Monday 16th December 1300 KM 800 M
I have a nice lie until 8 and as per usual on a Monday morning my first task is to check in with Josh Dukelow on his Fresh Take show on WHBY. When I ring in studio I get to listen to some of the show before a commercial break and subsequently Josh talking to me. Today Josh and a couple of others are discussing how despite not playing that great the Packers are 11-3 and how much the Bears would love to have our season. It’s a point which I reiterate when speaking to Josh and also that it feels like Groundhog Day when summarising a Packers home game - a good start followed by a nervy finish. The rest of the morning after breakfast is spent working on my website and packing for my trip to Tennessee and Minneapolis. I also check Amanda’s final blog for the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau website as well as completing my final Instagram takeover post. After a light lunch I’m on my way to Madison with Above and Beyond’s weekly podcast show providing the soundtrack to the journey. I’m meeting a local news anchor journalist at Camp Randall stadium for an interview. It’s so cold but Maddy does a good job and after a few TV appearances I know the procedure. Once we’re done I drop my car off at my good mate Tristin’s place and whilst waiting for my Megabus coach to Chicago I do some social media work. I take a local bus to the university campus and it’s not too long of a wait for the service to downtown Chicago, stopping at Milwaukee along the way. During the journey I research some activities for my visit to Memphis and listen to some music and watch some dark British comedy (The League Of Gentlemen) on YouTube. Upon arrival at the Megabus stop in Chicago I decide not to head straightaway to the Greyhound coach station with it being so miserable and depressing so I find a local bar for food and drinks. 9 muses bar and grill is a Greek restaurant and only a short walk away. Plus being Monday night they have some nice specials. The place isn’t that busy so bartender Steve and I chat about various topics such as Greece, Chicago and American football. I’m not wearing any Packers clothing whatsoever and don’t mention my Packers adventure - I’m in enemy territory and we beat them the previous day! I get to witness Drew Brees making NFL history during the Monday night game between the Saints and Colts, as he breaks Peyton Manning’s career touchdown record. The Saints next two games are easily winnable based on tonight’s performance therefore the Packers need to win their next two games too to ensure a first round playoff bye. 9 muses closes at midnight, ideal for me as that’s when my night coach to Memphis departs Chicago, so I stay for a couple of hours. It’s a short walk to the coach station and it’s not too long before I’m boarding. Luckily I manage to secure the back seats, just like I did for the overnight journey to Columbus from Chicago late October, so again I get to lie down and sleep for most of the journey.
Tuesday 17th December
I wake up a few times on the coach this morning but go straight back to sleep due to a combination of tiredness and boredom. I’m finally up an hour before arriving into Tennessee, using this time to work on my website. The Greyhound coach terminal is not located downtown, it’s in the south-east of the city near the airport. My Airbnb is in the Midtown district and once I have my suitcase I take a Lyft to a nearby diner for breakfast. The restaurant is a nice old-school kinda place called Barksdale and my order of a vegetarian omelette with hash browns is good. During my meal, my host Airbnb host Elizabeth messages me with the positive news that the room is ready. It’s only a 7 minute walk to her house and upon arrival no one is at home apart from a growling dog on the lounge couch. As I’m unpacking I hear someone entering the house so I walk towards the front, accidentally frightening Elizabeth in the process. She tells me a bit about the house and neighbourhood then I get showered and ready for sightseeing. I’m a bit tired but I want to go exploring, something that I have got used to over the years. My first stop is the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, infamous for the assassination of Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr on 4th April 1968. It’s a short Lyft ride from my Airbnb but on Tuesday’s the museum is closed! As I’m walking up South Main Street towards downtown I notice a museum called the Blues Hall of Fame, where I spend an hour or so learning more about the history of blues music and musicians. A personal favourite artist of mine is Aretha Franklin. She sadly died last year and it’s great to learn more about her and listen to some legendary songs such as Respect and I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You). Whilst I’m walking around Etta James’s Something’s Got A Hold On Me is being played and it reminds of it being sampled on the hit dance record Levels by the deceased Swedish DJ Avicii. I have decided to visit two music museums today and two civil rights museums tomorrow with the second music museum being the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. On the walk there I come across the Martin Luther King Reflection Park which contains sculptures, photos and writings on the work of a personal hero of mine. Then another short walk away is the Clayborn Temple, home of the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike. The workers suffered from low