No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

St. Pete Grand Prix

March 15, 2016

Juan Pablo Montoya

St. Pete Grand Prix

So the main reason for my travel to the Tampa/ St. Pete area was to attend the annual Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Indy Car race which is held each year as the season opening race through the streets of downtown St. Pete. I have attended almost every year the race has been held and it is always a really great time. Having the access of the Indy Car hard card makes it all the more enjoyable as I can roam at will through just about all areas of the track including the pits, paddock, media center and photo areas even Victory Lane which is really awesome. I walked over in the morning from the Hotel Indigo where I have stayed the past few years and was able to check out all the pre-race festivities.

Dario Franchitti

Mario Andretti

Kate and Olivier

I am not sure if I prefer being on the grid prior to the start of the race, being in the pits during the actual race or being in the victory lane celebrations after the race. They are all pretty amazing opportunities and I feel so fortunate to be able to be so close to the action. The race was pretty exciting, I think the official press release describes what happened as well as I can so I have simply included it below. It was an enjoyable race with just about everything you could ask for from a street race. I was only disappointed that so many good drivers got caught out by the big pile-up that caused many to lose a lap and effectively end their chances of winning.

Sarah Fisher

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 13, 2016 - The 50th anniversary celebration season for Team Penske is off to a rousing start. Verizon Team Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya controlled the closing laps of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to win the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener for the second straight year. Driving the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Montoya led teammate Simon Pagenaud across the finish line by 2.3306 seconds, with Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay placing third and Team Penske's Helio Castroneves fourth on the 1.8-mile temporary street course.

Joseph Newgarden

James Hinchcliffe

Montoya's 15th career Indy car win ties him with Alex Zanardi for 31st on the career chart. It is also the 179th victory for Team Penske in Indy car racing, the most of any team in history, and eighth for Roger Penske's outfit in the 13-race St. Petersburg history. "It was good," said Montoya, who lost the 2015 series championship on a race wins tiebreaker to Scott Dixon. "The Chevy was good all day. It was exciting to have a new paint scheme (on his car) and come out and win with it. It's just awesome.

We started the year last year like this. I felt this morning we had a really good car and it paid off."
Pagenaud, in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet, started from the pole position and led 48 laps of the 110-lap race. The Frenchman's second-place finish was his best in four starts on the St. Petersburg street course, but he lamented Montoya passing him on Lap 64 as the turning point. "Overall it was a great day," Pagenaud said. "If you compare to last year, it's been a massive improvement on the whole 22 crew. I'm super proud to represent HPE in our first race and be here on the podium in second place, leading the race for a while. "But, yeah, Montoya is an old dog. He found a little good trick on me. I made one tiny little mistake and it lost me the race."

A.J. Foyt

The only thing missing from Team Penske's race domination was Will Power, who took ill after claiming the Verizon P1 Award for winning the pole position March 12. Upon re-examination by the INDYCAR medical team this morning, Power was diagnosed with a mild concussion. INDYCAR released the following statement: "Following his on-track incident on Friday, Will Power displayed no signs of injury and was evaluated and cleared by the INDYCAR medical team. Per INDYCAR protocol, we also evaluated the data collected from his ear accelerometers, which provides data specific to the impact on a driver's head, and nothing gathered from that data indicated further evaluation was required.

Fuzzy Zoeller

"After learning of Will's symptoms following qualifications Saturday, he was required to submit to another evaluation by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows, at which point he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Power has been entered into INDYCAR's concussion protocol and will need to be re-evaluated prior to being cleared to drive. "Power was replaced in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet by Oriol Servia, who started last in the 22-car field by rule. Servia was involved in a mid-race multi-car pileup and finished 18th.

Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Conor Daly led a career-best 15 laps midway through the event while on an alternate pit strategy. Daly, driving the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, finished 13th. The race saw just two full-course yellow conditions, tying a St. Pete record for fewest in a race. One yellow was due to a multi-car logjam triggered when the cars of Castroneves and Dixon touched but kept going. Behind them, the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda of Carlos Munoz ran into the rear of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Steak 'n Shake Honda of Graham Rahal on Lap 57. Nearly 10 cars blocked the track until the Holmatro Safety Team could clear a path for them to rejoin the action.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hunahpu’s Day

March 14, 2016

Katie Toupin of Houndmouth

Kermit Ruffins

Hunahpu’s Day

Saturday was qualifying day for the St. Pete Grand Prix, but I missed the entire thing because there was just too much other stuff happening in the vicinity that I really wanted to attend, so I took advantage of being in the area to attend a couple of other amazing festivals in downtown Tampa. The first was the seventh annual Hunahpu’s Day, a huge beer festival put on by Cigar City Brewing of Tampa to honor the one day release of their rare and much sought after Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout beer. The other event was just down the riverfront from that festival and was also being held the same day, The Gasparilla Music Festival, yet another new (to me) music festival that would keep me going until late that evening.

I consider myself a fan of craft beer, so seeing the opportunity to attend the release of the rare Hunahpu beer which is one of the 15 rarest beers in the US and is much sought after, I was thrilled that the festival celebrating its release was going to be held the same weekend that I was in the area. This marked the 7th annual Hunahpu Day Festival and the first one that has been held at a location other than at Cigar City Brewery itself. This year the festival was moved to the downtown Tampa location of Fort Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park where the logistics would be much easier to control.

