First two days in Tallahassee

I’m going to stop belaboring my lax writing schedule. Maybe this will all be retrospective. I got to sleep through Georgia while Jacob was driving which was amazing. Arriving in Tallahassee felt a little bit like arriving back home. Being in Florida again felt good. One thing I didn’t realize though, was how hilly Tallahassee was. Hills? In my Florida? Anyways, we pulled up to our friend Matt and Katie’s place. And they came out to greet us. It had been a long time since we had seen Matt and Katie. A 7 year reunion? We had talked about coming up at some point when we lived in Tampa, but we were lazy jerks and never drove up. We had worked with Matt at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing years ago. Where we served banquets and worked shitty hours (who doesn’t want to do a 6am-7am shift, and then show back up for a 11-2pm lunch and then serve a wedding?).

One of the most amazing things about the trip so far has been our friends’ hospitality. The first day was a relief to be in warmer weather for me. I really love Florida in spring time. Warm during the day and cool at night. It feels a lot like my favorite weather during Michigan summers.

Phil was driving up from Tampa when we were driving through Georgia to meet us in Tallahassee (sorry Jess, we were just driving through!). He brought some of his clothes and music gear for us to store so he can join us later on (stuff that would be a pain in the ass to take on a plane). We hung out and just chatted and had an easy night in. Phil stayed the night and we went fishing the next day down on Wakulla beach in Crawfordville FL (side note, Katie was telling us about how Wakulla county goes by WeKillYa county and has shirts and stuff, unbeknownst to us when we went down there). It was about an hour drive out of Tallahassee and down to the Gulf. 40 minutes out on paved road then 10-15 minutes on a dirt road dodging holes through Florida panhandle overgrowth. Driving through the area, with the sickly sweet smell of decay, really brought back Florida for me. Eventually we made it through and out onto the beach. It was a little beach, and I had some trouble figuring out exactly where I should fish. I had read some fishing reports about shore fishing, but we had a fair amount of wind and recent rain.. so the water was murky. We started out through some flats and caught some fiddler crabs to fish with. We gathered up far more than we needed then started getting our lines wet. I had left my phone in the car, so I don’t have much in the way of photos, but it was nice to just wade in a bit and cast. We ended up not catching anything or even get bites but we just wanted to get out and be outside. As we were heading back to Tallahassee we were listening to UofM win their game and advance in the tournament. We also stopped by a BBQ place called Wildfire that was open on Easter Sunday! We all ordered far too much food and pigged out on deliciously smoked meats.

We rounded out the day watching the Game of Thrones season premier. We skipped on the Walked Dead (Rick: “I’M A GOOD MAN”) and called it a night after that.

On the road

Gearing up to leave Lexington and a production issue for one of our customers almost held up our departure to Chattanooga. My coworker Tony ended up taking over for me and saving my bacon and our time table… for now.

Nesa came by to say goodbye before we headed out. Leaving Lexington was uneventful until we hit an hour+ long traffic jam. Stop and go traffic isn’t great fun in a bus. At least it’s not stick! It seemed like the whole state of Michigan was flocking to the south with us for Spring Break. We were stuck in traffic with a van that had #YOLO, other hashtages and twitter handles soaped onto the car. I’m not sure they know how hashtages work. Someone also took a video of the bus while we were doing 5-10 MPH.

Traffic eventually cleared and all we could see was a family with suitcases, dog, kids and a police office near them with his flashers on.

Daylight gave way to dusk which gave way to night. Rain showers decided to show up with the night. Fog also made an appearance for our mountain travels. I white knuckled my way through the start of the rain and the mountains. The rain eventually let up a bit and I could enjoy the mountains. The bus was able to maintain 40mph on the steeper portions!

Eventually we made it to Chattanooga to stop for the night at our friend Stephanie’s place. Thank you for the hospitality Steph! I also got a chance to play her boyfriend’s Martin acoustic guitar. Martin’s are definitely worth their price tags.

Now we’re on the road again on our way to Tallahassee and warmer weather. Writing this all out while riding so I can transcribe it later. Best part about driving a bus through Georgia? You can’t go fast enough to get ticketed!

Jake also took some of the driving on. So I got to lay down and read/nap through Georgia.

