It’s Time for Peppers, Life, and Dolly

Oh, by gosh, by golly… August has been one exhilarating whirlwind, and I’ve relished every single moment. Electric pain radiates throughout my body and a shroud of fatigue lies heavy upon my shoulders, but I wouldn’t change a single thing.

The pain I feel means I am ALIVE and living my one wild and precious life.

I traveled with my family to Nashville to help my niece move into her college dorm for her sophomore year. Not including too many details for privacy reasons, but her school is two miles from the heart of the city. Before move-in day arrived, we explored the area, including parts of her campus we hadn’t seen, parts of Nashville we hadn’t seen, and the adorable town of Franklin. 

Video I took on Broadway Street near Nudie’s. This goes on ALL NIGHT.

The Nashville highlight for me was walking over The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge towards Nissan Stadium, the home field of the Tennessee Titans, and hearing my favorite band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers! No ticket needed for this concert! The full moon rose alongside us and I literally danced and sang under the bridge (pun intended) to about three-quarters of their show. And I also scored a tour shirt from the merch trailer to wear to their NJ show (more details about this below).

As we strolled away from the stadium and towards the Broadway Street area, the chaos of Music City drowned out Anthony’s voice, John’s guitar, Flea’s bass, and Chad’s drums. If you ever want to feel alive, I highly recommend ensconcing yourself in the Nashville scene, as I actually sensed the festive atmosphere pulsing within my bones and reverberating in my muscles.

Sidebar: Should you find yourself in Nashville, take the time to wait in line for Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. My goodness, it’s worth it. Best fried chicken and crinkle cut fries I’ve ever had.

My niece is a strong and independent young woman who chose to give up part of her summer to be an orientation leader, and every day, she inspires me to be a better person. Her orientation obligations resulted in moving in earlier than the rest of the campus, so we had more room in the parking area, elevators, hallways, and her apartment. Her jam-packed schedule also gave us all less time to dwell on the sadness of farewell, and instead of saying goodbye when it was time to leave, I said, “See you soon.” 

We stopped at Dollywood’s Theme Park and DreamMore Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on the way home for a day stay over. Upon walking into the theme park, we noticed with curiosity that Christmas decorations were hanging from just about everywhere. We happened upon a sign announcing that filming for a holiday special would be taking place in various areas of the park throughout the day and didn’t think too much of it, until…..

Dolly! Photo courtesy of my SIL.

drum roll please….

WE SAW DOLLY!

That’s right, folks! THE one and only, along with JIMMY FALLON!

Completely unexpected and truly an amazing. My sister-in-law snapped pictures of them as my roller-coaster-partner-in-crime nephew and I spied Dolly while seated on a coaster, of course, but would you expect any less from us? 

We rode every coaster in the park, two of them twice, and by the luck of the draw, we were seated either in the back row or front row on about half of the rides. Here’s my Dollywood Coaster Report:

We also rode the train, which was a restored World War II coal-and-steam-powered train, and got drenched on the rapids.

And did someone say, “Cinnamon Bread?” Named the best cinnamon bread in America by Travel and Leisure magazine, the iconic pull-apart bread made fresh at the Grist Mill melted in my mouth and was so good it didn’t need any icing, nor did I care about the carbs messing with my sugar levels.

After our park day ended, we enjoyed the pool and hot tub area before retiring to our room for the night, and yes, I happily slept in a bunk bed. Every item on the buffet breakfast at Song and Hearth the following morning was simply delicious. 

In my humble opinion, Dollywood’s theming, from the smallest of details to every single aspect of each ride and coaster, surpasses its Orlando and Anaheim big name competitors. Both the theme park and the DreamMore resort were clean and meticulously landscaped, and every employee we encountered pleasant and helpful. An affordable escape off the beaten path with less crowds and more value than its big name rivals, Dollywood quickly became one of my favorite places. In 2023, a new coaster called Big Bear Mountain will be added to the theme park, and the new HeartSong Lodge and Resort adjacent to DreamMore will officially open for visitors, so I have two good reasons to return to Dollywood!

We tooled around Gatlinburg for a few hours before heading to Virginia with a quick drive through Virginia Tech on the way to our hotel for the night, and we rolled back into the Jersey Shore on Tuesday with a suitcase of wonderful memories.

By choice, I didn’t have time to rest. The day I had waited far too long for had finally arrived, and I woke up on Wednesday, August 17, ready to pop with anticipation like a kid on Christmas morning.

I had never seen my favorite band in concert prior to hearing them perform from a distance while standing outside their Nashville venue five days earlier. The reasons for this no longer matter because I finally crossed off the number-one item on my lifelong bucket list:

I SAW THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS LIVE IN CONCERT AT METLIFE STADIUM, AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

RHCP Set List from MetLife Show on 8/17/22.

The ones who have provided the soundtrack to my life since my high school years took the stage with explosive energy and sheer delight. I jumped, and danced, and sang, and screamed, and got lost in the joyous moment of every song they played, which was the absolute best set list of the tour, By The Way (again, pun intended). 

My concert comrades and I stood for the entire show, and it was just an electric, epic evening, everything I could have wished for and more. Anthony, and Flea, and Chad, and JOHN who returned for the Unlimited Love album and tour, playing their hearts out with a palpable intensity and exuberance, and constantly expressing their gratitude to the audience… it honestly couldn’t have been any better. 

The Peppers’ music has been my constant companion since I was in my teens and carried me through some dark and dismal life episodes. There’s something about Anthony’s voice that simultaneously soothes and energizes me. Time and time again, their music helps me cope with whatever life throws at me, either as a result of my own choices or by happenstance, and on more than one occasion, I’ve felt like they wrote certain lyrics just for me.

And they are still here, rocking with as much fire and spirit as they did when they first came together as a band.

I cannot wait for the release of the Peppers’ SECOND double-album of 2022 titled Return of the Dream Canteen in October. I sincerely hope a tour to support Canteen album follows, and if one does, I will most definitely be there.

Special commemorative ticket from Paul O’Neill Day on 8/21/22.

Since the concert, I’ve enjoyed a jaunt to Six Flags Great Adventure with my brother, youngest niece, and two nephews, and witnessed the retiring of Paul O’Neill’s number before a much-needed Yankees victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the house that Ruth built in celebration of my treasured friend’s birthday.

I’m still relishing my carefree summer days while trying my best to ignore my school emails and meet my upcoming magazine deadlines as summer’s end looms in the distance. There’s a time for everything, and I’ve learned to trust the seasons of both my calendar and my life. 

I will continue to wake up each day with a zest for living and an intention to experience something wondrous each day, no matter the date on the calendar, the temperature outside, or what’s on my to-do list.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“It’s Time For Peppers, Life, and Dolly” was posted on jillocone.com on August 24, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

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