Jump to content
Jambands.ca

Vacationlog


Velvet
 Share

Recommended Posts

Stardate 071813

Day I

Departure today was set for 10am, but then departure plans are generally set with a little leeway built in. We got on the road at 11:15 with a full tank of gas and weary smiles on our faces.

My lady and I have been busy lately so we were pretty happy to start our vacation. By busy I mean: insanity with mounds and mounds of new and bewildering challenges to overcome, and by lately I mean: the last month or two.

And by vacation I mean: 46 days on the road, 16,000 kilometres to cover, and tickets to nineteen concerts in eight states and provinces.

Work hard. Play hard.

Cruised the border and pulled into Darien Lake right around 6pm for the Americanarama festival. We had a beer and chatted with our parking lot neighbours before heading into the show. It's so civilised that parking is included in the ticket price, and you gotta love the American tailgate party tradition.

I was disappointed to have missed the evening's opener Ryan Bingham. The ticket said show at 5:30 but apparently RB went on around 5pm. I was even more surprised that we only caught the last song by My Morning Jacket. I've never been much of a MMJ fan but I was looking forward to another chance to become one.

Same goes for the next act up, Wilco, a band I've seen once, about eight years ago. I am wholly unfamiliar with their music aside from the first Woody Guthrie collection they recorded with Billy Bragg, but I do know their fans are rabid.

We parked ourselves on a patch of grass on the lawn and settled in for a twilight set with the rattle of roller coasters wafting in from the edge of the venue.

One thing is certain about Wilco: they are the very definition of eclectic. They must give record store owners a fit. Is it rock? Alt-country? Freaky wacked-out music? Alt-freaky wack-rock? One way or another, kudos to these guys for finding their niche(s) and maintaining popular momentum for so long in an industry that looks at eclecticism the same way I look at pickled mustard-herring sandwiches.

(Another thing I noticed about Wilco that had somehow escaped me previously: their guitar player is fantastic)

MMJ joined the band late in the set for a rousing version of Nick Lowe's (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding, which was pretty great, and during the set break I was pleasantly surprised that almost everyone seemed to be sticking around for Bob Dylan.

Of course the man is an icon but his well-founded reputation for taking dramatic liberties with his legacy of music has pushed a lot of casual fans away. It seems every tour he pushes the envelope further and further and why not? Clearly Bob Dylan is a very creative songman, and with decades to reconsider his original arrangements it's no wonder you often can't name a tune until he gets to the chorus. Oh, this is Watchtower. Oh, this is Tangled Up In Blue.

You could see tiny pockets of the crowd get up and go with every unfaithful rendering of a Dylan standard. It's too bad, but really it's the same attitude that had crowds booing when he first went electric.

I personally thought the set was great, with a top-notch band (if oddly thrown together). The pedal steel added so much, though the double kick drum flam pedal seemed out of place. Dylan's piano playing is getting more and more pronounced, almost to the point of being intricate, and his penchant for subtle showmanship continues to grow. He actually is becoming a bit of a song-and-dance man.

The last straw for most and the last bliss for me was appropriately the last number, a baffling and virtually unrecognisable version of Blowin' In The Wind.

To me, it was another in a long series of great Dylan shows. For many it might have been the last time they'd ever throw their money in that direction. I suppose it's always been that way for Bob Dylan, and by extension I guess it's always been that way for the fans; some bewildered by the artist, the rest bewildered by the other fans

Out to the lot with many of miles to cover we booked it in a hurry (thanks to the many whop left before the show ended), driving well past Cleveland before stopping into a hotel at 4:30am for a tidy nap.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 64
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

071913

After another in a long line of not-enough-sleep sleeps we got up, showered, and bid adieu to the Econo Lodge in Elyria, Ohio; Chicago-bound.

The drive to Chi-town was pleasantly uneventful, though arriving in the city we found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of rush hour traffic. Sometimes the sight of all those vehicles just leaves me in awe. Car after car after car as far as the eyes can see, and inside each one is another unique story, another singular life.

Except in the carpool lane. Those cars carry multiple stories, and sometimes (as I understand it) blow-up dolls.

Soon enough we made our way to the north side and found Lincoln Square. Scored parking right in front of Katie and Kim's house and the Phish party began.

In the living room handshakes and hugs swirled around, introductions and re-introductions were made, beers were opened and bowls got passed. We were booked in to stay with Katie and Kim all weekend, as were a couple of friends I had first met at SPAC last summer. This is m'lady's milieu; I am merely on the cusp of becoming an insider. Once I know all the song titles I'll work on remembering everyone's name and avatar and then I'll be in like Flynn.

The crowd in the living room grew until finally it was time to go to the show. We hopped the subway (bless the locals – one of the living room friendlies loaded up his metro pass and beeped us all through) and made our way to the city core.

The venue was a new expansion on a lovely chunk of land called the Museum Campus, right on the lake. The stroll in was easy and picturesque, no lot scene to speak of but lots to see with plenty of sculptures and fountains and all the museums with their pristine landscaping.

We had GA floor tickets for all three nights – it was a separate entrance from the lawns and a very easy-in with minimal security. And the moment we found our little spot on the floor the music started with a joyous Suzy Greenberg.

For all their intricacies, prog-like changes and heavily rehearsed oddball musical frescoes there is nothing like Phish blazing through a three-chord rock and roll wonder, and the thousands of fans standing with me seemed to agree whole-heartedly.

As the set plowed on one could see an ominous darkness approaching from behind the city's skyline, but no worries, where we stood it was a lovely evening. The day had been brutally hot, but the beer lines were quick, even at setbreak, and when the second set started I doubt anyone in the crowd imagined the show would soon get canceled due to weather.

