WESTIN—CHATTANOOGA

November 18, 2018


Just about every Friday evening my wife and I celebrate the weekend by going to dinner.  We like to go early, i.e. 4:30 or 5:00 P.M. In other words—happy hour.  The crowds are smaller and the prices are much more in line with a reasonable budget.  This past Friday, we tried the Westin—Chattanooga located at 801 Pine Street. Pine Street is just west of the “main drag” and close to I-27.  Great location for a restaurant.  We heard the Alchemy Bar and Restaurant on the tenth (10th) floor of the hotel was great.  We were not disappointed in the least.

The Westin was at one time Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Chattanooga.  A digital picture of that building is shown below.

This building was called the “Gold Building” for obvious reasons.  The gold windows reflected sunlight, thus keeping the interior office areas much cooler and saving considerable utility expense.  Blue Cross basically outgrew these facilities and relocated some miles away.  Westin purchased the building some time afterwards and spent millions and over one year of time in refurbishing it and turning it into a marvelous hotel and commercial facilities.

As mentioned, the Alchemy is located on the tenth floor.  We will take a pictorial tour of the facility.

You are greeted with a plaque indicating the location and name.

One of the great features of the Alchemy is the lighting.  Lights everywhere and beautifully done.

I hope you can tell the restaurant is “kid-friendly”. When we were there, there were children ranging from infant to young teen. All very respectful of the furnishing and QUIET.

The dining area is very spacious with plenty of room to move around.  I did not include it in the pictures but here are high tables along the picture windows to the left of this JPEG and to entry of the facility.

You get a great view of the famous Lookout Mountain.  Lookout Mountain is noted for the “Battle Above the Clouds”—a famous battle between the North and the South during the Civil War.  This profile is on the City seal just as you see it here.

The picture below shows a small portion of the Chattanooga skyline.

LOBBY:

The lobby is really inviting with an exceptional amount of space.  The pictures below will definitely give you that reality.

I want to note the “picture wall” below.  The Westin has hung pictures of Chattanooga new and old to show a very brief “evolution” of the city center.

CONCLUSIONS:

You really need to make Chattanooga one place on your agenda while driving South.  We have become a destination for visitors due to the following: 1.) Great dining, 2.) The Tennessee River and all the “stuff” you can do on that river, 3.) Great accommodations, 4.) Wonderful tourist attractions in the downtown area and the surrounding tri-state areas. It’s a great destination summer, winter, spring and especially the fall.  Come on down.

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MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM

November 6, 2018


Atlanta is the host city for one of the most beautiful stadiums in our country.  Also, from an engineering standpoint, one of the most complex.  You can see from the digital above the stadium at night.

My wife and I traveled to ATL recently to visit our granddaughters and thought we would take a tour of the stadium prior to our visit.  The Atlanta Falcons were not playing so things were relatively quiet; otherwise, you could not get within ten (10) feet of the places we were allowed to go on the tour.  The prices for a tour are as follows:

  • Adult Ticket-$25.00
  • Senior Adult Ticket: $20.00
  • Parking: $15.00 (In the parking garage.)

I don’t think this is too bad for the “look” we got.  The entire tour is about one hour and twenty minutes.

STATISTICS:

Let’s take a look at several statistics to get some idea as to the immense project this was.

  • Arthur Blank indicated the groundbreaking of the stadium would be conducted the last week of March 2014. The stadium opened in 2017.
  • Cost to build: $1.15 Billion (Yes that’s billion with a “B”.)
  • Construction time: Thirty-nine (39) months
  • Parking space: 21,000
  • Stadium height: 305 Feet
  • Field level: 1018 Feet above sea level.
  • Total stadium footage: 2,000,000 Square Feet
  • Total concrete: 150,000 Cubic Yards
  • Total structural steel: 27,000 Tons
  • Roof size: 14.5 acres
  • Total seating capacity: 71,000 expandable to 75,000
  • Club seats: 7,600
  • Number of suites: 190
  • Concession points of sale: 673
  • Bars and restaurants: 24
  • Beer taps: 1,264
  • Escalators: 25
  • Scoreboard: 63,800 Square Feet

In other words, this is one big place.  Let’s now take a digital tour.  I made all of these pictures so please forgive, in some cases, the armature nature.

As you approach the stadium you get an idea just how big it is. This is the walkway leading from underground parking.

The most prominent indicator announcing “we have arrived” is the Atlanta Falcon—otherwise known as the “dirty bird”.