wages, dangerous working conditions, therefore wanting an end to blatant discrimination and union recognition to improve their livelihoods. As these demands were not being met the workers went on strike in February of 1968 wearing signs declaring “I AM A MAN”. What started out as a local strike gained the attention of the whole country and thus the national civil rights movement and its leaders. Dr King led a large march from Clayborn temple on 28th March and a week later he was assassinated. Four days after his death, Dr King’s widow Coretta Scott King led a silent march from Clayborn Temple to City Hall with more than 40,000 black and white marchers. It was successful as eight days later city and union officials reached a settlement in the 65 day old strike with workers awarded wage increases and union recognition. The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is a fascinating museum telling the story of how music both attempted to break down and overcame racial barriers. Initial exhibits display the rural music sung by both poor black and white sharecropping families whom were tied and controlled by rich white landowners. Music became a source of expression of their trials, tribulation, fears, hopes, anger, sorrow and ultimate inspiration for a better future. There are a handful of musical memorabilia on display such as a battery operated radio and hand-crank record player as rural homes would not have had access to electricity prior to World War Two. The “Bubbler” Jukebox is a personal favourite display of mine, which would hold up to 42 vinyl single records in its collection. I’m not a massive Elvis Presley fan so I’m not visiting Graceland during my visit but there is a decent short display in this museum on how he transformed the genre of rock ‘n’ roll. Beale Street was where many Afro-American musicians played at segregated clubs with the area also home to many other businesses serving the local black community. During the 1970s a controversial urban regeneration project resulted in the area losing many of these black businesses and today the neon-lit lights are home to many restaurants that also serve as bars and music halls to blues and soul bands. Now on weekends things get pretty rowdy with both locals and tourists alike but being a Tuesday night there aren’t many people around and places open. For dinner I choose a place famous for it’s barbecue called Blue City Cafe. I deliberately didn’t have much lunch as the portion sizes are huge at these kinda places and both the quantity and quality of food doesn’t disappoint! After eating I choose an Irish bar to hang out in before I take a Lyft back to my Airbnb. It’s only around 9 when I return with my hosts already in bed. I do some reading before heading to sleep on a proper bed.
Wednesday 18th December
I have a nice lie in and sleep pretty well after the previous night’s overnight coach journey to Memphis. The first part of the money is spent finalising travels plans with two coach tickets booked and checking for accomodation for Nashville. I haven’t found any Couchsurfing hosts available and both the Airbnb and Booking.com apps are showing pricey places to stay for the weekend. Hopefully I can find something last minute when I get into Nashville tomorrow lunchtime. Once I’m showered and ready I walk over to a nearby Panera Bread fro breakfast, which consists of a cream cheese bagel. I’m still full from last night’s dinner! Then I take a Lyft (again) to the National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis. This time it’s open and I spent a couple of hours going through all the magnificent displays. As per the museums in Alabama and Atlanta, this place starts with the history of African slavery and goes through in detail the struggle for Civil Rights in America. Some of the displays are repeats of previous museums but others add to my knowledge. I take lots of photos and read quite a bit. My interest in the subject has definitely increased since my first Museum back in Washington DC in August. The tour ends with the room in which Dr King spent the final few hours of his life before being assassinated. After lunch I take a Lyft to the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, a 19th century home that was occupied by a German immigrant family. The property contained tunnels and trap doors to shelter escaped slaves, providing them with a safe haven before they departed town on a goods rail truck. It’s only a short walk to the rail track so the house was an ideal location. But clearly it was a risky venture with the family facing a combination of huge fines, arson and even the death penalty if caught. I enjoy the guided tour as it’s a real hands on display of the history of slavery but unfortunately no photos are allowed to be taken. I take a Lyft back to the house as I’m done sightseeing for the day and spend the afternoon working on my website whilst listening to music. For dinner I choose another barbecue place. The food is even better than last night with the sever explaining that most of the restaurants in and around Beale Street deal with the tourist crowd therefore the food at times being more volume rather than quality produced. I talk leftovers back to the Airbnb for breakfast the next day. For the evening I visit a few of the bars around the local area, bumping into a local guy called Brian. He takes me to a place that has great live music. I’m out until around midnight before taking a short Lyft ride back to my room.
