Saturday, July 28, 2018

Road Trip Days 5 & 6 - Return

Day 5 (Friday) was our first leg for our return trip home. We started by going to Gibson Donuts, a Memphis local haunt that Jack had told us to try. They were good donuts - we tried the blueberry, the red velvet, the sour cream and the maple bacon ones.

After that we drove back to Nashville for a lunch stop.

Stephanie and her friend Jess went to Star Bagel Cafe, a local Nashville coffee joint ( but Nathaniel and I were there for the real local treat - Nashville Hot Chicken ( We opted to get it from Hattie B's based on Food Network's recommendation. (

Hattie B's offers 5 spice levels - Southern (aka no spice), Medium, Hot, Darn Hot and Shut The Cluck Up. I said that we should try Shut The Cluck Up just to say that we had done it, because when else were we gonna get the chance to try it? And then my little brother said that I had to eat a whole tender, I couldn't just eat one bite, in order to say I had really tried it. So I ended up with a medium spice dark meat piece, and a chicken tender at Shut The Cluck Up level (so did he). I got a side of pimento mac and cheese - he wisely went for a cool side of potato salad. The first bite of the tender made my mouth hurt and burn, and I was ready to quit, but we both finished it off (with generous dollops of honey mustard). I recommend the medium - it was good fried chicken with a nice kick at the end. And if you're into feeling the pain, then eating Shut The Cluck Up is worth it for the experience! The Mac & Cheese was good too, but I could barely eat it after the hot chicken had been in my mouth. All in all, Nashville's hot chicken did not disappoint - it's a great local food experience.

After hot chicken, we drove to Charlottesville VA. Along the way, we saw regular reminders that we were in "the Bible Belt" - large crosses were all along the interstate in TN (see photo). We arrived at 11:30 at night, all took showers and enjoyed the hotel's cable subscription by watching Friends re-runs on Nick and Diners, DriveIns & Dives reruns on Food Network. We happened to catch the episode where Miss Shirleys, a Baltimore local place, was featured on Food Network so that was a fun thing for us Marylanders to watch.


Day 6 (Saturday) we went to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. This was the reason we stopped in Charlottesville. I have been fascinated by T. Jeff since I was in the 4th grade and read a kid's biography on him. I realize he's one of the problematic founding fathers, since he talked a lot about freedom but had ~200-300 people enslaved on his plantation, but seeing his house has always been something I wanted to do so we went. In contrast to the civil rights museum, there were lots of little white kids running around and lots of older white guests there with us.

I knew before going that Monticello means "little mountain", but I didn't realize that it literally sits on a mountain in Virginia - here are some of the shots of the surrounding area.

The house itself is known for the architecture taken from European influences, and is not a typical colonial style house. The first view of it from the shuttle is of the "Italian" inspired side of the house, and then the famous dome side is more French inspired. Jefferson couldn't decide what he wanted, so it took him over 20 years to finish building this place.

We were not allowed to take photos in the house, but our tour guide was an adorable little old lady named Linda who kept saying "Just imagine, Thomas Jefferson walking here, or Dolly Madison in this guest room, or Martha Jefferson Randolph (his daughter) talking to her housemaids here". It was a fun tour, and she didn't shy away from the conflict of a man who could talk a big game about freedom but yet kept slaves. Monticello also had a slavery tour that we didn't go on, so they are trying to reconcile the beauty of the plantation with the enslaved population that built it and kept it running. She of course also spent time talking about the Jefferson inventions and architectural influences. My favorite was this clock that I sneaked a photo of in the cellars (not technically the house!). Jefferson had the clock run on a series of weights and pulleys that moved the time and showed what day it was - but the room was too short. Undaunted, he just cut a hole in the floor and let the weights snake down into the cellar on Saturdays - which happened to be the day we were there, so I took a photo. After the house we got 18th century ice cream and walked along "Mulberry Row" which is the series of trade spaces that slaves operated during the time the Randolph family (Jefferson's grandchildren) lived there with him. Stephanie is posing with the bellows on Mulberry Row below.

