We were supposed to officially hit the road on Thursday, the 29th of August, but ourplans were altered due to a sore tooth. It had started as a low-level, nagging tenderness a few days prior. Ever the optimist, I initially (hopefully) thought it might be some stray seed or some such that might have got wedged, and would subsequently work its way out. But no such luck. Come Sunday (the 25th), there was such a throbbing that I wondered how something could be that painful and not simply explode, tossing shrapnel into all parts of my head. I was able to get into an emergency care dentist, where (for $120) I at least got a prescription for some antibiotics and some heavy duty pain killers. This was to hold me over until Thursday, which was the soonest I could see an endodontist to actually work on the tooth; hence the amendment in travel plans. Fortunately, the first gig on the tour (a House Concert on Casper Mountain, Wyoming) wasn’t until the Saturday, so I could take an extra day for a little oral surgery, a few last minute chores, and chillin’ with some vicodin.
The concert on Casper Mountain was a lovely, almost magical experience. A big shout of thanks goes out to our dear friends, Rebecca and Geoff Hunt, for organizing the event. I was pleased to meet some of the local folk of Casper, and as the evening progressed, there was a lot of talk about opportunities to play in the area when we return in January.
This House Concert began just outside the cabin that Rebecca’s father had built on Casper Mountain, many years ago. Warren Weaver had gained a reputation as a rather colorful character in the community: a somewhat rough and fiercely self-reliant individual who had an eclectic and voracious reading appetite. Over time, he had adopted Buddhism, vegetarianism, various cats, and at least one small, very long-lived dog. In his last years, Warren had grown somewhat frail, and less inclined to tend to the regular upkeep of his mountain home. By the time Rebecca and Geoff took possession of the place, the carpets were inundated with the smell of urine and feces from the various pets, and the cabin was choking in a clutter of books, magazines, and all manner of paraphernalia that suggested clear signs of a man who had become something of a hoarder (a bit ironic, considering the Buddhist teaching to refrain from attachments).
There had followed a few years of intensive purging and cleaning (in which my wife took an active part). A year ago, I was sitting on the porch of this cabin, gazing at an August blue moon, when I was inspired to compose a piece featured on one of most recent albums, and simply titled, “Casper Mountain Blue Moon”. So the House Concert over this most recent Labor Day Weekend was, in part, something of a celebration of the restoration and reclamation of the cabin, and the efforts of Rebecca, along with friends and family, to preserve and build upon the better part of her parents’ legacy.
That process of reclaiming the cabin had progressed to the point where my wife, Pony, and I had spent Labor Day Weekend with Geoff and Rebecca over the last couple of years. But this year, we were in the meadow that adjoins the property of Rebecca’s brother, Sam; living in our 33-ft, Winnebago Brave RV (which Pony has christened “Ceci”, short for Cecilia), with our three cats (Zebie: our black cat and the only other girl in the family; our orange-striped tabby, Sam; and the fluffy, grey and white escape artist I get no end of grief for naming Murphy), and Rufus, our New Mexican Brown Mutt. The House Concert was a lovely, affirming event on all manner of levels, But a couple of the folk camping with us noticed that our generator was leaking fuel. We inquired in town, looking for someone who could possibly fix it before we had to hit the road again, but wasn’t in the cards. So on Wednesday after Labor Day we were making our way east to Omaha, with a planned stopover in North Platte. Our hope was to find someone to repair the generator en route.
The last time I had done a cross country tour had been more than 25 years ago. I was living in Montana at the time, and was a winner in the Newfolk Songwriting Competition, of the Kerrville Folk Festival (in Texas; other somewhat better known winners include Nancy Griffith, David Wilcox, and Lyle Lovett). The differences between that tour and this one are many and amazing for me to consider. On that previous tour, just about everything I owned was packed into a big ol’ white car I’d bought in Wyoming (a stout-hearted beast that had previously served time as a Wyoming state patrol car). On that previous tour, cellphones were still rather bulky, primitive things; not nearly as ubiquitous, nor as powerful or versatile. Some 25 years ago, I was yet to meet my first wife; the woman who would eventually lead me to Denver before stomping all over my heart (but ultimately giving me the chance to grow into a stronger and arguably wiser human being).
In the intervening years, I worked in the Denver music scene. I played all manner of gigs: a punk/glam rock band, a country-and-western band, a medieval/renaissance/Celtic/World Music band. I played host to open mics all around Denver, various solo gigs, and even a stint doing singing telegrams. I spent several years teaching private lessons at The Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor (in Arvada, a suburb northwest of Denver). I formed my own independent recording label and released three albums in fairly short time. I spent 13 years as an adjunct professor of music at Arapahoe Community College (in Littleton, a suburb southwest of Denver). About half a dozen years ago, I met a wise, witty, loving, Australian military brat/gypsy, and we married, got a house, the cats and the dog.
Meanwhile, the world gained those evermore clever cellphones, plus increasingly smaller and more powerful computers (and tablets: most of this blog is being composed on my Kindle Fire). The continuing evolution of the internet, along with various other manifestations of digital technology, has turned the music industry on its ear (forgive the half-unintentional pun), trashing many of the old conventions, traditions, and business models. For some years, I had taught a class in Music Business and Law at Arapahoe College; describing many of these changes. Over time, I was getting itchy to do something about them, with them.
Wednesday morning, and we are traveling through Wyoming and Nebraska along some of the back roads. The Good Sam Club (a major provider of all manner of goods and services for “people living the RV lifestyle”) has a GPS designed for RV’s that suggests alternate routes more suited to RV travelers for a variety of reasons. It can be anything from avoiding roads with dangerously low bridges, to towns that forbid vehicles with propane tanks to travel through. For us, the Good Sam GPS had mapped out a route that would trim some 50 miles off our journey (when your fuel economy averages ten miles to the gallon, these little adjustments start to add up). There is the added benefit of seeing bits of these two states that are at least a little different from the Interstate. But not having use of the back generator is taking its toll. It’s been a hot summer, and September has not offered any relief as yet. The dashboard air conditioner is doing its best, but it cannot adequately cool all of the RV. The thermostat in the back shows temperatures in the upper 90’s, and we concerned for the pets.
Pony found a state park camping ground listed for North Platte, but the GPS can’t seem to find it. Moreover, she has subsequently looked the place up through Google, and found a slew of bad reviews regarding the site.
We never find this site.
Instead, it is nearly 6pm, and we are lost. I come dangerously close to getting the RV stuck on some back country road, and have to slowly, carefully nurse the vehicle (still towing our Ford Focus behind us) through a tricky turn. We are both of us hot and sticky and tired and hungry and…..
Pony has a bit of a melt down. I try to remain calm and pull the two vehicles back onto a bigger, more friendly road, while my sweetie dries her tears, regains her composure, and uses the Samsung Galaxy to search for an alternative place to stay for the night.
We eventually end up at the Holiday RV resort, not far from the Interstate, in North Platte. It is a lovely, full service park, with water, electrical hookup, WiFi, and even a pool! After hooking up the electricity and getting the two air conditioners up and running, I swam a few laps in the pool while Pony cooled off by dipping her feet in the water. Another hour or so later, and we are comfortably munching on cheeseburgers and sipping a bit of wine while watching DVD’s of Big Bang Theory on our flat screen. The animals have all come through the ordeal looking no worse for it ( Pony was a little worried for Murphy when she found him lying limp as a wet rag behind the couch, but it turned out to be just Murphy being Murphy; he was just fine when it was time for supper).