Tag Archives: 2016

United States Gran Prix 2016

Leaving the airport we flew right overtop the track which was awesome.
Leaving the airport we flew right over top the track which was awesome.

It has been five years since I last was in Austin for the return of Formula 1  to the US in 2012.  Let me tell you it’s good to be back. This time around Jeremy and I planned it out much better then the first trip and we also had a bigger budget. This time I flew into Austin and we stayed at the Marriott. No 24 hour driving marathon and staying with AirBnB this time.

My flight was a little delayed which sucked but since I had no checked baggage I walked off the plane and right into Jeremy’s car to drive directly to the track. We missed FP1 but caught the rest of the day’s track activities without issue. I must say I was very impressed with the track upgrades since we first attended the inaugural Grand Prix. That first year was all about getting the track ready for racing, since then they have been improving the fan experience. Traffic in and out was better, a lot more paved lots closer to the track, new stands, new walkways and the amphitheater was completed this time around.

Just like the first time around, Friday and Saturday we walked the track for different viewing angles for the various race events. Most of the time we would scope out an area, fire up a couple cigars and just enjoy the cars from whatever stand or hillside we thought was good.

Turn 9
Turn 9

Quals ended up kinda like we expected with Mercedes one and two. Hamilton took pole with Rosberg second and Ricciardo third. This was how they finished the race as well. While I didn’t want either Merc to win, it was nice seeing Hamilton finish ahead of Rosberg, narrowing the gap between them and statistically keeping Hamilton in the hunt for a fourth world championship. Another surprising drive was from Honda. Button I think qualified 19 and Alanso only a little better at 17 or 16. By the end of the race both were able to score points with Alanso 7th and Button 9th. They have struggled all year so having both drivers not only finishing but score points was pretty amazing. Our “official” seats were at turn 15 so we were able to catch probably 85-90% of all the passing, right there in front of us. Just amazing seats.

Austin Beer Garden Brewing
Austin Beer Garden Brewing

Our activities were not limited to just the track this time around. I spent and extra day in Austin to allow us more time for activities and not cram it all into a short amount of time. The race activities usually finish in the late afternoon so our nights were totally open to new adventures. Friday we had a great steak dinner at Bob’s Steak & Chop House right in downtown. We choose this place because of the rooftop bar that allows smoking. Unfortunately once we finished dinner the roof bar was smashed with people so no smoking for us. We instead hit Habana House Cigars across the river, really nice shop on the south of town to relax and decompress after our first day at the track.

Saturday Taylor Swift was the post race entertainment but we decided to skip it. All day we kept seeing Swifties walking around. I think half were there to enjoy the race but many were clearly there just for Taylor. We saw people lining up at the entrance to the field as soon as we arrived to the track. This was around 9:30 in the morning and the show probably didn’t start till 7 or later. That’s some dedication. Again, not a fan but I was impressed with the crowd she drew. It was estimated at 80+ thousand people, incredible.

Let me tell you its  a hike from turn 20 to the top of turn 1.
Let me tell you its a hike from turn 20 to the top of turn 1.

Instead of seeing Taylor we went to the Austin Beer Garden Brewery. You know me, always gotta hit a brewery when I travel. I was particularly excited to go here as it won Best Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year at this years Great American Beer Festival in Denver. This place really is modeled after a German beer hall with bench seating all over the place. The outside beer garden was truly amazing as well. When we arrived it was smashed with people which is always a good sign. I ended up trying three of their beers and bought a bottle for the following night. Just a great atmosphere and beer. Probably 7 regular taps and only one seasonal available but all pretty solid.

After the beer garden we headed downtown. We hit Stubb’s BBQ which was great before heading to FanFest. The brisket here was amazing but the service was horrible. Despite that I would still go back again. If you like bar hoping then FanFest is your place. For Jeremy and I it was rather boring. Maybe because it was late, I don’t know, they just didn’t have much we were interested in so we walked the few blocks roped off for FanFest and then went back to the hotel to enjoy a cigar night cap.

Whats left of my Avo Domaine cigar before the User and The Roots after the race.
Whats left of my Avo Domaine cigar before the Usher and The Roots after the race.

