My Trip around the country in 2001 with Halley

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Epilogue: Looking back on a cross country trip 10 years later

In reflecting on this trip, I recall why it started. When I was seeing Hillary, I was very much into another girl, Alison. (I know, I am/was an asshole). When she decided to go out with another dude who had more money than I would ever have, plus was living near her north of the city, I was heartbroken. So I decided that I needed to get away from her and go on a trip. I was after all going to graduate in the fall and needed to get in some college road-trippin'. My interest had been piqued with yearly trips down I-95 to Orlando with my family and later in March of 1997 when I went on spring break with Z, Matt, Brad and others to Myrtle Beach and again in 2000 with a trip for a few Phish shows across the east coast. I needed to see the west. So I took off on the road, propelled by what had set many others on similar quests: hoping to gain a woman's attention or escaping the reach of a woman's influence.

After a few days being back home, I had a case of cabin fever and decided to visit Kate, my old roommate who had extended an invite to me at SPAC. Bringing Halley with me to visit Kate in Hanover, NH plus a drive through Vermont gave Halley and I a grand total of 30 states visited (plus Pennsylvania for me from earlier trips). Going coast to coast and seeing the greenest of the country (Colorado and Vermont) as well as the least hospitable (Arizona, Kansas), both oceans, multiple rivers and sights that I am glad I remember, it was an amazing journey. It is why I still travel today. As of this posting I'm on my way to the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan and then down through Wisconsin to Chicago for the Phish shows at UIC Pavilion before heading back to the Northeast for Liberate VT Festival, a fitting end to a summer of intense travel, 10 years later.

A brief recap of the trip that I started on June 26, 2001

Length of trip: 40 days

States visited: 28

Trey Anastasio Band shows seen: 10

Oil changes: 3

Days without air conditioning: 40

Hotels stayed in: One (thanks to my friends)

Campgrounds stayed in: Three

National Parks visited: Two (Grand Canyon, Zion)

National Monuments Visited: One (4 Corners)

Lowest cost for a gallon of gas: $1.11 (Southern Indiana)

Highest cost for a gallon of gas: $2.30 (Los Angeles)

Miles traveled: 10,500

Halley and I, June 2010 on top of Cascade Peak, Adirondacks, NY
Thanks for reading this blog on my trip

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Last Leg: Albany to Long Island to Great Woods to SPAC - Trey shows #8, 9 and 10

August 3

I woke up on Mike Z's black leather couch as he was moving around getting ready for work. He advised me on where to find food and towels when I got up, but to rest since we were in for a long night at the show. I went back to sleep and woke to check out the cable selections of Massapequa and get myself somewhat gathered before Mike came home. I showered and ate, took a walk around and missed Halley. I didn't bring Halley on this part of the trip because she was already home for a couple of days and bringing her on the end of the trip would have been more trouble than I could have asked for to end the trip. Z couldn't have dogs due to his landlord, but there was a dose of not liking dogs in there as well. He got along with Halley, but mainly at my place in Syracuse or on neutral ground, like a parking garage in Columbia, Maryland. Plus the next stop had a ton of cats and there was no way that would end well. So Halley was home and I missed her, even though I would be back in a day and a half or so. 

Final Leg of the trip:  670 Miles from Albany to Long Island to Great Woods to SPAC
Z came home and we hung out for a bit, got some food and took a drive around town. A sandwich later, we picked up some beers for the trip to Jones Beach and got our stuff together. I opted to drive because I had driven to every other Trey show that summer and I wasn't going to have the streak broken riding in Z's Toyota Corolla. The Saturn had been through hell and back and it was going to finish the job we started together.

We left around 3pm to swing by Mark's place and get him rounded up for the show. With Mark in tow we stopped by Amy's place to get Amy in the caravan and we were off on the road to Jones Beach. I had heard plenty about this venue over the years and was psyched to go. Living three hours north, I felt jipped not having been here before and was relieved to see that the parking lot was huge, flat and boring. Immediately, I wasn't impressed. We parked close to the venue but didn't get the big deal about the place. The drive in was dreary but supposed to get sunnier, which didn't help, but at least it wasn't going to rain. 

As parked the car, everyone showed up, an extended Long Island family of Phish fans, branching off from Z, Mark and Amy and ranging the expanse of the eastern half of Long Island. Gregg, Dan, Klug, Chip and Adam all came to the show. At some point in the past two years, I had met them in one form or another, either at a party or making the rounds with Z when I visited. All good people, most good friends, a few musicians and reliable for a good time when they showed up. Beers were drank, laughs were had, my trip was discussed, more beers were drank, and so on.

