip if you are going to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel:  unless you are with a convention, ask to be in the Cascades section of the hotel.  We were initially booked by the desk clerk in Magnolia, next to the Convention Hall on the opposite side of this large hotel even though she knew we were in a rush.  That is one heck of a long walk; same goes for Delta. Our bellman, seeing that we were in MagnoliaCascades was able to change our room to make it easier to reach.  Cascades, where we ended up,  is where the main lobby is, where the concierge is where you are parked, and where you get your car from valet parking.

We met our shuttle and had a 3 minute ride to the Grand Ole Opry – not downtown but very close by.  We knew where to meet the shuttle for the ride home.  We walked in, and since we hadn’t had dinner, we were able to get drinks and popcorn to bring into the theatre with us.  Great seats awaited us.  IMG_2159

There was an Mistress of Ceremony warming up the crowd but shortly the show would begin.  We noticed there was a large screen over the stage of the Opry as well as a few other screens throughout the theatre.  As we were reminded, this is a live radio show and there are commercials about the sponsors of the Opry with the announcer standing near the edge of stage left.

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The show was divided into four acts with each act having their own Master of Ceremony who would introduce the performers in the acts.  Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers opened up the show welcoming us and then proceed to sing.  P1040912

The second act was a led by a substitute MC – Jeanne Seeley.  She was the only one dressed in a costume with a boa of dollars bills over her witch’s dress.  She characterized herself as a Rich Witch.  Singing during this act was Ricky Scaggs.  P1040918

A surprise guest during this time was  Florence Henderson aka “Carol Brady”.  The third act was MC’d by Charlie Daniels and his band and boy, can he fiddle.  We overheard from the row behind us that they had just heard him about a week or so before and he was really putting on a performance this night.  Charlie was given a standing ovation after singing and playing “Devil Went Down to Georgia”.  It went something like this.  P1040955

The evening ended with Vince Gill and a clip of him during his early years playing at the Opry, or as he liked to call it – 50 pounds earlier. Also performing in the final act was Mel Tillus.  It was a country music star studded evening – what a way to spend Halloween night!

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We really enjoyed our Halloween night at the Opry and I hope to enjoy a repeat visit to this house of music.

BTW, the Grand Ole Opry was downtown Nashville in the Ryman Auditorium but moved out to its present location in 1975.  If you are interested in tickets, follow this link.

 

 

 

 

 

My Planned Cross Country Trip on AMTRAK using Miles

As some of you may remember,  I attended the Chicago Seminars last month.  One of the seminars that I sat in on was a talk by Bike Guy who told us about the trip he and his family did on points.  Now, that’s not unusual at all, particularly with this group of travelers,  but how he did his trip was – by using points to book his trip on AMTRAK.  He was able to get  AMTRAK points by transferring points from his Ultimate Rewards account (points you receive by using your Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink ) to his AMTRAK account.

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This sounded interesting to me since we had done some train travel this summer while in Italy and we were  anxious to try it here in our country.  I had done a fair amount of long distance train travel when I was twelve years old and younger but not much since there.  I was even more excited about a possible trip when we found out that there would be changes to the AMTRAK reward program as of January 24th  When changes come to reward programs they are usually never for the best and this one is the same.  Additionally, the last day to transfer points into my AMTRAK account is December 7th.  Luckily Blogger Hubby and I work well together in planning a trip with each of us working on different aspects and then coming together with a plan.

To explain what is happening in case you also want to take a trip, let me explain what the reward program is now.   Currently, the United States is divided into three zones and there is a redemption fee for traveling within the zones. Traveling in one zone is 20,000 points for a bedroom for 2 people. The points are for the accommodation and not per person.  The change will be that no longer will  AMTRAK have zone based redemptions but rather based on ticket price.  What we were planning to  to book would require almost double the points after January 24th. We knew we needed to act fast.  Here is a link to the current redemption rates.

