Author Archives: kermit206

The Triangle, North Carolina

Do you remember where I mentioned that this was an East Coast College Tour? Well it finished in the Triangle. While we didn’t make it to all schools we did make it to UNC and Duke.

The University of North Carolina has a men’s basketball museum. It was fascinating to walk through and to see the Letter of Intent of Michael Jordan. It was even more interesting to see a section on academics… Google UNC men’s basketball academics if you don’t know what I’m talking about…

A stop and walk around Duke led us to the beautiful chapel and of course Krzyzewskiville, named for the famous Duke coach. I’ve been here a couple of times and always love seeing some of the most beautiful bathrooms in college athletics. They are renovating the upper part of their football stadium to give permanent concessions. It looks like it will be quite wonderful when it is done. Nearby are the Duke Gardens where are FREE and worth visiting if you have the time. I didn’t go this time but have in the past.

Near the UNC campus is a house that’s a stone castle!



Asheville, North Carolina

An evening in Asheville and delicious food at Salsa’s led us to the Biltmore the next morning, the largest house in America. 20170601_140300141_iOS

The family still owes it but does not live in the main house. It is an enormous property that now includes two hotels and a winery. The winery has a great setup and can accommodate a large number of people. Our pourer mentioned that it is the largest winery in the country which isn’t surprising when you figure that every ticket comes with a free tasting.20170601_162555686_iOS

The house is enormous and was designed to be fireproof, therefore made out of stone and cement without wood elements. It has a beautiful garden conservatory and V for Vanderbilt throughout the house. They only had the child, a girl I believe, she was the one who opened it up to the public after her parents died.

I found it fascinating that there was not an outdoor pool and only an indoor one. There were a large number of changing rooms to accommodate changers. They didn’t have bikinis in those days.

The balconies of the house looked out forever. There is now a highway that runs elevated through part of the property. Stone was used to decorate the base as part of the agreement to let it go through in the first place.20170601_142353643_iOS

While we were there, the rooms were decorated with costumes from Finding Neverland. 20170601_144145713_iOS

There are beautiful gardens and property that you can both walk and drive through.


In Nashville we got a chance to watch part of one of the Stanley Cup Playoff games from a large gathering downtown. We had both been to the area before so we just walked around and enjoyed the scenery.

In Knoxville we had a wonderful dinner right on the river and drove through the orange lit UT athletic facilities at night.

Pat Summit plaza, a women’s basketball legend and the all-time wins record basketball coach , is located right outside of Thompson-Boling Arena where she coached for over 30 years before tragically passing away from Alzheimer’s last year. Just inside of the arena is a UT basketball mini-museum.

In Knoxville is also the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

We drove through Pigeon Forge, TN, home of Dollywood and Dolly Parton.

Also through Gatlinsburg, TN which is essentially a tourist trip. 20170531_174840736_iOS.jpg

The highlight was driving through the Smoky Mountains on the way to North Carolina.

THE Jack Daniels

Jack Daniels tends to be my drink of choice. So to say the least I was beyond excited to finally be visiting the actual location of Jack Daniels, especially after having been to the area a couple of times but without a pilgrimage to this sacred place.

Jack Daniels is in Lynchburg, TN. In honor of this I am drinking a version of a Lynchburg Lemonade as I write this. It is located in Moore County, TN one of the smallest counties in the state and a dry county. Jack Daniels received an exception from the legislature a couple of years ago and is now able to sell its Tennessee whiskey at its property. They Lynchburg winery is the only other source of alcohol in the county and is permitted as it falls under agricultural laws.

From Jack Daniels it is 13.2 miles and 12.1 miles to the edge of the county but more specifically to the nearest liquor store.

