Day 37- Bandera, TX * Day 38- Bandera, TX- New Orleans, LA
With absolutely nothing on the agenda today, we slept in. Maggie was up before me, but ended up back in bed until around 11. While she slept, August explored with his new Canadian friends, and I had a breakfast beer. The decision to take a day off from driving was a good one.
When Maggie awoke, she was craving hangover food, like a greasy burger. We were out in the middle of nowhere, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to find what she wanted. I started down the unpaved road towards a convenience store that I had heard about hoping to find something to satiate her. In the distance, I saw an EZ UP tent on the side of the road to my left. As I got closer, a sign appeared that read, “MESSY BURGER - Bacon & Cheese Sauce - Onions.” Is this real life? I took in the sight of a few grills and tables with a full outdoor kitchen set up as I passed, and I quickly whipped the car around to place my order.
Bobby was a caterer who, because of COVID, is out of work like so many others. So on the weekend, he sets up in front of his house and peddles different specials every week to his neighbors and others enjoying the Medina River that flows behind his house. He had a vibrant personality and I enjoyed talking with him as he prepared two messy burgers for me to take back to camp.
I returned back to camp with the surprise bounty, and Maggie and I devoured the burgers with forks and knives. The messy burger lived up to its name. With beer and cheese sauce sticking to my insides, I returned back to the camper to lay down and write. A much needed lazy day was on the horizon.
With outer bands of the hurricane that passed over the southern tip of Texas threatening to dump rain on us, we set up to watch National Lampoon’s Vacation in the camper. We all laid together and laughed, occasionally telling August to cover his eyes because we forgot about the brief nudity scenes. It wasn’t another epic outdoor adventure, but it was a great bonding experience nonetheless. It was the first time since the beginning of the trip that we actually hung out in the camper.
We eventually made our way out around six and walked the very shallow section of the Medina River behind our site. The terrain consisted of a beach made up of white river rocks that I assumed were limestone as well as quite a few very large boulders. It made for a rather difficult hike that none of us were up to, so we returned back to camp to make dinner.
After a quiet meal of bean and cheese burritos with Spanish rice, I set up for what would be the last show of Quarantour 2020. There was a deck positioned to the west of the campground overlooking a section of the river. I figured this would make the perfect stage where the sun would set directly behind me. Our neighbors joined on the edge of the deck to watch on as I live streamed the show. It felt great to play again in front of a few people. They clapped and cheered between songs and had a genuine interest and appreciation for the music.
August joined me towards the end of the show, and that’s when it hit me that it was almost over. Before the last song, I thanked the online audience, many of whom have been tuning into my live streams since the beginning of quarantine. I can’t think of any word other than “grateful” to describe the feelings I have in this situation. Even though I am technically out of work with all of my regular gigs being cancelled, the online platform, the small private shows in backyards, farms, and vineyards, and the support of my friends and fans across the globe, have given me the ability not only to continue to provide for my family by playing my music, but also to travel the country while doing so. All I can say is thank you.
With the last show done and our energy levels back up, a socially distant fireside after party with our neighbors was in order. The beer and Jamaican rum flowed as we once again shared stories and laughed well into the night. At one point, I grabbed my guitar for some campfire singalongs. It was Jimmy and Shelley’s eleventh wedding anniversary, so I closed out the evening with “Loving You Is A Sentence” as humorous way to celebrate the special occasion before we all stumbled back to our campers. It was another great night indeed.
A morning storm came through around six that rocked the pop up with its wind and rain. I’ve learned to enjoy these storms. There is something completely satisfying about laying under the canvas covered pull outs as the rain beats down above me and the gusts of wind try their best to test the strength of the stabilizer jacks. I laid there until the rain lulled me back to sleep.
We all woke around ten and realized there was only a two hour break in the rain, according to the radar on our iPhones. We popped down and told our neighbors goodbye, but didn’t get out of there without one last faux pas.
Right in front of our campsite is a very steep road that leads down to the lake. I backed the Subaru out onto this road to turn around and back up to the trailer. As I shifted the car from reverse to drive and removed my foot from the brake, I continued to roll backwards just enough for the back passenger wheel to roll off the road into the ditch. And, of course, I’m stuck.
I assessed the situation and starting packing chunks of rock underneath the tire to give it something to grip on. I spun the wheels to no avail. I got out to reposition the rocks trying to maximize surface contact with the tire. My Austin neighbors saw my struggle and came over to offer a push as well. And with the rocks shoved under the tire and the strength and kindness of our neighbors, I was back on the road.
We said more goodbyes and we were on our way. We had planned for one more stop between Bandera and New Orleans, but once Maggie put New Orleans in the GPS, I knew we were making the long haul. No reason in delaying the inevitable.
Regardless of whether or not we stopped for the night, I had the idea of a last supper, a meal we would share and discuss our journey as a family and reflect on our experiences along the way. Well, having decided we were driving straight through, we started honing in on some Cajun restaurants in southwest Louisiana. Evidently every seafood restaurant from Lake Charles to Lafayette is closed on Sunday night, so we had to bypass Prejean’s for the cuisine of the twenty four hour truck stop casino restaurant, Rice Palace. My brain was so fried from trying to find an open restaurant that I completely forgot about the last supper table discussion. We scarfed down our gumbo and poboys which were surprisingly delicious and got back on the road.
It was a particularly uneventful drive home, with exception to a guy smashing into a concrete barrier on I-10 just two cars ahead of us on the east side of Baton Rouge. I pulled over to check on him. The guy in the car in front of me had 911 on the phone and EMS just happened to be driving by immediately after and stopped to give medical attention. As my presence was no longer needed, I returned to the car to finish the last hour of our drive.
I was pretty shook after that and drove in silence for a while. As we got closer, August’s excitement was palpable. It’s hard to believe we have been gone for five and a half weeks. It’ll take me a minute to reflect on all the amazing experiences we shared, but I can say now that our journey was a success. We certainly experienced some pitfalls along the way, but success is seldom what you imagine it to be. Some see success as expensive cars, full bank accounts, or big houses, and that may be what makes some people happy. Our success is that we are able to do what we love to do with the people we love, all while knowing we have so much love and support behind us. That’s something I will never take for granted.
We have gained so much knowledge, met so many amazing people, spent time with some of our dearest friends and family, seen so many of the most beautiful sights in America, and we have shared each of these experiences as a family. I’ve seen each one of us grow individually on this journey and I feel the love we share for each other and the world around us has only grown deeper. That’s a success in my book.
And remember, be good to yourselves and each other.