Well, y’all – I raised my voice. I raised it 22 times across 18 states and over 7800 miles. And here lies the day-by-day accounting of our month-long Raise My Voice Tour – starting in Nashville on Oct 14 and returning again on Nov 12. I tried to start this blog once about halfway through the tour…but when I realized I had barely scratched the surface after 30 minutes, I stopped. I spent about 9 hours yesterday and several more today going through each and every day trying to remember as much as I could. It might be boring as hell but there was no way I could sum it up in a few clever paragraphs. I'm not that good. And this thing was way too big. There were at least 100 times when I wished I’d had a camera strapped to my head so I could somehow live stream what I was seeing. There. Was. So. Much. So many little moments…I know I won’t get even half of them in here but I had to try because I spent the better part of 30 days looking out the window wide-eyed and wonder-filled.

I took a crapton of pictures but so much was impossible to capture. I do love Twitter & Facebook for giving me the ability to shout “OMG did you see that??!?” to a bunch of people all at once, even if it’s only digitally. (Related: I really gotta get me one of those new iPhones with video so I can enhance that experience….oy - I shudder to think!) If you follow me on either site you’ve seen plenty of updates and photos already. As soon as we get one done the Tour Picture Album will be linked right here. I know some of you are just not into social media and I get that. But until I get better about blogging in real time, you can always sneak a peek at my Twitter feed on the front page of my website if you want some real time update action.

Another reason I felt the need to go through each day was the fear of forgetting anyone I wanted to thank. I’m sure I’ll wish I’d written something more eloquent and reflective but right now I just don’t want to forget anything so I’m carrying on like Halle Berry at the Oscars. Also, I can’t not acknowledge that I have utterly failed in my “blog once a week” intention. I’m not gonna be mad at myself cuz that would be stupid. But I had an insight about it that perhaps I’ll share once I recover from writing this.

OK. Disclaimers over, here’s my ship’s log-style blog. Oh great. It’s a shblog. Perfect. I'm going to stop talking now and post the bloody behemoth of a thing. Right. Here you go….You might want to make yourself a sandwich.

 

Thursday 10/14 - Nashville, TN to Plano, TX (TRAVEL DAY) - After the familiar 10-hour drive from Nashville to Dallas I’d done dozens of times, we arrived at the lovely home of our first house concert hosts, Brian & Michelle, who welcomed us in with hugs even though we’d never met in person. (This would continue to happen throughout the tour) Our friend Steve Lawson connected us and vouched for us loudly, all via Twitter. Their 3 cute Shih Tzus were the first of many dogs we met on this tour.

Friday 10/15 – Plano, TX (HOUSE CONCERT) - 0 shows down, 22 to go. Jog, dip in the pool, then house concert with lights, fog and cameras (Brian and his pals shot a gorgeous video of us!) Thank you Brian and Michelle and Brian’s video buddies. Hilarious side note: Brian produces Governor Mike Huckabee’s radio show. Huckabee is a bassist. Hubby Bryan writes for Bass Player Magazine and is also a political junkie. The “ding” that happened when he connected those two dots was audible for blocks. Long story short – Bryan interviewed Huckabee mid-tour and they were both totally stoked. Thank you, Governor.

Saturday 10/16 – Plano,TX to Austin, TX (HOUSE CONCERT) - 1 show down, 21 to go. As Bryan opens the back hatch of the van to load all our stuff in, the handle breaks. Luckily it was with the door open. So we load in all the gear, and while my suitcase enjoys the view from the front seat, I ride in the back of the van holding the door mostly closed (tweeting all the way of course) while we gingerly follow Brian ½ mile to the Toyota place. There, a nice employee named Alex had the tool required to remove the panel so we could access the latch to open the door again (we hadn’t closed it yet since there’s no inside handle…and loading all the gear in and out of the side doors would have really sucked). That was enough to get us on the road to Austin for the show that night at my friend Chris’s house. Thank you, Alex! As we drove, we found a replacement door handle in AZ where we’d be on Monday and called my Dad (who happened to be in AZ for the weekend) and sent him up to fetch said replacement handle. When we got to Austin, as Bryan set up the gear for the show, I went to work in the van with some rope and my brain and rigged the door all MacGuyver-style so we could open it by pulling a rope in the front. Very R&B, with B standing for Beverly Hillbillies in this case. We then played a fabulous house concert to an enthusiastic crowd. Side note: Chris had the coolest deck in town that night with all his living room furniture outside and rented chairs inside. Thank you, Chris! I love my Austin. They tend to love me back, which feels really good. Thank you, my Austin.

