James King Band

Sidesaddle & Co.

Mid-State & Parkfield Bluegrass 2004
  
Links to Photos, Related Web Sites, and More Travel Reports at bottom
  

April 28, 2004: If itís mid-spring it must be time for bluegrass in the Central California coastal hills, and this year thereís a double header.

The people who put on the annual Camp Rude festival at Parkfield turned it over to another couple, who changed it to the Mid-State Bluegrass Festival, moved it to Paso Robles, and set it for one week earlier. Some other people, who have enjoyed visiting Parkfield every Motherís Day weekend, started a new festival there, so although itís the same place and same weekend, itís not the same festival. If youíre fully confused, just forget all the above and read on.

I set out this morning about 9:45 for the short, pleasant drive to Paso Robles. Since weíve been having record heat (and it got up to 100 over here yesterday), I was glad to see that the forecast is for a brief cooling period. It has been very nice here all day, at the fairgrounds right next to the junction of US 101 and State Highway 46Öwarm but breezy when I got here a little after noon, and quite cool with a strong breeze now at 7:30.

After I got set up I read the paper and rested a bit, then set out for SeŮor Sanchoís Mexican restaurant. One of the problems with spring bluegrass festivals is that they conflict with the hockey playoffs, a particular problem this year with the San Jose Sharks looking like they will reach the conference finals. Before I left, I called the restaurant to find out if they had a TV that would be showing the 4 p.m. playoff game, and the results were positive.

I had a drink, then a chimichanga, then another drink, and enjoyed watching the Maple Leafs defeat the Flyers, who had been leading two games to none. The conditions were not ideal (TV up where I had to tilt my head uncomfortably, view from an angle, and no sound), so I decided to pass on the later game, which would last from 7 to 9:30.

Earlier today I called and made reservations for a tour of Hearst Castle tomorrow, a place I have never been. I will probably stop and check out Cambria while Iím at it. I have been there many years ago, but all I remember is that it seemed nice.

April 29, 2004: The typical bluegrass festival starts on Friday, but I like to arrive on Wednesday, to get situated and get a good camping spot. This leaves Thursday available for other activities, so today I enjoyed my first visit to Hearst Castle. The guided tour starts with a bus ride from the visitor center, five miles and 1500 feet in elevation up to the hilltop where William Randolph Hearst spent about ten million dollars (in 1947 dollars) to build a place that would leave his visitors awed. He certainly succeeded (of course $10 million went a lot farther in those days).

The tour is very well done, with a personable and knowledgeable guide. This particular tour includes the two swimming pools, the medium guest house, and the main floor of the big house. When you think swimming pool at the Hearst estate, think of a 100 foot wide pool with Greek columns and marble sculpture surrounding it. In the case of the other pool, indoors under the tennis court, picture blue and gold tile (real 22 karat gold) in one inch squares surrounding the pool and making up the bottom of the pool itself.

Everything else is equally impressive Ė remember, this is a guy who purchased 20 complete ceilings from Europe and had them installed throughout the estate. Weíre not talking acoustic tile, but rather ornately carved hardwoods.

I must admit I had a somewhat negative impression of Hearst, and thereís no doubt he understood the power of money. On the other hand, every indication is that he treated the staff of his estate very well, paid employees in his various enterprises a good wage, and made arrangements for the estate to be given to the people of California when he died (itís officially a state park, as well as a registered museum). He had an interest in all forms of art that started when he spent a year in Italy at age ten, and made what he called ďthe ranchĒ a place to collect and display an amazing variety of ancient and modern art.

When I got back to my trailer, I had to go to work. This morning when I woke up I realized that drops of water were falling on me. Apparently last nightís heavy dew had found a leaky seam at the edge of the trailer roof. I picked up some calking compound and coated the seam, so tomorrow I should find out if my efforts were successful. Iíve tried fixing minor leaks on my house and on my old trailer, and have only had one success so far, but that was my most recent attempt, so hopefully Iím on a roll.

April 30, 2004: No indoor rain this morning, so either my roof repair was successful, or weather conditions werenít right. There was plenty of dew on the truck, and low temperatures were about the same (40 on Thursday, 38 this morning), so I am going to claim success.

The show starts in about a half hour (9:45) and goes till about 9 p.m. There is a dinner break from 5 to 6 p.m. Some shows stop in the early evening, usually about six, since so many people like to spend the evenings pickiní in the parking lot. If the show runs late, they just stay up later.

My daughter Teri and youngest grandson Mikie will join me this evening, driving over when he gets out of school.

