Sunday, May 24, 2009

El Paso, TX

The drive to El Paso was very, very long...but extremely scenic. "(Colorado and New Mexico) you got it goin' onnnn. Not in a gay way, just in a 'hey mate, I wanted to say that you're looking okay, mate.'"

We arrived in El Paso late Sunday night, a couple of hours ahead of the generator. The arena wasn't all that difficult to find. We simply avoided all the lanes labeled "this lane to Mexico only" (which really narrowed the choices), and we were golden. For real though, the arena lot was pretty much a taco's throw away from the border. A light northerly breeze constantly filled our parking area with the oh-so fragrant smells of Juarez.

If you hadn't been following the news at that point, we were all chilling in the lot less than a mile from Juarez right after a recent wave of killings had happened. In case you need to catch up.

It had gotten so bad (as I was informed by a local) that the cartel had sent letters to El Paso residents saying "We're coming for you and your city next." which prompted the El Paso mayor to send everyone a letter basically saying "Please please please please don't go to Mexico. You'll probably die. And now we're going to have a city-wide curfew." As always, this tour has had impeccable timing regarding dangerous situations. Be it hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico, record (pipe freezing) lows in Knoxville, or border towns at the height of the Swine Flu thing, we're always on top of it.

Other than that, El Paso was a pretty cool and historic town to explore. I resisted the urge to track down Al Jourgensen at his El Paso estate. His quote about El Paso sums up El Paso's "Outlaw" vibe nicely: "No one asks questions because they all have a history and a past—and so do you."

There was a cool coffee shop nearby that I frequented during the week but I found the nightlife rather lacking in...well fun-ness.

I did manage to take a trip up Scenic drive and snap some shots from the overlook park. It was interesting being able to differentiate Juarez from El Paso based on the flicker frequency of the city lights and how they went from neat and orderly in El Paso to haphazard mayhem in Juarez.





Although it was a cool town, I really don't have any extraordinarily fun stories to share. No one got kidnapped by the Juarez cartel so I suppose the week could be considered a success.

As with many of these towns, I'll do a better job exploring next time around.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Loveland, CO

The drive to Loveland was long and flat. It was actually pretty cool driving across Kansas for a bit, seeing more sky then I've seen in a long time. It was a very overcast day which was probably for the best since we driving directly West in the late afternoon and into the evening.

It was a contently uneventful trip until we neared our destination. We hopped on the loop that went around Denver instead of through it. We were only on it for 30 miles or so but hit 3 tool booths at $7.50 a pop with the RVs. Yargh. Just before we hit the last toll booth a flash of sparks flew out from Steve's trailer as the tread of one of his tires flew off. We were able to pull over right away and any severe damage was avoided. That dude has got to hold the record for fastest tire change ever. It would've taken me three times as long for sure to get the job done.

We banged out the remainder of the drive and arrived on the lot in the wee hours of the morning. The generator wasn't due to arrive for a while so we stayed hitched and just crashed out.

There's not really much to Loveland as it almost serves as a pseudo suburb to Fort Collins (a much more happening college town) up North a few miles. I found a gym and after talking to the dude on the phone about a week pass, he told me not to worry about paying anything and just come on down. So I did. I went to the counter, gave my name, ready to head right in. The girl at the counter said "OK, so you're here for 5 days so we'll do the daily pass at $10 for 5 days. $50 in advance please." Ummm...what?

The dude I talked to then appeared avoiding eye contact and the girl went into the office to talk to Mr. Bossman to see what could be done about not screwing me over. A disapproving glance later from the smug douchebag and the offer stood firm. It was one of these tiny gyms that caters to super executives and snobby folk who stand around in their expensive gym gear instead of actually working out. After a "well f*ck you very much" I drove the extra few miles to a super nice Gold's Gym and got a $20 week pass. Yeesh.

My first visit to Ft Collins was enjoyable and it reminded me of when we were in Springfield, MA. Not much happening there but Northampton was just a few miles up the road. Very similar layout in both respects.

Oh, and Fort Collins is home to the best freaking Margarita I've ever had for the record.

A day or so later, B, Davie, and I saddled up and drove out to Rocky Mountain National Park for hikination. Holy freaking schnikies. Amazingly gorgeous. We chose Deer Mountain as our route of choice and began the 3 mile hike up to the summit. There were several spots to stop and scope the view, each more impressive than the last. We trudged through snow, avoided the bear shit in the road, and eventually reached the top. Of course pictures don't do the place justice at all but several taken nonetheless. Just as impressive as the views was the unbelievably strong and relentless winds that bombarded us making our jaunts onto rocks on the very edges of the mountain even more adrenaline filled. Imaginary 'lines of majesty' Trogdor style were drawn all around our area and we just soaked it up. Puerto Rico was great but I think Rocky Mountain National Park may take the cake as far most bad-ass place to find oneself on tour.





