Thursday, November 3, 2011

St. Louis and home!

Hey do you guys wanna know who likes baseball a whole lot?  St. Louis!  Yeah Woo!  And guess what,  the last two games of the World Series were scheduled the same two nights we were in town!  And the St. Louis Cardinals were IN the World Series and the World Series was IN St. Louis!  See where I'm going with this?

So there weren't a whole lot of music fans out in the bars while we were there.  The first show in town was at the Crack Fox with Mason Reed and Brown Bottle Fever, and it was awesome and the dudes were super nice and hardly anybody was there.  Seriously a really cool show though.  Here's a Crankshaft shot.

Billy from Brown Bottle Fever was so nice and let us park in his driveway and use his electricity and everything!  We didn't even get back there til around 3, then crashed until around 10.  We woke up super hungry and knew nobody else would be up for hours so we found a Denny's to eat at and use the internet.  We were jerks and stayed til like 130, then decided to go see the Arch.

It is a really impressive building.  Is it a building?  I mean, you can go up to the top of it, and it was built by someone I guess.


So it was super rad from the ground, and Alex really wanted to go to the top.  I'm afraid of heights and claustrophobic but I was like, this is a thing I can do, mind over matter and all that, plus I thought it would be cool to see the city from way up there.  So we bought tickets and went to get in line, where they play you a video and show you how it was built and all that jazz.  That's when I learned that you have to ride in this tiny little car with four other people to get to the top, for FOUR WHOLE MINUTES, and there are windows in the car, so the whole time you're going up you get to look at all the stairs you'll have to climb down if the thing gets stuck and all the rickety metal and old welders that they use to patch the thing back together, probably every day.  I was trying hard not to enter full panic mode, but I thought I was going to barf on that nice other couple.  Somehow I didn't barf, and I didn't even cry, just shook a lot, like a Chihuahua or something.  So then we got to the top and I felt like I might pass out, but I just talked to the people that work up there (there are people that work up there everyday!  and they take that terrifying car up there everytime!) and that made me feel better and I relaxed a little.  I even stopped shaking long enough to take this picture of Alex exhaling a barge!  We're clever.

Then I had to get the hell off that thing and smoke.  We hung around in the park there for a little while longer and decided to go to the venue for that night, Three Kings Pub, which is down by the University.  Leaving downtown we hit a bunch of traffic, possibly due to this:

That is a crappy cell phone pic taken through our bug-covered windshield, but you get the idea.  When we got across town we somehow scored primo parking right in front of the venue, then decided to take a nap for a few hours.  Every single person walking down the street was talking about the game, it was nuts.  And it only got nutsier when they won.  Airhorns aplenty!  Drunk and screaming college kids! Yeah!  We thought this would be a good thing because people would be in a good mood and stuff, but it turns out that almost no one at the bar was into music really, they were all sportsfans.  Go figure.  Alex was supposed to play at 10, but because of the game he didn't go on til 11:15. 

He only played for an hour an a half and still got the guarantee though, so that was cool.  We sold a few cds and a few people got up and danced.  Not a bad show, but not the best way to end the tour either.  After we loaded up, we found a Walmart to park in and bundled up in extra clothes and all of our blankets against the 38 degree night.

Then we woke up at 8 am and made for home.  It was boring and flat and we barely stopped, so no photos.  Eleven hours later, we pulled up to the Crankstead and greeted our frantic Fender dog and the venerable KP .  Then we slept and slept and slept!  The End.

Oh, and come see us on Sunday at the River City in Anoka from 6-10 for the homecoming show!  We missed you!

The road to St. Louis- Mississippi Delta

We had four driving days to cover the 650 miles to St. Louis from New Orleans and decided to take Highway 61.  It was the first time on tour that we actually felt like we were on a road trip because we only drove about 200 miles a day and had plenty of time to stop and look at sweet stuff.  Our first stop in Mississippi was this old town called Woodville and I noticed a little brown sign that said "Mississippi Blues Trail Site" with an arrow, so we followed it and found a marker with a bunch of info about Blues dudes from that town. 

I did some research on my phone and found out that these markers were made and placed all over the state, so we made it our mission to find them.  That night we stayed in Natchez State Park, and before we went "home" for the night we stopped and explored the town.  They have an awesome park right next to the river, and a gnarly bridge!

At the visitor center we scored a map of all the blues trail sites, then we went to the historic downtown and read a few markers.  The architecture reminded me a lot of New Orleans and a shop owner told us that most of the buildings are from the early to middle 1800s.  I would have loved to see more of the town, but we were both feeling sick and it was getting late so we called it a night.

