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Chapter 33 - THE LAST DAY

After spending the night in Denver, we started out early for a rather lengthy drive to our next and last concert of the tour, in Durango, Colorado! To be more specific, the concert was actually going to be at a place just outside Durango called the Echo Basin Ranch and getting there was going to be an adventure in itself. This place was so remote that we did the last few miles on a two-lane dirt and gravel road, and as you can probably tell by now, it was an outdoor venue, a kind of mini, no, make that a micro Woodstock. Not my favorite kind of gig from an acoustic standpoint but what the hell.

It was the last day of the tour and the next twenty-four hours was going to be hectic to say the least. First, we had another Rocky Mountain slalom adventure in the land yacht to even get to the gig. And as you can imagine, 'Jeff the Invincible' wasn't too thrilled about that. Next, it was going to be a late and rather hasty sound check followed by the concert. And, of course, lastly, we would break everything down one last time, load it all in the trucks and then we would all go our separate ways and disappear back into America, back into our separate communities and our "normal" lives.

It's like we were all members of some strange group of part time nomads who lived on the move for a couple of months and then returned home to their respective tribes. We can't really survive within just one life style so we must remain in a state of artistic limbo, spending necessary time in both worlds and trying to maintain a reasonable balance between the two.

We finally arrived a little later than late for the sound check but everything was so loose it didn't really seem to matter that much. Apparently, this was the first concert being held at this venue and the crew had to deal with a lot of unforeseen problems.

The first nightmare for the crew was having to load in on a dirt road to a stage in the middle of an open field with no loading docks, and of course that slowed down the whole pre-show routine considerably. And since it was an open-air stage with no walls or roof, the sound guys would have to struggle for a decent mix in both the monitor and house systems. In addition to that, we were scheduled to go on just before sunset, which kind of wiped out any idea of using any dramatic lighting. Oh, and there were a couple of local head-banger, heavy-metal bands hired as the opening acts. And although they looked the part, complete with all the appropriate tattoos and piercings, they were really pretty bad. And with all that extra gear going on and off stage, it just made the crews job even more complicated. In some ways the whole thing started to resemble a Bob Hope USO show in the middle of some DMZ. Could this be one last attack from "Roadzilla"? One never knows.

Once again, our land yacht served as a combination dining and dressing room since the facilities at the gig were next to nil. And although we went on to have a pretty good show in spite of "Roadzilla," I have to admit it was a bit of a struggle. Yes, we struggled with the monitor mix and the lights and sound but more than that we struggled to stay focused on stage. After all, this was not just another day and another show; this was the last day and the last show.

After the final show was over, the gear was all packed and loaded and it was time to hit the road again but this time we were saying a final good-bye to the crew. We wouldn't get to see them at the next town on the itinerary; there was no next town. They were now headed home or in many cases heading out on another tour with someone else.

We were all going on the last long overnight drive of the tour, from Echo Basin Ranch all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. At that point the trucks would drop off the instruments and the sound and lights gear which would be delivered later to the respective musicians' homes or storage warehouse while the land yachts for the band and crew would drop us all off at a hotel by the Albuquerque airport.

The hotel was kind of a cosmic joke when you stop to think about it. We were probably going to arrive at our hotel sometime just before dawn and most of us were booked on flights that would leave between eight and nine the same morning. Obviously, that didn't leave much time for sleep. In fact, some of the guys on the earlier flights were lucky to even grab a quick breakfast before heading to the airport.

Dan and Jean traveled on the land yacht with us to a predetermined location where a car was waiting to take them the rest of the way home. So, here we were in the middle of the night unceremoniously and reluctantly saying our good-byes by the roadside before continuing on to Albuquerque and our flights back home. I don't mind admitting that I felt a little sadness as I watched the tail lights of Dan's car disappear down the road. It had all been such a great adventure and I knew I would miss everyone but it was now time to re-board the magic bus and head out to our final destination.

We still had a few hours to go before reaching Albuquerque and we knew none of us were really going to get any sleep in the bouncing bunks, so we decided to declare one last happy hour at the 'Land Yacht Bar and Grill' for our mobile post-tour celebration. I have to admit that we all got mildly inebriated, not enough to be considered drunk but just enough to encourage us to start trading some outrageous old road stories, telling tall tales and sharing a lot of laughs along the way. And it wasn't long before we also started to recount some of the crazy, funny things that occurred on the road over the last couple of months. Yes, the great whale expedition was now coming to an end and this was the BIG unwind before going home.

