1, 2007: Itís time for more traveling Ė bluegrass, sight seeing,
visiting, and something new. My traveling companion for the first
part of the trip is my mother, age 89. We will be attending an
indoor bluegrass festival in
tomorrow through Sunday. Then weíll head for
Arizona, staying overnight at an RV park just across the river from
I will take her to
Mesa, to the RV park where she and Dad spent winters for about 20 years.
Although she has sold her mobile home there, sheís been invited to
stay with Verna Seely, another lady whoís been spending winters
there for a number of years. She is from
South Dakota, and Dad and Mother became friends with her and her late husband a
number of years ago.
I will head for another bluegrass festival in
AZ, then to visit my cousin in Joshua Tree CA, and back home. Mother
will stay in
about a month, and Iíll pick her up some time in March.
home about 11 this morning, with cool and cloudy weather. Itís
only about 105 miles to
Bakersfield, so we arrived with lots of time left in the day to set up the
trailer and have dinner. Itís partly sunny here, and quite nice
when the wind stops, but it has been blowing fairly steady since we
arrived, so itís not really nice to sit outside. We are camped at
the Kern County Fairgrounds, but the festival is at the local
convention center, about a mile and a half away.
just loaf around and read today. The music doesnít start till
each morning, so we will be able to sleep in, and have a leisurely
2: Our first day of the festival had some great music. The main
reason I wanted to come to this event was the appearance of Chris
Hillman and Herb Pedersen. These names, especially Hillman, should
be familiar to anyone who has followed popular, country rock or
bluegrass music in the last 45 years. Hillman was a member of the
Byrds, co-founded the Flying Burrito Brothers, and was the front man
for the Desert Rose Band, which had a number of country rock hits in
the 1980s. Pedersen was in the DRB, as well as various other country
and/or acoustic groups, and has served as a studio musician and back
up singer with countless artists. In addition, they have played
together since the 1960s, and recorded several duet albums in the
last ten years or so.
were backed up by bass player Bill Bryson, also a member of DRB and
various bluegrass groups. They did a nice selection of country and
bluegrass tunes, as well as songs from the various groups theyíve
been associated with. They even included a song co-written by
Hillman and Steven Stills when they were in the group Manassas. If you recognize that name, youíre really old, but at least you
were not too stoned to pay attention. You may also remember the
Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, referred to as two and a half superstars
(Ritchie Furay was the lead singer for Poco. JD Souther was the
other groups were excellent, with the exception of one that was only
OK. Groups I had seen previously included Special Consensus, Laurie
Lewis, the Bluegrass Brothers, and J.D. Crowe. Itís been an
especially good period for Laurie Lewis watching the last few
months. She was at one of
the first festivals I attended, and I had wanted to see her again,
but there was a long dry spell. Then she appeared at the Huck Finn
festival last June, in Fresno
last fall, and now here in Bakersfield.
group as far as in-person performance was John Reischman and the
Jaybirds, a group based mainly in
Canada. They were highly professional and did a good variety of music. I
have a CD by them that I bought after reading a review in Bluegrass
Unlimited magazine, but hadnít seen them and didnít know
much about them.
did fine, although it was a fairly long day for her. We had a great
prime rib dinner at the hotel restaurant. The festival is in the
Convention Center, which includes a hotel, auditorium, and arena where the Condors
hockey team and other sports teams play.
music starts at
each day, which allows for a leisurely morning. There is a 90 minute
break for dinner; then music goes till about
We skipped the final group last night, since we were ready to get
ďhomeĒ and relax; they will be performing again today.