But there it was. Trey starting off Prince Caspian while Page tried to get his attention. Trey notices Page standing next to him and gets the word. “A major storm is imminent,†Page tells him and then us. “We'll be standing right backstage and hopefully we'll be back on soon.â€

Then a stagehand takes the mic. “Ladies and gentlemen there is a storm coming. Hopefully it will blow over quickly and the show can resume, but for now we all have to evacuate the grounds immediately!â€

Blink, blink, went thousands of eyes. Nobody moved.

Five minutes later the same guy comes back onstage.

“Okay everyone, we must leave the venue RIGHT NOW! Phish is 100% not coming back onstage tonight!â€

And that got people moving.

As our crew made our way outside a thought struck me. “Waitaminnit everyone!†I say.

“What?â€

“Ladies and gentlemen,†I explain, as the first fat drops start to come, “I have one word to say to you all before we leave this place:

“Coventry.â€

That gave us pause as we all remembered. This wasn't the first time Phish had told us to leave. So we all stood there allowing forces to pull us in different directions. Meanwhile the drops got fatter and more frequent. Unspoken, we all agreed to race for cover within earshot of the venue and bolted.

We found ourselves jammed into a concrete roofed area near the marina, squished in with about 150 others. And then the rains came.

Huddled together, dry and drunk and watching it pour down, somewhere behind me a sole voice began.

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?†Then a few more joined in. “Caught in a landslide, no escape...â€

We were off. A beautiful cacophony of voices, every soul knowing every word. It was like we rehearsed it together, but I suppose we've all been rehearsing it individually since Wayne's World came out.

By the time the guitar solo came every single voice was expounding with glee. Da-daaa, badi-dada-di-dada-di, da-daaa, badi-dada-di-dada-di. Bohemian Rhapsody indeed.

By the time the rain started to let up it was clearly too late for any more Phish, so it was back to the Red Line for us, switch over to Brown Line at Belmont and ride to Western. At the end of our line we made a mad dash by foot to the local burrito place and missed it by seconds.

Back at Katie's place her fiance Kim had taken the time to install an air-conditioner in the upstairs room where we would be sleeping. I appreciated the effort immensely, but even more so when I awoke with a rough case of heat-stroke. Headache and vomit was my master for the next hour or so, but when I did manage to sleep I felt like I was shrouded in sweet, sweet mercy.

Ah, Phish tour.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072013

Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to under-sleeping, but I do sometimes take advantage.

I was first up in the house so I slipped out the door and did a walkabout casually searching for a coffeeshop. The neighborhood was really nice, each house small and unique, with friendly neighbors mowing lawns and waving to one another. I found a great spot called Julius Miene and got a tasty coffee to go. Back at the house I sat on the couch and practiced tying and retying knots. Kim is a knot enthusiast and he had taught me a few handy moves the previous night. I was pleased to find I still remembered them, and Kim seemed pleased as well when he got up and saw me already knee deep in nylon.

We roused and soon the six of us were at a breakfast joint gorging ourselves on American-sized portions of, well, everything. Word came that Phish was bending over backwards to make up for last night's cancellation. Not only were they offering a partial refund for Friday night tickets, but tonight they would be starting the show early and going late – three full sets.

(It made me wonder about the handling of the canceled Toronto show from last week. Sure they were offering a makeup show, but nobody could accuse the band of bending over backwards to make up for that one. Don't get me wrong, a makeup show is all the band has to do to make up for a canceled one, but it does look like they tried a bit harder to placate Chicago fans than they did Toronto fans.)

Katie had prearranged for us to have a private boat cruise and arrive at the show via the marina but the captain called and suggested the waters were a bit rough. That freed up our afternoon for some extra socialising and prep time and I learned another knot. Guitars came out (there was a Martin HD-28 upstairs) and a fun time was had by all.

Again we hit the train to get downtown and again we had a good time getting there. We ran into some Canadian friends and made our way to the same spot we had found Friday night, a feat made simple by the fact that the venue has rows and numbers painted on the asphalt floor. We could tell people to meet us on the floor at 205 row T and they could. (Though I assume the rows are meant for when they add chairs to the floor this is still very handy for GA floors. More venues should do this.)

Before the show started the customary question was posed: “What do you think they'll open with?†I though the question was absurd. Could they possibly open with anything other than last night's aborted Prince Caspian? (“Last night was the best Caspian ever,†or so went the standing joke-of-the-day)

Of course they couldn't, and about thirty thousand of us shared a little laugh with Trey as Phish started the night where they had left off yesterday before carrying on into an extra-long first set. There was a good little rain in the next set but nothing we couldn't dance off, and by the end of the third set everyone was dry again. And happy. Almost thirty songs tonight and they still have plenty of heavy hitters left over for night three.

Back on the subway and back to our host home, this time things went a bit later, a crowd of us jamming and laughing until just before dawn.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072113

Another neighborhood romp this morning. This is only my second time visiting Chicago. The first time was for the Grateful Dead in'93 (or was it '94?), when I pulled into Soldier Field day of the show and left in the pouring rain right after. So my thoughts of Chicago involved skyscrapers and weather and not much else. This time it seems like I have to go out of your way to find a building more then forty feet tall.

I brought back coffees for the crew and was happy to find everyone up and around. Katie and Kim were hosting an afternoon BBQ so we four guests took it upon ourselves to do the shopping and the grilling, which turned into a lackadaisical way to while away the day and end up with a full tummy taboot.

When it came time to depart the methods of transportation were varied. Some drove in this car or that leaving about eight of us to take the subway again. No problem, I was feeling like an old hand on the Chicago Transit Authority and by now I knew the way quite well.

We had changed over to the Red Line and were getting close to the venue when something odd happened. Just as we were pulling out of Grant Station a guy jumped up and ran to the door, pulling the cord marked Emergency Door Opener. The door slid open and the guy jumped out as the train started to pick up momentum. Outside I saw him turn to the car with a smile, pointing to nobody in particular. We all looked at each other and remarked that that seemed odd before immediately shrugging it off.

