Breakfast, inventive dive helmet uses and first grade lessons

You would think that with the whole world in front of me and time for days I would have enough time to see everyone I want to see for as long as I want to see them. Turns out the world doesn’t work like that and even when I’m not on a “schedule” I somehow put myself on a schedule.

Elizabeth and I had a much more hurried visit in Atlanta than either of us would have liked. I stayed at her beautiful house and she made me her famous Italian eggs for breakfast: grilled bread with chunks of roasted garlic, sprinkled with parmesan and smeared with tomato sauce topped with a perfectly cooked egg, the yolk running into the crispy bread when you cut into it. With strong coffee, a few routines from So You Think You Can Dance?, discussion of the finer points of how to make a 90 second dance routine into a compelling story and finishing with an 80’s music extravaganza, it was the perfect morning. I made some great friend choices in my college years and she’s one of them.

She left for a doctor’s appointment and a little later I drove out of ATL under a dismal leaden grey sky and the threat of rain. As I drove up 75 into Tennessee the grey sky spit and misted and drizzled and rained and fogged for hours, easing up every now and then but showing no sun all day.  That April showers business? I’m over it. I want to see some sun! Remind me I said that when I get to the desert…

Several hours later I stopped in Chattanooga for lunch and tracked down a place I’d heard of called:

I cannot resist a place with that name that serves breakfast all day. Plus they had the most kick ass use of an old dive helmet that I’ve ever seen:

I had breakfast again. I can do eat breakfast at every meal. And be happy. It’s my favorite meal of the day. I had a grilled potato and applewood smoked bacon omelette with a biscuit as big as my head that I couldn’t finish. Delicious. If you’re ever in Chattanooga, stop by. They’re open late.

I didn’t have time for much else because I had a yoga class and a dinner date so I booked it straight into Nashville without stopping. There wasn’t much I would have stopped for anyway but when I got into Nashville and tried to go to my yoga class, I realized I crossed a time zone and acquired an extra hour.


I wish we lived in a world where I could give that hour away to someone who wanted it.Or I wish I could pay it forward and use it later down the road when I’m driving like a bat out of hell because I’m SO late. I made good use of the hour today but I’m sure someone else needed it more than I did. If anyone could get on the technology and make this time shiftiness happen before I finish this road trip, I promise them my first extra hour.

I did bikram in Cool Springs with Sandra, a very energetic upbeat teacher. The class was cooler than others I’ve taken lately, which is always more bearable for me, but I still had a lot of trouble with the balance poses. This situation was not helped by the woman standing directly in front of me.

It’s so hard not to look at other students in the class. Normally I try to focus on my own poses but this woman was deliberately out of sync with the rest of the class, starting her poses late, finishing them early and essentially having her own class on her own time. I was unreasonably irritated by her timing and it affected my ability to concentrate. My teacher in Winston Salem, NC had emphasized the importance of everyone starting and ending together, so I was thinking about her while trying not to watch the woman in front of me. Finally I had to pull myself together and think of a phrase I haven’t heard in years, which led me to my Bikram lesson of the day:

Keep your eyes on your own paper.

It’s so first grade but it’s so true. When we got to the first savasana I breathed deeply and reminded myself that her practice is not my business. I don’t know where she is, what she needs or why she was here. All I need to worry about is my practice. Have a little grace, try not to watch her, focus on my own poses. It’s hard not to judge but it’s important. I know that I have days where it takes everything I’ve got just to stay in the room. Maybe she’s having that kind of day. And the next time I have that kind of day, I hope someone gives me grace.

I left class thinking about her and drove to my best friend’s parent’s house in Nashville where I’ll be soaking up their good will for an extra day before I jet off to Mexico for a mini-break over the weekend. I certainly should have tons of extra grace to give away given the blissed out nature of my life right now.

Be good to yourselves.

More tomorrow.

Bikram Goldilocks and the Whistle Stop Cafe

I started late this morning with breakfast at a local dive diner in Savannah called Sunnyside Up. I love sitting at the bar watching an open kitchen during the breakfast rush. You want a meal and a show? Watch short order cooks pound out a breakfast every 30 seconds while you eat your $5 worth of eggs, bacon and grits.  These guys ran their legs off. One guy on eggs, one guy on grits and hashbrowns and one on pancakes and toast, all of them filling in for each other if necessary, sliding the plates down the counter slapping one thing on after another and then “Order up!” the waitress grabs it and goes. Efficiency in action. It makes me happy.

I had no plans today except to end up in Atlanta but, as I’ve noted before, point A to point B driving is boring so I took back roads to see if I’d find anything interesting. I’m listening to Fresh Air Fiend by Paul Theroux while I’m driving and I like it. He has a lot thought provoking things to say about being a traveler and a writer. Today I wrote down “good travelers aren’t hiding in travel, they’re seeking.” For me now, that’s true. I’m seeking to connect rather than to escape. But I’ve been a bad traveler too. I’ve used traveling as a way to escape reality. I think it’s an easy trap to fall into when you travel for a living.

