Town sign in Carlin, Nevada
Outside of Idaho Falls, ID
View from Rick and Kathy's porch, Victor, ID
Parks' Ranch, near Pinedale, WY
California Cowpokes dressed for a WY wedding
Fremont Lake, Pinedale, WY
Grand Teton National Park
Road Trip 2012 Souvenirs
ROAD TRIP 2012
Monday, July 31st: On the road in my 2007 Dodge Caravan to Victor, ID, and Jackson and Pinedale, WY, with Claudia Hampe, to visit friends and attend a wedding this weekend. Along the way today we stopped in Carlin, NV, to fuel up and take the obligatory photo. Carlin is a great name for a town, but this is not a place that I would ever want to live. We drove 610 miles on the day, and we are staying this night at Cactus Pete's Casino in the town of Jackpot, NV, just a quarter mile from the Idaho border. About 30 years ago I played in the lounge here for a week with the Elmo & Patsy band. Little has changed since then. Cigarette smoke still fills the air, and it looks like the same people are still sitting at the slot machines, yet now the arms on the one-armed bandits are just for show, as the machines are all computerized. And it now costs a dollar a "pull" instead of a quarter. Alas, the casino got none of my money this night. After you get outside of Reno or Las Vegas, Nevada is not very appealing to me -- lots of desert, sagebrush, casinos, junk food restaurants and nothingness. And not a Trader Joe's within hundreds of miles! Soundtrack provided by Kathy Mattea, the Stanley Brothers, Rick Jamison, The Cox Family, Mike Breen, Eric Uglum, Del McCoury & David Grisman, Teddy Thompson, and IIIrd Tyme Out.
Tuesday, July 31st: Purple mountains majesty, spacious skies, amber waves of grain...it turns out that southeastern Idaho is much more than just potatoes! Claudia and I had a nice 4.5 hour drive today from Jackpot, NV, to the outskirts of a small town called Victor, ID, which is about eight miles from the Wyoming border, where we are staying with erstwhile Bay Area friends Rick Jamison and Kathy Schmidt at their beautiful farmhouse. After a delicious barbecue dinner and some tasty Trout Slayer Wheat Ale on the front porch, we got out the guitars and sat and sang some bluegrass and country songs for a couple of hours, with no neighbors within earshot. Fine food, friends and live music...is there a better way to spend a warm summer evening?
Wednesday, August 1st: Simply a magical day spent mostly on the front porch at Rick and Kathy's farmhouse just outside of downtown Victor, ID. The photo to the left is a view of the Teton Valley from the porch, and you can see why it would be easy to spend the entire summer sitting here. The town of Victor is very small, with a population of 1,928, but it has more than doubled in size since the year 2000. As Rick likes to say, "It is now inhabited by the millionaires that got priced out of Jackson, WY, by the billionaires." The highlight of the afternoon was a rousing game of, ahem, "cornhole," which is similar to horseshoes, but is played with corn bags. Any game that you can play while holding a beer in one hand is my kind of sport! After the match, we nibbled on Kathy's tasty homemade pizza as an appetizer before we all enjoyed one of the finest meals ever -- Kathy's homemade baguettes and angel hair pasta made from fresh-ground flour (that Claudia ground with a hand-grinder), a marinara sauce with Claudia's homegrown tomatoes, Rick's tossed salad with some of their garden-fresh lettuce, and a bottle of imported (by us from CA) Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. After which the guitars came out and music filled the air once again. The 1st of August never looked, tasted, felt, or sounded so good...
Thursday, August 2nd: After a very pleasant breakfast on the front porch at Rick and Kathy’s in Victor, ID, it was tough to pack up the bags and guitars and leave their place. It was a wonderful visit, and we certainly look forward to returning again and staying for longer than just two days. Claudia and I made the short 24 mile drive up to 8,500 feet over the Teton Pass into Jackson, WY, a town of around 10,000 people that lies at 6,237 feet. The photo to the left was taken from atop Snow King Mountain in June of 2011 during our previous visit here, so you can see the snow that was still in abundance in Grand Teton National Park in the distance. It is a beautiful area of the country, and Jackson is a major tourist destination in the summer, as it is only 90 miles from Yellowstone National Park. During the winter people come here to ski. We are staying once again with our writer/musician/photographer/filmmaker/historian friend John Cooke (check out his fabulous music photos from the '60s!). In the afternoon we took in a matinee of Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love” (it has its moments, but the Woodman’s neurotic nebbish character of yore just doesn’t play well at age 76), after which we went to an art opening at the Altamira Fine Art Gallery downtown, and then had a scrumptious dinner at the Cafe Genevieve. Later on, while a magnificent full moon lit the way, it was back here to John’s where we sang Louvin Brothers songs until we could sing no more. Another wonderful day on the road trip, this time filled with film, art, fine food and more music. Suffice it to say, I could easily get used to this bohemian way of life...