Leaving Lexington (Part2)

I was surprised at the diversity of the food in Lexington. We stopped by Sav’s Grill & West African Cuisine for a quick bite. I had a fantastic lamb dish. Matt had a vegetarian soup with dumplings made from plantain flour. The dumplings were kinda chewy and hearty. They worked really well with the soup.  Apparently Sav’s also has an ice cream shop that’s kitty corner to this.

We were walking to a place called Nat’s but on the way we were enticed by the smells coming from Bombay Bar and Grill. We went in and ate too much indian food. We got 8/10 on the spicy scale which didn’t seem that hot while eating it. The next day, however, my body let me know how hot the food was. (The soup appetizer was the hottest part of the meal)

Dave took us to Indi’s Fried Chicken with the promise that it was the best Kentucky fried chicken he has had. I’m not big on fried chicken, but hot DAMN if that wasn’t the best fried chicken I’ve had. We ordered some hot wings and some fried chicken with greens.

We ordered some “New York” pizza from Goodfella’s which was stupid huge. The bread was a little too thick for NY Pizza in my opinion but it was a pretty good slice. Pazzo’s pizza is also worth mentioning. They have some crazy hoagies which we had sampled last year on our way up from Tampa to Detroit.

What was really cool about Lexington is that we were able to walk to everything from Dave’s place. Which is fortunate since winter didn’t want to relinquish its grip this year. Spring finally showed up as we were leaving. While walking we got a chance to look around at the scenery and architecture. Some of the houses look like they were held together with elmer’s glue and a whole lotta love. These conditions were no doubt due to additions over the years, settling, and whatever other environmental factors.. Lexington felt older than any of the places I’ve lived in.

Dave and his roommate Ian were great hosts and suffered us well. I’m sure I’ll continue to reflect fondly on the time we spent in Kentucky. I’ve forgotten too much about the trip already so my goal is to write daily; even if they’re little notes so that I don’t forgot the goings on to relay later.

Leaving Lexington (Part1)

I’ve been hoping to write up about each place as we’re still there. Lexington however is getting a belated write up. Matt chronicled the first week pretty well, so as we’re traveling down to Tallahassee I’ll cover the rest.

After the near miss on the bus getting towed Matt researched and found some parking for us (via http://en.parkopedia.com). We ended up going with http://lexington.centralparking.com/ because they could fit a bus and they allowed overnight parking. We ended up talking them down on the price (so if you’re looking at parking in Lexington or anywhere, be aware that you can talk prices down.. especially if there aren’t special events going on). Matt and Jake went and moved the bus to its new temporary home. I fretted a bit about someone breaking in (which was unfounded). Eventually I realized that it was a waste of worrying/brain power. If someone breaks in, they break in. So What. Worrying won’t stop that.

Anyways, we went to a couple of different bars while in Lexington. My bar recommendations are:

West Sixth Brewing Company 
501 West Sixth Street
Lexington KY 40508
859-951-6006

West Sixth is a brewery that has food trucks and carts come and serve food outside of the bar that you can bring inside. Our buddy Dave who we were staying with and his girlfriend Nesa are part of a running club that starts and ends their runs here. While they were out jogging and getting that heart rate going, we were sitting back and enjoying some flights of beers and watching the joggers toil away. There happened to be a Greek food truck (Athenian Grill) while we were there. They had really excellent spinach pies and salads that you shouldn’t miss if you’re in Lexington.  The highlight of West Sixth’s selection is definitely their Amber and IPA for me. Keep your fingers crossed that they start distributing out of state.

 

Charlie Browns
816 Euclid Ave
Lexington KY 40502
859-269-5701

Dark and quiet on the inside. Books line all of the walls and there’s a gas fireplace going. You can come in and take a book if you leave one. Lots of old guys drinking here and youngish college kids. It’s a great hang out with friends spot.

 

Arcadium Bar
574 N Limestone St
Lexington, KY 40508
(859) 317-9712

Arcadium is full of vintage arcade consoles. Galaga, Centipede, Contra, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Punch Out and a whole bunch of other games I am now equally bad at. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out why my frog was dying when I jumped onto the land in Frogger. We walked here on a Wednesday evening and it was surprisingly busy. Fun spot.

Beer Trappe is also worth mentioning. Great bear selection and an expansive bottle selection.

