August 13, 2006

Getting back from a long, amazing trip can sometimes be incredibly depressing. I feel overwhelmed by the things I need to catch up on, but ultimately refreshed when I think back to all the wonderful things that happened to me in the past four weeks.

I have some catching up to do! Back in July, BA and I hit the road for Wisconsin, shared driving duties and a hotel room, and a lot of great laughs on our 'northern tour.' Little Feat let us be their guest for their show in Madison at a beautiful theater venue, then the next night we played in Middleton at Club Tavern. The house was pretty full, and some old friends from Chicago surprised me in the crowd, Rob Lampe and his wife Lynn drove up (eight hours) and back in one day just to make that show better - it was three guitars that night - and I marveled at their incredible friendship and devotion to the music. The next day brought us down to Mattoon, Illinois where we enjoyed playing a beautiful evening concert outdoors at Uncommon Ground. We were well fed and coffee-d, and we hope to return to that welcoming little place sometime soon. It was on to Champaign-Urbana the next night. We have several friends in that city due to gigs we've played in the past, and Gary and Dennis were there to cover merch, treat us to dinner (Gary, you're too generous) and make the night smooth. The venue was an outdoor patio with strings of lightbulbs forming a delicate canopy above our heads. We enjoyed sweating out the gig (yep - over ninety degrees at 9pm), staying up very late drinking good beer while Griff continued his DJ services from his laptop computer long after we stopped playing, and staying at his aunt and uncle's house, where we shot BBs, played with the dogs, and bonded.

One short day in Columbia and then Michael and I were off to Hawaii. My grandmother Glenda made the trip with my mom and her husband Pete, and Pete's mother Marie. My sisters Heather and Dede were there, as well as my stepbrother John and his girlfriend Cassandra. Our condo was gorgeous - Michael and I shared a loft with a gecko - he scared me the first time he dropped from the ceiling in the shower, but then I grew accustomed to him! Snorkeling was an almost daily priority, and on our first full day there we lucked onto a beach called Chang beach (discovered in the book Maui Revealed) and just a couple hundred feet offshore, hidden behind a group of rocks, were two huge old souls: sea turtles. I swam among them, close enough to touch a shell, but just observed them in awe as they nibbled at treats on the rocks. My goal for the entire trip was to see sea turtles, so finding them on the first day was perfection. Tattoo number three (and last?) might have to be a tribal sea turtle - I find them to be a connection to calm, peace and wisdom. We took the road to Hana on the third day and found a couple hidden pools where the natives go. At one of them we saw some nudists singing - we listened and swam with them (in suits :)) and then went to another place called Venus Pool. We felt like trespassers as we jumped through a fence, walked in a wheat field for a couple hundred yards, past an old abandoned bread oven, and down some steep rocks which opened into the most amazing 'swimming hole' we'd ever seen. Michael was able to cliff dive (there were perches as low as six feet and as high as thirty or forty for us to jump from) and the water was so deep that even with its clarity you couldn't see the bottom. Although the car ride home from Hana made me sick, I had some Dramamine on hand and survived! The next day we went sailing on a catamaran that had been built especially for the cove in which it sailed daily; it traveled over 20 knots (faster than most racing vessels) while we were on it getting showered and bounced by the waves and holding on for dear life - what a thrill! Although I once had a scary run-in with a catamaran, I enjoyed every minute of this adventure, and we snorkeled at Molikini with some amazing schools of colored fish, eels and other sea creatures. (My fin managed to do some damage to my heel; it scrubbed off an inch-long and half-inch wide portion of skin over my achilles tendon - I had to use Chacos as fins for the rest of the trip - the sore is just now healing almost three weeks later!) Evenings often found us playing dominoes or sitting and reading with the family, (cocktails in hand) or even trading the salt of the ocean for the chlorine of the condo's pool and the amazing breezes that would wash over us from the beach. We did our fair share of eating too - discovering one of the THE best sushi places Michael and I have ever eaten at! We couldn't have had this most perfect of vacations without the help of my mom and Pete who helped with expenses all over the place. Thanks, guys! This will always rank as one of the best times of my life. There was so much more - Big Mama's Fish House, best ice-cream sandwich ever, hippie town Paia, amazing sunrises, and a rooster that woke us up every morning before the sun - but mostly it was some of the best family time I've had in a while. Being around my sister, mom and grandmother at one time was reminiscent of family gatherings when I was a child - it was incredibly special. I could go on for hours - but I'd better not!