Itís now 5:10 and time for dinner break. For me itís cocktail time, since Iíll wait till Teri & Mikie get here to eat.

Itís been a good day of music Ė a couple of groups I like that Iíve seen before, and several that were new to me. The best surprise was the Bear Ridge Bluegrass Band, which is kind of an informal ad hoc group, but they have a killer female singer and were very good overall. The highly touted John Murphy & Carolina Special seemed to me to have very little energy, but then, I needed a nap. There will be three more groups tonight.

May 2, 2004: The Mid-State festival is over, finishing off with hot music and hot weather. The first two nights I was inside the trailer before dark, closed the windows and vents, and wore a sweatshirt and long-sleeved shirt inside. Friday and Saturday nights I needed a long-sleeved shirt outside late at night (9 p.m.) but we left the windows and vents open all night.

Teri and Mikie arrived about 6:30 Friday, and left this morning about 9:45.

There was good bluegrass music all weekend. A couple of groups Iíve seen before but didnít like that much seemed better this time Ė Sidesaddle & Co., and The Cache Valley Drifters. Lost Highway, which Iíve seen many times since my very first festival in Mariposa, were great as usual, as was the James King Band (one of the top groups in the country).

Iíll stay here tonight, then spend Monday through Wednesday night at an RV park in Atascadero (one that has cable TV so I can watch hockey playoffs). Then Iíll head for Parkfield Thursday morning.

 

May 3, 2004: I could not check into the RV park here in Atascadero till noon, so I hung around camp at Paso Robles till a little before then. Even then I was not the last to leave.

I got here about 12:30, got set up, and had dinner (leftover BBQ ribs from the festival, fork-tender and exceptionally good). Iíve spent the afternoon reading, napping and making a few phone calls.

It is hot here, close to 100, but right now at 5:30 I am inside with the A/C going. Hockey does not start till 7 p.m. so I will work on this report and do some more reading. Tomorrow I plan to go to San Luis Obispo and/or Morro Bay. I am thinking of returning to Hearst Castle Wednesday and taking one of the other tours (they have four different tours, each focusing on different parts of the estate).

Tonightís game is Redwings v. Calgary Flames. I have to cheer for the underdog (Flames), who are ahead 3 games to 2. You can never count the Redwings out till the final buzzer of the final game.

May 4, 2004: Good news (but not for Detroit fans), Calgary won 1-0 in overtime, advancing to the conference final. Tonight is Sharks v. Avalanche (Sharks ahead 3-2); and Philadelphia v. Toronto (Flyers ahead 3-2).

This morning I drove down to San Luis Obispo. Just drove around a little, then went into a coffee shop/Internet cafť and checked my Email. I went to Avila Beach  and San Luis Bay, and walked out on the pier. Then I came back by way of Morro Bay, where I just walked around a little. I was in Morro Bay at the beach ten years ago or so, but have not been to SLO for 30 years, and never to Avila Beach.

Tomorrow I am going to take another tour at Hearst Castle. I enjoyed the first one, and you never know when the chance to go will come again. Right now itís time for hockey (4 p.m.)

May 5, 2004: First, the hockey news Ė the Sharks defeated the Avalanche 3-1 to make their first-ever trip to the western conference final (they will face Calgary). In the east itís Philadelphia v. Tampa Bay. Powerhouse teams from Detroit, New Jersey and Colorado that have won eight of the last nine Stanley Cups are gone in the second round (as is Dallas, the other cup winner during that period).

I had a nice trip to Hearst Castle today. The tour I took goes through the upper three floors of the main house, and includes the kitchen. This is a kitchen that would serve most large restaurants Ė probably close to 100 feet long. The weather was cool and foggy at the visitor center, just above sea level, but at the estate, 1500 feet elevation, it was probably 15 degrees warmer.

Following my habit of repeating good experiences, I went to SeŮor Sanchoís in Paso Robles for dinner on my way home.

I bought gas in Paso last week after my trip to the Castle, and paid $2.17 per gallon. Today it was $2.27 per gallon.

Driving around this area provides some beautiful scenic views. There are quite a few wineries, laid out in rolling hills. The highways go through stands of live oak and valley oak, with a few pines at the higher elevations. Grassy areas are still green, but starting to turn brown, even next to the ocean. Itís kind of strange to be driving around towns that have hills in them. All in all itís a beautiful area, but as we know, it takes lots of rain and some cool foggy weather to have the kind of vegetation you see here.

