Sunday, April 28, 2013



Dear Reader,

We get up early so we can spend some time looking around downtown Asheville in the daytime before we hit the road heading to Nashville, TN about 300 miles away.  With about 840 miles left to go to Springdale, AR we figure a couple 300 mile days and a shorter 200 mile day is the best way to go.

And Asheville doesn’t disappoint.  It has retained much of its old charm and a lot of the businesses that have moved into older, classic places such as the former F. W. Woolworth & Co. site have left up, and in some cases restored, the old signage and architecture.  I like that.

The entrance to the Haywood Park.  If you're in Asheville, stay there.

As  it is today.

As it was back in "the day."  Pretty darn close if you ask me.

What the hell happened to these elegant counters, where a guy could go an sit down to by a shirt?

Tried to buy these for The Navigator.  They wouldn't sell them.

Henceforth, I will be directing all my motion pictures dressed like this.  That is all.  Sharp and Gnatty. 

Walking out of the Haywood Hotel we find a cool little red street car passing by, a guy playing guitar by a sculpture of a giant Iron, a ridiculously well stocked wig shop, a guy who seems stoned and quite possibly may have been wandering in large circles around downtown for some years, who stops and tells The Navigator he likes her pink PF Flyer sneakers and asks, “Are they comfortable?”  And then walks away without waiting for an answer.  So we surmise, quickly, that Asheville is a unique combination of serious old money from the Gilded Age, youngish hippie-chic types, and wandering dudes who seem stuck in some kind of Slaughter House 5 train track off of which they simply cannot get.  I like Asheville.

A dude playing guitar and belting out a Tom Waits tune (might have been a John Prine tune) at 7AM in front of a giant Iron.  How great is that?!

If you remember the great soda fountains and counter lunches, you're over 50.


I purchased the orange one with the spikey black bangs.  Don't ask.

There was even a place called EARTH GUILD around the corner from the hotel, through the front window of which I could see a loom, a bunch of tie-dye fabric-y blouse-like Jerkins, and vaguely dashiki (the likes of which, had I a set of Imperial Russian leather riding gloves, I would not hesitate, or be ashamed to wear at a duel defending my beloved’s honor.  Slap! Slap! "Shall we say pistols at dawn, sir?!")  and a whack of knotted hemp macrame items.  This seemed a good place to have stocked up on my organic bees wax candles and quinona seeds, but the name was vaguely communistic.  I mean what is an “Earth Guild?”  A global union?  A guy named Stalin tried something like that once and 75 million people died.  I’m just sayin’.

Earth Guild.  I mean, really, I can't think of anything better to say than, Earth Guild.

I called the main phone number of Earth Guild on a lark.  Here's how they answer the phone, "Hello, good solstice, Earth Guild abides, may the stones of mother earth ease the paths of your chakras, tie-dye 20% off today only."

Oh and that dude playing guitar in front of the giant sculpture of an Iron?  And belting out some tidy Tom Waits cover tunes?  It was 7 AM.  For some reason I think the guy is gonna make it big.

We got the Truckster loaded and took the short drive to the main plaza with the big grass area so The Captain could get a little tennis ball time in before we hit the road.  And he did.  And he made a new friend.  A little girl and her mom.  “Can I pet your dog?”

“Yes, you may, sweetheart.”  The Captain was the consummate gentleman.  Even gave her a kiss in exchange for the head scratch.  G’boy Maverick.

Asheville, NC.  An obelisk.

The courthouse off the main plaza.

I want the scaffolding concession on this gig!

We stopped into the place called Pack’s we had seen the night before.  Great place.  Owned by one family, whom, we were told, spent four million dollars renovating the old building and turning into a restaurant and bar and filling it with Stickley furniture.  Clean and tidy with echoes of Mr. Lloyd Wright.  I liked it immensely as did The Navigator.  After signing a few Sandlot Tour mini’s for the manager and the head chef we headed out for go-juice and gas.

Best bar in Asheville, NC

If I has the cash, I would've bought Pack's.

We find both (a Starbucks and Shell Station) directly across the street from one another. Convenient.  Then we hit the road again.

A tank of go-juice for the Tour Truckster is about $70

North Carolina.  Vanderbilt country.

The single greatest voice in country music history.  Patsy Cline.

Everything went smoothly until... Tennessee.  Again.  Seems like we were just there.   We actually had been, on the way through to Philly from Memphis when the Sandlot Tour started.  There is a section of I-40 that runs for maybe 40 or 50 miles through the mountains, two lanes each way, bordered by the mountain on one side and a coffinesquely claustrophobic concrete divider on the other.  And this is where the a-hole Tennessee drivers (specifically the Truckers) really play dirty.  I’ll just say it now, they should all be brought up attempted murder charges immediately.

I mean, look, I love Teamsters.  I couldn't do my job without qualified drivers.  But may I make a suggestion to the Union Leadership?   At the next national meeting maybe lean a little harder on the "Safety First" protocol.  Ya think?  Because these guys, if in fact they are Teamsters, have bastardized that slogan, and now the mantra seems to be "Safety First.  TIME PERMITTING!"  And, apparently, time never permits.

"Ladies and gentlemen, assume your crash positions, we're in Tenessee."

Nashville, TN.  Music City.

Where Johnny the Jackass lives.
I keep the speed always no more than 5 mph over the limit.  75 for a 70 zone.  65 for a 60 and so on.  It’s safe.  Plenty fast enough.  And no speeding tickets, because in general State Troopers are looking for the 10 mph over and better d-bags.  But when you need to pass someone, and pull into the left lane to do so, in Tennessee, in the mountains, on a ridiculously narrow twisty interstate these 60 IQ geniuses form mile long convoys so tight it is impossible to get out of the fast lane for miles and miles.  

