Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Eastern Shore

After our New England tour, we headed down to the Eastern Shore, stopping first at Chincoteague for a couple of days. We stayed at the Maddox Family Campground which is the closest to Assateaque Island and the beach. I enjoyed riding my bike around both islands and the Bird chose to hang out on the beach. We had a very nice meal at Etta's Channel Side restaurant and sat next to a singer/acoustic guitar player named Ron Cole who was performing. He was nice enough to give us his songbook (which was full of great songs from the 60's and 70's) and let us create his setlist. He did some Grateful Dead songs for us as well as "The Weight".

Charlie and Stella relaxing at the campground

Chincoteague Island

Assateague Island - still functioning, I could see it from my bedroom window at night
From there we headed down for a week in the Cape Charles/Smith Beach area for our annual bacchanal with about 15 friends (all either Danville ex-pats or spouses of Danville ex-pats). Lots of great food and strong drinks, usually followed by more strong drinks. One night we went to the Shanty to hear a musician from St. Croix named Michael Justis. He was quite good and I was pleased to hear that his version of the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" includes the last verse, which is rarely played. I think my enthusiastic reception of that song encouraged him to do several more Dead tunes.

Beachhead established

Bubba on the Beach!

All in all it was another great beach week and it even included a ride on the bay on Marcus' boat, which  sometimes I wondered if it really existed.
The still unnamed Marcus sailing craft

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New England Tour

We spent three days camping in the RV in Tremont, Maine, at the foot of the bridge that takes you on to Mount Desert Island, which is where Acadia National Park is located. Each day we would head into the park for to experience what has to be one of the most scenic areas of the US. We were somewhat hampered by the weather, Day One was sort of overcast and wet so we did a driving tour of the island, Day Two was raining more so we went into Bar Harbor for some shopping and bar hopping. We especially liked Stewman's Lobster Pound and Beerworks. It's really nice on a rainy day to sample some lobster bisque and some local craft beers. We also went to the Abbe Museum which taught us much about the Wabanaki people who inhabited the area before settlers from Europe arrived. On Day Three the weather was beautiful, I took the opportunity to take a bike ride on the Park Road, which provided some spectacular coastal views. In the afternoon we hiked to the top of Mount Gorham with the dogs, which was lots of fun. We rewarded ourselves that evening with a lobster feast at the Tremont Lobster Pound.

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park
When it's raining, beer and lobster bisque are a good way to spend the afternoon

The Bird with Charlie and Stella at the top of Mt. Gorham

Departing Maine we went on to New Hampshire where we stayed at a very nice campground just outside the White Mountain National Forest. We toured the forest, saw some nice covered bridges and we went to the site of the Old Man in the Mountain, which is on all of the New Hampshire logos and their state quarter, but he slid off the face of the mountain a few years ago and now it's sort of a memorial site.

We connected with our friends Harry and Jeff who had been hiking in the White Mountains and had a nice dinner with them in Gorham at the SAalt Pub (that's not a typo).

From New Hampshire we headed into Vermont, stopping on the way at Polly's Pancake Parlor, famous for their superb choice of pancakes and maple syrup.  We overnighted at a campground near Bennington Vermont, the dogs got a chance to run around the countryside and I did a nice mountain bike ride on some snowmobile trails through the woods.

Our next stop was Cooperstown, New York where we spent a day at the Baseball Hall of Fame, which was full of interesting exhibits about the national pastime. I saw the plaque for Ernie Harwell, a cousin of mine and recipient of the Ford Fricke award, given to the best baseball announcers and journalists.

