Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More pics and highlights from the ski season...

More and more pics keep popping up, as well as more and more fun times and memories from a season that is now officially over for me (first night in Kauai!). Everyone keeps asking for pictures, so here's a few.

In addition to the last post's ramblings on the season, I thought I'd add a few notes on other great times.

**Taylor and Becca coming out for a week! Great to ski with the two of them, even if only for a day. I think Taylor got a great tour of the mountain, even got all the way out the Devil's Castle traverse (only time I did it all season too!), and hopefully was thoroughly exhausted when the day was over.

**Seeing brother Evan on skis. Evan got a bum deal with his foot being flat and slightly turned out, so to see him deal with the pain and try skiing for the first time in years was a great thing. It meant a lot to me to see him do it and check out a bit of Alta with Russ, Mom, and I. It was a great morning.

**Mom skied 6 of seven days she was in Utah. That is awesome and she should be proud of the great shape she's in!

**Garett and Scott Law coming to town was perfect. With all the connections Garett has created in the canyon, everytime he comes to play is a treat. But bringing Scott along as well was a bonus. We need more of that in the canyon!

**Skiing Cardiff Pass on the December full moon with a full gang of folks in 2 feet of fresh snow is something I will never forget. Evening face shots are magical.

** Monday, February 7th. 20" overnight, 10" during the day and the road to Alta was closed all day. Best day of lift service skiing I have ever had...by far. By all accounts it was the best day of pow skiing at Alta in years...country club days.

Sundog outside the lodge on another powder day.

Jess and I at the bowling alley...

Moon rise over Mt. Baldy

Red Bull and vodka shotgun...forget the name of that one. This was during the first closing weekend at our little bbq on punk rock off the wildcat lift.

The New Year's eve torchlight parade. We had a great time skiing down with flares in hand, another highlight of the season.

Being silly in the lodge with friends.

Best one piece suit of the year, Chris looking like gumby.

Here I am slutting it up with a mule kick at the last jump party.

A-Lodge folk getting silly with their big sticks...

Classic sunset in the canyon...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A couple slideshows from the season...

Its been just plain rediculous this season...I've never seen it snow like this, ever. We are close to 600" on the season, 350" of which fell in December and January. Of course, I have no photos from those months cause who's got time to snap photos when its that good. Also, until February 5th, we didn't have more then 2 days of sunshine consecutively. I've made trips to Seattle to see Martin get married, a couple trips to Jackson to ski with Scott and friends, a men's weekend up there and a couple days down here, a day at Snowbasin, and many days at Snowbird. I've skied everyday except for maybe 15 or so...

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the season was summiting Mt. Superior and skiing both the north and south faces in the same morning. This peak is the backdrop off the Albion Basin and a high priority for skiers in the area. Since first coming here in '95, I've looked at that peak with a sense of fear and anxiety, always knowing that I 'could' ski it if only given the chance. Things go bad fast up there, slides run the full 3,000 ft. and there are many terrain traps.

Getting up with the sun, skinning up in the early morning light, reaching Cardiff Pass and approaching the eastern flank of Superior was magical. The skiing was great off the north aspect, things had set up a little by the time we hit the south face...at 10am. Here's a slideshow of the morning...you'll see a number of pics of the different aspects, our tracks on the north side, and a pic of my skis before dropping into the south face...:

Another highlight of the season was heading up north to Jackson to meet up with Scott, Doug, Adam, Eric, and a few new friends. Jackson is having one the best seasons they've ever had, now approaching 580"...a welcome sight after last years dismall snowfall. We mostly skied the backcountry off Teton Pass since none of us had the cash to throw at lift tickets to the resort. Also, Adam was just learning to ski pow and the low key vibe of getting out in the bc was a perfect intro. We skied a couple shots of The Claw, a lap off the top of Glory Bowl, a day at Targhee beating around the glades, and a solid couple nights of fine sushi, a Hot Buttered Rum and The Waybacks show, and a lasagna night at a cabin in Driggs. Here's a slideshow of some of the fun (don't mind the butt crack shots!):

Mt. Baldy is the center piece of Alta Ski Resort and is extreme enough that it only opens a dozen or so days a year. Every year I've come out it has magically opened (most often due to long bouts of high pressure), so I came into this year feeling pretty orientated to the chutes. Another side of living in this canyon (and very close to any mtn. that is), is the benefits of easily doing things at NIGHT in the moutains. In December I was fortunate enough to get a perfectly clear night on the full moon. We skinned up Cardiff Pass and skied 2 1/2 ft. of freshly fallen snow in the moonlight. Getting barried in snow, sucking in face shots of snow, and seeing everything from the moonlight was one of the most incredible ski experiences of my life. This was after we had skied in the resort all day, I worked that night, and we summited at 11pm! Of course, the light and the skiing conditions didn't warrant any photos. BUT, here are some photos of the most recent full moon. My friend Nick and I got off work at 9:30pm, had a beer, and skinned up Mt. Baldy for a late night decent of Little Chute. The pics in the slideshow are a little blurry, but I think it adds to how surreal the whole experince was...

