7/05/2016

A town after my own heart – Tofino



I remember the first time I heard about Tofino. Brad and I were watching an episode of the Rick Mercer Report and he was on location in the tiny town learning to surf. I remember it looked wild beautiful and of nothing I've ever seen before.

When we started planning our BC tour dates, the only must-visit town on my list was Tofino and as luck would have it, we booked two shows there.

We left Duncan last Thursday around mid-day and made a stop in Port Alberni to visit Brad's Uncle Dave. Dave has a pretty cool job – he is on the flight crew of the famed Martin Mars Water Bomber. Being family and all, we got a first class tour of the plane, which is otherwise closed to the public.








 After touring the plane and taking turns sitting in the pilot seats, we bid farewell to Dave and continued on Hwy 4 out to the Pacific Rim. The term Highway is used quite loosely to describe the road out to Tofino. It was nothing more than a paved logging road – full of sharp twisty-turns around cliffs and constant ups and downs – very reminiscent of the coast highway in California. It took us a gruelling two hours to make our way out to the peninsula, but lordy when we got there it was spectacular. Giant redwoods, long-stretching wild beaches and surfboards mounted on every passing car, van and bicycle.






We covertly slept that night in one of the trailhead parking lots just outside of town. Friday we took to exploring the town (which isn't very big and didn't take long). We poked around in all the little shops, drank some coffee and ate the biggest 'old fashioned plain' doughnut I've ever seen. We also hit up the local brewery and enthusiastically drank our way through their entire lineup (resulting in a nap in the parking lot before we headed back out to the beach – the benefits of traveling with your own bed).

The next day we played a show at the Tofino Public Market, held in the centre of town at the park. The crowd was a fair size and just before we took to the stage, Anne the market manager casually mentioned that Sarah McLachlan was strolling around - and then she pointed her out to me (gah!). My hands instantly began to sweat, my heart rate quickened and I was nervous. Afterall, this was the woman who single-handedly spawned my entire musical path (... after I attended a Lilith Fair concert when I was 15 years old I immediately signed up for a guitar class and the rest is history). I couldn't believe she was like 'right there'. I couldn't bring myself to approach her, or even covertly stand behind her while getting Brad to take a photo (he urged, but I just couldn't, lame-o me).

We played two sets, which flew by, sold a bunch of cds and left the market feeling pretty damn good. We had a second show that night in Port Alberni, back across the two-hour road from hell. What seemed like four hours later we pulled into the parking lot of Char's Landing – an old church turned performance hall/public house. We played to a wonderful group of folks and passed out pretty much right after the show.

The next morning we stocked up on groceries and headed back out to Tofino (clearly we're suckers for punishment). We had a show that night (Sunday) at Jamie's Rainforest Inn. The folks at the Inn were super awesome, supplying us with tasty beverages during the show and an amazing meal at the end. Then they handed over a room key - BONUS! When we opened the door to our room we cracked up laughing. The room consisted of four sets of bunk beds and two bathrooms with sinks and toilets only - no shower (the only thing were were looking for, since we were going to sleep in the RV anyway). We stood outside the room for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do, before heading to the front desk to inquire. While making our way to the front desk we passed by a door that indicated there were shower facilities inside, so we tried our keycard and it unlocked. There were found eight stalls of clean and fresh showers (much like at an RV park). Having a roomy, stand-up shower with unlimited hot water was the best perk of the night.

The next morning we sat in the parking lot of the Inn, drank our coffee and mentally prepared for the drive back across our favourite highway.


6/02/2016

British Columbia - One Month Down


Another month has gone by in the blink of an eye and just like that we’re staring down the beginning of June. The local coffee shops are filled with students cramming for exams and preparing for the next chapter of their lives – making decisions about where they want to work and live as they enter into adulthood. I remember those days well and if someone told me then that in 10 years I’d be leaving it all behind to live in an old Winnebago and travel the country, I would have cocked an eyebrow and said “you’ve gotta be shittin’ me”. But alas, here we are, 11,0000 miles and five months under our belt, parked in the middle of a lush green farm field surrounded by trees and sky-scraping cliffs on beautiful Vancouver Island. 