We made it back down the mountain without incident although disappoint had seen no Moose or other wildlife that could stomp or maul us to a bloody puddle.

Redemption was ours however upon leaving the park. We had just come out of the twisty mountain road when a bunch of cars started flashing their headlights at us. Instead of a cop waiting with a Radar Gun, we saw a huge moose on the left side of the road trying to cross over to join its two mates on the other side. It creeped to the edge of the road, then bolted back away from it several times. Once we had passed and the traffic was gone, it bounded on over to the other side. Pretty cool.

We were hungry ass dudes after out hike so we headed to a brewery in Ft Collins that was recommend to me as having good food as well. As we rolled into downtown we found ourselves at an intersection facing the crowded outdoor patio of a restaurant. As we turned left the entire place stopped eating, looked over at us and just.....glared, scoffed, and scowled at us for several seconds. Strange. As we passed another patio, the exact same thing happened. WTF. Did we have a string of dead babies dragging behind the truck or something? It wasn't until later talking to a local Couch Surfer that I discovered the sheer hatred festering in those stares was directed at my truck. My F250 environment killing DIESEL truck. For real. Wow. Damn Colorado hippie toolboxes. I'm not saying I've never been immediately judgemental of anyone in the past as I have, but this was ridiculous. It was as if a big honking truck that uncomfortably seats 3 was my cruising vehicle of choice and not a necessity. I half expected a circle of smelly protesters around my truck after we got out of the restaurant. Had I known the welcome we were to receive upon our arrival I would've stocked up on Aqua Net hairspray cans to spray out the window while flipping off the 'Greener than thou' crew seething with hatred as we passed.

The rest of my time in Colorado was very enjoyable though. A trip to another brewery where they serve you a free flight of 4 beers for free was awesome. I got a growler of Fat Tire straight from the source as that was where they brewed it. Add to that snow peaked mountains in the distance, super fresh air, and not being in Kansas. All wins.

We closed on a Saturday night so we stayed over and tackled the 800+ mile drive to El Paso the next morning.

DEER MOUNTAIN PICS HERE


....end transmission....

Topeka, KS

We continued our travels out of Texas and into Oklahoma. Nothing stands out in my mind in particular about that part of the trip, save when we passed through Clinton, OK which bore a obscenely huge sign on the outskirts of town declaring it the "HOMETOWN OF TOBY KEITH!!!"

...

Anyway, on into Kansas. If you've never driven through Kansas and talk to someone who has, you'd probably hear:

"Near my home there used to be a beautiful lake, but then it was gone."

"Did the lake dry up?"

"No, it just wasn't there anymore. Nothing was there anymore. Not even a dried up lake."

"A hole?"

"No, a hole would be something. Nah, it was nothing. And it got bigger and bigger. First there was no lake anymore and then finally, no rocks."

And that's Kansas.....

-------

After some searching online after our arrival on the lot, I found there was one bar/club called the Wild Horse Saloon (complete with the tagline "Where Topeka comes to Party") right down the street from the arena. Everything else seemed like creepy ass old dude bars. It was a Wed night and the club was having their weekly "Poor Broke Redneck 3 Ring Circus" night. Yeah, buddy. B and I of course HAD to check THAT out. I like to think it was a good and bad thing I had forgotten my camera. Bad insomuch that we saw very unsettling things that would've been great to document. Bad insomuch that we saw very unsettling things that would've been hard to function enough to document.

After parking at the place, we met the door guy who apparently had several bales of hay up his ass. After refusing B's ID since it was falling apart and staring at mine for several minutes before declaring it a fake we had second thoughts about wasting an evening there. Eventually Mr. Bale-Ass said he would 'let me slide' with my Valid PA ID but we had to go back and get B's passport to gain entry.

It seemed redundant for the club to have their huge Dress Code laundry list as everyone was either dressed like a cowboy or like a...well Kansasan I guess.

'Ring 1' was Beer Pong. Not that exciting.

Before the 'Ring 2' festivities got underway we saw at least two all-out drunk girl faceplants as they descended from the dance floor, one 'dude picks up chick then runs with her across the dancefloor....and faceplants', and one 'dude picks us chick then runs with her across the dancefloor plowing in to a couple who is actually dancing'. Not bad. Oh, and apparently all the girls come to the club with their moms to hang out and drink in Topeka. Weird.

'Ring 2' was the 'Gold Digger' contest which was hosted by a young, slinky, mouse-like dude with a molester stash playing the role of Ringmaster. Like Kid-Rock meets Steve Urkle.

