We’ve got some catching up to do, ladies and germs! The last week in Boise and the intervening days from our departure on Thursday the 13th to today are one glorious blur, but I’ll try to recount the haps so far the best I can.
We spent our last few days in Boise dividing our time between closing up the apartment, outfitting the van and occasionally taking breaks to do things like eat and visit with friends last minute like knowing we wouldn’t see them for several months. Miraculously, we managed all of this and a little bit of sleep in the Van Hammock Sleep System Marks 1 and 2. I think we looked reasonably well rested by the time my sister took this a few minutes before we left.
Also somewhat miraculously, and without having dared to impose a departure time on ourselves, we managed to be on our way out of Boise by about 11:30a on D(departure)-Day. The drive from Boise to Walla Walla was relatively uninteresting and uneventful but for the guy we saw towing a trailer towing a piece of digging equipment on another trailer, the scoop of which contained a rather unceremoniously restrained and completely uncovered dead horse. While I am sure that this was purely a matter of practicality with an animal that likely weighed a ton, I do wonder how many people called the guy in for traumatizing their (inner) children.
We arrived in Walla Walla sometime around 3pm pacific and discovered that the fallow field they had set aside for the Gentlemen of the Road tour was a dust bowl, which was only being made dustier by all the inbound traffic and the ineffectual use of water trucks to keep the dust down in 90+ degree heat with 20+ mph winds. It was also pretty smoky due to wildfires in the area. Regardless of these potential deterrents, we were still optimistic enough to stick with our plan to camp in Charley out in the Lot of Dust (double meaning intended) rather than the way-too-cozy looking tent city which would eventually expand from this small sample all the way across the golf course to the highway. I’d guess that this colorful, close quarters camping ended up being about 4 football fields wide by about 3 long, since apparently that’s how we ‘Mericans measure large areas.
Charley parked and battened down against invading dust, we set off to explore the grounds and find our friends and fellow concertgoers in downtown Walla Walla. Along the way we saw some very zen festival art in the sand traps.
A very long walk to downtown Walla Walla later, we found our friends just finishing up a wine tasting at one of many such establishments in the area. Being rather hot from the walk, we declined to partake in tasting, but the tasting room operators were kind enough to provide us with lots of water even though we weren’t buying anything. We then moseyed on down the street to learn two unfortunate facts: 1) Anyplace designated as 21+ was doing very thorough ID checking much to the dismay of our friend Nate who had just had a birthday and forgotten to renew his license. Apparently an expired ID means you’re no longer of legal age to drink. 2) Some of the places in Walla Walla were gouging by using token systems for a limited selection and charging $5 per token and 1-3 tokens per item. This meant it cost $15 for a gyro. Um, no thanks. However, Nate’s bad luck and the shitty business practices of SOME of the downtown business owners meant that we accidentally found some really great food not once but twice. Hooray for happy accidents and silver linings! Also, a somewhat dubious hooray for the really amazing sunsets created by the aforementioned fires.
After finding some lovely and reasonably priced food and drink at a place called Olive, we decided to part ways with Ruben, Nate and Heather as they had booked a campsite near Dayton, which was about 20 or so miles away, and needed to go set up for the night. On the way back to OUR “campsite”, we found this at the base of a statue and thought it was an appropriate summation of what we’re up to here.
We returned to the “dust up” and realized that our predictions that A) there would surely be less traffic and therefore less dust near us and B) it would have cooled off by late evening were entirely incorrect. We hurried ourselves into Charley to preserve his recently cleaned interior and proceeded to abuse the already taxed air by running our engine and a/c for a couple of hours just so we could not suffocate or die of heat stroke. I had a near panic attack when it got stuffy shortly after we tried to shut the van off the first time, so we went ahead and strategically opened some windows and proceeded to spend a pretty miserable night listening to tractors, water trucks and late arrivals moving about for the duration. By morning, we had decided to take our friends up on their offer to share their campsite and were hastily packing to leave when some concert official leered at us through the side doors and then returned a few minutes later to inform us that we weren’t allowed to camp in the “lush paradise” Lance had sarcastically termed this spot. No problem, man. We rolled out and caught up with our buddies about an hour later after finding some items we needed to adjust Charley’s comfort and noise level at an Ace Hardware.
