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Chapter 25 - MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE

It's a good thing that we had a chance to recharge our batteries with a day off because today was going to be a very full day, indeed. We would be driving from Redwood City to Lake Tahoe and then doing a gig that night in the show room at Caesar's Palace. Now the drive was only 215 miles but a major portion of it was climbing up into the Sierra Mountains on a beautifully scenic highway that ran along side the American River and it was like an uphill slalom in an Italian road rally. It was great for someone driving a Porsche or a Ferrari but very slow going for a forty-foot land yacht and a general pain in the ass for 'Jeff the Invincible.' The narrow two-lane black top twisted through the Sierras like a giant snake, the mountain above us on one side and the river just below us on the other. It was Mr. Toad's wild ride all right, like riding an elephant on roller skates. If you've ever been stuck behind a Winnebago on a two lane black top with no passing lane, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

On the other hand, I was having a wonderful time. I was strapped into The Chair , with various snacks and had an absolutely amazing view of the spectacular scenery going by. It just so happened that the river was on the passenger side of the bus and thus I was treated to a non-stop singular stream of beauty for a couple of hours. I remember the route very well from my early days with The Travelers 3. Of course, then we were traveling in an old Dodge van and not a luxurious tour bus, but that's another story. This was one of those few times when I didn't have to do the driving up highway 50 to Lake Tahoe. All I had to do was just sit back and enjoy the ride.

We finally made it over the summit at about six thousand feet and started to slowly descend into the valley and the city of South Lake Tahoe for our gig that evening and another round of casino chaos. There were so many hotels and casinos on the main drag into town that you couldn't even see the lake, unless it was from a hotel room about ten floors up. And even then your view may be blocked by another hotel. It's obvious that the majority of people who come to Lake Tahoe aren't here to appreciate the natural beauty of the place; they're here to gamble! But at least it was a more pleasant location than Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

After we checked in, I got settled in my room and headed down to the stage for sound check. As soon as I saw the dressing rooms I was reminded of the first time I worked there with Dan back in '91. That was my first tour with Fogelberg and the beginning of some great friendships and great music. I also remember that my wife, Michele, was there to see our opening night and came back stage after the show. A lot of years had passed since then but when I got on stage and sat behind the drums, I still had the same excitement and enthusiasm that I had at that first sound check in '91. When you're playing great music with great musicians you never get tired of it. And Dan has always put together great musicians.

I couldn't help but remember my rookie days with the Travelers 3 and the sixties, when we used to work the same casinos. Of course, then we were in the lounge and now I was working the "Big Room" with Dan. You could still see the lake then too. Yes, a lot had changed over the years, more buildings, more people, but I realized how fortunate I've been to spend so many of those years doing what I love most...making music.



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