Friday, August 3rd: After a nice easy morning and early afternoon that included breakfast and lunch with our friend John Cooke at this house in Jackson, we hit the road at 2 p.m. and made the 77 mile drive southeast to Pinedale, WY, our ultimate destination on this trip. We are staying at the Hampton Inn just at the edge of this small town. Pinedale has a population of 2,030, and it sits at an elevation of 7,175 above sea level. We came here to attend the wedding of Nick Yagoda and Cecily Parks. Nick is the oldest son of Claudia’s college roommate Toni Yagoda from 43 years ago, and he is in medical school. Cecily is a poet whose parents own a ranch about 25 miles northwest of Pinedale, and tonight we rode the shuttle bus out to the ranch to attend the rehearsal dinner. This is real cowboy country, and the Parks' property is pretty magnificent. Hoss, Ben, and Little Joe Cartwright would have felt right at home at this spread. The photo to the left was taken from their front porch. It was a pleasant evening with about 100 people in attendance, and the views, food and cameraderie were splendiferous. The wedding here tomorrow promises to be quite an event.
Saturday, August 4th: The breakfast buffet was decent for a chain motel out here in Pinedale, WY, and we shared a table with some friends that are here for the wedding. Around noon we cruised into downtown, and after a coffee at the hip and cool Rock Rabbit Cafe (which had Old Crow Medicine Show playing on the house system and classic concert photos hanging in the rest room) we wandered down the street into the Cowboy Shop, where Claudia got a sharp western shirt and hat, and I picked up that spiffy new black cowboy hat that you see in the photo to the left. To paraphrase a saying, “When in cowboy country, do as the cowboys do.” A couple of hours later we boarded the shuttle bus again for the 25 mile ride out to the Ponderosa, er, I mean, Parks’ family ranch, for the slightly unconventional but thoroughly enjoyable wedding of Nick Yagoda and Cecily Parks. For starters, the newlyweds requested in advance that instead of gifts, if attendees insisted on giving something, that they please donate money to a list of causes that include medical clinics and writer organizations. The ceremony itself took place out in the pasture in the blazing hot sun, with hay bales as pews. It was a dang good thing that Claudia retrieved our hats from the motel room before we left, or else I would have been hiding out in the shuttle bus until the ceremony was over. The groom and his party walked into the field wearing attractive beige suits, and the bride arrived from the main house in a 1972 Nissan pickup truck driven by her father. The ceremony lasted about a half an hour, and afterwards champagne and hors d'oeuvres were served nearby while wedding photos were taken. Eventually everyone was herded towards the big shaded tent where the reception was to take place. The catered meal was incredible, featuring sea bass and roast beef, quinoa, sweet potatoes and string beans. Before long a smokin’ R&B band began playing, and after the traditional first dances by the newlyweds and the bride with her father, the band broke into some Motown tunes that had most of the attendees tearing up the portable dance floor. We had been asked by the groom's mom to sing a song since there was a stage and a p.a. system, so after the first set the groom’s brother Tom introduced Claudia and me. It was with a bit of trepidation that we made our way to the stage with our acoustic guitars after the crowd had just gone wild dancing to the sounds of The Temptations and James Brown. Needless to say, it was quite the change of pace when Claudia began singing the folk song “Give Yourself to Love” (by the late California singer/songwriter Kate Wolf) to Nick and Cecily. But it turned out to be a big hit, and it was a nice way for us to honor the newlyweds. Claudia has known Nick since he was born, so it was quite a special moment. After we sang, it was announced that dessert was being served, and, to my delight, instead of the traditional wedding cake, a multitude of delectable pies were served. And no, the groom did not smash any into the face of his new bride! A grand time was had by all at a wedding that will not soon be forgotten by anyone in attendance, and we two tired-yet-happy-to-have-made-the-long-trek-to-Wyoming California cowpokes made our way back to the bunkhouse, er, motel, by 11 p.m.