This is Mt. Baldy, taken by somebody else in 2006. Little Chute is the gully directly to the looker's right of the true summit. If looking from the left, you see the high shoulder, then Main Chute, a small powder field, then Little Chute, then a series of large cliffs and then the saddle and Perla's drops through the saddle heading east (left). The slideshow below shows our decent up the shoulder (far left of photo above), booting up the highest part of the summit, and then hanging out on top and looking into our chute.

Mt. Baldy 3/22 (Full moon)

Here's a few fun pictures from the season:

Mt. Superior from outside my room, looking down over GMD.

At one point this winter, we had 8 days in a row where the doors to go outside looked like this. Basically, the snow totals are so high overnight or nonstop for days that the avalanche danger throughout the canyon shuts down outside foot traffic. This also means that your going to get some DEEP snow. We had weeks of days like that this year...one day when the road up canyon didn't open, Snowbird was closed, and all your friends were the only ones on the hill...20"in the night before, 20" during the day! The call that a "country club" day.

This is Mt. Sunset, a quick 10 minute sidestep and traverse out of the resort. GREAT skiing off the top of this beauty.

Parties at the employee house at the top of the canyon, looking out over Mt. Superior at dusk. "The Big House" is the best employee housing the canyon, maybe even in all of skiing! Another jump party this tuesday....

The same party, we all take a break from the jump to watch the sunset on a perfect day.

Another highlight of the season has been skiing with this crazy Brennan brother. Kyle is Garett's second youngest brother, recently moved back home to attend the U, and has gotten after it this season. Always good for laughs (look at what he's wearing!), its been a joy to ski with him.

You can't understand the whole Brennan phenomenah without skiing with moma bear. Here's Brenda gettin' deep in Garett's turns.

Here I am celebrating "Mustache March" while at work, chatting it up with some friends in the lodge's bar.

Mom, Russ, and Evan came out for a week and skied their butts off. Here we are taking a break watching the US Freeskiing Nationals at Snowbird a week ago.

Got a great day in at Snowbasin with Mom and Russ, here's Mom and I at the top of the Strawberry lift with Ogden, UT and the Great Salt Lake behind us.

This is me getting deep in Rocky Point earlier this year. Although this was a greybird day, I've gotten the chance to ski with a few photographers this year.

Here's a better one on a clearer day. Patsy Marley on March 3rd.

And one I took on the same day of my friend Paul.

Of course, there are so many stories from the season and so many photos. I've commited to coming back next year and working at the lodge, a little bit this summer in between Hawaii and the farm, and I've made a ton of new friends to boot.

More to come...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Patsy Marley 3/3/08

Of course, its been a while since I posted anything up here. BUT for many reasons, a few of which I will get to, I have neglected this little blog. Basically, December and January were the two snowiest months I have ever seen, we got dumped with more then 350" in 60 days and until this past week, we had only recieved 3 straight days of sunshine. February I was sick for two weeks of, and now all of a sudden its March! We have over 550" on the season and a settled base of over 150". Its been all ski, a little work, two trips to Jackson Hole, a weekend in Seattle to see Martin get married, and a bit more skiing.

We got 18" two nights ago, here are some turns in some nearby backcountry two days after the storm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Stories from a storm...

Written Thursday, December 6th:

Its been a week or so since I last wrote, and tonight seems like as good a reason as any. At 5pm the snow is falling steadily outside my window, the forecast is calling for at least 8" by 5am, another 10-12 during the day, and steady snow throughout tomorrow night, Saturday, and into Sunday; the anticipation of possibly skiing 3 feet of snow in two days is crushing. Better yet, I work tomorrow night and Saturday at 3pm, then Sunday and Monday off! So, I'll be skiing this entire storm without missing a beat...

Of course, both of my guads being strained and my skis having no edges after the past week's powder days and subsequent hunts for softer snow, reminds me that this storm will not all fun and games! Let's hope they hold up.

Written Friday, December 7th:

Alright, writing on Friday morning with a quick update: 10 inches last night, an inch an hour all day today, 12" more 5pm until 5am tomorrow morning, and possibly 10" throughout Saturday and Sat. night! That would make this a 30" storm at least...models are still holding up. SO, Mitch and Sean came up last night to get here early, they are shoveling for breakfast, the bombs are going off throughout the canyon, and EVERYONE is walking on air.