In some of the past festivals, the crowd overwhelmed the brewery and various problems arose including super long lines, not enough bathrooms, and worst of all running out of the bottled beer that everyone was there to get. It got so bad that it had been announced previously that the entire festival would be discontinued but earlier this year the return of the fest was announced to much joy amongst beer enthusiasts.  Cigar City took control by limiting ticket sales and making sure that attendees were able to get exactly their allotment of bottles of Hunahpus and that is it.

First released in 2010, Hunahpu’s is a rich, decadent stout weighing in around 11% alcohol by volume. Described by the brewery as “An Imperial Stout aged on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chilies, pasilla chilies and cinnamon,” the beer garnered Cigar City a gold medal at the 2010 U.S. Open Beer Championship catapulting it to the national beer scene’s attention. That is the main draw of the festival, but even more exciting is the inclusion of many of the best breweries in the US, each bringing samples of their own rare and very limited beers, which means you can sample literally hundreds of the best, most sought after and rarest beer in the US all in one spot.

Though crowded, the festival limited ticket sales (and sold out in less than an hour) meaning that you were able to get around and taste almost anything you wanted without much of a wait at all. It was like beer geek heaven and I must admit that as many beer festivals as I have attended, I have never experienced anything close to this, both in quantity and quality. My favorite brewery in the US, Three Floyd’s from Munster, Indiana was on hand actually serving their two rarest beers, Dark Lord Stout and Zombie Dust and that was just one of the more than 100 brewries from all over the USA that were in attendance.

It was a spectacular event and I tried a lot of yummy and rare beers, it was like being a kid in a grown-up candy store. Cigar City had the largest booth and they were serving about 50 different beers from just their brewery including Hunahpu’s from each of the last five years or so, so that you could actually taste the subtle differences between each year. They also had specialty fruit infused Hunahpu’s as well as just about every other beer in their huge and wonderful arsenal.

Each brewery pulled out the stops and offered up their best and rarest brews as the place was crawling with beer geeks from across the country. It was announced that over 60 percent of ticket sales were to out of state people, meaning a lot of people traveled to attend this special day. Some of my long-time favorite breweries were on hand, such as Jester King from Austin, as well as just about every major Florida brewery in existence including my favorite Funky Buddah from Lauderdale. I also saw my friend Casey, the brew master at Tampa based Coppertail Brewing who was on hand with a selection of yummy beers with his wife and staff.

Blitzen Trapper

At the conclusion of the beer festival, I simply wandered about a half a mile up the riverfront walkway to the next festival, The Gasparilla Music Festival which was being held at three waterfront parks, Curtis Hixon Park, Kiley Gardens & MacDill Park. I was there for the first day of the two day mid-sized music festival.  The festival featured musical acts from a wide variety of genres on several stages and cuisine from the region’s top restaurants. As part of its mission to support and promote music and education, the organization is involved throughout the year in several initiatives including providing scholarships and instruments to music students.

  Talib Kweli 



I had purchased a VIP ticket, though it was hardly necessary as it was easy to make your way to the front of any of the stages to see whatever act you wanted and the crowd was well behaved and was from a wide demographic with a lot of diversity. There was also a lot of diversity in the musical line-up which did not really have any huge name talents, but was chock full of excellent, middle tier bands including a few that I was really excited to see, led by the remarkable band from New Albany, Indiana Houndmouth. Houndmouth has had some great success in the years since I first saw them opening at the tiny club Radio, Radio in Indianapolis for another then unknown band that has done pretty well, The Lumineers.

I recall remarking to just about anyone who would listen that Houndmouth was going places and sure enough now they are playing major festivals and headlining tours of their own. The first band I encountered at Gasparilla was Blitzen Trapper, who I had not seen before, but who I was really impressed with and I really enjoyed their set. Next up was Houndmouth, who I loved as expected. Next I snuck over to watch part of legendary Kermit Ruffins’ set. He was another legendary music figure that I had not seen live since 1995 when  saw him perform at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

Kermit Ruffins


The next hour saw me catching portions of two very different bands, legendary rapper, Talib Kweli on one stage, while alt.-country band Lucero played the main stage. Kweli had the larger and more enthusiastic crowd as people packed in to see his rapping. Lucero was excellent as well though in a totally different way. You could not have picked two more different performers on at the same time. It was awesome.

Talib Kweli


Next up on the main stage was something completely different the jazz-funk-fusion afrobeat band from Brooklyn, New York, Antibalas.. Although their music generally follows the musical architecture and language of afrobeat, it incorporates elements of jazz, funk, dub, latin and traditional drumming from Cuba and West Africa. It was a wonderful way to mix things up and the crowd was really in to the performance. Next up was the dance band MS MR, who I had seen last year at Lollapalooza and who put on a high energy dance show to go along with their upbeat music.



Blitzen Trapper

The headliner for night one was the eclectic Erykah Badu, I only watched a couple of songs because I was exhausted after a long, yet wonderful day that featured two of my most favorite things beer and music. Here’s hoping that next year’s race is scheduled the same weekend so I can pack these events into my schedule again.