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May 6, 2015

Journal From The Road: Perrysburg, Ohio

     Out here on this troubadour circuit time gets consumed like cheap fuel. Life is either an orgy of excess or a gauntlet to be run depending on what time of day we’re talking about. Travel is mostly chaos and none of it particularly wholesome. And yet it keeps life interesting.

The road has changed considerably since I first drove the breadth of America with my band Wire And Wood in 1974. The potholes are deeper, the beds harder and more expensive, the food more processed. You can buy bottled water anywhere now, but getting rid of the water after you’re finished with it? That often requires exploring a surfeit of gas stations and convenience stores for one that doesn’t say “Rest Rooms for Customers Only.” I have become a patron out of desperation many times. In other words I’ve been sold a pot to piss in...but who can blame the proprietors? They're the ones who must wield the mops and plungers. We pass lots of folks who just become naturists when nature calls, discretely maneuvering themselves into position behind car doors while being buffeted by the 70 mph hurricane force winds of passing rigs. Not me, I don't enjoy the blowback. 

These days the truckers are under more pressure to deliver their cargos on schedule. Trucking accidents are up at a rate so alarming that a government study has been undertaken to find out why. I can save them a lot of money. Every year I find it harder to make ends meet out here. I can only imagine how much the teamsters must push themselves just to take home a profit. Ask a man to drive a double rig 1200 miles in two days, work him until he is blurry-eyed and wired on coffee or other illegal substances and do you think maybe you’ll see a spike in the accident rate? Study complete.

Meals and sleep come when they do out here. If you have some dietary restrictions that your doctor ordered (meaning if you are older than 55) you will be abandoning them faster than a convict ditches a hot getaway car. You stock up on trail mix for those emergency midnight “meals” after the day’s travel and performance are over. You wake up to dine on hard boiled eggs and a stale English muffin if you come to the lobby early enough to find anything except failed waffle projects and crumbs at the breakfast bar. Did I mention that you have to wake up at 6am after maybe finally falling asleep at 2am in order to get to the bar while the food is still pliable? The sign out front says “Hot Breakfast” when they really mean "Warm Yogurt." 

Our bone jarring ride across Ohio on Interstate 80 yesterday gave us very little time for intelligent conversation. The talk went something like this: “Pothole…POTHOLE! Wow, this road is a disaster! You could try getting…Holy hell, we’re driving on the shoulder…what is that orange barrel doing in the…look out!” At one point we were forced to exit I-80, take a 20 minute detour and get back onto I-80 about 100 feet from where we got off. The good news is that the infrastructure is slowly being fixed. The bad news is that fixing it means breaking it even worse first.  

But never mind all of this. If my words sound like the griping of a grumpy old goat, well, they are. Whenever someone tells me I’m lucky to be doing what I love, of course I’m tempted to say, “I spend 14 hours a day doing things I hate,” but something stops me. I remember all of the amazing things that have been compressed into those two hours of daily bliss on stage. As it turns out, every road is a toll road. The best roads aren’t those that run through the scenic landscapes. They are the roads that lead to one’s joy, wherever it may be found.

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