Here's a couple pictures from this morning:

Mitch Bacon rolled into town to pick up Sean for the drive to AK for the winter; of course, they had to stay for most of this storm before heading off. Here they are shoveling the deck on Friday morning in return for food and lodging...great deal!

Sean getting excited, attacking the snow without his skis on yet...

And...here's Sean choking on the goods!

Nothing but smiles after turns like that! Notice the snow stuck on the head...

There were many times during the past few days that I have had to stop and pull snow out of my mouth, take a deep breath, and cough my way back to the lift to do it again. Its a strange sensation, but by no means something to complain about!

Here's the car mid storm:

Kindof romanticizing the whole digging the car out, but its been fun to have to do it...I'll eat those words in a month or so. However, I have never experienced a storm like that...growing up in NH, we had a couple 2-3ft storms...but 40"es and a steady inch an hour for days is a whole other beast.

The view up to The Deep Powder House from the lodge...

Blocking out the sun dog, cup of coffee in hand...

New friend Chris and I, biscotti stealing in progress...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 28th with Sean Brennan

Finally recieved snow! Two nights ago the skies darkened, the snow began to fall, and we woke up to at least 10" of fresh snow throughout the canyon! I made a call to Sean Bear and we linked up in the morning around 9am. Fearing we were getting out a little too late, each skin track showed fewer and fewer pole marks and we found Greely Ridge basically untouched...minus two tracks. We pushed forward south up the ridge looking for more northern facing aspects (those holding the most snow before the storm...still real thin) and were delighted to find completly buffed out, untouched fields of powder. With a solid pitch (maybe 30-35 degrees), a series of slightly windloaded ridges, and stashes of trees to carve through, it was WAY beyond what we expected. It only took another 30 minutes to skin back up and take another lap, yelping the whole way down and giving big hugs and high fives while the snow started melting off our faces.

As you'll see from the pictures, it was a beautiful day.

The view of Superior from within the dining room of the lodge, the storm clearing after 10" and the beginning of a bluebird day.

Looking over at Greely Hill, Sugarloaf Peak clearing from the clouds. Snow is still very thin, but this is a shot at a classic powder meadow at Alta.

The objective: Gunsight. The shot in the middle with the two little pines below the cliffs on the left. Ended up skiing both chutes to lookers right of Gunsight, unable to get around the bulge of rock to the right of Gunsight.

Greely Ridge with the clouds clearing, Gunsight and the entrance of 3rds stretching out to the right of the photo. Notice the two tracks in 2nds...the only people ahead of us...YES!

The entrance to 2nds on the right with the tracks, the cliff in the middle ends up being a 15-20 footer.

Sean Bear billy goating on our boot pack up the ridge and over to Gunsight.

A snowball shows us the way down an untouched powder field. Fearing it a bit shallow we took it slow and were rewarded with face shots as the snow had drifted into 18" deep pockets (at least). Cutting across the subtle ridge on the left of this chute was over head blower powder, we giggled whole way down.

Sean catching up with that snowball...

Sean coming up for air while cruising through the trees at the bottom of the run.

Out of focus and a bit off, but Sean milks another wave of low density powder!

Tomorrow the lifts start running and a couple groomers will be open, its up in the air whether they'll open a couple of other skiable areas, maybe Ballroom and parts of the shoulder. Either way, Sean is headed up and another 5"-8" is supposed to fall by night fall with possibly heavier snow in the evening. No work till 3pm the next two days; finally, I'm skiing in Alta.

Hope all is well,


Monday, October 15, 2007

Tales from the road...Part 1

Started writing this a week ago and still haven't made it to the farm living yet...more to come in part 2. It covers the trip looking back and also has soome excerpts written from the road. PICTURES at bottom!

October 9th, 2007

Willits, CA

Wow, a week ago today I drove out of SLC, across Nevada, over Donner Pass and into California! 12 and ½ hours on the road is all it finally took to reach sunny California and the welcome of Scott and Adam here on the farm. Its been a great week and I’ll get back to life on the farm, but want to recap the majority of my trip cross-country since it has been neglected from this journal....

Spent the final weekend of my time back East by throwing a rockin party at Tripp lake with many of my closest friends and family. Richard and Laurie showed up on Friday night and were at camp when I finally arrived after leaving Holderness fully loaded around 9:15pm. Saturday morning was a great time just hanging with the two of them, fishing with Rich, cooking a little, and catching up on their lives.

Leaving Holderness was a tough day. Of course, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues was tough, but getting all the pieces in order before leaving was largely done on Friday afternoon. Mail house issues, donating clothes, closing bank accounts, sorting through boxes of “stuff” and figuring out what to pack for the trip, what to throw away, and what to store for later – were all left for the last day! I have since found out that the speed with which I left Holderness and my life back east has already impacted my trip; I found it difficult to stop and do little things on the trip cross-country like take pictures, stop at the scenic view spot along the way, pull into a small town looking for food as opposed to grabbing some junk at another road side rest area, etc. Not that I didn’t do some of these things, I just didn’t do as much of it as I would have liked to. Again, as I look back on the trip cross-country (writing this in Willits, a week after arriving in CA), I think taking a week after my last day of work to unwind, slowly pack and organize, say goodbye to more folks, go for one last hike in the Whites, organize my music (crucial to solid mental health when driving cross-country), and finish some errands (mostly paying bills...ughhh) – all would have helped slow my pace down and settle into the larger trip at hand. However, I don’t regret much, but see how the hurriedness of my leaving has impacted my travels already as evidenced in my lack of photos from the drive.

Back to the party at Tripp...it was the first in what should be many great parties thrown by my generation on the lake. I remember being a kid visiting the Tinkhams and being put to bed as the adults partied well into the evening and got into all sorts of fun trouble. The party felt like my contribution to that history and I think everyone associated with the lake had a blast. For example, when the pontoon and speed boats left the docks at 12:00am for a float session, skinny dipping, and star gazing, Bob Harkins and Tink brought Sawyer and Luke out for some of the fun. Thirty minutes later, Sawyer and Luke had their jaws on the floor as five beautiful women came back onto the boats to towel off after their skinny dip. Sawyer looked up at one lady and honestly asked, “What happened to your clothes?” As Bob and Tink laughed their way through telling me this, it became clear to me that EVERYONE was having fun! Everyone contributed to the fun; we prepared locally raised beef, fresh corn, homemade spreads and dips, roasted veggies, cheese and cracker spreads, Rich’s homemade salsas, Laurie’s baklava, Bob brought a six pack of Cold River, Taylor brought a lobstah, Neely brought some dessert, and everyone brought good company and a solid commitment to partying well into the evening! Jon Sarty, Bear, and Josh came over to start up some tunes and they as well brought along some great company; we all ended up playing together and singing into the night sky as the fire and friends roared in the back ground.

Sunday was a fine day as well. People slowly rise from the ashes, emerged from their tents, and began cooking breakfast while picking up the pieces of a wild night. We cruised the lake looking for shelter from the wind so we could enjoy the last few hours of decent swimming temps. We also got a grand game of Bocce Ball in around the house before people started peeling out and heading back to wherever they had travelled from for the weekend.

Here are a couple entries from the road, I pick up where it leaves off...

September 25, 2007
Immaculata University

After a lot of goodbyes, “see ya laters”, and good times at the camp this past weekend, I got in the car yesterday morning and headed off for Philadelphia. Mom was the last at camp and was busy cleaning up and packing her own car; I think a busy morning might have been easiest with all the emotions running around and leading into this trip. She’s been a huge source of support in helping me commit to this change in lifestyles. Also, being so close to family the past three years back on the E. Coast has been a joy. We said a teary goodbye and looked forward to this winter’s trip to Utah!

After Roitman threw me into the lake with my cell phone in hand, a visit to the Maine Mall was the first true stop on the trip....ughhh. One hour and $175 later, I was headed down I-95 towards Boston for a randveous with my father to drop off some skis, a hard drive, and pick up some knife equipment for the farm in California. Had a great conversation with Dad, found out his good friend Dave Greer passed away after his battle with cancer. Dad shared some stories about adventures with Dave and despite the sad news, it was reaffirming for both of us to hear about such good times with friends and really getting after enjoying life.

Got on the road around 2pm from the Boston area and made it into downtown Philly by 8:15pm. It took a touch longer then I wanted, but traffic was minimal and the change in scenery was beautiful. I can’t say I enjoy the views in CT, but as I entered NY state and then into Northern Jersey and PA, the rolling hills and subtle changes in foliage were a welcomed site. The sun set as I entered Bethlehem, PA and turned south on I-476 towards Philadelphia, which made for a nice end to the day. I’m hoping to drive as much during the day as possible, cause my last trip cross-country was done mostly at night and it’s far more dangerous and tiring.

Got into Philly and easily found my way to Fickes’ apartment. So great to see him on his turf and catch up, even if for just a short time and a couple beers. Grabbed a killer steak sandwich and a couple Yeunglings at a local pub, talked for an hour or so and got to hear about his impressions of the city, law school, living away from Coonoor (his girlfriend), and most importantly, laughed at last month’s reunion on the Oregon Coast. Fickes is another friend who is starting a new chapter in life and after his two years in Jackson Hole, he’s a bit jealous, but can definitely relate to the excitement I feel. Got to see his apartment and then walked over to the MFA to run up the stairs like Rocky. Felt pretty silly, and then two folks sitting on the top of the stairs playfully cheered us on.