A moment or two later the subway came to a halt and powered down. Hmmm, we thought. Then the PA came on.

“Passengers, passengers!†yelled a panicked voice. “Everyone must evacuate the train!â€

Huh?

The doors slid open revealing the dank, dark concrete walls of the subway tunnel. Again the panicked voice:

“Passengers, passengers, we have a medical emergency! Leave the cars and get on the ledge in the tunnel. Hold the handrail tightly and make your way forward to the next station!â€

A medical emergency? Wouldn't it make sense to keep the train moving to the next station so help could be on the way?

Unspoken, it was clear to me that this was a terrorist threat, and I assumed everyone else in my car that saw the guy jump out was thinking the same thing. Out on the ledge it quickly became clear that no one was moving forward or back. Hundreds of us were trapped in the tiny gap between the train and the wall, unable to move. Inside the train dozens of people decided to move through the train cars to the front of the line. They wouldn't be doing that if they had seen the guy jump the train. I was pretty convinced that the authourities were pretty convinced that he had left something on the train that he shouldn't have left.

I was pleased to see that we were a bit ahead of our car, and I determined that we were out of range of any projectiles. As the minutes went by I investigated alternate escape routes. My first choice was to get down on the ground, cross through the train to the other side, open the doors (at least now I knew how to do that), and jump out the other side where there was more room to escape (and the dangerous third rail). I also figured it wouldn't be too hard to get on top of the train, but any smoke or chemicals would make that an unattractive option.

And still we stood. To the people's credit if anyone was panicking they were doing it quietly, as I was.

Once again, the panicked voice: “Passengers, passengers! (yes, he always said it twice) Prepare to move forward. Remember to hold the rail tightly and KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE WALL.â€

Okay, now have you figured out what happened?

“It's a jumper,†I quietly told my crew. The guy leaving the train was just a coincidence. Someone is lying dead on the tracks and they're going to make us walk by the mess. One fear melted into another, and still more painful minutes went by as the reality of the situation was left to sink in.

Thankfully a clearer head must have showed up, instructions were given to walk back to the previous station, that occurred almost immediately, and about thirty minutes after the ordeal began we emerged from the tunnel covered in soot and blinking in the stark daylight.

We took stock; we're all here, we're all safe, and we're all pretty much calm and collected. We hailed a couple of cabs and booked it to the show, once again hitting the floor in time for the first note.

Back at 205 T our weekend of friends had grown to quite a little posse. Our Canadian crew found us and we all got down for a third night in a row. When the band launched into Maze my subterranean brethren and I all gave each other fist-bumps. “This one is for us.â€

And once again the rains came, but after Friday night it was clearly going to take a lot to get Phish off the stage. Stage hands laid down plastic tarps and still the band played on. Finally it was too much and they were ordered off. “I want to make it clear this isn't my idea,†said Trey before reluctantly leaving the stage. “We'll be back,†promised Page.

Back tonight though, or like, thanks Chicago, we'll be back some day?

The crowd was murmuring about how the weather wasn't so bad, but as one who has seen a stage collapse on a band (Cheap Trick, Ottawa Bluesfest 2011) I can say I wouldn't want to be standing on that tall, narrow stage in that kind of wind and rain, and it did eventually come down in torrents. Unquestionably the strongest rain I've stood in in a very long time. No matter how hard I drank my beer just kept filling up.

I'm glad I didn't manage to score a poster.

The weather did die down, and when the band came back on the stage it actually started to turn into a pretty nice night. There were some group hugs for warmth but most people were okay. I wrung out my shirt and was happy to find it almost dry at the end of the night.

Phish seemed determined to give us a great set and they raged it, starting with the aborted Antelope from set one, and including a five-minute Harpua schtick involving an undercover crew from Second City (“Before we started following Phish we were all storm chasers...â€). The band was very appreciative of our perseverance, and we were appreciative of theirs and in the end everyone left happy.

At the end of the night our crew divided and m'lady and I ended up riding the rails back by ourselves. Fortunately our ride was significantly less eventful than the ride in had been, and we made it back in time to find a party well on it's way. I learned a new knot and did some more jamming and once again managed to get to sleep while it was still dark out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072213

Monday morning.

As the rest of the country shakes off the weekend and makes the commute to work for another week, our crew stumbled out of bed on a staggered schedule based on flight itineraries and driving plans.

Once again the living room became the home of hugs and handshakes as we bade each other farewell until the next time. Kim gifted me a nice sling of rope to practice my knots and after one more coffee run to Julius Miene we were off.

We were sad to point the car in a direction other than Toronto, but the makeup Phish show was not in our plans. While the traffic wasn't too heavy leaving Chicago we did find ourselves along a fifty mile stretch of construction with a speed limit of 45mph, which made it all the sweeter when we hit the Wisconsin border with it's 70mph limit.

About six hours later we pulled into Minneapolis and quickly found our fancy-pants hotel for the night, The Foshay. A tall, thin tower poking up though the skyline, The Foshay looks like it came straight out of Gotham, with an uber-friendly staff and a dimly-lit coolness. Our upgraded room was a modern melange of glass and mirrors, with a fiesta of hypo-allergenic pillows and the largest mini-bar I've seen outside of Las Vegas.

We hopped across the street for a nice dinner before rushing to the Hennepin State Theatre where Steve Martin and Edie Brickell were offering up a night of comedy and bluegrass. We arrived halfway through the first number and were ushered to our seats in the gorgeous, sold-out State Theatre.

The show was everything it promised, Steve Martin's chops keeping up well with his stellar band The Steep Canyon Rangers, and featuring the airy wisps of Edie Brickell for about half the show. With a voice that always seems to be smiling, Edie wound seamlessly with the Steep Canyon Rangers, singing homely tales of barefoot innocence between Martin's nearly-novelty lyrics and side-splitting wisecracks.