Race day and what a day it turned out to be.  The crowds all weekend I thought were pretty impressive but on race day you can throw all that out the window.  The track was a lively place as fans poured in to see the fight between Hamilton and Rosberg.  It was just a magical day watching the race and we had some really good seats.  After the race we stayed to watch User and The Roots.  It was going to be a made house getting out and we had no place to go on Monday so we stuck around for the concert. Usher I didn’t care much for but The Roots threw down let me tell you.  They opened the set with about 4 songs and ended the set as well.  What a great job considering The Weekend was originally schedule and backed out with less then two weeks before race day.

Monday was nothing but a lounge day. I wanted to spend at least one extra day in the city to really get a feeling for it. We ended up heading to  Canyon Lake for a hike which was nice. We tried to hike Emerald Point but the park was closed for a public hunt. Not wanting to get shot we headed to Canyon Lake instead. After he hike we continued to Jeremy’s house for dinner with his mother. I hadn’t seen her in a long time so it was nice to catch up with her. We went to dinner that night and afterwards we sat in the pouch talking. Jeremy and I smoked a couple Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey Especial Epicures which were great. I cracked open the saison I got from ABGB which Janet helped me finish and we just talked. It is so peaceful out that far in the country. I was hoping to catch the stars but it was pretty overcast that night. They tell me you can see so many stars out there when it is a clear night.


With the trip almost over Tuesday was really just a day to at catch up. We stopped at Wright Bros. Brew and Brew for some coffee and a bottle of beer. We planned on going to Heroes & Legacies on the north part of town and this being Texas, its BYOB. Jeremy caught up with his account and I was able to get a little writing done. Great place to sit, relax and smoke. The lounge is outta sight here. There is a membership fee but it’s worth the price if you want to really relax and enjoy a cigar. It was after three before we left there for the airport. Since I was not checking baggage and had an e-ticket, I breezed right through security to my gate.

Vacations never seem to be long enough. This was another great Formula 1 trip and I look forward to coming back in 2017. Austin really knows how to throw down and make a great race experience for the fans. There are still a few breweries I want to hit in the area and I can always spend time at the numerous cigar lounges around town. I think next year we might try to do a few more cultural things in addition to our normal activities.

Phish October 15th 2016 North Charleston Coliseum

phish-north-charleston-2016-posterI was very excited about this trip.  Phish just released a new album Big Boat the week before and the North Charleston shows were the fall tour opener.  I originally planned on seeing just the Saturday show but said fuck it and got tickets for Friday as well.  I have seen Phish here several times before and they are pretty freaking amazing performances.

Friday morning I left work at 11:30, a little later then I wanted but still with plenty of time to get to the North Charleston Coliseum.  While it was a Friday and I would be heading south, Labor Day had come and gone so I was fairly confident it would not be bumper to bumper on 95 south all the way past Fredericksburg.  While I didn’t hit much traffic, hurricane Matthew the week before caused all sorts of damage to the highway as I had two detours in North Carolina!  I couldn’t believe my luck.  I kept watching my estimated arrival time slip further and further.  No longer would I make it by 7:30, it was now 8:30…..no problem, they will only be a few songs into the first set.  Then it went to just past 9, ok still fine.  I will have missed the first set entirely but could rock out to the second set, second set is generally better anyhow.  I didn’t arrive to the hotel till just past 10:30 and by then I had been on the road for 11 hours and just didn’t have the energy to drag myself to the venue to catch the last 15 to 20 minutes of the show.

A small street along Waterfront Park. I wouldn't mind owning one of the homes just off to the left of the street.
A small street along Waterfront Park. I wouldn’t mind owning one of the homes just off to the left of the street.

What an awful start to a great weekend. Good thing is my personality doesn’t allow me to get upset, Saturday was a new day and what a day it turned out to be. One thing I love about the weekends is sleeping till I want to get up, which I did. Then it was straight to Charlestowne Tobacco & Wine in downtown to smoke and drink. The laws here allow me to grab a cigar, beer and just relax which is nice. I spent several hours at the cigar shop catching up on a few things and just enjoying the downtime.