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First of all, we needed to determine what kind of accommodation we wanted on the train.  You could travel coach (not for me for this distance); roomette with two seats during the day  (size is 3.6′ x 6.6′ ); bedroom with a couch and a chair in the day  (size is 6.6′ x 7.6′); a bedroom suite which is two bedrooms opened and combined ; or a family bedroom (size 5.2 ‘ x 9.5’).  We knew we wanted the bedroom as it was a little larger than the roomette and had the toilet and shower within the room.  All tickets booked with sleeping accommodations include all your meals while you are on the train.
Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.26.02 PMNow that we knew what our accommodation need was, it was time to plan our itinerary.  As you look at the map, you’ll see some cities are on the border of two zones.  You can use those cities to your advantage and they will be in whatever zone helps you the most.  Some of the cities are Detroit, Toledo, Atlanta, Denver, Albuquerque, El Paso, Wolf Point, Port Huron and Cincinnati.  Knowing that, we planned our trip to take advantage of those cities where it was practical for us.

After a few itineraries, we came up with the one that we liked.  Blogger Hubby is going to fly to Chicago from our summer home in Michigan and I will fly there from our home in Virginia.  We’ll get in the night before just to give us some peace of mind.  I don’t want to worry about delays, etc that would prevent us from boarding our train.  From Chicago’s Union station we will take the Empire Builder train through the northern part of our country through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana including through Glacier National Park, Idaho and Washington.  We’ll travel along major portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

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Not content to end this portion of our trip in Washington, we will continue on using AMTRAK bus to Vancouver, British Columbia. Using our Starwood points, we booked  a Westin Hotel along the seawall and opposite of Stanley Park, the 1100 acre park that cruisers see when they are entering the harbor in Vancouver.   Following two nights in Vancouver, we will get ourselves down to Seattle to spend a night there before boarding our next train.  We could have used the AMTRAK bus again but that only gave us 35 minutes between the bus’ arrival and the departure of the train – too close for me.

AMTRAK has a partnership with the National Park Service and on select routes and select day they will have a ranger on board presenting different programs depending on the day of the week.  I wanted to ensure that we would have a ranger on our train but the 2016 schedule had not come out yet.  Even though we are going to travel mid May, that might be too early or we may be just in time.

Once we get back to Seattle we’ll board the Pacific Coast Starlight train to Los Angeles.  AMTRAK states that it is “widely regarded as one of the most spectacular of all train routes, the Coast Starlight links the greatest cities on the West Coast”.  We’ll go along the Pacific Coast during a stretch while in California.  Again, this has the ranger program and we will find out later if we are in time for this program as well.

When we reach Los Angeles we’ll have a overnight before boarding the Southwest Chief train the next morning for Albuquerque.  We chose Albuquerque since it is on the divide between two regions and it only costs us 20,000 points since it is in one region.  I’ve also never been to Albuquerque so it seems like a great place to spend a few days.  Perhaps Blogger Hubby will get me up in a hot air balloon – you never know.

All this, not including our hotels and meals while not on board the train, only cost us a total of 65,000 points. This is a great redemption of our points.  If we had to pay for our fare, this is what we would have paid:

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.54.29 PM Is this something you are considering?  Would a cross country train trip entice you?  Obviously it does us and we are very excited about this very relaxing, unplugged time viewing the majesty of our country from the comfort of our room and observation car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memphis – Ducks, BBQ, Civil Rights Museum and Dr. Ben Carson

I love children books – particularly well written ones that tell a good story.  One author, Patricia Polacco, moves me with the way she tells a story, usually based on her family but not always, as well as with her illustrations.  When I worked in the school system (upper elementary grades) I always seemed to gravitate toward this author’s books and I was always surprised that a few of my special ed students “got it” – the subtle meaning of some of her books.  One of her books, John Philip Duck, told the story (fiction based on fact) about how the ducks came to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.  Since reading the story I have wanted to go see the ducks walk to the fountain or from the fountain back to the roof where they resided.  The ducks come down at 10:00 and return at 5:00.

