Day 37- Bandera, TX * Day 38- Bandera, TX- New Orleans, LA 

Day 37- Bandera, TX * Day 38- Bandera, TX- New Orleans, LA 

Day 37 

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. 

Day 38 

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. 

Mike

Day 34- Carlsbad Cavern, NM- Sonora, TX * Day 35- Sonora, TX- Bandera, TX 

Day 35- Carlsbad Cavern, NM- Sonora, TX * Day 36- Sonora, TX- Bandera, TX 

Day 35

Excited about our adventure today, we all woke ready to get out early. White’s City RV Park, as seedy as it appeared, was perfect for our one night stay. I was able get onto the WiFi of the nearby store and stream a show from outside of our camper to pick up a few virtual tips, and we were conveniently situated right outside of the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  

We drove the switchbacks up the mountain to the visitors center. We arrived just before eight thirty when the ticket office opened. Our tour was scheduled for ten, so we walked around the gift shops and read up on the cavern history in the museum. The time passed quickly and we were soon on our way. 

The tour was self guided which allowed us to go as slow as we needed to safely distance from the other ten o’clock tourists.  Our minds were instantly blown as this was undoubtedly the largest cavern we have ever explored. As we made our way seven hundred fifty feet below the surface, we gasped in amazement of the formations that became visible around each corner. And the deeper and deeper we hiked, the more amazing the formations became. It was absolutely stunning. The caverns boasted the largest speleothems we have ever seen. The draperies and chandeliers were both elegant and grandiose, and the cave pools below us were crystal clear, reflecting the formations above as if they were mirrors. Before we knew it, we had hiked over four miles before noon.  

We visited the gift store once again for August to pick up a couple books that were mysteries based in some national parks he has visited. I love how much he loves to read.  It makes me feel ok about the screen time he gets knowing that he balances it with reading. As we left the caverns to head for Sonora, August read his new books and excitedly shared with us the things he remembered from Cades Cove that the author spoke of in one of the books. I feel proud to have the opportunity to show him our country. He’s already starting to show a great knowledge and appreciation for the lands we have explored.  

We arrived in Sonora Thursday evening. The office was closed so we just found and open site and popped up. There were peacocks and turkeys fighting over the food beneath a nearby deer feeder, and just before the sun went down, the deer emerged from the woods to feed. The turkeys and peacocks scoffed at the deer, but the deer paid them no mind. We cooked dinner, showered, and relaxed into the warm Texas night surrounded by wildlife. All was right. 

In the shower, I remembered a sign I had seen in the bathroom in Roswell that read, “Every good memory comes from the end of an old dirt road,” and I was inspired to start writing a song. I thought about all the dirt roads we had driven in the past five weeks and all the amazing experiences they have led us too. I pulled out August’s Baby Taylor and picked out the chords as I sang the melody underneath another starry sky. I felt good about this one. With everyone else asleep, I stared into the sky one last time before putting myself to bed.  

Day 36

We awoke naturally to no alarms on what I would later realize was Friday. The campground was on the site of the Sonora Cavern which we planned to explore that morning. I made my way to the office after a quick PB&J breakfast sandwich to pay for our campsite and secure our eleven fifteen tour slot.  

Our tour consisted of six people including the three of us, our tour guide, and an older couple from just down the road in Del Rio. It was cool to be exploring different caverns two days in a row because we were able to see how vastly different the formations are due to the varying mineral makeup. The Sonora formations were all composed of calcite which produces beautiful glowing speleothems including helictites that we had never seen before. The popcorn and Christmas tree formations were also unique to Sonora. Two caverns in two days- we are literally happy campers.  

We loaded up yet again for another drive day as we are approaching the end of our journey. Maggie found a new app called hip camp which put us on a cool campground called Boulderdash just outside of Bandera, TX.  We arrived to find a five spot campground with a very cool vibe. We popped up and quickly met our neighbors who, for the very first time, were all around our age. We decided to stay here for two nights to get a beak from the driving, and knowing that, we dipped into the ice chest and distantly celebrated our hip camp with our new friends. We drank and talked and laughed for hours. August made friends with twin eight year olds that belonged to our Canadian neighbors. When Maggie said it was time for bed, we were two rosé bottles and a twelve pack lighter. We went to bed drunk and happy. 

As I laid in my bunk, I reflected on our journey so far. What I think makes me most proud is the ability that Maggie, August, and I have to put ourselves out there and go places we’ve never been before with an open mind, an open heart, and a never ending sense of adventure. We are getting close to the end of this trip, but every stop is a new place to take in the beauty of the earth and it’s people. There is happiness in everything around us and it is seeping into our souls. This is our life now.  

Be good to yourselves and each other. 

Mike

Day 33- Angel Peak, NM- Roswell, NM * Day 34- Roswell, NM- White’s City, NM 

Day 33- Angel Peak, NM- Roswell, NM * Day 34- Roswell, NM- White’s City, NM 

Day 33 

Our pop down game is the best it’s ever been. I woke at 7:36am and we were on the road by 8:24. Our next stop is Roswell. We were thinking seeing some alien stuff would be cool. I still think that, but Roswell during COVID is no place I want to be. Everything there that is interesting is closed, and everything there that sells your necessities is overrun with non maskers.  

I’m getting ahead of myself. The day started great and we were really enjoying the drive until I got a call from my car insurance agent who informed me that there was a discrepancy with last months payment (not sure what happened, but the auto draft didn’t go through and we didn’t catch it) and that if we didn’t pay by today, the policy would cancel tomorrow. So we transferred funds from Venmo and PayPal to make the unexpected payment. This normally wouldn’t have been a big deal but all of the rest of the Quarantour 2020 gigs have been cancelled thus eliminating all guaranteed income for the rest of our trip. The stress set in and for the first time on this journey, I turned inward. 

As a person that battles depression, I am grateful that I’ve gone as long as I have on this trip without feeling the stress and anxiety that comes along with it. And I’m very lucky to have a woman by my side that understands what I go through because the majority of the time, she takes the brunt of my frustrations. And that was the case today. The following incidents didn’t help any either. 

Right as we backed our camper into our tight little spot in our Roswell RV park, our neighbor accidentally dumped her waste line all over the strip of grass between us. My jaw dropped and I was speechless as she fumbled for words to apologize. We were kind about the occurrence. Maggie said, “I live with these two. I smell shit all the time.” Inside I was fuming and so was the strip of grass outside my front door.  

The owner came by quickly to spread kitty litter so that the smell would evolve to kitty shit. I’m not sure what the thought process was there. The only thing worse than the smell of human shit is kitty shit. Shit. Maggie loaded up our essential oil diffuser and I went in to lay down.  

We were all tired from the last few days of hikes and late night stargazing, so a rest up period after our pop up was in order. We all laid down for a couple hours before remembering we needed to grab a few essentials from Wal Mart. Still tired and cranky, we loaded in the car. 