All in all, the Monticello tour was what I hoped for - growing up going to Colonial Williamsburg, I had always wanted to see the famous house. I didn't learn anything especially new about Thomas Jefferson, but I learned a lot about architecture of the time in the colonies and in Europe, and I learned a lot about ways he saved time and space with weird little inventions in the house - the first set of double doors that open in sync in the colonies, the fancy weight clock, alcove beds, and stuff like that. After the tour, we walked down Jefferson's little mountain, got in the car, and went home.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Road Trip Day 3 & 4 - Memphis

Day 3 (Wednesday) was our first in earnest Memphis tourism day. In the morning we watched TV and did stuff at Jessica's  apartment (my sister who lives in TN), so we didn't get started until lunch.  For lunch we wanted to try the one dimsum place in Memphis since dimsum is a big Chinese tradition and we were interested to try it in a place that doesn't have a huge Asian population like we have in the Baltimore/DC area. It was good - not the best thing I ever ate, but it filled my craving for dimsum with my family which is all I really wanted. I didn't take any photos of the food, but here is what we ordered and a photo of the menu.


After lunch we went to the Pyramid, a former sports arena that is now a giant Bass Pro Shops.

Nathaniel and I went to the top of the pyramid while Jessica and Stephanie stayed below exploring the store. The Memphis skyline has an iconic bridge that links Memphis, TN and West Memphis, AR with a large M shape, so seeing that from the top was kind of fun. We also saw a lot of pools, because it is HOT in TN in the summer and pretty much you only want to be outside if you're in water.

The pyramid boasts a number of entertainment features, including an aquarium, live alligators, an arcade, an archery and gun range, two restaurants, a gift shop that sold fudge (in addition to the actual Bass Pro checkout lines) and a bowling alley. We saw the aquarium and alligators, and tried out the arcade (with a fake laser gun as seen below) and underground bowling (which attempts to look like a fishbowl), but not the range because it did not rent firearms and we didn't know it was #BYOG (Bring Your Own Gun). We did get a fudge sampler - Orange Creamsicle, M&M, Butterfinger, Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Oreo fudge were the six flavors we opted to try out.


That night, after Derek (my brother in law) got back from work we went out to sushi for dinner to continue the test of Asian food in TN. Then we went to Shelby Farms, which is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. I think Central Park is still more impressive because Shelby is just barely on the edge of Memphis, while Central Park is literally the heart of the city, but it was a nice place to go for a walk at twilight, with the sun at your back and the moon in front of you (see below).

Day 4 (Thursday) Jessica and Derek both had to work so Stephanie, Nathaniel and I went to the Civil Rights Museum on our own in the morning.

The Civil Rights Museum was packed with information, so I can't go over all the things, but here are some observations that I took away from the museum:

- There were no little white kids there, only little black kids. Plenty of white adults, but not kids. Shows a lot about education and how this is systemic - if you aren't educated to think about your privileges, you will carry on the prejudices and injustices trained into you. The people who need reminders the most are frequently the ones who don't hear them.

- There was a protester outside the museum. Her main points was that too much money is spent memorializing the past in the museum and not enough on furthering present day civil rights. She also called it the "James Earl Ray museum", saying too much time was spent on him in the exhibits.

- Most of the big moments from the civil rights movement that I recognized were surrounded by lesser known people and work, and not just the flashbulb moments we know. For example, Brown v. Board of Ed was actually the last in a long line of cases to desegregate schools - Thurgood Marshall and his team started with cases to desegregate graduate schools, citing it as too expensive to have separate but equal law schools - they built a series of precedents before going to the grade schools. It reminded me of Isaac Asimov's Bicentennial Man, which imagines a robot rights movement. 

- For another example, the bus boycott started by Rosa Parks refusing to move was actually only successful because thousands of other women (housekeepers, maids and laundry women) who walked instead of taking the bus for OVER A YEAR. And many women before Rosa Parks were arrested for sitting on other bus seats. They had the famous quote "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History" on a magnet in the gift shop - and I think that I would amend that to say that the NAMES of well-behaved women don't make history, but if the civil rights museum taught me anything, it's that history is built by many, many people, most of whom are nameless or are only footnotes to bigger names (think Sam Phillips and Johnny Cash from my Nashville trip post!)

- The museum linked a lot to present day history, with ongoing cases for gay rights in the Supreme Court and the separation of children from parents at the border as the two primary links. But there was also a note about the repeal of part of the Voter's Rights Act in 2013, and other subtexts about how this is not a historical movement only, but really a living an active ongoing part of history. 

I Am A Child border exhibit (parallel to I Am A Man, the Memphis sanitation workers march)

The protester across the street from the museum, and a note about how the march on Washington didn't really achieve it's goals - many other moments were more significant, even though this one was the most iconic (it's where the I Have A Dream speech came from)

In between the two parts of the Civil Rights Museum (because it's two buildings) we had lunch at Central BBQ, a famous Memphis place that had a line around the block after we left (we went early because we're from the east so our tummies were an hour ahead of everyone else).

