Adjusting

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It’s been easy to adjust to sleeping indoors. The real bed is nice – although honestly, I do miss my sleeping bag – but really, it’s been most noticeable if I have to pee in the middle of the night. I never thought I’d so appreciate the ability to just walk, barefoot, the dozen or so steps over to the bathroom. No putting on a coat, no going down a ladder. No squatting. It’s lovely.

Having all that running water has been a bit of an adjustment, strange as it sounds. I feel wasteful if I leave the water on while I brush my teeth.

The biggest change for me is going back to driving my little white Honda. Sure, it’s 17 years old, but it’s a stick shift and so compared to Taco Negro, it’s like driving a sports car. Sort of.

The true downside to having a plain white Honda Accord is that this vehicle is impossible to find in a parking lot. I’m convinced it is the most vanilla car in existence.

I know what would help – a roof rack and a couple of kayaks or SUPs. But that’s not in the cards just yet. So for now I’m that person wandering the aisles of the parking lot, frowning, and trying to remember where the hell she parked the car.

California has been a bit of an adjustment weather-wise. The days are getting shorter but not colder. Hell, it was 75 degrees and sunny today. I find myself saying but it’s October! Yeah. October in California’s central coast.

It’s funny how Colorado is always with us, though. Some of you may not remember but during our time on the road we carried a few sets of solar-powered lights from a company called Revel Gear.

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We used these fabulous lights a lot.

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Revel Gear is based out of Boulder and owned by our friends Kody and Brian Plavnicky. When we were actually in Colorado we didn’t manage to get in touch with them. But not long after our arrival in California, Kody got in touch and asked if we were coming up to San Francisco for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which was happening October 6th-8th.

I have to tell you, I’d never heard of this festival. But I looked it up and thought it sounded awesome. Ninety acts across three days across seven stages. Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. First Aid Kit, a Sweedish bluegrass act. Sturgill Simpson. Henry Rollins.

We were totally interested. And when Kody and Brian said they had a place for us to crash and everything, we were sold.

We drove up to SF on Friday afternoon, and it seemed like everyone was heading out as we were heading in.  We all took a Lyft down to Golden Gate Park and managed to see the last few minutes of Brandi Carlile’s set. She sang the most wonderful version of Amazing Grace – it gave me goosebumps.

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Brian, Kody, Michael, and me. If you squint, you can make out Brandi Carlile on the stage back there.

As you might suspect, this was a pretty popular festival. This was from Saturday’s crowd:

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So many people! But everyone was nice and friendly and we had a great time. Hell, we had a great time in San Francisco. Michael and I rode the Muni over to Haight-Ashbury and walked around, taking in the sights and the sounds and the people. Also I feel a little more in the 21st century now, as a Lyft user and all. It was fun to hang out with Brian and Kody – they’re both fun and easygoing and like to talk to everyone. We met lots of interesting people that weekend.

Back in SLO we ventured further down the domesticity rabbit hole… by joining Costco.

I know, I sound like a rube. But I’m not some Costco newbie. We had a membership back in Colorado. But the nearest store was a 45-minute drive away, so we only went about once a month or so. It just wasn’t that useful. The SLO Costco is right in town. And right across the street from Target and Whole Foods. So it was pretty much a no-brainer.

Here’s the thing, though: after so many months of living tiny, walking in to Costco – where even the shopping carts are monstrous – was almost like culture shock.

Oddly, the worst part for me was the produce. Michael laughed at me for this one but when he held up the 10-lb bag of potatoes I freaked out just a little bit. I mean, for the past year we went to a grocery store roughly every 3-4 days, and we never picked up more than what we could cook in the next 3-4 days. Space was at a premium – space in the cooler, space in the pantry. We just didn’t buy all that much.

We sure as hell didn’t buy ten pounds of potatoes.

Michael carefully put the potatoes back. That was nice of him because we do have a kitchen now, with storage and everything. The whole thing kind of make me wonder, though, about my adjustment back into the world where bigger is better and where less isn’t more – more is more. This way of thinking seems kind of backwards to me now and I wonder if how I feel will change the more time I spend in places like Costco.

Living tiny (even for just a little while) seems to have had a pretty big effect on me.

The Long Drive

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We spent a total of 10 days in Colorado, and let me tell you, those days were a whirlwind. Michael and I joked that we were somehow more popular now then when we actually lived there.

We went to so many bluegrass picks – and I was happily surprised that I hadn’t lost all my dobro skills in our year-plus on the road. My friends and former bandmates, the Pattons, threw a pickin’ party in our honor and that was a blast. We took in two Oskar Blues jams (the Tuesday jam in Lyons and the Sunday jam in Longmont), as well as two Saturday picks at Paul’s Tea and Coffee in Louisville.

Have I mentioned our adventures with the storage unit yet? Because man,  if I could go back in time…

No, seriously. If I could go back in time I’d tell myself to just. get. rid. of. it.

All of it.

When we stood in front of our very full storage unit for the first time I suppressed the urge to take a step back. I wanted to just light a match. What was all this stuff?

Then I remembered that my clothes were in there.

Okay, so maybe not get rid of all of it. But damn, we kept waaay too much. All my power tools. The tool bench full of supplies (and more tools). The queen-sized bed frame. The lamps, which were cheap POSs from Target anyway.

What were we thinking?