Now, every store I’ve gone in across the nation has signs up informing customers that masks are required for entry. And in every store I’ve gone in across the country, every employee of each store was masked. Of course, there were always a few non masking customers who I guess don’t believe in science, but most people have been masked in stores. Not in Roswell. Not the customers or the employees. The ones that donned masks were wearing them as mouth covers or as chin straps. I thought about my friend, Chris, saying that wearing a mask like a chinstrap is like wearing a condom on your foot. He speaks truth. 

We avoided contact with anyone and got what we needed, but the stress of this situation only added momentum to my downward spiral. I recognized where I was at mentally and apologized to Maggie for my mood and often sharp reactions. I made a conscious effort to pull out of my funk. 

We returned to camp to cook dinner to find that whole RV park smelled like a horse farm, or maybe a zoo. Yes, a zoo. It smelled like the elephant exhibit at the Audubon Zoo. I lit a stick of incense and placed it nearby as I cooked ramen noodles for me and the boy. Maggie made herself tuna salad. We had laundry to do as well which had us walking back and forth across the park. I ended up lighting every last stick of incense I had and strategically placed them about every ten feet between our camper and the laundry room. Shit.  

After a day like today, there was nothing that could salvage my outlook. The only thing I could do was sleep and hope for a better tomorrow. 

Day 34 

I couldn’t wait to get out of here. Our neighbor had pulled out early and it seemed as if the smell had left with her, so that was nice. Maggie took off to grab some coffee with some points she had as I was troubleshooting an issue with our bed’s sliding rails. The bed was pulling out too far on one side, and it has been getting worse the last few days. I found the issue and when Maggie returned, I left for Home Depot for a bolt and locking nut to serve as a stop for the slide.  

Home Depot was no different than Wal Mart. I got exactly what I needed and returned to fix the bed. In just a few minutes and only a few profanities later, our bed slide was fixed. Maggie was elated as she had been becoming more and more worried about the issue. We popped down and we were on our way.  

I still had a bit of a bad attitude this morning and I recognized it early. The stress of the income lost from the cancelled gigs still had me reeling about how much just getting home would cost, much less all the things we wanted to do along the way.  

I had a great conversation with Michael Delaney, who owns Delaney guitars, and is currently building a custom guitar for me as a Delaney endorsed guitarist. He builds beautiful guitars and was actually working on mine when we spoke. Mike is a great guy and talking with him on the phone instantly made me feel better. Of course, there was the excitement of him working on my guitar, but aside from that, our conversations flow so organically as if we have been friends for years. I’m really happy to become a part of the Delaney guitar family.  

With a spot of brightness in my day, we continued on to White’s City RV Park, just a few miles outside of Carlsbad Caverns. We laughed at how bare bones the park was, popped up and headed out for a hike. We chose a trail called Devil’s Hall which was in the Guadalupe Mountains just south of the New Mexico/ Texas border. This was our most ambitious trail yet at 4.4 miles. August whined a little at first, but in true August fashion, even after falling and hurting his knee and having a stomach ache, he ended up crushing the hike.  

The post hike high is great. I felt good again. We were made aware of the bat flight that occurs nightly at the cavern, checked the time, and immediately drove that direction after the hike. We arrived a few minutes early and waited eagerly for what we thought would be something more special than it actually was. I guess it varies night by night as far as how dense the population of bats are leaving the cavern, but I know tonight was not one for the books. We saw small spurts of three and four bats here and there, but nothing like our friends had seen a few weeks back.  

We made some new friends who were parked a few spots down and talked with them until the sun had expired. They had been on the road for six weeks and weren’t planning on going home anytime soon. We shared a few hike suggestions, said our goodbyes and headed back to camp for dinner.  

While Maggie cooked for herself and August, I heated up some leftover quesadillas as I set up for a live stream show from the campground. I figured with all the other gigs canceled, I could still hopefully generate a few tips from a good old fashioned live stream. 

I set up just alongside the camper, hidden from other campers in hopes to avoid anyone coming over to hear the music. The set was a low volume one that I thought felt great. There was great interaction with all who were tuned in and everyone was generous with their tips. There were even a few campers from down the way that I caught out of the corner of my eye that were enjoying the show from a distance. 

I am just so grateful for the ability to play and sing and write in a manner that affects others in a positive light. And I’m so grateful for all of you who are affected by my music so much so that you share your generosity with me and my family. Just by playing the music and interacting over the live stream tonight, I was able pull myself out of my funk.  

And to be quite honest, looking back on the stress of yesterday, I really think it was less about the money, and more about the gigs being cancelled. Of course, losing the expected income hurt, but not enough to tarnish the rest of our trip. I just needed to play. It’s part of what makes me me. So I’ll keep playing wherever and whenever I can and for whoever will listen.  

And once again, in the words of the late great Spencer Bohren, “Be good to yourselves and each other.” 

Mike 

Day 30- Cottonwood, AZ - Placitas, NM * Day 31- Placitas, NM- Bloomfield, NM* Day 32- Bloomfield, NM 

Day 30- Cottonwood, AZ - Placitas, NM * Day 31- Placitas, NM- Bloomfield, NM* Day 32- Bloomfield, NM 

Day 30- 

Our time in Sedona was exceptional. We awoke fulfilled, popped down and pointed our compass East for New Mexico. I originally had a private house show planned for Placitas but because of the governor’s newest COVID mandate, the host opted to move the show to a nearby Santa Fe brewery. So we were Santa Fe bound. 

Along the way, we crossed over onto the Navajo and Hopi reservations. There were many trading posts along the way that tempted us with their promise of Native Art and Jewelry, but because of our lengthy day of travel and a 6pm start time for my show, we were unable to stop and peruse. Luckily, August called for a bathroom break just before the exit for “Pee Pee by the Tee Pee.” (literally a road side port-a-let positioned next to a Tee Pee) It’s a novelty I guess, but it’s main purpose is to lure you into the on-site Navajo trading post filled with native crafts. Well, it worked. 

With my eye on the time, I quickly gandered at the offerings and purchased a piece of rough turquoise from the eager sales clerk behind the counter. The turquoise rock was full of beautiful veins and I plan to cut it into 4 pieces and polish the stones for later use in pieces of jewelry.  

We pressed on and made it to our destination just in time for load in. The brewery was enforcing mask rules while ordering or walking around the premises which made us feel safer about doing a show at an actual venue. Once seated at one of their properly distanced tables, you could remove you mask.  

Our friends, Melanie and Kyle, who were originally going to host the house show arrived and we caught up while I set up the gear. The difference between this show and the others I’ve done so far I’d that this one would be performed to an audience that had no clue who I was or that they were even going to see live music that day. There’s certainly a difference in comfort level in this situation, but I did what I do and they seemed to receive it well. August joined in on a few songs, and the socially distant crowd loved it.  After an hour and twenty minutes or so, an evening rain shower came in and put our performance to a halt. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.  

