Midwest 2010

My phone get's a text that wakes me at 5:27 am that reads "We're leaving my house now". It's from Sam Barker's phone, and he and Nathan Taylor are on the way to pick me up for our journey to the Midwest. I am not a morning person, not in the least. We load into Sam's Pontiac G6. I know some of you may be wondering why we packed 3 guys, 3 acoustic guitars, 3 electric guitars, a lap steel, 2 pedal boards, a Fender Blues Junior amp a Fender ProJunior Custom amp,  a gig bad of chords and such, and all of our bags of clothes in a four door car instead of a Dodge Grand Caravan, which was sitting in the drive way. The reason was to save gas as the G6 gets double the miles per gallon of my van... and the REAL reason is it was more rock and roll to squeeze into the car.

  We stopped at The Trinity river at  Crawdad's gas station to get Breakfast. Sam Got his usual RockStar Energy drinks for the drive. I picked up my 'go to' with three bags of gummy worms for the times when I need to drive and need something to keep me awake. I spent Louisiana searching the iPhone app I downloaded to look for all the strange roadside oddities. The only thing in that particular state that was not really out of the way was the Britney Spears museum. It was in her hometown right before the Mississippi border. We decided that the Britney Spears museum being on a site for roadside oddities had to be worth checking out. We venture off of the freeway and find the place, but they are not open at the time. So with heavy hearts, we press on to Mississippi.

  Our fellow Front Porch Society member Matt Harlan has a song called 'Skinny Trees of Mississippi' and now I totally get that title. They have Pines as far as the eye can see. Let me sum up Mississippi for you... trees, Jackson, more trees,  Tennessee. Basically as I look at the iPhone GPS map, all of civilization in Mississippi is a few miles from the interstate. A pretty smart move to keep strangers passing through your state from being nosy, but the drive bores most folks. I personally love pine trees. Sam driving on a few hours of sleep was ill impressed. It was decided our trip back would be the route through Arkansas and East Texas. We stopped right before the Tennessee border and ate at Murhpy's Deli. I had the 'Big Nasty with the Comeback Gravy'. I didn't notice how... Um... BAD that sounded till Sam pointed it out as we waited at the table for the food to come. It was an Open Face roast beef sandwich with cheese and brown Gravy. The Big Nasty was good and the Comeback (Brown!?) Gravy made it a home run.

  Memphis was a lot like Houston's 5th ward. Well, at least the parts we saw. We got into a small 'Artsy' area which is where Java Cabana was located. We went in and the vibe was artistic. We asked if we could drop our gear off while went we to see Sun Studios and they agreed to watch our stuff. Sun Studios was a education in some rock n roll history. I've never really listened to Elvis, but a lot of the Artists Sam Phillips first worked with were Delta Blues guys from Mississippi, and I'm a big fan of Delta Blues. We also stopped in at a place called Goner Records which was walking distance from Java Cabana. That only made me wish I had a record player, as I ran across some pretty cool albums.

  The Gig at Java was pretty good. The packed house listened and all was well. They Dug it. The Fine folks who ran the joint said there were many complements. The PA was Vintage. True vintage, not new 'Road worn' like the stuff guitar companies are putting out now. In fact I thought my Shure Beta 58 was broken. I was getting NOTHING from it. This happened once to me at Rudyard's and the Mic worked afterwards. I need to contact Shure about this I think. It wasn't a cord issue, another mic plugged in worked fine. (FYI: I did plug the Beta in today at home into my PA and it worked like a champ)

  We hung out at Java and listened to a few other folks do an Open mic till they shut the place down . Nice night. We chatted with some locals and made some friends. The skies started to growl as I was chatting with a local fella outside so we said our goodbyes before the rains hit. Now, we had a game plan of having local foods on this trip, but at this time of night no Memphis BBQ joints had OPEN signs on. We cross the mighty Mississippi River into Arkansas and headed North toward Missouri. The only thing we found open was Taco Bell. We got our "Border grub" and the plan was an all-nighter to Chicago. We got to New Madrid, Missouri when the final verdict to stop for the night came to pass and the $39.99 was well worth it. Sam and I ended up sharing a bed and Nathan got one all to himself.