Said goodbye to Aaron, and took off for Immaculata Univ. where Evan is going to school. Got in around 11:30 and pretty much crashed out. Took up a spot on the floor and got to listen to Evan hack and cough his way through the night. The poor kid has awful asthma and when sick, he can barely breathe. Of course, cleaning up his room a little would help! I got some decent sleep and we got up to walk to breakfast. Wasn’t terribly impressed with the cafeteria, but the campus is beautiful. Full of large, stone buildings with crossed and statues of Jesus everywhere, it feels a bit like a nunnery. However, with the ratio of women to men at 3;1, perhaps nunnery is not the best word to describe the place! Got to meet Evan’s girlfriend Megan who is very cute and seems really nice. Also, Evan’s roommate James seems like quite the character.

I can’t help but think about when I was a freshman in college and what that year was like. Having a solid group of friends set up for me by Gillian being at WU a year early was a blessing; it certainly helped make things easier on me. On the flip side, Evan is making his own friends and taking it head on. Several cute girls and a host of guys stopped Evan in the path and seemed genuinely excited to see him. Can’t help but make you proud of your brother! He is also pledging to an unauthorized fraternity (no frat system on campus), which is basically a group of like-minded guys building a social structure on campus. He seems really into it, and more importantly, is meeting some new people. I also think its important for Evan because he needs some personal time to do things without his girlfriend. He’s lovingly notorious for getting in very deep with girls and letting things like school and health fall to the wayside.

Evan walked me around campus and showed me most of the major buildings on campus. Hilariously, we walked into the library and he said he hadn’t been in there yet! We stood at the front door and basically said to each other, “looks like a library!” We walked through “back campus” and took a seat up over looking the southern hills of the university. He told me all about the different haunted halls on campus and spirits running around. We also talked for a while about each other’s plans and got to dig in a little at what is “really” going on around us. We talked about travels, goals for the upcoming couple of years, ideas about future jobs, and what he should do to keep his girlfriend happy! He’s in a great place and seems to have a more and more excited out look on the future...not that it’s ever been dull!

He’s off in class right now and its been a great first stop on this trip cross-country. I feel really good about where Evan is at and whom he is with. I can’t believe he’s in college, and although it does seem like a while ago to me and the kids seem pretty young, its exciting to watch these students build new friendships and make their own way. I think about whom I’m headed out to see these next few months and they’re all college friends.

September 26th, 2007
Baltimore, MD

...Just getting back from an Orioles game in Baltimore. After saying goodbye to Evan, I made my way down to Baltimore to meet up with Marissa. I made good time and got in around 4:15pm, we grabbed a six-pack of beer and drove down to the local reservoir to take in the early sunset and talk about her new start towards med school next year. She’s super busy studying for a physics exam this week and couldn’t make it to the game. However, it was a great conversation on the bank of the lake and so great to hear about what’s been going on in her life. Also good to talk out loud some more about the next couple of years of mine own life.

The game was great and Camden Yards is a super park. Great food, cheap tickets (sat in a box seat for eight dollars!), and easy to find. Drove into Balitmore with no traffic, paid ten bucks for parkside parking (too much stuff in my car to park in a neighborhood I didn’t know), walked up to the ticket office and arrived at my seats for the first pitch; if this could only happen at the Fens! Ended up leaving early cause they were getting creamed and I still haven’t recouped from the last couple of weeks...not sure when that is going to happen! Got into Marissa’s house and got to talk some more with her, she packed me an AWESOME goody bag for the road (chocolate covered espresso beans, nectar bars, pita chips, natural gum, bananas) and got a solid night’s sleep...finally!

Took off from Baltimore on Wednesday, September 27th early in the morning and made my way out of Maryland and into West Virginia, Virginia, and finally into Eastern Tennessee. What a beautiful part of the country! I vowed to myself to spend some serious time checking out Southeast Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, and Northwestern Carolina. The Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah Valley, Central Appalachia, and Tennessee River Valley were all stunning in the early fall colors. As I drove southwest across Virginia, I pulled out my copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma in hopes of discovering that Joel Sallatin’s Polyface Farm was just around the corner and might therefore warrant a stop in. Unfortunetly, I discovered (by flipping through the pages while driving), that I had probably passed by any exit to his property a couple hours before I thought to look. Continuing along I got to talk with Renee, a random and long over due phone call to Erica Lipps (who I also thought might be in the area and up for grabbing a coffee!), and several other friends who called to check in. Made it into Nashville by 6pm or so and found my hostel for the evening.