Ernie Harwell at the Hall of Fame
After that we headed south, overnighting at a neat little KOA campground near Fogelsville, PA and then down to the Eastern Shore of Virgina.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Heading to Maine

No music updates on this entry, only travel. After visiting with friends and family in Maryland, the Bird and I set out in the RV to New England to visit some places we've never seen before. The first night we overnighted at a campground near Mitchellville, NY. It was a nice spot, a little difficult to get to but the people there were very friendly. The next day we headed to the Boston area and landed in a campground on the outskirts of Boston in Bellingham, MA. We had planned on touring downtown Boston but Dog #2 Stella decided she didn't want to be left in the RV and began howling and barking as soon as we left her. So we changed plans and let her ride in the truck with us to Cape Cod. It was a bit windy and cold there, but we saw some lovely seaside villages and we spent the day exploring around. Stella was fine with that plan.
Cape Cod Lighthouse
From Massachusetts we headed north to Maine, stopping for a day at Old Orchard Beach. This is a typical beach town with a boardwalk and plenty of lobster places. We had fun walking on the beach with the dogs and eating lobster rolls and steamers. 

Charlie ponders the meaning of life while staring at the ocean at Old Orchard Beach
 From Old Orchard Beach it was an easy drive on up to Acadia National Park. We set up the RV at a campground on the mainland near the bridge that crosses over to Mount Desert Island where the park is located.

Acadia National Park

Stella and I on the coast in Acadia National Park
We'll stay here a couple more days, then head inland to check out more of Maine and New Hampshire.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Summer 2015 - 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead

The summer for us this year is built around the 50th anniversary of that great American band - the Grateful Dead. We were fortunate enough to get tickets to the "final" three shows - July 3rd, 4th and 5th at Soldier Field in Chicago and we have put together a cross country RV tour that will feature the musical celebration in the Windy City as the centerpiece.

It was a good spring for music in Tucson and despite my lack of online blogging we still caught some excellent shows in the Old Pueblo. Todd Snider did a fine solo show at the Club Congress, and we saw Lucinda Williams, the Punch Brothers, and Zappa Plays Zappa at the Rialto Theatre. We also saw Gregg Allman at the Fox Theater and we enjoyed a full days' worth of music at the Tucson Folk Festival

On May 4th we attended the annual Grateful Dead "Meet up at the Movies" event at a Tucson cinema, this year it was an excellent concert - from July 1989 at Alpine Valley Wisconsin. This was a straight up concert movie - no interviews, crowd shots, or other filler. Each member of the band was inspired and giving it their all, the highlight for me was one of the best performances of the Dylan classic "Desperation Row" that I have ever seen. The next day we piled into the RV and started our summer by heading east. 

We overnighted at Balmorhea State Park in Texas (which has the world's largest spring fed swimming pool) and at an RV park outside of Katy Texas (our normal stopping point - the Stephen F. Austin State Park - was closed due to storm damage). Then we landed at New Orleans for a weekend of fun. We stayed at the French Quarter RV Park, just a few blocks from Bourbon Street and super convenient. We were met there by a couple of our friends from Tucson and we ate and drank our way through the French Quarter. We also visited the World War II Museum, which was very interesting, well worth your time if you're ever in New Orleans. After telling our friends goodbye in New Orleans we headed north, spending the first night in Auburn, Alabama, where we were able to catch one of the Capitals' playoff games in a downtown barbecue joint. From there we went to Easley, South Carolina, staying at the Ivy Acres RV Park and visiting with cousins there. Next stop was the Claytor Lake State Park near Radford, Virginia. It is a nice park and would be worthy of a longer visit, but we were focused on getting to Maryland in time for:

On May 14th, an incredible line up of musicians came together at the Merriweather Post Pavilion to celebrate Jerry's music. It was a sold out affair, a large but very friendly crowd of DeadHeads, all united for the love of Jerry's music. It was more like a festival crammed into a four hour period, with one performer right after another, but no "flow" or dramatic narrative that you might get in a concert by a single performer. Nevertheless there were several musical highlights for me. One was "Fire on the Mountain" featuring original Dead members Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, and Bob Weir and lead vocals by Jimmy Cliff. Another was David Grisman and Sam Bush's performance of "Shady Grove". Before the song, David explained that he had met Jerry some 51 years ago only about 85 miles from Merriweather. They were both at a bluegrass festival to see the legendary Bill Monroe. David became a little choked up as he said of Jerry "He was a good guy." Their musical partnership began before the Grateful Dead and lasted until Jerry's passing, thank God David kept that tape recorder rolling in his basement all those nights they jammed together. Another high point for me was Bob Weir's rendition of "Days Between". I kept hoping for a brief reunion of the "core four" but after Phil Lesh opened the show he disappeared into the wings and did not sit in with anyone else. But it was a nice way to celebrate a great musician and to kick off the Summer of the Dead.