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Knowing that, going to the Peabody Hotel in the morning became our first priority.  We were shocked that parking was very easy to find and relatively inexpensive in Memphis as was the hotel.  We entered the lobby at 9:35 and already people were lined up along the velvet roping to view the ducks.  Children were sitting on the floor along the red carpet so they could have an unemcumbered view.  Hotel guest were fortunate that they, and only them, could sit in the lounge around the duck fountain to view the duck walk.  Excitement was building and then the elevator doors open.  Led by the Duckmaster, the 5 mallard ducks (one male and four females) waddle on the red carpet to the fountain, walked up the ramp and plopped into the water where the swam around.  A few minutes later, the Duckmaster approached the fountain with a silver tray and on it was a silver bowl of duck food.  It was all over in about ten minutes.

Waiting for the ducks to come out of the elevator
Waiting for the ducks to come out of the elevator
Ducks swimming in the lobby fountain
Ducks swimming in the lobby fountain
The 5th Duckmaster ever and myself after the Duck Walk
The 5th Duckmaster ever and myself after the Duck Walk

We then walked down to the Cotton Museum.  It was okay and nothing memorable in my mind.  The museum was basically one room in a large building.  My recommendation would be to skip this museum and save your  time for the Civil Rights Museum.

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One of the displays at the Cotton Museum
One of the displays at the Cotton Museum

Before we visited the Civil Rights Museum we decided that it was time to have lunch and nothing would satisfy my craving other than Memphis style barbecue.  Everyone gave us their recommendations.  Some were too far outside the city, one location – The Rendezvous had been highly recommended but a local woman told us that it wasn’t very good anymore because the owner sold the restaurant and took his recipes with him.  With that little bit of local information and the fact that we were starving, we ate at a BBQ restaurant behind the Civil Rights Museum – Central BBQ.

IMG_2125All I can say is WOW – probably the best bbq that I have ever had.  The ribs, which we had half wet and half dry, were very nicely charred and the meat pulled from the bone.  The pulled pork sandwich was just as delicious, nicely smoked and flavored.  On the counter were various different bbq sauces though my favorite was the vinegar sauce.  Cole slaw was on the side as was the crispy onion rings.  I kept repeating during this lunch how delicious the food was.  If you find yourself in Memphis – do yourself a favor and eat at Central BBQ.

Ribs - half wet and half dry.  They were the best I had ever had.
Ribs – half wet and half dry. They were the best I had ever had.

As soon as you finish eating, walk around a very short corner to the Hotel Lorraine.   The Civil Rights Museum is inside the gutted hotel.  IMG_2127

The Lorraine Hotel with a wreath on the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated
The Lorraine Hotel with a wreath on the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated

I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was much more than what I did expect.  From the capture of Africans to be brought to the Jamestown Colony in 1619 through the current day, you see the struggle of the black population in our country.  The most memorable part for me was the early sixties as I remember watching events unfold on television – the KKK, the lynchings, the Freedom Riders, bombing of churches, Martin Luther King and his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”.

IMG_2135I remember my grandfather writing a letter to President Kennedy as one Boston Irish Catholic to another about how he needed to bring in the military to stop all the killings.  I probably was ten at the time and it still leaves a very strong memory.  Visiting the museum was a very emotional and at times I felt like I was on information overload since there was so much reading in the exhibits as well as emotions for such a dark period in the history of our country and in some respects probably still exists.  I had wished that they had a small cafeteria where we could take a break. Do not miss this museum – one of the best that I had been to including the Apartheid Museum that I visited in Johannesburg.  On our way out, we went by the room that was occupied by MLK, Jr when he was assassinated.  We could not go in but we could view inside the plexiglass wall to see the room just the way it looked in 1968.  Afterwards we walked across the street for more of the museum staying only about 10 minutes.

IMG_2140As we crossed the street to walk to our car, we noticed a very small crowd as well as two black SUV’s with door open.  As we approached, we saw that it was Dr. Ben Carson.  I approached him and asked if I could have my  picture taken with him.  He quietly agreed and I now have a picture of he and I.  After our picture he got into the car and took off.

Dr. Ben Carson and myself
Dr. Ben Carson and myself

Reflecting on our day, we came to the conclusion that it was a wonderful day.  From seeing the ducks, barbeque, the Civil Rights Museum and someone trying to win their party’s nomination for President.  This is why I love Road Trips – you just never know what you are going to do or see and we were very open to just let things happen.

