NFL Road Trips On New Travel Channel Show

NFL road trips

NFL road trips are the subject of a new Travel Channel show: “NFL Road Tested,” premiering in December. The new show brings an inside look at what it takes to move an NFL football team from city to city. While the show will focus on how to go about feeding, clothing and housing the team, it will also look at how NFL stadiums prepare for thousands of fans.

“This show will offer viewers a great perspective of the inner-workings of an NFL team and what it takes to support a team,” Jimmy Haslam, Browns owner, said in a statement reported by Broadcasting & Cable. “With Travel Channel working alongside NFL Films and RIVR Media, we expect that this will be first-class production. We are excited about what this will mean to Northeast Ohio, the Browns and our fans.””NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns” premieres December 4 at 10 p.m. following the Browns as they prepares to play in New York, Baltimore, Dallas, Oakland, Denver and Pittsburgh.

“This series is a first-of-its-kind program providing an exclusive pass to NFL fans during the season,” said Andy Singer, general manager of the Travel Channel. “This is an emotionally-charged world. Now, viewers will get a never-before-seen opportunity to see what it’s like for players to live on the road, often away from their families. We’ll hear from the players themselves, coaches and scores of support staff in multiple cities.”

The NFL has fans everywhere it seems so this show looks to be a natural. This video shows us more:


[Photo Credit: Flickr User beefy_n1]

The Southern Road: Traveling Through The New Industrial America

If you’re not from the American South, you probably have an image of it in your head. It might have squealing pickup trucks and Daisy Dukes. Or hoop skirts and cotton plantations from “Gone With The Wind.” Maybe the streetcars of New Orleans, or the twang of Paula Deen.

What if I told you that the American South has become a land of opportunity, where people no longer have to leave home to find their fortunes? What if you knew that more than a third of all the cars sold in the United States are made there? And that its population is no longer just white, black, and Hispanic, but European and Asian?

In August, I traveled 4,000 miles over two weeks across the New Industrial South. I plotted a road trip that took me to all the car and truck plants between Mississippi and South Carolina that have been built in the past two decades. I talked to autoworkers and managers, chefs and mayors, university officials and farmers, wait staff and retirees.

And I came away thinking that people up north have no idea what’s happened below the Mason Dixon line. Thanks to the auto industry, and everything that came with it, the South is full of cities where there’s been growth, where people buy new cars and homes, and send their kids to new schools and to play on new skate parks. Towns have new city halls. Instead of selling the past, economic developers are salivating over a new future.

If you only visit one of these places, say, Birmingham, Alabama, you see some of this, but not all of it. Driving the entire region, however, fills in the picture in a complete way.

Over the next weeks, we’ll be exploring the impact of the South’s new industry in “The Southern Road: Traveling Through The New Industrial South.” We’ll have lots of tips to help you plan your own southern road trip.

Most of all, we’ll provide impressions. And this was my main one.

Traveling the Southern Road made me think this is what it must have been like in Detroit, and Cleveland, and Gary, Indiana, and Pittsburgh for our parents and grandparents. While those cities are striving to write their next chapters, you can go see the story of the new American economy playing out right now, all across the South.

%Gallery-164205%The contrasts are striking, beginning with terrain. My trip began in my hometown, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Once I passed Lexington, Kentucky, en route to Greenville, South Carolina, I found myself driving around sweeping curves and up and down hills. As I crossed Tennessee and North Carolina, I was in mountains. And the geography stayed interesting as the miles clicked up, reminded me quite a bit of New England, only lush and verdant in a different way, with live oaks, moss and pines.

The variety was staggering. If you prefer to stay in luxury hotels and dine at some of the country’s top-rated restaurants, you can do that in Chattanooga, Tennessee, now the home of Volkswagen’s new plant. Or in Birmingham, Alabama, which has Mercedes-Benz just west of town and Honda within an hour’s drive to the east. Downtown Greenville, South Carolina, bustles at night, in no small part due to the BMW plant right by the airport.

Do you want to couple history with your auto town visit? Then head for Montgomery, Alabama. That’s where Hyundai built its first American factory, only 10 minutes from the spot where Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat. Near Tupelo, Mississippi, there’s a brand new Toyota factory a few exits down from Elvis Presley’s birthplace and the hardware store where he bought his first guitar.

Perhaps you’d like to see what happens to a small southern town when a car plant becomes its neighbor. Canton, Mississippi, fits that bill. So do Lincoln, Alabama, and West Point, Georgia. These towns also have gorgeous lakes and recreational areas only a stone’s throw away.