Sunday 10/17 – Austin, TX to Deming, NM (TRAVEL DAY) - Woke up at my friend Linda’s house (after sleeping like rocks) to homemade migas. YUMS!! Thank you, Linda. Drove to happy little hotel near AZ/NM border for the night, stopping for two 20-minute mini-vacations on the way: drive through LBJ Ranch (first for both of us) and beer & chili in Luckenbach, TX (first for Yankee Jewdle but my name’s carved on bathroom wall someplace). First of many happy little detours. Thank you, Texas.

Monday 10/18 – Deming, NM to Casa Grande, AZ (HOUSE CONCERT) - 2 shows down, 20 to go. Jog down long, straight, mostly empty highway. Love the Southwest for that. Thank you, the Southwest. Arrive in Casa Grande, AZ where we’re greeted by Aunt Holly, Grandma, Dad, Tuxx the cat and replacement van door handle. Thank you, Dad. After setting up gear in record time we went to work on the door handle, which we proudly fixed ourselves with the help of my uncle’s vast tool collection. I kinda missed the rope but I’m weird like that. Had fabulous, cozy, intimate show. Thank you, Aunt Holly.  Outstanding moments: telling the Bryan-meets-family-for-first-time-and-watches-Paint-Your-Wagon story (that we tell at almost every show) in front of people who were there - absolutely hysterical. And finding out after the show that my uncle’s son (who I hadn’t had many conversations with before) is a big fan of old-school R&B and soul music and loved what we did. I sure didn’t see that one coming. I love being surprised like that – it teaches me to never assume anything. Thank you, Billy.

Tuesday 10/19 – Casa Grande, AZ to Escondido, CA (TRAVEL DAY) -  Bryan and I got married on 10/19/08. That was also the day we lost my Uncle Steve, Holly’s husband. Seeing as how we will always share that anniversary it felt very right to be together that day. Among many other passions, Steve was a serious audiophile. Holly had offered us his ridiculously awesome stereo system and we’d decided it should live at our friend Griff’s house in Escondido since Griff shared that passion and had room for it, unlike us. [When Bryan moved from L.A. to Nashville in 2006, Griff accompanied him on the drive. Their first stop was Steve & Holly’s….and that music room.] Though it required some serious car Tetris on top of all our other gear (mad props to hubby), we got those big speakers and 20 other odd components plus a few boxes of records into the van and headed for Griff’s. We were about 400 feet across the CA line when it started to rain. Hard. Dodging rockslides in the mountains on I-8 in an extra-fully-loaded van in the pouring rain at night was probably one of my least favorite tour moments. (Holy #%^&!!!!) But we made it and were greeted by Griff, his adorably pregnant wife and a bottle of Lagavulin. Ahhhh….peace. Thank you Griff & Vanessa. Thank you people of Islay, Scotland for making Lagavulin. Thank you, Steve - rock on.

Wednesday 10/20 – Escondido to San Diego (LESTAT’s) to Los Angeles - 3 shows down, 19 to go.Bright spots: yummy tacos and soup from some Mexican place in Escondido; finding chiropractor and massage therapist who both passed the I’ve-had-a-bad-back-my-whole-life test; watching Griff experience his own private Christmas morning as he gleefully unwrapped box after box of stereo stuff. Not so bright spots: Bryan spending 2 hours dealing with a simple oil change gone stupid; the fact that rain scares lots of people in Southern California into staying home. Only 8 people came to our show at Lestat’s in San Diego but those were 8 awesome folks and we gave ‘em the best show we could before heading up to L.A. for the night. Thank you Louis at Lestat’s and the San Diego 8.

Thursday 10/21 – Los Angeles, CA (BAKED POTATO) - 4 shows down, 18 to go. Greeted warmly in wee hours of the morning by Brendon no-he’s-not-my-brother Small and Ernie The Dog (just like it says on his tag). After sleeps, Brendon (Dethklok’s fearless leader and creator) and Bryan head into the studio to work on Brendon’s solo record while I hang out with Ernie. Thank you Brendon & Ernie. Jog around reservoir, then off to Baked Potato for gig with pals Doug Johns & Chris Ceja from Cleveland and Roy Vogt from Nashville. Very cool post-gig hang.Thank you Justin at The Baked Potato. Outstanding moment: finding myself standing between two friends who are both total bad ass guitar playing chicks who’ve been in all-girl bands and saying, “Do you guys know each other? Cuz holy crap you really should” I think they were still talking when we left. Epic!