Touring companies create a bubble of their own reality. We know more about what’s going on in the lives of the people we work with than we do in the world around us. I can’t speak for everyone who tours, but in the past year I noticed that tour became one long blur of cities, each resembling the next. I ceased to adapt to a new city and instead tried to make every city adapt to me, my preferences and my schedule. My last touring city, Toronto, evaded me on every level and I had a rough 5 weeks where I was unwilling to bend and Toronto was unable to accommodate me. More than anything, this is why I’m taking a break from touring. I want to travel and see the world from my perspective and on my own schedule.

So, I’m writing down these deep thoughts while driving down the back roads of Georgia  (don’t try that at home) when I pass a tiny diner called the Whistle Stop Café. Anyone remember the movie Fried Green Tomatoes? I figured it was the café from the movie but I had just eaten and already passed it so I didn’t stop but thought that the timing was a bummer.

Cut to 3 hours later. Now I’m hungry. I literally thought to myself “I wish the Whistle Stop Café was up ahead because this would be the perfect time to stop.” Not 5 minutes later I see a big hand lettered sign that says Whistle Stop Café with an arrow pointing down a side road and I nearly cause an accident veering off the road to follow the sign. I had a moment of wondering what I was following but then I turned onto the prettiest little side road lined with charming buildings in Juliette, Georgia. I drove past a miniscule fire station, a wee little courthouse and 2 gift shops and then just pulled over and parked on the side of the road. It was the main street from the movie with the café at the end of the street and train tracks running right by it.

So I went in and had some fried green tomatoes.

The owner told me that this street was the movie set from the movie. The café was already there before the movie but the movie crew built all the rest of the buildings. She says the movie is still popular enough to bring people in and it’s the 20 year anniversary this summer so they are having a bee festival. The front case in the café had props from the movie and as I sat there eating my friend green tomatoes, trains went by showing how the café got it’s name. I did not eat the barbq, in case anyone is worried.

Perfect timing, perfect little café with a gorgeous wood U-shaped bar right in the middle. If you watch the movie, you’ll see the café in most of the interior shots of the restaurant. I’d say the fried green tomatoes were only ok (sad…) but the peach cobbler was astonishing. If you haven’t watched the movie, I’d recommend it. Mary Louise Parker pre-Weeds and Jessica Tandy in one of her final roles. Whatever happened to Mary Stuart Masterson? She just dropped off the earth.

So, full up of random country sweetness, I drove into Atlanta in time for class at Be Hot Yoga. Every studio I’ve visited up to now has had Bikram on their signage and this one does not. I’m sure there are a lot of politics involved in the business of Bikrams studios and I didn’t ask for details but I know there are distinctions between officially sanctioned Bikram studios and hot yoga studios so I was curious if there would be differences in the classes.

And there were.

Mostly I felt like it was a less formal class than the ones I’ve taken before. The poses and breathing exercises were the same, the teacher “patter” had some of the same verbiage in it but the teaching style leaned heavily towards encouragement on not doing the full pose if you are new or don’t think you are up for it. I think for some students – new ones especially – this allows them to ease in to a class. For me, it makes me competitive and determined to do the hardest pose possible. Apparently I have a negative reaction to a teacher telling me to take it easy.

I’ll just say right now that every way I feel about this class is based on the kind of student that I am and the kind of teacher/class that I want. I know next to nothing about Bikram and very little about teaching group classes so I’m in no way saying that this studio is doing anything wrong or that it’s related to a lack of “Bikram-ness” but simply that this teacher isn’t for me and I won’t go back.

I want to be pushed. I want to try even if I fall out and it looks crappy. To work beyond my flexibility and my comfort level. To try harder and fail better. I want to be corrected when I’m doing it wrong but told to go deeper and further. I come to Bikram – and most other physical pursuits – with a need to better myself and I know that if I stay within the boundaries of my comfort level I will never reach that place. BUT, not every student needs this from Bikram and not every teacher wants to teach students like me.

Thus my Bikram lesson of the day: Know thyself.

Know when I’m cheating a pose and know when my body doesn’t want to go there and pushing will only injure me. This is an important distinction for me and I don’t have it yet. I got a lot of very beneficial corrections on my poses from Kathy today so the class was great for me even though it wasn’t great for me. You know what I mean.

My final note, for you American Idol fans is that Kellie Pickler will be performing at the Vidalia Sweet Onion Music Festival this summer. I kind of love everything about that lineup.

Short stint in ATL including a lovely dinner with my friend Elizabeth. Nashville tomorrow.

