One of the most difficult parts of touring is the down time. Sometimes we can get lucky with pick-up gigs, or open mic nights, but other times, it’s really just a lot of doing two or three gigs in a row, then waiting for a few days. It’s the downtime that is truly the most difficult. You know you should/could be doing all kinds of things that are better than listening to episode after episode of “The Office”, while your kid watches from the back seat, but you just can’t bring yourself to do so. (What is that they said about “good intentions paving the way to somewhere…”?) Well, I guess that’s where we’re all headed, then. 

But I have to give grace to our little caravan. This is also a Summer vacation ALONGSIDE of our work trip, and we can just relax and enjoy this time together. Plus, with views like some of these, it really is important to just stop and “LOOK” a bit.

Unfortunately, on the 2nd and 3rd of July, Jared caught some kind of a bug and was feverish, clammy, crawly, and needed a real bed and a place to stretch out for a couple days to get better before our gig on the 5th. We knew that Dutch John, UT was slim pickings for camp spots due to the 4th of July weekenders camping for the weekend down in the Flaming Gorge, plus, Jared really needed to be near a bathroom and ALL of us needed a good shower. So we stopped in Evanston, WY for a couple days of hotel time and fireworks. 

For the first day, Rudy and I got to have some fun time while we let Dad rest. We found a place to get lunch and get caught up on the past blogs, and even got to hear some local live bluegrass music being played at “For Pete’s Sake” coffee house. Because I was focused on a bunch of other stuff, I completely forgot to get pics of any of it. So you’ll just have to believe me. Later that night, Rudy and I played Marco Polo in the pool, had one-legged races, and worked up an appetite, all while Jared was losing his by the minute. He did NOT join us for dinner. Rudy and I went for a walk after the pool and found ourselves at a local sports bar that had exactly two tables dedicated to people with minors. We played a card game and shared a cheeseburger and some wings. It was sweet and easy, just like it always is hanging with my boy. 

I also want to point out how cool it is each year experiencing different things through Rudy’s eyes. While we were out, he saw a picture of a football player on the wall of the sports bar we ate at. It had been signed by the player and had a ’52 date on it. He said, “I have no idea who that is, or what he’s doing, but isn’t that cool? It’s actually signed by “THE” guy, and look how old it is!” The image was faded and barely legible, and, honestly, I never would have even seen it, or cared if I had, but it seemed nostalgic and special to him, and so it became special to me. It really is one of our favorite parts about him getting older. 

Anyway, by the 4th of July, Jared was feeling enough back to normal that we all hopped in the car and headed to the main strip to grab some coffee, completely forgetting that we were in the middle of the country, and the 4th of July is like Christmas to these people. EVERY PLACE was closed. As the warm wind blew the American flags into a billowy dance, and the hanging baskets of perfectly arranged red, white, and blue geraniums rocked to and fro, there was country music blaring through the downtown speakers and echoing down the empty streets that seemed to be conducting the ballet between the two. Not a soul was out. We wandered in the middle of the streets, pretending we were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. After about forty minutes of searching, wandering around, and almost giving in to the prospect of breakfast and coffee at the local McDonald’s, we found one little place that was open called “The Bakery”. They served gluten-free sweets and breads, and drip coffee, and we were elated. They even had some fresh fruit for us to share. Afterwards, since nothing else was open, we went back to the hotel and checked out what was on TV. (Jared was also beginning to backslide into his illness again, so we wanted to nip it in the bud.) The original Jurassic Park was showing and we cuddled up on the bed to witness Rudy’s first experience with it, and it was a success!!! He loved it. They were having a full marathon, and as tempting as it was, we thought another walk, a hunt for dinner, and finding out where we could view fireworks was a better plan.

More things seemed to be open downtown as we walked the strip. We got to hang out for a bit in a comic book / fantasy / collectible store. The friendly owner chatted with us about the wonders of Harry Potter, his daughter in college, and gave us dining tips and advice on where to see the fireworks, which was EVERYWHERE. I thought he was exaggerating…. More on that later. We ate dinner then walked around, trying to find anything to do. Public parks were reserved for giant parties, parking next to families out playing with their kids as we sat in our car and watched did NOT seem safe or appealing to us, so we finally walked up to a group of firemen hanging outside their station. They said they would be setting off fireworks around 9:45 PM, but the whole town would be “pre-gaming” way before that. “Just park up on the hill overlooking the baseball fields. Get there early if you want a great view. You’ll see the whole town.” So we headed up that hill around 7:30 and we were NOT disappointed. 

Here we are, parked on top of the hill overlooking the entire valley. 