And then I saw a familiar face from tour. I didn't see many people who made the whole trek coast to coast. I don't doubt someone else or a few others did the whole trip. Maybe I didn't keep my eyes open but there was no one who looked familiar besides Shawn. I saw him from about 50 feet away, I could see him dealing with some ticket issue from a far and remembered that (for some reason unbeknownst to me) I had his wooden box that I found back in Cincinnati  to return to him. I could have thrown it out. Really, I should have thrown it out at some point on my trip but I didn't. I put it in my trunk and left it there, buried amongst all my stuff. How dumb an idea was this? Hold onto the drugs that could have gotten me landed in jail when I was driving a little drunk, or throw them out as soon as I find them? Sure, lets return the drugs to sender, personally. 

Not one of my finer moments. Regrettable on many levels. I saw Shawn, went up to him, got a quick hug from him while standing among his not-as-preppy friends and told him I had something for him. He was standoffish at first but his eyes lit up when he saw the wooden box. I told him I held onto it for him, partially hoping for the other $100 he owed me but also because it was nice to see someone else smile because I did something for them. Pleasing others, an Achilles heel. Shawn and I spoke, it turns out he went back to Syracuse with the folks from Red Rocks that picked him up in St. Louis, stayed there for a few days and found a ride to Philly for Trey band there, then Jones Beach and SPAC to finish it off. Shawn was working a little on the lots so I didn't bother him. He wasn't ready to hang with me, let alone pay me back the $100 but I was more focused on making it through the three days and I could deal with it when I got back to Syracuse. Besides, we worked together. 

The Long Island crew rounded themselves up and we got ready to go into the show. Our seats were all over the place, which meant I was either sitting alone or someone was taking mercy on me for a set or two. With no beer served inside Jones Beach (it's a State Park) I grabbed a soda and headed up to find Z. I had no cell reception and missed a few songs locating someone I knew. I didn't need to get nervous in a new venue that was uncharacteristically steep. I came across Amy for the first set and danced near her. 

8/03/01 Jones Beach Amphitheatre, WantaghNY

Set 1: Burlap Sack and Pumps, Acting the Devil, Last Tube, Flock of Words, Cayman Review,Sidewalks of San Francisco, Moesha
Set 2: Money Love and Change > Plasma, Mr. Completely, At the Gazebo, Sand
Encore: Mountains in the Mist, Back On The Train, Bathtub Gin

For this show, the first set started out with songs I had heard a half dozen times already. This was show #8 and there wasn't much I hadn't heard. I caught my 8th Last Tube, which was starting to becoming a fun song to dance to as they approached the improvisation sections. Flock of Words was new to me, although I know I heard it elsewhere. Sidewalks of SF was a nice instrumental tune. Moesha, we all could have done without. It's dancey but the lyrics are late 90s Trey - just terrible (see Jennifer Dances). Set 2 brought all the heat and Z and I down to the front of the amphitheater for a monster 25 minute Money Love and Change that segued cleanly into Plasma, much like the last show we went to in Holmdel. Mr. Completely blew the roof off the place, as it has so many times (see 10/25/02 in Utica when the balcony was literally bobbing up and down with the dancing going on). At the Gazebo was a soft interlude/break to rest feet before returning to the Trey band original, Sand. Fans got their monies worth during this set alone, but there was more to come.

Trey walked out with Mike Gordon for the encore and softly crept into one of the songs Trey debuted with his side-project in May of 1999 before introducing it with Phish later that year. Mountains in the Mist is such a beautifully soft song with the most gentle of chords and lyrics. Mike accompanied on electric bass for Mist then switched to an acoustic guitar and joined Trey on Back on the Train, a wonderful musical duet and had fans quietly cheering when Trey took a pause between lyrics. Mike looked comfortable from where we were standing, stage right. Mike returned to the electric bass for Bathtub Gin, although this version paled in comparison to the Red Rocks version. I had the awesomeness of the crowd singing the 'Do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do dooooo' part in the back of my mind from Red Rocks and hoped in this man-made amphitheater, we could recreate that moment. No such luck. Granted I was down low but the crowd didn't jump on the opportunity as much as I would have liked to have heard. Trey got a major kick out of it but with Mike on bass, the progression up the chords didn't influence the crowd to get into the song more than they were. Still, Mike came out for the encore and it was pretty sweet. Going on tour, you get the benefit of comparing multiple versions of songs.