As a side note: I really miss the small hardware stores like this. You can find everything in five minutes versus wandering overwhelmed in a gargantuan hardware/appliance/paint/soda pop/lawn furniture/slash/slash/slash store for an hour hoping someone in an orange or blue vest appears to save you from your ignorance.
After getting situated in camp, we all went back to Walla Walla in Nate’s truck and checked out some of the local wine tasting rooms which are, somewhat curiously, located in re-purposed military buildings on the airport property. More lovely, welcoming people with GOTR swag adorning their establishments. Some pretty nice wines and chuckling with other GOTR attendees about the token system made for a delightful way to pass some time until we needed to go find lunch. More lengthy walking in downtown after parking close to the venue yielded another no-go for Nate on the first recommended place we arrived at, followed shortly by some delicious Mexican food at Mi Pueblito just across the street. Tortas bigger than your face and incredibly tasty. Once again, hooray for happy accidents!
We made our way back to the Whitman College Athletic Fields in time for the gates to open and saw a number of acts leading up to Foo Fighters. To me, the only remarkable performance prior to the headliner was the first one, a gent by the name of Jack Garratt who put on a good show with an interesting blend of EDM and guitar work. But it was the Foos who stole the whole damned weekend for us. A more perfect rock show I have never seen. Those boys brought it and rocked our faces off. Truly one of the best concert experiences of my life and certainly not a bad way to close out the first full day of the festival.
A much better night of sleep saw us heading back into town earlier in order to try a local brewery which had been closed the previous day and get to the grounds in time to see Tune-Yards kick off the day. This was my second time seeing them and my only wish was that they would have been given a longer spot. Another really solid band. We decamped back to downtown for a couple of acts none of us was terribly interested in so we could try the ubiquitous wine slushies. A perfectly refreshing break on a day that was warm, but cool enough to not make such a thing seem like a terrible idea. Not being allowed to roam with slushies in hand, we polished them off at brain freezing speeds and booked it back to the venue to catch the Flaming Lips. Again, my second time seeing them and again I was wishing that they had a full length show for my compadres to get the full experience. They did a good job representing a true Lips show in the short time they had, though.
And now to Mumford and Sons. For a band having an identity crisis, this was a good show. It was a bit jarring to go from touchy feely folk to “FUCK YEAH, MOTHERFUCKERS!” arena rock every other song, though. I’m not whatsoever opposed to bands branching out. And it was nice to be able to gain an at least technical appreciation of the Wilder Mind flavored stuff in a live show after being totally underwhelmed and deflated hearing their new stuff on the radio. But everything about the show was disjointed and unwieldy. It was good to see them, of course, but we both had no emotional connection to this show and it felt like the band didn’t either. For us, this festival peaked with the Fighters of Foo, period. Still, it was a good party and a nice way to cap off an actual weekend after a solid month of planning and prepping to Amble.
Speaking of Ambling, Sunday the 16th brought us to the close of our concert kick off to the adventure and time to get out of “soft start” mode and on the road proper. We made biscuits and gravy for our gracious hosts and said “See you later” to the last of our Boise brethren we shall likely see for quite some time.
We headed for Lewiston, ID to pick up some additional writing equipment Lance needed and then continued east on US 12 all the way across the panhandle, witnessing wildfires up close all along the Clearwater River as we went.
We arrived in Missoula, MT somewhat late in the evening and found a pretty good brew pub by the name of Tamarack Brewing which was conveniently located next to a well lit public parking lot belonging to a park that had no signs saying we shouldn’t stay there, so we set up “camp” in Charley and managed to make it through the night without getting booted literally or figuratively. We paid to park there when the pay hours started and have been wifi hopping from coffee shops to the library ever since today trying to get business business and blogging business caught up. We’ll find ourselves a more appropriate parking spot tonight and plan to stay here for the next day or two making a few more adjustments to Charley and laying in supplies to end the “soft start” on obtaining nourishment every day. We’re also looking to flesh out plans for more opportunities to start learning and living more sustainably as we go. Please send us your input!
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