The next day our camping destination was Clarksdale, about 200 miles away.  We stopped for another bass drum photo before we left the park--it was such a pretty drive!

This is a sweet old building in Port Gibson, right by the Rabbit Foot Minstrels Blues Trail marker. 

Then we drove through Vicksburg.  We didn't walk around there because it seemed like everything was under construction.  We did drive along a stretch of road by the river that had tons of murals with the town's history and that was pretty cool.  Also, we checked out the Highway 61 Blues Trail marker. 

Next we stopped in Rolling Fork, birthplace of Muddy Waters.   Here's an old shanty that was next to his marker, brought in from a plantation years ago.

We stopped in Leland and met the mayor while we were reading Johnny Winter's blues trail marker.

Then we walked across the street to the Highway 61 Blues Museum and met Pat Thomas, son of James "Son" Thomas.  He was incredibly nice, very talkative, and a bit loopy.  He played some songs with a dude that drove down from Memphis to see him, then gave us a couple of his cat head dominoes (he's also a folk artist that specializes in cat drawings--that's him on the right). 

Also Alex got hassled for change and a cigarette by a guy pretending to be deaf.  We went and got some Mexican food for dinner then drove the 45 more miles to Clarksdale without stopping.  When we got there we could not find the stupid campground because my phone couldn't find the road it was on.  Turns out it was at the fairgrounds in town, so we drove by and it seemed adequate and then we headed downtown to try to find some music and a drink.  Downtown was deserted.  As we were driving past the third or fourth club that was closed (it was a Tuesday), Alex hollered out the window at this old hippie/mountain man lookin dude that was walking down the street.  He told us that there wasn't music anywhere on Tuesdays in Clarksdale, but he brought us to the Hopson Plantation Commissary, which was open and totally awesome.  I must have been totally wiped because I didn't take any pictures and that place was soooo cool!  Here's the website: 

We talked to him (Ed) and his wife (Tobi) for a while and found out that they're traveling artists/vendors at lots of music festivals.  Tobi is a potter and Ed makes amazing pieces out of old silverware.  Check out his site:  They were parking at the Hopson that night and let us park next to them, which was super awesome and also free. 

The next day we went to the Mississippi Delta Blues Museum and walked around town a little.

This shop is actually named after Pat Thomas' art.

Front door of Ground Zero.

Sweet stencil on the side of a building.

Cool old lamppost.

And the old Greyhound station.  I'm pretty sure it's a museum or visitor's center or something now.

We left around 11 and rattled out of town to St. Louis!
Mississippi Blues Trail website:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Four days in New Orleans

When we got in to town, we called up Laura, a friend from Minneapolis who lives there now and set up three shows for us at the bar where she works. She was also sweet enough to let us park the camper in her driveway while we were down there. Check out this crazy creepy house across the street from Laura's, oh my god!

After we got parked, she drove us around to make copies of flyers and handbills to pass out to the tourists in the French Quarter. Then we went on a suuuuper long walk down there and tried to sweet talk people into coming to the show. When we got back to the house, we relaxed for about an hour before heading to the show and Laura told us that we were going to get a big surprise that night. The bar that we played is right on the edge of the hood so I didn't want to bring my camera in there-but I'm sure you know what Crankshaft looks like by now. The attendance was pretty lackluster, but Alex was sick and we were both pretty tired so it didn't really matter. Then our surprise showed up, Connie and Tom (Alex's mom and stepdad) all the way from Minnesota, wearing Crankshaft t-shirts! It was awesome! They stayed in town the whole time we were there, so we got to spend time with them sightseeing during the day and they even got us a room for a few nights so we could sleep on a real bed! We had so much fun with them and our old friends from Minneapolis that moved down there a few years ago!  I'm not even really sure what happened on which day, so I'm just gonna throw a million photos at you.

City Park with Nate, Molly, Connie, and Tom:

Alex and Nate on a giant tree:

Pretty black swan:

Sitting at the French Market with Connie and Tom:

Down at the levy with Molly and Laura and Trixie:

Alex and Izzy:

French Quarter buildings:

Sorry I don't have more words, but trust me we had a blast!  Thanks New Orleans!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gulf coast

We spent the first night of our trip to New Orleans at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City, Florida. It was a really rainy drive but we got there just as the rain was clearing out. Alex stopped at this super cute seafood joint for lunch and they even had veggie food for me and a few bisuits for Trixie.