3: Today was mostly outstanding, with one serious exception, which
Iíll get out of the way first Ė I heard the first group Iíve
ever actively disliked. They were The Isaacs, and their musical
style is southern gospel, which I thought was similar to bluegrass
gospel, but which turns out to be different enough that I wanted to
leave during the third song. I respect their musicianship, and the
vocals and harmony were fine, but the songs and the style turned me
were two groups Iíd heard of and was looking forward to seeing and
Michael Cleveland and Flame Keeper was the best of the two, and in
fact one of the best of the festival.
is a very hot fiddler, and the group features Audie Blaylock, a well
known singer and guitarist who has been in Rhonda Vincentís band
Cleveland). The Kenny and Amanda Smith Band was OK, but not really
outstanding. Kenny is a former member of the Lonesome River Band,
and has been on his own with Mrs. Smith for a couple of years.
surprise, not entirely positive, was the major personnel changes in
Lost Highway, which I describe as being Version 2.2. V2 was a reorganized
version of a group that disbanded around 1990, but started up just
as I started going to festivals. They achieved some nationwide
success, and a change in fiddle and bass players a year or so ago
(V2.1) did not diminish the band (the new players were ones
Iíd seen in three or four other groups). V2.2 has only Ken Orick
from the original V2 band, and only one other performer from V2.1;
and they are without a fiddle player. Still, the new kids were very
good and the bandís sound was fine, despite the lack of my
favorite member, Eric Uglam, who now performs with his two stepsons
(youíve read about them at the Parkfield
dinner we decided to go to a nearby Mexican restaurant that was
recommended by one of the festival hosts. The parking lot was
jammed, and we expected a long wait, but we were seated within five
minutes, and had an excellent dinner, served promptly. So when in
Bakersfield, I recommend The Mexicali at
631 18th Street, east of
4: As always, the end has seemed to come quickly, and the festival
is over. We are back at the trailer, napping, reading, and getting
ready to leave for
in the morning. We will stay at an RV park just across the river
from Needles. I will leave the trailer there for the drive to
Mesa, and will spend two nights at a motel near where mother will be.
Thursday morning Iíll head back to pick up the trailer and move to
for another festival.
always try to choose my favorite band of the festival, and I have to
award dual honors this time. As expected, Chris Hillman and Herb
Pedersen were worth the entire ticket cost. The other top group, one
Iíd seen before and enjoyed, was the Grascals, a group that has
been together only three years, although theyíve all been playing
music for 20 years or so. Many of them have been in top country and
bluegrass groups, including the Osborn Brothers and Dolly Partonís
band, and as the Grascals, they opened on a tour with her when they
first formed. They have had good success both commercially and
critically, and their second CD, which I bought at the festival and
played while driving, does a good job of capturing their energy and
While I enjoyed them last summer at Huck Finn, this second contact
really brought home to me how good they are.
weather has been fine, but since we were inside most of the time, it
didnít matter much. Today at
itís about 65 degrees and Iím sitting outside to write this and
read and have a drink. Nights have been cold, but we run the
electric heater till bedtime. Mother has an electric blanket, and
has been warm enough despite the lack of heat during the night.
Iíve always been warm enough in my sleeping bag, even in colder
weather than this.
trailer has a propane heater, but it does not work, and I canít
see a reason to fix it. If Iím away from electricity, I donít
want to run the heater and use up propane and the battery; and if I
have power, I can use the electric heater. And I donít usually
have a traveling companion who turns the heat up to 80 at home.
5: We got started about , and had a good trip today, from
to Needles, then across the river into
and about five or six miles up AZ 95 to the Moon River RV Park. The
weather got warmer with each mile, and was about 75 here, with a
slight breeze. We sat outside until it started to get dark, and it
was cooling off at that time. We had a fantastic sunset, with
brilliant red clouds, and Venus getting bright at about 25 degrees
getting ready to fix dinner, and will leave for
in the morning, leaving the trailer here. Todayís trip was about
270 miles, and tomorrow is 240, so we should get there fairly early,
since I can go faster without the trailer.
6: We had another uneventful trip today, getting started about
We came down AZ 95, which goes through
LakeHavisuCity, then into Parker. I will not take that route again, since traffic
thru Havisu is slow, and it goes on for miles. A few miles south of
Parker we took AZ 72 southeast through Vicksburg, then straight south to I-10. This took us into downtown
Phoenix, where we took the loop freeway 202 out to
Mesa, arriving around , with the temperature at 82 degrees.