We loaded up and headed back to Melanie and Kyle’s place in Placitas while the New Mexico sky put on quite a show of its own. The sky out here is part of the reason I love New Mexico so much. The clouds are full and deep and the sunsets produce some of the most vivid colors. There’s almost always a rainbow or two in the sky, at least during this time of the year, which they call monsoon season.  

It was dark when we arrived and we opted to pop up Stella, Mel’s 78 VW westfalia bus, and sleep in it instead of setting up the camper. Melanie drove Maggie to our wedding in this bus, so sleeping in it tonight seemed apropos as we just renewed our vows a few days ago. But before we retired, we continued to catch up over beers by the fire, underneath an amazing star filled sky.  

Day 31 

I was up around five thirty, only two and a half hours after I was able to close my eyes. I got up to pee and tried to lay back down in our car as to not disturb Maggie or August. I eventually moved to a reclining lawn chair in the middle of the yard and rested until about eight thirty, never fully falling back asleep. I got up and started cleaning and organizing the car. The load out after the gig was quite a frenzy in between bands of rain, so I pulled everything out to situate it just right. I cleaned out trash and organized dirty clothes to better prep up for our next stop. 

Today we are headed to meet up with our friends JP and Lexi and their two huskies in Northwest New Mexico near the Bisti Badlands. Melanie and Kyle and their dogs were going to join us, but because of concern for how the dogs would interact, they decided to go to Taos to camp. We had planned to meet back up, but that wouldn’t happen.  

Excited to see JP and Lex and congratulate them on their recent wedding, I fought through the tiredness to arrive at our rendezvous, Angel Peak campground. Angel Peak is beautiful mountain composed of what appears to be sandstone and volcanic ash amongst other things I’m sure whose shape is reminiscent of a Christmas Tree Angel topper. It protrudes out of a vast, colorful canyon amongst another amazing formation called Castle Rock. This place is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and we have just arrived.  

We were just finishing getting set up when our friends arrived, and we all exhibited excitement to be in each other’s presence. They, too, have been on a long journey, and we all had many stories to share. Lex made cocktails and we explored our home for the next couple of days. Our walk turned into a hike that none of us were prepared for. I mean we were in flip flops drinking vodka for Christ’s sake. We turned around with plans to go further tomorrow, better prepared. 

I cooked a steak and potato dinner for all and we ate and drank Oregon wine as we prepped for what was to be the most amazing sunset and night sky we’ve seen yet. But first, August treated us to a sunset DJ Auggi D set. Afterwards, we laid our camp rug with yoga mats and pillows to lay on our backs and gaze at the stars for the next four hours.  

With very little light pollution from the tiny nearby town of Bloomfield, we were in for quite a show. As the sun tucked further back behind the horizon, the sky got darker and the stars got brighter and more plentiful. The Milky Way was prominent and satellites were sliding across the sky at a rate that kept us in awe. Behind us, just below Ursa Major, the comet we had been hearing about for days was finally visible. This was the stargazing night we had been waiting for all trip, and on day 31, we finally got to experience it with some of our best friends.  

We laid on our backs for hours with our eyes peeled, cheering on the vast, night sky as dying stars shot across it. There was one that we believed to be a meteorite that we all saw that seemed to shoot across the sky for up to five seconds. We laughed at ourselves as we celebrated the free show that our universe was putting on for us.  

August fell asleep under the stars. When Maggie noticed I was starting to doze off too, she nudged me to pick up August and made our way back to the camper. We fell asleep with our windows open, with the cool breeze blowing through, and with the stars as our nightlight. We shared more than just a few hours of stargazing that night. We shared a childlike wonder as if we were seeing the stars for the first time. We shared a mutual respect for how small and uncomplicated we really are. We shared a love for each other and the universe in which we live. It’s nights like these we’ll never forget.  

Day 32 

We had to say goodbye to JP, Lexi, and their wolves today, but not before we ate leftover steak and potato quesadillas for breakfast, played an impromptu music set with Angel Peak as our background, and finished that hike we were unprepared for yesterday.  

The hike took us around the end of the cliff from where our camp was set, and before we knew it, we were at a juncture that split off onto a narrow path that led to the end of the ridge that separated our campsite and Angel Peak. Lexi decided to walk back to camp as the dogs were pulling and they didn’t think it was safe to bring them across the ridge. We were eye level with the Peak as we moved on cautiously across the hairpin trail with dramatic, rocky slopes on either side.  

Our goal was to make it to what i would consider the peak of this particular ridge. It was a large boxy stone that jutted out from the wavy volcanic ash that lay beneath it. There were rock structures on either side of the peak, and the trail along the ridge between them mimicked the arch of a strand of garland hanging across a front porch at Christmas time. Once we reached the peak, which August had named “The Bible,” August and I noticed that the trail went further. JP headed back to help Lexi load up, and Maggie pleaded with me and August not to go further.  

The trail from this point on was rather treacherous. We made it about halfway across the next stretch of garland before Maggie had a conniption fit and we obliged her pleas to return. We chilled out on the shady side of the Bible for a few minutes before making our way back to camp.  

We soon said our goodbyes to our friends as they headed out for their next adventure. Joshua Tree was next on their list, but we weren’t done here yet. We were off to hike the De Na Zin Wilderness of the Bisti Badlands.  

We traveled East down HWY 550 until we reached 7500 which was an unpaved road that seemed to go on forever. Maggie was on a conference call while we were en route but finished up just before we arrived at the trailhead. 

We signed in and entered the wilderness which started out as flat desert land full of sagebrush, prickly pear, and little yellow wildflowers. After about a half mile or so, the terrain changed drastically. All of a sudden we were in a wash of tightly packed sediment of all colors that swirled together to create a sort of tie dye effect. With every corner we turned, more and more rocks appeared, and then petrified wood, and then the star of the show, the hoodoos. 

The hoodoos are these stand alone sandstone formations that August would describe as phallic. He wouldn’t be wrong. Hoodoos are formed when the sandstone erodes at different rates. Evidently the top layers of sandstone are more firmly packed creating a more dense property than the sandstone below it, which erodes more quickly. This results in these strange top heavy formations, some resembling mushrooms, others arches, and some are completely unique in their structure.  

August found a snakeskin near the base of a hoodoo at the end of our trail. We were all excited for his find. And we were all blown away by the hoodoos. They lined a canyon of volcanic ash, and every one was more interesting than the next. Unfortunately, the skies started turning dark on us and thunder was rolling in the distance. I wasn’t so much worried about rain, but lightning is a different story. And our phones were almost dead meaning we wouldn’t have our GPS to keep us from getting lost in the wilderness. 

We trucked back down the trail at record speed for us and made it back safely with one phone dead and one at two percent. A portable charger will be coming with us next time. We reveled in the light sprinkle from the edge of the storm that cooled us off towards the end. We are still learning, but we are getting better and more adventurous. I’m digging it. 

We took in another magical sunset after making nachos out of leftover Mexican food from Cottonwood. We ventured to a couple different spots to have different vantage points. Maggie and I sat back on a strategically placed bench while the sunset painted the horizon, and August entertained himself and us with his standard evening burst of energy. He truly is a delight to have on the road.  