After that we went to Sun Studios, where Elvis and Johnny Cash and other country/blues/pop/rock and roll music stars got their recording start. We didn't go on the tour, just stopped for photos and the gift shop, as an homage to Johnny Cash after our Nashville stop. Sun Studios was a lot smaller than I realized - it has a record shop and cafe on the first floor and a tour of the studios on the second floor. It is still an active recording studio!


We also went to Beale Street, which is typically known for bars, but as my siblings are both minors, was mostly me making them take photos. We did go to Beale Sweets, a candy store specifically designed for minors, and got a Blackberry Lemon Rose "Mempop", a local frozen treat. (

Beale Sweets Teddy Bear, BB King Guitar and Johnny Cash Guitar on Beale Street

Beale Street Home of the Blues and a Memphis Tiger (there are lots of these over the city).

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Road Trip Day 1 & 2 - Nashville

I am going to try to blog my mini-road trip in the style of my friend Nancy who is on a far more intense road trip, so here are our first two days (

Day 1 (Monday) we (me, my middle sister Stephanie and my brother) drove from Maryland to Nashville. We started at Dunkin Donuts, where I tried the black pepper bacon sandwich because #vacation. Then we drove for a long time, stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch as is Scheerer family vacation tradition, and then drove for a long time and ended up at Stephanie's friends house (Jack & Jess). They have a new-ish baby (nine months old) who we played with, and they fed us Tennessee barbecue (turkey and pulled pork) then took us to the Nashville overlook by their house to see the city skyline. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of the skyline but it was interesting hearing them talk about the growth of Nashville and the tall buildings on the skyline. The AT&T building is called "the batman building" because of how it looks - see below for references.

Lego Batman: Image result for batman lego meme Building Batman: Image result for nashville batman building

Day 2 (Tuesday) we went to The Frothy Monkey, a local chain of hipster coffee shops, with Jack. Jack is particular about coffee so his approval was a good sign. I got a blueberry espresso shot which was absolutely amazing, and then hilariously, me and my two siblings all independently ordered the same breakfast (California style eggs, AKA avocado toast). We then proceeded to the Johnny Cash Museum, my selected Nashville tourism stop (posing with my sister below).

The Cash museum was actually fascinating for me. My dad went through a Johnny Cash phase when the Walk the Line movie came out, so I was familiar with many of his hits, but it was interesting for me to learn about the man - not the movie version of him. I came away from the museum with a huge amount of respect for him as an artist. He had a 50 year career in music, is one of the only artists to have released records in all music mediums (records of varying width, tapes, CDs, and MP3s), had 48 hit singles (more than Michael Jackson, including his time as a part of the Jackson 5!) and was the youngest inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He pivoted his career from country music to rock and roll, had a hit TV show, hosted Saturday Night Live - there was a lot to learn about his career as an artist. But for my sister, the thing that stood out was his humanitarian efforts for prison reform, which was also interesting to learn about, and his financing of a movie about the life of Christ - the first of such films to be made on location in Israel.

One of the other things I loved was the below exhibit, which showed what I'm calling the June Carter/Johnny Cash engagement photos - they were taking a photo for the cover of their new album, and the outtakes of this photo shoot are on display. The photos are adorable!

One of the other things I noticed was the small exhibit about the producer who discovered Johnny Cash - Sam Phillips. He also discovered Elvis. They had a quote from him - "I have one real gift. That gift is to look another person in the eye and be able to tell if he has anything to contribute, and if he does, I have the additional gift to free him from whatever is restraining him" - which I really loved, because that's kind of my personal career goal - to be an enabler of the people with big ideas and big dreams, to be their supporter and the person that connects them with other people that can help them succeed - to be the link in a network, the manager that pushes you to achieve more. So I connected with Sam Phillips based on his tiny quote in the Cash museum.

 After the museum we went to the Nashville Parthenon, a life sized replica of the Greek temple.

In the same park I met some Tennessee famous suffragists, and power posed with them because #whynot.

Then we drove the second leg of our journey, from Nashville to Memphis. We passed through Jackson on the way and played the Johnny Cash "Jackson" hit duet on the way.

Once we arrived in Memphis, we went to the pool at my sister and brother in law's apartment complex, went to Costco to see what was different about the goods sold at the Tennessee Costco, and how it compared to at home. You know, typical Scheerer family weirdness. Then we had instant pot lamb for dinner, because my brother in law is very into the instant pot for cooking. Memphis tourism will start in earnest later this week - today was just family catch up time (which included board games with my sis and my bro in law).