Picking up where we last left off… turns out the problem with the van wasn’t actually anything to worry about. Better safe than sorry, so I’m glad I stuck around till Monday to see my mechanic and got the go-ahead to leave town. I left in a hurry with a rough idea that I’d connect with my friends Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra in Hood River OR, where they were staying on a day off from tour. I wasn’t sure I would make the entire drive in one day, but figured I’d drive until I didn’t want to drive anymore and see where I ended up.
The day was bright and warm, spring-like and invigorating. I took Hwy 20 to the mind-numbing banality of the 5, then broke off when I got north of Mount Shasta and headed up the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway through central Oregon. I passed through a dozen small towns, including Klamath Falls and a fascinating little town called Dorris. I say fascinating because it’s a town out in the middle of nowhere, seemingly a million miles from anything substantial, fairly run-down and somewhat deserted, but populated by some number of people who see fit to live there for whatever reason. The buildings are old and decrepit, the houses squat and square (also run down) but there are those few buildings that attempt to draw in the stray tourist looking for a bed or a meal, or at least to stop for a minute and appreciate their little corner of the prairie. Stopping wasn’t in the schedule for me today, but I’m absolutely going to go back and take a walk around and get a feel for the place. I’m fascinated by abandoned places, but more fascinated by not-yet-abandoned places, well on their way to ghost town status but not quite there yet. Why do people live there? What do they do with their time? Where do they work? How did they end up there?
Pushing on northward, I passed through a another dozen small towns (and one big town – Bend), some more populated than others, and some clearly connected to the ranching and farming taking place on the large swaths of land that rolled by my window. I was treated to a brilliant sunset over the buttes outside of Madras on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation as I watched storm clouds roil over the distant mountains. I was on a mission though, so stopping for photos wasn’t in the cards (though it pained me not to). Slowly the scenery changed from rolling golden foothills and craggy buttes to arid Pine forests, the scent of evergreens and wet earth filling my nostrils as I put on my jacket, turned up the heater and rolled the window a little further down. This was the Mount Hood National Forest area, and I decided I’d find a place to park and sleep here. The mountains were what I needed. I wound down the darkening forest roads until I found the perfect place, flat and wide, right above the Hood River. I was only about 45 minutes from where my friends were staying, but I opted for a night alone with the river’s song and the chilled air keeping me company. Made myself dinner, walked around taking some photos before evening turned to night, then holed up in the cozy van to read until I fell asleep.
Gloriously solid night of sleep, waking to the sound of rain tapping against my metal roof and the sky still nighttime dark outside. Did my morning routine including a little walk down the side of the highway to stretch my legs, then piled in the van and headed out of the stately and splendid forest into the town of Hood River. I knew my friends wouldn’t be awake yet so I found a coffee shop and sat down to do some work for a bit. Took a walk around town and passed a little restaurant that used to be a bar where my old band played a fateful gig a number of years ago involving heavy drinking, near fisticuffs and a near implosion of the band. Not so, after all. Took a photo of the spot and sent it to my old bandmates for funsies.
Eventually I got a text that the fellas were waking up and getting themselves together, so I met up with them at the house where they’d spent the night. We enjoyed a home-cooked breakfast (my second of the morning) and coffee provided by their gracious hosts, who it turns out were complete strangers that had opened their home to the band. After eating, the band needed to record a few videos of them performing some songs as gifts to contributors to their crowdfunding campaign, so we all settled in the living room and let the tape roll. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a small room (a home, a cabin, a dressing room) and listening to an amazing band perform songs on acoustic instruments. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this a number of times, and it’s a treat I never tire of. It’s an intimacy like nothing else. It’s how music was played for millennia, come to think of it. No wonder people respond to it.
We bid farewell to our hosts, packed up vehicles and caravanned northward to Seattle for tonight’s gig at the Tractor Tavern. Seattle was warm and sunny (!!), so it was a special little treat to lay in the sunshine while waiting for the club to open. The band loaded in and did their soundcheck thing while I stole away and had dinner with a friend who lives across town. Got back and joined the band and a handful of friends at a local Pho noodle shop before trekking back to the venue and readying for the show. The band were on fire tonight and I continuously struggled with whether I should be shooting video or photos or both. I keep telling myself to commit to one or the other, at least for an entire song, but I found it almost impossible. I don’t want to miss a good photo or miss a dramatic moment that needs to be filmed, though that’s inevitable. Did my best. On this tour, Marty and the boys have been finishing their sets by pulling instruments onto the floor and playing a few songs acoustically in the middle of the crowd. It’s a special way to end the night, again accessing that intimacy that only acoustic music can.
The band had a plan to crash in a friend’s apartment in a different part of town, and since I didn’t know what the parking situation would be over there, I opted to park behind the club, next to the docks and piers that line the waterfront. The presence of other parked RVs gave me the impression that this was an OK place to be, so I pulled up behind a clunker and put my ass in bed.