Friday 10/22 – Los Angeles, CA (HOUSE CONCERT) - 5 shows down, 17 to go. More jogging, more metal bass tracking, more conversations with Ernie The Dog. I even went shopping. All by myself. In Los Angeles. For clothes. And I actually bought clothes. That I actually wore that night. This is nothing short of miraculous for my fashion-challenged, so-not-girly ass. [My last clothes-shopping attempt in Nashville lasted 3 hours and resulted in the purchase of 2 candles...one of which I dropped and broke before I made it into my house. Yeah. Miraculous.] With me in new shiny clothes, we played a wicked cool house concert in Chatsworth area hosted by folks from Wisconsin. Cheese! Sausage!! My people!!! Thank you Jen, Chris and Annalese. Spent night at our friend Rick Musallam’s place, welcomed by hugs from Ricky and kisses from Eleanor the cockapoo. Thank you Rick, Lee & Eleanor.

Saturday 10/23 – Los Angeles, CA – Irvine, CA (HOUSE CONCERT) - 6 shows down, 16 to go. First we had to make an appearance at Bass Player Live – convention put on by Bass Player Magazine. Hubby known by everyone in room, of course. Convention bass amp din surely heard by everyone on planet. Thank you, dude who invented earplugs. Saw lots of pals and met a few new ones. Then off to Irvine for house concert at Bryan’s Aunt Ronnie’s house. Greeted by Ronnie, cousins Sam & Cory, and Tiffany the pit bull. I think Bryan actually fell in love with the dog. I’d been telling him it was only a matter of time before the canine cupid got to him…squee! Super-fun, intimate show, highlighted by 16-yr old Cory sitting in on guitar on “Sugar Man” and kicking total ass. Weird small world moment: one of the guests turned out to be the uncle (cousin?) of guitarist I used to work with rather closely but haven’t spoken to in years. The guy was a total card and had us in stitches. Random quote we’re still laughing over: “He’ll be walking like a penguin cuz I’ll rip his arms off!” Topping it all off,  Ronnie made us the cutest “Happy Anniversary” cake. Thank you Ronnie, Cory, Sam, and Tiffany. Made our way to northern-most part of L.A. for sleeps. Delish hotel. Thank you, Priceline.

Sunday 10/24 – Valencia, CA to Redwood City, CA (HOUSE CONCERT) – 7 shows down, 15 to go. It rained almost the whole time we were in CA, which I found quite rude. This super-fun-awesome weather party raged on during our 5+ hour drive up to the Bay Area. (Yes, Jane – for the record, it DID stop raining when we got to your house.) But our house concert that night was sold out so our spirits were sunny. Plus when we drove through Gilroy - the town that smells like garlic - I forgot all my troubles. How do you spell the sound of someone drooling? Oh. My. Gaaaaaaahhhhh!!! We were greeted with whoops and hugs by hosts Jane & Deani and a few helpers, including the first of several IRL Tweep meetings: Miss Julie! Ta-da! (WARNING – TWITTER WORMHOLE INQUIRY: So…when you meet a tweep is that like a “meep” or something?? Please tell me it’s not. I’ve clearly been sitting here typing too long. Yipes.) Deani’s cat The Precious greeted us by staring up in horror when we peeked under the blanket she was hiding beneath. Jane’s birds Axl & Dmitri were more up for the hi-nice-to-meet-you game. Or maybe we just looked like trees. Concert was PACKED and wicked awesome. After the guests had gone, we gathered around the TV to watch the Metalocalype season 3 finale like it was the fricking Waltons before conking out for the night. Aww. Thank you Jane & Deani & Julie & Axl & Dmitri. OK you too The Precious.

Monday 10/25 – Redwood City, CA to Napa, CA (DAY OFF) - Hubby interviews Huckabee in one room while Deani and I enjoy Jane-cooked grilled cheese sandwiches and try to be quiet in the next. After a stupid 2-hour adventure chasing down a technical problem we head for Napa to have dinner with family. Stopped in Vallejo long enough to see little brother’s new place there, have quick taste of yummy soup his girlfriend Claire made, and watch their new cat Mortimer acrobat his way across the kitchen, leaving a broken shot glass in his dust. Awesome. Toasted their new place with Lagavulin from Griff & Vanesssa in remaining non-broken glassware. Caravanned up to Napa for delicious home-cooked dinner at cousin Connie & husband Jim’s. They have like 4 different wine cellars….we were all pretty warm and smiley by night’s end. Thank you, Connie & Jim. Thank you Napa & Sonoma Valley wine makers.