The month of May was spent ping-ponging around British Columbia. We spent time in the Okanagan Valley, day tripped in Kamloops and Salmon Arm, met a wonderful couple who are just starting out their classic Winnebago restoration and played many awesome shows in some of the coolest places. 


{Atop a cliff just outside of Vernon}

{Salmon Arm}

{Just outside of Chilliwack - our free, riverside camp site - where we stayed for a few days}





{On the shores of Lake Cowichan - a lovely little RV park}



 And while we love traveling around and have ever-changing daily views, June brings a new adventure of the stationary kind. Nestled on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, down the twisty-turny Genoa Bay road lies Birds Eye Cove Farm. A picturesque, family-run farm – and our home for the next two months. We’ve got a regular gig here every week playing tunes at the barn for their wood-fired pizza nights (which also means we get to eat pizza for dinner twice a week - holla!). We played our first show on Monday and it was a blast.



We’re in the works of launching our brand new monthly newsletter and some new videos to share - if you haven’t signed up yet (and would like to) - you can do so through our Facebook page (sign-up link is at the top) or on our website. We’re also working on our fall tour which will having us heading back across the country and back to Ontario by the middle of October. We’d love to set up some house shows for November - holler at us if you’d like to host one (psst, their super fun). We're also organizing another tour through the US scheduled to start January 2017, we would love suggestions on where to go/what to see this time around...

Talk at'cha again soon,
-a.


4/28/2016

Plaid shirts, Starbucks and Pearl Jam – Welcome to Seattle

Seattle was both amazing and defeating all at the same time. We followed our map to an address on capital hill, the heart of old town Seattle. We arrived at a pre-midcentury abode, home to the Beery family. The Beery House has become quite a fixture of the local music scene, hosting legendary house concerts for more than 20 years. Their modest home stands high on the hill, dwarfed on either side by multi-unit, state-of-the-art housing developments where single-family dwellings once thrived. 

Out front of the house there was a set of saw-horses tied to a stretched out rope – a make-shift blockade. This was the handy work of Max Beery, assuring that we’d have a place to park the Winnie when we arrived. It wasn’t long before we were greeted by the man himself – a chatty, kind-hearted fellow who instantly made me feel at ease. Within 15 minutes of us getting parked we were standing in his living room as he handed over his transit passes and gave us the lay of the land. There was a dog park right around the corner, so that was stop number one. After Winnie and Hank had burned off their pent up energy, Brad and I set out on foot to check out the Pike Street Market. After what seemed like 1500 city blocks (actually, only 8 – but still) we arrived at the bustling and chaotic market. Fish vendors, flower merchants and artisans galore – this place was crazy busy with a mix tourists and locals. As we made our way through the busy market, we looked up and were standing face to face with Jim and Judy. We both had that “you gotta be effin’ kidding me” look and were laughing and hugging as if we hadn’t seen each other in years. Neither we, nor them had any plans or idea to meet in Seattle….

After we finished exploring the market we headed back to the Beery house to start prep for the show. When we got back we met The Lasses – a female duo from Amsterdam who were also on the bill for the evening. Around 6:30pm folks started showing up and before our eyes the Beery house transformed into ‘the spot to be’ in Seattle that night! By the time we took the stage there were approx 60-70 people crammed in the upstairs loft with smiles from ear to ear - this is a house where music brings a community together – it’s more than just people sitting in chairs listening – it’s a place where friends are made instantly and invited for dinner the next evening, a place where people come for the first time and are immediately asking when the next show is, a place where we will definitely return to next spring and for years after – as long as the invitation is open. To Max and Theresa, thank you for including us and letting us come along for the musical ride, what you have created is nothing shy of legendary.


We hung around Seattle the next week, awaiting our next show at Cafe Racer. Brad and I are not city-folks, so we headed for the hills in search of space, quiet and flat ground to play some competitive badminton. We found a fantastic lake-front park in the town of Auburn and spent a few days playing in the sun and taking the odd dip in the frigid waters – it was just what we needed, hypothermia aside.

