Saturday, June 26, 2004

Missoula and then Helena (rhymes with melon-a)... and a few rambles

Hello Reader,

I left off as we entered Missoula city limits. We got there and it was a cool place. For KC people, we noticed that the Hairy Apes BMX were playing at the same place this weekend, a two-nighter. This place had the feel of a smaller slightly less dirty version of the Grand Emporium (RIP). It was an old place that used to be a narrow room and is now a larger place from breaking down the adjacent wall. One of the best things about it was the artwork on the walls. I believe the artist was J.Remmel... he made these incredible and detailed, high contrasty woodcut prints and they were just magical. The guy who runs the bar told us he thought the guy gave them to the owner to help pay his bar tab. Must have been some tab, because there were at least a half dozen, 5 of which were ~2'x3' and the grandaddy one was at least 6'x4'? There was a moon goddess one, a Leadbelly portrait, one of Woody Guthrie, a couple others... the big one was a tribute to country music. The bartender told us this piece contained all the words to "All Along the Watchtower"... we looked and looked but the only words we saw were things like "Grand Ole Opry" or Carter Family, etc. The piece had large portraits of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, and besides the Carter Family there were also Flatt & Scruggs with Josh Graves, a motorcyclist, some unidentified women (besides Sara and Maybelle and June), and a fiddler I can't say for sure but want to think was Roy Acuff. (Yes, Roy Acuff. The man played the heck out of Black Mountain Rag.) Later the manager told us the words to the song are _represented_ in the piece by the images. I guess I have to go back and listen to the song, because I had no idea it was about country music.

This was another long full night bar show. Not a lot of people, as we found out the Weiser (pron. "weezer") contest is this weekend. That is the site of the Nat'l fiddle contest and just a big shindig from what I've heard. It takes place in Weiser Idaho and that's not too far from Missoula. So a lot of the bluegrassers were absent, but there were a number of folks there eventually. Not a huge crowd, but a lot of them danced and I personally enjoyed the vibe they sent out. A nice fellow named Steve came up to us and said he'd been wanting to see us again since Winfield '99... he moved out west after that and hasn't been back since. He was psyched that we were playing in his town and brought some friends. Thanks Steve.

We played this one for a percentage of the bar take. And we tried to encourage everyone to drink, but it was not a good payout. Ouch. It's the kind of gig we won't want to do again without a guarantee, but how can you know until you try? Plus Weiser killed it and I'm not sure how much advertising was done locally for this show. Now, Big Sky was a guarantee and while it had some hard moments, overall was a better deal for us. However, I hope we can go back to Missoula again, because it's a cool town. (But they're gonna have to pay for us to play...)

So we just finished playing the Helena festival, Last Chance. Last night was a near rainout but the small dedicated group of attendees didn't let it get them down. We had folks dancing in the mud in front of the (covered) stage and Ike said at one point it was like a mini-Woodstock. Good folks there. We played well too and at the end, we had to stop because the cops were coming down on the festival folks for playing past the noise ordinance cutoff time. So Nate suggested we go down on the grass for our encore, which we did. Just like the days of yore when we'd get noticed at a festival for playing out in the campgrounds, right there with all the folks. It was a fitting end to the evening and a good call to make, Nate. We played there this afternoon and it was cloudy but with some sun and a few more folks. At one point there were a number of dancers on a slow song, couple dancing you know, and it was folks of all ages. Some of those folks probably don't do much dancing anymore and it was sweet to see them two-stepping on the grass.

I keep telling the locals how much I love Montana. I really do. I've been singing and fiddling this song "I Ride an Old Paint" for years, and it mentions Montana... I've sung it a couple of times in this state and it really hits home for me.

Tomorrow we head to Chico Hot Springs for our final western date. I would like to get some healing hot springs waters but I'm kinda scared of Legionnaire's (sp?)... the hot tub virus which can also live in hot springs. Maybe I'll take the chance. I could use a good soak.

When I get home I'm going to try to sleep for a couple of days. I can't imagine doing anything else.

I meant to just update the tour stuff but apparently have shifted into a ramble. Perhaps I'll ramble on in another post since for once we are not playing a late night set on a weekend. Or maybe not... might just rest these old eyes and tired hands and arms.

We're almost There... (where are we going, anyway?)

Dear Reader,

Today is Thursday. The actual date I'm not sure of. I'm lucky to know the day of the week. Over four weeks on the road will do that to you. Actually, it's been that way since the first week on the road. (by the way, just heard Nate confirming w/ Ike that today is indeed Thursday. Ike asked me the day of week earlier today)

I feel the end of this round approaching rapidly now, so Reader, it seems appropriate to begin some analysis or at least review. That does pose a problem, though, because so many details are already fuzzy. I have not kept a regular journal in years, and while that would have been a good idea, it wasn't in the cards for me. This blog has been my journal, though a more public forum and not necessarily disclosing all details (which you might be thankful for). I am glad to have had this opportunity and plan to continue as our travels continue, even while admitting the following:

- Trying to keep up with this stuff without a permanent internet connection is a DRAG.

- I'm often too tired to put a lot of effort into these posts, which makes them truly streams of consciousness (or semi-consciousness), and I have sacrificed a certain amount of writerly style that I used to cultivate.

- Things are hard on the road and sometimes I just want to say that. Not in a pitiful way, but just to acknowledge. (KW - I can't remember how I said that yesterday but yes it is ok to say it, thank you)

- I'm spending a lot of time in contemplative mode during these travels, both in personal challenges and group dynamics. These are things that are not so much for public consumption and they take a lot of my mental energy, which ties in to the topic above of putting effort into the posts.

This ends the top section of acknowledging a few of the kinks involved in simply keeping up with this blog, Reader. Next I will attempt to highlight a few insights I've acquired on this journey, if I can remember any of them... but for now I must break as we just arrived in Missoula for our next to last bar show of Western Tour...

I can't break until I mention the great beauty of this big state. I think Montana is my favorite state on this tour as for beauty and natural splendor. I'm glad we have a few more days in this state. And I hope to come back again with more time to spend recreating!
late night grammar-relaxed post-note: it's now Friday night. Update on Missoula to come. Played Helena tonight and will again tomorrow. Staying in a very niiiiice hotel this night and the next. Mmmmmm, get to sleep in. thanks for all the responses. and the video. goodnight.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Salt Lake City Gangs

Dear Reader,

Preface written as I prepare to post: I would like to be in a place of mind where I could analyze a bit more or else philosophize or some kind of yze or ize, but it's about all I can do to just get the story in there. Plus as anyone who knows me knows, I can't tell just one story without delving into a few side-stories, ya know? But for what it's worth, again I want to mention how much it means to hear from you all, too, either on the blog or in emails. It's dreadfully hard to keep up with it all but in the interest of keeping everyone up to date, here is my latest story for you, which took place prior to Jackson Hole... now read on if you dare!


In writing this I'm scrambling to remember that we went from Boise to SLC but I can't remember what we did in Boise. Oh yeah. We played a bar -- two sets, somewhat crazy crowd, but what a long drive to get there, and what a long drive to get to the campground afterwards (our formerly trusty guidebooks sent us astray this time in that the distance from the highway to this park site was quite a bit longer, which is not such a good thing at 1 am). I believe brotherphil has filled in the details leading up to and including the Boise play, though, so I shall try to continue from there...