Tuesday 10/26 – Napa, CA to Arcata, CA (MOSGO’s) – 8 shows down, 14 to go. We are now in territory I’ve never been in and I am SO excited. First we get to see Napa and Sonoma in the daylight. Holy crap that’s pretty. Then long, windy drive up 101 through redwoods. Wow. We hit a deer somewhere on that drive – just grazed him, thank God. Left us with only a tiny scratch. Hopefully same goes for the deer. Show at cute coffee shop in Arcata was sparsely populated, even though we’d had a nice write-up in the paper. Thank you, Kevin Hoover of the Arcata Eye. It was a Tuesday and we were passing through anyway. We weren’t upset. Local singer-songwriter stuck her head in out of curiosity and stayed for awhile out of genuine interest. She and her 11-yr old daughter have been playing “I Will Raise My Voice” every morning since on the way to school. Ladies and gents: This Is Why I Do What I Do – stuff like that. Thank you, Joanne and daughter. Thank you Mosgo’s. Spent night at home of a friend’s mom whom we met only that day. Greeted by said mom and her two dogs. She sent us downstairs to our guest apartment (!) with a plate of cheese and crackers and fruit. ADORABLE! Thank you, Judy (and Rachel – you have a cool mom).

Wednesday 10/27 – Arcata, CA to Gold Beach, OR – (DAY OFF) –   Woke up to discover the splendor of the redwoods around us. After sorting out our indie-musician business at the bank we had a crazy yummy breakfast made even yummier by my favorite Sam Cooke CD playing in the background. Thank you, Sam Cooke. Then we were off to Gold Beach, OR where we’d rented a rustic cottage on the coast complete with fireplace and nearby deck with 2 hot tubs. This was our declared “anniversary celebration day” since the 19th had been filled with other stuff. Turns out Dylan and Claire had stayed at the exact place a month earlier. Since we’d booked it online 2 months earlier it seemed pretty astounding. But upon reflection, its not surprising that “Ireland’s Rustic Lodges” caught the eye of both the McConaghy siblings. After some time in the hot tub we went to a tiny restaurant Dylan & Claire had recommended for a memorable meal cooked by a hilarious man. Then back to the cottage where we built a fire and opened the bottle of wine Jim & Connie snuck into our bag before we left Napa. In my mind, heaven smells like a log cabin with a fireplace by the ocean. Thank you, Ireland’s Rustic Lodges and the cavedude who discovered fire.

Thursday 10/28 – Gold Beach, OR to Portland, OR (CAMELLIA LOUNGE) – 9 shows down, 13 to go.Since this was my first time in Oregon, I was positively agog at the sight of it. It’s stunning – both on the coast and inland. We had the best damn fish & chips we’d ever eaten in tiny Port Orford after instinctively followed the signs for a place called Griff’s On the Dock. “Griff” was not joking when he named this joint. Literally down on the end of the dock past the industrial buildings and boats sits this glorified fishing shanty about 40 feet from the water. Of course it’s precious inside – about 6 tables, souvenirs, even a “museum” of stuff hauled up from nearby waters. We couldn’t believe we were sitting there. Definitely one of those “my kingdom for a head cam” moments. With happy bellies we made our way to Portland for a great show in a great room. More yummy foods and lovely people – including my dad again, who was working in Portland for a few weeks. We accused him of stalking our tour and invited him to please continue. Dads are especially kind to the donation bucket in my experience. Thank you, Dad. Again. Thank you Camellia Lounge. Lodging for the evening was an arranged-on-Facebook-in-10-minutes-friend-of-a-friend scenario that could not have been lovelier. For opening your home to traveling musicians and kitties who need fostering while they get over a cold, a very hearty Thank you, Chris.

Friday 10/29 – Portland, OR to Seattle, WA (HOUSE CONCERT) – 10 shows down, 12 to go. This house concert was particularly unique in that it was co-hosted by two musicians, Harry Wirth & Andrew Vait. Harry did all the organizing and his friend Andrew provided the house and opening set. Harry ended up getting a gig the night of the show (yay gig!) so he had to leave before we started (boo gig). Despite being in a tight space up a bunch of stairs, the vibe was awesome and the show was too. This was also probably the most eclectic collection of audience members. Neat mix of old friends of both of ours (including one I hadn’t seen since high school) and new ones (Tweep #2 – The lovely Sarah!) Thank you Andrew Vait for an epic opening set (complete with Beller-joined Pink Floyd song) and Harry Wirth for hosting action above and beyond the call without the benefit of seeing the show. We owe you one. Memorable moment: we’re loading our gear out at the end of the night when one of Andrew’s housemates emerges from the attic where she’d been for the last 6 hours – including when Andrew phoned her to ask about something in the house. We don’t know why she never came down for the show but she will heretofore be known as “Attic Troll”.