Two jackrabbits made their presence known to us on the way back to camp before we set up to take in some more stars. The only difference tonight is that we are dead tired from last night’s star party and almost 6 miles of hiking today. Nonetheless, we laid out our camp rug, pillows, and mats and got horizontal.  

The sky tonight was just as amazing, but we just didn’t have the energy to stay up very long. Another day done is another day that I feel completely fulfilled. We piled into the camper once again with the windows open and stars as our nightlights, we faded into our dreams.  

Be good to yourselves and each other  

Mike

Day 29- Sedona, AZ 

Day 29- Sedona, AZ 

Today started out very smooth. Everyone woke up ready to explore. Well, at least Maggie & I did. August has always had the demeanor of a teenager in the morning. I remember when he was three years old getting woken up for preschool. “Just fifteen more minutes, dad,” he would whine while pulling the covers over his head. This is par for the course and generally only lasts a few minutes before he begrudgingly rolls out of his bunk. 

We opted to pick up breakfast burritos and bagels as well as a couple iced americanos rather than to cook at camp, and we were on our way to Sedona. I had been here once before with my family when I was sixteen. I remember loving Sedona, and if I loved anything at the age of sixteen, it must’ve been wonderful. So I was excited to see again what I held so dear in my heart from twenty four years ago.  

We stopped in town first because Maggie wanted a hat to keep the sun off of her face while we hiked. So naturally, $80 later, with an Indian textile jumpsuit and hat in hand, we made our way off the main road to search for our first hike. The GPS led us directly to the spot where the trailhead began. There was a bit of confusion as our desired hike, The Birthing Cave, was an unmarked off chute from the main trail, and it wasn’t marked on the trailhead map. We consulted our GPS again, which told us we were in the right spot, and off we went.  

We passed a lone hiker returning from her hike, and we questioned about our destination. She confirmed we were en route and gave us a couple landmarks to follow as the trail was indeed not marked with any signage. We approached the man made line of dead wood and the barb wired fence she spoke of, and we headed off the main trail towards the red rock bluff. At this point, we had only seen two other hikers. Perfect. 

With each turn of the trail, we got closer and closer to the bluff, and when we finally reached a clearing, the view of the red rocks touching the blue sky was awe inspiring. We snapped a family selfie and continued on. We shortened our distance with every stride and before long, we heard voices. The voices were very clear and loud. Two male and two female voices projected, and we thought they were from hikers coming back down the trail.  When we never saw anybody, we realized that the voices we being thrown from the cave above that was acting as an echo chamber.  

The last leg of the hike was steep and rocky. Loose sand and rock made some of our steps turn to slips, but we prevailed to the base of the Birthing Cave.  I was the first one up and surveyed the scene. There were two young couples sitting on either side of the cave, one from Miami and one from Scottsdale. I surmised that the voices we heard earlier were theirs, and I extended pleasantries. 

The cave was large and there was plenty enough room for all of us to distantly enjoy it’s shade that gave us a reprieve from 100 degree temperature.  We all shared stories and laughed about dumb stuff we’ve done while hiking, which foreshadowed our return hike. But first, we just sat and enjoyed the cave.  

For almost an hour, August climbed around the very rounded inner walls of the cave pretending to be a professional free solo climber. I love his passion for exploration. He’s grown into a great hiking companion.  

We eventually decided that it was time for us to return back down the trail which is Doussan code for “get lost.”  We made a couple wrong turns and quickly realized we weren’t on the same trail. I kept trying to follow our new trail back closer to the bluff where the original trail was, but I kept hitting dead ends. The thought of getting lost out here is scary. Water will definitely run out and there is no cell service. I then decided to backtrack, following our footprints in the loose red sand to the fork in the road where I made the first wrong turn. Seeing the right path in front of us, it was hard to imagine how we made the mistake. We are clearly still learning. 

We returned to town after the hike for a quick lunch at the Cowboy Club, a restaurant that I remembered from my childhood time spent here. It was smaller than I remembered, but the menu seemed to be the same. We ordered rattlesnake bites, cactus fries, and a bison burger that we all shared. I had a couple of post hike local brews from the tap, and we planned our afternoon hike. The food was delicious and just the right amount. 

We wanted to get some water in our life as the heat is very real during the day here. We decided on the Midgley Bridge Trail which starts, you guessed it, at the top of the Midgley Bridge. At first, we were concerned at the number of people on the trail, but we quickly ducked of off the main trail and headed straight for sound of rushing water. Our efforts proved fruitful, and after a short downhill hike, we were set up on the banks of the Oak Creek for a little swim time. 

August and I had stripped down to our birthday suits in the parking lot to change into our swimsuits and we were ready to get wet. I found a nice sitting rock about chest deep where I sat and enjoyed the little fish nibbles. August joined me and we tried to catch the fish with our bare hands. We laughed at our inability to do so, but in the clear creek water, we did see a massive Arizona crawfish in its natural habitat! It’s so wild that we’ve now seen crawfish naturally existing in both Colorado and Arizona and had a full on crawfish boil with crawfish from Oregon! I had no idea.  

We hiked on a little further after our swim time until we found another great spot where August returned to the water while Maggie and I basked on a large, flat boulder. This proved to a beautiful and shady hike, which was exactly what we needed after the blistering hike to the cave. We made our way back to town for post hike ice cream and headed back to camp.  

On a tip from a friend who grew up nearby in Cottonwood, we picked up some great Mexican food from La Hacienda to take back to camp for dinner. Damn. That shit was delicious. Thanks, David. Dead tired and full, we are all now horizontal in the camper preparing to recharge for our drive to Placitas tomorrow. 

Be good to yourselves and each other. 

Mike

Day 26- Squaw Valley, CA - Las Vegas, NV * Day 27 - Las Vegas, NV * Day 28- Las Vegas, NV - Cottonwood, AZ 

Day 26- Squaw Valley, CA - Las Vegas, NV * Day 27 - Las Vegas, NV * Day 28- Las Vegas, NV - Cottonwood, AZ 

Day 26 

We found out late last night that a 9 year old student who attended the school Maggie taught at last year was murdered. A few of our friends also taught this young boy and the feelings of sadness and hopelessness were endured from multiple angles. Maggie didn’t sleep much as her mind took her to places she never imagined. 

We were scheduled to leave out of our campsite early to get a jump on our journey to a destination we had not yet decided. Instead, Maggie cried as she slowly packed up the inside of the camper. August and I took care of our outside duties offering support whenever and wherever we could. The mood was set, and it was somber.  

Maggie cried all through the orange groves between Squaw Valley and Visalia, and we still had no real destination. We only knew we had to start heading east for New Mexico. Our original idea was to camp around Lake Mead, but after seeing the amount of people at Hume Lake, we decided to look into other options. 