Girls were selected from the crowd to paw and root (I swear I heard some snorts) through various troughs of dirt and filth looking for 'prizes'. It was like watching a redneck version of a Double Dare Physical Challenge. The girls were all used to farm life or something because not a one made any real effort to clean themselves off after rooting around like hogs sniffing truffles and just went back to drinking their beers. Bleh.

Between 'Ring 2' and 'Ring 3' we began to notice the schizophrenic nature of the DJ who would play such endearing classics like 'Crazy Bitch' screaming into the mic trying to get the crowd pumped up....and then immediately transition into several country ballads. From there it would be hip-hop night for a song or two before reverting to a medley of country tunes.

The second most 'WTF' moment of the night was when the DJ started up 'The Twist'. The Twist is a song where the name of the tune is the dance that you do to the tune, right? Not in Kansas. No, in Kansas you line dance to the twist just like it was any other shitty song that people line dance to....and you continue the same line dance as the song switches from 'The Twist' to 'Great Balls of Fire'. Watching people line dance is like listening to Reageatone. There's never any need to do it.....ever. I guess what I don't get is that while everyone on the floor is doing their little dance, not one of them is smiling or even remotely looking like they're having a good time. Everyone is concentrating so hard on facing the right direction and stomping the ground at the right time to have fun with it. I don't get it.

But whatever. 'Ring 3': The 'Sexy' Shower contest.

Sounds hot, right? Just remember where we were and what we had already witnessed.

The shower was this dirty, stand alone contraption they dragged out onto the dance floor. The water came down then recycled back up the side of the thing and came down again....and again. Disgusting.

The contestants (many of the classy gals who were on all fours rooting through dirt and filth earlier in the night), clad in their typical barely there wet t-shirt contest shirts were hurriedly chugging down their $1 cans of Natty Ice and dragging heavily on their cigs before waddling over to the shower beaming (no pun intended) with anticipation for the attention they were about to receive. We lasted 30 seconds which is probably about how long someone rubbernecks at an accident scene. Twas a site best left to our scarred memories and not shared with the world at large....

The shows were fine, and after the last one Steve and I hitched up right away and shoved off for Colorado.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dallas Texas (En Route to Topeka)

Opting out of crunching the ridiculous assload of miles between Lafayette and Topeka in one shot, we booked spots at the Dallas KOA. T'was one of the better KOA's I've stayed at. Card access gate, nice pool, laundry, and wifi that actually WORKED (amazing)!

The main thing on my Dallas to-do list was to head into town and check out Dealey Plaza and the Depository museum. Quite a sobering experience.





The museum was tastefully done but there was no photography allowed inside. The whole place had obviously been renovated save for the corner on the 6th floor where the shot was fired. That had been glassed off and presented as it had been the day of the assassination.

There were a plethora of photographs, videos, and time-lines all over the museum and for the first time, I actually made it through a 'Self-Guided Audio Tour'!

Stepping out into the street and standing on the 'X' after traffic had passed is a moment I won't soon forget. Best left in memory and not bastardized through an attempted translation to words. The place was smattered with various conspiracy theorists handing out their literature to anyone willing to take it. They were exceptionally gifted at the hijacking groups of foreign tourists who mistook them for actual museum tour guides and preached their particular theory to a captive and enthralled audience.

After having my 'moment' I headed into Deep Ellum which is the warehouse district where the artsy crowd supposedly hangs. Apparently they don't hang there during they.....nor does anyone else for that matter. I was able to get coffee but everything else was closed until the evening. Total waste of time.

Since we had decided to stay an extra night to avoid getting to Topeka any sooner than we had to, I was able to smash through my laundry and check out a "cool dive bar" not far from the campground.

I don't remember what it was called and it doesn't matter because it was full of redonkulous hipsters. The place had such hilarious ironies such as a video of a fireplace fire in their fireplace. Good Grief.

The whiskey was cheap though and the ambiance wasn't THAT bad so I decided to stay. While at the bar awaiting a fill-up this drunk ass bumbling hipster douche decides to pour a drink over the head of his equally ironically clad lady-friend....directly behind me...effectively spilling half of said drink all over my ass and lower back. Now, thrashing this dumbass would've been like the scene where they put the cow into the Raptor cage in Jurassic Park. And even confronting the dude would've been pointless since he was so wasted and any confrontation would have surely resulting in his soiling his girl jeans....so I called it a night.

We headed out the next day around noon for the Cultural Wonderland that is Topeka, KS.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Back in Lafayette, LA

We booked out of San Angelo after the closing show Wed night to get a jump start on the 600+ mile drive back to Lafayette, LA. It had been a while since we last crashed in a Wal-Mart parking lot with the truckers.

An early start the next morning put us in Lafayette late-afternoon Thursday. Not a bad town to finish up our Split Week Marathon and we were treated to a rare Friday off with only one show Saturday evening. I wasn't feeling all that hot after our arrival so called it an early night after a quick trip to the coffeeshop.