As it got darker, this was our view of just a portion of it. 

Directly below us was a cul-de-sac where some of the best local displays were being set off. All seemed fairly normal and as “safe” as I guess fireworks can be, until we saw a guy pull THIS out! Jared shouted, “Look down there!! It’s a fire! No, wait! It’s a FLAMETHROWER!!!” Are you even kidding me? After I took this photo, whoever was down there must have thought, “Nope. This flamethrower STILL isn’t dangerous enough. Let’s start throwing lit firecrackers at each other!!!” It was really something to witness such stupidity. From where we were, not only could we see all the fireworks, but we could also see all the fire trucks and ambulances being dispatched across the city. Well, my opinions on that are for an in-person conversation…I just felt sorry for all the dogs.

You have all seen fireworks before, so no need to post a ton of photos, but I will say that once the fire department began their actual planned display, it was something to behold. They put on a thirty-minute spectacle to beat anything we’ve seen before, and it was RIGHT above our car! This picture was NOT zoomed in and it was taken right from the passenger side seat, looking up through our sunroof. It was incredible and beautiful. For a few minutes, we chatted with Rudy about what the holiday stood for, symbolized, and why it is so important to protect our freedoms…all of them, not just the ones you agree with. That is what makes our country special, even as broken as it is at times.  

The next morning was fresh and beautiful and Jared was 100% better. Good thing, too, because we had a gig that day with a brutal load-in, and we needed him to be tip-top! We started our morning at the “Yellow Cup”, a darling coffee shop that had real fruit smoothies, delicious blackberry jam for Rudy’s bagel, and made fresh burritos for breakfast. The man running the shop was so kind and calm. Even as people poured into his space to get their morning Joe, asking for all kinds of blended specialties, and cooked treats, he softly reminded each customer that it would be a little bit, because he was the only one making drinks (he did have a kitchen helper for food), and he wanted to get everything just right. When he finally got time to breathe, as we were leaving he asked if everything was ok. “Oh my gosh, yes!”We responded. “It was all amazing.” He said, “Next time you come through, I’d love to give you a discount.” You know what, I believe he would too…even if it was a year from now.

Our show that night was at The Snag, a little bar with a huge heart. Located at the end of a dock, at the basin of the Flaming Gorge, The Snag is a seasonal delight, with a local, hometown bar feel. I imagine that the owners, Stacy and John (who never seem to age), are frozen in time at the end of each summer. Slowly defrosting as May begins to warm everything up again, Stacy’s long braids, glistening from below her trucker cap, John’s tan skin and warm smile beaming from the end of the boat ramp. This place is a time capsule of laughter, hard work, sunshine, boat fumes, sunburns, great food, and awesome music. Don’t let this gentleman’s face fool you. I honestly only had a moment to grab a picture. He really was having a great experience. Purchasing merch at the time, I believe. I ended the show on top of the middle table doing our version of “Minnie The Moocher”, as per request by some fans who had seen us there two years ago! I’m sure Jared will link to a previous blog where I introduce our dear readers to The Snag through the eyes of us as new “Snag-lings”. So I don’t need to go into it too much. But this place is absolute magic, surrounded by ultimate canyons of red beauty. I highly recommend stopping by if you take a vacation to Northern Utah.

Our next stop was more down time so there was no real hurry to leave, but we also didn’t really have a place to stay, so we ventured out toward Denver, CO on one of the dustiest roads we’ve ever driven on. So much so that when we finally arrived in Denver and got our stuff out of the trailer, it was all covered in dust! Two-plus hours into the dusty road, after harrowingly avoiding hitting several bunnies, and sending one small field mouse to mouse heaven, when we thought it would never end, we abruptly stopped the dust and hopped onto the nicest highway road I’ve seen since Lightning McQueen repaved and painted the road into Radiator Springs. It was so perfect, and maybe just in direct contrast to the road straight from the wild west towns of the 1800’s, that it looked like it was a movie set highway…

Enough about a road. We slept at a “rest stop” thad had no lights in their restrooms. So I took my chances in nature. When we woke up, we headed into a cute Colorado town called Steamboat. It was infinitely better driving during the day, just being able to take in all the scenery. Once we got to “Big Iron” Coffee, we set Rudy to taking some photos.

The road to Denver. What a view!

With a week to wait ’til we drop off Rudy at camp in Durango, and no gigs booked until then, we are lucky to be heading to our friends’ place in Littleton, CO (right outside of Denver) to have a bit of a Summer vacation, find some open mics, and rest before the temperatures rise and we make or way through middle America and the Southwest during the hottest time of year. 

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