 We had a nice Breakfast for a $39.99 room, in fact, they had the best Continental Breakfast I'd ever seen. They had Biscuits and gravy, breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs... They even had a Pepsi Fountain machine! If you're ever in the area Thrifty Inn is a good stay.

  Our quest to see "the worlds biggest ____" or any other roadside oddities was coming up fruitless. I found some good things to see, World's Largest ball of hair, World's Largest red cedar bucket, The Crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil to become the King of the Delta Blues, ETC... but those places would put us way off our route. We did come across a Big Abe Lincoln outside of a Cherry Picker place right off the Highway in Illinois enrout to Chicago and this would be our one and only brush with roadside Oddity this trip. Now, we did see some oddities outside of Wrigley Field. A giant Macaroni Noodle on one side, and the VERY creepy Harry Carey Statue on the other.

 We roll into downtown Chicago on our way to some Folks by the name of Patti and John that Sam knows via the Bottle Rockets message board. They live a stones throw away from Wrigley Field and agreed to let us park in their parking garage to keep our stuff safe while we went walking around Downtown Chicago. This city was Awesome! We rolled in right along Lake Michigan and the Downtown Skyline. Wow! Impressive to say the least. Chicago has a large amount of trees and the majority of the buildings had windows open. The weather and vibe was perfect. We strolled around and hit up Wrigley. Awesome place. On one side there is this giant noodle.

 This was not far from the famous Marquee. We kept walking around the stadium and came across The Harry Carey statue. I loved Harry as a kid. We watched the Cubs on WGN. But I don't get the "Hellraiser" themed monument... I mean, look at this thing!

I had a hard time sleeping in Chicago knowing this thing was near! What's with the 'Damned Souls' coming out of his legs? Why does he look so evil!? This is not the Lovable Harry I know!

 We head back to Patti and John's place for a gourmet dinner on their balcony. It was GOOD stuff. Like food from a high-class place. Not your usual Indie rock star microwave burrito fare...  I'm still curious what those hotel maids in Kerrvile, TX thought when they saw the aftermath of Sam's Exploding Burrito. Oh to be a fly on that wall.

 We head to Fat Tone Guitars for the gig. This ain't nothing like Guitar Center! Phil has some cool stuff and a high-class showroom here. If you are looking for a good Guitar or some real good pedals, Phil is your man... and you can get it shipped straight to your house. Phil has a NICE stage built in his showroom and we enjoyed playing on it.

 We determined we would NOT leave Chicago without eating Chicago Pizza. This lead to a nice "Licenses to Drive" esque adventure in which the trusty iPhone saved the day again and by 12:30am we had made our way to Mug's Pizza and Ribs... open till 3am. All the others had closed at midnight while we lingered around Fat Tone checking out pedals. We went in, placed our order of a Pepperoni Chicago Pie, and waited outside the hour for it to get cooked. It was a small ordering room and had no seating. Carry out or delivery only. Nestled between a printer repair place and a Liquor store it was a hole in the wall. It was PERFECT! After the hour, Sam Brings the pizza and sits it in my lap. He tells me to pick it up... as I reach for it he says "Both Hands". It had some weight... my mouth was watering.

 15 minutes later we're back at the hotel after passing the airport. Rule of thumb, don't stay at places by the airport. Consider this a PSA. They are always scary... ALWAYS!. After using a bell hop cart to bring in our Guitars and stuff, and being asked by the clerk if we was "Gonna make noise, Cuz people always come in here making noise" we make it past the drunks fighting in the hall to our room. Did I mention DON'T stay at a place by the airport No matter the city... Just Trust me.

 We open the Pizza box and it's like the scene from Pulp Fiction where Samuel L. and Johnny T. open the case and the glow of awesomeness comes out. This Pie was done right for a Chicago Pizza. Crust, Topping, Cheese Crust again and Sauce on top. I know this is right, this kinda Upside down order, because of Food Network. Now I'm really ready for it. It was AWESOME. Go to Mug's if you are in Chicago. We all agree it was the poop with corn and peanuts and I have been officially turned from NY style to Chicago Pizza being king. Man it was good! 

