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Wow! It’s been over a month since I really felt like I could sit down and recount the trip. After a long trip on the road by myself, there’s a certain amount of processing that needs to be done before the stories can be recorded. That’s how I work anyway. The biggest thing about touring like this, is that itt’s hard work. Everyday it’s something else and it’s mine, all mine and if it weren’t for the exhilaration of live performance for quality audiences I wouldn’t still be be doing this after 10 years. The weariness of the road wears off, the ugliness fades and what’s left is all the good stuff. This is the stuff I like to make a record of.
After leaving Chama and heading south, I picked up a couple riders named Juliane & Marc that were going to Albuquerque after completing the Continental Divide Trail and took them to the train station in Santa Fe. I was heading to Anita Broughton’s, a friend of some of my San Luis Obispo / Live Oak music friends who agreed to host me for “dinner and song” with a few friends there in Santa Fe which was a great way to spend a few hours and meet new friends and other musicians. Anita gave me some great advice and I pulled out of there that night to park the bus at the Sandia Casino to watch the first ascent on the morning kicking off the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta for the year.
Woke up with sun, made a little coffee and walked over to the area where people were gathered to watch the balloons. Chatted with a few locals who told me that every year, someone dies at the fiesta. What a strange way to die huh? Well, not for a balloonist I suppose. Pet their dog for a while and watched all the different balloons, some were different shapes and some were drifting way off course, these are the ones we tried to keep track of. We amused ourselves making up the conversations that must have been going on with these lost ships. Several hundred balloons, but apparently not near the 1200 balloons that these veterans have seen. I hung out there for about another hour or so and, avoiding the slot machines, headed for Petroglyph National Monument to see some of the evidence that the people of as long ago as 1,000 BC .Did the very short hike as it was still hot there and I was on what would be a continuous battle for shade.
After locating and buying a convex side mirror to replace the one I lost (when you see it’s loose, fix it right away), and headed to St. Stephens United Methodist Church in Albuquerque. Every Saturday night, with labor and love of Rosalie Johnston and many dedicated volunteers, Solid Grounds Coffeehouse features acoustic music in the basement which is turned into a listening venue with colorful tablecloths, candles and great stage lighting. What a wonderful and diverse audience of about 60 people! I just had a blast playing my songs for them and showing off the bus at the break. A great night! Love to go back soon!
Out of Albuquerque I went eastbound on the 40 into Amarillo, Texas to FriendZ Bar & Grill. The owner Chuck was so much fun and he has definitely made a cool scene there with lots of folks showin up and lovin the show, even on a wild card Tuesday night. Chuck decided he couldn’t live without the Luna Muse Acoustic Bass I had with me and now is a properly stocked bass player. I think every bass player should have at least one acoustic bass. So, he was a happy man and an amazing host with a very cool crew keeping things working there! After several whiskeys with the gang there, I slept there in the bus for the night and headed on to Oklahoma City.
About 50 miles east of Amarillo, with nothing much else around, I stopped to visit the humungous cross on the side of the road. Standing 19 stories high, it’s surrounded by the “Stations of the Cross”, incredible bronze sculptures by Mickey Reed that are definitely worth the stop. The ladies in the gift shop were nice and I bought a couple postcards headed on. From there on, it was flat, flat, flat. Had been since Albuquerque but I was really noticing it now. Oklahoma gets greener and greener as you head east and soon the interstate was surrounded by cool water bodies speckling the landscape. I spent the night at a casino just outside of OKC and the next morning headed in.
I played Wednesday night at Full Circle Books, a very cool bookstore with beautiful wood bookcases with ladders on rollers and a small café space at the back. It’s in an unlikely spot in a large, partly empty, very modern mall. The crowd was slim as it was a Weds. Which was not their normal music night but the people there browsing gave me smiles and thumbs up. Dana, the manager paid me generously and Shellsea fed me a fresh healthy soup and salad from the café. It was just what I needed.
I parked at Wal-Mart for the night and the next day visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial at the site of the former Murrah building downtown near Bricktown. I spent about an hour there and walked through the memorial looking at pictures and video, audio recordings that caught the explosion on cassette tape that was keeping record of a water department meeting. The memorial has rows of chairs, each one representing one of the 168 lives lost that day including 19 children. On April 19, 2000, the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated on the site of the Murrah Federal Building, commemorating the victims of the bombing.
Thursday the 7th of October I headed south to Norman to play a house concert hosted by a local musician and student of U of Oklahoma. I was grateful to have a quick visit with an old friend from Humboldt named Sean O’Neil and have the chance to meet his wife Misha and his son Theo. They couldn’t make the house concert but I was proud to know that some of the guys at the house concert were actually in his class as he teaches anthropology among other things at the University. An amazing musician himself, he showed me the instruments he has started making and he is certainly a meticulous luthier as well. The house concert was small as it was a school night but I met several really great folks and left there with a smile on my face and an all over good opinion of the people of Oklahoma.
