No speed limit signs. No center divide line to speak of. No clue how to put on our tire cables. (We practiced with chains then found out we had to get cables…how different can they be?)
No wonder we live in the PNW.
Shortly after this picture was taken of Jared and I marveling at the vast white blanket of snow and the serene landscape tucked quietly beneath it, we reached a small incline and all hope was lost. 🤣 As we grudgingly climbed out of the truck that we had slid over to the side of the road, the reality of the task before us sunk in. Fingers frozen (in my soft, light pink “show” mittens), eyes partially blind, partially wet with snow flakes, coat to keep warm but NOT, I repeat, NOT for manual labor, all could go to hell. We were in the trenches now and we had to work fast. A kind woman stopped to make sure we were ok, and before we finished our sentence of “Yes, we just need to figure out how to put these…” “Well, gooooood luuuucckkkk!” As the window quickly rolled up and she drove away, I began to envision us, stuck out there until spring, huddled over a tire, fingers clutching cables and mouths permanently frozen in mid-obscenity.
(Jared here: Part of the problem was the caution that we felt compelled to take after all the warnings of “make sure you put those things on the right way, or you could cut a break line, pop a tire, or tear the wheel-well up”. In an abundance of caution, we sat in the car and pulled out the instructions to make absolutely sure we didn’t incur one of the aforementioned disasters. The damn things might as well have been written in Latin. And VERY few illustrations to help guide us. We read the REALLY important warnings, declared “Ah, f*%k it! How hard can this be to figure out?” It was right then that our story continues. Back to you, Jessi.)
Then an angel, disguised as a Montana rancher, pulled up in his truck. His lanky body quickly jumped out of his truck, while his plump wife smiled warmly at us from the passenger seat, to assure us he meant well and would help. He immediately assessed the situation and within minutes, had the first set secured and was on to the second tire. Leaning over him to assist and learn how to install the cables, I asked his name. I’m certain, as he viewed my pink, rhinestoned and feathered earmuffs, circled around a tattooed head with pink yarn attached to it, it took every fiber in his being not to laugh in my face. But he just sighed a bit and replied, “M’name’s Marshall, ma’am.” “Well, thank you so very much Marshall. This would have been way harder without you here, and you probably saved our marriage.” I joked. He smiled and stood up. As he patted the hood of our truck, in a tender and pitying way, as to suggest that the old Honda was wasted on city-folk like us, he declared to Jared, “Welp. That should get you where you’re going, cowboy.” And he tipped his ball cap to us and they drove away. Super good people.
The irony of his statement was not lost on us. We laughed pretty hard for the next few miles (which we took at 15-25mph), but I’m sure Marshall will get a good laugh forever on our behalf.
Hey look, it’s the frozen meat section…
So, I’d love to tell you that our weather adventure ended there, but I would be lying. As we pulled into Belt, about an hour and a half from our final destination, a very difficult decision was brewing. We knew our truck had trouble pulling our trailer (even with 4-wheel drive and all weather tires) up that small incline where Marshall had to rescue us. How in the world would we manage King’s Pass between Belt and White Sulphur Springs? We called our liaison in White Sulphur and explained the situation.
(Jared here: We were stopped at a gas station, commiserating with the locals that knew the pass and the conditions. They seemed to be of one mind (not to go), whilst our liaison was assuring us that the pass was well-kept by the plows because of the high volume of skier traffic, and that, while the roads were a little slick, it was nothing that common sense, careful driving couldn’t overcome. Being a Pennsylvania native, I was certainly well-versed in driving on dangerous roads, but even I was a bit skeptical. We were also battling the clock; it was mid-afternoon, and the temperature was nearing its zenith, so the conditions were only going to worsen after a couple more hours.)