Memphis – Graceland, a Pyramid and Arkansas

We left our hotel that was just outside of Memphis to head to our number one destination – Graceland.  IMG_2059

Yes, we were going to Elvis’ home.  I loved listening to Elvis when I was younger and even more so now that I have gotten older.  I cheered his comeback in the late 60’s and early 70’s and I was sad when he died while I was on my honeymoon in Ireland in 1977.

Elvis' 1968 television special
Elvis’ 1968 television special

Many people have told us that they thought Graceland was overrated, it was small but others have told us how much they enjoyed it.  Whether we were going to like it or not didn’t matter – we needed to go.

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The night before our trip we went on the Graceland website to review the ticket choices – that’s right you have a choice of 5 different ticket options.  We chose the Platinum tour that comes with an interactive iPad with the narration of the house by John Stamos as well as entry into his automobile museum and a few other locations.  We did not have the airplanes as part of our tour.  After we received our iPads and headsets we boarded a trolley to take us across Elvis Presley Blvd to the mansion.

Waiting in line for our iPad and then to board the trolley for the ride across the street
Waiting in line for our iPad and then to board the trolley for the ride across the street

We toured the first floor and the basement – the upstairs private rooms were not part of the tour.   The decor in some rooms was very nice for the time period; other times it was a little garish.  Walking into the dining room we saw a touching photograph of Priscilla and Lisa Marie on the wall.

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Living room
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Dining room
Kitchen
Kitchen
Jungle room
Jungle room

The kitchen seemed out of a time capsule.  Then there was was the talked about “Jungle Room”    The basement looked like a bumblebee to me with the black and yellow decor.  Also in the basement was a pool room.

What I call the Bumbebee Room
What I call the Bumbebee Room but is really a lounge in the basement

In one of the hallways was a collection of his gold records.

Love Me Tender gold record
Love Me Tender gold record

We then went outside to see the back of the home, the building where his offices were, saw the pasture for his horses.P1040801

His racquet ball building which was turned into an area where some of his  stage costumes were as well as several screens that played some of his concerts and television appearances.

P1040824For some reason that I certainly didn’t expect, I found that it was very moving and there were tears in my eyes.  I loved listening to his voice singing some of the ballads that he was so good at and were so familiar to me.  Maybe it was from sadness of seeing what drugs could do to a person.  I don’t know except that it was very emotional to me.  Exiting the building we walked over to the area where he was buried next to his parents and grandmother.P1040830

After touring the house, we took the trolley back across the street and went into the automobile museum.  The number of cars that he had, how he customized many of the cars was amazing.  Also in this museum were some videos of Elvis in clips from various movies where he is in some of these cars.

P1040842We had lunch at the Chrome Restaurant and I would not recommend it. Bring a snack, eat before or after but just don’t eat there.  It wasn’t that bad but in my mind it wasn’t that good.

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After doing a little shopping at the gift shops (some CD’s to play, postcards, etc) we left to continue our first day in Memphis.  Overall, we were not surprised to find that it was not a huge mansion.  We felt that it was more of a family home where he and his wife (later his daughter) could live with additional room for his parents.  This could have been considered a “mansion” at the time it was built by Memphis standards.  We were happy with our stop at Graceland.

As we drove along the river in Memphis, it was our goal to drive across the “Dolly Parton” bridge, so nicknamed because of the shape of the bridge, into Arkansas, a state I had not been to but I missed the turn.  As I was driving up, I spied in front of us a tall pyramid.

Bass Pro Shop pyramid
Bass Pro Shop pyramid

This was the new Bass Pro Shop that I had heard about.  We quickly found parking and walked inside.  We purchased tickets ($10) to ride the 28 story freestanding elevator to the tip of the pyramid where there was a bar/restaurant and an outdoor observation deck.

view from the ascending elevator
view from the ascending elevator

This blogger is afraid of heights but I did go out,  just not on the glass part.  I did hand my camera over to a braver soul than me to take photographs of Mud Island, the bridge and Arkansas.  P1040876 (1)

After we had our snack we went back down the elevator and was able to really look around.

Restaurant at the top of the pyramid
Restaurant at the top of the pyramid

The interior reminded me of a Louisiana swamp town.  There were alligators, “Bait Shacks”, little shops filled with outdoor gear.  I would recommend to anyone in Memphis in taking a drive over to the pyramid and looking around.  It was fun.

