I just checked the Moon Pie’s odometer. We logged 8,418 miles on the Canadian trip, driving up the east coast of the United States to Maine, then west to Alberta, then back home to Atlanta. We played 17 dates in 20 days, maybe not such a heavy schedule by back-in-the-day standards (on his first European tour Duke Ellington played 74 shows in 72 days), but it was enough to keep us jumping.
We hit our rhythm pretty quickly: get up, eat breakfast, drive, load in and set up, eat dinner while the sound man mics the stage, sound check, change clothes, play the show, load out, go to bed, get up and do it again. We did that for eight days straight, driving 700 miles on our off day, and then five more days. By that time we were good to keep going as long as it took.
One thing we discovered (well, we knew it already but now we really know it) was that we love Canada and we love the Canadians. The audiences are wonderful. People, even hotel and gas station clerks, just seem a little friendlier there. The road food is way better. On the down side, there’s more snow and ice. A lot more. We set out on the advice that we’d be okay with good all-season radial tires, but even with the weight of Franher’s SVT amp in the back, we had a few white-knuckle moments on the icy Rocky Mountain grades. A bartender in Jasper told us, “We call those summer tires.”
We learned that North America is huge. Road maps of Canada don’t even show its northern edge. It just seems to stretch out to infinity. Even traveling east to west, the distances can be staggering and the connections between towns sometimes tenuous. We drove the Trans-Canada Highway around the north side of the Great Lakes — mostly two-lane, with nothing but rocks, trees, “moose crossing” signs and the ever-present inuksuit, little rock men on ledges along the roadside, to let you know that others have passed this way. On the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper we met first a herd of bighorn sheep and then a pack of wolves.
Another thing we learned – perhaps the best thing from my point of view – was how well this foursome travels together. We’ve grown into a solid unit now both on and off stage, and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. When we finally arrived home everyone was glad to get here, but at the same time all of us were saying, “When do we go out again?”
(Thanks to Michael A. Murphy and Jennifer Murphy for the photos.)