Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tennessee Detour - Jack Daniel's Distillery and Nashville

Recently we were in Huntsville, Alabama for the Rocket City Marathon. While Holly and our friend Stan were running, the snow storm up north started. All the weather people were predicting a large amount of snow for the entire weekend so getting home Sunday night did not seem like a reality. By Saturday afternoon the airline sent us a note that our flight for Sunday evening was cancelled and we should call them to make arrangements. Being quick thinkers we decided that we would extend our car rental for a day, drive to Nashville, stay over by the airport, and fly out on a 5am flight Monday morning so we could be at work on time.

On Sunday we had a lovely Waffle House breakfast, toured the Huntsville Space Center (details in another report), then headed for Tennessee. Our first stop really excited Dave (as opposed to the Space Center - not his thing): the Jack Daniel's Distillery. We booked one of several tours while driving through Tennessee and we were excited to see that we could actually taste product in the dry county. Jack Daniels gets "a pass" as long as it's only a small amount served.

The visitor center was very nice. Outside the building was a stream created from the mountain spring, area, picnic tables, pathway to town (Lynchburg), and a Christmas tree made of whiskey barrels.

Inside the building were a few displays of bottles, marketing artifacts, and explanations of the distilling process. The "gift" shop only sold liquor, which could be packaged for shipping. All other tourist items were available at a shop in town. There were a few items on display related to the company's 150th anniversary.

Our tour group of twenty-eight was summoned to go to the bus boarding area. We certainly did not expect to have to bus anywhere. Most of the production buildings were not visible from the visitor center because of the large property layout and hills/forest areas. Our first drive-by was through the town of Lynchburg where we saw the courthouse, the Jack Daniel's gift shop, and a few other shops. Next we made our way up in the hills passing many of the warehouses where the whiskey is aged. These tin barns can get very hot in the summer and the temperature differs greatly depending on the floor of the building. The different brands are aged on different floors based on temperature ranges. We disembarked the bus near one of the barns and made our way to the charcoal production area. All their whiskey is filtered through charcoaled wood made on premise by three men (one of them is named Stick).

Other areas we toured while outside included the old fire truck display, the cave where the mountain spring water comes from, and a small building that used to be Jack's office.

When we went in the production facilities we could see the distillation vessels in action and watched the raw product drip into the charcoal filters a drop at a time. Total time for a drop in the filter tank is five days. We toured through one (non-operating) bottling line and watched a video on how the oak storage barrels are crafted then charred. Jack Daniel's uses each barrel once then sells them to other distillers and brewers. The final stop was the original barrel house where batches were still being stored and where the tastings would be conducted. Because of the tour we chose we were able to sample 5 different premium products.

Holly is still not a fan of whiskey
The tour and tasting was almost two hours long. It was enjoyable (for Dave) and educational. The tour guides kept it informal and handled the group well. The only downside is there's not much else to do in this small section of Tennessee. The dry county could benefit by adding a brewery or two in the area and capitalize on the captive audience they have coming into see Jack Daniel's.

We walked to town quickly to check out the branded merchandise. Lots of fun stuff from glasses, Christmas villages, statues, and almost anything else you can slap a logo on. Dave would have bought a t-shirt, but since Jack Daniel's signature colors are black and white he found nothing that suited his color palette.

Later that evening we enjoyed a few hours out with our friend Bill in Nashville. We had a quick BBQ dinner before heading to Nashville Crossroads to watch one of his favorite bands - Eskimo Brothers. Great live performers!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 8

WestJet, a Canadian airline, has been making holiday wishes come true for folks for years. This year's video shows images of people evacuating their homes as a forest fire rages through the area. WestJet tries to give the families a Christmas celebration they will remember.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 7

If you have been to the movies lately you may have seen a pre-show Christmas ad for H&M featuring a train that is re-routed during Christmas. The ad states we can see more of the story by going to their website, which most times we never do. Today Tizzel saves you the trouble by giving you the whole video that was directed by Wes Anderson and stars Adrien Brody.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 6

This clip from the Dick Van Dyke show features two street Santas engaging in a conversation that leads into a song and dance routine. Even though Dick and Mary Tyler Moore are dressed as Santa their song has nothing to do with the holiday. The outfits do play a role in the dance number.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 5

Every year Tizzel seeks out a classic cartoon for the countdown. In all those years he never ran across this Walt Disney creation that was originally part of a 1934 MGM film Hollywood Party. The film was a bunch of vignettes following the popular stars of the time including Laurel & Hardy, Jimmy Durante, The Three Stooges, and Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse would join Laurel & Hardy in another 1934 MGM film: March of the Wooden Soldiers. A monkey portrayed Mickey Mouse in the film.

Tizzel included a trailer for the Hollywood Party in today's post.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 4

Holly requested for something traditional to show up today. Tizzel scoured the internet and found something that should appeal to children of the 70's and 80's. He found this gem from Pee Wee Herman's Christmas Special - Charo singing Feliz Navidad! The special features other stars including Grace Jones, Oprah, and Frankie Avalon.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 3

Everyone loves a great Christmas light display. This house is all decked out DJ style. Tizzel enjoys the use of a drone to capture the hard work that went into this dubstep inspired display.


Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 2

We don't know much about The Wiggles other than they are Australian and made a bunch of money in the 2000's. while searching around for videos Tizzel stumbled on this one and thought it was strange enough to include. The elf on the left should have been fired. If you are interested there are many other songs from their Christmas special to look for on YouTube.