The next day Steve, Elizabeth, and I found what was by far the most ginormous gym I have ever been in. Two sizable floors of separate weights and cardio equipment, indoor AND outdoor pool, basketball, racquetball, and tennis courts, full restaurant, smoothie bar, etc etc. A bit intimidating.

I was hoping for another trip into New Orleans but was holding out in hopes that Steve and Elizabeth were going so I could snag a ride. Lucky for me, that WAS part of their plan so we left around 4:30 on Friday and headed out, not really thinking about the whole rush hour thing. Baton Rouge was freakin' brutal but we finally made it into NOLA a bit before 7.

I had know Nathan was taking a trip in as well and had assumed he just cruised in on his bike. But after a quick phone call I discovered he had snagged a coveted spot at the RV Park right next to the Quarter and was cool with me crashing at his place. Score.

The Jazz Fest was all that weekend so the Quarter was swarming with people. Our initial attempt to score the best Jambalaya in the universe at Coop's was initially thwarted by throngs of people all waiting to pounce on the next open table. After waiting in vain for a while Steve and Elizabeth gave up and I was going to try to score a barstool. Literally seconds after they had walked out the door, the waitress yelled over at me and motioned to a table in the back. Success! It may seem like no big deal but if you have eaten at Coop's, you can empathize with our plight. Good stuff.

I've never been a fan of Bourbon Street, its huge souvenir plastic beer cups held by its parading, equally plastic tourists, but having never been in NOLA on a Friday night around that many people, it was worth a stroll. I met up with Nathan on one of the corners after witnessing a couple unflattering "Flesh for Plastic" exchanges between Balcony squatters and street Bead Hunters.

We hit up a few bars on Bourbon and were treated to a band performing a moving rendition of their anthem "Fix My Nuts":

video

And now with crowd participation:

video

Classic.

A few bars and many drinks later, we were ready to make the jump over to Frenchman Street.

Frenchman is always a welcome reprieve from the over saturated, tourist soaked Bourbon St. It was no surprise to turn a corner and find ourselves in the midst of a huge crowd scattered all over the street rocking out to a strolling brass band who was just killing. I honestly cant remember which bars we stopped in but ended up at the same bad-ass Sushi place I had checked out on my previous trip, Yuki. Check it out if you're in town.

I was already about done for the night before we reached Yuki, but once Nathan started ordering Sake left and right without my knowing and I found shot after shot magically appear in front of me, it was truly over. On the walk back to the RV Park we walked past an 'Alligator on a Stick' vendor which always seems like a great idea at 4:00 in the morning (in case you're wondering......it's not).

We made it back to the RV sans incident and we're up and on the road back to Lafayette mere hours later to make it to sound check on time.

Nothing else to report really.

Woot.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

San Angelo, TX

City 3 of 4 of the split-week extravaganza. In case anyone was making vacation plans....there is NO reason to ever visit San Angelo, TX. I mean, it wasn't a hellish town or anything, there's just nothing really there.

Only one item of note worthy of entry inclusion: Every year, a local radio station holds a big scavenger hunt contest. A different annual location is picked and vague clues trickle out to the masses week after week. If you find the hidden item, you win $1000 and the pot goes up $1000 every consecutive week until the item is found. This year the location was the Coliseum we were playing.

I was totally unaware of the contest until I saw Davie and B poking around by the athletic field next to the arena. They told me they ran into some random old dude poking around on the other side that said: "There's two grand out here somewhere".

The clues that had been released up to that point were:

"1,2,3,5,6"
"Left of Center"
"Under something silver close to something blue"
"Net the Catch"

...and a couple others I have forgotten. The hidden object was always a piece of paper with a phone number on it in some sort of container.

When asked why he was the only dude out there sniffing around with $2000 up for grabs, he enlightened us with this anecdote. Just imagine Hank Hill is telling it:

"Wellll.....ya see, last year they had the hunt at the park up the way a bit. 3000 people came out and were looking all over the damn place for the thing. 2 weeks went by and nobody found it. The station released the hint that everyone was within 100ft of the object. The next day when everyone was out there lookin', this old pickup truck rolled up and a guy got out.... :lowers voice: ......he was a MEXican.....He walks right over to a pile of rocks, sticks his arm way up in there, and pulls out the object and says 'hey look what I found'. He gets back in his truck and drives on off. That was the first anyone there had ever seen of the guy. That really ticked everyone off so this year nobody showed up to look for the thing. There year before that the paper was stuffed into a pen that was stuck in the ground. I had a doctors appointment today so I'm just out here lookin' fer it."

We sure as hell didn't find shit and I have no idea if anyone has won yet.

The End.

600 mile jaunt back to Lafayette, LA.