Nashville has one hostel in it, The Music City Hostel, and it did the job just fine. I got situated, cleaned up a little, checked the local paper for concerts going on, and hit the streets walking ready for a solo night in the city. Walked across the bridge and into downtown Nashville to check out The Station Inn – a famous night club for the city’s immense bluegrass scene. Funny thing happened as I walked down the street...was coming around a corner in the street and was convinced I getting close to the venue I was looking for, when from up a street just above me came a unbelievably attractive woman merging onto the street that I was walking. After making eye contact and a quick hello, we fell into step together and began walking towards the same venue. While all sorts of unfounded fantasies came to my head, the line to get into the venue began to shorten and I looked around making sure I was in fact in the right place. Sure enough, as a glanced across the street looking for confirmation I was actually going to the same show this woman was, I saw the half lit sign on the opposite side of the street for the Station Inn, MY venue for the evening. With my tail between my legs and ego hanging loosely from my shoulder, I slid out the back of the line damning myself for having never gotten into Brandi Carlisle who was playing at the City Hall, for the beautiful woman I had just walked into the wrong line for! Of course, the Station Inn was deserted and the band was only beginning to set up, and it was a change in line up so the person I thought I was seeing had been replaced. After saying hello to the bartender I headed back out to hit the streets in search of local talent and good times.

Just up the road I found a great bar, albeit it was one of those bars that loads its beer menu with hundreds of beers from around the world. Funny that these bars annoy me since I love the product so much, but I find the whole idea a bit pretentious. I’m sure I would enjoy all the beers on the menu on any given night or in any given state of drunkenness, but my experience has shown that half of the beers on those types of menus aren’t worth importing or even inking their name on the page of the menu. Also, I don’t need twenty types of IPA...give me three or four that you KNOW I will LOVE! A bit of a rant, but the bar redeemed itself with two slices of tasty goat cheese pizza.

I then took off for some roaming in the streets of downtown. Of course, I got pulled into the neon and urban cowboy scene on Broadway. Within an hour I had been into five bars, seen five different types of country music, and drank five whiskeys. The scene was a bit touristy, but who was I to judge while contributing to it all. I loved the different characters that were performing in each bar, each with a bucket up on stage for patrons to drop a note or two in. One bar featured some rockabilly/honky-tonk that was a load of fun and just when I was about to ask someone to dance, several couples got on the floor and reminded me that many in the south KNOW how to dance. So rather then fake it and lug some poor girl around the floor, I watched the crowd take over and took notes.

I ended up walking back to The Station Inn to check out the band that had earlier been setting up. There were maybe 15 people in the place, each had paid the $8 to see the young bluegrass talent. Knowing that the likes of Bill Monroe, Sam Bush, Grisman, Tony Scott, Tony Rice, Rowan, Hartford, Bela Fleck, Trishka, and many, many other bluegrass greats had played on the same stage, I just soaked it in and tried not to get too tired of the inside jokes passed around by the band. They were good, they were funny too, but neither as much as they thought they were. I stumbled out of the venue a little earlier then I thought I would, but I managed to get a late night shower in back at the hostel; it was a great realization in the morning when the dozen or so guests were vying for shower time.

I loaded up the car and thought about jumping out of town right then and there, but decided to grab a good cup of coffee (the usual these days: double americano, little cream, one packet raw sugar!) and take a look around at the Country Music HOF, the Ryman Auditorium, and the local southern clothing shops on Broadway. Glad I took a couple hours to wonder around some more in the daylight, Nashville is a great little city where everyone is either in town to see music or play music; you could feel the curiousity and history in the streets.

I took off around 10:30am or so for St. Louis where good friends Teddy Presberg and Lauren are living, working, and studying. The drive was very interesting in that you could witness your departure from the south and arrival in the midwest. Leaving the humid, rolling hill sides surrounding Nashville and the Tennessee River Valley, I could feel myself driving up and out of “The South”. Albeit, Nashville is probably as far north as you can go in the south, I felt I had gotten a taste of the culture and as the horse farms of south western Kentucky passed by my car I felt as if I was being lifted out of one unique place and planted in the vast fields of the mid-west. Kentucky looked plainly beautiful, with Rockwell-esque scenes of red barns painted amongst the white picked fences which divided plots of rich, blue grass. As I left my short time in the south, I could feel myself pulling up to the brink of the American West; the air dropped its humidity in several passing showers, the land leveled itself out, and eventually, the gateway to the West appeared in the distance: St. Louis.