Getting to SLC was delayed somewhat en route when we stopped to have a band meeting. We have had a few of these on the tour and it helps us to figure each other and ourselves out. Kinda hard to do though when time is never on our side. But very necessary, n'est pas? We had hoped to get to SLC a bit early since they were providing a much needed hotel (the showers were especially needed). But even if we hadn't had a meeting, we wouldn't have had much time to spare. It took a while to figure out which hotel was actually ours and, well, on Wilder time everything has the potential to hold us up.

Delays aside, we did make it to the Gallivan Center about an hour before showtime. This is an outdoor plaza in the middle of downtown SLC. There is a permanent stage and a patio area just in front, plus an arched footbridge to one side and a large lawn on the other. There were a lot of people there, all kinds and ages. I was pleased to see a fair number of young punkers, from a Ramones t-shirt-clad gal to several shades of green and blue hair on assorted kids, reminding me of my own youth (seems kinda far away these days). We were the headliner for the event, and were to play a 75 minute set to close out the one-day festival. After finding a sushi stand at the vendors, we quickly spent our gift food tickets on a perfect sushi snack to get us through the show. It was freshly made to order, but no raw fish, just cooked crab or shrimp. I had California rolls and the others had spicy shrimp. I have not truly done the "sushi thing", but I do love the Cali rolls most especially for the wasabi that comes with them. Wasabi, for the uninitiated, is Japanese horseradish, a very bright green color, and a quick heat that penetrates (and clears) one's sinus passages, and then just as quickly disapates. And let me tell you, there is no better spice heat for yours truly. Man, I love it!! I can't take too much of the Mexican spices, and when I discovered wasabi, it was like finding a natural ginseng patch in your back yard. (or some other treasure you wouldn't have been looking for, much less expected)

But that is an aside, and not the story of what happened to us! Reader, you are either patient or amused or probably and hopefully both.

The show starts -- I see lots of smiling faces and several waves of hands before we're even introduced. We kick off as usual with a burning fiddle tune and lo and behold, here come all those punkers. They amass at Audience Right (and from now on will be referred to as a group -- A.R. Gang). Miss Ramones is there along with an interesting assortment of partiers who quickly fill up the bit of open grass at audience right. Audience Left (a.k.a. A.L. Folks) is filled with folks on blankets or camp chairs, like we see at the typical festivals. A.R. Gang gets to dancing and stomping and cheering and I see that A.L. Folks are looking like they're having a good time too. We get into a song and I think it's in this first singing song that Ike breaks a string. Nothing new to those who know us... but on the first song, that's kind of a drag. I decide to go ahead with a solo tune to fill the space. A.R. Gang is not ready to chill for a solo, they want to get rowdy. Too bad, I can't give 'em that right this moment. I manage to get through that song. Band comes back. We play a couple more tunes and there goes another guitar string. Long story short here -- in the 75 minutes we play, I think it's 5 strings that break, some of them the same one repeatedly. So I play a couple of solos and Phil and I do a couple duets and in one case the string gets changed in time to turn a duet into a band tune. Just about the most disrupted show we've ever played.

Specific comments to fill in blanks:

- A.R. Gang quite often look like they're about to overtake the stage, including one moment when a young punk did in fact leap up for a moment -- we were positioned at least 8 feet from the stage lip, so at least I wasn't worried they would start smashing instruments.

- A.L. Folks seemed pretty patient for the most part but Phil noticed several times that many of them were glaring over at the Gang when they got particularly loud. I did notice that almost every single A.L. Folk stayed for the entire set, though, and some of them were even dancing too, but not in front of blanket-sitters.

- A.R. Gang did show a whole lot of spirit and danced most every song or tune, and only really seemed to get almost out of hand a couple of times. Of course those times were when I was on stage alone and having to intro a solo tune or else tell a brief story in my desperate attempt to keep the show going throughout string break city.

- Just when I thought it was all over, on perhaps the last string break solo for me, and the A.R. Gang was chanting and stomping and maybe almost over the edge, I took a deep breath and suggested they chill out and listen to this tune from Doc Watson, and watch the stars in the skies and sway back and forth, and then I played and sang the tune. And I was amazed and heartened that they actually did just that.

- I love the energy of the young punks -- that is why I was one myself. However, it's a hard role to fill and yet one that needs to be filled -- the role of perhaps a good influence or perhaps even teacher of respect to the artists. I felt that perhaps what I said to them before the Doc Watson tune maybe did the trick, or maybe not. Not sure what to do in the future on that because I want the punks to get us, but I don't want the Folks to be turned off. I think we appeal to almost any kind of person and my utopian performance would be close to what we saw in SLC, except without the excessive chanting and rowdiness when it was not called for. TallestDave, you were there, what did you think? I'd like to hear from you.

One final note that involves no potential politics:

- The weather in SLC was unusually muggy that day, which is just another example of the weird weather patterns we seem to experience most everywhere on this tour. This is one of the reasons for the string breaks, because when we play outdoor festivals in high humidity, that is what throws Ike's Silvertone out of whack. Of course the weather brings repercussions on all the instruments, but the string breaking ghouls pose perhaps the biggest problem. The point is, it didn't rain in Seattle; it was hot in Portland; it was cold last night in Jackson; more examples don't come to mind but do exist in our historical perspective.

And that was SLC.

Del McCoury, a Hootenanny and rebirth by fire...

Our stop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming was the result of a very timely phone call from our booking agent, Mary, to the promoter of The Mangy Moose Bar and Grill. Mary was trying to fill in the blanks between our show in Salt Lake City on Saturday night and a bar show in Big Sky, Wyoming on Wednesday. As luck would have it, Jackson Hole was not only on the way, but was also welcoming bluegrass superstars Del McCoury and the Boys for a one night show on Sunday. I'm not sure what Mary said, but she was able to stick her foot in the door again enough to get us a 20 minute opening slot. Now folks, this is big time for us! The Del McCoury Band is one of the best and most successful bands out there right now and an opening slot for them in an almost sold out venue is HUGE. I think we were all a little nervous but excited when we pulled into the parking lot next to Del's bus. We were only there for a few minutes when Rob McCoury, Del's son and banjoist in the band, came out and asked us if we had any wrenches on board. He was trying to fix something and lacked the proper tools. Ike and I opened up the lower storage of The Chief and after a little digging through our combined but disorganized tool collection, we produced the 1/2" open end wrench that he needed. Rob disappeared back into the bus and we all congratulated ourselves on having the right tool for the job for once. A few hours later, we were onstage in front of a packed house of people who had no idea who we were- but were quickly going to find out. Once again, Betse smacked everybody upside the head with a hot opening fiddle tune and from then on, we were a smash. We fulfilled our obligation to pump up the crowd, got an encore and quickly made way for the pros to step up and do their thing. We took turns outside the club watching our CD table so that we could all get a chance to watch Del and the boys absolutely kill the crowd. My impression of them was this: They are so incredibly talented and are so in tune with each other during their shows that they can actually relax and have fun. Del smiled throughout the performance and each member got a chance to shine as they worked their two-microphone set up with precision unmatched. After the show, I momentarily went into obsessed fan mode and got my crappiest cowboy hat signed by both Rob and Ronnie McCoury. Del had disappeared back to their bus immediately after the show, but I was glad to get a chance to talk to his sons and trade a few stories of road weariness before leaving for the night. Both Ike and Betse had been approached by a nice couple after the show who invited us to a Hootenanny the next night at the Snow King resort. This weekly Monday night amateur acoustic music show is the Jackson Hole equivalent of our own Rural Grit Happy Hour although it attracts a much older crowd. I spoke to one of the founders of the Hoot and he told me that this was their 522nd consecutive performance. We were honored to be a part of it and played a quick 30 minutes to the very attentive and enthusiastic audience. Nate's girlfriend Melissa had joined us on Saturday in Salt Lake and now that we were finished with our playing obligations, the two took off for a couple of days of hiking and time with each other. Betse, Ike and I drove the next morning past the amazing Grand Teton Mountains and through Yellowstone National Park to get to a radio performance in Bozeman, Montana. As I drove the Yellowstone leg of the trip, we quickly began seeing the results of the fires that raged through the park several summers ago. Whole mountain ridges and their valleys were stripped bare of tall trees leaving only perfectly straight, but quite dead poles twenty to thirty feet tall in every direction. Although the park's forest was decimated by these fires, we were awed by the sea of three and four feet tall pines that literally covered these mountains like a fake grass carpet outside an RV at a bluegrass festival. Obviously, the mountains of Yellowstone are going to be just fine. It's just going to take about 20 years for these little guys to reach the height of their crispy cousins. It made me reflect on the old saying that "God never closes a door without opening a window". The mature trees of these magnificent forests might have met an untimely death, but their loss cleared the way for the next generation. Now that I think of it, it could be a metaphor for what we are doing with our music. Although Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Jim McReynolds, June Carter and Johnny Cash and many of the other mothers and fathers of traditional music may have left our world in the last few years, hopefully in their void there will be scrappy little three and four foot trees like us to take their place and continue in their honor. That's kind of fun to think about isn't it?