Saturday 10/30 – Bellevue, WA (BASS CLINIC @ ROBERT’S MUSIC INSTITUTE) to Aberdeen, WA (HOUSE CONCERT) – 11 shows down, 11 to go. Oy – doubleheader! First up: the first of several bass instructional clinics Bryan did on the tour. This one was sponsored by Mike Lull Custom Basses, the brand that Bryan lovingly plays and endorses and whose custom shop is across the street from where the clinic took place.Thank you, Mike & Paul at Mike Lull. Bryan never fails to impress when he’s in a clinic setting. I never fail to impress with my MacGuyver-wife skills, which I employed here by using drum sticks and duct tape to prop up the Mike Lull banner behind him. We all have our gifts. 12 shows down, 10 to go. After a great clinic, we raced out of there and drove through the rain to Aberdeen for a house concert style show at a local music store. Our host, Bill, had been concerned about turn-out so imagine our surprise when 30+ people showed up in the rain for a stranding room only show. One couple even came in after they saw all the cars and wondered what was happening. Yeah!! FABULOUS show, complete with spontaneous rendition of “Love Will Keep Us Together” after a few Captain & Tenille references. Rather hate that there’s no video of that, that we know of at least. Hotel was awesome and only ½ mile down the street. We collapsed into bed and didn’t move for about 10 hours. Aberdeen FTW. Thank you Bill and Les at Les Blues Music. You guys rule.

Sunday 10/31 – Aberdeen, WA to Missoula, MT (TRAVEL DAY) –  Since we didn’t often have the luxury, we couldn’t be budged from our room until the last possible second before check-out time. We needed the rest but it did put much of our scenic drive in the dark. Oops. That plus a leisurely lunch in Puyallup where I got a hilarious picture of a pumpkin carved to look like it was puking. We did see this wild horse monument thing in western Washington somewhere that we scampered up to investigate near dusk…but after Spokane it was dark all the way to Missoula. We hated missing that scenery but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to move any faster. Thank you, Puking Pumpkin at the Pumphouse in Puyallup.

Monday 11/1 – Missoula, MT to Bozeman, MT (BASS CLINIC @ MUSIC VILLA) – 13 shows down, 9 to go. Really cool clinic in super-cool music store with most excellent tee-shirt selection! They gave us a few each and I think I had one or the other on at least every other day for the rest of the tour. What made Bozeman special for me – besides being Bozeman and being glorious – is that one of my very best girlfriends lives there and she and Bryan had not met yet. That was a hug that was a long time coming. She fed us a delicious dinner and we conked out in her son’s bedroom after a cuddle with the most mellow golden retriever ever created. Thank you, Antoinette and Hawika.

Tuesday 11/2 – Bozeman, MT to Glendive, MT (TRAVEL DAY) –  After a leisurely day of visiting we went for a dip in the nearby hot springs – a first for both me and Bryan. Oooo I loved it!! Hot/cold/hot/cold….my body was very happy. After homemade enchiladas and oil change #2 of the tour, we were on our way. We landed at a seriously janky-looking motel but it was our only option for the night. We ended up resting better there than we had in awhile. Who knew…

Wednesday 11/3 – Glendive, MT to Bismarck, ND (BASS CLINIC @ ECKROTH MUSIC) to Jamestown, ND – 14 shows down, 8 to go. My morning jog took me behind the restaurant next to the hotel and something smelled pretty good. We hadn’t had a sit-down breakfast yet on the tour so we decided to go for it. As is our custom when traveling, we asked our waitress what we HAD to have. Worked like crazy with the fish & chips. She admitted to being the only vegan in a 300-mile radius but she’d heard the sausage and the bacon were particularly good. So we both ordered some sort of country breakfast and OhMyGodInHeavenItWasIncredibleTimesFifty!! Bryan has mentioned it every day since and probably will for a good long while. Thank you, vegan waitress – whatever floats your boat but you’re missing out on some ridonkulously good pork products. Just sayin’. My shoulder had tweaked out on the drive the day before so Bryan called Eckroth Music just to ask if they might know of a massage place nearby. “Across the hall? Yeah that’ll do fine.” Forrealz??!? Sweet! So while Bryan got his clinic started, I got my shoulder de-knotted. Thank you nice massage lady whose name I’ve forgotten. Rest of the clinic went great. Thank you Bob & everyone at Eckroth, and thank you D’Addario Strings for sponsoring the clinic. Quick 100-mile drive and we bedded down in Jamestown, ND for the night at another suspicious-looking but somehow extremely restful motel. Whatever.

