Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blues, Booze and BBQ at New West

Oh, yeah!!! It's a beautiful day to be out on the road. I've been up since before dark. Packed out my gear, drove into town, breakfast at Hungry Jack's in Enderby. I'm not sure how many hours it is going to take to get out to the coast from where I am, so I'm giving myself (I hope) plenty of time. There are quite a few routes I could take out of Enderby— I've asked around, and everybody seems to have a different idea. In the end I decide to go the way I know: south to Kelowna, and then head over the mountains on the big, divided road. There was a storm on it last week, but the day looks good so far. What I really want to do is drive the secondary, gravel road across the ranchland. But not today, I can't be late. The RCMP are stopping people today, so I watch my speed and sip my coffee.

The good weather doesn't last. You can see it waiting for you as you drive, a frowning sky. West of Kelowna the mountains do their thing, and remind me that winter will soon spread. It's another white knuckle drive over the high elevations. And then...

Driving with my new specs— safer for all of us, and the better to enjoy the rest of this mountain drive.

I roll into New Westminster with time to spare, and it doesn't take me more than a few minutes to find Laurie and Isabel's home. House concert here tonight, and Laurie has had the smokers and BBQ going for days getting the food ready— well the meat anyway. I'm suddenly starving, and I can smell pork from the driveway!

I'm from the east, so I'm not used to seeing hydraneas like this one! Did I spell that correctly? Anyway— big old plant with big, thick, woody stems and an enormous output of flowers. I planted some of these at my place. Maybe someday they'll look like this!

Laurie meets me out front and helps me get my gear in. We are both much happier than we look here! I get set up and then go down the street to gas up the Lincoln and visit the local car wash. The big white beast looks better when cleaned. In New West I buy the most expensive gasoline in Canada. Well, based on the expense logs coast to coast, this is it. I tell the guy collecting the money, and he doesn't seem to think anything of it. "I thought you might want to brag to your friends," I tell him. He blinks. That's the trouble— people don't care enough. He doesn't know if the prices are fair or unfair. He's just lucky to have this crappy job, and nothing surprises him. The gas pumps could be on fire, and he'd probably just blink. And in a way, the gas pumps ARE on fire. I didn't need Jeff Rubin to tell me that. Someday cars like this Lincoln will be remembered like ghosts on these highways.

Back at the house the place is filling up with people, I think there's about 50, and the food is being served. It's amazing! But before too long it's my turn to bring the Blues to this Town. We all grab our drinks and settle in. What a great night! I'm having a ball. It's a great crowd! Before I know it we are drawing for the Tour jacket. Jim wins!!! Hey, bro, cool threads!

It's been a great evening. My best days on the road are days like this where I come away with a pile of new friends and feel so welcomed. Thanks so much everyone. I hope we meet up again soon.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bowling at Lorenzo's, Enderby, BC

It's a relatively short run today from Kamloops to Enderby. I put the hotel Lincoln in order, go to Tim's for breakfast and a shave. No need to rush, I kill off a little time at the City Archives. My great-uncle Courtney Forsythe MacLean lived here in the 1950's, and I'm trying to trace what became of his family. I'm shocked to discover that he started his family relatively late in life and had two children— roughly the same age as myself. A trip to the school board archives, and a little directory work traces the children to Vancouver, to the late 1970's. Then the trail runs out... I gotta go. Still time for a relaxed drive to Enderby!

Always fun to load into Lorenzo's back door! I really like Lorne and his staff and the folks who come out to shows here. Usually it's a good time, a little bit of a party. A social. I'm hoping for a pretty good crowd here tonight. I could use the money after not making any in Kelowna or Kamloops. There's been a fair amount of press, so I figure that chances are pretty good we'll have a decent night. And it's a Friday, too.

There's the little Doc store, ready to go.

There are big shows scheduled here for both Saturday and Sunday, and it is the Halloween party weekend. Lorne tells me that Valdy will be here on Sunday— and that one is sold out. He wonders if people will go out more than one night of the weekend. I'm wondering that, too, as showtime rolls around. The place is pretty quiet. A few folks drift in and tell me about the new provincial drinking and driving laws. Nobody seems to know exactly what they are, but there is some kind of more than one drink zero tolerance tow your car away kind of thing going on. Apparently the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) are stopping people aggressively. Lorne says it may spell the end to places like Lorenzo's Cafe. It is pretty quiet. I wonder if he's right.

A couple of guys from South Africa come in and order drinks. I get to work and entertain them and Lorne's dog. Later, after they've gone, we get a phone call at the bar. There's an RCMP roadblock just outside of town— and they are stopping everybody at the bridge. Too late for our guys. The place is empty. I guess the day of riding the backroads home is over as well. I wonder if I'll ever do another show here. I hope so. But I wonder. Change is in the wind. I pack my gear up. Early start in the morning.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Promo Day in Kamloops

Not a good day at Starbucks in Kamloops! Can't get photos to upload! What the heck! Does that mean I have to txt??? Well, I guess... (Digital time warp... Ok, here they are a couple of weeks later).

