Oh, Summer! You salacious love child of sun and sky! You satisfy all of us — the languid backyard readers, the peak-baggers, the paddlers, the painters, the planters, the perambulators. Yes, there’s winter for all you cold weather freaks, but for just three or four perfect months, this is not about you.
My thrill isn’t a shower of ice needles to the face, it’s about piling into a car with besties for the ultimate of summer adventures, the rock ’n’ roll road trip. Just as summer is pondering her perennial slide into the glories of autumn, in a couple of Mondays, I’ll be heading east with Daughter-Friend to the Holy Mother of All Venues — Red Rocks — to see an act that excites some, makes some scoff and whose polarizing presence on the planet ensures their rock cred, Greta Van Fleet. But, as it is with any destination, it’s about the journey.
I’ll be honest with you. Because I don’t have all that much paid time off from the j-o-b, I strongly considered flying instead of gassing up the Subie, so I’d only miss one day of work instead of two. I shopped the flights out of Telluride’s airport, but I’m not exactly flush in cash … ever. Anyway, while the convenience is obvious and incredibly attractive, if I’m going to pay good money to be terrified, I’ll just keep upping my subscription to the New York Times and stay abreast of the news. So, drive it is.
I already anticipate that my daughter’s and my idea of morning launch time will differ by a few hours. Maybe I like to leave earlier because I only break speed limits by 5-10 mph. Daughter-Friend has been known to travel at rates that defy the time-space continuum. When she was still in college and heading home from Fort Collins, she’d text saying, “Just left Gunni!” and then walk in the door 20 minutes later. Perhaps I can introduce her to a less-hurried way of crossing this beautiful state and back.
I’m very much a fair weather road tripper. This is my time. Even when I’m in a car piloted by someone who drives well in winter conditions, I’m gripped and uncomfortable. But dry roads and blue skies beckon like a Siren. Sadly, there has been precious little gettin’ outta the valley this year. I’m about to change that with a 600-some-mile round-trip excursion. And it’s one that features not only an exciting young rock band, but precious time with Daughter-Friend.
The last time we two found ourselves headed out of town, she and I drove south to Durango for one of the coolest live music events ever invented, the Durango Blues Train. The Dearly Beloved couldn’t make it so I asked D-F, not really thinking she’d be game, but her enthusiastic yes was a portent for the raucous time we had.
The Blues Train runs two weekends in the summer, early June and mid-August. The historic train is stocked with one- and two-person blues acts arrayed throughout the train’s cars, plus a larger band in one car. Patrons roam the narrow aisles, moving from car to car, as the train chugs into the San Juan National Forest, affording craft brew-sipping fans incredible views and crisp mountain air to go with their blues music.
Except last June, our train did not roll. The infamous 416 Fire had ignited perilously close to the tracks the day before, so in a wise, safety-minded decision, our Blues Train never left the railyard. It was still an astounding, perfect summer night, filled with great music and fine companions (and I’ll bet the little loos onboard were much cleaner than if the train had been rocking to and fro on its narrow gauge tracks). The beer-drinking prowess of a young person post-college is formidable, to say the least. I’m proud to say I went toe-to-toe with my girl, and for her part, she opened her mind to the blues. That trip proved to be a summer highlight.
One thing worth noting about my girl is that she is a country music fan. Seeing Jason Isbell at The Ride this summer was an easy sell. I confess that when she said she had tickets to Greta Van Fleet, my eyebrows betrayed my surprise. Turns out, she’s mad about them, and while I consider myself a fan, she knows all the words. It must also be noted that another friend had asked me to accompany her to the same concert, but I’d said no, eyeing my waning paid time off account. But when Daughter-Friend put it forth some weeks after, saying no was not really an option.
When I’m on my death bed, it won’t be work or money or any material gains I’ve made in life I’ll be happily reviewing, but instead it will be about something far more important — an experience shared with someone who’s nestled deeply into my heart. These will be well spent days off, indeed.
And they can’t come a moment too soon.