Thursday 11/4 – Jamestown, ND to Minneapolis, MN (HOUSE CONCERT) – 15 shows down, 7 to go.Ever since we left Aberdeen, WA and headed back east the weather had been clear and gorgeous. (The Midwest totally kicked California’s ass in the weather department on this tour…she said proudly in her Wisconsin accent…Thank you, The Midwest) This day was no exception as we drove across Minnesota. We arrived at the beautiful home of a 15-year old cat named Kittywampus – who greeted us with a sniff, glare, hiss, and retreat. This was also the home of Tom & Sue, and their son Daniel. A student at McNally Smith College of Music, Daniel had been to Bryan’s bass clinic there last year and was eager to find a way to host us. He talked his folks into it and in turn, won them over to the house concert concept. Their friends, his friends and a few of our friends in the area followed suit, including parents of one of our friends from Berklee days as well as girlfriend of mine I hadn’t seen since my first wedding. Whoa. WONDERFUL show. Kudos to Daniel for pulling it off and managing it so well – you’re hired, dude. Perhaps the coolest part was the hang afterward with gang from McNally Smith. Bryan and I still feel like those 20-year old music school kids with wide eyes and huge dreams while realizing we are now the grown-up pros they’re looking to for tales from the real world. Cosmic. Thank you Tom, Sue, Daniel, all the McNally Smith kids, and Kittywampus.

Friday 11/5 – Minneapolis, MN to Marshfield, WI (WILDWOOD PARK PAVILION) – 16 shows down, 6 to go. Tying for “coolest part” of previous night’s concert was Grace – age 11 I think – whose uber-cool parents allowed her to stay up past her bedtime on a school night to see the show because it was inspiring her. So awesome. Miss Grace (aka The Chicken Whisperer) brought fresh eggs from her hens to the concert that we had for breakfast. SO yummy! Thank you, Grace...thank you, hens. That got us on our way to Marshfield, WI where we played as part of Brian Sauer’s Vox Concert Series. This was my third time playing the series and I have to hand it to Brian for being a force for original live music in that town for at least 5 years now. Thank you, Brian. We played a fun show to a small but lively crowd and then hastened off to the best burger joint in town: a bar called (swear to God) “Nutz Deep”. We can’t make these things up. In a happy beer & burger coma, we retreated to the hotel.

Saturday 11/6 – Marshfield, WI to Madison, WI (HOUSE CONCERT) – 17 shows down, 5 to go. I spent most of this drive like the day before – snapping pictures of the red and white barns (and black & white cows) that for some reason always help me know I’m home. There was one of each just down the road from where I grew up – maybe that’s it. Needless to say, lovely drive into Madison. We arrived first at our host’s mother’s condo, where we were staying the night, to find no ordinary crash pad…and no ordinary mother. Stunning 9th floor unit 2 blocks from Capitol Square overlooking Lake Monona (with view of Lake Mendota too) filled floor to ceiling with books and pictures and souvenirs from Miss Irma’s 80 plus years of living adventurously. A former Executive Director of the Washington D.C. ACLU (think I got that right) who has traveled all over the world, she was packing for her annual winter move to Puerto Vallarta when we arrived but had stopped to make us some soup. Go on with your bad self, Irma. You’re officially added to my list of people I want to be when I grow up. Concert was hosted by Irma’s son Arthur and his wife Dori, whom I’ve known since I was a teenager through the Unitarian Church I grew up in. The concert - which was originally scheduled for Irma’s place before her “Screw you, Wisconsin winter! I’m going to Mexico” departure date changed – was held in a sweet little Unitarian church that felt more like a house than anything else. While there was plenty of food and drink for the body, my soul was warmed and fed by a sign close to me on the sanctuary wall which read “We believe all people need a voice.” I was struck into uncharacteristic stillness by how connected I felt in that moment to the tradition in which I was raised. It seems to be the nature of human existence to come full circle again and again, don’t you think? I sang from my heart to a charming crowd of friendly faces old and new – including a long-time fan/friend of Bryan’s, a woman whose kids I babysat in the church nursery as a 12-year-old and hadn’t seen since, and the pianist from one of my classes at the Berklee summer program I taught in July – Neara from Wisconsin and Kira from Wisconsin – destined to be pals. Awesome sidebar: Neara’s dad (who came to the concert too) after reading Bryan’s post about how much we adore our touring vehicle, went out and bought a Toyota Sienna for himself…leaving his previous car to Neara for her upcoming move to L.A. This just gets a big ol’ YAY. Thank you, Dori & Arthur, thank you Irma, thank you Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society, and thank you to our Toyota Sienna.

