Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Return of the Roots Jedi -or- Hurtling Through American Highway Space

Skip to the end for a conclusion on the whole tour...

We had lunch with Suzie, hearing the story of how she got all the out to the Seattle area in the first place. For the afternoon we hung out with Dustin and Natasha, who have very comfortably set themselves up in the rainy city. We walked their tiny dogs, sat at a local cafe, and I sprayed their kitchen with over-carbonated cider.

When we departed, we cruised into the city proper to explore, but we rolled right through when free parking proved to be sparse and the afternoon wore on into evening. Instead we jetted toward Portland, planning to make our way out through the Columbia River Gorge. The weather turned fast and we were forced into another motel. Wal-Mart food in a microwave and some cable TV helped us drift off to sleep early, helping us get a quick start in the morning.

Through the next morning we blasted through the gorge, dripping rain graying the jutting cliffs and piny forests. In a couple of hours the mountains flattened and the landscape opened. Open ranges stretched in all directions and heavy clouds continued to drizzle. The trip through eastern Oregon and Washington was uneventful except for a quick visit to a sad little casino for some free soda and clean bathrooms.

Just as we crossed into the Idaho panhandle, mountains sprung immediately on the horizon. The highway hit the hills like a wall, and climbed steeply toward the sky. In a few minutes we were winding through rockies, dodging trucks with steaming breaks. When we hit the Montana border, a steady snow started. Solid four foot snow drifts were stacked by the roadside. The sun dropped and the wind picked up.

Stopping for a particularly strange roadside attraction, we turned off the twisting highway. With just an hour until Missoula, we took a moment to gaze over rattlesnake wine bottle holders and enormous but useless knives. This particular souvenir shop included a dimly lit bar and a small casino with a few slot machines and a bored looking dealer tossing cards to two haggard old cowboys.

Back in the van, we descended into Missoula, glided through, and shot across the valley floor toward Butte. Soon we saw a giant glowing Virgin Mary and some strange red lit structures. These were our only sign that we had reached and passed through Butte. In about another two hours we stopped in a small mountain town, the snow still gently falling. A very nice guy at a tiny motel greeted us with his gigantic dog. He set us up in an incredibly clean room, and we drifted off.

Waking early the next morning, we pointed the van toward South Dakota with the aim of seeing the badlands before powering through to good old MD. We passed through the last of the rockies and accelerated across the plains. Rocketing through a corner of Wyoming and into South Dakota at 80 mph took all day. We finally rolled through Rapid City just as the sun was setting.

A quiet rain fell on the silent canyons of the Badlands. A final pink line was shrinking on the horizon, and the sandstone glowed blue. A few bored goats traipsed quietly around the cliffs, apathetically gazing at us while we peered into the rugged gorges. The last sunlight retreated and we climbed into the van to search for our last motel of the trip.

We ate roasted chicken in our motel room and watched Conan. We were on the road again by 8 am. We stopped by the famous Wall Drug at an eerie hour, sneaking by usually busy shops, now silent on an off-season early morning.

Back in the van, while pulling out, the committee met. Blythe and I discussed the coming drive, money saving options, and the time remaining before we were expected back at work. It was decided that with a trade off driving, we could make a straight shot through South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia,  and right on home into Maryland. We took a stop at a diner for some really good food, a few cups of coffee, and a last moment of rest before we crossed half a country.

A few energy drinks from a truck stop jacked me up enough for Blythe to get a full nights sleep. Cities blew by: Sioux Falls, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Columbus. Blythe took over around Columbus, and I passed out until Morgantown WV.

The last few miles from Cumberland to Frederick were the toughest. Both of us were tired. We were home now. The rest of the evening was spent with Blythe's mom, eating pizza, drinking beers, and watching old musicals. We slept full and happy.

What did we get for all this? Certainly not money. Really it was a close up view of the music scene out west. Pretty similar to the one here, except the venues are very transparent. They talk openly about money, their usual crowd etc. Most welcomed us warmly, impressed with how far we'd come. Most shows generated some income. People on the west coast are less astonished with the kind of music we play, and more astonished by the energy with which we play it. I like that. The west is not a place where we could make steady money playing music, any more than here. I think that the west will be just another turn on the continuing path. Where could we really settle after all, when we're bored with any city we're in after just a few shows.

Now for some big plans in the local area. A foot in the door on Baltimore, 4 paid shows in Atlantic City, a residency at a new spot in DC, some fun weddings, and some work with Brett in DC Fringe Fest.

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