Not everything goes as planned, it’s part of being on the road. After a series of blissful shows and reconnecting with old friends in L.A. and Oakland we packed up the car for our journey back. It was 8:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning as we walked down a busy street in Oakland to get coffee before we left. On our way back, as we approached the car our reflection on the back passenger-side window wasn’t appearing. As we neared we saw the edges of broken glass and half our luggage missing.
We spend the morning filing police reports and trying to figure out what we’d lost and wondering if we could keep going. The guitar was too big to pull through the window and we had one camera in hand at the time of the break-in. After the initial shock wore off we felt surprisingly calm as we re-grouped in a coffee shop in a less busy area of Oakland. We still had everything we needed to do the remaining shows, and we weren’t going to let this stop us.
We had shot out of Oakland on I-5 and had to make up for lost time that day. We pulled over as soon as we hit Lake Shasta to watch the sunset on the water. And just like that, it was like the drama in Oakland never happened. We turned west one last time taking side roads back to the coast; we were back in it.
From Portland to Seattle, and then straight back east the tour was coming to an end but there were still a few key spots we had to stop at on our way home. We stopped in Missoula, Montana at the request of our longtime friend, Ben, for a show and a cook-out at the Moon-Homestead and then it was time to cross the plains again. Our 12 year-old Rand McNally atlas said there was only one paved road out of Ekalaka, and with us still trying to avoid interstates at all costs we inquired about a way east at the Carter County museum where we had stopped to look around. A bearded man in blue flannel and overalls told us to take 323 towards the Badlands. The museum keeper chimed in that it was paved seven years ago even though it doesn’t always say so on most maps. Montana stretched on for miles and miles. Soft rolling hills feathered with green and yellow clovers. We didn’t see cars for hours as we rolled across.
The Badlands are one of the most magical places in the States. We had arrived at sunset as we managed to do for most of our chosen destinations and wandered out onto the edges of the unworldly valley. Prairie dogs scurried busily between their burrows as we wandered through this dream-like valley.
We left Rock Island, IL where I recorded a session with Daytrotter and after a quick stop to peak at the mighty Mississppi we traveled the 5 hours to Kalamazoo, Michigan, my hometown. I hadn’t been back there for nearly seven years and as I walked into my grandpa’s house, it smelled exactly how I remembered it from my childhood. The Howard Miller clock above the TV sounded like the same series of bells I remember hearing from my very youth, and the walls were lined with my grandpa’s paintings. After being in unknown places for the whole month, it was reassuring to be in a place that was truly, innately home. I could feel it in my bones.
We had one last stop on our tour, and after all those days of slowly rolling across America, stopping in the small towns to wander, peering into the store windows, and living out of our suitcases in the motel rooms and living room floors, we were excited to get home. We woke up early and headed to Pittsburgh for a house show and potluck at Future Oak before heading home. We pulled into the Holland Tunnel as dark clouds were gathering above Manhattan. It seemed the storms we’d been chased by across the Midwest had followed us all the way home. We drove onto Canal Street as the rain started pouring down. Cars were honking, people were scurrying in the downpour, others pressed under awnings. I noticed a few people leisurely enjoying the summer rain. Somehow it was refreshing to be back in this big, messy, dirty city.
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To view the entire slideshow of photos from this chapter, click here.