From OKC east, it just gets prettier! As I traveled east toward Fort Smith, Arkansas, I crossed over Lake Eufaula and the big state park there. Done with the dry dusty plains and on with lush, green land and more tall trees, meaning more shade, me likey. I turned north at Fort Smith and after stopping for a nap under some of these very trees, decided to spend the night at an RV camp about halfway between Fayetteville and my destination Eureka Springs. After speaking with Esther, the nice lady who owns Pilgrim’s Rest RV Park in yep, Pilgrim’s Rest, AR, I pulled in there as the sun went down, got plugged in and after checking email, took a nice warm shower and did some picking up and organizing in the bus. The next morning I went and paid my fee and had a nice visit with Esther and her daughter over a cup of coffee and a smoke. The property was just breathtaking and alive with the sounds of all the wildlife around. I played my three favorite new songs for them, said thank you, did laundry, dumped the holding tanks and other chores I hadn’t finished and headed out feeling fresh and rested.
I arrived in Eureka Springs coming through the middle of town, a town all together too small for big Patience. But I carefully wound through it’s streets to Mill Hollow Road and The Studio of Lorna and Craig Trigg Hirsch, Fire Om Earth , my very colorful hosts for the night’s house concert. This land and these people are magical! They make incredible ceramic flutes and drums and offer all kinds of special musical events, classes and spiritual retreats. The weather was just beautiful and after relaxing in the bus, tucked underneath a canopy of trees, I was ready for the night. A small group of about a dozen made it to the show as the health fair had conflicted for many of the regulars, but we all had a wonderful time and my reception was just so sweet. A little afterparty in the bus and I slept like a baby that night. Heaven on earth for sure and it reflects brightly in the couple that keep the dream alive there.
The next day was a Sunday and Lorna gave me a lift into town where I played at the 1905 Basin Park Hotel on a balcony looking over the street and Basin Park. I booked two sets there that day from 12-3p and then 5-8p and had a great time meeting lots of different people throughout the day, mostly tourists, actually all tourists, like me. Lots of bikes as it’s really nice riding all around that part of the country. I made some fine connections with people there that day and had a good time playing for them high above the streets at the Balcony Bar & Grill. My friend Michelle’s aunt Karen and uncle Tom live just outside of Eureka Springs and Karen responsible for my interest in visiting Eureka after we met at Michelle’s graduation from Brooks. She was the one who insisted Eureka Springs would love me and connected me with Craig & Lorna. After seeing her at the house concert, we made a plan for adventure and decided to do some sightseeing around town and spend the day.
We headed out and had veggie grits at the Mud Café in what the locals call "Underground Eureka". This building, built in 1888, had one of the many springs running underneath it, consistently flooding and eventually turning the first level into a basement with a huge, turn of the century bar with beveled mirrors as the showpiece of the room. We took a drive around town and I took pictures with my camera phone and we wound up at Onyx Cave taking a self guided tour through the easy cave with earphones on our heads narrating the tour. It was nice and cool in the cave and I was lovin it! Like being on another planet, the whole environment was different and the formations suggested shapes of animals, growing in handfuls of different formations. Water dripped from the stalactites, a testimony to a live cave and I couldn’t help but think it’d be a great place to play music in those the cool acoustics and we had the cave all to ourselves! Maybe next time…
Then we visited the 1886 Crescent Hotel, on the list of most haunted places in the country, and looked around at the opulence of the luxurious resort and all its historical gems. The basement houses what used to be a morgue, rumored to have very active spiritual energies and bringing paranormal investigators from all over the world. Off to the Doggie Thrift Store benefiting the Good Shepherd Humane Society where I found my prize of the trip. We found a folding, nursing rocker, carved wood with a rose on the back behind the head that I could not resist. Double layered cane is in almost perfect shape and Karen got the price from $75 to $50 and I took it back to the bus with me. Happy! Stopped by Karens house and sat for a sandwich and a smoke with Tom and of course, some dog energy (I get it when I can). I hope to return to Eureka Springs, I had no idea how beautiful that part of the country is!
Back on the road for Dallas that afternoon I drove til I was ready to stop, backtracking back to Oklahoma City, sticking to the interstates as I had started having some overheating issues and wanted to stay near civilization. I drove south on the 35 to Dallas and arrived at the Fisher House, a family housing unit at the VA Hospital playing a set for a handful of mothers, daughters and wives that had gathered to share some good BBQ. I had planned on leaving that night to get back on the road but they all advised me that it was not a good place to have bus trouble, so I waited til daylight before heading out. I was sure that I had issues with my belt or possibly my thermostat and just needed to get to Bear Creek where my friend Jess owns a roadhouse and lives on family property right at the edge of Sam Houston National Forest. Drove all day on eggshells, trying to figure out what was causing it to heat up and then cool so quick. Practicing patience, I made it to Backwoods Bar & Grill at about 4p and into the arms of one of my oldest friends. Jessica took me to my first Grateful Dead show back in 1990 and although she’s been all over the world and I was wandering all over the country, we kept in touch and have a very special friendship because of it. I am so proud of her!
There's a lot to say about Backwoods and I still have one more leg of the trip that I've got to record but for tonight, I'm done.