I finished that tour a few days back, after 2 shows at the fabled Monterey fairgrounds where in 1967 Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire and Janis Joplin tore her heart out at the Monterey Pop Festival, the music of the Grateful Dead bounced and vibrated off all of our bodies in the spirit of that great festival, 44 years prior. I woke on that Sunday morning coming down, it was time to hit the road and I had it in my mind that I was going to be 18 again and drive clear back to Vancouver from where I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling of the cheap motel. As usual in the first moments of the morning after the last show I was on my feet promptly, packing and washing, gearing up for the long journey home. My tour mate Jay, the lucky bastard, only had to endure a 2 hour drive north to San Francisco International to then board a noontime flight and in another 2 short hours land in Richmond BC, well oiled up with a few beer along the way.
But me?, nope, I was driving I-5 north until it hurt and god damn it I was was going to make it all the way just like we did after the Cal Expo shows in 1989, where I was dropped safely at the head of the driveway of my parents home at 2 in the morning, after which I quietly tip toed up to my bedroom, giggling with delight and youthful exuberance of what just went down in California and what lay ahead. Fast forward 22 years and there I was again, on the road driving up the 101 through the towering glory of old San Francisco and over the bay bridge, breaking through the fog banks the old clock tower on the U of Berkeley campus taunted me as the hands fell to the south.. I can make it, if I do 79 miles per hour, the tolerated speed limit, that’ll roughly land me in Vancity round 1 am.. 17 hours total driving time from Monterey to Vancouver, with the help of Red-bull and other things of the like I will push through.
The density of the bay area gave way to the flatness of the Sacramento Valley and the deep, stoned faced compass reading of due north, almost a straight line ‘cept for the last strains of northern California and the early bits of Southern Oregon. By then the sun was on my side, shining bright and warm like it should do in California, positioning itself to my right, falling down into the west. I pushed on, it took no time at all to see the great Mount Shasta looming in the north, so big you can see it hours before you even begin to arrive at its foot hills, a magical mountain where a few tours back I found it necessary to stop and cleanse and baptize myself in its headwaters to assure my return cause I wasn’t right sure at the time if I was ever going to come back at all and this is what I was told to do by a wise local woman..”touch these waters with love and good intention and you will then be back here another day..” and she was right…
Once you get pass Shasta, just beyond Weed, California, look back over your tired and sore right shoulder to one of the most splendid views of that great mountain valley, for those few that choose to live around there, what a landscape to live and die in, heavy resonance of ancient native tribes caring for themselves and the earth in the most inspiring, spiritual and sustainable way.. how did we lose our way so far? Looking out due north was my heading while I listened to a CD I bought at City Lights Books in San Francisco, a talking book.. “The Original Scroll.. On The Road by Jack Kerouac..” This was the unedited version with the original names so Sal was Jack and Dean was Neal..etc. I was on the road while I listened to on the road dreaming of being on the road while I was on the road, lost in great vista’s while being wooed by Jack and his wild tales and insightful musings of a long, lost America, all the while meditating on the lines on the freeway.. “I’m going to make it!! all the way home!!”
California melted into Oregon while the sun began to fall deep to my peripheral left, clouds began to gather and the temperature began to drop, reminding me that I am from Canada and its fall I am heading into. Night was coming, I could feel it, I could see it, suddenly the the road became more desperate, more violent. No longer could I daydream with Kerouac, I had to prop up my chair, sit straight and focus boy! focus! It happened so quickly, night fell and I was all alone! Still I found comfort in those familiar landmarks, like the glowing red towers of Eugene, the half way point from the the bay to the border pretty much, coming either way you know your in good shape but for me in that moment I still had another 7 hours and I was already on the road at that point for 10!! I was beginning to figure maybe I should shorten my sights a wee bit, point those cross hairs down a taste, I figured from Eugene I was a hour and a half away from Portland and I could make that easy so what about Seattle?!
I pushed on, I talked on the phone a bit, I shuffled my Steve Jobs playlist a bit, downed another energy drink and chomped on some peanuts, I drove man, I drove and drove while the numbers on those big green signs got smaller and smaller. I began to fantasize about waking up in my sweet Seattle hotel room, with a little paltry 2 hour drive to do the next morning. I called my cohort and said, “text me my hotels number so’s I can calls them and commit to a room tonight so i HAVE to drive to Seattle or chuck some money down the toilet if I don’t make it!!..”. He did I and then had a delightful conversation with this gal who hooked me up and bam! I was committed.. The darkness of Southern Washington took away the boring familiarity of the rural landscape of rolling hills, mills and little depressed towns, it became a video game, dodging tractor trailers and speedy pickups, keeping pace with the help of my increasingly weary, heavy foot on the gas pedal.. shit, I wasn’t holding and I’m going as fast as everyone else so I’m good right?.. A bad attitude where bad shit happens when you’ve been on tour for 3 weeks, you just finished 5 shows in a row and you’ve been driving for 13 fucking hours, slow down man!
Urban density began to gather and I was on the home stretch, Olympia was beginning to give in to Tacoma and the triple digits were becoming double digits on the mighty green signs and that drink I promised myself in my hotel room I could practically taste and I could feel the Pacific North West in my bones, the cold air and fog banks howled by me until boom!!.. there it was, mecca, babylon, the skyline of Seattle rose up in the distance, my spine felt like I had screws drilled into it, my knees and ankles ached as I drove those last miles with humble grace.. “I got lucky again!!” I made it, 15 hours and just under 1500 kms of driving with stops, re-fills, stretches and vista take in’s, I was close to home and moments away from a sweet hotel room, a drink and a bed. The streets of Seattle were quiet, I knew my way to the hotel and was in my room in what seemed like a few short breaths.. I could almost see the lights of the north shore mountains of Vancouver from my room, illuminating the clouds in the north, or at least thats what I wanted to believe, I could feel home, so close, just a little, short drive in the morning. Another tour over, back to life in my home town, I drove in to the city, everything was the same, just like I’d left it, but man.. “momma, momma many worlds I’ve come since I first left home.”