“What a joy to be here doing the two things I love most – comedy and charging people money to hear music.â€

“In the backstage bathroom I noticed a sign that said 'Employees Must Wash Hands'. Thank God I'm not an employee!â€

“You may notice I have a lot of banjos onstage. They're like my children, which means one of them probably isn't mine.â€

“Having Edie on the road has made for a subtle change on the tour bus. Instead of drinking and playing poker after the show the other night we all spent the evening beading necklaces.â€

“I saw Eric Clapton in concert a few weeks ago. He wasn't so funny.â€

And just before the encore:

“Whew, lot's of commotion backstage; a bunch of police running around. Turns out I am an employee.â€

After the show we went back to the hotel and had a drink in the very swanky rooftop bar, then another nightcap in our swanky room. We checked the setlist from Toronto Phish and went to sleep safe in the knowledge that we hadn't missed Gamehendge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072313

Finally, a good, long, much-needed eleven-hour sleep. I went downstairs for a cup of coffee and returned to find m'lady hard at work. She had some loose ends to tie up with work via computer so we called down for a late checkout. Why, sure, 4pm would be great! I like this hotel.

I decided on a walk and strolled a few blocks to Loring Park, a nice collection of tennis courts, ponds, and shuffleboard. Across the walking bridge is the Walker Art Gallery which maintains the fantastic Minneapolis Sculpture Park. Set on eighteen acres and home to a few dozen permanently displayed works of art this made for great meandering. The centerpiece is a giant spoon mounted in the middle of a pond holding an equally oversized cherry that spouts water, but what interested me the most was a temporary exhibit celebrating the 30th anniversary of the park, a 15-hole artist-made mini golf course. Being alone I didn't bother to play a round, but I should have.

In all the the two parks together made for a great late morning stroll.

Winding the streets back to the hotel I couldn't help but notice how cool, clean, bike-friendly, and interesting of a city Minneapolis is. Who knew? Outside of the hotel was a string of gourmet food trucks stretching two blocks so I ran upstairs and suggested lunch. The choices were varied and exotic, but I dumbed it down to a Philly cheese steak while m'lady opted for empanadas.

We ended up taking full advantage of the 4pm checkout and had a short travel day., though I was thoroughly impressed with Minnesota's 75mph limit.

We pulled off the highway just short of Fargo, hit a liquor store, bought some groceries and found a sleepy little campground. $10 a night on the honour system, we set up our brand-new tent for the first time, grilled up some hot dogs and salad for dinner, and settled in for a few drinks under a starry sky.

M'lady kept finding mosquitoes up side of my head and she very kindly smacked them with vigour for much of the evening. I'm sure the pest count in the area took a major hit. I know I damn well did.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072413

We slept fairly late in the morning, credit shared between our new air-mattress and our desperation to catch up on weeks worth of undersleeping.

We may have finally caught up as we packed up and left the park feeling good. We stopped in Moorhead for a long, leisurely breakfast that was too much to eat and came with free pie. The order of the day was nothing but driving, with a lot of miles to cover between here and Washington.

Entering North Dakota we stopped at the tourist info and made some plans. Sure, you can just drive right on through North Dakota, it's a pretty straight shot with a high speed limit, but then would you see the world largest concrete buffalo? Well, yes you would if you glanced to the right as you powered past Jamestown, but would you be able to stand under it and visit the adjacent buffalo herd, including three White Clouds (albino buffalo)?

No. No you wouldn't.

Well, we did. And aside from it's relative fame as Buffalo City Jamestown also basks in the glory of being the birthplace of Louis L'Amour, America's favourite cowboy novelist. We parked near the giant buffalo and visited the wild west town that has grown up around it. Stopped into a shop and bought a leather belt and a used Louis L'Amour paperback, then found another shop and bought a wooden nickel for a quarter.

Yes, I'm really that tourist-y sometimes.

Back on the road we powered though to Medora where we pulled off to drive their 36-mile loop through the North Dakota badlands. It's pretty enough but doesn't even come close to the lunar beauty of the Alberta badlands. We saw some wild horses and a mountain-climbing deer, and a million prairie dogs. Cute little buggers look a lot like dassies, a critter common in southern Africa and oddly closely related to elephants.

Medora looks like a really nice place to spend the night, with a tourist town set up hosting pitchfork steak fondue (exactly as you picture it) and nightly musicals celebrating everything Country & Western. Unfortunately that was not in the cards for us; we pointed the car west and carried on until dusk, when we found ourselves at a cozy little campground in Miles City, Montana.

We made friends with the campground kitty-cat, our Harley-ridin' tent-neighbors from Saskatchewan, and as many rye and cokes we could stomach. The campground lady warned us of a coming storm and I spent the next ninety minutes lying on a picnic table reveling in one of the more spectacular lightning shows I've seen.

The first drops came and soon the rain and wind came hard, but our new tent was well up to the task and we made it through the night safe, sound and dry. Some other campers didn't make out so well. Their tent blew down and they spent the night sleeping in the laundry room. It was a pretty serious storm, and if not for a stand of trees behind us our night may have been quite different.

There's no question that sleeping in a tent with the rain coming down outside is one of life's great pleasures.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072513

Our little tent perched on the outskirts of Miles City got some rain last night. It's a new tent, this was our second night using it, and it was put to the test. We pegged it down good and strung every string that dangled.

There was a mighty wind gusting under a canopy of constant lightning, foreshadowing the storm to come, and when the promised rains came they came hard. I scurried from the picnic table to the tent and hunkered down. I soon fell asleep to the persistent pounding of precipitation cozy and dry. The rain let up and started up again in the middle of the night, just as fierce, and when the morning got too hot I woke up to find everything in ship-shape. Good job little tent.