Dark Star Orchestra at the Hamilton

A few nights after Dear Jerry we went to downtown DC to check out the Dark Star Orchestra at the Hamilton. We've seen DSO plenty of times, they usually do a complete recreation of a Grateful Dead concert but for this venue they chose to do an all acoustic show. One of the Hamilton managers confided to me that DSO electric was a "little too loud" for them, thus the acoustic solution. That turned out to be fine with us as we were up close and personal to a very nice evening of Dead tunes done low key with the emphasis on the songs (and not so much jamming). The Hamilton is a lovely venue with a wonderful service, we hope we can get back there again soon.


Delfest is one of our favorite music festivals, we've gone to 7 out of 8 of them now. Hosted by the Del McCoury Band and located at the fairgrounds in Cumberland, Maryland, this festival is all about the music. This year featured David "Dawg" Grisman as the roving musical ambassador, and he was at the center of several of my favorite musical moments of the weekend. Thursday night there was some misty rain, so we took advantage of the Del Radio station, which provides a live feed from the main stage and enjoyed the Steep Canyon Rangers from the comfort of the Pinnacle living room. Then the weather lifted and we made it out to see Shovels and Rope, who turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Consisting of a husband and wife duo, they made a much more rich and complex sound than I was expecting, great way to kick off the festival! 

Ronnie McCoury, David "Dawg" Grisman, and Sierra Hull
Friday morning was the musical peak for me, as David Grisman, Ronnie McCoury and Sierra Hull sat down in the Music Hall for a mandolin "playshop". About 50% music and 50% storytelling by David, this was a wonderful session that had one of the best mandolin players out there today (McCoury) sitting with his mentor (Grisman) as well as the next generation (Hull) discussing and demonstrating technique, style and music theory. It was an amazing hour, I wish it could have been two or three.
Also on Friday we saw on the main stage Larry Keel, Nikki Bluhm and the Gramblers and Railroad Earth all do fine sets.

Saturday we roamed around and finally settled in the Music Hall for what was billed as "Dre and the DelFest Collective". This was essentially a singer named Dre Anders who must have some good connections because she was able to corral the Travelin' McCoury's and several other musicians onto the stage with her. It quickly became obvious that she was the weak link in the chain and this turned into a rare DelFest disappointment. But no worries, as we went to the main stage and caught another magic musical miracle as "Del and Dawg" (just the two of them) performed a super strong set of bluegrass classics and wonderful tunes. Dawg did his usual intro's illuminating each song with personal history and context. Additional sets from Jason Isbell and the Travelin' McCoury's finished off a great Saturday at DelFest.

Sunday we made another visit to the Music Hall, this time to see the McCoury Brothers, which is basically the Del McCoury Band along with two of his brothers - Jerry and G.C.  They performed a great set, but it was nearly impossible to take our eyes off 3 year old Vassar McCoury (Rob's son), who "played" his fiddle with the band for nearly the entire set. Del told the two adult fiddle players that Vassar had rubbed all of the hair off his bow, thus explaining why there was no sound coming from the fiddle, so "he won't be showing up you boys today!" Jayson Carter calmly replied, "I think he already has." With a name like Vassar McCoury it's a safe bet that in a decade or so we'll be hearing some fine tunes from this one. We closed out Sunday with fun sets from Leftover Salmon, the Del McCoury Band, and Trampled by Turtles. Another great festival which has continued to grow over the years with out sacrificing quality (which has been a challenge for other festivals). 

We'll be fitting in some more music over the next few weeks as we tour in the RV, but the next big event will be July 3 - 5 at Soldier Field!