We headed back to Mike's place, had some late night drinks as I relaxed, knowing I had a heck of a drive tomorrow from Long Island to Great Woods. 

August 4
I awoke to an interesting hangover that was quickly defeated with a trip to a local diner with Mike and Mark. I had to get on the road to Great Woods but I was in no great rush. It was a Saturday and I had no interest in rushing when there was going to be traffic no matter what way I went or how early I left. So we had a leisurely breakfast, talked a bit, recapped last night before I started the goodbyes process and got on the road to Providence to get to Marc's place.

The drive took me back towards the city, curved around Long Island Sound and on the coast of Connecticut along I-95. Having never driven here, the excitement propelled me towards Rhode Island and into Providence to my good friend Marc's place. He and I both were Political Science majors and had worked together at Faegan's for a few years, so there was a solid friendship there. We surveyed the scene as I arrived, decided we needed to get beer and headed out on the road to Great Woods, so as to avoid the inevitable Cape traffic and get to the venue before the easy in/easy out lot filled up. This was clutch and I wish I utilized it in June of 2009 and 2010 for the Phish shows because the parking situation at Great Woods is TERRIBLE - if you don't leave before the encore, you aren't getting out till anywhere from midnight-2am. I've had to do the latter and it sucks. The best option is the pay parking lot just before pulling into Great Woods. At the time, it was $30 and fully worth it to get in, hang out, have no hassle on private property and then leave without any issue. (The next year it was the same deal and Marc and I took full advantage of the pay lot once again.)

The day was spent hanging casually in the lot, drinking and catching up on our summers since we walked through graduation. We drank a lot and walked slowly to the venue and found our solid seats in the lower pavilion. Pete from Faegan's was there with his girlfriend Kate and we enjoyed the show together with room to dance and breathe

8/04/01 Great Woods, MansfieldMA
Set 1: Done Done It, Last Tube, Drifting, Alive Again, Flock of Words, Moesha, First Tube
Set 2: Mr. Completely, It Makes No Difference, Cayman Review, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Ether Sunday, Push On Til the Day
Encore: At the Gazebo, Mozambique

From down front, it was a different experience altogether. These may have been my best seats of the tour, and with a solid opener of Done Done It, the show was off on a roll, with an up tempo Last Tube that most folks didn't know but by now I sure as hell did, and after many beers in the pay lot, I could finally kick back and dance among those I knew the best. Drifting came and went, and was no a lament for Hill, who I missed the company of but had tried to keep out of my mind simply because I was looking to move on from her. I couldn't swear off her friendship, but I just needed time to myself at this point without a relationship waiting in the wings. Alive Again was a solid rocker again and received vociferous cheers from the audience with the refrain of 'The time has come for you to be alive again!' Flock of Words was more somber and I found my way out to grab a beer rather than hear yet another song that made me think of Hill. Moesha me meh - I watched others enjoy this song, and while the crowd definitely enjoyed it, I was over the lyrics the night before. First Tube got everyone up, as any song played by Phish would, but from the original band, and with horns, it is just so much better this way.

The second set started with a monster Mr. Completely, clocking in at over 25 minutes - 3 shows in a row the second set opened with a huge song and I couldn't have been found to complain. There were composed sections, horns solos, just Trey, Russ, Tony and Ray playing and then the full band to round it out. It Makes No Difference was touching and kept me fighting the urge to think about her. Cayman Review knocked that out of my head, as did Burlap Sack and Pumps, which had this great funk to it that kept the head bobbing throughout. Ether Sunday (then called Sunday Morning) was yet another tune that got inside my head. I dug the show at this point, but not the slow stuff, for once. I learned the benefit of a piss-break song, but this was killing me. An enthusiastic Push on Till the Day with Trey and Jen Hartswick dancing together, hip bumping and fake sword fighting added some humor to the end of the set, and showed that even after 19 shows, Trey was still having fun with this 'new' band.

The encore of At the Gazebo was beautiful, as this song had grown on me since Los Angeles almost 3 weeks ago. Mozambique, which I then learned was once played by Phish (thanks Pete) had a great start-stop ending with the band walking off the stage, horns a blaring and the audience cheering in full approval.