Savannah Face Off: Mrs. Wilkes vs. Paula Deen

A city with a booming tourist trade usually means a city with 2 sides, one for the tourists and one for everyone else. The tourist side has upscale mediocre restaurants with gorgeous views, gift shops selling overpriced everything, a grand attraction or two and no parking. The other side has restaurants with great food and no atmosphere where the locals hang out, dive bars with character(s) and funky neighborhoods with interesting shops. The unfortunate part about being in a tourist city for one day is I can’t fight the tractor beam of the tourist side because there are always a few things I want to do there. 24 hours isn’t enough to explore both sides of a city unless I know exactly where I’m going (never) or get incredibly lucky (happens occasionally, didn’t today).

All this to say that I had a straightforwardly touristy  day here in Savannah.

Woke up late, needed coffee, and remembered a bakery I’d driven past yesterday so I went out to find it. Closed.

Regrouped, found another place in the touristy district with good reviews and drove over there. The line wrapped around the restaurant inside and after standing in line for 10 minutes and moving not at all, I left.

Hello starbucks with your quick service, delicious Americano coffee and free wi-fi! This is why I keep coming back to you. After a life giving cup of coffee I ventured out to get lunch. I had two restaurants to try today and one was only open for lunch so that made it an easy choice. I drove closeish, found metered parking and walked over to find this:

People fall into two camps when they see a line like this for food. One camp’s spokesperson walked past the line saying “You have GOT to be kidding! Nothing is worth this!!” And everyone in the line belongs to the other camp, standing in the cold and the damp forever, knowing that if the line stretches around the corner, the food must be worth it.

We all know what camp I belong in, so I got in line to eat at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room.

I had put an hour and a half on the meter thinking that would probably be enough. Oh, how naïve. How adorably mistaken was that thought. I fed the meter twice while I stood in line. I stood in line (in heels) for at least 2 hours. It was damply bitterly cold (misty drizzly but no rain) and I definitely wasn’t wearing warm enough clothes. But despite the miserable weather, hundreds of people around me also stood in line for hours with no complaints, cheerfully waiting to get into this restaurant. And as people exited the restaurant, all the hungry freezing people in line asked “Was it worth the wait?” and every single person coming out of the restaurant said “Yes.”

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room (formerly Boarding House) is a tiny little place with about 7 tables seating around 10 people at each table. People start lining up for lunch between 9-10am and the doors open at 11am. At 2pm (ish) an employee walks out and marks the last person in line to cut off the line. They will then serve everyone in line and close up shop when everyone’s eaten.

Everyone eats at communal tables. When I got into the restaurant, the food was already on the table in bowls and a glass of sweet tea sat at my place. The only active choice we got was what to drink – sweet tea, regular tea or water. Then we dug in to the most delicious soul food in the world. Here’s my plate:

And I didn’t even try everything! Black eyed peas, fried chicken, collard greens, mashed potatoes, barbq, creamed corn, squash, lima beans, sweet potatoes, dirty rice, biscuits, cornbread etc. etc. etc. SO MUCH FOOD. If we emptied a bowl, they refilled it. I knew I had yoga later and a date with Paula Deen so I didn’t even eat everything on my plate but I gave it a shot. I’ve eaten some good soul food in my day and this place ranks with the best. The fried chicken was light and crispy, the mashed potatoes were creamy, the dirty rice was spicy with andouille sausage chunks, the squash was amazing and I don’t know what was in it. I didn’t love the creamed corn but everything else I tried was incredible.

When we slowed down they brought around tiny dishes of banana pudding and then told us that it’s a Wilkes Dining Room tradition to bring your dirty dishes to the kitchen when you’re finished.

To repeat, we stood in line for 2+ hours to eat soul food we didn’t order with strangers at a communal table and then to bus our own dirty dishes and paid $16 apiece for this privilege (cash only). After which, one of the pretty waitresses patted me on the shoulder and said “have a nice day now, you hear?” and that’s it. Then we walked out the door and past all the people still in line and got to say “Yes, yes. Totally worth it. Delicious!”

After that extravaganza, I took a tour of the Mercer-Williams house, formerly owned by John Williams who was featured in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Gorgeous house. Underwhelming tour. But I’m intrigued by John Williams who started preserving historic houses in Savannah in the 1950s, when such a thing was unheard of. He collected art pieces all his life (he became an antiques dealer at age 14, selling pieces out of his parent’s house) and used this house to display his collection. My favorite story involved his china set, which had gone down in the hold of a sinking ship and he acquired it after it had sat at the bottom of the China Sea for 200 years. Apparently the glaze wasn’t waterproof and the china looked normal but was so impregnated with salt from the 200 years of sea water that he couldn’t use the dishes for hot food or the salt would leach out of the porcelain and into the food.