We mentioned earlier the number of escalators used to access seating. From the JPEG below, you get some idea as to the layout.

With out a doubt, the most prominent feature of the stadium is the dome and the skylight.

As you might expect, the roof is an un-suspended design with no supporting internal posts or columns blocking view from any seat.  The complexly of the superstructure may be seen as follows:

This is a civil engineers dream, or nightmare.  Choose one.  There are eight (8) petals to the retractable dome and they actuate like the shutter on a camera lens.

CLUBS WITHIN THE STADIUM:

There are various clubs within the stadium, each bearing the name of the sponsor.

The AT & T Perch is the first you encounter.

Atlanta is the hub for Delta Airlines so you know they will be involved in a big way and support a club—a beautiful club at that.

Mercedes-Benz sponsors an equally beautiful restaurant and bar called the Gullwing.

 

Another “Benz” club is shown below with internal seating.

PLAYING FIELD:

OK, this is a football stadium.

LOCKER ROOM:

By far, the most disappointing aspect of the entire facility was the locker room.

We are taking bland and generic although, maybe for game day, things improve greatly.  After all, this was a guided tour.

CONCLUSION:

I can certainly recommend to you taking the tour the next time you are in Atlanta. It is well worth it to see the come by itself.

1918

October 6, 2018


I want us to climb in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine and travel back in time to the year 1918.  One hundred years ago.  What were things like back then; clothes, cars, entertainment, politics, technology, etc.    It’s amazing to me how many advances have been made in just one hundred years.  Let’s take a quick look.

  • The average life expectancy for men was forty-seven (47) years.
  • Fuel for automobiles was sold in drug stores.
  • Only fourteen (14) percent of the homes had a bathtub.
  • Only eight (8) percent of the homes had a telephone.
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was ten (10) MPH.
  • The average wage in the US was $0.22 per hour.
  • The average worker made between two hundred ($200) and four hundred ($400) dollars per year.
  • More that ninety-five (95%) percent of births took place in homes.
  • A dentist made $2500 per year.
  • A veterinarian made between $1500 and $4000 per year.
  • Ninety percent (90%) of ALL doctors had no college education. Instead, they attended so-called local medical schools. Many of which were condemned in the press and the government as substandard.
  • Sugar was four cents ($0.04) per pound.
  • Eggs were fourteen cents ($0.14) per dozen.
  • Coffee was fifteen cents ($0.15) per pound.
  • Most women washed their hair only one per month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • The population of Las Vegas was thirty (30).
  • Two out of ten adults could not read or write and only six percent (6%) of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  • There were two hundred and thirty (230) murders reported in the entire United States.

If a picture is worth a thousand words—let’s have pictures.  All of following pictures are from Getty Images and were taken in the year 1918.  Let’s take a look.

HUGE differences—right?  One thing I am certainly grateful for is advances in medical technology.  Our life expectancy for a male is now seventy-eight (78) and not forty-seven (47).  Huge advances.


There’s a little something for everyone at Magnolia Market at the Silos. Shopping, games, the garden and even a bite to eat. The Market itself is staged and set up with one goal in mind: to inspire you to own the space you’re in. We hope that you’ll come to visit and leave excited about your home. It’s with a grateful heart that I welcome you to magnolia.com. Chip and I run a few businesses here in Waco, Texas, but Magnolia Market holds a special place in my heart. This entire business idea was born completely out of a dream I didn’t know could ever come to life. It’s truly only because a fiercely faithful, brave and bold husband pushed me to pursue my dream that it ever came to be.

In 2003, we bought our “Little Shop on Bosque” and opened the first Magnolia Market. In that store, I developed and sharpened my design style and skills, grew as a business owner, and gained much needed confidence in Magnolia Market and myself.”

Those words were uttered Joanna Gains of Waco, Texas. Magnolia Market at the Silos is a thriving business with very upscale merchandise for the home.  Chip and Joanna are shown in the digital below.

While visiting our son, daughter-in-law and grandson in Dallas this past week, my wife, our third granddaughter (shown below) and I traveled to Waco to take a look at the “Silos”.  The trip from Dallas is a little over an hour and thirty minutes.  Not bad with great interstate roads.

You know you are here by the sign on the gift shop.

I think Chip and Joanna selected a perfect location for their facility.  The vacant silos give a very distinct appearance to the location and can be seen from several blocks away.

A very nice and usable map of the Silo District locates everything within the grounds.  Everything is within walking distance and no motorized vehicles are permitted on the grounds.  They would be absolutely unnecessary anyway.