The morning of our last Seattle show, we headed into the city and hung around until load-in time – only to find that the bar had forgot we were coming (despite having our posters on the wall…). A local guy was playing that night and had lined up a bunch of other local bands to help fill the night. We were offered a 30-minute set for no money, we declined, then hit the highway. We pulled into a rest stop a few hours later, downed half a bottle of pecan whiskey and hit the hay. The next morning we continued on our way, a little foggy and still a little bummed but all that changed when we pulled into Winthrop. Hours of climbing steep hills and curvy mountainous terrain, through sprawling valleys where cattle and horses roamed, we arrived at the most picturesque, right-out-of-a-movie, old western town – Winthrop – it was incredible. To top it off, we were playing at Old Schoolhouse Brewing, located in the heart of the town. The show went great, we had a few tasty beers and we found a place to park and stay the night in town – beauty.







The next day we set our GPS for Republic – the last show of our four month tour in the US. That night we were set to open for The Ben Miller Band who were on a night off from their regular gig opening for George Thorogood. It was also a hometown show for the band and the 65 tickets sold out in less than one hour. We played to a fantastic crowd and spent the rest of the evening drinking great beer and listening to awesome music – it was the perfect way to cap off the tour.

Sunday morning we got tidied up, organized the RV and headed for the boarder. We were a bit nervous about the crossing and were expecting to be held-up for a lengthy inspection. To our total and utter surprise, we breezed through in less than three minutes – we didn’t even have to wait in line. WTF?!?!?!

So here we are, back on home turf –  it feels good to be “home” yet strange and unfamiliar all at the same time. We’ve spend the last few days roaming around the Okanogan Valley, getting acquainted with BC – a place neither Brad nor I have ever been. We broke down and booked a night at an RV park for this evening to get caught up and to recharge our batteries. The past four months have flown by and as we crossed into Canada I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. Our time in the US had been the start of something so much more than just a music tour. We’ve learned many things, met many incredible people and shared in so many unbelievable experiences. I look forward to our time exploring the West coast but to be completely honest, I can’t wait to hit the "road" again.

4/14/2016

If your going to San Francisco....


Silicone Valley. The land of self-driving cars, tech nerds and crazy busy highways.
We made our way into Mountain View from Morgan Hill for our show at Red Rock Coffee and were extremely lucky to find a parking spot on the street right outside of the venue. Money. While we were sitting in the rig awaiting our load-in, two faces appeared in the window and scared the shit out of me. My brain finally registered that it was Jim and Jude and not a couple of curious weirdos. We chatted for a bit and got caught up, then headed inside to set up for the show. 

The stage/performance area was on the second floor of the building and was a huge room. There were already a ton of folks sitting up there and most of them stayed for the show. The night was great! We met so many cool folks who loved the music and happily cleared out the merch table. We pulled out of town that night with full hearts and a stuffed tip jar :)


Two words. San Francisco.
It didn’t take long before I knew I loved this city. The hills, the views, the crazy amount of Japanese tourists - all of it. We stayed at a {sketchy} RV park in Vallejo and took the bike in for an afternoon of sight seeing. Our first stop was to Sausalito - man, this place is gorgeous and awesome. My sister told us to try and check out the Record Plant - the famed studio where Rumors was recorded (not to mention a ton of other incredible albums). With a bit of googling, we found the location - tucked away in the industrial-area of the harbour. The studio is not in operation anymore and instead houses a yoga studio/retreat centre. We poked around and were invited inside for a mini-tour after we were caught meandering about. The place still had all the mojo and was incredible. 





After Sausalito, we headed into the thick of it. Our first stop was Haight-Ashbury. We parked the bike and walked a few blocks. The smell of pot and unbathed hippies filled the air. It was a very eclectic scene. We left H/A and toured around on the bike for a bit. Up and down the crazy hills and taking in all the charm of the victorian mansions painted in an array of candy-coated colours. We even made a quick stop to check out the famed Painted Ladies. There were so many folks on the park hillside that my dream of recreating the Full House intro was quickly dissolved. Since it was getting on in the afternoon and we didn’t want to experience the San Fransisco rush hour, we bid farewell. We made our way out of the city, through the rainbow Robin Williams tunnel and blazed across the Golden Gate Bridge. The bay was calm, the sun was shining and it seemed like the perfect way to cap off our visit. 

