I finally finished packing the last of the snacks, and then it hit me. I was leaving for an entire month. WHY DID I EVER WANT TO DO THIS? The social anxiety in me freaked and skyrocketed. All kinds of thoughts raced through my head, and all I could picture was somehow ending up homeless in Kansas (admittedly the worst of all road tripping states), broke and in dyer need of a shower. It took everything I had to settle down and ignore the fact that I was going to be living out of my car just because I wanted to “find myself”, whatever that meant. Gas tank full, and heart fluttering, I left at 7am sharp for The Rock and Roll Capital of the World.
Cleveland is a pretty sweet city. And I don’t say that just because the first person I talked to (the parking garage attendant) seemed like one of the nicest guys I’d ever met, or because the weather was an absolutely perfect 75 and sunny, or because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was one of the coolest places I’d ever been. The city has a vibe that could only be replicated in Cleveland itself. Just like any city, there’s a good amount of diversity, but it’s not just in ethnicity or gender. It’s in everything. School kids of all ages, older business executives, middle aged tourists, young adults, groups of men, groups of women, groups of both all roam the city walkways headed in all directions.
Des Moines is beyond hip. The amount of things to do downtown honestly surprised me, because I admit I never thought of Iowa as a place where you go to “do stuff”. But the Nitefall On the River concert last Friday proved me wrong. I met some seriously amazing people while standing right up against the 2 ft tall stage, right next to a river going right through the heart of Des Moines. Ironically, the people I met in Des Moines were from Omaha, Nebraska, and one originally from Los Angeles. With a curly-cue mustache, a cowboy hat, and a tye dye shirt, the one from LA invited me to a free Grateful Dead cover band show just 3 blocks away. So it was that time of the night when the show I was at ended, and I was craving another musical meal…and there’s a free show right up the street? That’s a no-brainer. It turned out to be an amazing night, and even walking back to my car there was more free entertainment – drunken groups walking around trying to find the next bar to crash into, a group of guys trying to fix a broken down 1970s truck at 2 in the morning, girls as part of a bachelorette party coming out to celebrate, and finally, a quiet almost silent park right next to my car. How had I not noticed it before? The beautiful trees and flowers reminded me that even though I was in a city, nature is never far away. I felt home, and as I got back in my car to drive back to my cheap motel room, I thanked the universe that music and the amazing fans that come with it exist.
Kansas City was only a 3 hour drive away, and although it was super
confusing to get around in, it was worth seeing all the different neighborhoods they had to offer. The Arts District had some pretty awesome…well…art…along with a pretty cool record store (with records I could actually afford!) off of … The Plaza and the River Market areas have some pretty cool shops, and there are definitely opportunities for busking there (along with Westport I believe). The differences between all the different areas illustrated the immense diversity of the city and its people. All of this cultural diversity in one city, and I was going to the festival celebrating my own heritage with hundreds of other people from the same background – the Kansas City Irish Festival. The difference in crowds from the last concert to this one was insane. Granted, there were plenty of families, so it wasn’t like I was going to get super drunk and socialize with parents with 5 year olds, but it was a friendly environment nonetheless. All of the Irish music reminded me of my mom, the amount of dads there cracking dad jokes reminded me of my own, and the performers reminded me how much I wanted to be on stage with them. The energy was intense, and it surprised me that for a festival boasting such dance-worthy music, that the entire audience floor would be filled with chairs. By the time the 3rd to last band came on at 4:30, I thought screw it, and left my chair to go to the front of the stage. I’m glad I did, because I danced for the rest of the evening. I was even peer pressured into getting another beer by the lead singer 😉 I wouldn’t call it strictly peer pressure though – there’s something about Irish music that makes me crave some vitamin G. I left that night, missing the music but more ready to get to Colorado than ever. With all the essentials (guitar, food, clothes) packed, I left belly full and heart alive.
Hours later, I looked at the clock for the 157th time. Only 3 minutes had gone by since my last check of the GPS, and it felt like every time I pressed down the gas pedal I was going backwards. I was getting antsy, tapping my foot, stretching, and skipping songs at the speed of light.
My timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The String Cheese Incident’s “Colorado Bluebird Sky” came on over my shuffled music, and I cranked it to the loudest volume possible as I passed the sign that said, rejoicingly, “Welcome to Colorado”. The excitement that had been building in me like an live intro to a favorite band’s show had finally exploded. I made it! I’m only 1/3 into my trip, but I made it! Look at me, mom! Just then, I lost service, and realized my gas tank was 50 miles to empty. Way to go. I did it.
I finally made it to a gas station after what seemed like forever (45 minutes, and 5 miles to empty to be exact), and had never felt more relieved to be paying $2.39/gallon for gas. Still without service, and no GPS (a road atlas is a brilliant idea!), I moseyed on westward until I finally regained service and could start playing something other than the ONE cd I brought with me. I had the entire set of the Travelin’ McCourys from Delfest 2016 memorized. The introduction by Joe Craven, all the songs, even the banter between the songs, and the forgotten lyrics. I didn’t even need to listen to it anymore – it was in my head – but even I don’t want to listen to my vocal interpretations of mandolin solos for more than a second or two. I had no doubt in my mind what song I wanted to play first – “Colorado” by the Infamous Stringdusters.