It also allowed me to plot my next move. I already planned on going to Holy City Brewing to sample some beer but it was to early to leave. I get real sleepy if I drink beer for to long, hops has sleepy time properties to it. I did find the Charleston Beer Exchange which was a highly rated local bottle shop. Unfortunately they were moving and had nothing on the shelves. The place looked like a bomb went off on the inside, couldn’t tell if was Matthew or just them moving. No worries, off to Carmella’s for some lunch.

All this activity and I still had plenty of time to walk around downtown. I spent a lot of time at Waterfront Park. The weather was perfect on Saturday and everyone was out enjoying themselves. A cruise ship was docked, getting ready to leave and there was a military shipped docked as well. The sky was clear and a nice breeze kept things cool. Now and again you would smell rotting vegetation but the salt air would come right back and remind me where I was. It was fantastic smoking a cigar sitting on the bench beneath the tree overlooking the water.

img_4579As my time in downtown came to an end it was time to head to Holy City for some beer. If you know me even a little you know I love beer and when I travel I look for breweries to visit. Holy City is in the back of a small industrial park. The first time I actually drove past it so have your eyes open when visiting this place. They had over 20 beer of tap with all major styles represented and a few lesser known ones as well. I managed to have four beers and was pleasantly surprised by their taste and quality. The place itself is rather large and a great place to hang out with friends. The patio outside is huge and has umbrellas for those hot summer afternoons. Definitely kid friendly and they allow dogs on the patio too. I highly recommend Holy City if you are in North Charleston looking to drink beer. I have now been to the mountain and now the city. Gotta research my next papal visit.

Notice how little time I have spent talking about the show and more about my activities in Charleston. The short answer is Saturday nights performance was disappointing. I saw the set list from the Friday and it was good, talking to fans it got many high remarks. I just thought Saturday was rather boring and the song selection/order to be off. The one song highlight was Wolfman’s Brother. I was jamming the shit out of that song when someone grabbed my head. The guy complimented me saying “sometimes you just need a good Wolfman’s.” How true my friend, how true.

img_4583One thing I like about this venue is it is entirely general admission. Some places have only floor designated as GA but here it is the seats as well. Since I get to pick my seat I always choose directly behind the band here. All other shows I feel like they are projecting towards me. At Charleston I get to see the show from the bands perspective. I love watching the show of lights as it plays off the crowd. It shows me how much the fans love their music. I could see it on their faces and as they danced. The first set I sat the entire time. I would argue I was the most relaxed person there. Second set I got up a few times but with no one in front of me it’s like watching a live concert from the comfort of my couch.

The show ended just paste 11, way to early in my opinion but I don’t make the rules. I got to see the band shuffle past me very quickly as they headed to their buses and for me it was a short walk back to the hotel. Again, not the best performance I have seen from Phish but then again it’s always a gamble at a live show. This is part of the reason I keep going to see live music.

img_4565Sunday I planned to leave around noon, taking the back roads to get home. This worked out because I started seeing signs that 95N was closed in North Carolina from exit 19 to 56 or something crazy like that. I found Mixson Market for some coffee and a bit to eat. A cool little cafe and market that offered some specialty foods and drinks (read: beer). I sat here for a long while writing all my letters and notes to family. I wished the place did a little more business but the peace and quite was nice before my long drive home.

I saw way more of the North Carolina country side then I ever imagined. I was just not prepared for the drive south and all the detours. You know what they say when life gives you lemons. My time in Charleston was great despite Saturday’s show being sub-par and missing Friday entirely. This is still a great place to see Phish and I will certainly come back if they announce another show here.

Set 1 (start time at 8:01pm)
1. Blaze On
2. What’s the Use?
3. Martian Monster
4. Devotion To a Dream
5. Waking Up Dead >
6. Timber (Jerry)
7. Things People Do
8. Let Me Lie
9. Maze >
10. Lengthwise[1] >
11. Maze
12. Ass Handed
13. Carini
14. Wolfman’s Brother
Set over at 9:20pm
Set 2 (start time at 9:53pm)
1. Mercury >
2. Twist >
3. I Always Wanted It This Way[2] >
4. Miss You
5. Fuego >
6. Sand
7. Joy
8. Possum
Set over at 11:08pmEncore (starts at 11:11pm)
9. Good Times Bad Times
House lights at 11:16pm 



[1] Sung by Fish over the Maze intro.
[2] Debut.