We were going to try again to cross the Mississippi River into Arkansas and we were successful.  We went one exit, turned around and drove back into Tennessee.  Isn’t that what you do on Road Trips?

Tomorrow we are planning on going to The Peabody to see the famed ducks as well as the Civil Rights Museum and to find good barbeque!

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky – one of our National Parks

Leaving rainy, cold and windy Lexington we headed on the road again to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.  It was so cold and rainy that we drove through the drive through lane at McDonald’s for salads to eat in the car.  We didn’t want to get wet or cold.

Before we left on our trip Blogger Friend Susan made reservations for us for two tours at Mammoth Cave.  Though reservations weren’t required, we didn’t want to drive there and find out that there was no room on the tours for us.  To give us enough time to drive from Lexington to Mammoth Cave, we chose the last tour of the day which happened to be the Dome and Dripstone Tour at 3:00.

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We arrived at 2:30 and walked around the visitor center.  The announcement was made for the tour group to meet at Pavillion B.  As I headed to the door, Blogger Friend reminded me that we were in Central Time zone and that they were actually calling the 2:00 Tour.  Shucks – we knew that Kentucky was in two time zones but we weren’t sure where the divide was.  We tried to get change our tickets to go on the 2:00 tour but they wanted to charge us $3 per ticket since we had ordered them online- we passed on that.  If we had purchased them there, there would have been no charge.  Instead, we walked around the visitor center, did our shopping and found that they and a very interesting exhibit and a few videos of the cave to watch.  Before we knew it, they were calling out group.

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We listened to the park ranger explain about the tour.  He told us that Mammoth Cave has over 400 miles of caves that have been explored to date – interconnected with each other making it the largest cave system in the world.  To get a visual, he said to imagine a bowl of spaghetti, turn it upside down and take the bowl off.  That’s what the cave system looks like in his mind.

He began to tell us about the tour and he said it was moderately strenuous and we would be walking briskly as well as a lot of stairs.  Wait a minute – that’s not the description that was on the website.  For the listed tours, they were rated easy, moderate, strenuous, very strenuous, and extremely strenuous. e said “moderate” meant moderately strenuous though that was not our interpretation. Also nothing had been mentioned about walking “briskly”.  Walking is not a problem but how fast or slow is briskly?  That was our concern as well.  We were also a little concerned since the other members of our 120 person group were high school FFA members (future farmers of America) and their sponsors.  Our ranger had us be the first two people in the line behind him.  We were driven to a cave entrance where we quickly descended about 280 narrow, windy (think spiral stairs at times) stairs to reach the cave floor.  One warning that should have been in the description is that it is not for the overweight or obese because of the narrow ness of the stairs against the rock walls as we descended.  At the bottom of the staircase were wooden benches for us to sit on while the ranger gave his presentation.  Afterward it felt like a race that we were always trying to catch up to the ranger.  It was much more than a brisk walk – it felt like a race.  We  weren’t the only ones having a difficult time keeping up with the ranger, the high school students were huffing and puffing as well.  There was no time to stop and take any photographs or admire the cave.  The was a second area that we could sit on and both Blogger Friend and I heard independent of each other that the ranger was going to “skip” part of the tour.  Toward the end of the tour was an optional climb down 50 steps to the Frozen Niagara.  We did not do this as we knew that we had walked down 280 steps and was saving our energy for the climb up.  We were very surprised that there was no stairs to climb to leave the cave.  If we had known, we would have gone down to see the Frozen Niagara.  Our tour was shorter than what was advertised and we were disappointed.  I have since read some reviews about this tour and a number of other people felt that it was rushed as well.  I would not recommend you take the Dome and Dripstone Tour.