The entrance way runs just to the left of the silos.  Their size and height relative to people visiting the facility shows how massive they actually are.

When taking a left turn after the silos, you see an open “game” area.  There are bins located to the left of the game area where balls, Frisbees, and other toys are located for the benefit of anyone wishing to spend time while the family is shopping.

If you visit Magnolia at the Silos you are interested in shopping, eating and visiting the newly opened bakery.

There is food and a great variety, BUT it all comes from food trucks located just behind the game area. There is a Magnolia Restaurant but that facility is off-site.  We did not visit the restaurant.

The next three digital photographs show the shopping area.  It is a huge area and the pictures really do not do the size justice.   The merchandise is top quality and not cheap.   No Walmart here.  You get what you pay for and people were lined up at the cash registers.  People were definitely buying.

I thought it was interesting that Chip had his own small space and I do mean small.  You get the picture from below.  The overwhelming number of items available for sale relate to decorating home interiors.

“We can’t wait to welcome you to Silos Baking Co., our on-site bakery filled with Joanna’s personal recipes and hand-picked favorites—like “The Silos Cookie”, “The Prize Pig” bacon and cheddar biscuit, and the “Nuts & Bolts” cupcake. We don’t want you to miss this little corner of the Silos—it’s definitely the sweetest!”

Once again, the words of Chip and Joanna.  The bakery is truly a must-see.  Be prepared to wait in line about twenty to thirty minutes.  The bakery goods are top quality, fresh, made that day and very well displayed.

My wife and our granddaughter indicate shopping was good.  Hopefully you can see the menu from the picture below.

CONCLUSIONS:

I think Magnolia at the Silos is a marvelous success story and a wonderful place to visit.  It’s truly a fun place.  You can spend all day or as much time as you wish.  Parking in their lot is ten dollars with the lot definitely in walking distance of the facility.

 


I have been mentioning that Chattanooga has a great number of privately-owned restaurants.  These range from tapas bars, wine bars to truly gourmet offerings.  One of the most unique is CLYDE’S.  Clyde’s reminds me of the bar in Cheers except the seating capacity is considerably greater.  The name comes from an establishment called Clyde’s Auto-glass.  This company existed in Chattanooga for decades after which the owner retired and sold the building.   Located on Main Street, it is THE watering hole for hundreds of individuals on a daily basis.  Not only do you get atmosphere, you get wonderful food.

The facility opened in the fall of 2014.  Hi-Fi Clyde’s is a bar-focused concept with a menu that features a variety of sandwiches and entrees including a handcrafted barbecue. Hi-Fi Clyde’s features activities such as ping pong, shuffleboard, and occasionally features live music.

Peter Melloy is an operating partner and is quite possibly the biggest football fan among the Monen Family Restaurant Group staff. His favorite word is “VOLS!” and he hopes to one day visit every NFL Stadium. Born in Dubuque, Iowa, Peter claims making the decision to move to Chattanooga was the most impactful decision he has ever made. Since moving to Chattanooga, he has become the operating partner of Hi-Fi Clyde’s Chattanooga, and can still maintain his ability to shotgun a beer.

Beverley Urso is the General Manager and always has a smile on her face. She is known for hating all types of beans, reading the user manual to everything she owns, and being able to sew just about anything. Every Halloween she makes her nephew’s costume and loves every minute of it. Bev has always had a love for animals, stemming from her dreams as a little girl to become a marine biologist or a dolphin trainer. This explains her ‘collection’ of dogs – Chloe, Ruby, Ava, Skin, and Judge. Even her first date with her fiancé was at the zoo!

When you walk through the door, you immediately see the bar.  You cannot miss the bar.  It’s huge with an accompanying marquee—also huge.

As you can see from the JPEG below, seating is really no problem.  There is also an outdoor seating area. (Not shown.)  I suspect the entire facility could accommodate close to three hundred (300) people.

Additional seating is to the left of the bar.

If you read my posts you know I generally give reviews issued by other individuals.  That gives a balance.  Here we go:.

As you might expect—I can definitely recommend Clyde’s.  Great food-Great atmosphere.  Bring your ear plugs.

CAN YOU RETIRE

May 29, 2018


At some time in our working future we all hope to retire, but one burning question lingers—can you retire on what you have or will save at that point?  We are told that:

At some point in your life, you’ll be using this money to support your lifestyle. By the time you reach sixty (60), you should have six times your salary saved – that’s $360,000 if you make $60,000 per year. Unfortunately, the average sixty-something has an estimated median of $172,000 in the bank.  That is an estimate as of December 8, 2016.  Nearly half of American families have no retirement account savings at all.  This really blows my mind but this fact is what we are told by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in a new report entitled, “The State of American Retirement”.  Please take a look at the graphic below and you can see age groups vs retirement account savings.