And then the real fun starts, because you get guys like the one in this next video tailgating you at 80 plus as if you had a choice and could change back into the slow lane any time you wished.  Which you can’t.  So what’s the point of riding me that fast like some kind of vehicular rapist?!  You’re an idiot!  Back off!  You’re endangering lives you genetic deficient!  Get out your banjo and take a break.

Don’t believe me?  Here ya go.  WARNING! There is a select piece of profanity at the very end of the clip; two choice words that begin with an “F” and with a “You.”  And yes, that’s yours truly cursing the Death Race 2000 Moron in the 100,000 pounds of hurtling, 18 wheeled SCUD MISSILE behind me:

After Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through the Tennessee mountains we hit a few rest stops and The Navigator found us a Marriott Residence Inn just outside Nashville, TN.  Perfect.  We punched the address in to Rhonda The GPS Lady and figured to be there in about 3 hours.

We stopped for a coffee refill at a Starbucks and The Captain had a moment to get his "Jack London" on:

We hit some traffic, but that soon passed and we rolled into Nashville before nightfall.

Into Nashville right on time.

We made two quick stops, one at a Wally World and one at The Captain’s favorite store for some supplies, PetCo.  I toss The Captain the debit card and tell him to get what he needs and meet us back at the car in 20 minutes.  Irresponsible you say?  Hey, he's 3 years-old, that's 21 in human years, he's plenty old enough to shop for himself.  Still don't believe me?  Here's a picture snapped just as the Captain was paying for his items by a shocked dog owner just behind him in line whose dog is clearly an incapable dufus:

The clerk was so shocked The Captain could actually swipe a debit card and punch in the PIN she gave him the tennis ball (in his mouth) for free.

The Marriott Residence Inn's are great because they all have kitchens.  And this one had an awesome grill just outside the apartment-like room.

The preferred accommodations of Team DME on The 20th Anniversary Sandlot Tour


There were a couple guys grilling and having a few beers when we arrived.  We got to talking with them when they saw The Captain and were blown away.  “Incredible dog...” And high-praise comments like that.  We learned that these guys were in Nashville on AT&T’s dime going to Pole Climbing School on their way to becoming full-on Telephone Lineman.   I felt an immediate affinity with these guys, because, as I recounted to them, I had been a telephone lineman in college, working for what at the time was known as General Telephone - hence having become Verizon.

In those days this is what my climbing equipment looked like:

Medieval climbing spikes. 

Above Latigo Canyon in Malibu, CA, 20 feet up a pole, 500 feet over a canyon, when the wind was howling, this was scary stuff.  

Here's what the modern spikes look like:

They’d been at it for weeks and still had a few more to go.  They were all 11 of them away from their families and had met in the group they were assigned to.  They were a grateful bunch and many had been out of work for some time, so that AT&T had hired them was a blessing.  We’ve heard this all over the parts of the country we’ve passed through - that jobs are scarce and the economy is a disaster.  And I agree.  Recovery?  What recovery?  It’s a lie.

DO NOT touch The Captain's tennis balls.

Nonetheless these were good guys and things were looking up for them, and that was encouraging.  They called themselves The AT&T Wood Walkers of Nashville which I thought was a tidy moniker if ever there was one.  And they all had nicknames, which I thought was even cooler:  Jazzy, Deuce, Skid Row, Sox, Trey, Short Dog, Skreech, Co, Big Country, Skully and Cornbread.

Some of the AT&T Nashville Wood Walkers.

When the conversation turned to asking us what we were doing in Nashville, and I told them, I got a whole bunch of silent blank faces staring back at me.  And then, the inevitable, “What?!  That’s like the greatest movie ever made!  YOU MADE THAT MOVIE?!”

I said, “Yes sirs, I did.”

And then, like happens every single time, we had 11 new friends because of The Sandlot.  The movie really does mean that I have friends I’ve never yet met everywhere we go.  And I think that is one great blessing in life to have.  I am endlessly, completely grateful for that.  So out came the Tour mini’s which I signed for all the guys, and their kids if they had any, and then I could not resist so I gave them all t-shirts.

They were blown away.  Here’s the cool picture we took, with all the Wood Walkers in their Sandlot t-shirts and their new official mascot, The Captain:

The AT&T Nashville Wood Walkers...

... now official members of The 20th Anniversary Sandlot Tour!

The Navigator and I grilled some chicken, fed The Captain and had our end of day beer.  As I was compiling notes and cleaning up my work for the evening, I had The Navigator take this video of The Captain.  

GSD’s are a very communicative K-9.  The Captain will “talk” to us for various reasons in order to get across various things.  And he’ll also sound off due to triggers, or patterns he knows precede possibly going out for a run, like The Navigator “clicking off” her iPhone, or either of us closing our MacBooks.  

Here he is doing just that, but the really reason I’m posting the video is to give you an example of his bark.  This is a normal “talking to us bark.”  Imagine is 2 octaves lower and 50 decibels louder and that’s that the poor sap in the Asheville grocery store parking lot got right in the ear:

G’Boy Captain.

End of day beer, Nashville, TN.  And a couple cans of freshies for The Captain.

Next up, Little Rock, Arkansas.  Oh boy.

Check back soon, and sign up to follow us on The 20th Anniversary Sandlot Tour.



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