On a forgotten forest walk, Dave riffs a story about first trip to Europe – starting with trying not to puke over an Amsterdam bridge after a meeting new temporary coffee shop pals – with flashback to Mexican desert trips with Grandpa, LSD trips with VW bus-fixing pals, and family Grateful Dead road trip to in Arizona.
Foreshadows future stories of an rapid exit from London to Florida then a (rather dangerous) driveway car to Dallas, bus to SLC, flight to Vancouver, then to Japan…
Winding weary roads high desert farms of wind and pistachios backtrack county roads beleaguered edges of
by geography or films
California’s high plateau 39 degrees dry oil wells and water machines rest like dinosaurs and their empty gas stations
Did you see the shows?” he sells artish bits stretched canvas with stucco and shells and shellaced print of steal your face they lament and encourage Chicago and we all wish yesterday could last forever
Lead to Vegas 1AM
Sasha dog, Mexican food 114 degrees road, desert, red rock
Once upon a time, I wrangled a community of renegades, weirdos and soul-seekers from various Utah suburbs and old pals from Vancouver area to ramble up to, and rendezvous at the Grateful Dead shows in Eugene, Oregon. I recall calling the BC boys from a payphone on University of Utah campus declaring they must be there though they were hesitant. The Utah crew was handpicked but i have no recollection how. There were many ladies i knew from the community college and friends of friends or something. Either way, it was a fine combo of folks.
The Utah contingent for the most part rolled up in my beloved 1974 VW “turtle top” micro bus and Heather’s Subaru, while the BC boys rolled down in Brad Rees’ Datsun with an emergency radiator repair by Chris Gorin’s dad (done with a garden hose and zip ties if i recall correctly.
The ride up, mostly straight through from Provo to Eugene was a rollicking affair to begin with – between the soon-to-be legendary Cary Brown’s drunken revelry and bottle throwing target practice from the side door and various combos of cuddling, we ambled up and camped in the Eagles (or Lions) park across the street from Autzen stadium and launched ourselves into the pandemonium of the Dead lot which featured grassroots vendors selling everything from ganja goo balls to liquid LSD to grilled cheese sandwiches and veggie stir fry.
Walking back to out little camp late in the night, and spinning high from a mixed bag of goodness (for my part anyhow), Denise Robison and I heard a racket coming from the general area. As we ambled over, i recall saying “wow glad that’s not our camp” but as it turns out, Cary, who was a psychedelic (among other) veteran far beyond the level of any of us had decide to take a warrior’s ration which spun him to a unprecedented level of strange consciousness which led to him many strange acts from which he could not be persuaded to stop. Tough and rangy like an angry moose, he trashed my bus, then proceeded to battle a winch on the front the neighbour’s 4X4 with head, he was Jesus, Satan, a ninja and shouting oaths of all manner.
Despite the long suffering, kindly and experienced “talker downers” who with best intentions tried to help, the man was a menace to himself and a danger to others and would not be subdued. My instinct was to get the fck outta there and avoid the bad trip. However, an ambulance drove up and shit got real. My details are a bit hazy but i recall they strapped him down to a board (probably after some sort of injection) and began to haul him to the hospital – Dear thoughtful Denise (who remains a tender and talented caregiver with near magical powers) either insisted on hopping in the ambulance or managed to walk there (again im hazy on this front).
Our comrade was in an ER/intensive care unit (likely still bellowing his epithets) when Marty Kendall arrived complete with missionary identification and declared he was Cary’s clergy and would “take it from here” – Indeed Marty knew Cary well and managed to secret him away from the hospital (avoid a bill i believe) and the next day Cary had returned to the camp, and sat like a Buddha – silent and sweating.
The rest of the tribe went in to hear our future in the sounds of Jerry’s soaring guitar, Phil’s bombs, the 2 drum attack, Bob’s staccato rhythm riffs and Brent (who died shortly thereafter) hollering soul singing and keyboard poundings.
Other bits i recall are some of the gang going to sandy coastal Florence for a part of a day trip, Cary not paying gas money because “he was here to be the mechanic” and me limping my battered bus up to BC after the shows to work at a bike shop while the Utahns heading southwards.
Far more important than the chaotic story we all went home with was the bonds we forged between the gangs from both sides of the border which continued through many other Grateful Dead and other festival shows, budding romances and languid river and roadtrips.
Some of the folks remain my fondest friends while others i still follow from a distance.
My comrades who were on the trip can no doubt fill in my hazy gaps and fact checks and add their perspectives – as addled as they may be these years later.
Included are snaps for evidence. Can you pick out the characters?
PS Kathryn, sorry for my big melon blocking your face.
Audio from the show: https://archive.org/details/gd90-06-24.sbd.unknown.12092.sbeok.shnf
Chris GeeI found myself wandering the dead lot in wonder. Never before had so many whispered in my ears doses. Mushrooms. It was a symphony of color that night. Searching for my 20 dollar ticket. I woke up in the middle of some gravel lot somewhere between the lions lot and the stadium. Some one had given me a blanket and pillow. I was foggy rather groggy but happy as ever. As I was folding my blanket a fellow was wandering serving breakfast cereal and milk. I enjoyed this gratefully. Yum. A tear came to my eye as I also realized a ticket in my shirt pocket and my 20 bucks gone I was in. Hell yeah here we go. Epic much more tour to follow.