Another day heading west across the middle of the continent. The geography has been a treat the whole way, from the rolling hills of Wisconsin where fighter jets defy the sky running maneuvers, through the pastel plains of North Dakota where buzzing crop-dusters lazily skirt a few feet above the fields beside the sparse highway. The ease of driving this sort of terrain allows for long lingering gazes at the vast tracts of controlled sustenance, so lulling as it basks in the breezes.

But here in the middle of Montana things start to change rather quickly. Fields become hills and soon the side of the highway looks like the opening sequence of M*A*S*H; steep rocky hills dotted with scraggy brush that look like tumbleweeds in-the-making. It is reminiscent of driving through Namibia.

The speed limit is 75mph (120km/h), which seems a bit crazy as the roads get windier and steeper, but I keep it locked in on cruise control. With little else to do today but drive I'm happy for the freedom to cover a lot of ground quickly. 120km/h actually feels faster when it's legal.

With a day to kill I was happy for a chance to stop for a quick look-see in Butte. We pull off the highway, do some driving around (and more and more driving around until we finally find...) whattya know, today is the first day of Evel Knievel Days here in Butte! (Can't you just see m'lady rolling her eyes?).

Birthplace of the great Evel Knievel, Butte hosts a three-day festival in the daredevil's honour every year on the last weekend in July. If you find your way up to Historical Butte you'll find a handful of streets closed off (though I noticed many a local moving a barrel out of the way here and there to get where they were going), with rides, food stands, a makeshift moto-cross track, and much, much more. It's a redneck paradise really; the liquor laws are suspended so walking around double-fisted is de rigueur, there's an all-wheelie show called One Wheel Revolution that would outdraw Justin Bieber, and even one of those wooden silos where two motorcyclists zip around in a frenzy of near-misses that never ceases to disappoint.

Let's just say I wasn't too surprised to overhear someone say this into their cellphone: “So what will I get if I turn myself in?â€

M'lady and I each got a BBQ pulled pork sammy and found a chunk of shade. The Flying Wallenda had a wire strung up over the main drag but he wasn't walking it for another hour and it was even longer until the Crazy Horse cover band hit the stage so we finished our lunch and booked it, delving farther west into Montana.

Later in the afternoon we pulled off the highway just before Missoula. Back five miles we found a rough dirt road and followed it for another six miles. Then the road deteriorated and went up. Switched over to 4-wheel drive and slowed to 10mph. We snaked up and around a mountain or two, just clinging to the narrow road runner-esque single land jutting out the side of the cliff. Twenty minutes later we made it to Garnet, pop. 0.

Garnet is the best preserved ghost town in Montana. This is not a rebuilt tourist town, this is a legit gold mining settlement from the mid 1800's that was abandoned in 1905. There are well over a dozen structures still standing, and while most have been propped up with support beams added a few decades ago this town is eerily complete, except for people. The difficulty in reaching Garnet helps to preserves it. The place is so barren the first living creature we encountered was a deer walking down the middle of the main street.

It is truly a ghostly site to sight. There is the general store and the neighboring hotel, with it's boardwalk still intact. Nearby is the only sallon still standing (the town once boasted thirteen drinking holes, for men only of course), and you can almost hear the barrel-house piano playing steeped into the walls. There is also a jail, a blacksmiths shop and a school, a several small homes as well, many with stoves and dishes littered about, as if the people just bugged out last week. There is great signage describing past residents and events, and it was just a damn fine way to spend an hour or two on a sunny afternoon.

We crept back out to the highway and stopped for a great meal in Missoula, which seems like a nice place to spend some time, though we'd have to move on tonight.

Up the road a piece we stopped to find a campground and noticed the air was fairly thick with smoke. We decided to carry on and re-entering the highway we immediately saw the nearby hills were lit up with a forest fire. That kept us driving until well after dark until we found a campground well outside of the fire range.

It's hot and dry around here to say the least. Word is fires have closed down some roads in Washington causing headaches for people getting to the Gorge. Hopefully we'll dodge those bullets and get there in good time tomorrow. I ponder this over many rye and cokes in the campground laundry, as the incessant pounding of sprinklers drowns out the traffic noise from the highway just feet away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072613

Our campground was victim to morning construction on the nearby on ramp, so we had the opportunity for an early start. It's easy to be an optimist when you're on vacation.

West into the mountains, it wasn't long before we crossed the state line to Idaho. Once again I was startled by the scenery. When I think Idaho I think potatoes, so I was surprised to find the landscape was closer to BC than PEI; the northern part of the state is blessed with soaring mountains and winding roads while the farmland is found farther south.

Idaho proved to be our shortest state visit. It was only about an hour to Washington, and aside from a stop for lunch and some groceries for the weekend, Washington was just a road to the Gorge as far as we were concerned.

We got to the campground mid-afternoon and were surprised to see so many fingers in the air. We didn't buy tickets for the Gorge, historically it has been pretty easy to find discounted tickets in the lot, but it looks like people have been studying history; there are no tickets to be had anywhere. That's a problem for later, the shows are not sold out, so we continued to creep into the massive campground.

We got snaked around the perimeter before getting dumped right back into the centre of the grounds. We set up camp in a nice open area close to Shakedown, official vendors, bathrooms and good neighbors. It was even a pretty close walk to the venue, and we were camped right next to one of those crop-watering rows (they're called irrigation circles, even though they're not circles), making our spot easy to find.

Got set up, met the kids next door and did a walkabout. While Washington legalised marijuana use last year the scene in the lot is the same as always, though there was a (busy and slightly over-priced) dispensary on Shakedown. Everyone was looking for tickets so I went back to camp, mixed some drinks for the walk and headed for the venue.

Th lineup for the box office was absurdly long due to two factors. 1) the mass amount of people that showed up hoping to score tickets for cheap off the newbs who ordered too many on PTBM and, 2) only one window was open for business. A second window opened right after we got there.

The heat was blistering and m'lady offered to wait in line so I found a beer and some shade and spent the next while being social I regularly visited with m'lady and at one poi. When the line split into two I rejoined the line and we made a two-pointed attack. Showtime was nearing and the crowd was getting desperate.

