Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bikes, Blobs, and Beer.

After my time in Virginia, I still didn't want to bust my ass getting home just so I could sit on my couch being worthless, so I went to Asheville, North Carolina because my coworker Tom said I could stay at his house for free. I figured, "Hey, it's a hell of lot less driving and I can just sit on his couch being worthless." Although I ended up not sitting around all that much. My arch nemesis Becky (yeah, the nasty broccoli lady) came to Asheville for a completely unrelated reason, but Tom and I still coerced her into going riding with us on Thursday:

After our ride we had some lunch and then it was time for me to drop Becky off at her other friend's house. I had originally planned on parting ways with her at that point, but that's when the trouble started. "Come up and have a beer," she said. Well, I'm sure you all know how quickly "a beer" can turn into "several beers." So I ended up hanging around for a little while. And I found this unbelievably enormous rabbit:

Pretty soon the afternoon had started winding down to early evening and well, I didn't have anything else to do, so why not keep the party going? Tom's house (where all my stuff was) is pretty far from Melissa's house, so I figured I would just take a shower there and surely I could find something I had in my spare clothes stash that I keep in my car to wear. Turns out, I didn't have as much in my stash as I thought I did, but I found something that would work:

No, really though. I put that on thinking it would be a quick funny joke and we'd all chuckle and everyone would like my pretty dress, but then I would go back and put on my usual jeans and a t-shirt. Not so much. The other two fools put on dresses too and off we went:

Of course, people stared at us, so Becky decided we needed some sort of reason to be all dressed up. This is what she came up with: "We're dead celebrities." At the time I was like, "Whatever," but now that I really think about it, wouldn't we also need a reason to be dressed as dead celebrities? Either way, people didn't seem to buy it.

As expected, Friday morning rolled around a little too soon for my liking. I'd slept at Melissa's house, so I got up and went back to Tom's place, hoping to get some stuff done. I didn't really get that much done, but at one point, I was driving back into town and this little silver car passed me and honked a lot. I looked over to see my long lost pal Nixon! Nixon spends half the year in S. Florida (where I first met him and coincidentally where Becky lives) and half the year in North Carolina. Nixon is not one to rely on communicating via cell phone, so he pulled off at the next turn and we had a brief moment of running toward each other with reckless abandon followed by making plans to meet up later.

And so we did. And he made me spill my beer by jabbing his finger in my armpit while someone was taking a picture of us:

The little festival we were at closed down, so our crew headed over to some other bar that was pretty much just a bunch of people standing around on a fire escape drinking. But it was a cool view and it was a nice night. On our way there, we passed a place making kettle corn. To me, this was unremarkable. To Becky, this was phenomenally exciting. I know. Who gets that excited over kettle corn? Becky does:

We were already pretty tired from the events of the previous day, so we made it a relatively early night. Then I finally got around to spending some quality time with Tom's couch over the weekend.

I couldn't leave Asheville without hanging out with Nixon some more, so I went to visit him at the summer camp where he works. "Why didn't you guys just go out on the town again?" you might be wondering. "Why not go ride and then go eat and drink?" Here's why:

And, for the record, we did go ride after that. And after that we ate and drank.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Virginia is for Lovers.

Things I Loved About Virginia:
  • Lots of bridges. I'm fascinated by huge bridges.
  • Lots of ships. I'm also fascinated by large ships.
  • She-crab soup. So tasty it feels like my tongue is trying to hug my brain.
  • Other delicious and plentiful sea food victuals.
  • A delightfully fun bike ride with some good people:

  • Camping next to a river with a six pack, a notebook, and a pen. Oh, and a fire:

  • My Tuesday morning excursion:

I guess that last one deserves a few more details.