We headed out of the venue and I weighed my options. I didn't necessarily want to stay in Providence, THEN drive back in the morning/afternoon to go to the last show of the tour at SPAC. It just didn't see logical. Plus, I was on the sober side of drunk and decided that I could make it back to Albany. Plus, my brother Chris had the house to himself and I was damned if I wasn't going to enjoy that as well. So I drove back that night, I kinda had to. I bid Marc farewell, took off on 495 heading to I-90 and sped home. I smoked a half a pack of cigs on the way, stopped constantly at rest stops or the side of the road to piss and catch my breath. I got home shortly after 2am, solid time for being hopped up on caffeine and nicotine as the alcohol wore off. Arriving home, Chris was swimming, we talked and had a drink before calling it a night. He knew I was looking forward to the SPAC show and we had to make plans to get up there early. The last show of a 40 day trip around the country was 18 hours away.

August 5
I saw my first two concerts at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, aka SPAC, the first with my mom. I saw Huey Lewis for both shows, once on his Small World tour and again for the Couple Days Off tour. Between the two, I saw most of his catalog. Everytime I go there, I can't help but remember those shows. Thinking about it now, I actually stand around the same area on the lawn for shows, left side between the left and center walkways.
Kate, me and Brianne in the SPAC lots to end the tour
Having a tour end in your home town or in this case, at my 'home venue' can't ask for much more than that. To end up right where I started was a sign that this was a trip that had to be taken. Naturally, I encouraged friends from home to come to the show for the music and to celebrate the end of an amazing trip. A fair amount showed up, including my brother Chris, Madison from Buffalo, Kate from Vermont (both of whom went to Syracuse), a few friends from back in Albany and some from Syracuse who were Phish fans. It was a nice way to cap the trip. We parked in the main parking lot, caught up with everyone, drank here and there while I shared stories from the trip. Again, I left Halley back at the house since there was no benefit to bringing her up here, especially when she could lounge around in air conditioning and have the house to herself.

We all headed into the show to catch the end of an opening act, the Unknown Blues Band, of whom Tony Markellis was the bassist for, as well as being Trey's. Playing double duty, especially in your hometown at the end of the tour ensured that some fun shenanigans were in store. 

8/05/01 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga SpringsNY
Set 1: Last Tube, Cayman Review, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Flock of Words, Alive Again, Moesha
Set 2: Money Love and Change > Plasma, Drifting, First Tube, Every Story Ends In Stone, At the Barbeque, Ooh Child, Push On Til the Day
Encore: Mozambique

What a way to end a run of 10 shows over 3 weeks across the country - opening up with the song I heard at every single show - Last Tube. Most Phish fans would groan at this while others may not see the big deal, but this was a rarity to get the song that much in a tour. Trey clearly enjoyed playing the song, more than enough to keep playing it and getting it right on so many levels. Moving into the highly danceable calypso number Cayman Review, I was able to dance and rejoice in the feat I had accomplished in the last few weeks. Burlap Sack and Pumps, another enjoyable tune. Then a break to head to the beer garden during Flock of Words so I didn't need to hear that again. Alive Again was great, especially hearing an even louder crowd than the night before sing the refrain 'The time has come for you to be alive again!'. And again, Moesha was just a sign I should beat the rush to the bathrooms.

A set 2 opener of Money Love and Change was, well, expected at this point, as was the segue into Plasma for the second song. Drifting was soft and sweet and even better with the cute girl I was talking to during it. As is usually the case, I didn't get her number. First Tube was more of a rocker this night than the previous two, making it a highlight of the final run of shows, giving Phish fans in the northeast a taste of what First Tube was like with horns - even better than the Phish version. (there, I said it) Every Story Ends in Stone was dark and trippy, nothing to dance to. At the Barbeque had Trey goofing with a Triangle a la Ed Grimly as he conducted the horns in an interesting composition that I was finally starting to take notice of. Ooh Child appeared FINALLY this tour - I had waited all tour to catch this song and finally it registered. Things were getting easier as the show and trip came to an end. Push on til the Day had yet another Trey and Jen dance, but that was topped off by a fan handing a sign that said "We're On Tony Tour" that Trey held up for all to see. With Tony being from Saratoga, it was an hilarious joke and a sign that the band was much more than just Trey playing with a few musicians, it was a few talented musicians who Trey was bringing to our attention and sharing their musical prowess with the rest of us. The encore of Mozambique featured solos from nearly all members, including the dance line that had each horn emerge in hilarious choreography to the beat of the samba-esque Mozambique.

We headed out to the parking lot with Chris driving me back to the house for a post-show dip in the pool and a relaxing end to the night. I didn't have to wake up early the next day, nor did I need to plan the next few days out. I had to do nothing except clean my car out little by little and relax. My trip around the country was complete

Coming Monday August 8th, an epilogue to a most fantastic trip.