Sitting in a laundromat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming contemplating the meaning of life...

Ok, I realize that's a bold title but it's hard not to be self reflective when you are stuck at an RV park doing laundry while you are surrounded on all sides by the beautiful Grand Teton Mountains. I suppose I could have got out of bed this morning, made a thermos of coffee and headed right up one of these monsters, but when you are on the road, fresh socks take on immense significance. So while I'm here listening to the machines rattle and whirl, I'll try to get you up to date once again. My last post had us in the Columbia River Gorge heading to Portland. We arrived safely and were happy to see our booking agent, Mary, who had taken the train down from Seattle to collect money at the door. The club was insignificant with the exception of Mike, the owner, who took care of us with a tub of ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon AND the incredible black velvet pool table that Ike quickly began operating like a surgeon. Many games were played in and around our three sets and we all generally had a grand time. At Mary's urging, we left Portland after the show (around 1:30am) and drove all night to Seattle. She had scheduled a radio show appearance for us around noon and was worried we might not make it if we ran into Seattle traffic in the morning. So Ike diligently hunched over the wheel and delivered us safely into Mary's driveway at 5:30am. Nate, Betse and I had all fallen asleep and when I woke up and looked at Ike's bloodshot eyes, I knew that it had not been an easy drive. We quickly made our beds and got a few precious hours of sleep before the burning sun of Seattle cooked us out of the RV. Yes, I said "burning sun of Seattle". Apparently the city's normal gloomy, overcast and rainy weather took a 24 hour vacation and left a full scale heat wave to watch the place while it was away. Mary made us a wonderful breakfast and we got it together enough to get to the radio station in time. After the show, we returned to her house and soon after, members of the band, Open Road, began to arrive. Mary also books this great bluegrass band out of Ft. Collins, Colorado, and I had been looking forward to meeting and playing this show with them for the entire tour. They turned out to be a swell bunch of guys and we all quickly bonded over a few beers, chewing tobacco and song swapping. Ike told me that Bradford Lee Folk, the singer/guitarist of Open Road, reminded him of our good friend and fellow Rural Gritter, Michael Murphy and I agreed. Bradford is from a town just outside of St. Louis, and he has that dry sense of humor and casual, "I don't give a s*#t" attitude that I find so prevalent in boys from Missouri. Caleb Roberts, the mandolinist and other founding member of the band, reminded me more of myself. He was polite and smiled a lot but seemed slightly uncomfortable with the two-band social dynamic. I felt exactly the same way and made up for it by going into photographer mode. For some reason, when I feel uncomfortable, it makes me feel better to take photos. That way I don't have to talk to people (because, obviously, I'm trying to take a photo) and people don't want try to talk to me because they usually hate having their picture taken. I know this is weird but it helps me get through the awkwardness sometimes. So after a few shots of Bradford and Ike dueting on a Hank Williams tune, it was time to go to the show. We got dressed, piled into the RV and soon were at the Tractor Tavern in downtown Seattle. Open Road did their sound check first and I was blown away by the power of their sound. These guys are not far off in age from us and so they have sort of the same intensity that we have without varying from a traditional bluegrass approach. Bradford is a fantastic singer and I was particularly pulverized by Caleb's mandolin playing which is straight out of the Bill Monroe school- with lots of double stops and tremelo and a hard core blues style that is out of this world. They got the mics checked with ease and then it was our turn. Our sound check was less than stellar but we got through it and went to get a sandwich up the street. The club was pretty full when we got back and, although we were still very tired from lack of sleep, everybody did what they had to do to get their show face on. Betse launched into the first fiddle tune, and metaphorically grabbed the crowd by the collar and put them into her pocket. We wanted to make an impression and I think we either made a lot of new fans or scared the hell out of everybody. In my estimation, we fulfilled the requirements of the perfect opening act in our 40 minute set and got off stage and out of Open Road's way. The crowd was primed for these bluegrass pros and everybody had a rollicking good time. After the show, we hung around the club for awhile. But soon, I began to pressure everybody to say their goodbyes and get everything packed into the RV. For the second night in a row, we had to drive after the show but this time only far enough to be safely out of Seattle's morning rush hour. Once again, Ike hunched over the wheel and drove until the lights of Seattle were far behind us and he started to hallucinate from lack of sleep. We grabbed a motel in North Bend, Washington for the night and were back on the road at 8am for a punishing 10 hour drive to Boise, Idaho. We drove and drove and drove and drove- all day long and still were an hour late getting to the club. When we pulled into the alley next to the bar, several of the locals yelled at us saying, "yeah, the band is HERE!" and "YOU'RE LATE!" We took this as a challenge and quickly changed once again into our stinky show clothes. We grabbed up our equipment and within a half hour, we were onstage again. None of us had had much sleep or food and we basically pulled out our last ounce of energy and gave it all away to the needy punkers of Boise. Which brings me to the source of my contemplation. I think at this point we are all searching for some sort of equilibrium. We are playing our butts off out here in the west. But by the time we get finished, we are so spent that we are all barely able to manage the basic day-to-day necessities of sleep, rest, relaxation and food. Sleep is definitely a luxury we don't get. Rest and relaxation is fleeting since it's so hard to ride for long hours in the equivalent of a rocking, rattling school bus. Food is tough too because there's just not a lot of it. We never have time to actually sit down to a meal and so we end up either skipping meals or eating fast food which really starts to get old after almost a month on tour. Maybe it sounds like I'm complaining but I'm not. I realize that this is an opportunity that most musicians would kill for. It's just that this is a VERY different lifestyle than we accustomed to and we are still trying to adjust. Perhaps if this touring thing turns out to be a long term situation, we will learn how to find the equilibrium we are all seeking and be professional musicians without turning into zombies in western wear.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Replies to your replies

Dear Reader,

To all of y'all who have taken the time to write us back and comment, I want to thank you.