checked in at my motel and unloaded a few things, then we went to
Vernaís a few blocks way, at Park Place RV Resort. We went out to
dinner at Waldoís, an excellent barbecue place nearby, then came
back, visited a while and watched the news. I left about
and am trying to get Email and do other stuff on the Internet at
26Kb, half of what I would get with dial-up at home, and who knows
how much slower than the DSL I now use at home. But fear not! I have
ordered a new laptop with wireless Internet, which should arrive
about the time I get home, and I should no longer have to put up
with the incredibly slow Internet access and the equally slow
operation of this five-year-old dinosaur. Sad to be obsolete at age
7: After complimentary breakfast at the hotel, I spent most of the
day with mother and Verna at the RV park. They had a coffee and
cookie social hour in mid-afternoon; and we had lunch and dinner at
Vernaís mobile home. I left about , with mother and Verna getting ready to go to bingo. I was able to
watch the last half of the hockey game between the Phoenix Coyotes
and the Detroit Redwings, which
won 4-2. Last night I saw the last three minutes of a 3-0 shutout by
against the Columbus Bluejackets.
get an early start tomorrow, pick up the trailer, and move up to
for the Colorado Bluegrass Festival.
8: Iím now in
AZ, across the river from
NV, where the festival will start tomorrow morning at 9. The weather
was great, t-shirt temperatures until the sun went down. Itís
nearly dark and Iím in for the night at . I got started at
this morning, but had some slow stretches through the
metro area. The worst was west of town, around Avondale and
Goodyear, where traffic slowed to a crawl for no obvious reason.
There were some shorter slowdowns at freeway interchanges in the
central part of town. I got back to the Moon River RV park about , had some lunch, hitched up, and drove the 22 miles here to
Bullhead. In the past Iíve always been on the upper level, quite a
ways from the river, but this time I have waterfront property, about
50 feet from the water.
February 9: It was a great first day of music, with a couple of old
favorites, and some new bands that proved to exceed expectations (I
always try not to expect too much, then Iím often pleasantly
surprised). The best group today, never seen or heard before, was
the Colorado River Boys, a group from the Blythe CA area that has
been together for over 20 years, with only one lineup change. They
had no banjo and no fiddle, and their music was not really
bluegrass, more like cowboy groups such as the Sons of the Pioneers.
The mandolin player had a unique style, mostly a lot of single
string picking, which fit perfectly with their songs. The two main
singers were outstanding; one is Hispanic and did some songs in
enjoyable and entertaining was the Bost Family Tradition. Family
bands can be a mixed blessing, and this one is not without its
drawbacks, but overall they were fun to watch and hear. The two
girls (age 11 and 13) who do most of the singing lack some polish,
but they have powerful voices, and a little work on enunciation will
bring them up to professional level within in a few years. The rest
of the family members were good on their instruments, and the father
demonstrated a very pleasant singing voice, although he did not sing
Iíve seen and enjoyed, and was wishing I could see again was Cliff
Wagner and the Old Number 7. Heís from
and now lives in San Pedro CA, and does very traditional, Jimmy
Martin style material. Due to a cancellation by Mountain Heart,
Wagner will appear again tomorrow and Sunday.
weather, for the first time at this location, was exactly as you
would order it Ė light clouds most of the day to keep it from
being too hot, temperatures around 75, and just a light breeze. It
was cold and windy and cold and rainy the other two times I was
talked to mother and she is ready to leave
already, so there are some changes in our plans, not entirely
finalized yet. I will either be going there Monday, or going to my
cousinís and home as planned, then going back to
around February 20.
10: The bigger name groups played today, and all were excellent.
Entirely new to me were the KrŁger Brothers, from
Switzerland, who now live in the
area. They do what I consider to be ďnewgrassĒ or
ďprogressiveĒ bluegrass. I usually describe this type of music
as ďmore fun to play than to listen to,Ē but this group was the
exception, and they did a lot of stuff I liked. Because of a
cancellation they played a second set, during which they did
ďstuff we usually donít do,Ē and I liked this even better.
favorite of the day was Karl Shifflet and Big Country Show, whom
Iíve seen at least three times before. He is a Texan, and some of
his music is only a steel guitar away from being honky tonk, but
thereís nothing wrong with that. He does a lot of traditional
Flatt and Scruggs material.
other group that I was looking forward to most was Ronnie Reno and
the Reno Tradition. His father, Don Reno, along with Red Smiley, was
one of the early pioneers of bluegrass, starting their recording career in 1951.