After a weekend of work in Virginia, a state which I had previously never visited, I decided to stay a few more days to check some things out. Mostly I just didn't want to drive anymore. It would've been over 20 hours to get back to Arkansas ... sheesh! So I spent some time with my ass parked at the local Starbucks trying to catch up on admin work and also trying to straighten out a few things with my bank account. I also did a little sleuthing around the information super highway to see what this Virginia Beach area was all about. I stumbled upon some information regarding Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park. Apparently the only way to access the state park is by walking or riding your bike on the 4 mile trail through the refuge. Then you've got another 7 miles or so through the state park. So I decided to check it out. I was hoping to take one of the half-mile spur trails in the state park over to the Atlantic Ocean to catch a nice view of the sunrise, so I crawled out of my tent at 5:00 am to ensure a good show. After commending myself for getting up ridiculously early, I hopped on my bike and headed toward the refuge in the quiet pale pre-dawn light. I was clearly all alone in this endeavor as I left the pavement and hit the gravel at the entrance to the refuge. I rode quietly past the looming 2-story sand dunes on my left and the vast marshy expanses to my right. While looking to my left and right for wildlife in the scenery, I also glanced up a few times, hoping the clouds would clear away enough to watch the sun make its daily debut. Neither the trail nor the landscape changed as I entered False Cape State Park, the only indicator of which consisted of a typical brown state park sign with carved-out letters painted white. A few more miles later, I passed the contact station, but didn't stop. I didn't need water or trail maps or anyone to tell me to be careful. I passed the first spur trail leading to the beach and decided to continue on to the next one a few miles down. The further south I went, the less likely I was to have to share the beach with other humans. I found the second, less-used beach trail and headed toward the sound of the Atlantic smacking into the shore. After only a few hundred yards, the dense dirt floor covered by oak leaves and pine needles succumbed to the loose sugar sand between the towering dunes. Trying to pedal through became futile quickly, so with my bike in one hand and my shoes in the other, I plodded the rest of the way to the edge of the continent. Much to my dismay, the clouds still hung in the air like century-old cobwebs. I knew the sun had risen, but I couldn't see it. "They can't all be winners," I thought to myself as I laid my bike and backpack down. I tasted the unmistakable bitterness of salty sweat on my upper lip and decided it was time to cool down a little. After a quick swim in the surf, I settled down on my towel for a much-needed hour-long nap. As the sun finally broke through the clouds, the sudden heat woke me up, telling me it was time to get moving. I retraced my path back through the state park and continued on through the refuge, my belly commanding my legs to move faster as visions of lunch dominated my thoughts. I rolled up to my car with barely enough energy left to hoist my bike up onto the rack. I rinsed off at a nearby hose, hurriedly changed clothes, and drove toward town in search of food. The sign at Margie & Ray's Crab House boasted the best She-crab soup in the tidewater area, and I wouldn't disagree. Then again, I was so hungry, they could've told me it was the best She-crab soup in the universe and I would have gone along with it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rothbury Festival.

After the fun times in Wisconsin, I hopped a ferry across Lake Michigan to meet up with Kellen for the first annual Rothbury Festival. This was the highlight of my summer, no doubt about it. Kudos to the festival organizers for doing a terrific job. We didn't have to wait in line at all to get in on Thursday afternoon and the people doing car searches and directing traffic were friendly and easy to work with. The walk from our campsite to the festival grounds was relatively short and pleasant. Beer and food were reasonably priced and the vendors were strategically placed so that regardless of our location, we never had to walk far for sustenance. There were more than enough trash stations and each of them had three cans: one for compost (all the cups, plates, and napkins were made from some sort of corn plastic), one for recycling, and one for landfill trash. They even had a worker at each station to remind all the drunk people which can to put their trash in. There were tons of porta-potties and they were a lot cleaner than I expected them to be. And then there was Sherwood Forest:

That was the main walkway through the festival grounds. Trippy. Needless to say, everyone spent a little time just hanging out in the trees between music sets. Someone did a hell of a job putting that place together. Mother Nature smiled upon us with the best weather we could have asked for: around 80 during the day and then dropping to around 55 at night. I was pretty stoked about dancing while wearing my favorite fleece. It wasn't until Sunday night after the festival was over that we got slammed with an intense thunderstorm. But that turned out to be awesome because it started raining right after I crawled into my tent and it was cool to lie there and watch the lightning.

As with most experiences, it's quite a task to try and convey the atmosphere in mere words, so, for your viewing pleasure, some photos:

We found that watermelon for $5 at the local farmers' market and thought it was a wise purchase to help us rehydrate. But then we realized that we didn't have anything to chop it up with, so I sat there cutting chunks out of it with a knife. I was trying to fashion a helmet out of the rind, but I got bored with it well before it started to take any form.