It was then that I reached out to my buddy and former bandmate, Jimmy Carpenter. Jimmy now lives in Las Vegas with his partner, Carrie, and her two children. Jimmy confirmed that he would be around and we started looking for campgrounds nearby. Right as we picked our spot which was only 10 minutes from Jimmy and Carrie’s house, we received a text from Jimmy offering up their casita for us to stay. Their casita (little house) is a stand alone structure in the backyard that beat any of the finest hotel rooms I’ve stayed in with all the amenities one could need, and it opened up to a beautiful pool. We were sold. 

Almost immediately after we decided we were headed to Vegas, we began planning our wedding vow renewal on the Vegas Strip.  Aside from needing something to lift our spirits, we figured that our original plans to renew our vows during our 10 year anniversary celebration in October wouldn’t be possible due to Covid. We were all in.  

Maggie researched wedding and vow renewal packages on her phone as I pointed our rig towards fabulous Las Vegas! Our excitement grew not only because of our spontaneous idea to get re- hitched, but also because neither of us had been to Vegas before. We knew it would be pretty hands off because of the pandemic, but we were excited nonetheless to see the strip in person.  

We arrived in the early evening and Jimmy and Carrie greeted us at the door. Both Jimmy and Carrie recently tested negative for Covid and it eased our concerns about how distanced we needed to be. We caught up on the last decade over a beer and I grabbed a few bottles of Oregon wine from the car to chill for later.  

Man, it was good to see Jimmy. We played in a band together from 2007-2010 or so and it was one of my favorite lineups of my career. We reminisced on the first time we played together in 2004. Those were the good old days.  

We all sat around the table and ate the spaghetti and red gravy Jimmy had prepared, and we drank the Oregon wine. Before long, it was time for bed. We retired to the casita and Maggie and August crashed immediately. I stayed up to work on my vows for the next day’s ceremony. 


Day 27 

It’s amazing how easy it is to sleep in when you’re not feeling the morning heat beating down on the canvas of the pop up camper. I awoke naturally around 9:30 to find Maggie up and tuned into an online meeting for the new school year. That’s a whole other source of frustration, but we’ll discuss that at a later date. I made my way to the main house to find August already in there playing the keyboard. Jimmy and I talked for a bit before I went out to pop up the camper to grab a few things we needed.  

After Maggie finished her meeting and hair conditioning treatment, we headed out to search for a thrift store to find some decent clothing for our  vow renewal at the world famous The Little White Chapel. I immediately found a black pinstriped jacket, black wranglers, and a plain grey t-shirt, and August found a Utah Jazz jersey and some blue rainbow striped warm up sweats. Maggie found nothing, so we headed to the strip for Maggie to find a dress.  

August and I dropped Maggie off at Fashion Show, which I guess is a mall of sorts. She originally wanted to go to forever 21 but she decided to go to a less crowded Banana Republic where she quickly found a white dress at 80% off. We were set. We headed back to the casita to eat and rest up. 

We got dressed for the occasion and followed Jimmy and Carrie down to the chapel. Our officiant led us to the chapel. She must’ve seen us poking around outside not knowing where to go. We signed in at the front desk and picked up our commemorative certificate and bumper sticker. Before long, August was walking Maggie down the aisle as Jimmy and Carrie both took video and pictures.  

I’m not sure what I expected, but I guess I thought it would be a little cheesy. Aside from some of the obvious things that supported that notion, I was overwhelmed with love and excitement to once again make a vow to my best friend and my lover. The officiant walked us through the ceremony and Maggie and I recited our vows. I teared up as I made my promise. We exchanged rings again, this time custom turquoise rings from Serpentine Silver Queen, and we walked down the aisle once again, arm in arm. 

We snapped a few shots before we headed back to the house for some rosé bubbly to celebrate. We chatted for awhile over champagne before we decided to set up and play a live stream concert from the music room. I knew it would be great. Jimmy is such a great player and we always had such a great chemistry together. Nothing has changed since the last time we played except for maybe both of our voices improved and we may have developed a few more wrinkles. We navigated through both old and new material as we fulfilled requests from our online viewers. August and Carrie both joined us on drums at certain points during the show, and we just had a blast. I needed that. To play with Jimmy. It had been too long. 

Forgetting to eat dinner, we headed back down to strip for Carrie to give a tour with it all lit up. We were taking it all in when August started to breakdown. That was when we realized we neglected to feed the poor kid. We cut the tour short to head back home to snack on smoked albacore, leftover Mexican, and spaghetti O’s. Another great day in the books.  

Day 28 

Today makes 4 full weeks on the road. We are traveling well together and we are still excited about what lies ahead, but also apprehensive as Maggie and August are set to start school in some fashion in the near future. There are still no firm guidelines set, so I guess we’ll worry about it later.  

After saying our goodbyes and expressing our gratitude to Jimmy and Carrie, we pulled off an hour behind schedule, once again not having a destination set in stone. We figured we’d head towards the Petrified Forest, but ultimately, we decided we’d stop in Cottonwood, AZ just south of Sedona. I developed a love for Sedona back in ‘96 when I visited there on a family vacation, so I was happy to be stopping nearby.  

It was a beautiful drive as we got to view the cobalt Lake Mead and watch in awe as the rock formations changed shapes and colors. We watched our dashboard display as the temperature dropped from 105° to 59° and then back up to 80° at our destination in Cottonwood. We stopped at Home Depot for some supplies to repair the front bed, which has been giving us some issues, picked up some fast food and made our way to the campground.  

I’d say the highlight of the day was walking around the campground around 9pm and finding an empty campsite where all three of us lay on our backs on a picnic table to gaze at the stars. We joked and laughed as we pointed out satellites and shooting stars. It was dark enough and clear enough for The Milky Way to make an appearance, and we all agreed that the Arizona sky was amazing before we laid ourselves down to rest.  

Until next time, be good to yourselves and each other. 

Mike 

Day 25- King’s Canyon And Sequoia National Parks 

Day 25- King’s Canyon And Sequoia National Parks 

We woke up chilly this morning as we had our AC on full blast in the camper to combat the heat. I’m starting to second guess our decisions to route this way because my whole point for my summer tours are to get away from heat. Oh well. Here we are.  

Maggie had a virtual training this morning that she was able to join from the comfort of our camper as I cooked a farm fresh potato hash with Tillamook cheddar and pork sausage. We ate together at the table in our camper, escaping the morning heat, while she was still tuned in to the training. August continued to sleep in his adjacent bunk.  

We then prepped for the day as August got a slow start, and we eventually made our way to the local market to grab water and Gatorade for our adventure. The drive to the National Forest was slow one behind a convoy of tour busses that kept us at what seemed like a tortoise pace for 19 miles to the gates of the park. We flashed our annual national parks pass, which I highly recommend for anyone touring the country, and started searching for our first adventure. 

Our first stop ending up being the welcome center at King’s Canyon because Maggie had some questions about the parks. We got our obligatory sticker for our cargo carrier and August picked up a pin and a stamped penny to add to his collections.  