Many of the plants are open for tours, and the most elaborate, like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and VW, have visitor centers where you can drop in even if you’re not going to see how the cars are built. Several of the plants have gift shops, where you can buy golf balls, shot glasses, T-shirts and picnic baskets. (Too bad Kia’s gift shop isn’t open to the public because it had the cutest souvenirs – the toy hamster and sock monkey that have appeared in its ads.)

Other plants don’t allow the public to visit, but even if you don’t set foot in one of the factories, it’s easy to spot what happens when one of these big auto plants comes to town.

The first thing you might notice is new highway exits, new overpasses and new roads around the plants. They’re often part of the incentives that the states paid to land these factories.

The next thing to look for is development. Fast food restaurants and new hotels are the first signs of growth. But you’ll also see billboards for new subdivisions, and you’ll notice even more in the way of smaller factories – these have been opened by the suppliers to these big car companies. Often, they’re set next to the freeway a few miles down, because they often sell parts to more than one automaker.

What I found on the Southern Road is that the impact of these factories goes a lot deeper than what you can see on the surface. When you have newcomers from Germany and Japan and Korea, their culture comes with them.

That’s why you’ll find the makings for a Japanese breakfast, like miso soup and steamed rice, on the breakfast buffet at the Lexington, Kentucky, Residence Inn. That’s why you can now rent a loft apartment for business entertaining at Soby’s, the popular restaurant in Greenville – because BMW and other European companies wanted a private place for a small group.

To be sure, the South hasn’t become one big Manhattan, and no one would mistake any of these cities for Los Angeles. Southern culture is still widely apparent, from men automatically holding open doors for women, to gas station lunch counters and lots of fast driving. Divert from your Mapquest directions, and you’ll find long stretches of farmland and dusty roads.

But you can stop for Starbuck’s on the way to your plant tour. And you might even wonder, “What would it be like to live here?”

Micheline Maynard is a writer and author based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She previously ran the public media project Changing Gears, and was Detroit bureau chief for the New York Times.

Setting Up Your Trip:

These are some of the car companies that have public tours or facilities for visitors.

BMW Zentrum, Greer S.C. (plant tours, customer delivery center, and more). Open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call 1-888-TOUR-BMW or www.bmwzentrum.com

Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center, Vance, AL (museum and plant tours). Museum open daily, tours given Tuesday-Thursday. Call 888-286-8762 or www.mbusi.com

Volkswagen, Chattanooga, AL. (gift shop and tour) Eight tours a week, Tuesday through Friday at 9 a.m. and 1:30 pm. Inquiries: tours@vw.com

Hyundai, Montgomery, AL (visitors center and tour). Tours given Monday, Wednesday, Friday, also a Thursday evening tour. Call 334-387-8019 or www.hmmausa.com

Nissan, Canton, MS (gift shop and plant tour) Tours by reservation. Call 601-855-TOUR.

Honda, Lincoln, AL (plant tour) Tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. By reservation at www.hondaalabama.com/

Center for PostNatural History showcases human-altered lifeforms

center for postnatural historyWe live in a world of genetically modified cotton, BioSteel™ goats, and pluots – in other words, a world where much of the nature surrounding us isn’t actually so natural at all. For this new world, Pittsburgh now has a new museum, the Center for PostNatural History, which aims to explore the complex interplay between culture, nature, and biotechnology. Opening on March 2, the museum will provide a unique look at how humans have profoundly influenced the very foundations of life on this planet, particularly in the areas of selective breeding and genetic engineering.

Director and curator Richard Pell says: “The Center for PostNatural History serves as a jumping-off point for thinking about how people shape the living world around them. Humans have been slowly domesticating plants and animals for thousands of years and during the last 35 years we’ve begun altering the DNA of organisms in very specific ways. A good portion of the living world is, in a sense, a cultural artifact reflecting the desires, needs and fears of human society. The CPNH is a place to explore that idea.”

The center aims to compile and preserve a comprehensive catalog of “postnatural” specimens – including some that will undoubtedly resemble something right out of a sci-fi movie. It will be open to the public on Sundays from 12 to 6 p.m., or by special appointment.

[via Grist]

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: From steel town to scenic city

pittsburghWhile many people still visualize Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to be an old steel city, the hilly town has certainly changed a lot in the last 30-40 years. My first impressions when arriving were that the lit up hillsides, public art, modern architecture, colorful bridges, scenic rivers, diverse restaurants and lively club scene made Pittsburgh seem a lot more eclectic and trendy than industrial. If you’re visiting Pittsburgh, here is a guide to help you navigate the best the city has to offer based on your preferences.