So... moderate wild intro to winter in the mountains. Up before the sun and grabbing coffee on the outskirts of town. I've got about three hours to get to the television studio in Kamloops. This should be plenty of time out of Kelowna. I'm going to scoot across to Merritt and up the big road. Maybe a few more miles at higher elevation, but all divided highway— and a quick ride if the weather is good.

The weather is not good. Well, it's patchy. I drive quickly in the good spots to make up for the extra slow pace where the road is fogged, snow covered, and slippery.

There are a bunch of wrecked cars and trucks in the ditches to keep me honest out here. These are fresh wrecks. Ditch divers. New pickup trucks smashed all to hell. Could be me with this Lincoln. It's a big, heavy brute— but I haven't done enough winter miles in her to know what she'll really do in a pinch. Caution is the main word. Me and this car are going to get there. Easy. Take it easy.

Soon we're good out here again, and it's not long until I'm at the studio and ready to play.

These are always fun to do and— unlike big city TV— people will be coming up to me all day saying "I saw you on TV!" You don't need 15 minutes here. Seven and a half will do.

After Midday there's time for a short lunch break. I look out over the valley. Strange little mountains here— humpy things. Pretty nice to look at.

Next stop is Long and McQuade for my workshop/masterclass. I never know what to expect, but that's part of the fun. The staff are always great, and Kamloops is no exception. While the usual manager is away on a family emergency, Grant takes good care of me, and I'm set up in no time. It's a quiet day, midweek late afternoon. I play a few tunes. Show some folks how to play in open G, demonstrate fingerstyle guitar, talk about the blues.... I'm done. I'm looking at recording gear. I'm thinking of picking up an Mbox or somethng similar I can use to record to my laptop on the Tour. There are some pretty interesting packages out there. Ultimately I can't decide and leave empty handed. I want whatever I buy to be ProTools useful, and to (perhaps) be useful beyond my hotel room. I want 2 balanced lines in— is that asking too much? No. It just depends what you want to pay for the outboard gear. Gosh... cassette machines were never so difficult to decide upon! I'll drop by Longs in Surrey, BC and look again.

A quick bite and it's off to Grinders, where there is a local jam tonight. I couldn't buy a gig in Kamloops, but I have a great time sitting in and meeting a whole bunch of talented local players. Thanks for the hospitality Perry, Stella, and all the players! Fun night! "Angola Prison Rodeo" was really fun with three drummers, bass and harp. Thanks, Wolf Child! I was wishing I had a guitar with a pickup so I could sit in on more stuff. Now the Hotel Lincoln is ready, and parked within wifi distance of a Starbucks...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Minstrel Cafe, Kelowna

Snow. That means this Tour is now into it's third season of the year.

How quickly I return to peaceful, autumn streets.

But you could bowl down the main streets of Kelowna tonight. What can I say? A very quiet night. The staff at the Minstrel Cafe are great. They feed me well, provide conversation and hospitality. Yet we are all glad to see the end of the night roll around. It's like that when you are working, and not making money. I head across town to check out some other rooms.

Everybody is empty tonight. I think perhaps it's a hangover from having the West Coast Music Awards here last week. People are just beat from the party. Oh, well. Next time. Kelowna is usually a good music town, with a real appreciation for blues and roots music. Still, it's a whole lot of driving, gas, hours spent setting up, braking down, booking, shipping posters, doing press releases, eating roadside food, sitting in an idling car in a Starbucks parking lot. That's the chance you take— but you can't lose too often. How many weeks of days like this are between me and my Lincoln, and the guy with the shopping cart collecting bottles behind the club? I go back to my little motel out on the strip. Early start in the morning, so I need to hit the pillow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cowboy Boneyard at Spence's Bridge

Spence's Bridge. Open again. For now, anyway. And Doc with no internet, and downtime... I guess I'll explore along the Nicole River here, take a short run down Highway 8, see what I see...

Racing trains might be popular around here, I don't know. I do know that this is a place where there are often two trains running. There's track on each side of the Thompson here, and at night the big train lights come racing out the tight canyon sides, crying out at each other over the water. It takes a few seconds for the echos to do it again, backwards this time.

If I had a can of paint maybe I'd paint my name on one of these boxcars. Something about taggin' a train, sending out your name. If you can't go, you can let your name go out across the land. You can follow this road, or you can stay under the big sky.

I ride my big, steel horse out onto the range. That's an easy ride. No barbwire scars on my arms. Only a heart, blowing in this crisp, desert air.

Most of these cowboys are probably First Nations people. Ironic, somehow. We used to play cowboys and Indians. We didn't know that Indians were First Nations, we didn't know that they were cowboys, too. I hope someday my friends will make me a grave with as much love.

Most of these markers are carved out of wood.

I was looking for John Smith's stone, but never did find it. Wrong side of the River. I'm probably on the right side of this roaring river. I'm breathing in the high desert air. Dogs barking in the distance. Trains. Wind. Truck lights flickering miles across the canyon. See you soon. See you in Kelowna. I'm going to burn a candle against the night.