Next we headed to General Grant’s Tree Loop which seemed to be an easy 1/2 mile hike that led you to the third largest tree in the world and then right back around to your car. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. I’m not sure how we continue to get lost on these simple loop hikes, but there always seems to be an intriguing trail off of the main loop that we just assume is the way to go. 2 miles later, after wondering where we went wrong, we followed a sweet little chipmunk that led us straight to the giant sequoia that was the showcase of this trail.  

Now, we just recently were blown away by the coastal redwoods of Northern California, and I’m not sure what I expected of the giant sequoias, but I certainly didn’t expect what we found. These trees are MASSIVE. There was one called the Fallen Monarch that lay across the forest floor. It was hollow from the roots to the top, and people used to live inside of it! We hiked through it in awe. There were many other giant sequoias in Grant’s Grove, but none bigger than Grant’s tree itself. It bore the scars of many fires that it had survived as it stood 267 ft tall and about 30’ wide. 

As we read the plaques about the giant trees, we learned that they are damn near immortal. Impermeable to bugs, rot, and in most cases, fire, the only thing that really kills them is toppling. The roots spread wide at a shallow depth without a tap root leaving them vulnerable to overly moist conditions where their roots can’t support their weight. Their are many examples of this in the park. There are even a few that succumbed to fires, but the beauty of these fallen giants is that their death made way for new life. 

Toppling often creates space for more sunlight to reach smaller trees while the force of the falls shakes the seed of its fruit to the ground. New seeds take root, and a whole new generation of giants is born. The same happens with fire. In most cases, the bark is so thick and insulates the trees so well that all that fire leaves is a scar that over the years heals itself with new bark growth. In the event that a sequoia falls to fire, it sheds it’s seeds on a freshly cleared forest floor with a new opening for sunlight to feed a new generation. I’m fascinated. 

We returned to the car to map out the next stop and decided we’d head deep into King’s Canyon. As we made our way along the narrow winding roads, I saw a sign for Hume Lake, which is a lake that I had read about at some point in the recent past. We decided to veer off the main road and detour to check out the lake.  

It was another long and winding road that eventually led us to a break in the forest where we took in the sights of this beautiful mountain lake for the first time. We found a spot to park and walked around only to find every access point blocked by easy up tents, tarps, and ice chests. It reminded me of St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras. We eventually found a break where we stepped up to the shore to let August get his feet wet. We spotted a large tadpole hanging around a log in the clear water. The lake was more populated than we would’ve liked, so we quickly made the decision to move on.  

We stopped to get gas and some sandwiches at a market nearby. We found out that there is a Hume Lake Christian Camp that parents evidently send their kids to even during a pandemic. I have not seen a place as populated as this since the last time I saw a show at Tipitinas. We quickly grabbed what we needed, fully masked, as kids and adults alike ran around unmasked as if they believed their god would protect them.  

In our haste to alleviate ourselves from the situation, we ended up on a road that took us towards Sequoia National Park and not King’s Canyon. There also happened to be construction on that road that led to a one hour traffic stop while highway workers repaved the road we were on. We used the time to eat our sandwiches and chips and read up on the park and what we wanted to see on the new road we were about to head down.  

We found a couple of hikes that interested us including the big tree trail which was a beautiful hike around a meadow full of lush greenery and white and purple wildflowers surrounded on it’s perimeter by giant sequoias. This may have been the most beautiful spot we saw today mainly due to our timing in getting there. The sun was just starting it’s western decline, and it was lighting up the massive sequoia trunks in a way that made them illuminate in a bright orange hue from across the meadow. I felt most at peace here. 

We then found a novelty fallen sequoia that we were able to drive our car through before heading to what would be our last hike of the day, General Sherman Tree. Again, another half mile hike loop that managed to make longer. 

The allure of this hike is that this particular tree holds the record for the largest tree in the world. What I learned on this hike is that this does not mean the Sherman tree is the tallest or the widest, but it with its height and perimeter, it boasts more volume of wood than any other tree in the world.  

The hike took us down a few hundred feet for us to get to base of the tree where we reveled in its size. It’s footprint was over 100’ around the base. In my estimation, it would take more than 20 people stretching their arms out and holding hands to reach all the way around the giant. We snapped a few pics but had no desire to stay because once again we are noticing that maybe 1 in every 20 people are masked.  

We slowly hiked back up the steep trail taking a few breaks breaks before reaching our car. At 7,000’ you can definitely feel the lack of oxygen in the air. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see King’s Canyon, but our consolation prize was a beautiful sunset over the Sierra Nevada Mountains that took us all the way back to campsite an hour away.  

I finished the night off grilling up some duck sausage that my buddy, Rob, had given to me, and Maggie and I laid side by side on the picnic table taking in the show that the stars were putting on while August sucked up the campground WiFi. It was a good day, indeed.  

Until next time, be good to yourselves and each other. 

Mike

Day 23- Laytonville, CA - Healdsburg, CA * Day 24- Healdsburg, CA - Squaw Valley, CA  

Day 23- Laytonville, CA - Healdsburg, CA * Day 24- Healdsburg, CA - Squaw Valley, CA 

Day 23 

Once again, we have the bittersweet feeling of waking up knowing we are leaving our friends who we have enjoyed meeting up with multiple times along this journey. The rest of our trip is flexible after tonight’s show in Healdsburg, so who knows where we may meet again. Marc, Katie, and Mat, if you are reading this, thank you for showing us the beauty of Laytonville. From the second we pulled our camper on to the farm, we felt the love and kindness from each person we encountered. The magic of the Eel River has me writing down the highway number that led us to our special spot so that if I’m ever there without you, I can find it and reminisce on the time we shared there. And to each and every one of you on the farm- Thank you. You are all a true reflection of the love that I believe makes this world go ‘round.  

We took our time popping down this morning. One, because I may or may not have had a slight hangover and two, I made the mistake of getting in the hammock immediately after waking up. We eventually hooked up the camper to our Outback, who just turned 5,000 miles older, said our goodbyes, and set our gps for Sonoma County. 

We arrived around 3pm and my long time friend, Rob, showed me up the hill to the beautifully level pad behind his house where we would be popping up. It was almost as if it was set up for this very occasion. After I backed in the camper off of a steep hill ( I’m getting really good at backing this thing in and saw an opportunity to brag) Rob and I quickly caught up over a beer. Maggie and I both had showers and we were off to Rob’s restaurant, The Parish Cafe, in downtown Healdsburg for the private show I’d be performing.  

Rob and his wife, Karla, set up to entertain a few handpicked socially distant guests as Maggie and I set up the stage, merch table, and live stream. I was feeling tired at first, but after a few songs and some positive reactions from the guests, I started to get into a groove. I developed a good report with the audience through song and story, and we shared laughs mostly, though some spoke of their tears after my cover of John Prine’s “Hello In There.” It was hard to follow August’s version of “Crawdad Hole,” but i managed to keep the crowd’s interest for a while longer. It was a fabulous evening and I was able to greet most of those in attendance after the show.  

