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Bourbon, Beale and Broadway: A J&J Guide to the Americana Music Triangle, Part 3

After leaving Memphis, we were two-thirds of the way through our musical journey and headed toward perhaps the most historied musical city in the country. In order to get there, we would travel a section of Interstate 40 known as “Music Highway”.

TN Music Highway

The number of attractions on this 210 mile stretch of Tennessee blacktop is endless! Follow the music notes to the home of blues pioneer Sleepy John Estes, Tina Turner’s birthplace, Loretta Lynn’s ranch and several other notable stops. Soon, you will reach the last major destination in the Americana Music Triangle: Nashville, Tennessee.

Nicknamed “Music City, USA”, Nashville is the home of country music and one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.  Downtown Nashville is the epicenter of activity and most of the best attractions are within walking distance. Music fan musts are The Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium (the original home of the Grand Ole Opry), PS-Posted-DSC_0060and the Johnny Cash Museum. We visited all three in an afternoon and received a crash course in 20th-century American music!

Historic Lower Broadway Street, also known as “Honky Tonk Row”, is where urban cowboys, pub crawlers, and tourists converge to enjoy live music in more than a dozen honky-tonks and bars.  If you’re in the mood for a little shopping, follow the life-size Elvis statue into Legends Gift Shop to browse tons of souvenirs, or head over to Ernest Tubb Record Shop, the original home of Midnight Jamboree, the second longest running radio show in history.


Original RCA Studio B microphone

A little farther southwest is Music Row, the heart of the recording industry and home of legendary RCA Studio B. When Sam Phillips sold his contract in 1955, Elvis left Sun Studio for RCA Studio B, where he recorded roughly 260 songs. Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and numerous other artists also made their mark here and you would be remiss not to pay your respects to this hallowed musical shrine. If you plan on visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, you can purchase a ticket package for both attractions, which includes a shuttle to and from RCA Studio B.

As evening descends on this extraordinary city, the neon begins to sparkle like the rhinestone suits of yesteryear and hopeful street performers begin their nightly serenades. Perhaps one of them will be heard above the din to become the next bright star twinkling in the Nashville sky. In this city, anything is possible!

Our Americana Music Triangle had come to an end but we will definitely return to visit all the great places we missed. We hope you find this article helpful in planning your own journey and make sure to check out our original post about our Nashville experience. See you on the road!


Bourbon, Beale and Broadway: A J&J Guide to the Americana Music Triangle, Part 2

When most people think of Memphis, usually the first thing that comes to mind is a young man from Tupelo, Mississippi who is arguably the most famous person from the 20th century. However, there is much more to this eclectic music mecca than the King of Rock n Roll.

Located in the heart of Downtown Memphis, Beale Street is to blues music what Bourbon Street is to jazz. A few years ago, Beale Beale-Street-Memphisousted several other famous streets to be voted “America’s Most Iconic Street”. Like Bourbon, the music never stops here and there is something for everyone. We planned our visit at night to enjoy the full experience of one of the most vibrant places on our mobile musical history tour. Neon signs light the way through three blocks of nightclubs, restaurants, and a colorful amalgam of visitors. Most every venue on Beale offers live blues, rock, R&B or jazz so make sure your walking shoes are ready for some sass and brass!

There are also several music museums to explore, such as the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music. If you have time to visit only one, we highly recommend Sun Studio. We waited almost two hours for the tour but it was totally worth it to learn about the birthplace of Rock n Roll and how visionary Sam Phillips broke cultural barriers to cultivate some of the most exciting talent in the history of American music. Elvis recorded his first song here and along with Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis,  Howlin’ Wolf and several others, made Sun Studio legendary. Sun offers a free shuttle that runs daily and stops at a few other famous Memphis attractions, one of which happens to be the most visited private home in America!