Sunday 11/7 – Madison, WI to Chicago, IL (TIKI TERRACE) – 18 shows down, 4 to go. Daylight savings time – fall back – oh thank you thank you thank you!!!! Hubby and I travel really well together but we were each ready for a little time on our own. All he wanted to do was sit in one place with his computer, undisturbed by the ADD kid he married who was dying to go outside and run around with no plan heading in whatever direction caught her fancy. (He calls this tendency of mine "boinging".) This was the morning we FINALLY had a few hours to indulge ourselves. Thank you Daylight Savings Time. We zipped down to Chicago – both enormously refreshed by our separate experiences – and arrived at the Tiki Terrace in Des Plaines. I’d been hearing about this place for a while, as it’s the favorite haunt of our friends and hosts for the evening, Bob & Tita. It totally lived up to its reputation. Hawaiian-themed throughout, the walls were covered with hand-carved statues and there were giant Easter Island statue dudes on the stage behind us that I affectionately dubbed Frik & Frak. Adding to the awesomesauce was the appearance of The Wienermobile outside before the show. Its drivers had dinner at Tiki and left before the show, but not before at least a dozen people took at least 100 pictures because who can resist a giant hot dog on wheels with a license plate that says “Oh I Wish”? I mean, really… This was one of several shows along the tour where our hosts experienced what we’ve been though before – the chasm between all the folks who say they’d “love to come to that and will totally be there” and those who actually make it through the door. But we haven’t had a show yet where someone didn’t say “Oh my God this was so good. If I’d known, I would have had more people here.” One show at a time, one person at a time. Tell your friends, folks. Thank you Bob & Tita. Thank you Tiki Terrace. Thank you Wienermobile and Frik & Frak.

Monday 11/8 – Chicago, IL to Newton, IA (TRAVEL DAY) –  Jog around Bob & Tita’s Mt. Prospect neighborhood, where folks were watering their lawns…WTF?? It was close to 70 degrees but it was still November in Chicago and that’s just wrong somehow. Leisurely drive to Newton, IA where we are ecstatic to be in the motel room by 8pm. Confirmed 12pm check-out time with clerk and headed inside to do nothing but get in the bed and watch Conan O’Brian be more hilarious than ever on the debut of his new show. Happy happy joy joy.

Tuesday 11/9 – Newton, IA to Omaha, NE (HOUSE CONCERT) – 19 shows down, 3 to go. Dear morning dude at Super 8 in Newton, IA: FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE-FACED GUY WHO KNOCKED UP YOUR MOM. Remember that confirmed 12pm check-out time we were so happy about? Apparently morning dude didn’t get the same memo as evening dude. We take our check-out times very seriously since we have precious little time in hotels where we get to stand still and not be "on". After waking early, Bryan was attempting to sneak in a 45-minute nap before we left for Omaha. Dude called at 11:10 and rudely told us to get out because “you are the last room and my housekeeper is waiting for you”. Me: “we were told check out was 12”. Dude, “No it is 11. You have 10 minutes to get out.” Me: “We’re not ready to go” Dude “You need to be out by 11:30 or you will be charged for another night.” I hung up just as Bryan was waking up and reaching for the phone with HULK SMASH written all over his face. Let’s just say the next 15 minutes were not pretty. We made it out before 11:30, and Bryan managed to, uh, encourage an apology out of this douchebag, but it took awhile to shake that buzz kill. We did manage to improve our moods by the time we landed in Omaha and were greeted by hosts Ryan & Tonya, their little dogs Ziggy & Foxy (I think?) and Bryan’s friend Heather who’d put the whole thing together. Show was lots of fun, especially with local metal-cover-playing-banjo duo Banjo Loco opening up for us. Hilarious! Thank you Ryan & Tonya and Banjo Loco. Camp for the night was Heather & Drew’s place across town, where Heather fed us late-night lasagna. Thank you Heather & Drew.