Then came opening for Tanya Tucker at the Sandpoint fetival - something we've been anticipating and looking forward to for months now. Right before we left, our bassist Mike Robertson got sick and couldn't make the trip. We missed him very much, but lucked out by catching Jeff Mueller and Ruth Acuff of the band Rutherford before they left on a trip to the east coast and inviting them to come along and share bassist duties. Michael, BA, Griff, Jeff, Ruth, our publicist and 'merch supervisor' Melissa, and myself piled into the fifteen-passenger Ford with instruments and luggage for a week (we must have re-packed the van five times before we figured out how to get it all in) and headed out west. The entire trip was 30 hours, but we stopped in Fort Collins to party with my sisters Heather and Dede and about forty of their closest friends! A rehearsal there at their house turned into an impromptu performance, and we had a fantastic time playing and partying. After two restful nights there in Colorado, we finished the next eighteen hours of the trip with Michael at the helm. He's a driving maniac!(Backtracking a bit, let's give a round of applause to Michael for being the most excellent captain of that ship - he got us safely though a blown tire in Kansas - scary as hell, let me tell you I screamed! Apparently, the pavement was too hot for peoples' tires - we saw evidence of more than thirty blown tires as we made our way through that hot, long state!) Griff's computer became a makeshift movie screen and Office Space and Mr. and Mrs. Smith accompanied us for part of the long drive. We talked about songs, chords, arrangements, set lists a bit as we drove, but mostly looked forward to arrival and some sleep. Arriving in the dark of night, nobody could tell just how paradisical Sandpoint Idaho is, but the shock of 45 degrees after having been in 100-plus heat earlier in the day was incredible. The next morning, everyone oooh-ed and aah-ed at the view of the incredible Lake Pend O'Reille from my grandmother's comfortable lakefront cabin. My dad and stepmother Robin had set us up with a stocked refrigerator, we had cards and poker chips, a dock, beer, and when we weren't rehearsing with a mountain view, we were swimming, sunning, kayaking, hiking. (Several of the band members went huckleberry picking on Schweitzer). It was truly paradise. Thursday night, Robin and Dad threw a BBQ party for many friends, neighbors and family members, and the band members couldn't tell me enough how welcomed they felt. Press poured in; the Spokesman Review, the Daily Bee and the Sandpoint Reader ran nice half-page photo ads and I got a great interview in the Reader. We were told this festival hasn't sold out pre-show since 2001; our show (OK it was Tanya's too!) of over 4000 people was sold out long before Friday the 4th. We were treated like kings and queens in our air-conditioned trailer with food, beer, bed, private bath, and massage therapist on hand. The crowd lapped it up; we all felt high after performing, then gorged on catered gourmet food, and I mingled with the crowd, signed CDs, and basked in the feeling of playing at a festival I've dreamed of being part of for years. Several friends and family members who have never seen me perform were able to be at this show, and that was probably the highlight of this experience for me. I can't thank friends and family enough for helping make this all happen, selling merchandise at the show, and supporting us. It took a village to make this the awesome experience it was for everyone involved. I will write a part 2 of this soon - there is much more to the story, and the fact that I stayed an extra week in Idaho after the show and got to see David Grey in concert is something I definitely want to write about. Let's see, meeting Tanya Tucker, baking biscotti, visiting Grandma, seeing my cousin and her daugher Rowan, my aunt's connections, and more! If I write the keywords down, perhaps I won't forget, and perhaps it will get you back on here to read the next update! For now, my fingers are cramping! More soon.... :)

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