Thursday 19th December 320 KM 200 M
I’m up early as I have a Greyhound coach service this morning to Nashville. Breakfast is last night’s leftovers and once all my things are packed I catch a Lyft back to the coach station, located near the airport. The station is a lot cleaner, modern and safer than the one in Chicago plus I don’t have to wait too long to board my coach. It’s a non eventful journey with most of it spent relaxing and listening to music. As the coach is pulling into Nashville I have a quick check on Airbnb. I’ve got nowhere booked yet but it turns out to be my lucky day with a decent last minute steal still available located only a short walk north of downtown. And it’s a whole condo just for myself containing a small kitchenette too. I saw the listing a few days but it was a bit too expensive so a hostel was looking like a great choice. However as no one has booked the host has reduced the price significantly so that it will be only be slightly more than the hostel, and plus of course I will have a whole place to myself. Although I won’t get to meet any people where I’m staying I’m sure I will make new mates whilst honkey tonkin on Broadway. It’s a short walk from the Greyhound coach station to Broadway and even at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon most of the bars have live music pumping out of them. For lunch I find a small diner offering great value for money southern food. Another short walk later I’m at the apartment complex for my three night stay in the city. Entry is by code and once I’m inside I’m impressed with the quality of the place. After unpacking I nap for a couple of hours then go shopping at a nearby Walgreens. My phone charging cable is broken so I buy a new one as well as an electric toothbrush. I jokingly post on social media that my Christmas shopping is done and that I’m a very happy man! On the way back to the Airbnb I stop at a Greek restaurant for takeout. I eat half for dinner and leave the rest in the fridge for when I get back home after my night out. My mate Dan from Milwaukee sent me an email with a list of honkey tonkin places to visit with the first stop being The Stage. The band are pretty good and I think this will be the case for most places. I’m about to head to my next place on the list when I notice a guy with a British accent ordering drinks. I’m corrected by the James as he’s Irish and we chat for a short while about our travels in America. A friend of his called Mark, from York England, joins us at the bar. Mark and James not only work together but also are flat mates in Edinburgh, Scotland. They were at a work conference in Dallas, Texas a week ago and then decided to do some traveling. I tell them about my story of following the Packers and Badgers. As I’m on my own they ask if I would like to join them for drinks and as I have a list of places to visit I ask if they would like to join me honkey tonkin - benefits all round! We go upstairs as James and Mark have a third friend and work colleague wifi them. Carlos is originally from Valencia, Spain but too living and working in Edinburgh. Together we visit Tooties, Legends and Roberts on Broadway. One of the bartenders tell us that it’s not too busy due to it being the lead up to Christmas and it also being a Thursday night too. But the music and musicians are of a high standard with patrons singing and dancing to covers both modern and old of different genres. The threes guys are a whole lot of fun and it’s funny how James and Carlos tease and bully Mark in a funny, adoring way. Towards the end of the night I’m left on my own as the guys head back to their hotel. I end up meeting some guys from Oklahoma City and a couple from Athens, Alabama. We have a nice group photo taken then I walk back to my Airbnb. I eat the leftovers for dinner before going to bed.