The strategy was to approach the front of the line under the guise of assessing the situation, then to stand there, inching ever so closer until it was unclear to people if you were legitimately supposed to be there or not. M'lady pointed this out to me and I watched it happen.

“Hey, hey you!†I yell. “You,†I point, “In the white t-shirt.â€

Dude glances at me and immediately looks away.

“Yeah, you man! You can hear me. You weren't there before!†Still he looks away. “C'mon man, you weren't there before, you know and I know it. You in the white t-shirt!â€

Finally, again he looks at me.

“We all learned it in kindergarten man.†He shrugs and walks away.

One tiny victory. I can't remember if I've ever done that before or not.

I was happy to see that from then on whenever someone did the sneak-in the line would loudly boo them into submission. That limited the butters to only the most brazen.

At long last m'lady gets to the window and scores a pair for tonight and tomorrow. We both get out of line and race to the gates leaving hundreds of people still waiting. The show was going to start real soon and there was no way most of them would get tickets in time.

It's my first time at the Gorge. Approaching the venue all you can see is blue, blue sky, and then you reach the rim. Stepping over the edge the whole scene hits you at once: big, big sky falls into dusky mountains, between which the mighty Columbia River has carved a gulch that spans endlessly along the horizon. Below you is the stage facing a series of highly sought-after rocky terraces filled with the early birds clutching their cardboard poster tubes.

There are food and drink kiosks everywhere. The choices are plentiful and the wait nonexistent. We got a few drinks and a burger and had walked well away before it occurred to us that we had been heavily undercharged. We found our way to the middle of the lawn, hooked up with some friends and got ready.

The band started while the blazing sun was still up and doing it's work. It was only a few songs in when the ball of heat finally hit the mountain across the gorge and sunk out of sight. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the crowd applaud the sunset, like back in the old days when movies would end or planes would land. The collective joy in ridding the sky of such a monstrosity of swelter was very understandable. It was finally cool enough to consider some serious drinking!

The show was great, and what a joy to stand there completely unconcerned about the rain. Is it possible that Tourpocalypse has come to an end?

After the show we got back to the campground in short order, did a bit of hanging about before hitting the air mattress fairly early on. My earplugs got a workout contending with the stereo blasting and competing live bands outside, but sleep eventually came.

Overheard after the show: “Gotta love Phish! It's 75% the music and 75% going to the show!â€

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072713

Whether or not one enjoys festival camping boils down to expectations. If you expect that you might enjoy sleeping comfortably through the night perhaps festival camping is not for you. If you expect to lounge in bed comfortably anytime past 8:30am, or if you expect little to no fireworks set off in the general direction of your sleeping area, or even if you expect something as simple as a quick little hot shower, well, maybe you'll want to book a room.

Festival camping is generally for me. I just set my gearshift to the 'Hi' gear of my tolerance and keep my hat on. And as mentioned earlier, earplugs are a hugely great supplement. New to me this year was an eye-mask. I turned myself into Tommy for the night and it helped me get up on the right side of the air mattress.

M'lady busied herself making coffee after coffee and quesadillas for brunch while I sat around and did nothing but enjoy same. Eventually I grabbed a guitar and found a nearby tarp commune with jammers and beers. We rounded out midday with some really excellent music and cold beers in the hot shade.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging with our neighbor friends in their shade and mulling the forest fire that had clearly been taking shape a few hills away and the thickening smoke it was sending our way.

Before we got too drunk the two of us headed in to the venue. I wanted to get a poster and a closer spot for the show. We got in early enough to get the merch but the terraces had all been cherry-picked already, so we found a nice spot on the grass just above the floor area. We had a few hours to kill in the hot sun but we had the remains of a bunky umbrella with us, picked up for free at a booth at the Ottawa Jazz Fest, and margaritas and chicken strips with curly fries to keep us contented.

I left m'lady for a stroll and sauntered up the hill to the very centre. As I was walking up to the spot someone else was walking down to it. We both got there about the same time and sat down a few feet away from each other, the only two people sitting on the vast lawn. We got to talking about the Dead and the Allmans and general tour. Ten minutes later we stood and hugged, I went back down and he went back up. Tour is fun.

Back at our spot we got surrounded by a group that included two kids at their first show with dad. I asked them what they were hoping to hear; the ten year old says Prince Caspian and his little brother wants Moma Dance. Noobs.

As the show starts the smoke coming in from the distant forest fire is palpable, and while there's no benefit to having smoke in your eyes at a show, the haze gave substance to CK5's light show. Even when the sun was still up the beams of light shooting into the audience become thick shafts of colour.

The first set was a bit of a sleeper, I blame the kids who got both their calls, but the show overall was pretty great. At one point the top of the mountain behind the stage (and across the river) was glowing red with fire. I've never seen anything like it. They should have changed Maze to Haze but I'll forgive them, especially after the monstrous funk that was Sneakin' Sally Though The Alley.

After the show I meandered up and down Shakedown looking to trade my extra poster for a night one poster but found no takers. I considered looking for a jam but realised that people are generally way too messed up after the show to be able to make and/or appreciate acoustic music. Amplification rules post-show.

So I sat for an hour with a drink or two and marveled at the fireworks. Every highway sign for a hundred miles in any direction has the fire risk arrow set at “Extreme†and here we sit in a massive field covered with dry, mowed hay with smoke pouring over our heads from the encroaching forest fire watching everyone and their brah lighting off amateur explosions that cascade down onto an unspeakable amount of combustables.

It's truly a wonder that there has never been a lot fire at the Gorge, squawks old gray-beard.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072813

Easily enduring another festival tent experience I got baked awake and crawled out of the tent. In one direction was a big blue sky, in the other: smoke. It looked like a glorious day in one direction and a miserable day in the other due to the ongoing forest fire across the river. Fortunately we were headed in the sunny direction!