There were a couple undergrad type bars we stopped by. The best was probably Two Keys (their website is flipping out as I’m writing this, so once it gets its shit together you can see more details about it or google it..). Beer pong tables, goldfish racing. Listless bar staff. All good college bar fare. Matt mentioned the two cute twins we chatted with and their potential beau’s mean mugging us. That seems like it might be quintessential Two Keys. Continued in Part2.

 

 

 

We had a close call today.

Dan, Jake, Dave, and I were sitting on Dave’s porch watching all the Louisville (pronounced Lewwww-vuuuuuh) fans stream past the house from Rupp Arena when I noticed a huge tow truck. I chuckled and commented to the guys, “That’s one big tow truck, that’s the kind of thing they use to tow semi’s that have a full load…” and at that moment it struck me. It being the realization that the tow truck was most likely headed to pull our bus away from Maxwell Street. Maxwell street, the street where my buddy lives. The street where we were lucky to find a parking spot a couple of blocks from Dave’s place. The street where an impending pain in our collective asses was about to occur. The street this monster tow truck was driving down and likely hooking up the bus and heading to a police impound and thereby bending us over and fucking us in the ass with fines and costs.

I quickly voiced my concerns to everyone and everyone was in agreeance. I started jogging up the street in the hopes that the tow truck had not started hooking up the bus to be pulled away into a land of costly fuckery. As I arrived, huffing and puffing, I was heartened to see that the tow truck had just started getting into place but no actual work to hook up the bus had been done. The red and blues of Lexington’s finest were strobing in the lane next to the Big Bomber. In between sucking in air, I explained to Mr. Policeman the situation… namely, That’s My Bus and Please Don’t Fuck Me. Mr. Policeman conferred with (and deferred the decision to) the tow truck driver and as luck would have it, Mr. Tow Truck Man wasn’t in a punitive mood to make a buck at my expense. God Bless Louisville for coming up with a win, or Mr. Tow Truck Man’s significant other for waking him up the right way, or Mr. Tow Truck Man’s kind soul, or whatever circumstance came to play in my favor today. For that, I thank you unknown circumstances.

Mr. Policeman, who had a cadet (whatever a copper in training is called) shadowing him, explained that we would have to pay a $15 fine and told me that I would just have to move the bus every 24 hours. A minor pain in the ass but compared to the alternative, clearly preferable. I thanked him for not fucking me and he and his retinue fled the scene. Before he left he made an odd observation to us, namely, “Someone called and complained, you’ve got those Florida plates and that Detroit on the front and you know it gets people worried…” which at the time didn’t seem that odd as I was just happy to not get shit on. The most I can gather from that statement is: You’re not from here, so you got lucky I didn’t fuck you on that basis. Duly noted Mr. Policeman, however I will not be covering up the DETROIT lettering I spray painted onto the bumper.

Prior to all of this happening, Dan had put a slice of pizza in the oven to reheat. While running an electric oven that you’re not directly monitoring isn’t that big of a deal, doing so with a gas oven is foolhardy. Dave has a gas oven. An old gas oven. An old gas oven that occasionally gives off a faint odor of natural gas. So, Dan’s slice of pizza cooked away while we parked the bus and Dave picked us up. Dan had mentioned this while we were driving to find a spot but we were all so shocked into stupidity at the moment that we didn’t immediately call Dave and ask him to go turn off the oven. By the time we piled into Dave’s car and I mentioned this to him, perhaps 30 minutes had passed. We had a collective “Oh Shit” moment and rushed to back to the house.

The short end of the story is that Dan’s pizza was alright albeit a little bit burnt, but otherwise edible. I’ll call today a Win as we didn’t blow up Dave’s house and we didn’t get the bus impounded. Here’s to barely not fucking up. Who needs a nap?

Love,
Matt
PS~ Sorry I didn’t get any pictures of the event, I was a bit too frazzled to snap photos… also I had left my phone in the house.

PPS~ I’m dumping the photos I’ve taken between the last update and now. We went to a undergrad college bar down the street called Two Keys. They have a couple of beer pong tables, and that night they raced what appeared to be guppies (folks kept insisting they were gold fish, but we have our doubts that they were gold fish). The other pictures are from last night when we went out to Dave’s buddy Erik’s apartment to watch the Minnesota v UCLA game. ‘Sota won, also we had to climb through a hole in the fence.