I emptied my holding tanks, took down the awning, and folded up my table and chair, so I wonít have so much to do in the morning. Of course, itís not like I have a long drive Ė itís probably 40 miles or so, back up to Paso Robles on US 101, west on State 46 to Cholame, and about 15 miles north to Parkfield. My Rand McNally trip planner program makes it a 125 mile trip, sending you north to Monterey, then somehow on to State 198 (not sure thatís possible), and over local roads to Parkfield, virtually telling you to go north 55 miles then back south almost next to your northern route another 55 miles. Other people have told me that trip-planning web sites told them to use the road from Coalinga to Parkfield, which is unpaved, terrible for trailers, and sometimes impassible in the wet season. Itís always good to know a little geography.

May 6, 2004: Itís nearly 10 p.m. and the first day of the Parkfield festival is over. Music started today, on a Thursday, which is rare. The people running this festival seem to be really disorganized Ė the show started 45 minutes late; they donít have programs available; the MC seems to have little idea whatís going on, and has trouble announcing the groups even with notes in his hand. There are not many people here Ė fewer than I have seen by Wednesday evening in the past. Of course, more will arrive Friday and Saturday (if not, someone is losing money).

The music is good, so everything else is tolerable. The mediocre bands were just that, none of them bad, and there have been two really good ones so far. There are some fairly well known national groups on the program

The weather has also been cooperating Ė warm but not hot like it has been. There was a very strong breeze for a while, but it died down. Itís cool enough for a sweatshirt and another flannel shirt for me, but quite pleasant outdoors. Since itís been a warm spring (we had some record and near-record highs for the date in March and more days above normal than average), it is very dry here Ė the hills, which usually still show some green, are completely brown, and the grass in the camping area is dried up and partly trampled down. Trampled is good, since the stickers are not too bad unless you venture into the outer perimeter, where the dry grass is tall.

May 7, 2004: The festival is still not on schedule, but otherwise everything is going fine. The best groups so far are Iron Lasso from Montana, and the Chris Jones Coalition from Nashville. Most of the people in Iron Lasso have been at every festival in Parkfield, under one name or another. These are the guys I saw and talked to at the weekly jam at the High Hat saloon in Missoula on my trip in 2002. The dobro player, Ivan Rosenburg, also plays in two other groups here. Chris Jones has been around for a long time, once playing with Special Consensus, a long-running band that I saw in Arizona earlier this year. I have a video tape of them on the Nashville Network in the mid 1980ís when Chris was the lead singer. Heís been here before with Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, but the current line-up includes some Night Drivers and some members of the Grasshoppers, a band from Idaho that had some success but broke up a year or so ago.

Tonightís featured group is Lynn Morris, one of the top east coast bands (from Virginia). She was at one of the Mariposa bluegrass festivals in the late 1990s.

My trailer is situated so that I can hear the music pretty well from my patio, so this morning I had a couple of nice bloody Mary's, watched the first group, then fixed and ate hash browns outside while listening to a couple of bands that I saw yesterday that did not require my close attention.

 

May 9, 2004: The festival is over, and there was some great music. The best band overall was the Fox Family. They are originally from upstate New York, and I have seen them at the Mariposa festival. They are now based out of Nashville, and they were even better than I remembered.

Also excellent was Chris Stuart and Backcountry, a fairly new band that played here last year. They have really come together well and were nearly on a par with the Fox Family.

Also very good were the Chris Jones Coalition. Chris has played here under other names, and has also played with nationally known bands like Special Consensus and the Lynn Morris Band (he joined them for this performance).

The Lynn Morris Band was somewhat of a disappointment, mainly because there is very little Lynn. She had a stroke about a year ago and is only up to performing one or two songs per set. This band did have the best banjo player of the festival.

Tomorrow I will get started when I get up and ready, and hope to stop and visit friends in Avenal for a short while. Once I get home, planning will start for a month-long trip across country this summer. Stay tuned.

Nature Report:

Last year at Parkfield Mikie had a good time catching lizards (one is still thriving), so he wanted to do the same this year. The fairgrounds at Paso Robles did not seem to offer much except a few tiny bugs, but some friends weíve known since the first Parkfield festival steered Mikie to the local lizard hang-out, and he soon caught one by hand. He forgot his net, and we didnít expect success, but we had one up a tree, and I was trying to catch it with a cup. While it was watching out for me, Mikie grabbed it.

At Parkfield I saw a boy holding two lizards, so later I asked if he was taking them home. He said he was letting them go, but was trying to break his record of catching seven last year (all by hand). I know he got up to six this year, but did not get a final report. (2009 update: This boy was Austin Ward, stepson of Eric Uglam and now the bass player for Chris Stuart & Backcountry.)