The next day we started the trek North once again. We passed through Napa and Sonoma, where every inch of hillside was covered in row after row of grapevine, and made our way back to the coast highway. That evening while we were looking for a place to hunker down for the night, we came across an unmanned state park campground. The signage stated there was an 18’ maximum length for RVs – hm, that wasn’t going to work. We started to back out and noticed a gravel road that seemed to lead to the “Day Use Only” area. With absolutely no one around, we decided to see where the road would lead. The road was less than a mile long and at the end was a small grassy area on top of the oceanside cliffs. It was stunning. We decided to make some dinner and wait to see if anyone would come around to boot us out. We ate, had a few drinks and watched the sun set over the ocean - it was perfect. Around 10pm it was evident that no one was coming to lock the gate, so we climbed into bed and had a great nights sleep. The next morning we woke up to a heard of free-range cows surrounding the rig. There was at least a dozen of them. All standing there, crewing on grass and watching us from the window. Winnie was loosing her shit and was whining to be let outside. Once we were up and moving around inside, they quickly lost interest and started their migration to another field.



Two days later we made it to McKinleyville. Two solid days of switchback turns and steep inclines up the so-tired-and-totally-over-it coastal highway. Northern California has a very different vibe – the sky is more grey than blue and a thick curtain of fog hangs around until mid-afternoon. Gone are the palm trees, replaced with evergreens and giant redwoods. We played a show at Six Rivers Brewing - which was a great spot with a beauty selection of brews. It was our last gig in California and it was a great way to cap off our time there.

The next day we crossed the state line into Oregon. It was nice to see that the highway rest stops had resumed (there were none in California) and it wasn’t long before the Marijuana Dispensaries started appearing (recreational pot is legal in the state of Oregon and Brad felt it was only right to exercise this civil liberty).

We made it to Eugene for our Sunday afternoon gig at Sweet Cheeks Winery. This place was gorgeous – perched atop a hill, nestled in the rolling landscape. As we started unloading our gear we saw another RV making its way up the long driveway and right away knew it looked familiar – it was Jim and Jude! We played to a great crowd of folks, drank some fantastic wine with friends and had an all ‘round beauty Sunday.


The next day we made our way to Portland. We grabbed a spot at an RV park in Jantzen Beach (across the river) and drove the bike into the city to do some exploring. Portland has a great vibe. We went to a few guitar shops, drove through some of the gorgeous old neighbourhoods and managed to get caught up in the rush hour traffic. It was a quick trip into the city but we’re coming back for a few shows in October and I’m looking forward to having more time to see what the city has to offer.

We played on Tuesday night at a great little spot in Hillsboro – just outside of Portland. Owned by Mike and Gayle - who we met through our good buddy Marc. It was a fantastic night! We'll definitely be stopping back in on our next visit.

Today we're hanging out in Olympia, getting in some much needed internet time at the Public Library then we're going to explore the city. Tomorrow we're playing a house show up in Seattle with a duo from Amsterdam. Looking forward to checking out Seattle too.

My apologies for the ultra-long post. Too much time sleeping in cow paddy’s without internet.
See you soon,

-a.

3/31/2016

California | Part One



And just like that gas was $1.00 more expensive per gallon. Welcome to California - the state that’s like that ex-boyfriend who treated you kinda crappy, spent all your money but was so good looking that you couldn't stay away.


We’ve been here just over one week and are hanging for the next few days in the San Francisco bay area. This leg of the trip has been interesting to say the least. We crossed into Cali and made our way into Palm Springs with its thousands of wind turbines. We were planning to stay a day or two in that area but it was so damn hot and dry (and quite frankly, we had just enough of the desert) that we crossed over the mountains into the cooler coastal weather and called it a night at a truck stop. Done.

The next day we skirted around Los Angeles and drove through Topanga Canyon – which was stunning, but not a great road for old Winnie. We learned a valuable California RV’ing lesson on the steep descent thru the canyon to the ocean… Without knowing any better we were holding up a long line of cars and the drivers displeasure became evident as a symphony of car horns starting ringing out from behind us. It took a second but once we realized they were all honking at us, we pulled over to let more than a dozen cars pass (there were a few hand gestures as they blew passed us). Minutes later we had to pull over again to give our burning breaks a chance to cool. Once we made it out of the canyon we were on the coast highway and passing through Mailbu, Zuma Beach and a string of other million dollar surf-side towns.