Widespread Panic September 7th 2016 Warner Theatre

I bought my ticket day of so it was pretty high in the bleachers but still a good view of the stage.
I bought my ticket day of so it was pretty high in the bleachers but still a good view of the stage.

Unfortunately I was going to miss the show in Asheville for reasons beyond my control. I had that trip all planned out including a stop at the Funkatorium which has nothing but aged sour beer! I was so looking forward to the beer and show but I would have to skip it. Thankfully Widespread was opening the fall tour, probably their last tour for a while, here in DC. I couldn’t make both shows but I was excited to still see them one last time before they go on touring hiatus for a while.  It reminds me of the acoustic show at the Fillmore several years ago.

As with most Warner Theatre shows I arrived in the city early and headed to Shelly’s Back Room for a cigar and beer before the show. I wanted to get several drinks in me before the show and not have to buy them at the theatre. Shell’s has a better selection and at a cheaper price. Actually at Shelly’s it was interesting seeing all these hippies walk in who were going to the show. I thought I stick out but everyone else certainly did. By 7:30 I was three beers deep and it was time to tab out. My seat was purchased the day of the show and located in the nose bleed section so I knew I wouldn’t have a problem getting to my seat.

Some pre-gaming at Shelly's before the main event.  I love that the two places are so close to each other.
Some pre-gaming at Shelly’s before the main event. I love that the two places are so close to each other.

The venue was ruckus as show time approached. I skimmed the set list from the night before and it looked pretty good. I haven’t seen many WSP shows but I have yet to be disappointed when seeing them, tonight was no exception. First set had a very good flow to it which was cool and what I saw of the second set was also kick as.  Unfortunately by about 11:50 I had to start making my way to Metro to catch the last train out of town.  The trains use to run till 2am on the weekend but that ended a while ago so catching late night performances is difficult. Was sucked even more was the train about almost 30 minutes late which would have allowed me to see the entire performance without leaving early.

Besides leaving early and missing the last few songs of the concert, it was a great night. I love grabbing a smoke at Shelly’s and then headed to the Warner for a show. Tonight’s was another great one from WSP and it is unfortunate they will be touring less in the coming year. I do however understand the temporary hiatus however. Most jam bands tour extensively and it can wear on anyone after a while. With the limited schedule in the coming year it just means I will have to travel further for those special performances which I am not opposed to at all. While I may not see as many shows as I did in my youth, my job affords me to travel further distances and stay in nicer hotels then when I was in my 20’s.


Set 1 (start at 8:27pm)
1. Diner >
2. Bear’s Gone Fishin’ >
3. Climb To Safety
4. Little Kin >
5. Travelin’ Light
6. B of D >
7. Bust It Big >
8. Weight Of The World >
9. Junior
Set over at 9:43pm

Set 2 (start time at 10:23pm)
1. Christmas Katie >
2. Radio Child
3. Aunt Avis >
4. Rebirtha >
5. jam >
6. Imitation Leather Shoes
7. Tall Boy >
8. Ride Me High >
9. drums >
10. Cease Fire >
11. Honky Red

12. Chilly Water

Note: Not sure of the exact end time the show, I had to leave to catch the last train out of the city.


Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Our traditional weekend at the beach to kick off the official start of summer.  Most of March was rainy and unseasonable cold in our area so we had high hopes for a nice trip to the beach and the weather really delivered I must say.  Nancy and I got an early start to our travels and left our house by 2pm which for us was early but by Memorial Day weekend traffic, was still late.  It look us 4 hours to arrive but once we did it was great to finally be there.

Dogfish Head Festina Peche
Dogfish Head Festina Peche

Pat arrived on Thursday and Greg, Maggie and the kids were already there hanging out.  We arrive just in time for dinner but ended up skipping it that night and went straight to drinking and smoking.  Nancy and I stopped to get a growler of Festina Peche from Dogfish and it took us no time at all to finish that growler.  This years blend is pretty good by the way, they are back on top for their seasonal sour!  Arriving as early as we did it felt like we had an entire day at the beach.