This is a quick attempt to relate to you in this time and space and also just to let a few thoughts flow out. I need to do that from time to time, and my emailing has been curtailed due to traveling, so on with the flow/show:

Here's something that means a lot to me. It is very hard to find the time or place to get online more than once or twice a week, and after going through email, I love to pop on to the Blog to see who's written and what. I have done that numerous times when I perhaps should have been writing myself, but the drive to write is sometimes a fleeting inclination. Point is, when I see your replies, it's a good connection for me and sometimes gives me that little boost I need.

When I wrote my intention to reply to your replies (over a week ago, remember?), I believe I was inspired by a few recent comments at the time. However, dear reader, the hour is late and yet again time constrains me and prohibits my ability to review and respond the way I'd like to.

I will make one timely reply which seems to tie in with my time challenges, and that was one Tallestdave wrote recently. In which the question came up regarding getting UP for the gigs after all the traveling (written as a comment to brotherphil's milesandmiles):

My answer is, yes sir it is hard in some ways. Tonight when we played Salt Lake (and good to see you there, TD, and so sorry we didn't get to Once More! All those guitar strings popping sure had an impact on the flow of the set), for example: we were all pretty tired, especially because of the last few days of hard traveling. But we had a show to do and that is why we are here. I can only answer for myself and here's what almost always happens for me.

I get up there and just let the music take over. I look around at people and try to lock on smiling faces. I'll come back to those same faces during a show and I feel like it's a personal interaction. I feel good energy from dancers or the smilers and I need that energy to keep going. The adrenaline does its part too but it's more the cyclical energy that I depend on. Energy comes from each of us and it's almost like a ball of the stuff surrounding us on stage, but I personally feel like it will burn out if we don't get refueled by the crowd. Ooh this is getting all weird and abstract but so is any kind of creating, yes?...

What is the hardest thing is really all those hours traveling. I had thought before we left that I would get SO MUCH done in the RV on those long days of driving. Now, the other day, I did do some mending and sewing. But for the most part, the ride is too bouncy to get a lot done. Very hard to type in that case and I have to type most things I write or else I can't keep up with my thoughts. Hard to read with a bounce, too. It's hard to do many things that I thought I might do on the road, so the days feel a lot longer than I had hoped. But so far I haven't dreaded a show, even if I wasn't physically feeling quite up to it due to sleep deprivation or other physical challenges.

Good thing I'm not dreading shows, cause there are several more months of them to come! Dear reader, keep on reading and writing. It helps me out. I want this to work out and I know for a fact that I need your support and help. So thank you because you are ALL ANGELS!

What happened to those updates?

Dear reader,

It's been what, over a week since my last post. I had written the "wreck on the highway" sometime last week but it's been so nearly impossible to get time to post, let alone think about writing something. But I'm trying to persevere! So in the interest of following up, in case you're keeping track, from my Updates in Store post, here is the followup story:

1. More Arizona Angels: this has been duly and gracefully covered by Brotherphil. We owe loads to all our dear Arizona Angels and we thank you sincerely and with love in our hearts!

2. Club Congress: again taken care of by BPhil... I had written something but didn't get it posted, and that's fine anyway. I will add WE LOVE YOU TUCSON!

3. Oh that Desert Heat! You know what? It was really tough for me. It made my brain sluggish and my mood sour like the milk that went bad in our fridge when we couldn't stay plugged in. As we got out of the desert into Colorado and then the Pacific N.W., I felt much better and more at home (Trees, I love you!). All I can say now is that I look forward to the southwest again... in the WINTER.

4. Replies to your replies: I am going to attempt this tonight. Briefly. And by the time you read this, you will have read that, if I do indeed accomplish the task. That's all due to the chronology thing and me not wanting to hold something to post later. Huh?

"I saw the wreck on the highway..."

Dear Reader: Please note that the following story does contain some shocking scenes. This is not a joke and I would recommend that you not share this post with young children. I know for a fact that it might be disturbing to young persons and perhaps some adults too. It was disturbing for all of us. I hope there are no other posts with such material and please do not worry, it does not involve any danger or injury to any Wilders.

So we were on our way from Salida Colorado to play a festival in Hotchkiss. Another day, another long-ish drive, through a couple of mountain passes which we knew would be slow for the ol' Chief. We got to a mountain lake and came across an overturned pontoon boat in the road... an officer was on the scene already and directed traffic as only one lane was passable and had to be shared by both traffic directions. That part of the road wasn't steep or even all that curvy, but the boat had nevertheless been overturned due to a too-rapid curve navigation or else someone else's poor driving, and it was a bit of a shock to see upside down and completely smashed. We commented on this as we slowly passed and then settled in to enjoy a beautiful remote canyon drive which went over a dam and overlooked an amazingly deep river gorge. We could only see the river occasionally as we inched and snaked our way up and around the breathtaking canyon. I have learned that Colorado is not only full of the evergreens we all associate with the Mountain State, but also the lovely aspen trees which shake their leaves from side to side to cool themselves. Aspens have the most lovely white bark and silvery backs on the green leaves. I will now forever think of aspens rather than evergreens when I recall Colorado mountain drives.

There's one other thing I will remember when it comes to a scenic Colorado drive. The image is burned in my mind. We had come to nearly the top of the canyon wall drive and had seen a number of weekend motorcyclists going both directions on this same route. It must surely be a thing to see on a bike, though I wouldn't be looking to try it (kinda scary to me). As we went around yet another bend in the road, I looked out the front passenger window at the canyon wall next to me. Then we all saw an overturned motorcycle. Ike commented that it looked like a wreck from a long time ago. What I also observed, though, was a man lying on his stomach, slowly trying to raise his head... I could see his face was covered with blood. I immediately told the guys what I saw -- they did not have the vantage point I did from the front passenger seat. Now, we were on a two-lane mountain road with tons of curves and not many turn-outs, especially what an RV would need. But we knew we had to do something and just calling 911 did not seem to be enough. So Ike found a place to safely turn around within a mile and we went back. The guys were very worried, as was I... but I reminded them that I saw the man moving, so I knew he was conscious. The strange thing was that he wrecked at a place where the shoulder on his side was wide (though rocky) and directly across the road was a very long turn-out overlook spot. We pulled right in there and all of the guys got out and went over to the man. I felt a bit in shock and started to get my shoes on but wasn't sure what to do... none of us have real first aid training. Phil, with his Eagle Scout status, is probably the closest to being qualified. He certainly knows when to not move an injured person when there is a chance of head injury, and he reminded us of this on the way back to the man. So there I was, almost freaking out in the RV while watching the guys approach the injured man. Then I remembered I had a first aid kit in the bathroom, so I got a few items from it that I thought could be helpful. I also grabbed a gallon of water and a couple of clean dishrags. Nate came back to Chief to get my cell phone to call 911. I gave him the water and rags, but just at that time a couple in a truck pulled over too and they had a large first aid kit. They joined the guys and Nate took the water to the man.

