By Rose Botkin-Beuck & Jules E. Beuck  r&jbnotes@dabelly.com
Photos by Rose Botkin-BeuckVHI 2001 Road Trip.jpg (29547 bytes)

We recently came back from winging our way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (or as Jules calls it - "Mecca") in Cleveland and the Music Midtown Festival in Atlanta. We got to do this as part of the VH1 Class of 2001 Road Trip. Our knowledge of classic rockers really paid off, as we entered a trivia contest online at the Web site of Southern California radio station Arrow 93 FM and were the winning entry. To say it was an amazing trip would be an understatement.

We were not the only winners, as seven other people from across the country and their guests were also fortunate enough to take part. San Jose, Sacramento, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Atlanta (yes, someone won a trip home) were represented. There was a winner from Chicago, but unfortunately, they were not able to make it.

First off, they flew us from Los Angeles to Cleveland. The night before, we stayed at our home away from home when having to fly out of LAX, the Furama Hotel. The hotel grounds include a variety of restaurants, a bowling alley, a number of retail shops and a major supermarket. There is also a golf course across the street should you decide to stay longer. The lounge has nightly entertainment consisting of either a disc jockey or karaoke.

Ian.jpg (27131 bytes)The rooms are also a step above ordinary. The first thing you notice as you enter is the size of the room. It is quite large. It has a comfortable bed, refrigerator and hair dryer. You will also find a congenial staff, roomy lobby, lounge area complete with piano and a beautiful pool and pool area. The hotel itself has three buildings and 769 hotel rooms plus a well-stocked gift shop.

This facility lets you leave your car for up to ten days while providing complimentary transportation to LAX (a five minute ride), all for one reasonable price. Call (310) 670-8111 for more information.

First stop was Cleveland, Ohio. We were put up in the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Cleveland. As its name implies, every room is a suite. There is a dining area complete with dining room table and chairs, sink, cabinets and microwave. The living area has a stuffed chair and couch that can convert to a bed. There are two large televisions-- one in the living room and one in the bedroom. The bathroom was large and had doors leading to both the bedroom and foyer. The king-size bed was very comfortable. There is a full-service restaurant that we did go to for reasons that will soon become obvious. There is also a separate buffet-type room where their complimentary breakfast is provided. The lounge area has a full-service bar and television. There is also a wood paneled area away from the bar to sit and relax. The walls are lined with books, strangely enough they were the Cleveland and state of Ohio penal codes and other laws. The pool/workout area is fully equipped with free weights, as well as treadmills and step machines. The Embassy was very nice and treated us well.Hootie Girls.jpg (21619 bytes)

Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and our group was given a behind-the-scenes tour where we were shown memorabilia from the likes of Aerosmith, Michael Jackson and Duran Duran. Then we were let loose in the hall itself.

This was our second visit to the hall. We were there last in June 1998, we loved it then and found nothing to change our minds this time around. The main exhibit hall, named for Atlantic Records founder Ahmet M. Ertegun, has photographs of early influences and touch screens that will let you play selections from what is called "500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll."

Glass displays have manuscripts, guitars, clothes, records and other memorabilia from artists like Jerry Lee Lewis through the Rolling Stones and into rap artists like Run DMC. Even Britney Spears had an outfit on display. You will also find the Doors' Jim Morrison's Cub Scout uniform and Buddy Holly's high school diploma.Badu.jpg (18538 bytes)

There are six floors of various exhibits and video presentations. The main differences we noticed from our last trip was a video room dedicated to Jimi Hendrix that showed clips of him playing live and interviews. Just outside the room, an interview with his father is played as he explains Jimi's career as he followed it through telephone calls and letters from his famous son.

The other main difference was a display about John Lennon with memorabilia donated by Yoko Ono and John's son Julian. It was an amazing exhibit that included his guitars, Beatles' outfits from "Sergeant Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour" and the glasses he was wearing the night he was murdered. There is also a white telephone set up that Yoko will actually occasionally call into on and talk to patrons of the museum about gun control and peace (no, she did not call when we were there).

The most noticeable item no longer there is Pink Floyd's "wall".

While at the museum we got to enjoy a concert from the leader of the band Mott The Hoople, Ian Hunter, who is currently touring with the recent version of Ringo Starr's All Star band. If you are not familiar with Hunter or his band, he is the person who wrote "Cleveland Rocks," the song that opens the "Drew Carey Show." Prior to his show, anybody from our group who was interested, could hear him being interviewed for a television show, watch him being interviewed live on radio and meet him. Hunter put on a very good show and explained how many of the songs he performed came to be recorded. Besides "Cleveland Rocks," songs performed included "All The Young Dudes" and "All The Way To Memphis."