The park included a long stretch of white sand beach so we went for a really long walk down to the pier only to find out that we weren't supposed to bring pets out there! But we did anyway cuz that's how we roll.

And we found an old VHS tape poking out of the sand.

Trixie still didn't know what to think of the ocean and she tried to fight it, then went nuts digging in the sand. We hung out there awhile and I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday, then we walked back to the camper and fell asleep pretty early that night.

In the morning we set our for Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Mississippi. When we called to make a reservation, the dude on the phone said “Yeah, you won't need a reservation.” It was another longish day of driving, but when we got down to the Mississippi gulf we understood what he meant. So many things were never rebuilt or cleaned up from hurricane Katrina, even six years later. Driving along the coast, tons of houses were up on ten-foot stilts or even higher, and probably two-thirds of the lots were still vacant. There were steps and sidewalks leading to nothing, and a few piles of rubble still hanging around. There were decimated piers abandoned along the ocean, with nothing left except long rows of posts with a few sections of walkway remaining waaaay out in the water. The park we stayed at was pretty much in the center of the disaster but was one of the first things that got rebuilt after the storm because it had lots of electric hookups and that's where a bunch of the FEMA people stayed in the months after Katrina. The park used to have a big waterpark but that was ruined and hasn't been rebuilt yet.

One of the rangers there told us that all of the pine trees that were there died because of all the salt deposited in the soil and the only trees left were live oaks that were definitely struggling to adapt.

It was totally surreal, and really mind-boggling to think that this was after six years! There were only four or five other RVs in the whole park, but there was room for a few hundred at least.

It was a pretty sobering thing to see...I always thought I wanted to be Tank Girl, but standing in that post-apocalyptic wasteland, my heart just went out to all the people and animals that suffered through that nightmare.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Hoo boy. We slept overnight in the parking lot of the Village Tavern in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, then woke up and started the 310-mile trek to Gainesville. We drove our asses off that day because the show started at 6 and decided that 200-250 miles a day is our cutoff for the next tour. Too much driving just to get somewhere and unload stuff and play right away is sort of a bummer. We did stop at this cute little fruit stand to get some citrus and Trixie met her brother from another mother. He was kinda shy though so I didn't get a great shot.

We pulled in to the Kickin Devil around 430 and Alex's uncle Todd had just pulled up. He was the one that helped us set up the show, and he and his son Spencer helped us unload everything and bring it in. Alex decided to hang out for a while since nobody was really there and he thought he was going to play until around 8 or 9 before the blues society's open jam night. So we had about half hour of chill time, then the wardrobe change and setting up. Oh! And Bo Diddley's saxophone player, Nick Savage, called Alex up before the show and said he was really excited to come to the show that night! Woah! So Alex asked him if he'd like to sit in, how cool is that???

Todd and his buddy Ron were super into it!

Alex started around 530 and at about 615 the owner showed up and told Alex he'd have to stop at 630 because the blues society jam started at 7. The blues jam dudes were super rude and passive aggressive and they started setting up on stage while Alex was still playing.  While Alex was tearing down, one guy kept asking him if he was a professional musician and said “We should have been playing one minute ago!” It was completely ridiculous to see grown men throwing a tantrum because a touring band wanted to play, unlike any other experience we've had on tour or at home. Also, it was totally the owner's fault for the lack of communication with those guys and Alex because she told us he could play til 8 and I guess totally forgot to mention that Alex was playing to the blues society. We definitely didn't make any friends there! Except for Nick, of course.

After we got loaded back up we got the hell out of there because screw those guys. We followed Todd out to his house about 30 miles out of town where we slept for the night. We hung out a for a little bit and Trixie met his two labs, then Alex took a shower (I refused since there was no door on the bathroom or on the bedroom that the bathroom was in, and I'm too prudish for that) and we all went to bed. In the morning we went to town for some breakfast and hit up a thrift store for a few more movies. We stopped by Todd's girlfriend's house so I could shower, do laundry, and use the internet. Also, we went to the auto parts store for a gas cap because Alex left ours somewhere in North Carolina. Then we went back to Todd's and let the dogs run around while Alex and Todd changed the oil and flushed the radiator on the Beast.

Todd and Spencer made dinner for us, the best part of that was when Todd asked us if we'd like a napkin and reached into his cupboard and pulled out some old holey t-shirts. And he wasn't kidding! After dinner Spencer lit up a huge fire out back and we sat out there for a bit while Alex played some tunes.

The next morning we set out for Panama City to stay at St. Andrews State Park, which was only about 200 miles north and west of Gainesville and we had 3 driving days to get to New Orleans.