I took a break from the touristy gallivanting to do yoga at Bikram Savannah again, this time with Chris. He’s a nice guy but maybe he’s a newer teacher? His class seemed a little generic, lacking some personality.

My Bikram lesson today: where your mind is, there your body is also.

I was again distracted by food, but this time instead of giddy saliva inducing visions of fried chicken, I was wishing I didn’t have to eat again after class. For the record, conspicuous consumption of soul food goes counter to the Bikram ethic of sweating and stretching. They really aren’t good companions. But it’s Savannah and Paul Deen lives here and I have to eat at her restaurant. Obligated. Must.

So I girded up the loins of my mind (probably 2 metaphors that shouldn’t be mixed…) and headed over to the Lady and Sons for a late dinner. I’m happy to say that I was seated immediately, both because I wasn’t in the mood for another 2 hour wait and because I’d have been angry had I waited for that meal.

Oh Paula! You’re the sweetest and your hair is so pretty but your food is just not that good. Here’s my shrimp and grits:

Looks good, right? Shrimp = overcooked. Sauce = underseasoned. Sigh. And they didn’t course the food properly so this came out while I was still eating my salad, though the waitress was really apologetic about that. The key lime pie had a strange crust with limp pieces of almond and the filling should be tarter. The garlic cheddar biscuit was delicious, but who eats at Lady and Sons for the biscuits? And the water glasses were plastic. Really?

But you know what, oh well. She’s an empire, she’s making a million, her restaurant has 3 stories and a line out the door every day. Her food doesn’t have to be good. People will eat there anyway.

Savannah bottom line: eat at Mrs. Wilkes if you want good food. Eat at Paula’s so you can say you did it.

I’m giving this round to the Dining Room.

Tomorrow – ATL.

Awards, observations and more rain

Woke up this morning to the smell of coffee and cinnamon rolls. I had breakfast with my aunt and uncle while my uncle mapped out the next few days of my trip for me and printed out directions (thanks uncle John!) and then my cousin Kimberly and her two little girls came over.

Is there anything cuter than a one year old ? Probably not.

And Alithea, the 4 year old, kept interfering with my Uncle John’s mapping by drawing lines from the streets back to their house to make sure that I knew how to get back to them. She didn’t want me to leave.


I left (reluctantly) in the pouring rain (again) to drive to Savannah because I had a hotel reservation and yoga plans. Had it not been raining, I would have attempted to find this UFO Welcome Center I’ve heard about but I didn’t know if it would be “open” in the rain (to non-aliens at least) so I bypassed it in favor of driving straight to Savannah.

Travel observation #1: Point A to Point B driving is boring.

I arrived in Savannah in time to check in and go to class. Bikram Yoga Savannah is a beautiful facility but lacks the warmth of the studios I attended in North Carolina. Emotional warmth, that is. The class was plenty warm. I missed the neighborly community feel of the NC classes – due in large part to Bruce and Trudy’s welcoming natures, no doubt – but the Savannah class had nice elements. Jamie was the first teacher to learn my name and verbally correct my form in class.

Getting called out in Bikram classes is common and I like it. It means the teacher is paying attention and is invested in my practice. Jaime corrected a few of my poses in really helpful ways.

My Bikram lesson of the day: Focus.

All I could think about was fried chicken. And shrimp and grits. And collard greens.

I had trouble focusing on yoga and as a result had LOTS of trouble with the balance poses. I have terrible balance and standing on one foot takes concentration in the best of times. If I’m not concentrating, forget about it. It’s very easy for me to get distracted – in my head and by people around me – and today I kept falling out the poses and having to try again and again to hold still.

The rain didn’t help either. During class a thunderstorm hovered right over the top of the building and dumped buckets of water. Ever been in a building with a tin roof during a serious thunderstorm? It sounds like a jet engine landing on top of you. Jaime had to yell over the sound and the windows were completely greyed out with water. These storms aren’t kidding around.

When the rain cleared up somewhat I went out to find dinner. I have two places that I want to eat here and both were closed tonight. Of course! I’ll have to eat at both tomorrow, which is a lot of fried chicken… So I ended up on the beautiful river walk eating mediocre red beans and rice at a place I won’t name and went home in the rain.

It best be cleared up tomorrow! You hear me Savannah??

As a complete aside, I’d like to give an “Inconceivable” award to the man who penned the sign “Antique Tables Made Daily” that I drove past today. And also send a long distance slap to the man with the license plate “Pusshook” and the bumper sticker “My other car is a pirate ship” and tell him to snap out of it. Sir, I don’t know you but I can tell you definitively that you aren’t and it isn’t.

That’s all I got. Tell Paula Deen to expect me tomorrow because I’m coming in hungry!