Well, almost a month has passed since my last entry, and frankly, it feels weird. For some reason, I was prolific in my updates when my #vanlife began, but maybe because the novelty of the situation has subsided and perhaps it doesn’t strike me as very adventurous anymore.
That’s not to say I didn’t have any adventures, because I certainly did. I’d made plan to join up with my friends John Craigie and the Rainbow Girls as they made their way playing music from Humboldt to San Diego. I’d planned to join them in the little town of Ferndale on the first night of tour, but just as I got north of Willits I had a worrisome dash light come on warning of a problem with my fuel system. I turned right around and brought the van to my mechanic, who checked it out and found that indeed there was a significant problem that needed to be dealt with immediately. And it wasn’t going to be cheap. In fact, nothing about fixing this vehicle is cheap. I waited the rest of the day for a resolution, only to be told that one thing was fixed but he discovered something else that had broken as a result of the first thing failing. Ugh. And on top of that, the part was in Sacramento and might not show up until Monday. The van needed to stay at the shop and I had to find somewhere to be for the rest of the weekend of forego joining up with the tour.
On top of that, this was the day the Camp Fire started outside Chico, and as I sat at the café working, an ominous cloud of smoke blanketed the entire Ukiah valley, bringing a midday darkness that was beyond eerie.
I rushed to get my car (which I’ve held onto and left languishing outside my friend’s house for the last 9 months), grabbed food/clothes for the weekend out of the van, ran to storage to empty out a bunch of crap and re-install the sleeping platform in the back of the car, then treated myself to a fat dinner at the Brewery to offset the disappointment of having my plans thwarted. Some friends offered me a place on their couch for the night and I took them up on it, opting to enjoy a warm house instead of my cold, cramped car.
The next day I’d prepared myself for a day of killing time, then maybe heading down to the Bay in the car or something. I went back to the shop to collect a few more things from the van I needed for the weekend, and was surprised to find they’d managed to get the part they needed early and thought they’d have the van done by the afternoon. Yay! That turned out to be the case, and I was back in my home before it got dark out.
I joined up with John Craigie and the Rainbow Girls the next night in SF for their sold out show at August Hall, a beautiful venue downtown I’d never been to before. It felt so good to have connected with them after all the hubbub, and we spent some time catching up after their soundcheck. They’d played a show in Chico on Friday, the day after the fires started up. The show had been sold out, but the venue was half empty due to the emergency situation and the mood was understandably somber. The smoke there was almost unbearable. They were glad to have contributed at least a little bit of good energy to to those in attendance, and were also happy to be in SF where the air quality was slightly better. Though even in SF it was strangely apocalyptic feeling.
The show was delightful, with stellar sound and the kind of lighting that makes photographers happy. I found it difficult to get good close-up shots when there’s a seated, quiet and attentive audience, which requires I work extra hard to stay out of people’s way and to remain unobtrusive. Managed to pull it off though.
Luckily, I had an option to join up with the tour again in southern California later that next week, which is exactly what I did. It was a relief to head down the 101 and get out of the omnipresent and oppressive smoke blanketing the entirety of northern California. I met up with everyone in Santa Barbara, enjoyed skulking around shooting photos and soaking up the familial and musically prolific vibe these musicians exude.
After the show, we went to stay at a charming hippie cabin up in the mountains that touched on my nostalgia for the weird, rustic homesteads of the back-to-the-landers I’d become familiar with my first years in Mendocino County.
We next headed north, stopping in Morro Bay so they could shoot a live video for Westysessions then jamming over to the venue. More fun hangs, lots of photos made, and another delightful show. John has a fantastic quasi-standup comedy aspect to his performances where he tells hilarious stories that always lead into songs and back out again into more stories. A wonderful weaving of words and song.
The last night of the tour was in Novato, at the Hopmonk Tavern located in a huge-ass shopping mall. That always weirds me out... clubs in shopping malls. After the show folks lingered and enjoyed some last moments together before heading their separate ways. End of tour is always a bit sad, and we’d enjoyed a fun bonding time that had sadly come to a kind of end.
Back in Ukiah the next day, I hunkered down to catch up on work and begin prepping for my trip to Japan with Amenra, with one delightful break to drive out to the Mendocino Coast to shoot photos for a fantastic little B & B. I was fortunate enough to have been given a room there so I could be around for the sunrise & morning activities, which sure made me feel like a lucky bastard.