Dave OlsonLove your recollections Chris, hope others chime in with their flashbacks. So many more tours, so many more shows – each one a greater adventure than the last. But this is what started our journey and opened our eyes to the circus and the magic. Chris, the stories of your school buses and VW buses and station wagons and crews of folks and your curious ways of keeping gas in the tank are all a huge inspiration man – I’ve been thinking a lot about the cleansing ceremony and your journey with Aya and look forward to learning more.
Chris GeeYes. The love of the music on highest of levels. Fractals of infinite language one can hear As they flip and turn if your ears and mind are wide open … The bus came by……..when back in van let’s connect when it’s best. Much to share ad well as more research has been done here to assist with what we gave begun. Happy LSD day. !!! One great show was a one named just that. LSD daze …leguna seca daze California. With phish and govt mule?? That’s where I believe I saw bob snot grass ?? Spelling ?? blowing glass the first time and where I could not see the ship in one of those pics where you have not focus but look through. I was pissed. Everyone saw the ship. But did they see the flying dragons over the stage that night ? Hmmm group trip ? Awww who knows!?!
Bryan ReesI miss that shirt and those jeans make my crotch look huge. This must have been taken at the end of the weekend as Buddy on the left was in the hospital for most of the beginning then slept in the van for 30 hours straight.
“First thing you learn is you always gotta wait”
— Lou Reed, Waiting for my Man, Velvet Underground
Usually when mentioning train travel in Canada you have to cue Gordon Lightfoot but as Canada has apparently forgotten that the iron road made the country and relegated train travel to a slim segment, I move my gaze to the south. While the rest of the civilized world may chuckle at the hype around the USA’s long overdue plan for high speed rail, I am just happy you can take a trip southwards on a train at all I don’t mind the slow rolling, but as Lou Reed explains, the waiting is a drag.With the impending Olympix invasion, February might be a good time to hop the rails and meet your Cascadian neighbours to the south. You may likely find you have more cultural similarities than our compatriots spread across 5-1/2 time zones. Get your passport ready cause I’ve got your route planned out for a proper visit – and each stop involves beer from Bellingham to Portand (or even Eugene).
Dual Train Action
The problem with the train isn’t speed – it’s timeliness and reliability – both of which hinder your ability for a successful and efficient diplomatic mission. Customs delays, mudslides derailments, waiting at sidings, labourious boarding check in, and a secondary immigration clearing mean you can’t rely on traveling by train for anything *important* but there is reason to hope and rejoice. The reason is there are now twotrains a day. Used to be one train with a bunch of “train buses” – which is Amtrak way of saying a fckin Trailways bus. I rode it many times with baffled tourists who dreamed of rolling the coast starlight gazing at the brilliant Puget Sound on, you know, a train – not a bus. Quite different indeed.
The second train was hard fought as the Canadian Customs held out for $10k for clearing each train. Seems at odds with encouraging a sustainable, tourism-based economy but I digress … Since about half of you are probably charting course to get outta town during this arts, sports culture consumer jamboree imminently approaching so I’ve plotted some ideas to where to go, and how to do it – you just hafta figure out how to get to Main St. station by 6 am, (which is of course, basically impossible if you live across a bridge or tunnel) so set your alarm for 5am and talk someone into driving you ~ a great way to start a trip indeed.
There are two trains and each has a different name and route, the Cascade goes from Vancouver to Eugene, Oregon but only once a day but twice if from Seattle (confusing i know) while the Coast Starlight ventures all the way to LA but starts in Seattle and offers sleeping compartments to help you feel like a Euro-rail backpacker.
Since you aren’t driving, and will be waiting a lot (and likely be annoyed that the thrill peace and magic of riding rails is replaced by unfounded paranoia and obtuse security), let’s get your pints lined up.
Used to be we Canadians could brag without hindrance about our superior brews … until the mostly west-coast microbrew revolution. Now the Cascadia region is dotted with excellent breweries laden with culture and tasty pints – and i’ve found the finest.
Bellingham is no longer Smelligham as we called it on trips southwards in the glory days of toxic pulp mills. Now there are ample opportunities to spend a few hours well away from Bellis Fair mall starting at Boundary Bay Brewery. With a handy location in the Fairhaven area (the old town), this popular hangout is close to the train station and the Alaska ferry if you wanna head into the wild. The pub is top shelf with outdoor beer gardens, award winning brews, guest taps and hearty grub.
A wee stretch further south on your train roll is the valley village of Mt Vernon and Skagit River Brewery. Stop in for a variety platter including 2 stouts (one on nitro) and a barleywine. Last visit, I left with a pint glass decorated with their award winning Skuller’s IPA insignia.