You might be wondering what that last picture is supposed to be. Well let me tell you what it is. It's this spun out crazy lady at the STS9 show who was walking around the crowd with a lit torch. She was all yakked out and moving through an entirely non-sober crowd with AN OPEN FLAME. I was pretty uneasy about the whole thing, so I snapped a picture and then moved far enough away to avoid any potential blazing disasters. That's the hilarious problem with STS9 ... too many freak shows.

I didn't really take too many videos. I was in the moment. But here are two that some other people posted that are worth watching. First, you have to see this crazy monkey tree thing. It was mesmerizing. It had a bunch of drums at the bottom of it and when people would bang on the drums, the thing would go around. When we first saw it, my friends and I looked at each other and said, "Is this really happening?"

I've never been one of those huge Dave Matthews fans who refers to the man as "Dave," like he's my best friend or something, but I've also never been one of those music snobs who loves to hate "Dave." In general, I could take him or leave him. I wouldn't go out of my way for one of his shows, but he was there and he was also the only one in that time slot. The show was good, but it was unremarkable until the encore when he did this:

I just lost it during that. My composure, that is. It's a good thing we were further back in the crowd where there was more room for uninhibited dancing like maniacs. I've been bouncing around the last couple days randomly singing to myself, "Thank you ... for lettin' me ... be myself ... again."

After all was said and done, these are the artists we had seen:
  • Mickey Hart Band featuring George Porter Jr. and Steve Kimock
  • Railroad Earth
  • The Beautiful Girls
  • Tea Leaf Green
  • Snoop Dogg
  • Yonder Mountain String Band
  • Widespread Panic (with 4th of July fireworks!)
  • Primus (first live show in three years!)
  • Thievery Corporation (the last 20 minutes of the set)
  • Bassnectar
  • Michael Franti & Spearhead
  • Dave Matthews Band
  • Sound Tribe Sector Nine
  • Trey Anastasio
  • Gov't Mule
  • Phil Lesh & Friends
I was pleasantly surprised by Bassnectar. That was one hell of a bumpin' set. However, I would have to say my top three favorites were: Widespread Panic, Yonder, and Phil Lesh & Friends. After seeing Phil Lesh & Friends, I've been unable to fight the urge to listen to Grateful Dead songs while driving. In fact, both Mickey Hart (the first set we saw) and Phil Lesh (the last set we saw) played Fire on the Mountain, and so now that song has been stuck in my head all week:

Okay. That's enough for now. Rothbury is over. I need to accept that and move on. I need to get back to work catching up on my admin instead of sitting here watching all of the YouTube videos people posted from the weekend.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

And so it begins.

My last day of work in Chicago was on Sunday. Chicago just happens to be 2 hours from Madison where some of my bestest friends reside. So I went there on Sunday night to hang out with the Fossen crew and Maggie and Jereme. The Hotel Fossen provided all the usual amenities: super tasty food, adult beverages, cute furry friends, wireless internet, laundry facilities, and of course, the best company a kid could ask for. There are lots of places on the road that feel just as good as home, but the Fossen house is the most comforting by far. Besdies, the spare bedroom there is pretty much mine, as evidenced by my award plaque that Heath hung up in there last August.

Since my employer is also based out Wisconsin, I decided I might as well pop into the office to say hey and catch up on a few things on Monday. That night the Fossens and I caught up with Maggie and Jereme over some hella good pizza. So I got a little work done and was also relieved to find that Maggie isn't holding against me the fact that I was a total asshole to her when she came down to visit me. I'm still sorry, Mags.

On Tuesday, I headed over to Milwaukee to see Railroad Earth and Yonder Mountain String Band at Summerfest. It was fun and the shows were good, but Summerfest is a pretty lame venue. I thought the sound quality was sub par and they also had these rows of metal bleachers in front of the stage that turned dancing and even just navigating the crowd into a perilous pain in the ass. I still had a good time though. You can't let stupid little stuff like that get in the way.

Wednesday was a better day, though. Some pals from work came over to go see O.A.R. It rained quite a bit before the show, but we were cool with that. We just stood under some tents and got our drink on. By the time the show started, the rain had passed and it had turned into a lovely evening for dancing with friends:

I've always liked O.A.R. despite what a lot of my friends think, but this was the first time I'd seen them live and I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that they also played the night before and that the venue wasn't that great, but the show wasn't as good as I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong though, it wasn't bad and we still danced all night:

Next up, crossing the big lake for a glorious reunion and four days of sweet music festival action.