While in Atascadero, there was a report on TV that a mountain lion had been seen walking down a street in San Luis Obispo. This was right after my visit there.

Sunday morning at the Paso Robles festival the MC said there had been an earthquake that morning. I did not feel it (at 6:30 a.m. ??!!) It was apparently an aftershock from the big one in December.

--Dick Estel

 

Photos
(Photos open in a new window)

Lampkins Family Ron Spears & Within Tradition Bear Mountain Bluegrass Band
Lampkins Family Ron Spears & Within Tradition Bear Mountain Bluegrass Band
 
Piney Creek Weasels Grateful Dudes John Murphy & Carolina Special
Piney Creek Weasels Grateful Dudes John Murphy & Carolina Special
 
Lost Highway Cache Valley Drifters Sidesaddle & Co.
Lost Highway Cache Valley Drifters Sidesaddle & Co.
 
Rick  Jamison & Copper  Canyon Pacific Crest Christian & Austin Ward, Calvin & Trevor Smith, Scott Gates
Rick Jamison & Copper Canyon Pacific Crest Christian & Austin Ward, Calvin & Trevor Smith, Scott Gates
(Kids on Stage)
 
James King Band Brothers Barton Silverado
James King Band Brothers Barton Silverado
 
Iron Lasso with Eric Uglam & Paul Lee Chris Jones Coalition Chris Stuart & Backcountry
Iron Lasso with Eric Uglam & Paul Lee Chris Jones Coalition Chris Stuart & Backcountry
 
Lynn Morris Band Fox Family Bean Creek
Lynn Morris Band Fox Family Bean Creek
 
View from Highway 46 between Cambria & Paso Robles Moss-covered tree on Highway 46 Old water tower at Parkfield
View from Highway 46 between Cambria and Paso Robles Moss-covered tree on Highway 46 Old water tower at Parkfield
 
Outdoor swimming pool at Hearst Castle Gardens at "the Ranch" The main house
Outdoor swimming pool at Hearst Castle Gardens at "the Ranch" The main house
 

Web Sites

Recommended CDs, DVDs, Books

Brothers Barton

Cache Valley Drifters Chris Jones
Chris Stuart & Backcountry Eric Uglam Fox Family (3 Fox Drive)
Grateful Dudes John Murphy & Carolina Special James King
Lynn Morris Band Kids on Bluegrass Sidesaddle & Company
Dick's Bluegrass Links Parkfield Festival Virtual Strangers
Hearst Castle Paso Robles Dick's Travel Links
   Dick's Bluegrass T-Shirt Photos   

  

Outdoor pool at Hearst Castle

Gardens at "the Ranch"

 
Travel Reports
   
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Before 2002
Early Trips Later Trips
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1961 Monterey Jazz Festival Bluegrass Odyssey
   
Multi-Year Compilations
Fresno Area Canal Walks Clovis Trail Walks
   
2002
Journey of 2002 (Ohio & Back) Logandale & Utah Parks 2002
   
2003
Arizona & Bluegrass on the River 2003 Grand Canyon & Logandale Bluegrass 2003
Parkfield & Huck Finn 2003 Early Frog Camps (2003-2005)
   
2004
Paso Robles & Parkfield 2004 Road Trip 2004 (Ohio & Back)
Bullhead City Bluegrass, Mesa, Superstition Bluegrass 2004 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2004
   
2005
Arizona-Southern California 2005 Huck Finn Bluegrass 2005
Morro Bay 2005 Stargazer Rock Camp 2005
Parkfield Bluegrass 2005    
   
2006
Huck Finn Bluegrass 2006 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2006
Rock Creek Non-Camp Stargazer Rock Camp 2006
Parkfield Bluegrass 2006 Oregon 2006
Bluegrass in the Foothills 2006    
   
2007
Bullhead City, Bakersfield, Joshua Tree 2007 Frog Camp 2007
Eastern Sierra Journey 2007 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2007
Stargazer Rock Camp 2007 Roundup #1
(Mother Lode; Kings Canyon, Yosemite)
Bluegrass in the Foothills 2007    
   
2008
Nevada-Arizona Hockey & Bluegrass 2008 Parkfield Bluegrass 2008
Frog Camp 2008 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2008
Stargazer Rock Camp 2008 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2008
Hobbs Grove Festival 2008     
   