We spent one night at a nice KOA campground near Ojai. The next morning we strolled around the quaint and beautiful little town that is nestled in the valley of luscious, rolling green hills and mountains. The next night we snagged a spot at a state beach park right on the ocean (and by snagged, I mean covertly pulled in without paying and left early the next morning).





By day four we arrived in San Luis Obispo and spent our first night the in the Home Depot parking lot – the glamorous life indeed. The next day we played a show at Linaenna’s Cafe in the downtown and after the gig, meet a very nice blind fellow. He approached, introduced himself and asked who we were. I introduced myself and then Brad, the man seemed puzzled and asked who the third band member was??? Brad and I looked at each other with great pleasure because although we hadn't expected it, we had just received confirmation that our little two-piece band (complete with suitcase drums) could fool a blind man into thinking we were actually a trio... it was a mighty fine moment.

We played our next show at Santa Maria Brewing and that night we attempted to sleep on the side of a road in a busy sea-side town (where hundreds of cars were parked on the streets overnight), but at 6 am a police officer knocked on the door and told us we had to move... apparently someone complained. It was during the next few days that we quickly learned that folks in California don’t take too kindly to old Winnebagos, as they have become hideaways for homeless vagrants and meth cookers. I failed chemistry and couldn’t cook up a batch of meth if my life depended on it, but that wake-up call by the fuzz was only the first of many.


A few days off brought us to Sunday when we arrived at Sculpterra Winery in Paso Robles for a show put on by a fine gentleman named Steve Key. His events, Songwriters at Play, take place all around the San Luis Obispo area. We played under a huge oak tree to a wine loving crowd and even met some new friends, a band from Chicago called Sugar Still - they are on tour in California, living out of a Kia minivan. Monday we did another one of Steve’s events, this time at a spot in Morro Bay where we met another new friend. Steve introduced us to a lovely woman named Evlyn who was local to the coast and a huge music fan. Evlyn was gracious enough to allow us to park for the night outside her apartment complex which was right near the ocean, she even treated us to breakfast at an amazing local joint the next morning – thanks again Evlyn! Our tour has allowed us to meet many great folks and we're humbled by their kindness and generosity.


Tuesday we had a great gig at the Davenport Roadhouse and followed it up with a sweet boondock night right on the old coast highway over-looking the ocean. This parking area appeared to be an unofficial rest area outside the city limits of Santa Cruz. This spot was even host to another old Winnie, a Brave model from the very early 70’s. Not sure if she was a driver or not as the front seats were piled high with assorted crap.




Yesterday we had one goal – find Neil Young’s Broken Arrow ranch – located somewhere near a small town called La Honda, just south of the Bay area up in the hills. His 1000 acre ranch is said to boarder on the coast highway but is only accessible from some backroads. We did some googling and some mapping then found ourselves taking the Bear Gultch Road up into the mountains. After some steep climbs and tight turns the road thinned to a tight, paved path. Soon we came upon a fork in the road…. To the left was a great set of metal gates securing access to a long drive hidden by giant redwoods, complete with an intercom and lights - money. Whether it was actually his place or not, we don't know for sure... but we will forever tell ourselves these were the gates to Neil’s ranch and be very proud to have made the trek to see them. It was only after driving back out of the area that I suggested we should have left a copy of our CD at the gate, just in case… We may head back to drop one off.

Last night we slept at an interstate rest area just outside of Redwood City. Rest areas have become key to us now that we know California hates old RV’s and boondocking is not so easy… This rest area was a gong show, at least 20 cars had people sleeping and assumably living in them. We even saw a young couple who lived in a brand new Nissan Leaf – great car if you can’t afford the gas (as this model was fully electric) but not so great if you like to sleep with your legs fully extended!

So that brings us to now. We’re sitting in a nice RV park near Morgan Hill, enjoying some barley beverages and eating a tasty dinner (baked sole filets with roasted asparagus on pesto grits, just incase you were wondering). It’s nice to know that the cops won’t be waking us up in the wee hours plus we can use the wifi to get caught up with y’all and look for more shows to play once we get back to BC (holler at us if you’ve got any west coast connections). 

We’ll check back in soon. We’ve got a bit more of California to see before we cross into Oregon.
Talk soon,

-a.