Your journey through the heart of the Americana Music Triangle would not be complete without visiting the estate and burial place of Elvis Presley. Elvis-SignGraceland was at the top of our list and it was an experience we won’t soon forget. A surreal endeavor into the private life of a beloved American icon, Graceland caters to both the die-hard Elvis devotee and casual fan. The property had been carefully frozen in time and even with the constant parade of buses, it’s not hard to imagine the King himself rounding a corner in one of his custom made Cadillacs, several of which are on display. There is a tour package for every budget and you can do all of your souvenir shopping without leaving the property.

Check out our original posts on Beale Street and Graceland for more about our time in Memphis, Tennessee and come back next week for the final installation in our Americana Music Triangle series!

Bourbon, Beale and Broadway: A J&J Guide to the Americana Music Triangle, Part 1

When we decided to go south for our month long road trip last September, we didn’t have much of a plan. Unlike our Route 66 trip in 2014, we weren’t focused on a single direction but we definitely wanted to experience more of the good time nostalgia still alive and well in small-town America. We also agreed upon a few “must see” destinations, all of which revolved around music.

The first of those destinations was New Orleans, Louisiana. When I was younger, The Big Easy was at the top of my travel bucket list, second only to Las Vegas. Thirteen years and three trips to Vegas later, NOLA was just itching to be crossed off. There is no place quite like New Orleans during Mardi Gras but we knew that the inherent mayhem would not allow us to explore the city at our own pace. We were looking forward to a leisurely visit during the Carnival off-season.

We landed on Bourbon Street on a not so Fat Tuesday but it didn’t take us long to become completely immersed in the unique culture that can only be found in the French Quarter. From street performers to masked partiers, New Orleans was everything we expected and more! After a couple of NOLA’s famous Hand Grenades and filling our backpack full of beads, there was no cooler place to be. So many things were going on but the one constant was the sound of blaring horns and raspy voices emanating from nearly every curbside bar and restaurant. We didn’t know it yet, but we were about to begin a journey into the heart of America, a trip back in time to when music had the power to transform entire cultures. We had just entered the Americana Music Triangle.

Americana Music Triangle

New Orleans is universally considered the birthplace of jazz music. Its humble roots inspired countless different musical styles and artists, several of whom were native Louisianians. Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Jelly Roll Morton and Louie Prima began their careers in the darkened clubs of New Orleans and contributed to a major cultural shift, which included the rise of mainstream radio and the first notable youth rebellion in the United States. During the 1920’s, jazz culture permeated everything from fashion to literature and served as a bridge to unite black and white Americans.

Today, there are proud reminders of the city’s musical roots everywhere. From Louis Armstrong Park to New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (where we were treated to a delightful rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” by the resident Park Ranger band) visitors from all over can discover the rich history of the Jazz Age. Even if you’re not a jazz fan, New Orleans must visit destination!

Come back next week for Part 2 of our Triple B experience and check out our Bourbon Street and NHP posts to read more about our time in New Orleans!


10 Pre-trip Operational Checks for your RV

This is another article we published on some months back. We thought we’d share it again here for our readers who could use a guide before hitting the road on their next new RV adventure. Enjoy!

No matter how much you prepare your RV for a road trip, there always seems to be at least one thing, often something obvious, that is overlooked. The following are 10 essential pre-trip checks to keep you on the road!

10. Turn on the refrigerator at least 24 hours prior to your departure. This will allow plenty of time for cooling and help you detect any issues.

9. Make sure that the gray and black water tanks have been emptied and the appropriate chemicals have been added. The less waste in the tanks the lighter your rig will be, however, leaving, at least, ¼ of a tank of water will help the chemicals dissolve.

8. Flip your switches! Switches for your tanks, water pump, propane, and appliances should all be in working order. Broken switches can be replaced cheaply and easily.  CompleteChecklist

7. Fire up your generator, even if you won’t be using it. Let it run for at least 15 minutes and check for oil or gas leaks. If your generator has an altitude adjustment, make sure that it is set appropriately.