2009
Roundup 2009
Las Vegas, Mariposa, Table Mountain, Orange County
Frog Camp 2009 Southern Journey 2009
Parkfield Bluegrass 2009 Stargazer Rock Camp 2009
Bluegrass Tour 2009
Brown Barn, Plymouth, Hobbs Grove
Hensley Lake Camp
   
2010
Mojave National Preserve & Havasu Bluegrass Roundup 2010
Hensley Reservoir, Mojave Preserve 2 & 3
Parkfield Bluegrass 2010 Lake Almanor & Mt. Lassen 2010
Las Vegas Expo Summergrass
    Brown Barn, Watsonville & Hobbs Grove
   
2011
Roundup 2011
Mariposa, Hensley, Table Mountain
Frog Camp 2011
Parkfield Bluegrass 2011 Frank, Pat, Dick & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Northern Coast Journey 2011 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2011
Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival Chilkoot & Stargazer Rock Camp
Kings River & Brown Barn Bluegrass Festivals Hensley Camp 2011
    
2012 
Parkfield Bluegrass 2012 Four Squaw Leap Hikes
Northern Coast Journey 2012 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2012
Stargazer Rock Camp 2012 Bluegrass in the Foothills 2012
A 3-Event Weekend
Farmer's Market, Kings River Bluegrass, Antique Fair
2012 Las Vegas CAN AM Hockey Challenge
Fall Hikes
Finegold Trail; Bower Cave
Into Los Gatos Canyon
  
2013
Silver Stick Tournament - Canada Sierra Foothills - Winter 2013
Finegold Trailhead, Hensley Lake, San Joaquin Gorge
Death Valley - Alabama Hills - Whitney Portal Sierra Foothills - Spring 2013
San Joaquin Gorge Hike, Big Creek Drive
Parkfield Bluegrass 2013 Shaver Crossing Station & Big Creek
Lake Almanor & Caribou Crossroads Mono Hot Springs
Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival A Wedding in Duluth
Sequoia Park Hiking Roundup 2013
Kings River Bluegrass, Buena Vista Peak Hike, Hensley Lake Camp, North Fork Mono Museum, White Rock Road, Hockey in Denver
     
2014
2014 Winter Hikes
Millerton South Bay Trail, Clovis Trail, Hite's Cove Trail
San Joaquin Gorge Campout
Colorado Springs Hockey Tournament Lake Havasu Bluegrass
2014 Spring Hikes
Stockton Creek Preserve, San Joaquin River Trail, San Joaquin Gorge, Millerton Lake, Sycamore Creek, Buena Vista Peak Again
NORCAL Hockey Playoffs and Santa Cruz Visit
Greeley Hill Road Trip Parkfield Bluegrass 2014
Journey of 2014 Journey of 2014 Photos
Nelder Grove Hikes 2014 Sentinel Dome Hike
2014 Fall & Winter Hikes
San Joaquin River Trail South & North, Red Rock Canyon Nevada, San Joaquin South Again
California Flat Campout
Snow Day with the  Upshaw's   
 
2015
Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 2
Adventures of 2015 - February to May
(Goofy Smith Flat, Coast Redwoods & Big Sur, Pine Flat, Finegold Trail, Edison Point Trail, Nelder Grove)
Adventures of 2015 - June to December
(Lewis Creek Trail, Kaiser Pass, Kaiser Pass Again, Taft Point, Kings River Bluegrass, Shaver Logging Road, San Joaquin River Trail, Lewis S Eaton Trail, San Joaquin River Gorge, Thanksgiving at the Gorge)
Lake Tahoe & Virginia City Parkfield Bluegrass 2015
Colorado Springs Cousin Convention 2015 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2015
Stargazer Rock Camp 2015 Grand Canyon & Arches National Parks
  
2016
Adventures of 2016 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 1
Adventures of 2016 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 2
Adventures of 2016 Part 3 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 3
Adventures of 2016 Part 4 A Pennsylvania Adventure
Adventures of 2016 Part 5 Parkfield Bluegrass 2016
Adventures of 2016 Part 6 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2016
Adventures of 2016 Part 7 Stargazer Rock Camp 2016
     
2017
Adventures of 2017 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2017 Page 1
Adventures of 2017 Part 2 Rambler Hikes 2017 Page 2
Adventures of 2017 Part 3 Rambler Hikes 2017 Page 3
Adventures of 2017 Part 4 Hiking and Hockey
Adventures of 2017 Part 5 Lake Almanor
Adventures of 2017 Part 6 Northern California Redwood Hike
Parkfield Bluegrass 2017 Stargazer Rock Camp 2017
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Updated October 5, 2016