For a mix of history and food

Visit the Strip District. The area was home to many industrial innovations (it’s where Andrew Carnegie began doing business in the iron and steel industry) as well as a once booming produce industry, a legacy that can still be tasted through ethnic food shops, cafes, markets, and restaurants. Use Penn Avenue as your main focal point, and veer off as necessary. Make sure to stop in the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. for traditional Italian groceries and natural alternatives to processed cheeses, sauces, soups, and meats, as well as Mon Aimee Chocolat for unique varieties of organic and artisanal chocolate. For those who love vino, Dreadnought Wines offers glasses and accessories as well as specialty wines and educational classes, like “Cooking with Wine” and “High Brows and Low Brows- Can You Taste the Difference?”. A stop in Penzeys Spices is a delight for the nose as visitors can walk around and sniff the many herbs and seasonings out on display, as well as ask questions about the products and get free recipes. Want to educate yourself on the city’s history and culture? A visit to Senator John Heinz History Center allows you to explore Pittsburgh’s past and present through six floors of exhibits on local sports, companies, heroes, innovations, artifacts, and more. My favorite parts were sitting in an old-fashioned trolley and walking through a life-sized replication of a traditional early-1900’s home.

For a list of businesses in the Strip District, click here. To keep up to date with events in the area, click here.pittsburgh If you love boutique shopping

Shadyside is home to myriad non-chain boutiques and upscale shopping in a quiet neighborhood. Use Walnut Street or Ellsworth Avenue as your focal point, and from there you can branch off as you wish. Some of my favorite stores to browse included Ten Toes for shoes, Francesca’s Collections for clothing, Feathers for housewares, Gardell Designs for handmade jewelry, and S.W. Randall Toys for a fun trip down memory lane.

Click here for a list of shops in Shadyside. To learn about news and happenings in the area, click here.

pittsburgh For the artsy traveler

Visit the Andy Warhol Museum, one of the four Carnegie Museums in the city. While it’s $20 to get in ($10 for students), you’ll get the chance to view over 8,000 pieces and installations by the artist, who was a Pittsburgh native, as well as his film and video work.

Another unique art museum worth checking out is The Mattress Factory, which features contemporary “room sized works called installations”. The unusual art is created by in-house artists participating in the museum’s residency program.

You can also take a stroll down Ellsworth Avenue in the Shadyside area where many galleries are located, including Aspire Auctions, Gallerie Chiz, Maser Galleries, Mendelson Gallery, and Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery.

For those who like street art, Pittsburgh is filled with beautiful graffiti works. A walk around almost any of the urban areas, like the Strip District (pictured), Downtown, or South Side, will guarantee a free look at some of the city’s most colorful and creative outdoor masterpieces.

tapa If you’re a hipster

Head over to South Side, which is where you will find an array of clubs, bars, ethnic restaurants, eclectic coffee shops, art galleries, theatres, and funky stores. Visit The Exchange for vintage records, City Theatre for live performances, and The Zenith for vegeterian food, antiques, and an art gallery all under one roof. There’s also a really quirky coffeeshop called The Beehive Coffeehouse & Dessertery that has a hippie vibe and features speciality teas, pinball machines, delicious sandwiches, and a lively bar at night. For those who want something upscale with a large, interesting menu, Ibiza Spanish Tapas and Wine Bar is a great pick, with dim lighting, indoor and outdoor seating (in the winter they have a heated awning up), a knowledgable and friendly staff, and a huge menu of tapas as well as main courses. I would highly recommend the shrimp couscous, the pork chop topped with spinach and goat cheese, and the small plate of grilled scallops with mango sauce (pictured). For something a bit more low key, Mario’s South Side Saloon offers a fun atmosphere and delicious bar food.

If you go 1 mile east of South Side, you’ll hit Station Square, another trendy area with shopping, dining, and nightlife. For those who want to dance, Buckhead Saloon hosts live DJ’s on Fridays and Saturdays and is usually packed with a young, energetic crowd. They also serve bar food and delicious pizza by the slice for when those beer munchies hit.

pittsburgh For photographers and those who want to take in the view

A ride on the old-fashioned trolley at Duquesne Incline on West Carson Street makes for a unique way to see the entire city. The ride mimicks a similar route that was a coal hoist from about 1854 or earlier. For $4.50 round trip per adult, you will be taken up one of the very steep hills overlooking Pittsburgh to the top observation deck. There is a mini museum with historical facts and photographs as well as telescopes to get a close up view. The trolley runs until 12:45 AM, so it can be a good idea to go once during the day and once at night to see the city’s two different personalities.

