Here I am, at home. It’s all done. Like a furloughed prisoner, I’m not sure what to do with myself. After 7 weeks almost constantly on the move, I find that I’m restless. I’m always looking for something to do or somewhere to go. It’s been productive, but also frustrating when there is nothing to do and nowhere to go.
We packed up and left the nudist resort in northern Idaho and headed towards Montana. It wasn’t too long before we hit the state line. Western Montana is certainly something to behold. Very beautiful. We rolled through the edge of Missoula, lunch in Helena, and onward. Our first show was in Great Falls.
After the hotel check-in, it was off to sound check at a nearby club called Machinery Row. We met the promoter, Bruce, and our sound man, Matt. Good dudes, both. The crowd was lovely, as well. It felt kind of nice to be playing in a bar again, really. This crowd was there to listen though. It was a nice mix of the two worlds.
The next day found us rolling to Bozeman. Montana changes quite a bit as you cross it. It’s all pretty in its own way. There’s a lot of nothing out there between the cities. So much undeveloped land. It was a bit of a theme of the tour. There really is still a whole lot of nothing out there in the western United States. Breathing room can be had in spades, if you so desire.
We hung out in Bozeman for two nights. The first night we did a radio thing and that was it. We didn’t do much serious wandering or exploring around town that night. I took advantage of the precious down time. I was feeling a bit better, but still somewhat road weary. I did take notice that I rather liked the general vibe of Bozeman.
A steak house was attached to this hotel. Shit, I forget the name of both. But I wandered over there to see what was what. The path of least resistance, if possible, sounded OK to me. Now, I knew this meal wasn’t going to change my life as soon as I walked into the place, but it had a certain thing about it, which looked even better in the light of being pretty much down the friggin’ hall from my bed that night. I was in.
I sat down at the bar and had a look at the menu. I was very politely informed about the special. Perhaps too politely. I didn’t know yet. Montana folk seemed nice enough, but there was something familiar about this. Out of place, too. I continued my investigation.
Exactly how the conversation turned to this matter and brought me the answers I sought, I no longer can recall. But it turned out that she was from Texas, really. Right on. Pretty eyes.
The next night we played at a music series in Bozeman that they have at a church there on a regular basis. It turned out to be a really lovely evening. Afterwards, the ol’ dad and I headed back to the hotel and rested up for a trip back to Great Falls the next day.
There was a young Canadian film crew that was trying to collect some footage for a documentary on my dad. We spent part of the previous day in Livingston letting them film him. They were going to come on to Great Falls, too, so it was decided that my dad would ride there with them, and they would stop along the way at any interesting places they encountered to film segments. I got some solo road time in and it felt good. It’s one thing to be alone in a hotel, and it’s one thing to be in a car with someone else, but it’s an altogether different thing to be on the road in your car alone. It’s soothing to me. Healing. Helps clear the head. I loved it.
I get to the venue in Great Falls. A house concert this time. It was a very pleasant day, and we set up on the back patio. There was a somewhat lazy river just beyond the back yard where the occasional ski boat or JetSki would noisily ride past. We had a good show. Really nice folks. And that concluded the working portion of Montana. We had a couple of days off and we were going to go see Little Bighorn.
Our home for the night was a Super 8 in Hardin, Montana. Nothing great, but I’d seen much worse in recent times. We ended up driving out to the battlefield site at Little Bighorn. It was way after the tours were done, but the park itself was still open. We drove around and checked out some of the sites unguided. There was a definite vibe about the place. The sun was setting, the wind was blowing and the land is more or less unchanged since Custer’s tragedy of errors occurred. There were two times I recall getting a chill down my spine on this trip. One was at Chief Joseph’s grave, the other was at Little Bighorn. I don’t claim to know what it is, but there is an energy. Is it in my own mind, or is it real? Hard to say. But it was a powerful and profound experience to be there.
One of my all-time favorite movies is “Little Big Man”, the Dustin Hoffman movie. It’s my favorite depiction of Custer, however historically inaccurate it may have been. Richard Mulligan plays him. Brilliantly.
The following day, we went back out and actually took one of the tours. Bought a few things at the gift shop, including a stuffed buffalo for my daughter. The tour was interesting. There was a Crow girl who was doing the announcement and historical background. She was lovely. She just seemed like a really happy person and she made it fun and informative. She was witty, too, and there were some fun, subtle jabs at the white folk in her delivery.