Charlie Brown and quick video

Just dropping in a quick update; We went out to a bar called Charlie Brown. They had a good selection of beers and a solid vibe. If you’re in Lexington it’s worth checking out (the address is: 816 E Euclid Ave Lexington, KY 40502).

Also, at the request of a friend here’s a quick video of the bus ‘finished’ (with this kind of project I feel like you’re never really ‘done’ with it):

Sock choices

I just wanted to give a quick shoutout to Red Wings wool socks. I bought a pair right before the trip and these things have been tremendous. I had no idea how awesome wool socks were. Seriously, if you’ll be wearing boots for any period of time, you should buy at least 1 pair of wool socks.
/rant
-Matt
IMG_20130318_200321

First few days in Lexington, KY

Michigan was really great to us on the day we were leaving and left us with 4 inches of snow. Thanks for the cold embrace Mitten! We still had a fair amount of packing to do, as well as a bit of work so it was kind of a bummer to do it while tracking snow everywhere. In the gallery you can see the fancy down-turned tailpipe I made using HVAC piping, some self tapping metal screws, and duct tape. Other than having a great view of Cincinnati at night, the drive from Detroit to Lexington was fairly uneventful.

Our friend Dave is getting his Ph.D (finishing his masters at the moment) at University of Kentucky and is letting us stay in his place (his roommate, Ian, is also getting his Masters and is a pretty rad guy as well) while also showing us around town. He’s located in the heart of campus which is great for us to be able to walk around and see things. My current view:
the view

My impression so far of Lexington is that of “College Town, USA.” Walking around town feels like I could be in East Lansing, or Ann Arbor. A lot of young people walking to classes, a large number of bars and eateries, and a couple lawns here and there scattered with spent beer cans. On the first night of getting into KY we went out on the town for a drink at a college bar… it’s a bit surreal going to bar where most of the patrons are freshly turned 21 year-olds as I’m reaching the near side of 30 (we wanted to go to an Irish bar, but seeing as it was ‘fake’ St Patty’s day we figured it would be a shit show). It’s not that I didn’t have a good time, it’s that there is a huge gap of experience between myself and that kid who is going to a bar for the first time. Maybe as that gap widens that relationship will become more interesting to me, but right now it’s just amusing when some cheesy macho man is mean-mugging me because I’m talking to his girlfriend (as part of that story: ran into fraternal twin girls, who were really cute, so Dan and I were chatting them up. Apparently while we were asking them deep probing questions like, “If you get punched, does she feel it?” and cackling, the dudes they were with were just eyeballin’ us. That information coming from Jacob and Dave. You know what I say to those ‘tuded up brehs? Deal with it.)

An astute observation from Jacob: When it rains, college girls here dress like Harriet the Spy.
We’re awaiting photo evidence to share (we’ve seen a couple good examples, but they were a bit too far to snap a creeper photo to share).
Harriet the spy
Source: http://sartorialme.blogspot.com/

I’ll post again when I have more to share.
Cheers,
-Matt

Oh yeah, before I forget:

Packing. Batteries installed. Leaving.

Matt and I went out and spent the money on batteries and some 2/0 gauge cable. 25ft of that shit is not cheap. We learned how to make battery cables which was cool. The bus is finally an autonomous unit. Tested the generator to the inverter charger.Tested the AC to the invert. Tested the batteries.

We ran into issues initially when trying to charge the batteries from AC power and the generator. The inverter would ramp up and then shut off. Ramp up. Shut off. We were both really worried that the inverter had issues. We ended up grabbing a network cable and hooking up our xanbus control panel. I had read a review that the inverter tries to pull 150amps to charge the batteries. I turned the charge rate to 40% and lo and behold the inverter is able to charge the batteries!

All of the big items were basically done after that. We finished our propane hookup. Dragged the trailer over. More finish work. I have limited pictures, but I’m sure we’ll have more to come. Jacob showed up today (Friday) and we started really packing things into the bus. Clothes, music gear, bikes, tools, food.

For those that don’t know, we’re leaving this Saturday to travel the US and stay with friends and check out as much as possible and work from the road. It all seems unreal with it this close.  We’ll update from the road and try to take as many pictures as possible.

On a side notes, I cleaned up the cabling a bunch. Still need to clean the bus up some more.