Friday 20th December
I have a nice lie in this morning and it’s around noon when I’m leaving my Airbnb to do some sightseeing. First stop is the Tennessee State Capitol, located on top of a hill and therefore provided an effective location to defend the city. Brunch consists of curry inside a market and after eating I stroll around Bicentennial Park, reading the information inscribed on the short walls. There are some great quotes with a couple from my personal hero, Dr King. Nearby is the Tennessee State Museum, where I spend a couple of hours learning about the history of the region. It’s a short walk back to my Airbnb with the rest of the afternoon spent napping. Tonight I fancy a different area so I take a local bus to the MidTown district. In one of the bars I meet a woman born in Green Bay and now living in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and family. Sharri and Miguel are really nice and supportive of my adventure. Tomorrow the Buckeyes basketball team are playing Kentucky and they invite me to watch the game with them in a downtown bar. There is a website called Packers Everywhere that tells you if there is a Packers bar in the local area and I find one in downtown Nashville called Benchmark. I take a Lyft there and upon arrival it’s more of a sports bar that shows Packers games rather than a full on Packers themed bar. Being Nashville there is live music and I end up chatting with a family from Gulfport Mississippi, home of my favourite ever Packers player Brett Favre. They follow the New Orleans Saints and so are in town, like many other Saints fans, for the game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Parents Jennifer and Casey along with their children Chase and Brooke are a ton of fun and we end up all dancing to the awesome live music. The musician plays a really good cover on request one of my favourite ever songs Down Under by Men At Work. We end up spending the rest of the night together and I’m invited to their home in Mississippi if I happen to be passing through the Gulfport area. After a couple of honkey tonk places I walk to back to my Airbnb and head to bed.
Saturday 21st December
Today I have nothing planned so spend the day relaxing, listening to music and working on my website. Whilst I was in Chicago for the Packers-Bears NFL opener back in September I made a friend called Maggie. She moved to Tennessee a few days later and as I’m in town she messaged me on Instagram a couple of days ago asking if I wanted to catch up. It’s good to see Maggie again and she has enjoyed following my crazy football adventures around the country. We meet in Roberts honkey tonk and whilst I’m waiting for Maggie to arrive I chat with a musician from the band called Rheana. I met her a couple of nights ago when I was honkey tonkin with the three guys based in Scotland. Rheana will be playing at Legends Corner later tonight so I promise to come and support her. Maggie and I walk to Nashville Underground to catch up with Sharri and Miguel. I also get to meet some of their Saints friends visiting from Columbus Ohio and after the conclusion of their college basketball game we all head to Benchmark. Both the bartender and musician remember me from the previous night. The musician is playing with a partner tonight and ends up signing Down Under again on request by myself. What a legend! Maggie and I say goodbye to the others and walk over to the Printers Alley part of town. Our first stop is a karaoke bar and I sing unsurprisingly Down Under. At the bar there is a guy wearing a Badgers t-shirt claiming that he played for them a couple of decades ago, including a Rose Bowl appearance. The highlight for me of attending this hole in the wall venue is a guy singing Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms, a classic Christmas tune. Now the next place we go to is a complete contrast to the karaoke bar. Skull’s Rainbow Room is probably one of the nicest places I have been to in Nashville with a really cool live music band. Maggie says goodbye and I move onto a couple more bars in the area. I chat to a local woman who commends me for venturing out of the Broadway touristy area. But I still enjoyed my time there and I finish my night and stay in Nashville by dropping in at Legends Corner to see Rheana play with her second band of the night. I meet some more nice people and walking back to my Airbnb I’m glad that I made the trip to Tennessee.
Sunday 22nd December 1100 KM 700 M
I have a nice lie in and I have plenty of time to get ready and leave my Airbnb as check out time is 11. There is a bus stop nearby that takes me to the airport, arriving in plenty of time for me to get food and relax. My Southwest flight to Minneapolis is direct with no delays and upon arrival I take an Uber to downtown. I’m staying with Tom and Peggy, whom I met before the Packers-Raiders pre season game in Winnipeg, Canada. They had driven up for the game and Peggy had read about me in the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper earlier that day. As soon as I started talking about my adventure she recognised me and within a few minutes Tom had extended an invitation to come and stay with them in their lovely apartment. The views are fantastic, reminding me of a place I used to live in back in Perth but I moved out of in order to save money for this trip. Tom and Peggy have put on a Christmas/Holiday/End Of Year Party for the residents of the apartment complex. For a few hours I’m chatting with people about my adventure. It feels like bit of an extended media interview with the same questions of “why packers” “why Wisconsin” “how has it been” etc. Of course a few of the residents are Vikings fans and as expected tease me about following the Packers. I’m sure it will be a lot rougher at the game tomorrow night. Once everyone is gone Tom and Peggy clear up and I watch the Sunday night prime time game between the Chiefs and Bears. After the game is over I’m straight to bed.