Pretty soon a few more travelers stopped because the sight of an RV pulled over and men standing on the other side of the road next to a wrecked motorcycle and bloody rider is certainly more noticeable than just a wrecked bike and leather clad prone person. I was heartened to see so many people stop and other motorbikers too... I got out of the RV, trying to decide what to do. I looked across the road. Ike was kneeling next to the man, who was now sitting up with Phil's arms supporting him from behind. Ike or Phil had gotten the large piece of foam we had strapped to the back of the Chief (for whatever reason -- why did we have it anyway?) and had folded it to use as a supporting cushion for the man. Ike was asking the man questions, did he want us to take him to the hospital, did he want to lie down and where did it hurt, and telling him he would be okay. Phil held on strong as he crouched behind the man to help him stay upright. Nate stood nearby and talked to the other people about the situation. The man's face was completely covered in blood and he was mostly shaking his head slowly and putting his hands up towards his face, or just out in the air. I couldn't even see his nose or mouth, and could barely make out his eyes. One of the other stopped vehicles was carrying at least one child. It was a pickup truck with a back window and the little girl had stuck her head out the window and she had both hands covering her mouth, with a shocked look in her eyes. I could see the horror in her face even though she was some distance from me, and even farther from the poor man. As I looked across the road again, there were quite a few concerned citizens along with the guys, and soon a few more bikers pulled up and parked. I realized there was nothing specific I could do at that point. It was better for me to stay put than to be one more person crowing around the man.

I knew that 911 had been called by that time, and while I wanted to make sure he was going to be okay, I was starting to get worried about our deadline arrival time at the festival. We didn't know exactly how long it would take to finish traversing the canyon, and we had a pretty early performance time. My anxiety began to rise when all the other vehicle travelers left, and only the three recently stopped bikers remained. I approached one of the bikers and just told him our situation -- would he and his friends be able to stay with the man until help arrived? He said yes without hesitating and I motioned to Nate to come over. I told Nate that these guys would stay and we did need to get moving. Ike and Phil were still right there with the man and the other bikers stood close by. It seemed like the man was more at ease with some of his biker brothers there, and I don't know if he said anything as the guys left him to get back on the Chief.

It was real quiet for the next few minutes as we continued on the drive. Then the guys started reviewing the event. All agreed that the man would be okay -- he would be very bruised and his face was very messed up, but he didn't have any spinal injuries since he could move around, and all his extremities were okay. He had been wearing full leathers, but he had NOT been wearing a helmet. Ike said that most Harley riders detest helmets, safety issue or not. It's part of the experience. I shudder still to think of the repercussions of what seems to me such a brazen act. The guys all felt that had we not stopped to help the man, it might have been some time before someone might have noticed him. After all, I was the only one who saw him in our case. I thanked God that he was conscious when we found him, and that he would be okay after some time to heal. And we saw the ambulance heading from the next town towards the wreck within ten minutes of leaving the scene. I guess it all worked out and we did the right thing for sure. But it was a real shocker to understate the story. Phil in particular seemed to be unnerved after the fact and his stomach gave him some trouble for several hours after. I could not have imagined holding on to the man myself but Phil's human concern always seems to be especially focused in emergencies.

We got to the show on time... I write this the day after we finished the festival, and we just witnessed the aftermath of a much more horrible wreck. I did not look as I'm not in front but there were multiple vehicles and possibly some very bad damage to the people involved. And that was on a wide open four lane highway.

Ike said, "I guess you see a lot of bad stuff if you stay on the road long enough."


That is a price I didn't think about paying before we left on this trip.

Please drive safely....

Friday, June 18, 2004

Miles and Miles and Miles...

I'm riding in The Chief following the great expanse of the Columbia River gorge. Large rounded brown volcanic mountains surround us as we follow the river across it's Oregon run on into Portland. A lot has happened since we were in the deep southwest but the miles have started to take their toll on my memory. I'll now make an effort to link it all together and get everybody from the bottom of the US to the Northwest in one piece. From Tucson, we left our new friends Don and Kay Meyer and drove through New Mexico to El Paso, TX. Moontime Pizza was our destination and there isn't much to say about the gig except to say that the southwest has a lot to learn about the art of pizza making. We had the next day off and spent the morning having a timely conversation in the RV dealing with some of the issues that come up when four, very different people try to live and work together in a big metal box with wheels. It was good therapy and afterwards we took a taxi to the Mexican border and walked across for an afternoon of Tecate's and shopping in Jaurez. It was the first time Ike, Nate, and Betse had been to Mexico and we made the most of the experience. The next day we drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a gig at the city's Bio Park. The audience was made up of a lot of families and quickly into our first set, we had a full scale freestyle kid stomp going on in front of us on the lawn. The Bio Park set us up with a couple of hotel rooms and everyone enjoyed a night outside of the RV except for me. We decided before the tour that in cities, one of us should always sleep in The Chief for the security of our instruments. I was only too happy to take advantage of the privacy this "security watch" afforded me. The next day, after another fuel filter change, we left Albuquerque and drove directly north through Santa Fe and on into my beloved San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. My wife, Kim and I have spent many wonderful vacations alongside the Sangre De Cristo Mountains which run to the east of this valley for miles and I happily drove this stretch feeling as if I was in familiar territory for the first time in many days. Quickly we began to climb again and soon we were in Salida, Colorado. We played three sets at Bongo Billy's, a popular coffee shop, restaurant and watering hole tucked right up against the Arkansas River. Our hosts hooked us up with breakfast coupons and were kind enough to let us stay in the parking lot for the night. The next morning we used our coupons to eat a curious Colorado breakfast burrito containing feta cheese-a strange greek/mexican assemblage that left a funny taste in my mouth. From there it was off and over our highest mountain pass yet (11,317 feet) which The Chief strained to get over at a whopping 30mph. Then it was all downhill to Gunnison, Colorado and into the Black Canyon. This amazingly deep gorge is like a bottomless crack in the earth. Once in awhile, you can see a finger of the river far below, but almost everywhere else, it just seems like it drops into nothingness. Ike handled the driving through this crazy corkscrew canyon and although I generally have a pretty good tolerance to the road, I soon found myself a little sick from the roller coaster turns. After a good samaritan stop (Betse will fill in the blanks in a later entry), we finally spilled out of the winding road into Hotchkiss, Colorado and within an hour we were on stage for our first set of the weekend at the first annual North Fork Bluegrass Festival. I'll leave the details of this great festival for a later entry but will report that we were quite successful and left the residents of this cool little town with an indelible image of three Wilders dancing to an old time tune in mexican wrestling masks. After the festival, we drove up the road to Paonia, Colorado and did a little skateboarding and laundry before heading up to an after-festival party thrown by friends of the band, Sweet Sunny South. We ate good food and enjoyed conversations with our new friends before winding back down to Hotchkiss for the night. The next day, we set out on a two-and-a half day monster drive to Portland, Oregon with an overnight stop at the Utah/Idaho border on Monday and a second overnight at a Casino/RV park in Pendleton, Oregon. Nate lost $12.00 at blackjack but won it back from us in a late-night RV poker game before we bedded down for the night. Which brings us, finally, to where we are now. We've just stopped in Hood River, Oregon for lunch and an overdue oil change and are anxiously awaiting our show in Portland tonight. Our booking agent, Mary, is taking the train down from Seattle to take money at the door and we are looking forward to the next few days with her in the northwest. The weather is beautiful and I have to say, it's nice to get out of the hot desert and into some new terrain. We will try to keep everybody up to date with our travels and appreciate the comments our entries have generated. Thanks to everybody for vicariously touring with us through this crazy internet journal. Wish us luck! Two weeks to go on the first leg of the tour...

