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{Off The Cuff} Judging a Roadtrip

by:  Josh Grider

 

Our New Mexico and Colorado tour was a great success. It was great to get into new markets (Boulder, Crystola, Belen) and re visit some of our old friends (Cruces, Santa Fe, Red River, Steamboat, and Carbondale). We were gone for a solid 12 days of touring with a couple of days off in the mix, and as I reflect back on the tour I have tried to compile a list by which one can judge a tour, or really any road trip you take. For those that don’t tour in a band, you’ve surely been on a road trip vacation at some point and I think that the very nature of travelling in the United States by car/bus/van or whatever lends itself to some pretty common occurrences and encounters. Here is my list 10 things you can judge a road trip by.
1. Did you meet a completely zany, weird person that you didn’t plan to meet, but in the end were glad you did.

2. Did you encounter inclement weather?

3. Was there a dispute/feud/meltdown/or all out fight with or by one of travelling partners?

4. Was there a celebrity sighting?

5. Did you ever ask yourself…how did I get here, not know the answer, then not care and just savor the moment?

6. Did you catch a good hang with old friends or family?

7. Did you have vehicle trouble?

8. Did a view of the landscape fill your windshield at one point that took your breath away, and then you thought you should take a picture, and then realized that a picture could never capture what your eyes were seeing at that very moment?

9. Was there a brush with disaster or near death experience?

10. Did you hear or make good music?

After you answer these questions I suppose we could assign some sort of calculation to determine how good your road trip was, but in the end I think the list is best for just remembering the trip and if you get done pondering all ten points and still have a smile on your face…it was a good trip.

Here is how our winter tour stacks up against my list.

1. Did you meet a completely zany, weird person that you didn’t plan to meet, but in the end were glad you did.

On this trip we did not happen across anyone too zany. Of course after meeting the likes of Harley and Annabelle in Erick, OK (I wrote about in a previous post) and Paul McCloud at Graceland Too in Holly Springs, MS my barometer for zany weird people is perhaps a bit skewed. Sometimes I think we are the zany weird people others meet on their road trips.

2. Did you encounter inclement weather?

Plenty of it. We were in northern NM and CO in early January. It was cold and snowy and unfortunately we missed our show in Denver due to a snow storm that kept us in Red River for an extra night…which led to our brush with disaster/near death experience. More on that later.

3. Was there a dispute/feud/meltdown/or all out fight with or by one of travelling partners?

The only slight meltdown came on our second to last night out when it dipped down to around 5 degrees and we got in the van after the show in Crystola and Grady really cursed the cold weather. He, as well as the rest of us, were very tired of shivering. Otherwise, we got along great. Rolling with a trio is easy as pie.

4. Was there a celebrity sighting?

Some people go on road trips just to see celebrities, or their houses, or their graves. Famous people can really motivate folks to travel. Also, I realize celebrity is a very relative term. I was once asked to play in a celebrity golf tournament as a celebrity. How disappointing that must have been for the other players in the group. (I could just picture them hoping they were going to golf with Garth Brooks, or Michael Jordan, or Tom Brokaw but then seeing me standing on the tee box, not knowing who I was and feeling like they got screwed out of a celebrity. Not that I’ve ever been within a 3 iron of any of those three people, but you get the point.)

We did see all of our homies on the music scene up there, but I’m not about to drop names and somehow determine who is or isn’t a celebrity, I just consider those folks friends. We met some Texas Rangers, I think they qualify as celebrities, however they might disagree. One person who definitely qualifies as a celebrity in my book is Brian Urlacher. Was Urlacher at Steamboat? No, but I did meet a guy who knows him. Ed Warm, the owner of Joe’s Bar in Chicago claimed to know Urlacher and spoke highly of him and said if we made it up there he might be able to introduce me. That’s about it as far as celebrities go.

5. Did you ever ask yourself…how did I get here, not know the answer, then not care and just savor the moment?

This happens to me from time to time and it certainly did on this trip. I don’t know how to write about it in a way that doesn’t make me sound either arrogant or extremely petty. I’ve tried for about five minutes…so I’m just moving on.

6. Did you catch a good hang with old friends or family?

We were on tour for 12 days but with the holidays thrown in there I was gone from home for three weeks. During that time I got to hang with lots of friends and family.

7. Did you have vehicle trouble?

I’ve put 130,000 miles on my van and I can’t thank my cousin Zane enough for helping me get that thing. It runs like a champ. The only problems we encountered were when I forgot to put the -25 washer fluid in the car and our Texas washer fluid froze up as we were headed up toward the Eisenhower tunnel on I-70 headed west out of Denver. It was snowing and all the salt and mud and ice that get’s kicked up by the cars in front of you were caking on the windshield pretty good. It wasn’t harrowing enough to qualify as a near death experience, but it certainly isn’t something I’m looking to experience again anytime soon.

8. Did a view of the landscape fill your windshield at one point that took your breath away, and then you thought you should take a picture, and then realized that a picture could never capture what your eyes were seeing at that very moment?

Colorado has a real habit of doing that for me. The Rockies are spectacular. That John Denver was not full of shit.

9. Was there a brush with disaster or a near death experience?

Well, to be honest, there kinda was. In the end it was not really a big deal, certainly nothing like crashing a plane into the Hudson River and everyone surviving, but at the time it scared me pretty good. I mentioned that a snow storm kept us in Red River for an extra night. By not leaving we were doing our best to avoid disaster/death. With a full day off and the snow falling at about an inch per minute we enjoyed some spirits, music, and food in the Lodge at Red River and Steve and his staff were fantastic hosts. (Just so you can picture it, the Lodge is a bar and restaurant with 24 rooms for rent on the second floor.) I woke up early the next morning and wasn’t sure, but I thought I was smelled smoke. As I lay in my bed I tried to determine whether I as dreaming or not, but it occurred to me that I’ve never dreamed a smell. I’ve heard, seen, and felt things in dreams, but never smelled. About then I decided I better have a look around and when I opened my door the hallway was filled with smoke. That woke me up rather well. I rousted the guys and we proceeded to start beating on doors and waking everyone up, I called 911, and we started looking for fire.

Well in Red River, NM, where there is smoke…there are burning potatoes. As it turns out, somebody left the oven on with a dozen or so potatoes baking through the night. They finally started smoking, and surprisingly, filled that place with smoke. The fire dept. had some big fans and they were able to fumigate the place pretty well. We left not long after our smokey awakening, so I don’t know if they got the smell out or not, but I assume they did. It was a pretty intense 5 minutes for all involved there in Red River, and thankfully that’s as close to death or disaster as we got this trip.

10. Did you hear or make good music?

Well I can confidently say yes to this one. Our show up on the mountain in Steamboat might be the highlight for me. The crowd was great and we were really feeling that night. The show at Steve’s Guitars was pretty cool too though. The whole tour was really great and we have so much stuff coming up in new places and we’ll be visiting all the old haunts as well.

Like I said I don’t really know how to calculate the answers of the 10 question list in a way to truly rate a trip, but ours was good and I bet those who spend the amount of time out driving that we do could agree that my list is a fairly decent way to recall the highs and lows of a road adventure.

Hope to see you at a show soon.

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