Last year the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) was held at Charlotte, North Carolina, about 250 miles / 4 hours away. Sadly, it conflicted with our planned trip to Bike Week in Daytona on March 13th – 16th, as I really wanted to take advantage of the close proximity of the show and attend.
When they announced the 2015 show would be in Kentucky I figured we’d be “O-Fer” since it fell on top of Bike Week again. And, in fact, up and until about Wednesday of this week, I had it in my head that NAHBS was just going to have to stay on my bucket list until I realized that the show was “This Weekend!” — which did overlap with Daytona’s Bike Week — but not the same weekend that we would be down in Daytona.
I did some quick figuring in my head as to just how many hours of driving it would be to make the nearly 800-mile round trip vs. how many hours we’d actually be at the show — remembering I’m an enthusiast and blogger who’s really into tandem bicycles and not someone who makes a living grabbing interviews and doing product reviews of the entire bike scene for the masses — and it did not pass the sanity check. However, the drive would take us right by Nashville, Tennessee, and Miss Debbie and I had talked about needing to make another trip up there to catch a few bands and otherwise have a good time at the honkey tonks. So, if I revised my calculations using Nashville as the starting point for the drive to Louisville, the math didn’t look nearly as insane, i.e., it was closer to a 1:1 ratio of drive time vs. time at the show: 175-miles / 2.5 hours each way.
Then the snow hit the fan and suddenly Nashville had 5″ of the white stuff on Thursday, with about 2″ in Louisville, but up to 12″ had fallen in between shutting down I-65 for nearly 24 hours. So, my grand plan of heading up to Nashville for two nights with a day-trip to NAHBS in Louisville stuck in-between was looking bleak. Despite the dire-looking conditions, I decided to keep an eye on the video feed coming from cameras along I24 and I65 and by Friday mid-morning the roads were all looking pretty good. It would be cold and there was certainly the risk of black ice at night as day-time snow melt migrated across roads, but the risks all seemed manageable.
I’d shared my grand plan for the weekend with Debbie in an Email Thursday morning and she was excited about the get-away, but understood the weather issue could muck things up. However, as noon time approached on Friday, I decided to throw caution to the wind and found / booked a hotel room at the Hampton Inn Downtown via KAYAK/Priceline. If nothing else, we’d make it at least that far and have a good time in Nashville on Friday night. Of course, to ensure we’d arrive early enough to enjoy the night out we’d have to leave home promptly around 6:00pm.
To make that happen I’d have to leave work a little early and do a couple of virtual meetings as I had a new battery installed in my truck (it died Thursday night in the garage, wouldn’t you know) and I also decided I’d surprise Debbie by ordering a Caesar salad and Wild Pie for take-out from Olde Towne Tavern & Grille that I’d have dinner waiting when she arrived home at 5:30pm. The plan worked well in that she was thrilled by being able to have a nice dinner at home before we hit the road and with the time change between EST and CST we rolled into Nashville at about 8:30PM.
After getting checked into and settled into our room at the Hampton Inn, we walked the 2 city blocks to Broadway and headed to The Second Fiddle where a female signer — Holland Marie — who we’d enjoyed on our first trip to Nashville would be playing from about 6:30pm until 10:15pm. It was a brisk but enjoyable walk and although The Second Fiddle was packed, we were able to make our way to the back of the bar and right next to the stage where we’d spend the next 2.5 hours enjoying the live music and some liquid refreshments.
Holland Marie and her band were as good as we remembered and we had a great bar keeper taking care of us. We met a lot of nice folks and really had a great time. Not much room for dancing once the “kids” from Indiana who were down for spring break filled the floor as they’re want to do, but that was OK too. Brandon Holder and his band came on at 10:30pm and they were excellent as well, giving us good reason to simply stay put and enjoy ourselves at The Fiddle for the rest of the night vs. cruising the other bars to find other bands…. hell, they’re all good! It was a great night in Nashville and being able to walk back to your hotel is such a huge benefit
We slept in a little longer than I’d planned, but the time zone and late night out had us a little off our normal early wake-up schedule. However, we’d had our breakfast and were on the road by early enough to put us at NAHBS before noon, noting we’d be back on Eastern time in Louisville. I’ll cover the NAHBS event in a separate blog entry, but it suffices to say, anyone who likes bicycles from an engineering or artistic standpoint MUST attend NAHBS at some point.
Debbie was even blown away and said more than once, “We need to come to this every year!” I had to remind her that it moves around and, as I suspected, it moved back out west for 2016… way west to Sacramento, CA.