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 1

We know you have been looking forward to this all year! Team Tizzel is giving you a little relax time for a few minutes. For the next ten days we'll be posting fun Christmas-related videos. Think of it like a digital Advent Calendar. We may also have some regular posts too, so don't forget to keep checking back.

The festivities kick off with a kid lip-syncing to the song Donde Esta Santa Claus. This song was originally recorded in the 50's, but we've never heard it until XM played the version by the band Guster a few day ago. The video below was recorded back in 2006. According to the video notes the star died (along with his mother) a year later in a car crash. His memory lives on through the Internet.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Thanksgiving Week in Grenada

We originally booked our Thanksgiving Week vacation at Sandals Emerald Bay in Exumas, Bahamas. Hurricane Matthew changed those plans when the Bahamas (especially the Out Islands) got hit pretty hard. The resort received enough damage to close for a few months. Rather than leave guests stranded, Sandals gave us the option to choose another Sandals resort, cancel the booking, or honor quoted prices into 2017. We chose the option of switching to another Sandals resort on the island of Grenada (new country for us). Problem was our flights were booked to Exuma. Sandals paid the difference to change our flights - the cost of the incremental airfare and change fees. Six weeks out this was not cheap. Going this extra mile shows how committed the brand is to their guests.

We flew to Miami the night before with no incident. We were not so lucky the next day. After boarding we were informed that they were moving our flight crew to another flight where the crew had expired. But, they replaced our crew with an expired crew (which sounds fishy - what computer allows that to happen). So we had to wait for another replacement crew, and they were arriving at their gate "any minute" (we were tracking that flight and they were nowhere near a gate). Eventually we left over 3 hours late and ended up at our resort at midnight. We ordered room service burgers, waited for our luggage to be delivered and went to bed. Bah!

The resort: Sandals LaSource was once an independent resort. Sandals purchased the property a few years ago and performed a major expansion. Some of the higher end rooms have their own infinity pools on the balconies. We did not have one of those. However our room was nice: king bed, 2 large tvs, sectional sofa, large bathroom, balcony with ocean view, and a bathtub on the balcony. Our room included a stocked bar and butler service (more on butlers later).

The beach was not the best we have seen, and we were slightly disappointed. The Emerald Bay beach is quite large and gorgeous. The break wall and dock here limited our field of view. Much of the property was crammed in and consisted of a lot of walkways and concrete - very few grassy areas.

Amenities were still nice and the gardening crew did a fantastic job on the plantings. The resort offered many different restaurants with set themes - French, Caribbean, NY Steakhouse, Japanese, etc. We also had a French pastry "shop" (it's all-inclusive) and a gourmet hot dog cart for lunch. The dinners were some of the best we have had at Sandals properties.

We've had butler service with Sandals a few times since some of the resorts we visited were 100% butler. We finally learned how to get the most of this service. Before our trip Sandals asked us to fill out a preference form for our butler - in-room bar liquor ,dinning options, etc. We indicated our beverage choices and stated what restaurants we wanted to dine in with the times. On arrival our fridge and bar was stocked and all our dining selections were booked at the right times. Awesome. The butlers will reserve your beach/pool chairs and give you a cooler with water and other beverages. Our other beverage was beer. Once empty they would be restocked. Nice. They booked our excursions for us so we never had to leave our chairs. They'd check on us during the day and if we needed anything we could call them on the cell phone they gave us.

We loved sitting by the fire at night surrounded by the pool

Even though we did an excursion and two boat trips our favorite activity was feeding the fish. Day one about twenty of them approached us in the water. They had no fear and would take nibbles on your outstretched fingers. These fish were trained. Everyday after that we came out with bread and watched the show. It was great from the float rings - we'd watch them all swarm while sitting in comfort.

Excursions: Our first trip out was the 3pm glass bottom boat tour. The ride took us along the coast and into St. George's Harbor (the largest town and capital). We got a great view of the fort, churches, and colonial buildings.

Our other boat ride was a sunset catamaran cruise. We took vans to the harbor and boarded a nice cat. The crew did a great job making sure we always had drinks. We sailed very slowly towards the resort and the setting sun before arriving back dockside in the dark. It was a pleasant evening event and no one was out of hand.


Our "big" excursion was the 1/2 day Adventure Jeep / River Rafting tour. We were picked up in a pickup truck/jeep that had some roll bars to keep us in. We were encouraged to stand the whole way as our guide pointed out local sites, plants, and told us about island life. It was apparent that we were going well into the interior and gaining altitude. We probably rode for 90 minutes up the eastern coast before reaching our first destination: Clabony Sulphur Springs. We took a short hike through the rainforest to find a dirty pool of water. It was a natural toxin releaser (so he said) and we got in. Fortunately we did not stay in long.

Our next stop was river tubing. Our guides outfitted us with helmets and life vests. We hit several areas of "rapids" and it became apparent why we had helmets - rocks everywhere. The scenery was terrific and the entire group had a great time. We were served some rum punch at the end of the trip.

We drove back towards the resort via the Grand Etang National Park. We stopped for refreshments - local beer and chocolate.

The US military extracted US medical students in the eighties as the government was in turmoil

The Grenadians were very friendly and a pleasure to talk to. We had a nice week on-property and during our excursions. We feel like we got a good overall impression of the island and would recommend it as a destination for those looking to go beyond the more-touristed islands.