Ronnie played with them as soon as he was tall enough to reach the
microphone (standing on a chair), and has carried on his fatherís
legacy in a number of ways. Heís one of the leaders of Blue
Highways TV, which has various traditional music shows on the RFD
cable network. His show, Renoís Old Time Music Festival,
features interviews with and performances by, the top names in
bluegrass, and also presents clips from Reno & Smileyís TV
show of the 1960s.
was a special surprise when Alicia Nugent, an up and coming young
bluegrass singer, appeared on stage with
and sang a couple of songs. She is going to appear
"officially" at the festival
concluded with a joint appearance by
Renoís band and Lost & Found, another group Iíve seen several
times. They reminisced about Don Renoís career and performed an
entire set of songs he and Smiley either wrote or made famous. It
was one of the best shows Iíve ever seen at a festival, so
whatever happens from now on is gravy.
appearing today was
and Cliff Wagner, who replaced the missing in
Heart, who for reasons unexplained could not make it.
February 11: In keeping with my policy of reporting the good, the
bad, and the ugly, I have to discuss the unpleasant night I had last
I had an Indian taco for dinner; about
my body decided it did not like that, and began getting rid of it
through all available means. I suspect I had a mild case of food
poisoning. I was up off and on most of the night going to the
bathroom and throwing up, which of course left me dehydrated. I
consumed nothing but water, but soon I started throwing that up too.
This morning I considered going home, but it had been a while since
I had any problems, so I decided to stick it out. I ate very lightly
through the day, and laid down to rest whenever I came back to the
trailer. Tonight I still donít feel 100%, but so far no rejection
of my peanut butter sandwich supper.
all that, it was a good day, with the same groups from yesterday
appearing again. Itís common for each group to do two to four sets
during a festival. The KrŁger Brothers did some long, boring
stuff, ďsongsĒ that seemed to meander and go on and on without
any resolution, but everything else was good.
Bullhead tradition, members of three or four groups performed
together in a grand finale. This included Alicia Nugent and her
father (Jimmy I think), who is an old time bluegrass musician.
a few drops of rain early this morning before I got up, then a few
during the closing number, but not enough to get anyone wet.
I will head for
to visit my cousin Patti and explore the national park. I expect to
be heading home Wednesday or Thursday.
problems have been resolved Ė she will stay with her two cousins
who live in the western part of the
metro area, in Surprise and
Glendale. I will go down to get her some time after February 20.
February 13: I left the festival area yesterday (Monday) about , and immediately gained an hour when I crossed the
Nevada. I continued west to US 95, then down to I-40, west for about 20
miles, then followed old Route 66 through
and Amboy. Amboy Road took me into Twenty-nine Palms, and I jogged south a
mile to State highway 62, then about 20 miles to Joshua Tree. I
found Pattiís house with no trouble, although like many people,
her assurance that there was ďplenty of room for a trailerĒ
proved to be overly optimistic. After a lot of maneuvering and
digging a number of holes in the dirt road with my tires, I got the
trailer backed into her
yard so there was room to get her car out, but itís the last time
I will fall for that song and dance. Itís always better to put the
trailer in an RV park, and drive the truck to visit people. Itís
partly my fault; when people ask how big the trailer is, I say ď25
feet,Ē and fail to mention that itís attached to a 20 foot long
house, a short term rental, is unique Ė it is two small houses
that were joined by an enclosed breezeway that has a big area of
sand and rocks, and lots of skylights and windows. Itís located in
the hills a few miles from the national park, and is surrounded by
beautiful desert country that is easy to walk in.