We returned to Rob and Karla’s for late night burgers and cocktails as well as an impromptu jam session that brought us back to our high school years. August was in heaven as he finally got to play some video games and hang out with some kids. One of the highlights of the evening was playing a ‘72 reissue telecaster through a custom 1956 Magnatone amplifier adorned with a small blue plaque with the initials J.G. In gold. It’s rumored to be one of Jerry Garcia’s amps from his early days with The Warlocks. It sounded amazing regardless of its history, but I will say that I’m a believer.  

We ended the night with my new favorite cocktail, The Fitzgerald, and said our goodnights. We both had travel plans for the next morning, and we were well on our way to ruining them. I returned to the camper to find August snuggled up next to Maggie, so I took his bunk for the evening. It was nice to spread out.  

Day 24 

Healdsburg is the first place that we’ve felt real heat on this trip with temps topping 100°. It still gets chilly at night, so our AC was off when the 8am morning sun beat down on the canvas slide outs of the camper. There was no getting back to sleep at that point.  

I stumbled out of the camper feeling slightly better than I imagined I would, and I made my way to the laundry room fridge for a Coke.  I surveyed the deck and found the shaded outdoor couch which would be my place to lay down while I waited for everyone else to rouse. The smell of fresh coffee in the air told me that somebody in the house was moving and shortly after, Rob made his appearance.  

We spoke of his family’s travel plans for the day, and I started to map out ours. You see, we have 6 days before we have to land in Placitas, NM (it looks like we’ll be able to salvage the gig!) and multiple options for places to stop in between. 

It took a while to say our goodbyes, as it always does, and we loaded in the car. The hospitality we continue to get shown gives us the energy to continue on with our journey.  

We ultimately decided that Yosemite would be our next stop, but the universe had other plans for us. We drove through San Francisco for August to travel the Golden Gate Bridge, see Alcatraz, and see the Black Magic Voodoo Lounge, where Maggie and I got engaged. We were about halfway to Yosemite when we realized that entry to Yosemite is now by limited reservation only, and there are no reservations available until August 11! We immediately looked up and found no entry requirements other than our National Parks annual pass for Sequoia National Park as well as King’s Canyon and took the next left off of the highway to start heading south. 

On top of being new to the camper world and navigating all the normal stuff, Covid regulations are throwing an even bigger wrench in things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that there are certain protective measures in place, but still after all this time, I’m not always thinking about restrictions unique to certain areas. Just like every other stage of my life, I’m learning the hard way.  

We found an RV park just outside of King’s Canyon for a couple nights, popped up and grilled up some delicious venison burgers that Rob had sent with us. We topped them with sliced, grilled beets that August harvested on the vineyard farm, goat cheese, and a mustard dill sauce as I polished off some leftover rosé. 

We all turned in early so we can get in a full day of exploring the National Parks around us. It’s exciting to have just the three of us here. It’s the first time we’ve been alone since our night in Carson County, WA well over a week ago.  

Well, my eyes are closing as I type this and phone is starting fall out of my hands. Good night and remember- be good to yourselves and each other.  

Mike 

Day 21- Gasquet, CA - Laytonville, CA * Day 22-Laytonville, CA 

Day 21- Gasquet, CA - Laytonville, CA * Day 22-Laytonville, CA 

Day 21 

Today marks three full weeks of Quarantour. We are holding strong and still have a genuine lust for what is still to come. I’m grateful to have a partner as adventurous as I am who can live so minimally in an 8’ x 7’ box that we tow behind our car that pops up and spreads out into what we now call home. I am grateful for August as well. He does the road like an old pro trapped in an 8 year old body. Our conversations are deeper and more inquisitive than ever. His self taught knowledge of the atlas is improving daily and shows a true love for this journey and those to come. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now. I’m happy. 

Today started slow as Maggie’s alarm didn’t sound. Her phone died overnight in between us as we slept. Oh well. We got out an hour later than planned with no real schedule to abide by. Rebecca had given us a list of places to check out on our ride south down the 101.  

Our first stop was in Trinidad where Maggie found organic triple shot iced coffees for us while August and I walked to view the coastline. We overlooked a beautiful natural harbor and discussed what year Dark Side Of The Moon came out. As we wandered, we recognized a sign for Katy’s Seafood which was on Rebecca’s list for best smoked albacore. We bought the albacore as well as some smoked salmon and packed it away for later. We met back up with Maggie and got back on the road.  

Next stop was Arcata for bagels and a trip the Market for cold brew concentrate. Arcata seems like a laid back town and I wouldn’t mind sticking around a little bit longer in the future under different conditions. Everyone was masked and respectful of each other, and I felt an overall sense of community there. Black Lives Matter signs adorned the windows and gardens of many of the houses we walked by on the way to Los Bagels. Maggie and I ordered slugs and August got an everything bagel. This would prove to be our only meal until much later in the day.  

After leaving Arcata, we were Laytonville bound, but not before taking a parallel detour down the Avenue Of Giants. The Avenue Of Giants is a road that travels alongside the 101 that cuts through a dense redwood forest that showcases the majestic nature of the redwoods. The bases of some of these trees were wider than our car. As a matter of fact, we pulled off the road for an attraction that allowed you to drive through the base of a redwood. We weren’t actually able to do it as trailers weren’t allowed, but we paid as walkers to view and walk through the base. I’ve spent $6 on dumber shit. It was cool to see though.  

We eventually made it to Laytonville where our dear friend Marc, from our Palo Duro and Telluride adventures, was awaiting our arrival at a local market. We exchanged pleasantries and purchased some goodies for dinner that it turns out we wouldn’t need for tonight. We stopped by Marc’s brother’s restaurant before heading to his brother’s farm to set up camp.  

We nestled our pop up in a back corner of the property next to Marc and Katie’s vintage Argosy. We have gotten the set up and break down of the camper down to a science by this point and our home was ready in no time. After Marc’s brother, Mat, gave us a tour of the property, we were informed that a family style meal was awaiting us back at the main house. We couldn’t be more grateful for the hospitality we have been shown on our trip so far, and today is no different. 

We found ourselves back at our campers after dinner drinking beers and catching up on our journeys and new ideas. This is an exciting and weird time as we are exploring creative, out of the box ideas knowing that the music scene will not be a reliable source for income in the coming months. That’s all I can say on that now. August was just happy to have WiFi for the first time in days, so he caught up with his friends on his Nintendo switch before I laid him down to sleep.  

Of course, time flies when you’re having fun, and it is now 3am. Maggie just preemptively took 2 Dramamine to hopefully subdue what would surely be another hangover day, and I am here reminiscing on what turned out to be a great day driving, exploring, and catching up with our fellow road dogs. Love is in the air.  

Day 22 

This morning brought yet another harsh reminder of the reality out country is facing. Due to Covid case spikes and the subsequent local government mandates put in place to aid in once again flattening the curve, I received a text informing me that our Placitas, NM play will most likely be canceled. We have also decided to cancel our second Dallas stop as our host recently tested positive.   

After getting our things together for a day on the Eel River, we followed Marc and Katie to Marc’s brother Mat’s restaurant, The Big Chief, for lunch. The Big Chief is influenced by the flavors of New Orleans, and it did not disappoint. I had a shrimp poboy that was on point. The bread is made by a west coast baker specifically for the Chief and The Parish Cafe in Healdsburg, where I’ll be playing tomorrow. We’ve already decided to return tomorrow for lunch while we launder our clothing.  

We made our way down a long highway off of the 101 that followed the Eel River to jacuzzi rock. Jacuzzi Rock, at least today, was completely vacant. We made the rather treacherous hike down the steep hillside to our oasis for the day. Large Jade boulders lined the beach casting shade on crystal clear, still-water pools amidst rushing river waters. The river bed was made up of well worn jade and agate of all shapes and sizes. I was unable to identify the plentiful 5” fish curiously swimming around our arms and legs. This was exactly what we needed.  

August has become quite the explorer and helped Marc and I navigate an upriver hike around the boulders and through the current until we reached whitewater rapids. The colors. The feel of the cool rushing water against our bodies. Friendship and oneness with our surroundings. All of our worries washed away, at least for the moment, and that’s enough for me.  

We kicked our legs up with our backs to the rapids and let the current take us back to our pool. Marc and I discussed the idea that we could forego all life giving sustenances to stay here as long as we could. It’s places like this that dreams are made of.  

We eventually had to get back to the farm for me and Marc to set up for an evening of music for a few of the farmers and their friends. The excitement around the camp was palpable. Justin, the proprietor of the farm scrambled to set up lights and lasers and a disco ball. Marc and I finally settled into our seats and put together a solid unrehearsed set.  

We then set up August for a DJ set and he rocked the crowd, often leaving them wanting more. He has a special thing going on with his electronic music and it was evident tonight. Our new friend, Jacob, worked with August post set to produce a track on the spot that Jacob freestyled over. It truly is special.  

Marc and I were coerced into playing a second set, and we were grateful to do so. Everyone here works so hard every day from what I can tell, and the music we played for them tonight was such a great outlet for them to relax and enjoy themselves and each other.  

We hung for a little while after the set before retiring to our respective campers. It was another long and beautiful day and tomorrow is coming fast.  

The reality of the world today has not escaped me. While our travels continue to be exciting and new, a journey of this length is no escape. But we aren’t  escaping life, we are living it.  

Remember to be good to yourselves and each other.  

Mike

Day 20- Gasquet, CA 

Day 20- Gasquet, CA 

This morning was an odd one and had the potential to ruin the day. Maggie hired on with a new school for this upcoming school year, and they are trying to navigate what it will look like to open their doors to both teachers and students in the fall, while doing everything they can to keep everyone safe. That being said, Maggie has had quite a few Zoom professional development meetings and conference calls that have been scheduled during our time on the road. Miraculously, the first two meetings happened to be scheduled during long drive days, and Maggie was able to pull a hot spot from her phone with minimal coverage loss to complete both 6 hour sessions. Today was different.  

Yesterday was a long, winding drive down US 101 from Oregon to California, and with each curve of the highway, it seemed we would wind in and out of cell service. Mostly out. As we passed through a small town where we evidently had coverage, both of our phones started singing with notifications. One of Maggie’s notifications informed her that there would be a conference call this morning at 9:15 am. Out here in California, that’s 7:15 am. No, that’s not that big of a deal except the chances were slim that we would have service at our campground along the Smith River.  

We continued to wind in and out of service and she received another notification with what she understood to be a time change to 7:15 am CDT. This seemed odd to me as earliest working hours in my head should be 8. But then again, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve had a job. This meant Maggie would have to be up around 4:45 am PDT to drive to the nearest town with cell coverage to be a part of this call.  

Maggie is hell bent on having her voice heard in this meeting, so she sets her alarm, gets up, and drives to town on the pitch black, curvaceous hwy illuminated only by yellow reflectors that marked the redwoods that butted up to the road. Like clockwork, as soon as she entered town, her notifications indicated she now had service. She waited a few minutes for 5:15am to turn over and she attempted to join the call. Nothing. She tried again. Nothing. She nervously went through her notifications only to find out that the app they are using for the conference call recognized that she was in the pacific time zone and adjusted the time for her to indicate what she first understood- that the meeting was at 7:15 PDT. Tired and flustered and almost defeated, she made her way back to camp to rest a little before she had to go back for the correct time.  

I awoke when she was gone for the second time to start cooking breakfast for her hoping I could have it ready for her upon her return. Our friend, Rebecca, ended up tent camping on the backside of our site, and we chatted as I prepared fresh potato hash and sausage patties. Maggie returned just before the food was ready to be served and shared her woes with us over coffee.  

She was ready to move on from the mistake and get to hiking in the Redwoods. After pleading with a tired August to get up and get ready, we piled into the car to follow Rebecca down 101 to see some sights. Our initial efforts to see the mouth of the  Klamath River were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented even the slightest view of the coast. We regrouped as Maggie directed us to a few hiking areas suggested by our dear friend, Beth. We then made our way further south to Fern Canyon.  

Fern Canyon presented a few hike options for us, and once we got on the trail, we were thrilled! High canyon walls covered in ferns provided shade from the sun as we hiked over pebbles, fallen trees, and a cold, clearwater stream. This section was more populated that we desired, so we stayed masked the entire time we were in the canyon. We reached a point in the canyon loop trail that allowed us to veer off the path most traveled, and enjoy some solitude. As everyone else went left, we went right, and all of a sudden, we are in the middle of a redwood forest alone. This is exactly what we wanted.  

August is having the time of his life doing his normal off trail exploring while we take in the sites of the massive trees. Rebecca, having lived in the area, had quite a bit of knowledge of the redwoods and we soaked it all in in the presence of the fairy rings. We hiked in awe of the power and spirit of the redwoods until August said he was ready to turn around. We made our way back down to join the tail end of the loop to continue back to the car.  

Once we got back to the car, we realized there were multiple trails that led to the coast just over the dunes. The fog had lifted by this point, so we immediately started the hike to the ocean. It was just beautiful. Hardly a cloud in the sky. August and I collected rounded off agate stones and skipped them into the surf as a sea lion played in the shallows to our right.  

This is the best of both worlds for me. The beach and the woods are my two favorite places to be, I’m enjoying both without even moving the car. I’m loving the pacific coast. We stay for awhile letting Aug get soaked as he played joyously in the surf. After our return, I checked my pedometer to reveal we had just crushed 5 miles of hikes. Tired and hungry, we returned to camp.  

I started a fire before a feast of grilled beets and zucchini and a garden fresh griddle fried  rice. We sat by the fire as we ate, drank, and laughed until our eyelids were too heavy to hold themselves up. Another great day in the books. 

Until tomorrow, be good to yourselves and each other. 

Mike