In the tour you are shown a 7-story storage building that holds 20,000 barrels containing 53 gallons each. As there is a $13 per gallon tax on the whisky so it’s worth $14 million to the federal government. There is no insulation and no heating. It’s 130-140 degrees at the top. Barrels spend 5-7 years at the top and 4-6 years in the rest of the facility.20170530_175624398_iOS

Heat makes whiskey go into the barrel whereas cold pulls it back out into the main part of the barrel. This in and out is how flavor is added. The Devil’s cut is whiskey trapped in the barrel. The long it is in the barrel, the soother the flavor and the darker the color.

Tennessee whiskey is defined as a charcoal dripped whiskey. Rickyards (unit of measurement) of hard sugar maple are doused with 140 proof Jack and set on fire. They can’t use petroleum as a fire starter as it’s not consumable. They make their own charcoal and then drip the whiskey through ti to take out the fatty oil and what not.

There’s a spring on the property that Jack Daniels uses. It has Tennessee limestone filtered water leaving it pure and fresh, free of iron. They added a statue of “Jack on a Rock” to the area. The artist added 7 inches to Jack as he was larger thank life but in reality was only 5’2″.

  • Jack Daniel’s full name was Jasper Newton Daniel – “Jack”. He never married and had no kids. He gave it to his nephew.
  • On the tour you get to see the safe that killed Jack. He forgot the combo and couldn’t open it. He kicked it and broke his toe rather than waiting for his colleague who had the combination. It took Jack 6 months before he finally went to the doctor, the toe had gangrene and Jack died soon after from blood poisoning.20170530_182602055_iOS
  • His best friend was a black man which was rare for the time.
  • You can join the single barrel society for a price of $9,000-$15,000. You’ll get 240 bottles, all engraved and your name added to the wall. The barrels weigh 550 lbs each.
  • Jack Daniels has a Sinatra label. This whiskey has grooves in the barrel giving it more surface area.
  • The tasting is done in the store house with barrels that were there just for show containing only water. The corks and barrels need to stay moist or else they risk drying out.
  • Around alcohol facilities you’ll find black moss, aka “drunk moss”, the organisms eat the alcohol vapors.20170530_182106922_iOS

Bourbon. And Something Similar.

Our first distillery stop was Buffalo Trace. On the way in we randomly saw a Puerto Rican license plate. It was a unique one to add to our list because every road trip has to have a license plate list.

Buffalo Trace is just outside of Frankfort, Kentucky. After doing a Scotch road trip through Scotland, it was time to learn about something closer to home – Bourbon. The name comes from the Bourbon family of whom a county was named after. Barrels had the name of the county printed on them – Bourbon. Thus Bourbon was adopted as the name.

Bourbon involves the ABCs. Three important properties of Bourbon.  Made in America. An American White Oak Barrel, a wood-charred single-use Barrel must be used. These are typically exported afterwards (to Scotland and elsewhere). And finally, it has to be 51 percent Corn, an American grain.

Different floors of the warehouse create different flavors due to temperature fluctuations. They have different product lines based on recipe (again grain proportions), floor level, and time. Maker’s Mark is a company that rotates levels to keep a consistent flavor.

Buffalo Trace created a line of tornado whiskey as 11 years ago a tornado ripped off the roof. Amazingly no barrels were lost. The exposure to the sun, air, and other elements gave the whiskey a unique flavor. These bottles are selling for $32,000 online… (although I couldn’t find this in actuality, if anyone has any leads please let me know!)

In the tasting area we got a chance to try Bourbon Cream and some moonshine. The bourbon cream was rather unique and would be a nice addition to coffee (if you’re into that…) or tea or anything really.

In Tennessee we went to the Town Branch Distillery. They have a brewery as well but we skipped the brewery tour for the distillery part. They had some rum and a coffee type thing for tasting as well.

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to Jack Daniels. My S.O. had been there before but this was my first time. As it tends to be my drink of choice I was elated to say the least. View the next post for proper coverage of this.

West Virginia. Ohio. Kentucky.

Did you know that the way to describe West Virginia is as a fist with the middle finger sticking up?