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Desert Angels II, Tucson, AZ

After a short but very hot two hour drive to Tucson, Arizona, we arrived at the Voyager RV Park and Resort. This park came highly recommended by "Frommers Best RV and Tent Campgrounds of the U.S.A.". Since our air conditioning only works with an electric hookup, this phone book size volume has proved indispensable to us as we try to figure out where we can sleep in the desert heat. But Voyager was more than just a place to plug in. The book described it as a self-contained city for retirees and vacationers. We pulled into the gate and I hopped out to make arrangements for our stay. As I gave our license and personal information, I mentioned, "We are in a bluegrass band. We are on our first tour of the southwest and we are playing in downtown Tucson tonight. I was wondering if you could tell me how far away that is?". The security officer, a tanned and handsome permanent resident of Voyager, Don Meyer, cracked a grin and said "Where are you playing? My wife and I LOVE bluegrass music, we'll come see you." I was embarrassed to say that I didn't have any idea where we were playing but I would find out and let him know. With the registration completed, he asked us to follow him in a golf cart to our spot. This place was gigantic. It consisted of pull-through sites for RV's which stretched in every direction. At the center was a grocery store, restaurant, computer room, showers, basketball, tennis, shuffleboard and bocce' courts, two swimming pools, meeting rooms, and a whole wing of classrooms where the residents work on stained glass, ceramics, quilting etc. etc. It had the feel of a sun baked college campus for seniors. It was after noon now and the temperature was up around 108. Don got us hooked up but our air conditioner had been freezing up all day and was just blowing hot air. I chatted RV life and music with him for awhile and then took off to the grocery store for ice. The band made a plan to cool off in the pool before the gig when Don came back and knocked on our door. "I want to help you guys out, " he said. "Do you suppose you could fit all your instruments into a Lincoln Town Car?". Not quite understanding his intention, I said that I doubted that Nate's bass would fit. He said, " If it doesn't fit in the Town Car, we have a Saturn station wagon that you could borrow. All we ask is that you give us a couple of tickets to the show. We want to come see you play." Now this is an example of how people react to a bluegrass band in need. What? you need a muffler welded, no problem- come by and we'll weld it right up. How about some laundromat action? Hop in to the minivan and I'll make dinner while your there. Need a car to go downtown to your gig? no problem- we'll loan you our Town Car. Basically, I was floored by Don's generous offer and I made arrangements with him to get the car in an hour or so. We sort of cooled off with a lukewarm dip in the sun heated pool and when we got back to the RV, Don and his wife, Kay, were waiting for us with the car. He told me we could use it for our entire stay and it had plenty of gas. He gave us directions to an RV parts dealer nearby and the nearest Wal Mart. I still hadn't given them any details on the show and was actually afraid they might be disappointed since we were only playing in the lobby of a hotel as an intermission attraction between rock and roll acts . I gave them directions to the hotel and explained what we were going to do there, but they didn't seem to mind. We told them we would see them downtown and thanked them about a million times. We put all the instruments in the vast trunk of the Town Car and Nate and Ike got up close and personal with the bass in the back seat. This gig was going to be a little unusual. Our agent, Mary, had somehow jammed her toe into the door enough to get us a freebie in-between set at a sold out country rock show starring Tortoise and Calexico. I know that many who are reading this just scratched their heads, but I assure you folks, these bands are VERY popular amongst the tattooed necks and pierced faces of the desert southwest honky tonkers and hipsters. The lobby of the turn-of-the-century Hotel Congress has been converted to a multi-stage rock club and we quickly set up our stuff in the lobby in anticipation of the first set break. Don and Kay arrived soon after and took a seat on a comfortable leather couch immediately in front of us. I chatted with them for awhile and pretty soon, the first act was over and we got to it. Now we have had a fair amount of commando hotel lobby jamming experience in our time as a band and we know how to make a spectacle of ourselves in that situation. The Tucson tattooed responded in kind and started screaming, clapping along and generally freaking out. Betse and I dusted off all of our old rock star moves and I even played a mandolin solo kneeling on the floor right in the face of a surprised but thrilled new fan sitting on the floor. by the time we finished the first set, we had transformed ourselves from "time killer" to "Tucson killer". At the beginning of the second set, we were only able to get through one fiddle tune before the hotel security asked us to move out of the lobby and into one of the indoor clubs because the crowd around us was blocking the exits . We relocated and only got through one more tune before the promoter asked us to take the stage so more people could see us. The sound man had to quickly try to get us miked up and Betse talked to the rowdy crowd while the poor guy got a makeshift set up going. By the time we finished about 40 minutes later, we had siphoned off most of Tortoise's crowd from outside. Don and Kay had stood on the front row the entire time and even opened up our CD suitcase and started selling our stuff while we played. I talked to them after the show and they were thrilled. We both agreed that it was very lucky that Don had been on guard duty when we came in. They offered to take Nate's bass back to the park in their station wagon. I objected but knew it was no use as Don snatched up Nate's bass and said goodnight before disappearing out the door into the hot Tucson night.

"We are a bluegrass band..."

The phrase, "We are a bluegrass band", has come in handy so often on this trip. When asking for directions to a bank, restaurant or gas station, I'll preface my question with, "Hi, yeah, we are in a bluegrass band and we are down here on tour. I was wondering if you could tell me where....". Almost always, the person I am asking cracks a grin and starts pointing and drawing me maps. People just generally want to help a bluegrass band get to where they are going. If we played heavy metal or hardcore rap, I doubt the response would be so positive. "Hi, yeah we in a death metal band and we are on tour. I was wondering if you could tell me where the nearest pet store is? We need to buy some live snakes and a lab mice for our show tonight". But in our case, the folks look at our aging Winnebago and immediately take pity. This is not to say that we actually ARE a bluegrass band. The truth is, we play very little "real" bluegrass. But explaining the historical developments of country music and our place that continuum tends to muddy up the conversation so I try to avoid it whenever possible. It's all a matter of labeling and brand identity. People see a fiddle and a banjo and they think "bluegrass" and that's ok with me. Rarely does somebody ask you to hand them an adjustable wrench, a can of non-stick cooking spray or a sterile adhesive bandage and I'm sure the folks that make Crescent wrenches, Pam and Band Aids are really happy about that. So, to the folks we encounter, I say, "we are a bluegrass band..." and the doors open.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Updates in store

Well folks, it's been quite a challenge to have the time to do a post -- I write this from Moontime Pizza in El Paso, Texas. The guys are working on getting the sound going so I am taking a moment to check in. They have a high-speed connection here, and also Airport (Mac geeks should know all about this wireless connection -- I'm still learning) but the connection is a bit unstable right now. So I know I don't have time to do all the updates I want, but to help me (and you) keep track, here are the updates I plan to complete hopefully sooner than later:

1. More Arizona Angels
2. Throwdown at Club Congress
3. Something about the desert heat
4. Replies to your replies

and whatever else comes to mind when I have time sufficient to get it all out.

