Thurs 9 May
After a pleasant and comfortable flight from Heathrow which was just a little longer than three feature films laid end to end, I landed at BNA, and was met by the full Robinson family. Well, I would have been, if I had come out on the level they expected me to, but I didn’t, and so we found each other in the car rental section instead.
Their sweet kids are holding Welcome Quinn signs, adorned by hand-drawn pictures of aeroplanes which do look slightly like they’re on fire.
I pick up my rental car. This year I opted for the “Compact” size, one up from “Mini”. Any concerns I had about the size of my transport are eased when I get to the car and realise that “compact” is American for “generously-sized family saloon.”
Ryan and Katie have organised a ‘welcome back’ party for me for Saturday evening, on their back porch. I am excited to see lots of old friends, and just to have a party on a back porch, which is not something that happens too much at home.
I have a breakfast date early tomorrow morning in Nashville, so set my alarm for 7:15am.
Fri 10 May
7:15am was always hopelessly optimistic. Woke up at 4am.
Descended to the kitchen around 7am and made myself breakfast. Found milk in the fridge. I always check the expiry date on milk before using, ever since going camping with Ickle Bef. The milk in the fridge will expire on 24 July. American use-by dates scare me.
A sweat-soaked Ryan appears in the kitchen, returning from a run. We strike up a root beer conversation.
Each year I come and stay with the Robinsons, and each year, Ryan and I conduct extensive research into which root beer is the best. Never, though, have we taken any notes on our findings, and we forget from one year to the next, so every year we have to start all over again.
This year, Ryan’s preliminary grocery store trips have indicated that a vastly-reduced range of root beers are available. I blame Trump. It wasn’t like this before he took over.
“Have you had a root beer?” Ryan asks.
It’s 7:30am. I do not feel the need to dignify this question with a response.
Instead I make myself coffee with my Cafflano Kompresso. Ryan is intrigued by this process, especially when I have to lean bodily on the plunger to force the water through the grounds.
“I think I packed the coffee a bit too tight,” I explain, through grunts, as a single bead of espresso finally drops into the clear container at the bottom. Some minutes later, I have a double shot of espresso with the most incredible crema, slight shortness of breath and a round mark imprinted on my right pectoral muscle.
Ryan looks bemused. He doesn’t drink coffee, he wouldn’t understand the lengths one has to go to sometimes.
Later that evening, I have my first root beer of the trip. It wasn’t good.
(1) Kroger Private Selection with ginger. Weird. Why add ginger? 4/10
I followed it up with a Sioux City. Made with cane sugar. That was pretty fine.
(2) Sioux City. Pretty fine. 7/10
The forecast tomorrow is for thundery showers, so we postpone the party to next Saturday instead.
Saturday morning, I am leaning on my Kompresso and grunting again. Ryan comes into the kitchen.
“Looks like you packed it a little tight again,” he observes.
“It needs to be 9 bar of pressure,” I explain. “To produce genuine espresso.”
“Looks like you’re getting at least 11 bar there.”
I console myself that the great artists in history probably received criticism for their finest work too.
The other noteworthy thing that happened on Saturday is that I had a Sioux City Sarsaparilla and it might have changed my life. The label proudly claims it to be the Granddaddy of all root beers. I believe it.
(3) Sioux City Sarsaparilla. Proper good. 8.5/10