We were lackadaisical about our packup, enjoying more coffees and quesadillas while chatting with the neighbors. We eventually got everything into the car and moseyed through the now-nearly-empty campground, carefully avoiding glass and other obstacles. We snaked past a garbage pile that included a discarded wheelchair. Miraculous.

We drove along the farm fields and found our way back to the highway, happy and smelly and with an indeterminate daily distance to travel.

We had the day off but hoped to get a fair distance towards Lake Tahoe. With little else to do but drive, we drove.

With the luxury of time we were happy to avoid the interstate as much as possible, and as the afternoon waned we pulled into Bend, Oregon. A quaint tourist town chock full of microbreweries (and for the moment, Phishheads), Bend made for a great dinner stop.

We parked and marched across the street to Deschutes Brewery, home of one of m'lady's favourite brews. We got a great sampler tray while we waited for our table, though as I was driving (and have a palette geared towards more proletariat beer flavours) I let her do most of the sampling. It must have been pretty good beer; as soon as we got our table m'lady ordered another sampler. The food certainly was good.

Back on the road we didn't have many more minutes of daylight, so we couldn't afford to be picky when it came to finding a campground. Even when the campground was ten miles off the highway. Even when it went from being a “campground†to a “family RV resortâ€. Ugh. I hate “familyâ€.

As expected, the place was pricey, unfun, and packed with kids. We set up in the dusky light and pretty much stayed in the tent. We have a week of hotels coming though, so hunkering down for the night was bearable.

And the families did squawk around us.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072913

We woke up and got out of there as soon as we could. I certainly understand the need and desire for family-oriented camping but don't they know some people hate it? But then I suppose if a campground advertises a disdain for children and people that like them it would be a death knoll.

Showered and on the road we had only to drive again today, with the goal to get as close to Tahoe as we could get without rushing. We stopped for coffees at a cute little booth and cruised along the densely-treed secondary highway.

M'lady had it in mind to visit Crater Lake. With no alternate plans in mind I agreed, but to be honest I had no idea why she wanted to go out of the way and pay a park fee just to sit beside a seemingly random pile of water.

What m'lady didn't tell me is that Crater Lake is a much ballyhooed and celebrated geological wonder that attracts zillions of visitors annually and rightfully so. Created from a collapsed volcano and reaching a maximum depth of almost 2,000 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US, second in North America (next to Great Slave Lake), and the eighth deepest lake in the world. And with no rivers in or out it's also the cleanest lake in the US.

We pulled up to the gate and paid our fee. We crept along the road and drank in the scenery. The asphalt began to rise in earnest and we crested to find a pulloff. We got out and saw the lake for the first time, and...wow. The lake is pretty round, measuring in at 8 x 10 kilometres, and it is blue blue blue blue blue. To see it nestled into the massive funnel that was the ancient volcano is quite inspiring.

There are two islands within the lake, Wizard Island and Phantom Ship, which only add to the splendor. When we could finally pull our eyes away we got back in the car and continued slowly around the 35-mile track that precariously hugs the side of the crater. There are lookouts everywhere and it's difficult to pass one by.

The lake sits at an elevation well over 6,000 feet and I was shocked to find that due to weather the roads don't even open until July. Sure enough I started to notice snow here and there. At one of the stops I scrambled down a hill to a three-foot drift and made snowballs.

We drove a few miles out of the way to the Pinnacles, an endless string of fossilised fumaroles that were created when gases struggled to escape the lava so long ago. With the ensuing erosion of the dirt around them what is left is towering columns of rock, many of them hollow, that stand like dead trees along the edge of the valley. We walked to the ultimate pinnacle; it was a sight well worth the sidetrip.

Back on the crater rim road we stopped at the giftshop for a rest. The tourist area marks about the halfway point of the road circling the lake, and this is where most vehicles call it a day and return to the highway. We decided to press on and proceeded to completely circumnavigate the park. It was nearly four hours before we were back on the road pointed south.

It was a really great way to spend the afternoon.

We pressed on and eventually crossed the state line into California. This is my third time in the state, and it turned out to be the most likely of my visits. I once drove from Nevada to Death Valley and back, I flew into Palm Springs for a weekend concert at Indio, and now, driving down barren roads south of Alturas in the fading light we pulled off the highway chasing a sign that promised camping. Down back roads we go past cows and a thousand airborne critters, now completely under the cloak of darkness until we find it. A very unlikely-looking campground and golf course (or so they say – I couldn't see any fairways) in a tiny community called Likely, California.

Without a soul in sight we fill out the registry paper, toss $18 into an envelope and slide it through a mail slot before pitching our tent in the dark. I poured myself a drink and sat on the car's tailgate looking for rattlesnakes until sleep became the only option.

In the end we weren't that close to Tahoe but then we didn't rush either, so I call that a victory. No rattlesnakes either. Another victory.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

072813

Easily enduring another festival tent experience I got baked awake and crawled out of the tent. In one direction was a big blue sky, in the other: smoke. It looked like a glorious day in one direction and a miserable day in the other due to the ongoing forest fire across the river. Fortunately we were headed in the sunny direction!

We were lackadaisical about our packup, enjoying more coffees and quesadillas while chatting with the neighbors. We eventually got everything into the car and moseyed through the now-nearly-empty campground, carefully avoiding glass and other obstacles. We snaked past a garbage pile that included a discarded wheelchair. Miraculous.

We drove along the farm fields and found our way back to the highway, happy and smelly and with an indeterminate daily distance to travel.

We had the day off but hoped to get a fair distance towards Lake Tahoe. With little else to do but drive, we drove.

With the luxury of time we were happy to avoid the interstate as much as possible, and as the afternoon waned we pulled into Bend, Oregon. A quaint tourist town chock full of microbreweries (and for the moment, Phishheads), Bend made for a great dinner stop.