I guess I figured that I’d want all that stuff when we got back. I loved that bedframe. And all my power tools. But here’s the reality of our lives: in our first few weeks on the road, we were jettisoning stuff left and right. We sent two boxes of stuff two our friends Dan and Lisa back in Colorado. And after that we continued to lighten the load – but we just gave stuff to goodwill. We adopted the “two week rule.” If we hadn’t used it in two weeks, we got rid of it. There were obvious exceptions to this rule (like the first aid kit, or the down jackets.)

In short, we learned to live a pared-down life. The truth is that you really don’t need that much stuff. You don’t.

Back to the storage unit: we got rid of a lot of it. Some of it (like the bedframe) was easy to let go. Some of it (like my power tools and tool bench) was painful. But we couldn’t fit the bedframe into the trailer we’d rented for the California move. And since we can’t afford to buy anything in Cali, I would have little to no use for my power tools – much less a place to use them in. Off they went. While we had to give away the bedframe, I’m happy to say Michael sold the tools to a friend who is also a new homeowner. So that one was a win on both sides.

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Before you say “that doesn’t look too bad,” keep in mind that this picture was taken after we got rid of the beframe and power tools.

Tuesday the 26th we picked up a 6’x12′ trailer from Uhaul and loaded it up. Our friend Cory helped, and we gave him even more stuff. Like those POS lamps.

Wednesday morning we left for California.

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If you thought Taco Negro got lousy gas mileage before…

I lost count of the number of times we stopped to fill up the truck. Michael said that on longer climbs (like over Vail Pass in Colorado) he could actually watch the gas gauge needle drop.

I thought the gas gauge on my little white Honda Accord was broken. When we stopped in Fruita (where the picture above was taken) I was still only halfway though my first tank, something that seemed impossible.

Other things of note for the long drive: I have to admit, I cried a little when I passed Copper Mountain. One more winter that I won’t get to snowboard. Never say never, I know, but there’s no snow in the central coast of California.

And I cried a whole lot more as we passed the turnoff for Moab, and as we passed through the edge of Utah’s canyon country. I never did get to see the San Rafael Swell. Or Bryce Canyon, or Zion National Park. But I did spend 5 weeks in Moab. I got to hike Little Wildhorse Canyon.

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Little Wildhorse Canyon

All I could think of was how much I love that red rock desert.

At a meal stop in Salina, Utah, Michael said he felt the same way. That made me so happy, even though I wasn’t sure what to do with that information. We were in the middle of moving to California! And besides, I’ve often said that I don’t know how I’d survive the summers in Moab, where the temperatures hit triple digits for three straight months.

I guess the takeaway is that someday we will get back to southern Utah.

We arrived in Las Vegas around 4pm, right about the time rush-hour traffic was heating up. I’d been to Vegas twice before but never by car, so it was kinda cool to see other parts of the city. We also have a friend in Vegas – Jon worked for Michael years ago, back when we lived in Denver. He told us to park downtown (it was less crowded than the strip, he said) and he’d meet up with us.

Jon walked us down Fremont Street to a place called the Smashed Pig. Now, the last time I walked around this area, back in the early 2000s, I felt safe enough, but someone did offer to sell me crack. (I’m still impressed with my response, which was a smile and “nah, man, I’m good.”)

Anyway. This time nobody offered me drugs. But a lot of people offered to have a picture taken with me.

No, I’m not famous. These were people in costumes, although I use that term loosely. Mostly women wearing bikini bottoms and pasties. There were some Chippendale’s dancers out too (they wore jeans and no shirts, which I found interesting. I mean, doesn’t that sound like a bit of a double standard?). Jon said they work for tips.

This is what people do for money here?

Then I remembered – ah, yes. Vegas has no soul. And if you can get over that part, then Vegas is a lot of fun.

Now, not all the costumed people were out there showing skin. I saw a guy dressed as Alan from The Hangover, complete with satchel (“Indiana Jones carried one!”) and baby. I found the whole kit online.

There was also a zipline running the length of the covered section of Fremont Street, and that looked awesome. It was also $40/person and the next opening was the next day, so we watched the zipliners somewhat enviously as we walked along.

Between the people, the lights, and the loud music…Talk about sensory overload. I was ready to go back to the nearest forest or canyon.

Eventually we made it to the Smashed Pig. This place would fit right in on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Their menu was fun and creative and the food delicious.

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This is the Smashed Pig’s “Butcher Block Special,” which was not served on a butcher block but was still wonderful. Basalmic glazed pork belly over cous cous, with sauteed vegetables, salad, and crusty bread.

This was a fun meal to share. Also, it was incredibly tasty.

It was getting dark when we said goodbye to Jon and resumed our drive, but we were okay with that. When you’re towing a 12 foot trailer your off-road options are limited. We needed something right off the highway so we chose a spot called the Rasor OHV area, west of Baker, California. For being within sight of Interstate 15 it was actually pretty quiet.

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I watched the sun come up the next morning and then made coffee. We packed up and were on the road by 9am. We didn’t make a fire or anything, but I still managed to drive the Honda right through that fire ring on our way out. Whoopsie.

It took one more long day on the road to reach San Luis Obispo. But we made it.

Now it’s time to start the next chapter. But there are more Taco Negro adventures to come, I’m sure of it – lots of places in California to explore this winter. I hope you’ll all stay tuned!