I'll leave a brief summary here:

We couldn't have survived Arizona if it weren't for all our Angels... can't wait to see the Tucson folks again... learning a lot about life on the road... saw a roadrunner today.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Angels in the Desert

We left our air conditioned hotel rooms in the Primm casino and walked out into 105 degrees at 9am. We loaded up on gas and water and headed off on a 5 hour drive up the basin toward Cedar City, Utah. The thermostat climbed to 112 degrees before we finally began to rise out of the basin and back up to a more comfortable altitude. We arrived at the club in Cedar City in the late afternoon and everybody enjoyed a good meal and lots of ice water to re-hydrate before the show. The folks at the Blue Kat Cafe were super nice and we played our butts off for the appreciative locals. The next morning we faced a dilemma: should we go back down into the basin through Las Vegas to Phoenix or should we take a more direct but mountainous route back through Flagstaff? We opted for the hotter but less hilly Vegas choice and quickly settled in for another hot day in the desert. The Chief didn't like the heat one bit and threatened overheating several times. We watched the temperature gauge closely and stopped several times to let him cool down. We, however, weren't so lucky as the thermometer inside the RV hovered around 115 for the entire 10 hours to Phoenix. One respite in our suffering occurred when we crossed the Colorado River again via the Hoover Dam. This was our first time seeing the mammoth structure and we went into heavy tourist mode snapping pictures out the window and rubbernecking for a better view. We climbed up out of the canyon and into a high desert plain and really got cooking for the rest of the run into Phoenix. Cactus of all shape and size began to appear on both sides of the sun baked road and we knew we were truly in the desert as the temperature inside the RV climbed to 120 degrees. We had all been drinking ice water all day but didn't have to make any stops for anything other than gas as the desert seemed to take care of processing our liquids for us. We rolled into the Phoenix area at around 6pm and, after a few wrong turns, arrived at the home of Marvin and Teresa- our hosts for the evening's house concert. We were immediately made to feel at home and within the hour we were playing for a small but appreciative audience. After the show, one of the audience members, Wes, struck up a conversation with Nate regarding our air conditioning problems. We had been cooking for days due to the fact that our generator muffler had broken off before we ever left Kansas City. Without the muffler, we couldn't run the generator without filling the RV with carbon monoxide. The regular air conditioning in The Chief did not function and so, without the generator, we were unable to run the roof mounted air conditioning units that would have provided much comfort in the hot environs of the southwest. Wes turned out to be a crack welder with gear in his garage 20 minutes away and offered to fix our muffler problem the next day. Nate and I worked to release the tailpipe in the dark by flashlight and we sent Wes home with our muffler and a promise to reclaim it the next day. After cleaning up, we dined on a midnight meal of the most delicious home cooked hamburgers courtesy of Teresa and talked with our hosts about music and other topics before retiring for the night in the comfort of their air conditioning and guest rooms. We awoke to a delicious breakfast and more conversation before breaking away to meet up with Wes and our repaired muffler. It took a little work, but we were able to get it reconnected and enjoyed some ice water as Ike cranked up the generator for a test run. Unfortunately, even with the repaired generator, the air conditioning still did not work. Several solutions were discussed but none seemed to do the trick. We took a break and had some lunch and more ice water before deciding that our stinky laundry needed doing more than more air conditioning detective work. Wes's wife, Laurie, piled us all into their mini van and dropped us off at the local laundry mat. An hour or so later, we were back at the house to refocus on the air conditioning problem. Out of desperation, Ike decided to get out the owner's manual for the RV and read for several minutes before coming across a possible solution. We went back out into the hot Phoenix sun and within a minute, the air conditioning units were working like champs. Wes and Laurie offered to let us stay for the night and with the added incentive of their backyard pool and Laurie's homemade pizza, we accepted their offer and happily jumped into the pool. After dinner, there was lots of good conversation and a little pool side music to round out the night. Two lessons learned:
1. You need help to survive in the desert in June. and 2. There are a lot of really helpful people in the desert. To Marvin, Teresa, Wes and Laurie. Thank you so much! We won't forget your generosity.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Philosophical Question #1: If a band plays in the desert and there is no one there to hear, does it make a sound?

We pulled out of Flagstaff, AZ and enjoyed the increased fuel efficiency of a mostly downhill run to the desert floor. Once there, the temperature started to climb and we began to nervously watch the temperature gauge push toward the red zone. We crossed the Colorado River, once again, at Bullhead City, AZ and moved into the Joshua Trees and steep passes of the basin and range of lower Nevada. I remembered seeing a thermometer in a drawer of the kitchen and pulled it out to see just how dang hot it was. Within a minute or so, the temperature read 107 degrees. Just outside of Searchlight, Nevada, the temperature gauge on The Chief got so hot that Ike had to quickly turn on the heater to temporarily cool the engine. Now imagine this folks: you are in the desert in Nevada, the temperature inside your vehicle is 107 and climbing. Now you turn on the HEAT! We stopped at a Searchlight, Nevada truckstop/casino and put in some gas and let The Chief cool for a few minutes before descending into the basin and on into Whiskey Pete's Casino in Primm, Nevada. Our hosts were very welcoming and quickly we were set up and sound checking in a cool and comfortable showroom with killer sound. The soundman, Strobe, was a true pro and he made us feel like we were playing Carnegie Hall. The promoter was a little pessimistic regarding our chances for a crowd since it's hard to get acoustic music fans from Las Vegas to make the 40 minute drive to Primm with gas prices so high. We hoped for the best and even did a quick two songs in the lounge to try to drum up some extra ticket sales. Despite our best efforts, the 200+ showroom held a crowd of exactly 5 people. But boy did they enjoy our show. We took advantage of the great sound and tried to have a good time in the air conditioning. After packing up, we met our friend, April, (who had driven 5 hours from Escalante, Utah to hang out with us). Betse hustled us up some free buffet action by hypnotizing the pit boss with a Wilders flyer in hand and a big smile. The promoter had arranged for two hotel rooms and we got a good night's sleep outside of our hot metal home.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

KC time is 3:20....

I realize this is late, literally! But in Flag it's only 1:20... we had a good show, stay tuned later... although it's worth mentioning that we have the use of an apartment above the bar which is really nice and affords us the opportunity to complete these updates and other online duties.

And now read on, friends all... here are some late coming posts regarding our adventures of the last few days. I wrote these while traveling today and you'll hear about that again because I posted the "last" one first (in other words this is in reverse chronological order because that keeps the whole thing in order. If that makes sense, you may congratulate yourself on your intuitive qualities.


Some of you know that the Chevy van we drove for years was christened Gladys. Gladys took us a whole lot of miles and is perhaps soon to be owned by a fellow musician friend, which seems appropriate. But we had yet to give a name to the Winnebago. Too obvious to call it Winnie, everyone does that. I was pretty sure it should be a girl’s name, because a vehicle this big is really more like a boat than anything, and boats are girls. (I am not sure why; I bet my Dad told me, but he’s going to have to remind me. Big Guy, why don’t you remind everyone and write in yourself?)

So, a few days back, while Nate was driving, I suggested Winifred even though I knew darn well that was about the most uninventive name I could have come up with. Lame. Well, the model of this RV is a “Chieftain” and Nate had already felt that this big boat has got to be tough to make it on our tour, plus if it’s a girl, it’s pretty ungainly… so he said he thought the name was Chief. So that’s what it is. When we are really excited about how well it’s running, we all yell “CHIEF!” We’re proud of it so far and I am very proud of Nate, who has gotten the fuel filter change down to about a 3 minute task and one he can do without losing the smile on his face. He and Ike both talk engine stuff a lot and keep up with the oil checking, the filters and other stuff I don’t care to know about except that they make the Chief work better. I definitely feel more at ease thanks to the work these guys do on the Chief. Phil also does a lot of this work with them, including hammering the tires every morning like his Dad suggested, to make sure they haven’t gone flat. And he’s becoming quite a navigator, too… I have enjoyed this in the past but I am enjoying not being so responsible for that this time.

Anyway, GO CHIEF!!