Whereas the average savings of a family with members in the 32-to-37 age range is $31,644, the median savings is a bleak $480. At the other end, the average savings of families 56 to 61 — those nearest to retirement — is $163,557. The median is $17,000.

I think there are very specific reasons for the lack of savings, especially for younger citizens of our country.  Student loans, cost of living, pay scales, credit card debt, living above ones means, etc. all contribute to the inability to save or at least save enough for retirement.

The web site called MoneyWise.com has a very interesting solution to this problem or possible solution.  If you go to this web site and look up the following post: “Places You can Retire to for Less Than $200K” you will see a list of twenty (20) countries that can supply most if not all of your needs if your retirement is less than $200 K.  Let’s take a look at the list in order of favorability.

Thailand

Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Malaysia

Mexico

Malta

Ecuador

Spain

Portugal

Panama

Australia

Austria

Czech Republic

Slovenia

Chile

Uruguay

Vietnam

Guam

Indonesia

South Africa

MoneyWise.com completed a study comparing housing availability, cost of living, health care, crime, government and several other indicators to compile this list.  It is a very interesting study and I encourage you to take a look even if you are not considering being an expatriate. You just might change your mind.

There are two other web sites I definitely recommend you check out as follows: 1.)  The CIA Fact Book and 2.) Lonely Planet.  From these two you will find very valuable information relative to any country you wish to research.  Look before you leap might just be in order here. Another option might be spending time and not completely relocating.  Two, three, six or even nine months during one year might get you beyond worry relative to being able to afford retirement on what you have saved.  The most important thing is to DO THE RESEARCH.  Make a list, then a short list of the countries that represent the leading candidates. THEN MAKE A VISIT. Wade—don’t jump.  Several other considerations I would list are as follows:

  • Make sure you consider your family, friends and support group before you make the move. Will they be willing and able to visit on a regular basis if needed?
  • A huge factor for me would be availability of good if not excellent medical facilities.
  • Cost of transportation.
  • Language considerations. If English is an issue, how difficult would learning their language be?
  • Power supplied. (I know this is off the wall.) Does the country provide 120-volt AC, 60 cycles per second or do they provide another voltage and frequency?  In other words, will your electronics work?  Will you have to buy new equipment or can a converter do the job?
  • How difficult and costly is communication “back home”? This includes Internet services.
  • Viability of local banking institutions
  • Stability of government
  • Weather factors

This is where good research is a MUST.

MOT HAI BA

April 19, 2018


một hai baNorth Vietnamese Cuisine

Mot Hai Ba is located in the Lakewood Neighborhood of Dallas at 6047 Lewis Street and is one of the many gourmet restaurants in the city of Dallas.  When I think of Dallas I think of brisket, BBQ, ribs, flank steak, etc. I do NOT think of North Vietnamese cuisine—at all. Not at all. Quite frankly, I’m not too sure I have ever eaten Vietnamese food and I do not think we have Vietnamese in our “neck of the woods”.  When I saw the “North Vietnamese Cuisine” sign on the door I was a little concerned about finding a plate I could eat without calling the fire department.

Our daughter-in-law took my wife and me to Mot Hai Ba last night for dinner.  It was a marvelous surprise.   As you walk down Lewis Street to the restaurant, you first see a fairly small terrace that can accommodate four tables and about twelve or fifteen people.  Fortunately, the weather last night was sixty-one degrees with a cloudless blue sky.  We sat outside.

I went inside to take a look and discovered the area you see in the following photograph.  Once again, not too large but certainly a very cozy atmosphere.

I was very interested in the table settings.  As you can see, at each place was properly positioned chop sticks, small plate, napkin and one water glass.  No chairs, just padded stools.

Very small bar area with minimal seating for customers.  This is a place you eat and not hang out and drink. That fact became very obvious at first glance.

Now for the food.  I have copied the menu below from their web site due to my inability to capture the entire menu and provide readability.  Please forgive the segmented portrayal.

I had braised scallops on an eggplant sauce that was out of sight.  I love scallops but not a real fan of eggplant but this was absolutely marvelous.  Truly a great meal.  I don’t know if you travel to Dallas but if you do, please check out một hai ba. You will not regret this one.

 

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