Managed to snap a photo St. Louis’ arch, even if from my car while driving, because I was hugely surprised by its massiveness. I’m sure I could have paid someone to tell me the details, but from the car it looked a solid 150 ft. tall, if not much higher. Made my way into University City, a small suburb northwest of St. Louis. It being a Jewish holiday, there were dozens of Jews walking around the streets. Teddy greeted me in the streets and commenced to have a beer while touring his new house and enjoying the back yard gardens. Teddy and Lauren had just bought and moved in, but the house has a ton of character and will be perfect for their time in St. Louis. Ended up breaking into a little bourbon, Teddy left for a rehearsal, I played with my iTunes (setting up for the great voyages across Kansas and Nevada), got a quick nap, and headed out to dinner with Lauren while Teddy wrapped up. Had a great tapas meal complete with a Guiness and finally got a chance to talk with Lauren one on one.

Got back to their house, poured another bourbon and played some tunes with Teddy. At one point I had to pick my jaw up off the floor, cause he was ripping apart some tunes I was playing rhythm for. I always love watching Teddy play the guitar and as I get better at playing with people, its a joy to play with someone like him...it only helps to reaffirm my dreams of becoming a touring musician (we can all dream right?). Lauren took off for bed, Teddy and I headed to the bars to check out the St. Louis scene. Ended up walking The Loop and walked into a hip bowling alley, grabbed another whiskey, put on some clown shoes, and grabbed a lane. We ended up bowling five games, talking about all sorts of things, while giving each other plenty of shit as our games got worse and worse. Got the chance to hear Teddy’s view of St. Louis and how hard it is to create a music scene in the area, or at least break into the small one that already exists. We wrapped it up around 2:00am and made our way home, crashed out watching some hysterical episode of Chapelle.
Collected my things on Friday morning, said some goodbyes to Teddy and Lauren, grabbed another quality caffeinated beverage, and headed towards I-70 West. Unlike leaving Baltimore where I first encountered I-70 and was greeted with a sign reading DENVER: 1711 MILES (what a cruel joke really!), the fine folks of Missouri didn’t need to remind me that Kansas was just around the corner. Quick interlude here...Leaving Missouri and preparing to enter Kansas I stopped for gas and was relieved to find a bag of sunflower seeds up near the counter. If I remember one thing from THIS trip cross-country, it is that sunflower seeds are your friend. Even if a day spent eating them results in a sore mouth and no taste buds, they give you a solid distraction as the miles click by. I think I went through six bags of seeds on my drive cross-country, and I have finally got my taste back.

Kansas was strangely beautiful, but thank god the largest storm I have ever driven through or seen broke the monotony. Stopping once somewhere near the middle of the state to grab a pizza, some ice tea, and a small break, I found one of the only outposts of strip malls in the whole state. It was an experience, and I had to try real hard not to ask someone why they lived there? I was just curious more then judgemental, but I couldn’t shake the curiosity from my head. Shortly before that stop, I had dropped a text message to friends I thought would catch my reference, with a quote from Dumb and Dumber: “That John Denver was full of shit!” Of course, this is from the scene where Harry takes a wrong turn going to Denver and ends up in Kansas as the sun rises. Floyd wakes up, takes a look around at the prairies and says, “I thought the Rockies were a whole lot Rockier!”. So, thanks to all of you who sent other lines from the movie, it helped. Leaving the strip mall and getting back on the highway, I saw a dark horizon line. As the slices went down and I picked up the sausage from the seat cushions, the edge of the storm approached. I’d seen another storm like this in Nebraska, but the beast I was driving into was very unique. As I entered the edge of it, the color of the clouds and air became faintly green and as the lightening started landing in the fields on either side of my car, the air smelled of sulfur. Thankfully, I-70 took a subtle turn northward and we were driving on the edge of the worst weather. I turned on the radio and searched for a weather forecast. The announcement finally came that a sever thunderstorm and tornado warning was issued for counties yatta yatta and whats its name....and the I-70 corridor between highway markers 72 and 97...I looked to my right and saw marker 84...DAMN! The clouds began to break though, the rear view mirrors filled with nightime, and two hours after driving into it, I was leaving my own version of “The Nothing”.

As the sun began to set and the storm appeared farther and farther through the rear view mirrors, I entered Colorado with enough time to still read the old wood sign: “Welcome to Beautiful Colorado!”. I got a picture of the sunset because it was taking place directly over the road and while I chased it to Boulder, I truly felt that I had arrived in The West. After driving through Kansas, it was just a couple short hours to Boulder for a couple nights. Side note here, the drive into the Denver area reminded me of another phenomenon from the open road: mile markers and signs. Like the sign just beyond Baltimore, any road sign has the ability to be uplifting or depressing, often they are both in which the later wins. You see, I can handle mile markers reading anything in the 300 mile range; you break into the 4 and 500s and they might as well not even sign it. I think it could induce any number of reactions from a driver, two of which I’ve experienced: road rage and exhaustion. So, when the sign reads Nashville: 423 miles, its time to stop and collect yourself a bit, maybe check the tire pressure. But as I entered Colorado and the mile marker read: Denver 178 miles, I knew I’d made it. I ran the car for a solid 20 miles on Empty, but arrived at Eric’s house in time for a surprisingly fun night.