Do you see it? Well we were on the middle finger for a stretch. We then headed over to Ohio to check out Ohio State. In some ways I felt our trip was a BIG 10/SEC college road trip.

Here’s Ohio Stadium, designed to have features of the Coliseum.

Then it was on to Cincinnati. Home of Rogue. We enjoyed dinner down on the waterfront near the stadiums. The waterfront area was apparently recently finished for the MLB All-Star game.

In Lexington, Kentucky we checked out Rupp Arena, which is right in the center of town. A block away is the home of Mary Todd Lincoln. We arrived too late for a tour but read the brief displays in the garden.


Montreax, Switzerland

Have you ever heard the song “Smoke on the Water“? It was inspired by an incident in Montreax as it clearly lays out in the first line. In 1971 during a Frank Zapra concert, the casion burnt down due to a fan with a flare. The band Deep Purple was nearby and was inspired to write the song. The casino was rebuilt with a recording studio in it.

The city is known for music, in particular its famous jazz festival held every summer in July, The city is decorated with various music notes, visible in the iron work around town.20170623_142015550_iOS - Copy

I took the cog railway up to Rochers de Naye. There were beautiful views over the lake and a historic hotel along the way. It made a number of stops on the way up to the top of the mountain.

Up at the top was a restaurant and a small gift shop of course. There were a number of hiking trails down and around which would have been interesting to take. I took a small hike around the area up to a radio tower and then in the opposite direction to visit an alpine garden. It was tucked in among the landscape and had plants from all over the world. In the distance you could see a lake with a dam. Also at the top were fenced in marmots for our viewing pleasure.

If you purchase your ticket online you can get a nice discount and also a credit at the restaurant.

On the way down there were paragliders! They came by too quick to snap a photo. There also was a bar at one stop with lots of hikers stopping to have a drink and take in the great outdoors.20170623_095556777_iOS - Copy

Montreax is also famous as the home of the former recording studio of Queen. A statue of Freddie Mercury is right on Lake Geneva. In 1978 they came to the studio to record after a tax law made it better to record outside of London and in Switzerland instead. The band originally formed in 1970. In 1979 Queen purchased the studio. They worked on a number of their albums there. The studio is and was a part of the casino and is right on the water.

The local surroundings and activities inspired some of Queen’s songs, including the Tour de France which inspired Bicycle Race and Fat-Bottomed Girls.

David Bowie lived nearby and worked on a track with Queen one day. You may have heard of it – Under Pressure.

Freddie Mercury apparently didn’t like the isolation of Montreax so much until he began his own health struggles with AIDS. After they finished their innuendo album the band did not tour and instead dove into making their next album to distract Freddie and best utilize him in his declining state of health at his request. Made in Heaven was the result although he never did get to hear the finished product. 20 million copies were sold worldwide and it was their fastest selling album.

Freddie died in 1991, the same day his publicist officially confirmed he had AIDS. The studio was sold in 1993. It now houses the Queen Studio Experience, which opened in 2013. Just outside is the Queen Tribute Wall as well.

The statue of Freddie on the lake was donated by Queen and the Freddie Mercury Estate.

The train ride there was beautiful with tiered vineyards and beautiful countryside.

This was one of the featured aerobic statues around town…

20170623_143007009_iOS - Copy

ICRC (Red Cross)

The International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent/Diamond is one of the many international organizations located in Geneva.

They have an excellent museum. There are three main exhibits: Defending Human Dignity, Restoring Family Links, and Reducing Natural Risks.

1864 was the time of the original Geneva Convention. It was the founding document of international humanitarian law establishing the logo of the Red Cross as an easily recognizable emblem. The convention was designed to protect workers and the wounded during war tie. The Ottoman Empire asked for another emblem other than a cross as it gave offense to Muslim soldiers, thus the Red Crescent was born. In the 2000s the diamond was created for those that can’t identify with the cross or the crescent.