Enjoying some sample beers with Kris and Francis at Skajit River Brew Pub in Mt. Vernon, Washington en route to Gnomedex. We riff about various styles of beers (barleywine, stouts, porters, IPAs etc) and try to be pleasant.
Everett is worth stopping in to catch a hockey game at their new rink (home of the WHL Silvertips) but not oozing with culture (that i’ve found anyhow – please correct me as needed). Of course, Seattle is next but you’ve already visited there right? If you find yourself stranded in the Emerald city – step away from the train station and go to the crazy Experience Music Project – the weird looking building next door to the Space Needle for rock n’ roll history adventure (and a beer inside). It’s easy to find a solid pint but some maximum pleasure, head to the neighbourhood of Ballard, find a bar, tell them you are from Canada and let the wild rumpus begin as they treat you like a foreigner from somewhere exotic. (Hint: Find a Hale’s Cream Ale).
If you happen into Tacoma, avoid the industrial aroma and instead visit the stellar glass art museum (Dale Chihuly is a local hero) and find a bar called The Swiss – from which you might never leave.
Washington’s capitol city (the town Time Magazine called the hippest in the west + High Times bestowed additional dubious accolades) is Olympia. The station is located way out of town (in Lacey) and not handy to get into downtown but worth the trip if you can hang for a while. With artesian acquifers wells producing perfect brew water, Oly is famous for beer. Now the tradition has migrated from mass production of swillable stubbies to organic Fishtale Ale. In their intrepid Fish Bowl pub, you’ll spot grey ponytails plotting Cascadian secession or just eating fish tacos or a ploughman’s platter.
Wander a couple blocks down to 4th and find the Eastside Club Tavern – a real life Mos Eisely cantina with 30+ micro handles and a sweet jukebox (say hi from Uncle Weed). Then step next door for frog leg lunch from Cajun chef Billy at A2 and wander down the street to browse the eclectic Last Word Books. Finish with live music at a handful of bars or an art house flick at Capitol theater for a perfect day out. Can’t stop? See the Go with the Flow movie instead.
The next wide spot south is Chehalis and Centralia, but which i can never figure out which is which – just check your map and make sure to stop at the new Dick’s Brewery. Sadly, Dick “Danger” Young rode his Harley to the big party in the sky in 2009 but leaves legacy of 20+ brews. My faves in order: 1) Belgain Double; 2) Danger Ale; 3) Irish Ale; 3) Cream Stout; 4) Workingman’s Brown. If you are feeling dangerous (which you are since you are riding the train), try ’em all to find your fave.
This old logging town is a fine place to end up your trip as there is a McMenamin’s old-timey hotel called the Olympic Club (wait! isn’t that name illegal somehow ;-)) where a bank robber holed up and you can too.
Continuing on? Good, just roll right past the older, but less shiny, (Fort) Vancouver as you’ll get confused and think you are home. Instead, cross the mighty Columbia and embark into fantasy land for beer aficionados (and enthusiasts of no sales tax), Portland.
Beside the neatest bar you’ve ever seen on every block, Portand has stellar street markets, great dim sum, more cool McMenamin’s retro-hotels (try the Kennedy School) and theaters (like the Baghdad). In fact, with great transit (light rail hurrah!), “exotic show lounges” and cannabis clubs, PDX feels more like Canada than Canada sometimes.
Not enough? The end of this line is Eugene – the spiritual home of hippies and athletes alike. I can’t talk about Eugene without a Grateful Dead concert flashback so I’ll spare us both before i begin rambling about that show with Little Feat and the blotter paper…
That’ll do ya – you’ve gone far enough. If not, repeat the visits on the way back up. Of course, you can’t get all of these into one trip so pick a few stations and make a long weekend (or play hooky while you “work from home”) to make the circuit count.
Load em up
While Amtrak soldiers on – buoyed by Obama’s fresh visions – Canada keeps doing it like they’ve done since the trains were new. I’ve rolled the fine style and liesurely pace of the Queen’s own VIA Rail in fancy “Silver and Blue” style with my sweetie through the Rocky Mountains – the views were stellar but my indoor observations do not bode well for the future as we musta been the only ones under 65 on the train (aside from a few young families).
All good though, there was a bar serving Caesars on-board (and we ended up partying with the train staff in a Jasper bar) – but for the cost of the ticket, seems like you could drive an RV to Newfoundland. How VIA ended up this expensive when most the trains were made in 1950s I don’t know. How do other countries manage? And not just Japan and Germany, Russia has trains too – I’ve seen them in Dr. Zhivago.
What’s missing from rail service on this continent isn’t speed, it’s the ability for spontaneous travel encouraging relaxation, reflection and conversation. Further, there is a public desire to reduce carbon emissions and contribute in some way to the greater good with a greener-ish footprint – but we all need a way to travel to see Grandma on the holidays without causing air-travel-like pollution (especially since we humans must self-regulate after Copenhagen’s implosion). I think more trains are part of the answer, but for now… I’m rolling on with what we got – even if the rest of the world chuckles. Are you coming along? Good, you can buy me a pint of Danger.