Eric greeted me with a big hug and introduced me to a roommate, Amanda. I poured us a glass of Jamiesons from the bottle that had left Maine with me and chatted with the two of them. After meeting his Kiwi roommate Mark and finishing up my drink, I grabbed a shower and settled into a little guitar with Eric and long talks on what we should do for the evening. It was great to see Eric again, within the past year and a half, we’ve reconnected after a few years since his graduation from Willamette in 2002. A great skier, guitar player, music lover and someone who loves to smile, its really hard not to have fun with friends like Eric. We eventually made it out to Pearl St. to check out a couple bands over a couple drinks. Ended up a dub reggae show at Trinity, which was perfect cause I could just zone out and not dance too hard. I’ve never really been to a show like that before, it consisted of three guys either sitting down or shuffling through records as they twisted nobs and applied all of the sounds they were directing.

It was now Saturday and I’d been planning to see the Rockies – Diamond Backs game, what I didn’t realize was that the division race had come down to the wire. With two games left in the regular season, the Rocks had to win both games just to force a playoff game for the Wild Card; we were going to one of those games. I met up with Alec Brewster, a friend from Holderness ’96, Alec works in Denver and was a hoot to ski with in Vail last winter. Grabbed a drink or two and walked towards the box office where we scalped three tickets for $10 a piece...again, will this ever happen again at Fenway? The game was great, someone on the Rocks hit a grand-slam, we watched from throughout the park and ended up settling into the left field foul poll area with a flask of rum. The place was filled to near capacity and people all around us were commenting on how that never happens the last weekend of the season. Unlike other years, the Rockies have a real young, solid team that is now in the National League Championship Series after sweeping the Phillies in the NLDS. It would be great to see a Rockies – Red Sox World Series, but the Sox first have to take care of the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. Biggest news of last week as not that the Sox had swept the Angels, but that the Yanks got creamed by the Indians. Going into the playoffs and for the better part of the second half of the season, the Yanks were unbelievable. Even better from all that news is that A-Fraud had a dismal playoff series, again. He’ll be negotiating a new contract somewhere else in between tee times this off-season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Boston is in the hunt for his talent.

Coors Field was beautiful and the game was well worth the $10 ticket and two or three cokes! We left a little early to grab a beer at a local pub Alec wanted us to check out. Unfortunetly, Eric and I were pretty tired and had to drive back to Boulder, so we departed with Alec after a couple of beers in a cramped booth watching a great R&B cover band; somehow managed to fit five people into a tiny booth, two of which were on a date and not until after they bought me a beer did I realize they didn’t know Eric or Alec. Spent the rest of the night hanging back at Eric’s, playing guitar, watched some very strange movie, and passed out with his roommate’s kitten pawing my head.

I packed my things up Sunday morning and slowly made my way out of Boulder and back to I-70. Eric and I said our goodbyes and made plans to see one another during the ski season, if not earlier. (Turns out he might be coming to help on the farm within the next two weeks!). He sent me out on Broadway which linked me to some interstate between Golden and Boulder. The views were incredible heading out, the flat irons rising from the valley floor and setting the stage for Boulder. Rather then head into Golden, I stayed on Rt. 6 through Clear Creek Canyon, which wraps you up to Idaho Springs and I-70. It was a stunning little drive through the windy, soft cut creek floor; the leaves on the Aspens were turning golden yellow and the water ran deep aqua blue and cold. As I made my way back to the highway and ascended up Loveland Pass, the Aspens rose from all the valley floors and were met with snow mid mountain. The yellow of the leaves, white snow on the mountains, and brilliantly clear day combined to make a perfect fall day to drive through the highlands of Colorado. As I came over Vail Pass and the height of land read somewhere in the 10,000 ft. range, my head felt a bit light and throbbed just a bit. Thankfully, just as soon as it hit me, I was slowly descending from the mountains and onto the Colorado Plateau which stretches West beyond Edwards, is chopped back down by the Glenwood Canyon, and spills onto the canyon-lands of Southeastern Utah. With so many 14,000 ft. mountains to drool over and the promise of the Utah desert to come, the driving was easy.

A few pics from this segment of the trip:

The flat-irons outside Boulder, CO

At Coors Field with Alec (middle) and a friend of his

The sunset leading to Colorado and leaving Kansas behind...

Looking in the rear view mirro during that storm...

Welcome to St. Louis and The West!

Country Music Hall of Fame!

Sign on the outside of The Station Inn, Nashville