6. Top off your propane tanks. Keeping your tanks full (no more than 80%) will prevent interruptions to your heat, hot water or stove. Although many campgrounds offer propane services, it may be difficult to find convenient fill-up stations while boondocking.

5. Fill your fresh water tank ¼ to ½ full if you intend on using any water while en route to your destination. Visually inspect your toilet, shower and faucets to ensure they are functioning properly and there aren’t any leaks.

4. Test all external lights to confirm they’re working. Check all inside lights and make sure you have extra bulbs and fuses on hand. Some bulbs may be unique and tough to find at a regular department store.

3. Check your engine and generator fluids. Making sure that your oil, transmission, brake, radiator and other fluids are topped off and/or changed as needed before you leave will minimize surprises down the road.

2. Inspect your tires!! Each tire should be in good condition, with proper inflation and no noticeable damage. Your tires are carrying the weight of your rig, gear, tanks, and passengers so regular maintenance is essential to help reduce blowouts or other damage while on the road. If your RV has been in storage or in the same position for an extended period, you may experience damage to the tires’ chemical makeup. Additionally, prolonged exposure to the elements will reduce UV protection, which can cause cracking and dry rot.

1. Know where you’re going. We’ve got three letters for you: G P S! If you don’t have one, have your atlas, maps and directions handy. Research height and weight restrictions as best you can before you leave. Otherwise, you could end up with a boat or a convertible!

The most important part of any trip is to HAVE FUN! By being prepared, you’ll always be on the way to your next destination.

See you on the road!


Boondocking Safety Tips

Hello J&J readers,

We originally posted this article on a while back and we wanted to share it again on our blog. We hope you find it helpful!

Staying safe and secure while dry camping (boondocking) is easy if you maintain situational awareness, Situational awareness is simply being conscious of who and what is around you and remaining alert in order to make quick and correct decisions.

Boondocking in New Jersey

Boondocking in NJ

An easy way to keep your RV secure is to always park where there is plenty of light. This will deter anyone who may be searching for an easy target. A perpetrator is more apt to be seen if you are in a well-lit area and you are more likely to notice someone’s shadow as they approach your rig.

You should always keep your doors locked when parked and make sure to look before you exit. Check outside your windows on all sides and always exit with another person, if possible. It’s also a good idea to keep a light on inside while sleeping or if you have to leave your RV for an extended period of time. If someone comes upon your rig, having a light on will make it more difficult for them to determine if there is someone inside.

If you need to go inside a store or truck stop at night, we recommend as little socializing as possible. Some people may be genuinely friendly but those intent on causing harm have ways to get information out of you by initiating random conversation. If you do speak to strangers, be cautious of what you say and don’t disclose personal details about yourself or your destination. For example, you shouldn’t tell a stranger that you are traveling alone or broadcast what you have in your RV. Additionally, don’t flash a lot of cash around. Select a secure spot for cash and important papers and leave them there. Carry only what you need and always get a receipt for purchases. Provide as little temptation as possible.

Concerning firearms, you should research the laws for each state that you will be traveling in to determine if they recognize your firearms permit. Every state has its own laws and permitting process. There may be federal transport laws that would allow you to transport the firearm but it would likely need to be locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. There are serious consequences for violating interstate firearms laws so take the time to research!

Another option to consider is a pellet or BB gun. Most states require that an individual is 18 or older to purchase a pellet or BB gun and anyone younger would need to be under adult supervision. The more well-made models are indistinguishable from a real firearm and could act as a distraction long enough for you to get to safety. Again, check the laws for each state that you will be traveling in.

Other weapons you can carry on your person or in your rig include pocket knives, mace (check the laws for each state), a stun gun (check the laws for each state), or a good old-fashioned club. Many truck stops sell “tire thumpers” that are designed to check tire pressure on big rigs but double as a solid self-defense club.

Although it’s impossible to foresee everything that may occur while you’re on the road, following these tips can help you can avoid many unpleasant experiences. Preparedness is the key to travel safety!

Be safe and have fun! J&J