So it was back to the hotel after that and on to Rapid City, South Dakota the next day. We drove on down, through the corner of Wyoming and into South Dakota. Grabbed another hotel and rested up. Next day, my dad and I wandered off to see some stuff. First we went to just go have a look at Mount Rushmore. My dad grumbled about it quite a bit, but I figured, you’re this damn close, at least do a drive-by or something. So that’s pretty much what we did and off we went to the Crazy Horse Memorial. It’s an impressive complex they have there. And it’s going to take a long, long time to finish, but it will be, and already is, an impressive thing to see.
The following night we were playing at a casual gathering at someone’s house near Rapid City. We were pretty much doing a guitar pull on the patio. It was a really fun evening actually. I enjoyed it. There were two more shows left after that. One was an outdoor show in North Platte, Nebraska at Fort Cody.
The Fort Cody show was interesting. It was outside, and it really looked like it might just start dumping buckets of rain down. The first front blew off and over us luckily. I did my set, my dad did his. As we started out duo set, it began clouding up again. We managed to get through most of it. We cut it a song or two short and got out just in time before the rain came. It was a neat atmosphere to play in. The wind was really up and this dark gray stuff is rolling in. It all got a little surreal for a minute.
They have a gift shop and museum of sorts on the inside of Fort Cody. They have a stuffed two-headed calf. No, really. But what kept attracting my attention was the giant “Indian” they had out back near the stage area. Apparently they picked it up from a muffler shop in town or something. But I kept looking at him and it finally hit. He totally looked like Jack Nicholson. See for yourself…
I had some friends that came over for the show. We ended up in the same hotel, so I got to hang out with them after the show for a while. Good times.
The next morning we packed up again and started out on the reasonably long journey to Columbia, Missouri. We had one more show. Another house concert. We have some extended family in the St. Louis area. Frank, the gentleman who was hosting this show, was an old friend of my Uncle Kris. He knew my grandfather when he was still a youngster. So we had some Young clan there. Couple of uncles and an aunt, I guess technically a step-grandmother, too. Some cousins. It was great to see them all. It had been about 30 years since I last had.
So that was it. Mission accomplished. We headed to Nashville via Jackson, Tennessee to pick up my daughter from her mom on the way through. We got to my dad’s house there on July 15. My grandmother’s 90th birthday was the next day. We took my daughter over there and had a little get-together about it. She’s a funny ol’ gal. A true character of the south. I spent the rest of my time in Nashville visiting with some old friends and eating things I can’t get anywhere else. Especially at my favorite bar in the world – The Gold Rush. It’s my Nashville office, pretty much.
The three generations of Youngs headed back to Muskogee, Oklahoma, finally, on July 22. Me, my dad and my daughter, Sophie. That last drive might have been the hardest in some ways. Oddly, I had recovered pretty well towards the end of the tour. I had energy again, and I really could have kept going. But I was also glad it was done.
It was an amazing adventure, full of a lot of characters, some hard work and some golden moments. I stayed in shit holes, I stayed in palaces. Fine cuisine to truck stop cooler sandwiches. Ups, downs and in-betweens. Over 8,000 miles covered in just over 6 weeks. As I recall, there were about 28 shows and several radio appearances in that time. This was no pleasure cruise. It was work. Loading in and out of hotels almost every night, playing for days on end, running on empty much of the time. Emotional highs and lows. Pushed to the brink of absolute physical exhaustion, and raised up in spirit at the last minute by some moment with an audience. This was an indie artist iron man competition. Not for the weak. Quite the adventure.
And for the ups and downs and generational misunderstandings and familial stresses, it was usually a pretty neat thing to be doing this with my dad. As tense as it got sometimes, it was way better than I thought it might be. It really could have been way worse. Just the very idea of an adult father and son going out for 7 weeks in a car is pretty insane. That we made it through it with no major implosions may be a miracle, but whatever it is, we more or less managed just that. I wouldn’t honestly say we’re in any hurry to go do it again at the moment, but surely you can understand that.
It’s been a pleasure to have shared this adventure with all of you. I’ll have to come up with a new angle for this blog now. I’m sure I will. In the meantime, I am home. And I’m going to enjoy that for a bit while I make plans for the future. There is much happening in my world. Lots of changes that have come and are coming. It’s an exciting time to be where I am. I’m writing, planning, and scheming. There will be a new CD in the not so distant future. And a new home town, as well. I’ll keep you posted.
All the best!