Saturday was certainly the best day of the weekend in terms of weather.  We got an early start and spent several hours on the beach just lounging and relaxing.  Rarely do we actually go to the beach for various reasons but with the whole family in town, we made it a point to get out there.  For everyone it was a perfect day.  Greg and I spend our time under umbrellas people watching.  The ladies bathed in the sun getting their first official tan of the year while the kids played on the beach.  Jack was the only one to get in the water and as we knew, it was cold as crap out there.  The temperature was in the low 70’s with a nice breeze coming off the water, even the sand wasn’t hot.  Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for a better beach day.

Memorial Day weekend so we just gotta cook some ribs.  They didn't turn out well but everyone still loved them.
Memorial Day weekend so we just gotta cook some ribs. They didn’t turn out well but everyone still loved them.

That night was our turn to cook so we decide to smoke some ribs.  Overall it was a disaster.  When I opened the pack of ribs they where rotten so that meant a quick trip to the grocery store to resupply.  Then the equipment I had was sub-par and caused a problem cooking the ribs.  First there was  flare up that scorched the ribs, then I couldn’t get a constant temp that I needed.  After four hours they where done but in my opinion they tasted like crap, not up to my standards, but everyone ate them and no one went hungry that night.

After dinner it was back to the side of the house for cigars and drink.  Honestly it was one of the things I loved the most about the weekend.  Just hanging out with the family having a great time.  I got to sample some great beers and smoke a shit ton of cigars with Greg.  Each night it was funny, the adults hung out and the kids would disappear to the boardwalk.  Greg and Maggie didn’t have to worry much about the kids.  Where the house it, everything is in walking distance and with it being a tourist town, there are families, kids and cops to watch over everyone all over the place.  This allowed the adults time to relax and the kids to entertain themselves with a moniker of freedom.

It was a perfect day at the beach.
It was a perfect day at the beach.

Sunday was an early morning for myself.  On Saturday night Joey asked what time the sun rose, 5:38am in fact.  He wanted to grab a coffee and watch the sun rise from the beach.  I thought that was such a cool idea I joined him.  The morning came early but Joey to his credit, was already up and making coffee by the time I got downstairs.  To my surprise Zack also joined us as well.  We drove down to the beach and spend about 2 hours watching the sun rise and the town come to life.  Joey and I smoke cigars and we all just hung out enjoying the beauty of nature.  It took a while to get the boys to talk but by the end of our time, we had a good conversation.  When we got back to the house the boys went back to sleep and I took the time to enjoy another cup of coffee and read the post on the porch before the house awoke.

That afternoon we all hit the outlets.  Everyone was able to find something, including myself which I never do.  I know the ladies did a number on the credit card by the amount of bags they kept walking out of stores with but it was good to get out and get some new threads.  Our last night at the beach and it was a steak dinner cooked by Greg.  The steaks where well done but still tasted good.  Afterwards we made our first trip out on the town and hit the Beachside Bar just down from the house, a new place that has recently opened up.  Our last night was pretty somber and quite in fact.  It was the last night to the end of a great weekend.  Come Monday all of use with the exception of Pat hit the road to come home.

IMG_3614Monday the Free’s got a super early start.  Greg doesn’t like traffic so they got up really early and started packing for the drive home.  Surprisingly we all made it out of the house by 9 to head back to Virginia.  Just in time for the rain to start from a tropical storm that was coming up the coast.  That tropical storm caused our Sunday to be dry and clear for the most part so it wasn’t all bad.  Nancy and I made it home in a record 4 hours with plenty of time to relax and get ready for the short work week ahead.

This was definitely one of the better trips we have had to the beach during Memorial Day.  We got some new travel companions with the Free’s, Saturday was a perfect beach day, cold beer, lots of cigars, good food and family.  What more could one ask for?

Widespread Panic February 12th 2016 Altria Theater

wsp-spring16_fbpost-1-980x735The last time I saw Panic in Richmond was at The National and that venue was hot, packed, but a vibrant show. When I saw them playing at Altria Theater, I was excited. I had never been here before and didn’t know what to expect.

I ended up taking the entire day off to prepare for the show. I got caught up on some homework and working a little this morning before driving down to Richmond. I wanted to leave with enough time to get to the city, check in and get some food before showtime. Unfortunately traffic on 95 was horrible. Thankfully it did not delay me to much. I wasn’t late but I forgot just how bad it can be down 95 on a Friday. It was 3pm and I had traffic all the way to Fredericksburg.

copyright Andy Tennille
copyright Andy Tennille

After getting settle in I had a craving for BBQ and found Deep Run Roadhouse which was only three blocks from the venue. Great atmosphere but one thing I quickly noticed was the lack of beer. The place has this retro feel to it with reclaimed wood and bare brick walls all over the place. The menus is hand written in chalk with a ton of things to choose from. I ordered the two meat combo, pork because I love it and I let them choose the second meat, brisket. For sides the jalapeno mac and cheese jumped out along with corn bread slathered in whipped honey butter. All of the food was excellent. The meat could have used a little more smoke flavor and a bit less salt but it was really great stuff.  One weird thing I noticed about the brisket was the heavy use of a rub. It had a strong flavor which was great but certainly much more flavor then just meat and smoked. It also appeared to be cubed, not sure if this was how it was cooked or just cut. The fat on the brisket was well rendered too, melted in my mouth it was so good.

A classicly designed three level theater. Very ornate and well decorated on the inside.
A classically designed three level theater. Very ornate and well decorated on the inside.

Having not had a beer I set out to find a place to drink. Unfortunately Altria Theater is right in the middle of VCU so alcohol is hard to come by. In fact I only found three places, all of them smashed with no bar area to speak of. Instead I just enjoy the walk and tried not to focus on the 30 degree weather freezing my ass.

Once inside this place is amazing. It is a classic theater with three levels and old world styling. I first scoped the bathroom and the bar downstairs. No line and it was right next to the free coat check which was amazing. Each level has these grand rooms to socialize before the show and at intermission which is great. Instantly recognizable sculptures and molding on the walls and ceiling. Truly a classic theater in every sense, well done.

I grabbed my Hardywood The Great Return and headed to the second level and my seat. I was far right in the back, my row only had three seats in fact, plenty of room for dancing and one reason the people next to me tried to squeeze in four people in a spot meant for two. In the end it didn’t much matter because despite being sold out, the crowds where very respectful. One thing I notice from a Panic show as apposed to a Phish show is the average age of everyone. For Panic, I am the young one and for Phish I am the old man. Interesting demographics for each band.

IMG_3371Second thing about this venue was the sound, I could barely make out the vocals. Not sure if this is because of my location or what. The music however was great. Very good all round show with a few new songs and some classic hits. The band was in to the show and the crowd was showing their support.

Panic was in rare form during the entire show. The first thing was the addition of Duane Trucks on drums after the departure of longtime drummer Todd Nance.  I thought Duane did a find job and grasped the subtleties of the band and contribute his own distinctive sound to the overall performance.  I am generally not a fan of drums in a show but his drum solo and the jam that followed during the second set where really good.  First time played for Heroes and the occasional rarity of Angels Don’t Sing The Blues was nice during the second set. Ending set two on a high with Love Tractor was awesome. Even the encore had a debut with Hallelujah. Good to have a new song but way outta tempo when compared to the rest of the show.

All around a great performance.  Only thing I didn’t particularly like was the walk back to the hotel because of how cold it was.  I was to cheap to get an Uber and besides, the walk was good for me.  I spent the next morning in Richmond at the Shockoe Espresso & Roastery in downtown and it was a great little coffee place.  I spent all morning drinking coffee and working on my programming homework in a very relaxing environment. As the morning wore on students from VCU starting arriving to do the same thing.


Set 1 (start time 8:23pm)
1. Little Kin
2. Henry Parsons Died
3. Wondering
4. Walkin’ (For Your Love)
5. The Poorhouse Of Positive Thinking
6. Ribs And Whiskey
7. Junior
8. Rock
9. Thought Sausage
set over at 9:19pm

Set 2 (start time 9:51pm)
1. Conrad
2. Jack
3. Dyin’ Man
4. Machine >
5. Barstools and Dreamers
6. One Kind Favor >
7. drums >
8. jam >
9. Up All Night
10. Angels Don’t Sing The Blues
11. Heroes (DB)
12. Love Tractor
set over at 11:28pm

Encore (start time 11:31pm)
13. Hallelujah
14. Protein Drink >
15. Sewing Machine
house lights at 11:50pm

Satisfied rap during Barstools and Dreamers