The winter storm was “supposed” to go into the late afternoon/early evening of the next day and we were not sure we could make the morning school programs for the high school students at 10:00 am, then the little kids at 1:00. If we stayed in Belt for the night, we could maybe make it in for the concert that next night, but we weren’t sure. Well, within minutes, we got a phone call from Judy and Jay Berg, both Arts Council members. They said, “We have a truck that can absolutely pull that trailer! You take your time and head this way towards us, and we’ll pass up and meet you on the road and hook up your trailer to our diesel truck and tow it on into White Sulphur Springs with you following us! We gotta get you here. The kids are really looking forward to it and they’d be so disappointed if you didn’t show!”
Those two drove over an hour to come meet us. As we inched our way towards them, slipping a bit now and then, stopping, but not really, and white-knuckling it up and down hills, we were truly overwhelmed at the kindness of strangers, and the desire so deeply for the music to be in the school… we knew we were going to have to give them everything we had, and we were prepared and happy for the opportunity.
(Jared here: In actuality, the roads to and around Belt were the worst of it. Once we got a little farther South, we were able to take off the chains and handle the roads without much issue. However, we were SUPER grateful to Judy and Jay for towing the trailer and being there in case anything went afowl.)
Judy and Jay dropping us off at the Edith Hotel in White Sulfur. All told, our two-hour drive from Fort Benton, took us six and a half hours!!! Whiskey and a good hot spring soak were in order!!!
Some gifts for us waiting in our hotel room!!
Me, very happily standing in the snow, after leaving the trials and muscle soreness of the day behind in the healing hot spring waters. I didn’t really realize it until we got in and my jaw actually released, that I’d been clenching it for a good portion of the day!😳
Surrounded by eclectic Victorian/Modern art and furnishings, combined with an absolute joyful inclusion of all things Montana, the Edith Hotel resides in an old, refurbished Super 8 Motel and boasts some of the best accommodations we’ve experienced. Friendly, helpful, and incredibly welcoming, the staff at The Edith were right there to help with bags, answer questions, AND were all so excited for the show the next night. The town was buzzing about the duo from Tacoma called, Champagne Sunday, and the staff said several people had called inquiring about the show. You see, the town is no stranger to music.
White Sulphur Springs is the home of the popular Red Ants Pants Summer Music Festival, that has featured several big name artists in Folk, Americana, and Country music for the past ten to fifteen years or so. Sara Calhoun, founder of the festival, is a town resident and entrepreneur who started a “traveling pants mobile”, offering high quality work pants (think Carharts), specifically designed for woman’s bodies. She gained popularity quickly, as many woman are running ranches and farms, not just in Montana, but all over the country. She placed her storefront in White Sulphur Springs, and combined her love of the town, strong women, hard work, and music all together to create the Red Ants Pants Music Festival. So, it’s no wonder that the owner of the Edith, a powerful and warm woman named Katie Boedecker, and Sara would be friends. Katie and her family, also own and run the only woman-owned and operated ski resort in Montana, the “Showdown”. So here we were surrounded by not only independent, and strong business owners and entrepreneurs, but they were also kind and fun women who supported the arts and musicians like us! What company to be in!!!
Anyway, even though the town hosts that big music fest, there is really no place to put on smaller concerts in the town. So, the Arts Commission partnered with Katie from the Edith and proposed we put on the show there! It was decided on as a positive idea that everyone was excited about, especially us. I mean… just LOOK around what WE got to look at while we played!
After the hot springs, and some GOOOOOOOOOD sleep, we had a DAY ahead of us! Our first two engagements were at the school in town. A newer building in town, the school has been without major arts and music for a bit. When the school was built, a stage was originally included in the design plan and, subsequently was even built! However, when all was completed, they walled up the stage and turned it into another class space. So, we got to play in the gymnasium. Home of the “Hornets”, these kids were not used to much other than basketball being showcased in this gym, so we had some work to do.