Summary: Memorial Day Night (or, Cadillac Ranch)

(still posting the entries written en route to Flag)

In order to make some headway towards Flagstaff, and leave time to catch a glimpse of the Grand Canyon, we left our little desert camp and drove a couple of hours to Bluff, UT, where Ike’s old pal Clay and his wife Anne live… or used to. Clay is gone already; Anne is still in town but not for long and not living in their house before the big move to CA, and since we all needed showers badly and their water is now off, we called ahead to the Cadillac Ranch in Bluff and reserved one of their last spots available that night.

Ike had procured two camping guidebooks before the trip, which have already come in very handy – and in this case when Ike and Nate were looking for a place near Bluff, we were all very excited to hear that not only does the Caddy Ranch provide bathrooms, showers, electric and water hookups, but FREE FISHING in their little pond.

Upon arrival, we dropped Nate off (he’s quite experienced w/ a hook and line) and drove the Chief to the convenience mart for a few supplies. By the time we got back, Nate had hooked 3 bass (Basses? Bassi? just kidding) and was working on grabbing a fourth. And this was without bait, with only a rubber worm! A few minutes later Ike reported that Nate caught a big daddy bass and had sated his fishing frenzy for the night.

It was quite a sight to see Phil and Nate working on cleaning all the fish and Nate cutting a couple fillets out of each. Especially since this was done on top of a rock, at night, with Ike holding a lantern and visiting with Anne, while I stood at the ready with a plate for the fillets. We didn’t have anything except pancake mix to bread the fillets with, and after Chef Nate proclaimed that to be too weird, he simply pan-fried them with butter and lemon, salt and pepper. We stood by the Coleman and ate them by hand, and called it a magnificent fresh dinner (had our fridge issues been resolved, we would have certainly had at least a salad with, but alas... that's another story).

Phil was not as interested in the meal, however. He had been holding each fish while Nate worked on the fillets, and got bitten a few times by the bigger ones who were understandably upset about their near future. Phil said he was happy to help with the task, but is not much of a fish eater and after having the role of assistant fish-cleaner, it was a little too personal for him to make a meal of them also. Perhaps a karma thing, and I can understand; after all, I didn’t have to hold the fish. I was right next to all of the task and did not find myself to get too upset, thankfully, because I am a fish eater and don’t want to stop being one. Maybe next time I need to get my hands into the task and see if I can handle it and enjoy the meal afterwards. Hope we get a chance again, especially if there are trout to be had!

Summary: Moab and BLM camping

Note: all these summary posts were written while traveling to Flagstaff on June 1. Let the disclaimer be known: I was determined to do some updating since so far I haven't had time or internet access, so in the interest of all the news that counts (or at least maybe it did at the time), on with the story...

This was a pickup gig… we were to show up at the arts festival and hopefully get on stage at the end of the day, or else just busk it. It was a perfect weather day and the drive to Moab was SPLENDID… thanks ROB! So we were ready to go and did in fact play on stage. As we hoped, we drew the remaining folks (the festival ended officially just before we took the stage) to us like… bees to honey? Or like when a weird circus comes to town and everyone has to see what kind of freaks are running this show? Despite some sound challenges at the beginning, everyone stayed for our short set and all had big smiles the whole time. We were also relieved that some of them liked it enough to pick up some CDs, which is how we can keep moving down the road. And thanks to Ted for the tip, which was not expected and much appreciated! Every little bit really helps on this journey.

BLM camping: at the Moab fest, a very nice lady bicyclist advised us to look for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land just south of town, where you can drive down a dirt road and stay for free on government land. Free camping has a lot of good potential to it. So that’s exactly what we did, but not after we took a supper break in Moab and had a delicious and authentic Mexican meal… almost as good as what Kim W. makes. So it was dark before we got to the BLM place, but we found a nice level spot for the Chief and settled in quickly for a good night’s sleep.

The next day was Memorial Day and we took the time to get everything Ship Shape – very nice. Ike and Nate worked on the outside of the RV and Phil and I worked on the inside organization. I’ve learned a lot from Phil and Kim about organizing and even if I don’t always make use of their good advice, I was able to put it to work when we set the place in shape. It felt so nice and new when we finished. Great use of a day off! Plus the setting was so unlike anything I’ve ever seen… red dirt and scrubby little desert plants and flowers, lots of stones for climbing and an awesome mountain at the horizon to one side, and red/brown/gold mesas on every other side. We saw a few lizards including a couple whom we apparently interrupted, but they paused to pose for pictures – Phil took a series on the digital camera, each one closer, and the last one where he was two feet away, I swear those lizards cocked their heads and posed for him. I gathered some wildflowers just before we left as a memento of our special Memorial Day campout.

Summary: Grand Junction

Here's a bit to catch myself up: this was written in the RV and I am opting not to edit. Hope it makes some sense!

So... we were already known by quite a few festival attendees, who had seen us either in Denver in February 2003 or at Laramie Peak, WY in summer 2003. So it was nice to not be complete strangers for our first tour stop. But it seemed like most of the audience was loving what they heard, whether they knew us or not. Our first Friday show at a new festival is usually a time when we play it “safe”, not wanting to scare away the audience with our wildest material. So that’s what we planned for this show. Do some good familiar faves and not get too crazy. Well, things were crazy right from the start, because my fiddle strings just didn’t want to stay up to pitch (must have been the altitude), and halfway through our opening fiddle tune, it started sounding baaaaaad… we all had tuning problems, despite a lengthy tuning session right before the set. But in true Wilders style, we laughed it off and so did the crowd.

I had forgotten how incredibly warm and generous the Colorado audiences can be! When I’m in a good mood and really enjoying a show, I tend to spout off the most ridiculous things into the mic in between songs. (those of you who were there: guess you know I was in a good mood and having fun!) That’s the whole point to me, is to be myself and have fun. We did have a fun time overall at the festival and I personally really enjoyed hanging out w/ the Sweet Sunny South band (I’m gonna have to come up with a nickname, that’s too long to type) and my late night buddy from the Denver fest, Nick – did you get your coozie?

Thanks to everyone at the festival – we enjoyed reading the posts from new friends. That makes it fun!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ship Shape

On the advice of our new friends "Sweet Sunny South", we left Grand Junction with directions to Moab, Utah that turned out to be one of the most jaw dropping, rubber necking, shutter clicking experiences we've ever had. The road followed the meanderings of the Colorado River as it chews into the surrounding sandstone creating shear red walls rising hundreds of feet above. The trip was incredible and over too quickly as we spilled out of the canyon and into Moab. We played a quick pickup gig at the Moab Arts Festival and seemed to please the locals greatly. More good advice came in the form of directions to a Bureau of Land Management area south of the city where we could camp for free and take advantage of a day off. The kind folks of Moab also gave us a tip for playing that allowed for a much needed meal at a great mexican restaurant. Basically, the road food so far has been Raisin Bran, quesadillas, grilled cheese, and Subway, so we were happy to sit at a table and have somebody bring us good food that didn't come out of a box or can. We spent a chilly night overlooking a snow capped mountain with the mesas all around. We bedded down around midnight and slept until 10:30am (we needed it!). We spent the next day working all day on The Chief. Nate and Ike worked to seal the entire roof, especially around the air conditioner and Betse and I took everything out of the interior and put it all back where it belonged. Things have a tendency to shift around in an RV when you are moving and we worked to make all the cabinets "ship shape". We had to be out on the road for a few days to understand where everything fits best and we took advantage of our recent experiences to reorganize our space. After a grilled cheese late lunch and a few pictures, we pulled out on to the highway around 5pm and after a few miles (and another fuel filter change) we arrived safely in Bluff, Utah.