April 28, 2004: If itís mid-spring it must be time for bluegrass in the
coastal hills, and this year thereís a double header.
people who put on the annual
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.
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 , and quite cool with a strong breeze now at.
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
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
today I called and made reservations for a tour of
Castle tomorrow, a place I have never been. I will probably stop and check
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
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
to build a place that would leave his visitors awed. He certainly
succeeded (of course $10 million went a lot farther in those days).
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.
else is equally impressive Ė remember, this is a guy who purchased
20 complete ceilings from
and had them installed throughout the estate. Weíre not talking
acoustic tile, but rather ornately carved hardwoods.
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.
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.
show starts in about a half hour () and goes till about
There is a dinner break from
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.
daughter Teri and youngest grandson Mikie will join me this evening,
driving over when he gets out of school.
and time for dinner break. For me itís cocktail time, since Iíll wait till Teri & Mikie get here to eat.
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 () but we left the windows and vents open all night.
and Mikie arrived about
Friday, and left this morning about .
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).
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
till , so I hung around camp at Paso Robles till a little before then.
Even then I was not the last to leave.
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.
hot here, close to 100, but right now at
I am inside with the A/C going. Hockey does not start till
so I will work on this report and do some more reading. Tomorrow I
plan to go to
San Luis Obispo
Bay. I am thinking of returning to
Wednesday and taking one of the other tours (they have four
different tours, each focusing on different parts of the estate).
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
won 1-0 in overtime, advancing to the conference final. Tonight is
Sharks v. Avalanche (Sharks ahead 3-2); and
(Flyers ahead 3-2).
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
Bay, and walked out on the pier. Then I came back by way of
Bay, where I just walked around a little. I was in
Bay at the beach ten years ago or so, but have not been to SLO for 30
years, and never to
I am going to take another tour at
Castle. I enjoyed the first one, and you never know when the chance
to go will
come again. Right now itís time for hockey ()
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
Bay. Powerhouse teams from
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
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
my habit of repeating good experiences, I went to SeŮor Sanchoís
in Paso Robles for dinner on my way home.
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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
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
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
that had some success but broke up a year or so ago.
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
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
Nashville, and they were even better than I remembered.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.)
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
morning at the Paso Robles festival the MC said there had been an
earthquake that morning. I did not feel it (at
??!!) It was apparently an aftershock from the big one in December.
(Photos open in a new window)
Ron Spears & Within Tradition
Bear Mountain Bluegrass Band
Piney Creek Weasels
John Murphy & Carolina Special
Cache Valley Drifters
Sidesaddle & Co.
Christian & Austin Ward, Calvin
& Trevor Smith, Scott Gates
(Kids on Stage)
James King Band
Iron Lasso with Eric Uglam & Paul
Chris Jones Coalition
Chris Stuart & Backcountry
Lynn Morris Band
from Highway 46 between Cambria and Paso Robles