High schoolers first on the docket. Here are our “happy faces” as we gear up to connect with some of the most difficult-to-reach-humans; teenagers.😝
As we wove our way through our songs and messages, amid the crossed arms, hoods pulled over heads, shirt collars covering faces, slouched seated positions, eye-rolling, and general displays of boredom and apathy, we DID begin to notice small signs of approval. Here and there, a foot would tap, someone would smirk or even outright laugh at a joke, then quickly stop when looked at. Kids began to nod or smile in agreement with stuff we’d say. Some general interest was piqued after certain effects came out or the guitar or lyrics resonated. A stoic audience is a good challenge, and teenagers definitely provided that.
They made little to no effort to show approval or give us the satisfaction of their much coveted joy in something. But, they WERE respectful and they DID listen. I know they did because after we were through, they began to come up and talk to us! They talked about music, instruments, each other, love, singing, all kinds of stuff! They laughed awkwardly and shook our hands and we even got some hugs. They really did like it! One young lady (I think she was a senior) in a group of friends who approached us said, “I think we were just all culture-shocked by you guys. We’ve never seen anything like that here.” We thanked her for her honesty and just laughed at how crazy we must have looked to some of these kids, but how necessary things like this are for so many reasons! Despite the differences, we all had a great time and learned new things about each other.
Some freshmen looking for autographs between classes!
And then there were the kids!!! Oh my goodness. These children were Red Bull in human form, and boy, did we need it!! With enough energy and joy to fill several circus tents, these elementary students cheered, danced, sang, laughed, wondered, and TALKED. Not out of turn or disrespectfully, but when we gave them opportunity to chat, they had so much to ask and say. And really GOOD questions too! We got asked about songwriting, travel, origin of our band name, and one young man asked Jared to explain the difference between and acoustic, electric, and slide guitar. I leaned over to a teacher at one point and said, “You’re really gonna have to keep me within my time limits here. I could talk to these kids til 10:00 at night!!” They were all amazing.
As we tore down that day, already exhausted after the two morning shows, we took heart that what we’re doing really DOES matter. All the time and energy and care put in is just a fraction of what these teachers do EVERY DAY! But it really does matter. Thank goodness for those littles giving us that love lift we got before we had to get to the hotel and set up for the night’s gig. It was a high we could ride on for a long time.
This is a digitally rough image, but it was taken from the balcony of the Edith while we were playing. It was an absolutely incredible show and we really didn’t want it to end. Before the gig, Katie saw all of our merchandise set up and loved it all so much. She instructed her staff to all come over and choose whatever they wanted and she would buy it all for them!!! Wow!! What a boss! Then, when the show was over, Katie asked us to leave a signed copy of our CD so she could put in up on her music wall, next to Tanya Tucker, who recently stayed there…
Once the show was through and we were just gearing up to eat a bit, then tear down for the night, a little angel walked in and wanted to give us something. Kimberley couldn’t make it to the show because she had a prior commitment with her scout troop that night, but she had seen us at her school that day. She told her parents that we were her favorite band she’d ever seen or heard, and she drew a picture of us at the show at her school. On the off-chance that we would still be around, her parents brought her to the hotel after her event was over to meet us, give us the drawing, and let her get something that she wanted. She chose an “I’m That Girl” sweatshirt and we got hugs and pictures to commemorate the occasion.
This reminded us so much of when Rudy was that age and he was in LOVE with a band called “OK Go”. We went to see them and their lead singer, Damien, had the whole VIP section that had gotten there early for autographs, turn around and “not look”, so we could get a picture with them and Rudy, because Rudy wouldn’t take his Spiderman mask off if people were watching. That became part of our family’s story, and an incredibly sentimental gesture. OK Go’s music is the soundtrack to Rudy’s young years and we are so full of joy when we hear their music. The thought that Champagne Sunday is becoming that for other kids and their families is just wild…and humbling.
Several high schoolers came back that night to see the show. The Arts Council members said that NEVER happens. I guess through those folded arms and hidden faces, something bigger was going on. Something was resonating. Something was connecting. And all because of music!! Can I please get a “HELL YEAH!!”??
Time to literally pass out now. See you all tomorrow in Belt…if we make it there!🤣😳🌨️