We parked and marched across the street to Deschutes Brewery, home of one of m'lady's favourite brews. We got a great sampler tray while we waited for our table, though as I was driving (and have a palette geared towards more proletariat beer flavours) I let her do most of the sampling. It must have been pretty good beer; as soon as we got our table m'lady ordered another sampler. The food certainly was good.

Back on the road we didn't have many more minutes of daylight, so we couldn't afford to be picky when it came to finding a campground. Even when the campground was ten miles off the highway. Even when it went from being a “campground†to a “family RV resortâ€. Ugh. I hate “familyâ€.

As expected, the place was pricey, unfun, and packed with kids. We set up in the dusky light and pretty much stayed in the tent. We have a week of hotels coming though, so hunkering down for the night was bearable.

And the families did squawk around us.

Great logs as always Velvet. Also let your girlfriend know that this is coming to the lcbo in the fall....

Deschutes Black Butte Porter / 650 / $5.30 / DESCHUTES BREWERY / USA

Link to comment
Share on other sites

073013

We awoke to a big blue sky, showered and packed 'er all up. We weaved along the cow-lined side roads out to the secondary highway. Hungry for breakfast we were happy to find a small funky-looking diner among the handful of buildings that constitute the town of Likely, California. We were the only customers so we sidled up to the counter and perched on stools.

The waitress brought coffee and a little container of cream. I mixed the two and the cream curdled almost solid. “Miss, this cream is bad.â€

“Oh gee, sorry about that,†she says. She takes away the coffee and resumes her stance leaning against the counter.

“Um, could I get another coffee?â€

I was suspicious that this was her first day on the job, but when she called in to the cook and asked how to make coffee it occurred to me that not only was it her first day, we were her first ever customers.

It's sometimes easy to forget that waiters and waitresses are generally really good at a specialised job. I let m'lady take care of the tip.

We had a good chunk of day to get through without a whole lot of driving so we took it slow and went the longest way we could find. We were already at a fair elevation but the roads kept going up.

When we got to the northern end of the lake we opted to continue down the slow touristy west side, which made for a nice drive averaging about 25mph. In Lake Tahoe proper we cruised the main drag until the stateline at Stateline and pulled into our hotel, the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, formerly the Embassy.

The hotel was literally kitty-corner across the street from the venue, it was a really nice looking spot with a friendly staff and in no time we were in our suite. We had several friends staying on the same floor so we grabbed a few beers and did some visiting. The drinks went down pretty smooth, and then it was Happy Hour.

Happy Hour at Embassy hotels means free drinks and snacks from 4:30-6:30. We're talking unlimited drinks of any stripe served up by happy professional bartenders. You can get beers, wine, liquor, hell, you can have Mai Tai's. I grabbed a handful of whiskey and cokes mixed thick, drank 'em down and went for more. I believe it was my third trip back when I slurred to the bartender, “if other hotelsh gave free drings I juss might not be here.†He smiled, added an extra splash of liquor to the drinks and pushed them my way with a smile.

“We want you here, sir.â€

I had been told many times that you were allowed to bring drinks into the venue so I ordered my last drink to go in a plastic cup, stuffed a can of beer into each of my back pockets and staggered across the street to Nevada.

We immediately ran into a couple of our neighbours from The Gorge. They were by the gate and informed us that booze was not allowed in the venue this year. Show time was early and we wanted to get in there so I pounded my drink and my beers and we went in.

Okay, let's take stock here (something I might have should have done at the time): two hours of beers with friends + two hours of free whiskey + elevation approaching 7,000 feet + no substantial meal since breakfast + pounding three drinks in about ninety seconds before entering the venue. Uh-huh.

I'm no spring chicken but then again I'm a man, not a machine.

Suffice to say I don't recall too much about the show, but I remember looking like I was having a pretty good time. At one point I went to the concession area and ordered a burger or a hot dog or something. As an afterthought I added fries to my order. They handed me my meat sandwich and a mound of fries the size of my head. Like, I had about two pounds of fries in one hand, and it seemed like it was one hugely long french fry. I was horrified, and utterly unable to balance the two things and eat them as well.

I found our crew who were each on their own individual journeys, and when I tried to share the fries everyone looked at me with the same look of horror. My hands were full – I could either eat the food or hold it. I walked back to the bathroom area, staggered around for a while wondering what to do (remember that scene at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan when the guy missing his arm is staggering around wondering what to do?), dropped the fry-head into a garbage bin, freeing myself up to eat whatever was in my other hand, probably bought more beers (oh yeah, they had a shooter bar in there too), and probably enjoyed the rest of the show.

Afterwards there was a lot of staggering to a rental house where friends were hosting a party. I sobered up enough to be a walking hangover virtually unable to interact with others or to drink again, we stayed until about 4pm and defying every inch of gravity, physics and reason somehow made it back to our suite under our own power.

Thankfully it's a two-day run.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I found our crew who were each on their own individual journeys, and when I tried to share the fries everyone looked at me with the same look of horror. My hands were full – I could either eat the food or hold it. I walked back to the bathroom area, staggered around for a while wondering what to do (remember that scene at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan when the guy missing his arm is staggering around wondering what to do?), dropped the fry-head into a garbage bin, freeing myself up to eat whatever was in my other hand, probably bought more beers (oh yeah, they had a shooter bar in there too), and probably enjoyed the rest of the show.

Ha, ha, this is my favourite part of Vacationlog so far. I can totally imagine the horror on their faces and you stumbling around. Good stuff.

Afterwards there was a lot of staggering to a rental house where friends were hosting a party. I sobered up enough to be a walking hangover virtually unable to interact with others or to drink again, we stayed until about 4pm and defying every inch of gravity, physics and reason somehow made it back to our suite under our own power.

4am or 4pm?!

Edited by Guest
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share




×
×
  • Create New...