lunch we headed into the park and did a one mile loop trail that
goes by Barker Dam, a small concrete dam that was built in the 1800s
to preserve water for cattle ranching. This activity pretty much died out
in the area early in the 20th century when rainfall
diminished. However, this area still supports some surprisingly tall
pine trees, as well as the usual high desert vegetation Ė juniper,
yucca, several varieties of cactus, and of course, lots of Joshua
trees. Iíve also seen rabbits, tiny ground squirrels, and lots of
9:30 p.m.: Patti and I had a nice scenic hike on part of the Skull Rock loop
trail today, although the weather was not very cooperative. It was
fairly windy and cold, and we had a few drops of rain, then about a
minute of hail. The precipitation was never enough to get us wet, so
hiking in a hail storm in the desert became an adventure. The area
we were in has a lot of fantastic rock formations, as well as some
higher elevation vegetation Ė lots of piŮon and juniper.
drove up to the highest road-accessible point in the park, a little
above 5,000 feet, where you can see the
Valley to the south, with
in the distance. When I was here two years ago it was so hazy I could not see the valley floor, but it was much clearer today, and
we could even see the Salton Sea about 50 miles to the south.
night we watched a movie after we got back. Tonight we went out for
dinner, then started to watch another movie. It proved to be dumb so
we started another one, but it would not play right, so I got a
Seinfeld DVD from the trailer and we watched two episodes.
be leaving for home in the morning, and although the trip has been
great, I am definitely ready to get back.
February 18: As always, it has taken me a few days to finish this up, what
with unloading the trailer, sorting through the mail, and other
ďcatching up.Ē I had a long, slow, sometimes frustrating trip
home, but I arrived safely around
If youíre keeping track, I left Joshua Tree and traveled through
on State highway 62, then took State 247 NW to the Mojave desert. I got on State 18 through Apple Valley and into Victorville, then
took a local road across to Adelanto, where I got on US 395 north,
joined State 58 at Kramer Junction, west to Bakersfield, and
north on State 99 to Fresno.
a couple of wrong turns where I had to backtrack a few miles, and
went to a horrible gas station north of Bakersfield. The pump wouldnít take
my credit card; and the pump handle had no lock so I had to hold it
while 22 gallons went into the tank.
most of my problems were minor, and I had a great time at the
festivals and visiting Joshua Tree National Park again with my
cousin. She is buying a house there, so will be there indefinitely,
giving me someone to hike with next time I go back.
my return to Fresno
on February 14, I spent six days at home.
February 21 I returned to Arizona
by car, leaving home about , and arriving at motherís cousinís house in Surprise
western edge of the Phoenix
metro area about
We enjoyed a nice dinner and visit, and started for home the next
morning about 10 a.m.
We were thinking of spending the
night in Barstow, but it was still kind of early
when we got there,
so we went on to Mojave, about 40 miles further. When we left the Phoenix
area it was sunny, and we used the air conditioner part of the way.
However, it was getting cool and starting to rain by the time we got
settled into our motel at Mojave.
we woke up the next morning, it was snowing, with a thin layer on
the cars and roofs, although it was melting off the pavement. We had
breakfast at the motel, and left there just after 8 a.m., anticipating a fairly quick and easy journey home. However,
Highway 158 through Tehachapi to Bakersfield,
was closed, and expected to remain so for at least two hours.
Since I felt it would be better to be moving than sitting in the
car, burning gasoline to keep warm, we went south towards Lancaster, and took Highway 138 across to I-5 near Gorman. There was snow on
the hills there, but the road was clear, so we headed north through Bakersfield
stopped at my house just long enough to pick up some clean clothes,
then went to eat, and started up Highway 41 for Mariposa. It turned
out that there was more snow in our way, with chain controls in
effect about 20 miles up the road, so I took an alternate route that
goes through the town of Raymond and up to Mariposa. It is actually a shorter route, but takes longer
than my usual way up highways 41 and 49, since it is a narrow,
we got to the Raymond road, we were on a little used county road
that leaves highway 41 at the 22 Mile House. It was very scenic,
going through the low foothills past creeks and ponds, and we saw a
couple of gray herons. We also came to a stretch that was unpaved
and muddy, and had a warning sign that the road was impassible in
wet weather. Since there had not yet been much rain in the area, we forged
ahead and made it through OK, but I decided if I ever went that way
again, I would double back a mile or two and take Highway 145 across
to the roads that lead up to Mariposa.
finally arrived at motherís house about , a trip that should not have taken more than five hours driving
time. But we agreed that we at least got to see a lot of new