"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, July 18, 2011

Warrior Travels: Road Warrior Best of ...

“You know how you see a place and it’s just right, and you’re just tired enough. I guess you can’t help stopping.”

The gathering places are where travelers go to find and tell their stories. They are there to shake off the loneliness of the road. These places, in particular, were gravitational for various reasons during my roadtrip across “Marquette America”. These are not travel recommendations per se, but those places of oddity or specialness of the moment that stood out.
Best Honky Tonk: Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Nashville—The back door of the original Grand ‘Ole Opry (now Ryman Auditorium) empties here. “Holler ‘n swaller, and don’t forget to tip the band a dollar”.
Best Roadie Bar: Champion’s Sports Bar & Grill, Louisville—Sports agents, reporters and athletic department swags, Bill Raftery holding court, UL donor events, Falls City yards.
Best MU Pep Rally: Renaissance Hotel, Newark—Food Network filming, band, cheerleaders, late Buzz entrance, Fr. Wild hoops swan song, full ballroom of fans, player parade, MU bus caravan to ‘The Rock”.
Best Meal: Cleveland Chop House & Brewery—Great steak and beer, afternoon of HD NCAA viewing, Jimmy the Bartender celebrating his previous night’s engagement with regulars and strangers.
Best Monument or Statue: World War II Memorial, Washington DC—Subtle but fitting monument to the fighting men of the “Great Generation”. Connecting the Mall bowtie in the middle via design.
Best Lunch: Rocky’s, Little Italy NYC--$10 glass of wine or an $18 bottle? Cozy, full sensed, Italian leisure lunch amidst the bustle of a spring day.
Best Attraction: College Basketball Experience, Kansas City—Three MU coaches in, hands-on, poignant start to the travels.
Oddest Attraction: Parthenon, Nashville—Why is Athens in Nashville?
Best Entertainment District: Power & Light District, Kansas City—Great outdoor stage area, Sprint Center and hotel proximity, vibrant, 9 blocks of variety.
Best Arena Bar: Local Heroes Grill & Bar, Cleveland—Sweet 16 MU Celebration, high fiving MU alums, eyes bugging out of my head.
Best BBQ: Jack’s, Nashville—No, not KC BBQ to the haters, but the sampler from around the US was the kicker and apropos for the hoops adventure to come.
Best MU Alumni Gathering: Johnny’s, Kansas City—Full turnouts, young and old, MU committed true and blue, welcoming to out-of-towners.
Best Hotel: Marriott, Louisville—Modern, big-lobbied public hall, points room upgraded, convenient, contained.
Best Pub: Barley House, Cleveland--A Warehouse District hot spot. School-girl kilted Barley Girls, urinal photo billboards, Bloody’s, Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese.
Best Desserts: Gigi’s Cupcakes, Nashville—Red Velvet, Chocolate and Banana Cream Pie. Mmmcupcakes.
Best Group Dinner: Ping Pong, Washington DC—Chinatown, nouveau dim sum for post-game. Family and friends
Best Arena: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville—University of Louisville Hall of Fame, printed stats at half and game end, glass palace, live stats projected on the overhangs.
Best Park: Bryant Park, NYC—Semi-hidden, private jewel, chess and ping pong in the park. Bordered by the NYC Public Library.
Best City to Visit: Washington DC—Always great to come back to. An amalgamation of the blends of the US: Politics, culture and social awareness are always the topics of the day. History among us, but reality elsewhere.
Best Army: Devil’s Army, Newark—The Newark police need a tricked-out tank and Uzi’s for arena check-in lines.
Best Craft Beer: Great Lakes, Cleveland—Yes, Cleveland is the home of my favorite road craft. I hope the water in the “Burning River Pale Ale” wasn’t really from the Cuyahoga.
Best Roadside Attraction: Fair Oaks Farms, Indiana—A stop for gas leads to a cheese making tour, birthing barn and live milking demonstration in a giant complex. In a weird twist, Bears and ND safety, Dave Duerson, former owner, kills himself one month later. Odd America in the middle of nowhere. I just needed gas, but wound up with a cow udder apron.
Best Dive Bar: Broadway Brewhouse & Mojo Grill, Nashville—Vandy college crowd meets southern pick-up truck. A 72 beers on tap dank joint with Lanche-like accoutrements that is melded somehow with the new age, food court, Soul-Mexican-Healthy-BBQ menued, eclectic Mojo Grill. Huh? As mixed up as Lindsey Lohan.
Friendliest City: Nashville—A genuine politeness. Cleveland is a close second. Newark, a dead last, mainly because the jughandles.
Best Body of Water: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Central Park Reservoir, NYC—A Spring walk around in the quiet solace of the Big Apple.
Best Fan Experience: Buzz stands-bound, Cleveland—Where “Walk It Out” meets “Jump Around”. High fiving press row. Sweat hugging the fam and Fr. Wild.



Meghann said...

So proud to see Cleveland get some love here! As an MU grad and native Northeast Ohioan, I was so excited to tour MU friends around our city! Especially glad to see the high ranking on the "friendly" list! (Next time in Cleveland, don't forget to check out the Christmas Story House! It's a treasure.)

Michael Grimaldi said...

Thanks for the three KC mentions, Tim, especially the alumni gathering accolade. Club President James Smith-Vandergriff worked hard to make it a success with great support from alumni relations staffer Tanya Batti. All respect to Cleveland, but we do believe KC's Boulevard beers are pretty special, and I suspect the two dozen or so alumni who took the brewery tour with samples the week of the CBE tourney last November would agree. Come back anytime and let us prove it to you!