There is also a 22-mile coastal walk called the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that allows you to experience the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. It’s also an excellent way to view the skyline and bridges from an array of focal points.

If you’re hungry or if it’s a little too chilly to be outside, stop at Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 and ask for a table near the window. The restaurant sits right on the water and gives great views of the skyline, hillside, Points State Park, bridges, and Heinz Field, especially at night when the city is all lit up. The venue is owned by former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bette and is a trendy restaurant with the feel of a sports bar. Side note: They serve the most amazing Spinach and Artichoke dip I’ve ever had as they add prosciutto and serve it with warm pita bread triangles.

pittsburgh If you love sports

The Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District mentioned above is also home to the Sports Museum. Here you will be able to learn about big name sports in Pittsburgh like football, hockey, and baseball, as well as lesser known athletics like marbles, bridge, ballroom dancing, and competitive eating. Moreover, because Pittsburgh is home to three major league sports teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL), the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB), it can be a fun experience to go to a live game. Click here for team information and schedules.

Tips for Steelers fans going to the Super Bowl

steelers superbowlHere We Go Steelers fans! It’s time to get games faces on for your 7th (SEVENTH!) Super Bowl victory! Whether you have secured tickets or you’re just planning to descend on Dallas for the party, let’s get ready for a Super Bowl like no other.

First of all, Super Bowl or not, you couldn’t be blamed for packing your towels and heading south. With temperatures in Dallas expected in the low to mid sixties next week, we all could use a good excuse to defrost our toes and boast our black and gold in a few less layers. This is no Detroit or Minneapolis Super Bowl, friends. This is TEXAS, where the February weather is balmy and the BBQs fire up year round.

Get There
Naturally, the fastest – and most expensive – route to Dallas is by air. As of today you can catch a perhaps inconvenient but definitely do-able round trip from nearby Chess Lamberton (FKL) to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Friday to Monday for less than $800. Flights from Pittsburgh proper (PIT) are creeping closer to $900 round trip and will only climb higher the closer we get to game day.If you can afford the vacation days and take some time to see Dallas and/or recover from the victory party, flights back to Dallas on Friday and back to Pittsburgh on Monday and Tuesday are running roughly $500 and $430 respectively.

A more affordable option if you’re traveling with fellow fans is to drive. It’s a hefty 1200 mile, 20 hour drive to Dallas, which we can fairly say will be a two day trek. But for an SUV full of friends, it could be the road trip of a lifetime. And for $300-400 in gas plus the cost of a cheap hotel en route, it can be downright reasonable.

Eat There
The obvious culinary attraction of Texas has to be the BBQ, and the area around Arlington has plenty to offer.

For classic, homey fare check out the popular Bodacious Bar-B-Q, but not on game day, they’re closed on Sundays.

Bone Daddy’s House of Smoke is another local favorite, for both the delectable ribs and the “friendly” (hot) staff. With outdoor seating (in February!) and affordable dinners, you can’t go wrong.

To sample the best Mexican in town, check out one of Arlington’s – in fact Texas’ – top restaurants, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, open late on Fridays and Saturdays for that late night nacho craving.

If you have the time, take a jaunt over to Fort Worth to see how a Texan beer can stand up to Iron City Brewing. Rahr Brewery is showcasing a scotch ale this month, and offers tours every Saturday 1-3, no reservation required.

Stay There
Arlington and Dallas hotels are filling up as we speak, so best jump on accommodations as soon as you can. For budget travelers, the Quality Inn, Comfort Suites, and Best Western in Arlington all have current availability, with prices ranging from $200-300 a night, but be warned that many hotels require a four-night minimum stay during the Super Bowl.

As Cowboy Stadium is between Fort Worth and Dallas, you might also consider hotels in the Fort Worth region. The Hotel Trinity Fort Worth is 12 miles from the stadium and still has double rooms available for the weekend, running around $165/night.

If you’ve got a crew, consider renting a house or apartment in the area. With the price split between buddies and the comfort of a home to lounge in, it could be your most comfortable option.

All of these options will undoubtedly book fast, so round up your posse and start planning. Let’s go west on a wave of steel and take out those cheeseheads! Go Steelers!

[Flickr image via AndyeMcee]