 I again shared a bed with Sam. Nathan is too quick at marking his territory. Sam and I always end up sharing when the beds are few and sharing is necessary. The rule is there is really not a rule for sleeping arrangements. The rule is first to claim a spot gets it and the last share. Sam and I are always too mellow and end up in the same bed. It's all good. He is Cuddly. Off to Saint Louis.

Between Chicago and Saint Louis we stop in Decatur to have lunch with My Aunt Mo, Uncle Neil, and their two Daughters who are of course my Cousins. My cousin Barb's husband was there too. I haven't seen them in probably 16 years, Way too Long! It was so good spending time with them and I really hope to get up there to see them again soon.

 Bottle Rockets message board come through again as we are set to stay with Bottle Rocket frontman Brian Henneman.  We pull up and Janet Henneman greets us as she happens to be outside at her car. Brian comes out to greet us and marvels at the car packing skills. Then we head inside to meet the head of the house, the family dog, Rocco. The Henneman's are super cool down to earth folks. There was not a quiet moment in the Henneman House... between Guitar and tour talk, and the rules not to touch Rocco's toy monkey, there was not a dull moment and we felt more than welcome.

 The Wedge was a cool place and had a nice stage. The folks running the place treated us well and we had a nice crowd, mostly from the Bottle Rockets message board. Nathan had some friends he hadn't seen in about 16 years that he got a chance to catch up with. Good gig and good response from the crowd. I can see us at the Wedge again in the future. On the local food front again we were out of luck with places being open so we pick up supper from 7-11, I had Funyuns paired with A&W Rootbeer. 

 We get back to the Henneman's and they had gone above and beyond to find us two extra beds to ensure we all had a comfortable stay. (Told you they are super cool.) We sat around Brian's kitchen table and ended up talking till about 4am before we realized "Crap, It's 4 am!" and made our ways to our beds, mine and Nathan's beds had been set up in the living room and Sam ended up in the "Otis Gibbs" suite.

 I was woke up by a text from Cristi right about noon. Uh oh... we were supposed to LEAVE at 11! Looking over I see Nathan is still asleep, so I'm pretty sure I didn't get left behind. I told you I'm not a morning person, and non-morning people can't think straight right upon waking up. I hear voices from the Kitchen... it's Sam and Brian, they have been gabbin' since sometime after 8am. Non stop mind you. Nathan wanders in shortly after I do and we all get to gabbin' and realize if we don't leave soon, Nathan won't be back to open up Dry Creek at 6am. So we finally leave about 2:30pm... we could have seriously talked all day.

  GPS says we will make it to Houston at 6:30ish. Time to lay the hammer down son! Sam has been driving the whole trip and he starts out again behind the wheel. We stop at a Diner, old school type, after leaving Saint Louis. Shortly after we get back on the road  Sam says it's time for him to "Tap Out". I get behind the wheel and we head into the 13 hour final leg of  the journey. Arkansas, Done... Hit Texarkana... We are on hwy 59 and back in Texas. We find a Burger King... It's 11:04pm. The Drive Thru is still open and we get our food "On the run" and keep on Trucking. I don't stop till we need gas in Cleveland, TX... I think. All I know is the "For a good time call..." Graffiti in the men's room of this truck stop has a 832 area code, which means we are close to home!

  In Texarkana I put my iPhone on the Drive-By Truckers catalog on shuffle and end up making up some time... we get Nathan home at 4:15am. I was going strong still. I only used one bag of the gummy worms. I had the power of the Truckers to energize me... better than Red Bull and 5 Hour energy combined! 15 Minutes after dropping Nathan we pull into my driveway. We give each other props for an awesome tour and I make my way into the house. Time to go to bed at 4:35 am I crawl in bed, snuggle up to Cristi and say goodnight to the world as the sun starts to creep in. Rock on world... Rock on.









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