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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cain's Ballroom

 The only set piece in my trip West this summer was the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, OK (his birthplace). I had passed through Okemah last summer one week before the festival and vowed that I would return. The first event this year was a fundraiser in Tulsa featuring Crosby/Nash and I had bought my ticket a few months back. I had also booked a room at a B&B that was just a few blocks away. I really didn't know much about either the music venue or the mansion but it ended up that I had given myself a real treat. This will be the crowning point, I think, of the first leg of the journey.
 My room was lovely, the home is enchanting and I was the only guest. Francoise, the hostess makes the croissants herself and gave me a menu to choose from for breakfast. Yum.  I immediately headed for the garden pool and swam off the pain and the angst both of driving and from my visit to Joplin. I will go back to those memories but tonight is special.
 Just a few blocks down the hill a whole different world (old, old part of town) was revealed and I eagerly parked the VW and looked for a place to get a bite. There was already a long line of folks waiting for the doors to open but it was over an hour away so I walked on and found The Hunt Club - Pub and Grub, strollewd and at sat at the bar and immediately started meeting people who were going to the festival tomorrow or who were native Tulsans and going to the show and they were all so friendly. I had a local brew - Marshall's - enjoyed the social atmosphere (I was thirsty!) and then headed back to the concert. I didn't realize that my ticket was general admission so now I knew why all those people had been waiting in line. I also did not realize that I was going to an historic ballroom where Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys held court along with all kinds of oldtime stars, including Hank but on into the decades. All night long people told me their stories of who they had seen there.
Well, I saw Crosby/Nash doing an acoustic show with David's son as the only other band member. Have you read David's biographies? The story of him meeting his son is rich. He added a third vocal that blended like fine wine to David and Graham. Half of the songs had the audience singing along and we wept and cheered at the sentiments of their anti-war, anti-fascist government lyrics from 40 years ago that seem oh, so relevant today. David is still angry. David is still mellow and both David and Graham sang like angels.

The hall was wonderful. I saw Jimmie LeFave in the audience and he told me I had hit the heart of Oklahoma. Hey, that's what he told me about Texas when I saw him at Greune Hall outside of Austin. I think I've got a little lucky thing going on. It was a wonderful night. I pub crawled a bit with the "mayor," on the folks I sat with and then headed back to the mansion. I had my own balcony, although it was still pretty hot at 1:00 am.

Now I am heading out to Okemah and I will not be online or blogging for several days. I will be sweating a lot and drinking lots of water. Afternoon concerts are inside, evening concerts out. Some of the music happens in a honky tonk of some sort. From what I hear, some of the best music will be right in my campground. And, you know I'll be taking part a little bit myself. Too much fun.

Adios, amigas and amigos.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Now, isn't that just the cutest little cabin? It's at Babcock State Park above the New River in West Virginia. I had originally planned to pitch a tent at this park but the torrents of rain that just didn't quit talked me into a cabin instead. I sat inside the screened porch and enjoyed my dinner while the showers continued. I played my uke while the showers continued and when I tucked myself in to the bottom double-bed bunk and the showers were still continuing, I let go of the idea that I was a camping wimp.

My rule about camping is: I don't put up a tent unless I'm staying at least two nights. It's too much work. Of course, I only use a tent that I can stand up in and I like a few accoutrements like a cot and a chair and a table. I basically set up house. It's fun, it's comfy. Hence, I did not stay at Babcock State Park for two nights as was listed in my well-planned itinerary and now was a day ahead. A great reason to take back country roads instead of the interstate to get to my next camping destination, which I hoped would be Mammoth Caves Natl Park. Well, 9 hrs later and 100 miles farther than I thought it was, I made it but was completely exhausted.

Why, do you ask, didn't I just find a camping spot sooner? That thought occurred to me in mid-afternoon and I had stopped in London for a wi-fi check-in at the local Starbucks. As I was looking up Kentucky State Parks info, two Forest Service employees came in and I asked them where a good spot might be. They informed me that I had just left the national forest area behind me.They described Kentucky state campsites as a lot of RV's lined up in rows and they said it would be a "social" experience. Yuk. Couldn't I just go back to that little cabin in West Virginia? Well, I drove on, already really tired and decided that I'd get close to Mammoth Caves, stay in a motel and then I could go in early the next day and get a site. My first motel at a freeway interchange - you know what they look like.

9 hours of driving had its toll and the next morning I had the worst lower back pain I've ever experienced and it just got worse... meaning spasms everytime I used the clutch. Kentucky just wasn't working for me. Could I park the car and get a flight to California? Would Missouri be any better? Could someone please point me to a decent restaurant (culinary experiences to come in a later post)? I bit the bullet, got in the car and moved down the road a bit farther. It was Sunday, the roads were quiet and I had been curious about Paducah, KY. Unfortunately, an 18-wheeler flipped somewhere up ahead and stopped traffic cold for well over an hour and I was low on fuel because the last place I stopped for diesel the night before had an over-sized nozzle plus I really needed to pee. Things were not going well. Why would someone drive across the country by herself, anyway? But, I was still one day ahead of my itinerary.

I made it to Paducah following umpteen signs about their historic river district only to miss it and end up in the worst of freeway interchange strip malls. I am in pain, I am hot, I am hungry and all thoughts of a quaint inn along the Ohio River disappear as I check into the Thrifty Inn and then have dinner at a Texas Roadhouse (a rather new entry into the Olive Garden - Red Lobster - Chevy's - Buffalo Wings "upscale" dining experiences available across America). It was not a good meal. Is this post too long?

OK.... a good night's rest, swimming and stretching made me a new girl by the next morning. I only drove 145 miles today and am in yet another motel at an interchange strip mall. This one had a happy hour, however, with 3 free glasses of wine. I really am feeling better. I have crossed the Mississippi and have torn up my itinerary. I have no idea what I am doing tomorrow but I'm pretty sure I am still one day ahead of schedule.




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