Just as 'Jeff the Invincible' had predicted, we arrived at the hotel a little bit before 5:00 a.m. and piled out of the magic bus for the last time. All the remaining luggage was unloaded and after doing a last check of the old land yacht for any personal items we may have forgotten, it was time to say good-bye to Jeff. Unfortunately, it had to be a quick good-bye because Jeff was immediately heading out for another tour and would soon be driving another bunch of musical nomads back and forth across America.

'Jeff the Invincible' had not only driven us safely across thousands of miles on this tour, he had also become a friend and integral part of our little circus family over the last month or so. I had no idea if our paths would ever cross again but I did know I would not forget him. To me, he would always be 'Jeff the Invincible'; Starbucks coffee, Bulls Eye candies, AC/DC on the headphones and this guy could drive around the world.

So now we're all standing at the reception desk, or should I say what was left of us, and I realize this is it, it's time to say good-bye to the remaining characters in our cross-country adventure. We'd already said good-bye to Dan and Jean, the crew, the truck drivers, and the bus drivers and now it had dwindled down to just Bernie, Zoot, Photoglo, McEntee and yours truly.

McEntee's flight departed at 8:00 a.m. so after some heartfelt handshakes and hugs he grabbed the hotel shuttle to the airport. He probably had just enough time for a quick breakfast and a very slow security check before boarding.

Zoot and Photoglo were both booked on a 9:00 a.m. flight back home to Nashville so they had a chance to at least check in to their rooms for a quick shower, followed by a quick breakfast and then a quick shuttle ride to the airport where they would go through an extremely slow security check before boarding.

That left Bernie and me and we were booked on an 11:00 a.m. flight back to L.A. So we had the luxury of getting a whole two hours of sleep before the quick shower, quick breakfast, quick shuttle ride to the airport and an agonizingly slow security check before boarding. Then it hit me and I finally realized, we were flying home on the 4th of July weekend and it seemed like everybody who was flying out of Albuquerque was leaving at the same time...11:00 a.m.!!

Well, we endured the laborious airport security routine and then headed to our boarding gate which, true to form was the last gate at the end of the terminal, also known as a Rock'n'Roll gate. That's because of another road rule in the "Great Book of Roadzilla" which states; "Distance to an airport boarding gate shall be determined by the amount of time you have and the weight of your carry-on luggage," less time and heavier luggage equates into a longer walk to the gate. I believe it's road rule #29 and that's followed by road rule #30, which, if I'm not mistaken, has something to do with traveling on holidays.

After every seat on the plane was filled and every conceivable space was stuffed with carry-on bags, we finally took off, right on time. It was a short flight to L.A., just long enough to finish the obligatory bag of peanuts and soft drink they supply and get a numb butt from those uncomfortable seats. Oh, how I missed The Chair !

It was twelve noon when we landed in L.A. and it was a beautiful day. And since it was also July 4th weekend, LAX was an absolute madhouse, especially at the baggage carousels. However, Bernie and I were able to fend off several tourists long enough to retrieve our luggage and make it to the limo outside that was waiting to take us home.

The driver headed north on 405 toward the San Fernando Valley, past the Getty museum, over the Sepulveda pass and then to Bernie's house. Bernie thought he was going to have some time off but as fate would have it he would only be home for a few days before going out to face Roadzilla all over again. You see, he got a Rock'n'Roll S.O.S. call just a few days before we ended Dan's tour and had to go out and rescue a tour in progress that was in a state of chaos. A true road dog if I ever met one.

We said our brief good-byes and promised to get together for a round of golf or a dinner sometime but I think we both knew deep down inside that fate would have more control over that than we would. We were road dogs, Rock'n'Roll Gypsies, and so much of our lives were involved with fate and finding the next gig. We still haven't had that round of golf or the dinner but I'm sure we think of each other from time to time.

Finally, it was just me and the driver heading back to Burbank and it felt so strange not to have the other guys in the limo with me. All the layers of the tour had been peeled away and had vanished in just twenty-four hours, Dan, the crew, the band. Now I was alone and in the midst of my other life and although I was happy to be home, I knew it would be about a week or so before I was once again able to change out of "Road Mode" and get back into my "normal" life on the left coast.

Boom! Shazam! It had all disappeared in a twenty-four hour meltdown and I ended the day by relaxing in 'My Chair,' happy to be home but sad that there weren't a few more shows coming up. As I sat back and sipped my Gin & Tonic, I couldn't help occasionally gazing out the window at the neighborhood and reflecting on what a great adventure it had all been. Long live Roadzilla!

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