We spent the better part of 4 hours at the show and as we drove south on I65 out of Louisville we’d talked about going ahead and just driving all the way through back to Atlanta, which would have put us home by 9:30pm… about a 6-hour trip. Of course, we also talked about what a great weekend it had been thus far and while I’d been the one who suggested by-passing Nashville, I was having second thoughts. While Debbie was napping I decided to try out Hotwire to see what kind of room rate I could find for a one-night stay.
I ended up finding a room at the Sheraton Downtown and my plan was to get us checked in and then we’d walk the 5 blocks or so to Merchants on Broadway for dinner around 6:00pm. After that we’d walk a few doors up to Nashville Crossroads where Holland Marie would be performing with her band. Yes, even in Music City I’m a creature of habit; I always go for the sure thing when I’m just looking for a good time and not interested in exploring or being adventurous.
Merchants was amazing. We ate at the downstairs bistro / bar and had Dusty taking care of us; great guy. Debbie had the New York Strip and it was melt-in-your mouth delicious, as were the mushrooms and yukon taters. I had the Strawberry Salad with blackened Salmon: out of this world! Once again, we met some fun folks at the bar and even had a great encounter with a couple at a table next to the bar who were down from Chicago for a job interview and to see the area. They had a slide of Butterscotch Pie and a huge hunk of chocolate cake sitting in front of themselves and I forgot what comment sparked our discussion. But we ended up chatting with them for at least 15 minutes and Debbie even had a bite of the pie which was, of course, out of this world good.
We wandered down to the Crossroads and found a couple empty seats at the far end of the bar and asked one of their awesome bartenders — all the folks who tend the bars in Nashville work hard at their craft since they pretty much live off tips the same as the bands — to keep an eye for any seats that opened up closer to the band. The bar wasn’t all that crowded but pretty much every seat at the bar and every table had folks at them; however, it wasn’t five minutes before our friend behind the bar waved us down to a couple of seats much closer to the band.
Holland was a lot more chipper than she’d been on Friday night and the guy she had playing second guitar was also really a character and a great singer to boot. What was really nice was having plenty of dance floor available and not too many folks who we had to share it with. So, we truly were able to kick up our heels a half a dozen times before we called it a night. We also bought two rounds of shots for the band, which seemed like a nice gesture… until you remember how much a shot costs in Nashville! But, what the heck; we were having a lot of fun!
I want to say we left by around 9:00pm and at my suggestion we headed back to Merchants to split a full piece of that delicious Butterscotch pie as a nightcap. It was perfect! After our pie we resisted the temptation to head back into another honkey tonk and, instead enjoyed a nice walk back to our hotel and a relatively early evening for Nashville.
Between the time change and eastern/central time zone differences, even though the clock said it was 7:00am we didn’t really get up until a little before 9:00am Atlanta time, which put us a bit behind for the trip home. However, it all worked out just fine. We were on the road by 9:30am and rolled into our driveway around 12:30pm. After getting ourselves unpacked and a load of into the machine we had a light lunch and by 1:30pm we were dressed in our cycling gear and headed out on our Calfee for a nice 25-mile road ride from the house. Despite having been in bicycle dreamland the day before, I must say that we’re both pretty darn happy with our Calfee for all the right reasons. The tandem ride gave us a chance to get the 800-miles of cobwebs from being in the car out of our legs and some much-needed fresh air on what was one of the most beautiful, sunny and warm weekend days we’ve seen all year.
After getting back from our tandem ride Debbie headed off to get groceries while I did a little light cleaning around the house, loaded some more laundry into the machines and took my now filthy truck over to the car wash for an undercarriage flush as well as to get all of the salt / brine residue off the paint. By the time I was back, it was just about dinner time so we hopped on our Harley-Davidson Road King and motored over to Loco Willy’s for some hot wings.
We were back at home by 7:00pm and that pretty much wrapped the day. Debbie spent about an hour in the kitchen getting meals prepared for the short week ahead of us, remembering that we’re supposed to ride the motorcycle down to Daytona Beach on Thursday where we’ll be vacationing for two more days before riding back home on Sunday. Me, I made the mistake of checking my work Email which just put me in a foul mood (dumb idea to check the mail on my part) and then sat down here to begin collecting photos and thoughts on our weekend.
In sum, one of the best weekends ever! It’s no secret to anyone that Debbie and I love being together more than anything else in the world. We love all our friends, but we also do just fine “making it up as we go along”, which we did in spades this weekend.
More on the NAHBS tomorrow!