The next morning we had another scheduled tour – The Great Onyx Lantern Tour.  Once again we had warning before the tour – whether you suffer from being in narrow places, dark places, walking in dimly lit areas.  Once again we looked at each other and decided to go ahead and do the tour.  We are so glad that we did.  Literally it was Night and Day.  Every 4th person received a lantern to carry, about 40 steps to go down into the cave.  This ranger took his time, always giving you geological and historical information.  He held us spellbound as he wove stories for us.  The caves were extremely wide and tall – a train could have fit in here.  There was plenty of light even though it was dim, for us to feel safe and secure.  Also, many parts of the tour had hand railings that you could hold onto. This tour I would recommend.

lighting the lanterns for our group
lighting the lanterns for our group
you can see how wide this cave is
you can see how wide this cave is
The nativity formation
The nativity formation

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P1040746Mammoth Cave no longer has the boat rides that they were famous for.  The explanation that we were given was that the underground river would flood and cause damage to the boats and to the docks.  They gave all their boats away to the Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, Ky.

There are many other tours to consider when visiting Mammoth Cave, about 15 minutes from the interstate near Cave City and Park City.  That night we stayed in the Holiday Inn in Glasgow, about 30 minutes from the cave.  This seemed like a good area and the restaurant recommended by our hotel, A Taste of Texas, was good as well.  It seemed like a larger city with more stores if you needed anything.
We left the cave and got back in my car and began our ride to Memphis – home of barbeque and Elvis!

We stopped for lunch and ice cream at Chaney’s Dairy Barn listed in the tour book as the best ice creme in all of Kentucky.  How could we not stop and try it out.  Our sandwiched and ice cream were very good.

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Credit Card Housekeeping – What’s in our Wallets?

Disclosure:  I do not receive any compensation from my links or discussions of the various credit cards.  I have and use these cards and the opinions, are mine and mine only.

The latter part of the summer and this fall seems to have gotten away from me.  We have been really busy and sometimes feel that I haven’t had time to take a quick breath.  I have fallen behind on keeping track of my credit cards and it stresses me out somewhat.   I like to feel organized with all the cards we have and feel good when they are organized.

We have applied for and received a few new credit cards and I hadn’t had time to add them to my spreadsheet or to even begin my spend on them.  We also received notice from our American Airlines AAdvantage Red Aviator credit card, which used to be the US Airways credit card, that our annual fee would be due this month for both my credit card and Blogger Hubby’s card as well.  What I really needed was to have a day of credit card Housekeeping and it is today!

First off was to call my American Airlines AAdvantage Red Aviator credit card to let them know that I was thinking of closing my account.  The reason that I gave was when it was US Airways, we received a companion pass.  I explained my dilemma to the first agent who then transferred me to another agent.  I told them my story again and explained further that I don’t use the card very often and I just didn’t want to pay the annual fee.  They offered to waive the fee as well as give me for 90 days triple points on gas, groceries and utilities.  SUCCESS!

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My husband then called and they offered him the same thing as well as an extra 5,000 points if he spent $1000 in the next 90 days.  This will be in conjunction with an offer he received in the mail, that I didn’t, about earning an extra 15,000 plus 1,500 miles earned if he spent $500 in November, $500 in December and $500 in January.  That promotion would give him 16,500 points.  The two promotions, I was told, would run concurrently so he would stand to receive 21,500 points for $1500 dollar spend.  I can see those VISA gift card purchases looming in our future.  Chalk this one up to another successful phone call.

Next up, my personal Southwest credit card.  There were no offers, no waiver of fees – they offered me nothing when I called yesterday.  Knowing the rule of HUCA (Hang Up, Call Again) I tried again today and still…..no retention offer.  Since I am auto pay and have a balance, once that is paid I’ll call again and have them transfer my credit limit to another one of my Chase cards.

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For Blogger Hubby’s SPG card, we just transferred his points to my account (mine is less than a year open) and once they are transferred, we will close his account unless they offer us some type of retention.  We’ll give it a few days after the transfer to make sure it happens before we close.