While in Cleveland we were taken to dinner at the Circa restaurant and given vouchers to eat at one of the restaurants in the Nautica district of downtown Cleveland. Circa had decent food, but what really made it stand out was its neo-art deco décor. Things were constructed in odd shapes and bright colors. Even the rest rooms were different. The spare rolls of toilet paper were wrapped in aluminum foil (kind of looking like over-sized Ho-Hos.)

The Nautica district is a trendy area with a number of restaurants and comedy and music clubs. We ate at the Rock Bottom Brewery and enjoyed our meal, but it was not an experience that necessarily stood out as special.

After the equivalent of one and one-half days in Cleveland, we were flown to Atlanta. There we were put up in the Swissotel. The Swissotel is a very nice establishment. The beds have down comforters and the king-size beds already have six pillows on them so there is no need to ask for extra. Inside the closet we found two more pillows and an umbrella in case it rained. There is a complimentary hair dryer, but amenities like shampoo and lotion have to be requested. We were there only two nights but each night they forgot to give us turndown service even though it was requested. There is a nice pool/workout area for guest use. In spite of the gaffe with the turndown service, we thought the Swissotel was an exceptional hotel.

Atlanta.jpg (28455 bytes)In Atlanta, we were taken to dinner at the Café Tu-Tu Tango. Café Tu-Tu Tango is a chain with at least two establishments in Southern California. The one in Atlanta had decent food and a palm reader to further entertain patrons (she was good too-- she told Rose that she is extremely intelligent). Local artists can place their work there and patrons are allowed to purchase paintings.

After dinner, we were taken by limousine (again) to the Music Midtown Festival which is located in downtown Atlanta. This three-day festival, which is in its eighth year, had performances by more than 100 local and national acts. The first night, about 70,000 people showed up. This was their biggest first day attendance on record. The officials claimed there was room for everyone, but it felt crowded to us. However, the crowd was very well behaved and appeared to watch out for each other. There were a number of stages that were spread out over thirty-five acres. The sound systems were very good and video screens were set up for those too far to actually see the stages.Offspring.jpg (18011 bytes)

We were able to catch Offspring, as they gave a lesson in Southern California Punk to the Atlanta throngs. They had a lot of energy, and tunes like "Pretty Fly For A White Guy" and "Come Out And Play" sounded excellent. After Offspring, we swam through the crowd to catch Erykah Badu as she came out in the sweltering humidity in a large turban and a fake fur floor-length skirt. With her smooth style of Aretha Franklin meets Nina Simone meets Ella Fitzgerald, the audience was hers from the moment she went into "Otherside Of The Game." We also heard bits and pieces of the Black Crowes and Bob Dylan. From what we heard, we did not feel we missed much by missing them.

We then took the Atlanta subway system, MARTA, back to our hotel. We were so hot and sweaty by the time we got back, we were reluctant to return to the festival. The next morning at breakfast, we found most of our fellow travelers felt the same way. A number of us decided to go to an area of Atlanta called the Underground and to the headquarters of Coca-Cola.

The underground is a number of shops, restaurants and clubs that is located below street level. In the underground is an old gas street lamp that dates back to the civil war and still has holes in it from being hit by artillery shells. We toured the Coca-Cola Headquarters and Museum, which was kind of neat, as it had displays, and videos that went through the history of the beverage and showed vintage commercials. There was also a room where one could sample beverages that the company produces worldwide. If you wanted the "real thing," there were space age machines that would serve it up for you.

Caroline Aiken.jpg (19878 bytes)After the Underground and Coke museum, we walked over to the Hard Rock Café where a local radio station had a private reception for our group, with all the beverages and appetizers we could consume. While there, we met local singer songwriter Caroline Aiken who was interviewed by Arrow. Aiken has written songs for and worked with artists like Bonnie Raitt and the Indigo Girls. Aiken liked our group (and who could blame her) and decided to join us after her interview.

After the party, your columnists braved the Music Midtown Festival again. This time, we went to a show that was indoors, air conditioned and had seats. Here, a television show was being taped for the Turner South cable network. Performing on the show were Darius Rucker from Hootie and the Blowfish, the Indigo Girls, Ann Wilson of Heart, Josh Joplin and Shawn Colvin. Each one took a turn on acoustic guitar as they performed some of their better known tunes. This show was great!!! If you get Turner South on your system, hopefully you caught this wonderful show. We have since contacted Turner South and they currently have no plans on rebroadcasting this show.

Well, all good things come to an end and so did this trip. One last limousine ride to the airport, board the airplane, back home and back to earth. However, it was sure fun to be treated like a rock superstar for a few days. Hopefully, our group will be able to meet up with each other again to reminisce and get reacquainted.

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