Monday 23rd December
It’s Packers game day! I have another nice lie in and I think a main reason why I’m not too exhausted from all my travel and football adventures is the amount of time spent resting and catching up on sleep, which is so fundamental to having both a successful and enjoyable busy schedule such as mine. Tom and Peggy are running errands this morning so I end up staying in the apartment on my own, working on my website and planing travels for the next several months before returning to Western Australia. I find a decent tour of Africa starting at the end of January in Johannesburg, South Africa and that finishes 37 days later in Nairobi, Kenya with safaris and jungle expeditions in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. There is also a final cricket test match between South Africa and England in Johannesburg during the last week of January, just before the tour starts. But it all depends on how the Packers get on not only in their last two games but also next month. I wouldn’t mind having to postpone my travel plans for more football adventures into February! Lunch consists of leftovers from last night and after some laundry I get ready into my day game outfit. I take an Uber to downtown Minneapolis, only a short ride away and will be meeting Tom inside a shopping centre. Minneapolis has a cool skyway system, connecting 80 city blocks over 11 miles in what is the largest continuous system in the world. Whilst walking around I’m getting a few stares from Vikings fans but as always due to the huge number of both local and traveling Packers fans I receive quite a bit of support. Today’s tailgate will be with the Purple Pride, organised by Kim and Larry Jasinski, both of whom I met initially at the Packers-Bears game and have been bumping into along the way both home and away this season. Kim is huge Packers fan but Larry is equally a diehard Vikings but as we are in Minneapolis most of the fans are wearing purple. My mate Ryan from Lot 1 is on his usual music and dancing duties. I relieve him of pouring Shotski, a role that I love doing back in Green Bay so it’s good to be doing it on the road too. Due to the huge importance of today’s game for the NFC North, combined with the big rivalry and the match up being on a Monday night prime time result in tickets beinng hard to get. My mate Justin ends up booking them for the most expensive ticket of the season at $270 per person including all fees on ticket resale. Justin arrives in from Milwaukee by car just after 6 at the Purple Pride tailgate. There is a local TV crew at the tailgate and after a brief chat with the reporter I end up getting interviewed live with a rival Vikings fan, who I actually met after the Packers-Vikings game back in September at Lot 1. As we are heading into the stadium I get a message from Tom saying that he and Peggy just saw me on TV! Our seats are high up but at least we’re in. The first half is a sloppy performance from our offense. Rodgers throws an interception plus Adams and Jones lose fumbles but due to a strong defense and three Mason Crosby field goals the Packers are only trailing the Vikings by a single point at half time. However the defense goes up a further gear as they restrict the Vikings to zero points for the rest of the match and the offense finds some rhythm. Jones is the star again with two touchdowns, the first being 12 yards in the third quarter followed by a 56 yard dash in the fourth quarter. Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins career record in Monday night football moves to 0-9 whereas the Packers record their first ever win at this loud and impressive new stadium. I actually think it’s louder than Arrowhead a couple of months ago as the closed stadium retains the sound. The fans around us are pretty cool and we take some photos with them towards the end of the game. I tell one fan called Scott about my adventure and how great it would be if someone from overseas moves to Minneapolis to follow the Vikings and Gophers for a season. Scott agrees and if there is someone who is thinking of undertaking such a crazy and random adventure then maybe I can provide them with some inspiration. Post game Justin and I walk back to the Purple Pride and with Ryan and a couple of the other tailgaters head to a bar for some post game celebratory drinks. We stop for delicious pizza before parting ways. I take an Uber back to the apartment then head to bed. What a win to seal the NFC North for the Packers! Plus the Packers have a strong chance of having a first round bye and even a possibility of a number one seed for home field advantage for January playoffs.