Road Trip

Written by:

There’s nothing like a good road trip. The open road of our beautiful America is something everybody should experience. In my youth I went on several epic road trips and the bug has never really left me. Now that I’m mostly retired, the open road is available more than ever.

When I commune with my fellow bluegrass brothers and sisters I often encounter campers who seem to continuously cycle from one bluegrass festival to the next. They start their year in Arizona and follow the warming spring through Grass Valley in June and beyond.

My road trip this year was more modest but epic in its own way. A month on the road is unusual for me these days but that’s not really enough to get me tired of the open road. I once spent a whole year on the road on my bicycle, riding through every state in America.

My road trip this year started with our CBA music camp. I have attended for many years and it’s nice to get to Grass Valley before the festival starts. You get to enjoy good food for a few days before needing to cook for yourself and you might get to interact with some of the stars preparing to entertain us later at the Father’s Day Festival. It’s a good vibe and if you’re not motivated to devote hours every day for group instruction you can be a sleep in camper like me and take electives, explore the region, or ride your bike.

What to do after Grass Valley? In the past lots of people headed north to Susanville for their festival the next week. This year that was not an option because the festival was cancelled over scheduling issues. Sadly, the scheduling issues resulted in a double cancellation for the venue so the result was a total wash out. Hopefully the Susanville festival will be back next year. I attended a few years ago and it was fun.

So what to do after Grass Valley 2023? My solution was Weiser. I had heard about the premier American fiddle festival in Idaho for years and I had always wanted to go. This is the year I finally made it. Thanks to Maria Nadauld for helping me navigate the new environment. I took a couple of days to get to Weiser and enjoyed an epic sunset at Water Canyon near Winnemucca, Nevada (see my last welcome column).

Oh my, Weiser has some great jamming opportunities! I camped next to a junior fiddle champion from Minnesota and also jammed with an Ohio champion. People come from all over the country to compete with the best at Weiser and good music is all over the place. You can’t get away from it (unless you go for your morning bike ride as I did every day through beautiful scenery on good roads).

My daughter lives in Seattle and I can never see her often enough so my next stop was the Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mount Hood. The lodge is famous in part because Steven King’s classic horror film, The Shining, uses footage from the lodge. Juliet is very busy but our birthdays almost coincide so a road trip in a spot not too far from her was a natural so that we could celebrate our birthdays together.

Juliet has branched into other musical directions since her days as a CBA kid on stage but the experience was very useful. If you can play bluegrass you can play indie pop. Juliet’s (Jul!et) songs include one called Road Trip so I was pleased when that one popped up on music shuffle on my drive to my next road trip destination.

OK, it’s not bluegrass but after a beautiful bike ride with my daughter up to Lost Lake in Oregon with stunning views of Mount Hood, I’m ready for some real bluegrass jamming after she heads back to Seattle and her job at Microsoft.

The road trip needs a brief pause. I take a rest day at Armitage Park Campground in Coburg, Oregon. The rest day there was as useful as the travel day near Winnemucca at Water Canyon. (both sites I highly recommend).

A short drive got me the next day to Glide, Oregon where my friends Pat and Debbie Ickes now live. Their beautiful home near Upper Lake, CA was destroyed by the fires a few years ago. But these guys don’t let any grass grow under their feet and they have scraped together a new life in a beautiful part of the country.

It was fun to visit and play with those guys (who live very close to Larry and Sondra, promoters of so many great bluegrass festivals). I was sad to leave Pat and Debbie (I told them they should start charging me rent if I stayed any longer and they may actually need to consult a lawyer to evict me).

But the road trip must continue. Merrill for the Lost River Bluegrass Festival! Merrill Oregon is a beautiful place. The heavy snows of this past year made the north face of Shasta Mountain especially impressive. If you have never been to the Lost River Festival in Merrill, you should go. It reminds me of another of my favorite small festivals, the Good Old Fashioned in Tres Pinos. You can hear most of the music from your campsite whether you schlep your chair to the main festival stage or not. I did for most of the festival and enjoyed bands like Edgar Loudermilk, The Central Valley Boys, Western Flyers, One Button Suit and Kentucky Sky Bluegrass.

Now the sad time comes. The drive back to northern California was pretty easy but I can’t wait to get back on the road. When’s your next road trip?

Read about: