Notes from the Road – Clearwater House Concert 12-13-08 Well, after a great night’s sleep in the cool air of the camper Friday night I woke a little late and set to finishing yesterday’s Notes, slurping coffee and otherwise lazing about. My check out time from Sun ‘n Fun was 11 a.m. and, though they don’t usually enforce those things very tightly, I endeavored to meet that deadline. Hook up went without a hitch (sort of a pun there I guess) and I was on the road again. Windy, VERY windy. When you’re hauling a huge aluminum box behind you it acts like a sail catching every possible gust and snatching you sideways. If I didn’t have the load levelers and sway bar on here I’d be swatting traffic in adjoining lanes like a flipper on a pinball machine. I’ve spent enough time hauling this behemoth over the years that I barely notice it anymore. However, my route this morning would take me over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge into St. Pete and I admit I’ve never towed the monster a couple of hundred feet up into gusting, swirling winds before (imagine that low ominous music that foreshadows trouble coming in your favorite TV show). No worries, mate! Though the Bay was frothing with white caps the wind seemed to subside as I climbed the Skyway and I crossed without incident. In fact, the day was crystal clear and I quite enjoyed the view from the bridge as I made my way up one side and down. The old bridge exists only at each end these days serving as a very nice fishing pier and State Park. The old Skyway was a lot different than this new incarnation. The top span had steel grates on the roadway which let you literally look down at the water below and made your tires roar menacingly as you crossed. Seems like the incline up and down was steeper too. When I was a senior in high school here in St. Pete a few of us thought it would be quite daring and fun to ride bicycles down the Skyway. We were lazy, stupid teenagers so we never gave any thought to riding UP – naw, we loaded the bikes in a buddy’s van and drove to the top during a time we had assumed would be low traffic. Turns out there’s never traffic low enough for a moronic stunt like this. So, at the top we stopped the van, jumped out to sound of horns blaring as the swerved to pass, grabbed the bikes and pointed them downhill. If you’ve never ridden a narrow tired, butt busting ten speed bike downhill at upwards of 70 MPH – well, DON’T!! We made it without injury or citation, but only because Darwin apparently took the day off. Needless to say no one was hollering “let’s do it again!!” I got to my new campsite, checked in, had a little lunch and decide on an afternoon snooze. I was out and sleeping hard when loud pounding on the camper door bounced me off the ceiling. A kind and well meaning neighbor had stopped by to let me know that the front left tire of the Expedition was flatter’n a flitter. Yeah, not talking low, leaking or on the way to flat – down on the ground like a dime store toy flat. Thanks goodness that didn’t happen on the road with the trailer in tow! Never having had a flat on this vehicle in the four years I’ve owned it, it took me a little while to figure out how to lower the spare which is suspended up under the year by a cable and get out the gear to change the tire. Some huffing and puffing, seriously dirty hands and a little quiet cussing and I was ready to go shower, change and make my way over to the show. Rick Kennedy and Denise Adams and their curious assortment of dogs and cats live just off of US 19 near the Mainlands golf course in between Pinellas Park and Clearwater. It’s a nice house with a great room that serves very well for a house concert space – high ceilings and good, lively acoustics that make amplification entirely unnecessary. Rick has become a ukulele aficionado and I got the full showing of his various interesting and ornate ukes while Denise bustled about getting refreshments, etc. ready for the guests. At the appointed hour we began – a small crowd, but if you judge everything in life in terms of quantity instead of quality you miss the finest there is. This was an exceptionally good group which, with only two exceptions, all folks that had not heard a full show from me in the past. So, I have several new members of the fan club and CD’s were bought by all! I must confess that the centerpiece of the performance was Owen, Rick and Denise’s aged Pekinese, that toddled about seeking fallen crumbs from guest’s plates. Early in the show, as I was building the intro to “As the Crow Flies”, Owen (who apparently had snagged a few cheese puffs when no one was looking) yarfed under Denise’s chair and set them to frantically, yet quietly, cleaning the offending deposit from the floor. Now a kinder performer would have proceeded as if nothing had happened diverting attention from the small disaster, but NOOOO – I made it into part of the song. Owen, apparently feeling much better after ridding himself of the cheese puffs, wandered around behind me and sprawled on the carpet, squirming feet straight up in the air to the music, as I sang this soulful, introspective piece. Not able to avoid the humor of it all I converted “as the crow flies” in one verse to “as the dog lies” to a roar of good natured laughter. You just gotta roll with the punches! Two set of music, great German chocolate cake and wonderful company. A great night and a wonderful way to close a house concert weekend. Thanks so much to Rick and Denise for hosting me and to my good friend Doug Purcell for setting it up. Today I head on back home, but I may try to drop by Sweetwater Farms on the way for their open mic and performances. I have the directions, etc. but it’s a matter of deciding how to get the behemoth down there and parked, we’ll see. All the Best folks!