Before packing up and heading out, I had a lot of anxiety. Many things came into my mind that worried me about the trip. This was going to be the longest trip away from southern Utah in my adult life and my longest vacation away from The Independent in 21 years. Not only that, but I was going solo with plans to camp in my vehicle most nights and in areas where I’d never been. In addition to that, I had recently purchased my 2005 Land Cruiser, which has close to 200,000 miles on it, and although in so many ways it is the perfect traveling vehicle, it was still pretty new to me, and I fretted about a possible breakdown. Add to that that two of the five gigs I had booked were three-hour shows in venues I’ve never heard of and I was facing a lot of unknowns.
So as the days grew nearer, my anxiety surrounding the trip, as well as my excitement for it, continued to build. By the time the day arrived, I was eager to hop in the car and get going.
After finally getting on the road, I made the short trek to Ogden to visit my only child, Sky, and friends. I had a great evening, saw a couple of good bands, and stayed up way too late, but I had an awesome time. The second day, I drove the few hours to Rock Springs, Wyoming, where I played my first gig of the tour at a cool little spot called Johnny Macs. There weren’t a lot of folks at the bar as the weather had just gotten really nice, so many of the regulars were out camping.
The next night, I played a second gig in Rock Springs at a funky old bar called the Park Lounge on the first level of an otherwise abandoned hotel. It was a super cool building, and the people in attendance were nice, but unfortunately again, it was fairly sparse crowd. I spent some time that day in the nearby town of Green River where I checked out a beautiful island park, dipped my toes in the swollen river, and took a nap under a tree.
The next day, I decided to get up early and head north toward my next show in Jackson Hole. I made it somewhere around halfway before stopping to see two converging rivers. At that spot, there was a sign for Granite Hot Springs, so I decided to head that way. I had an extra day between shows, and I so love hot springs … it basically became the theme of the trip! The pool at the springs was a bit more warm than hot as the heavy snow runoff mixed with the natural springs to make the pool a nice 86 degrees. I camped in the campground less than a mile from the springs and enjoyed my first tailgate-cooked meal of the trip, which I prepared in the light rain. It was so good. Nothing like a home-cooked meal, even when the home is your car.
The next morning, I headed to Jackson Hole to play my gig at Town Square Tavern, a very nice restaurant and bar located right across the street from the famous Town Square Park. The show was great, especially considering it was one of the three-hours gigs. I learned a couple of new tunes and revived a few others to make sure I had plenty of material to fill the time. I really enjoyed Jackson Hole. It reminded me a bit of Springdale with all the tourists, of which I was one. I enjoyed the incredible surrounding mountain views as well as two delicious meals at a classy spot called Lotus Cafe.
The next morning, I caught a yoga class in Jackson and then headed west toward Idaho, even though I didn’t have to be in Pocatello until the next evening, and I’m so glad I did. I got some killer pictures of an old abandoned house, checked out a campground right by the river, and found some more incredible hot springs in Heise. This one was both hot and large. After soaking for a few hours, I made my way up the road to a secluded camp spot and again cooked a yummy meal on the tailgate. I took a moonlit walk before enjoying another restful night sleeping in the truck. This was probably my favorite day of the whole trip. I enjoyed solitude, the freedom of the open road with no destination, and the beauty of the landscape.
The next night, I drove to Pocatello to play at the First National Bar, a spot my dad had performed at a few time over years before. Again, the crowds were fairly light, which was fine by me as smoking is allowed there. Fewer folks meant less smoke. The gig went well. I got lots of cheers and made some new friends.
That day and the next, I roamed around old town Pocatello and ate twice at a fantastic place appropriately called The Healthier Place to Eat.
From there, I got a tip about Lava Hot Springs, and of course I had to go. Although fairly commercial, I think these were my favorite hot springs of the trip. They featured large, clear pools at different temperatures including one at 112 degrees, with my personal favorite around 105 degrees and featuring jets. I camped nearby in a little campground right by the river. I made a super tasty Thai noodle dish and caught up with my dad on a long call. We shared tales of the road, tips on camping in our cars (he’s done a lot of that), and talked about our family and upcoming reunion. I slept near a waterfall and some train tracks, and the trains came through a few times — something I’m not used to hearing or seeing in southern Utah. I hit Lava Hot Springs once more before hitting the road toward Utah.
The last couple days of my trip were fantastic. I cruised from southern Idaho into northern Utah, beautiful country. I’ve visited some friends and Sky before heading to Spanish Fork for my final gig. The show itself was fairly uneventful, although I did get some great compliments and feedback. By the time I wrapped up there, it was well after midnight. I just wanted to point my vehicle toward home and go as far as I could, which is what I did. I cruised south on I-15 until I started to feel sleepy, pulled over at a rest stop, and passed out for the night.
The next morning, I woke up with the sun, excited to hit one final hot springs experience on my trek home, one of my favorites: Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe. Getting there before they opened for the day, I chatted with a nice lady who was traveling from Canada all over the west in her own camper van. Mystic Mike greeted me after they opened, and I told him about my tour. He asked if I’d like to play a couple of songs, which I did. I then soaked in one of the vintage bath tubs while I prepared myself mentally for my return to southern Utah.
As I pulled onto the plateau before entering Zion Canyon, I felt swirls of emotions, mostly happiness but also a little bit of fear. I brought back with me new insights on myself, the knowledge that I need to do better to nurture and take care of myself, and a new list of goals and visions for my life.
I feel so very blessed to have had this opportunity to travel, perform, meet new people, and just get out of my comfort zone for a bit. That much time by yourself forces you to look inside, something we all need to do.
Thank you all for your support and interest in this introspective journey. I am definitely considering doing it again, if just for the time on the road and to myself. As I write this, I am already gearing up for my next road trip in early July, driving up to the Oregon coast for a family reunion with just immediate family. Not only am I excited to get on the road again, but I’m super stoked to get to the ocean and to see all of my family. Be well and happy reading.