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I used to love Club Carlson credit card since it gave us a free award night when we booked a minimum of two nights.  We used to book two nights under my credit card and then two nights under Blogger Hubby’s credit card for a total of four award nights – it only tok points for two of those nights.  They changed the award program effective May 31st where you do not get the second award night free.  It is still a good program but we don’t need two cards anymore.  We called and transferred Blogger Hubby’s award points to my account.  After we saw that they were in my account, he called up and canceled his card.

club carlson

Last May I opened two Alaska Air credit cards through Bank of America and then a couple of weeks ago I applied, and was approved, for a third Alaska Air credit card.  I will close one of the first two cards in December.  What I have learned is that you can apply for a new Alaska Air credit card every 91 days.  After you are approved you’ll earn 25,000 points and will receive an annual companion pass from $121.  After having the card active for six months, then  will begin closing them while still applying for them.  Here is the link that I used.  I do not receive any compensation from Alaska Air or any other credit card company.

alaska air

That’s what I accomplished so far.  I need to go back tomorrow and look through other credit cards that I have.

Do you go through your credit cards and give them a tune up or as I like to say a Credit Card Housekeeping?  Tomorrow I’ll be going through the rest of my cards and will probably be making a few calls as well  Do you go through your credit cards to see if you still need them?  What cards do you need to add to your portfolio?

Lexington. Kentucky

We decided to spend our first night on the “Thelma and Louise” Road Trip Revisited in Lexington, Kentucky.  After driving seven hours through Virginia, winding West Virginia and part of Kentucky we made it to Lexington.  It was a beautiful day for a drive when the leaves in our area were at peak color.

We had made reservations at the Candlewood Suites at Exit 115 off I-64 in Lexington.  I was disappointed that it was in a small industrial park but the hotel was clean, we had a great room and the ladies that worked behind the desk were great.  When we asked where we should go for dinner that would be a local favorite and not part of a chain they immediately said Packette’s.  Sounded great and soon we were headed to the drive-in diner and restaurant that had been in existence since 1951.  They have 72 bays for  cars!  We also found out that it had been featured in the Food Network’s Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins.

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The ladies working at the hotel told us to make sure we had the fried chicken.  Parking out front is for the drive-ins and since we wanted to eat inside, we had to park out back.  We walked in and immediately knew that we had traveled back in time.  Chrome was everywhere, the old leather red booths and Pepsi Cola signs hanging everywhere.  The best part was our extremely friendly waitress Carla who was so helpful to us.  Chicken – well they pride themselves on being the original Kentucky Fried Chicken until a certain colonel came along and claimed that name.  It was delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

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Fried Chicken with Hot Brown fries. Mmm good!
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This is where we entered the restaurant but not where we ate. It sparkled and shined with all the chrome
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Red and white booths and walls with the glass Pepsi lights
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The famous Packette’s sign by the highway and a few of the 72 bays for the cars.

We woke up to a cold, windy morning with rain spitting down on us.  We drove over the the Kentucky Horse Park.

Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky Horse Park

Not knowing much about it I was stunned to see all that was at the Park, which has been owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Kentucky since 1978.  We began outside admiring the different statues of well known horses such as Secretariat and Man o’ War.  A horses body is so interesting to me – how sleek yet how strong and muscular they are.

Secretariat
Secretariat
Man o' War
Man o’ War

We then went inside to the International Museum of the Horse and was able to only look around for about 15 minutes as it was time for the morning guided trolly tour.  We were in a horse drawn trolley and took a quick 15 minute tour around the more visited areas of the Farm.

15 minute trolley tour ride
15 minute trolley tour ride

We departed in time to catch the golf cart shuttle to go to the Hall of Champions where 4 different champions were brought out and introduced to us via television clips of their winning races.

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The horse that I was more familiar with was Go for Gin.  We also saw quarter standard horses that sulkies and another thoroughbred.

Go for Gin, the 1994 Kentucky Derby Winner
Go for Gin, the 1994 Kentucky Derby Winner

When that was over we headed over to the Breeders Barn where they have many different horses from all over the world.  We didn’t stay long as it was very cold, damp and windy and we needed to be somewhere else, but we saw Chincoteague ponies, Fells ponies from Scotland, a Chinese horse, and a Tennessee walking horse.

We wished we could have stayed longer as there is so much to see and do at the Kentucky Horse Park.  If I were to come here again, I would allow at least 5 hours, if not more.  We stayed off Exit 115 which is Newtown Pike and that was the perfect location to get to the Park very easily.

Next up on our Road Trip – Mammoth Caves and the two tours we took.