There was this one gig we ventured to on the outer reaches of the galaxy - somewhere between Kansas and Nebraska - where the fine folks there were gracious enough to provide lodging for us Bodarks. However, this motel turned out to be an adventure of its own.
Don't get me wrong. We sure appreciate the gesture of free place to crash, and we certainly appreciate that small-town hospitality. But this place was about as welcoming as an outhouse breeze. Among its stained doors, we found a paper sign that read, "Office." We entered and were greeted only by a desk on which there sat a lonesome walkie-talkie. After a few minutes of waiting, we realized there was a note stating, "PUSH BIG ORANGE BUTTON ON SIDE."
Now, something you may not know about our psychedelic washboard player, Doc, is that he really is a "Doc." Not the kind that makes money. But this guy's got a PhD in...well...something nobody can quite explain. But he's sort of a Jedi Master at pointing out the secrets of the hidden universe in the mundane details of life, I think.
Like this walkie-talkie situation: Do you accept the adventure and push the button? Or, do as most folks would do when they see a dubious motel, and go find yourself something more comfy down the road? Well, Doc observes that this is like that Morpheus moment in The Matrix, when you're offered the red pill or the blue pill. Or, that "Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi!" moment in Star Wars when Luke decides to stop farming sand and go kick some ass.
So we do it. We push the button and see where the adventure takes us. Soon, a fella comes running in, all full of hustle, hands us the key, wishes us luck, and disappears just as quick. Later, when we spilled our beer cooler, this same guy (Let's call him "Yoda" to protect the innocent) - he would mysteriously appear with two bags of ice to save the day.
Anyway, we find the door to our room, and unlock it. First thing I noticed was the whiff of mildew and wet ashtray wafting out from the darkness. Flipped the light switch and a couple of the bulbs managed to flicker on, dimly illuminating two beds that went out of style during the Reagan Era. About then, one of us made the mistake of reading the motel's guest reviews on his iPhone, and our paranoia for bed bugs and other crawly things began to set in.
Now, our fiddler - I guess she's the Princess Leia in all this - She had the foresight to let us fellas squabble over beds and floor space, and booked herself a luxurious suite about an hour away. We give her a quick call in the hopes there were still rooms available.
Nnnnope! So, we decide to make the best of our situation, and proceeded deeper into the abyss. Though we didn't sleep a wink that night, at least we had shelter from the cold Kansas rain. And an elixir of thick coffee appeared in the walkie-talkie room the next morning. So, there's that. Our little reward for braving that phase of the journey. And it turns out that the "bugs" were all in our heads after all.
To be clear, this incident was quite the exception to the small-town Kansas charm we encountered everywhere else on our serendipitous adventure. Like, we were not at all bothered about having to drive to one shindig through fields and a maze of dirt roads. That was all fine with me. And playing a show on a flatbed trailer-stage with hay bales is how we like to roll. And the couple who invited us into their van/house for shots of a strong Czech liquor was good times, too.
More about that: These friendly folks were from the Kansas City area, but were traveling around the country in their solar powered van/house (their Millennium Falcon, if you will). It had a bed built into the back, a "he"-shaped and "she"-shaped tube for urinating into the septic tank, and most importantly, a well-stocked bar. They were in the process of installing tanks on the roof beside the solar panels for sun-heated water to an exterior shower. It was a bona fide feat of bohemian engineering. Jamey Logan, the captain of this vessel, had come to our rescue and played mandolin with us for that show, since Mando Dan couldn't make it, and he brought along is gal, Joanie. They were delightful people who lived for the adventure.
Along the journey, we had some other real high points:
We got to stomp around Shelly's old childhood home of Hays, Kansas, again, where we saw a rare white buffalo living among the heard there.
We got to hang at Shelly's family cabin, where we hashed out plans for a holiday album, and maybe a Christmas-in-July party (stay tuned).
At a quaint little cantina in Schoenchen (pronounced drunkenly like "Tatooine"), called The Getaway, there was an episode of karaoke involving Robert and some locals, doing their rendition of "It's Getting Hot in Here, So Take Off All Your Clothes!"
The Bodarks had the honor of being the featured artist at the Sesquicentennial Celebration of Osborne, Kansas - a lovely little town off the beaten path.
We even got to see what boasts as the "World's Largest Hand-Painted Czech Easter Egg" in the community of Wilson.
I suppose our explosive, "Death-Star" moment of the trip was in Lawrence. After meeting more of Shelly's family there, and getting to tour her sister's farm, we played a raucous show for them and a bunch of her old pals at the Reply Lounge on Massachusetts Street, with all its gritty charm.
All this was great! But, as we Bodarks began our return journey back home through the Oklahoma rain, counting cows, talking about our love for the myth-man Joseph Campbell, and Spotifying Queen at the adamant commands of Little James, I realized the best part of the whole journey was our time together...in spite of the innumerable groans of, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
To which, I concluded, "Yes! Yes, we are."
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