Wedneday 11/10 – Omaha, NE to Kansas City, MO (HOUSE CONCERT) – 20 shows down, 2 to go. After sleeping for like 2 hours, Heather got up and worked her 4am shift at UPS. She came home just as we were waking up and used her box-throwing Linda Hamilton-in-The-Terminator-looking arms to whip us up a quiche. She really is every woman. Remind me never to piss her off or try to out-cook her. All quiched up, we headed for Kansas City for the last duo show of the tour. Our host for the evening, “Kansas City Dave”, a long-time Beller friend and supporter, was one of the very first to respond to our who-wants-to-host-a-show call. Our poster on the door let us know we were at the right house. Inside, Dave and his dear wife Kelli were hard at work preparing the house for our arrival. Kelli had all the Christmas decorations out (whee!) and was preparing munchies while Dave showed me the special refrigerator stocked with several kinds of dark beer-snob approved beer. The crowd was bountiful, super-attentive and very enthusiastic, even though some of them ended up in audience jail. (You’ll have to see the pictures) We couldn’t have ended on a higher note. Thank you Dave and Kelli, and thanks also to Seth & Zach for rearranging yourselves for a night so we had a room to sleep in.

Thursday 11/11 – Kansas City, MO to St. Louis, MO (BASS CLINIC @ GUITAR CENTER) - 21 shows down, 1 to go. Veteran’s Day. In the morning we said hi to Kelli’s dad, a WWII vet, and got to meet the yellow labs who’d been at the kennel for the evening. (We’ve sent our share of dogs to doggie overnight camp – sorry, pals!!) At Starbucks on the way out of town I left $10 to buy a few veterans some coffee. I hope it worked. It was a tiny thing but it was something I could do, better than nothing. Nothing can ever say “Thank you, Veterans” enough. I was already reeling a bit from the duo portion of our tour being over but Bryan still had a clinic to do so I did my best to get over myself. We decided to set up the keyboard and end the clinic with an original song as opposed to the bass/vocal version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” we usually close clinics with. Set up was a bit rough but attendance was the best of all the clinic tours. Kansas City Dave drove over with a friend, some of my family was there (my aunt bopping along to Dethklok was too priceless) and we met two more Tweeps – Amy and Joe – also known as Clatter. They’re another musical couple who drove over 2 hours each way to see Bryan’s clinic. So awesome! As if the universe had been conspiring to bring us together, we found out that we had inadvertently gotten off at their exit earlier in the drive in search of wifi at the McDonalds. Fast friends for sure. Thank you Clatter! Local bassist friend David Karns brought friends to the clinic and then moved the party to one of those friend’s family restaurant where we had a splendid dinner. On them. Thank you, David and Neil – most generous of you both. Then we made our way back to the nice hotel we’d splurged on for the end of the tour and passed out.Thank you, nice hotel.

Friday 11/12 – St. Louis, MO to Nashville, TN – El-done-o! Actually we weren’t quite el-done-o yet….we still had a radio show to tape. Like the marketing geniuses we are, we did a promotional radio thing after the tour was over. Alright! High five, team! After we availed ourselves of all the hotel had to offer…hot tub (not to be missed at any point in a month-long van tour)…eggs benedict (my craving for these when I wake up in a nice hotel is downright Pavlovian)…and the glorious check-out time of 1pm…we made our way to the KDHX studios. Greeted by a smiling Dan Kinney, we recorded several songs and an interview segment for his show “Smoking Lounge”. Even though the tour was over (we couldn’t have recorded the segment in time for any of the shows on this tour anyway) he wanted to help us promote future bookings and the house concert concept in particular. It ended up being a really cool way to document the progress we’d made on the tour.  We played really well, were super-relaxed and had the mojo of a month on the road up underneath us. It was actually a really great way to end the tour and we left there smiling and overflowing with gratitude for all the support we’d received along the way. It’s a wonderful combination of humbling and fortifying at the same time. Bottom line is we’re encouraged to keep doing what we do because people keep being moved and inspired by it. I’ll take it. Thank you, Dan Kinney and KDHX. We found a tapas restaurant a few blocks away and had a yummy late lunch before we hit the road for home. Six hours later I broke into tears when we unlocked the door and Lucian jumped right up into my arms. Thank you, Lucian. I missed you too, baby.

I’m a really lucky girl. And I'm ready to go out again tomorrow.

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