The Geneva Convention established priority for protection for wounded, civilians, Red Cross workers, hospital/medical centers, religious or cultural property, places that could cause a major disaster or cause a lasting effect on the people if hit (for example, a nuclear plant or dam), and natural resources.

In one section they had 6 million index cards to cover 2 million people during WWI. THe cards tell when they were taken captive, where they were held, and when/if they died.

There was one wall full of children’s photos in Rwanda. As children don’t always know their name or information they did photo tracing.20170620_151316822_iOS


United Nations

Geneva is one of two of the most important sites for the United Nations and home to many of its related organizations. Many of them aren’t available for public visits but some have visitor centers or actual tours available.

The UN had 51 states at its creation and currently had 193 nations. There are `95 flags flown though as two nations don’t have official status. These are The Holy See (The Vatican) and Palestine.20170619_134919795_iOS

There are 5 general parts to the UN including the General Assembly (one state, one vote) and the Security Council.

There are a large number of conference rooms. The Emirates Room was just renovated by the UAE. They wanted to combine technology and tradition. The tables are white as it is an important color in the UAE. The carpet is like the deserts of Abu Dhabi with gentle rolling sand. The “sky” changes color based on the time of the day.20170619_121350932_iOS

The Chamber of Human Rights was designed by an artist from Mallorca with the ceiling looking like the bottom of the sea. It was absolutely spectacular!

The official languages of the UN are English, French,  Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. The nameplates for countries are in French or English.

The Palais Nacion (one of the conference rooms) held the conference of disarmament. The League of Nations was dissolved in 1946. The Palais Nacion was originally built for this.20170619_124934361_iOS

Out in front of the main entrance (not the tourist entrance) is a broken chair with one leg mission. Three French doctors wanted to convince the nations to ratify legislation  on land mines issues.

In the General Assembly Hall two big meetings occur per year. It holds 2,000 seats. It will also hold special events, for instance when Angelina Jolie comes as a representative for UNICEF.20170619_130908959_iOS

I bought some souvenirs which I rarely do but they had a wall of map oriented items and I couldn’t help myself… And I was looking for a new luggage tag.

On my way out I spotted a beautiful peacock wandering through the parking lot.20170619_133821727_iOS


Geneva, Switzerland


Such a beautiful city! It reminds me of my hometown with the lake and lots of activity everywhere.20170618_162806927_iOS

On the lake are two must see (and it’s hard not to) attractions.

#1 – Le Jet d’eau de Geneve, a large jet stream of water in the middle of the lake. It shoots up 140m at 200 km/h, pumping 500 liters/sec. It was created in 1886 as a way to release excess pressure at a hydraulic plant. Due to its popularity it was moved to the harbor. It is lit up for various holidays.

#2 Bains des Paqui, a public swimming hole on a small jetty out in the middle of the lake. It’s a 2 CHF entrance fee and you can then take a dip in the lake. They have a wade in area, a diving area, and a nice cafe WITH coconut ice cream in a coconut shell that reminded me of being in Thailand it was that good. There isn’t a ton of shade but its a nice place to cool off for the evening.

Geneva is home to a large number of international organizations as one of the other homes of the United Nations (with NY being the other). More on that in other posts.20170619_134933673_iOS.jpg

Fun fact – if you stay in a hotel in Geneva they will give you a free transportation card!

One afternoon I wandered around the old town. The University of Geneve has a beautiful park like campus with a Reformation Wall. John Calvin, the founder of the University, played a major part in the Reformation as did the city of Geneva. The wall is a memorial to this past.20170622_134617999_iOS

Nearby you can walk into the walled parts of the city where St. Pierre Cathedral is. It is a rather beautiful place inside and sits in a semi-secluded area. I sat on a bench out front for awhile, enjoying the shade and peace and quiet.20170622_135442783_iOS

As you walk back to the lake, the famous flower clock is landscaped into a small hill in the park areas in front of the lake.20170622_143442223_iOS