Chapter 1 – on the road… finally
Currently sitting in a cozy living room in Albuquerque, New Mexico drinking coffee and listening to the rooster crow outside. It’s Balloon Fiesta here and this morning the sky was littered with beautiful hot air balloons. We spent the night with some of B’s family and are taking advantage of the amenities (shower, laundry, etc.) before taking off to Amarillo, TX. Texas will be the seventh state we hit. But let’s start from the beginning…
The trip got off to a rocky start. My P2 visa (the one I need to legally perform in the US) took 104 days to be approved. 104 days in a 90-100 day process. I had to cancel four shows. It was really discouraging and every morning got a little harder to see that “Your Application has been Received” message, but we made the most of it by grinding the pavement for more gigs and rehearsing. B had rented his place out so we were both in the van as of September 15th. I was approved on the evening of Sept 19th and we took off early the next morning.
Our first stop was Portland to see our friends Jones and Julia who we were supposed to play a show with the night before. We had a nice home cooked meal and got into the drinks a bit, geeking out to each others music and having a sip of whiskey every time a song modulated… it’s a good game… The next morning we made our way to California, aiming for San Fran within two days. We spent the night at a campground in Shasta Mountain, a little hippie town in Northern Cali. The stars were incredible and we had a wicked fire. The next day we made it to San Francisco. I messed up the directions and we ended up on like a 20 lane toll bridge into downtown instead of the Golden Gate (I’m not the best navigator). After some dodgy traffic and healthy bickering we settled in Hayes Village. We found some overnight street parking and went out on the town!
Holy smokes SF is expensive. We put our names in for a Mexican joint called Papito Hayes (the best fajitas I have ever had) and hit the Biergarten for some dranks. We wanted to check out the historic Filmore so we hopped our first Uber (Vancouver, get on this) after dinner and headed to that part of town. Our Uber driver didn’t know what we were talking about when we mentioned the historic Fillmore, he was only familiar with the part of town called Filmore and stated he didn’t know what was so historical about it… but nevertheless dropped us off on a seedy street corner where a homeless man informed us the Filmore was “don closed” for the night. We decided to check out the venue we were supposed to play at the night before (theme here). The Boom Boom Room was a fun little dive bar, pretty packed, with $16 double gin and sodas…. I opted for the $8 single and we hopped across the street where a Latin Jazz band was playing. After a drink or two I asked to sit in and soon enough B was on the congas and we jammed the night away. The next morning, woken up by street cleaners singing in Spanish, we were off to San Jose for our first gig.
We shared a bill with some very talented folks at an art/music store called Art Boutiki. The crowd was there for the music and everyone was rad. The people we met from San Jose said there wasn’t much to it. When I asked a fellow musician what the “to-do’s” were in town he said “get out”. We spent the night in a YMCA parking lot after getting a free 3 day membership – woke up to a hot tub and shower (high class living here) before cruising down Highway 1 to Monterey.
The Coast highway is beautiful, and Monterey has some of the most breathtaking beaches I’ve seen. We parked Bessie Blue facing the ocean and watched the sunset with a bottle of wine (my favourite activity). I cooked a bomb dinner and we found a spot to-good-to-be-true to sleep for the night. Which it was… we were woken up out of a deep sleep by a girl hysterically crying right outside the van. At first we were worried we were going to have to get involved in something, but as more people surrounded us we realized we were in the midst of some Cali High-schoolers hitting up the beach bonfire. We decided as they were probably just going to get more drunk and obnoxious, we should probably move. As we got into the front seat we realized the crying chick was being broken up with DIRECTLY in front of Bessie Blue. We tried to be stealth as we started her up (she’s got a bit of a purr to her to say the least) and subtly on the headlights, spotlighting the drama. The girl just cried harder. To make things worse B had to get out of the van right in front of them to pick up the boards that were leveling the van. Stealth…. we found a nearby baseball field and hit the hay, again.
Sunday we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (worth the $50) and learned all about White Sharks, a presentation that would later haunt my surfing experience. We drove back to Santa Cruz for our gig that night at Bocci’s Cellar, a little joint off the beaten path filled with regulars who like their beer. We played an awesome two sets, had some fried chicken and slept in Bessie around the corner.
Monday morning was time to see my best friend Whitney in Santa Monica! Southern Cali was in a heat wave last week, and the drive from Santa Cruz to Santa Monica was 6 hours of sweaty good fun. Bessie does not have AC, and it was literally hotter to have the windows open. That was a long one… exhausted we got showered up at my girlfriends and head to TRiP for our gig. TRiP was a rad venue – the sound was great and we played a super fun set. We grabbed a burger after and headed home to a real bed.
Being on the road is a bit exhausting: a) it’s my first time. b) to do anything (cook, clean, map out where to sleep/what route to take in the morning) takes a lot of time and patience. c) having to always be prepared with water to drink, water to wash, a bathroom to hit in the morning is tiresome. d) nothing tests the strength of a relationship more than trying to level out your campervan… In saying that, I am having an absolute blast.
for more photos follow me on instagram @em_chambers