Sunday, August 5th: For the first time on this trip we were up early, at 7:30 a.m., in the Hampton Inn in Pinedale, WY, and we checked out by 9 in order to make it to the post-wedding brunch at the Fremont Lake Lodge a short distance away. To the left is a view of the lake from the deck of the lodge. It was another beautiful morning, and the food that was served was by far the best brunch cuisine that I have ever tasted. After the meal, the wedding guests began to say their goodbyes, as most of the attendees came from the East Coast, and they had to catch flights in Jackson or in Salt Lake City, UT. Some planned to stay for a few more days, so Claudia went back to the Parks’ ranch with the groom’s mother Toni and their friend Melanie, while I headed to the Rock Rabbit Cafe in Pinedale to chill out some and also to use their Wi-Fi connection. When the café closed at 2 p.m. I went over to the rustic Log Cabin Motel where there was a wedding-party cabin that I had access to for a few hours, where I read and relaxed for a bit before going to the Wind River Brewing Company by 6 p.m., where I met Claudia, Toni, and 17 other wedding folks for a farewell dinner and some mighty fine beer. At the next table sat a couple of tourists, and the guy had on a Phillies shirt, so I struck up a conversation. Turns out that they were from Collegeville, PA, not very far from where I grew up. As true Philly fans, we commiserated over the woeful plight of the Phillies, and we both expressed doubt about the Super Bowl chances for the Eagles this year. The brewpub grub and brew were pretty good for being on the edge of nowhere, and after spending the better part of three days with these folks, it was a bit sad to say goodbye. At the same time, is was a wonderful way to wind down the wedding weekend, and afterwards Claudia and I made the 77 mile drive back to Jackson to our friend John Cooke's by 10:15 p.m., happily satisfied that we made the 1,000 mile journey to Wyoming to attend what turned out to be a most memorable wedding, and being proud owners of new cowboy hats!
Monday, August 6th: Claudia and I slept in at our friend John Cooke's in Jackson, WY, and we had breakfast in the house. Then I got on the computer to see about making hotel reservations in Reno, NV, for the drive back to CA tomorrow, as our original return plan had to be modified. It turns out that this week is “Hot August Nights” in Reno, and it is one of the busiest weeks of the year there, and reasonably priced rooms were hard to find, so we decided to drive all the way back to Mill Valley instead. It is a 900 mile drive, but with two drivers and half of our CD collection not listened to yet, we should be able to make it. We then headed to downtown Jackson by 1 p.m. where we had lunch with John and sat outside to eat at The Bunnery, which was very good (and, on the sage advice of Bay Area friend Jeannette Foley, an apple turnover was procured for consuming later on). After lunch we stopped in at the Thomas Mangelsen Gallery to view some of his nature photos. Mangelsen, a friend of John’s, is a renowned photographer, and if you are not familiar with his work, have a look at some of his amazing images. From there we took a short walk over to Stone’s Mercantile, where Claudia had seen some red cowboy boots in the window when we were in town last Thursday. It turns out that they had her size in stock, so she now has some spiffy new red Abilene boots to add to her growing collection. While I was waiting for her to try them on, I noticed a discount rack of men’s boots, and what immediately caught my eye was the fact that they had some sharp brown ones in my size. While I do own two pair of boots that I wear on stage from time to time, I have never been a big fan of the things. I did try them on, and dang if they didn’t fit perfectly. John, who as a longtime resident of Jackson wears boots quite often, took one look and said, “Those look great on you. You are buying them, right?” So I now own a pair of Nocona Made-in-the-USA brown leather boots. We left the store and went back to John's to change, rehearse, pack up our guitars, and drive out to Dornan's in the town of Moose, by 5:15, for the legendary Monday Night Hootenanny that began at 6 p.m. The setting out there is absolutely breathtaking, as you can see Grand Teton National Park just across the way (and to the left here). Claudia and I got to play there last year when we were in town, and since we are here on a Monday, we simply had to go back to play the Hoot again. It is an amazing, free event, that has a huge listening crowd as well as a couple of dozen performers, and, decked out in our new boots, we never looked or sounded better while we sang duets on “I Wanna Sing that Rock and Roll” by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and “Out of Hand” by Ira Louvin. We also sat in with John when he sang his two songs. Afterwards we celebrated with some tasty Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale and some Grand Teton Sweetgrass Pale Ale. And, as luck would have it, Claudia met a musician there whose mother is going to be moving to Mill Valley at the end of the year, and Claudia may be able to help her find a house! The night at Dornan’s was, uh, a “real hoot” as well as a lot of fun. All in all, it was a very enjoyable and successful day and night, and it was well worth the trip back to Jackson for a second time within one week.
Tuesday, August 7th: Long day’s journey into night. Facing one heck of a long drive, we got up at 6:45 a.m. at John's in Jackson, WY, had breakfast, said goodbye, on then we were on the road by 8. We retraced the route that we took going out to Wyoming. We started the trek back by going over Teton Pass into Idaho, passing through the towns of Victor and Idaho Falls while stopping in Twin Falls for fuel and lunching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, topped off with a cone at Dairy Queen. From there it was an hour or so drive south into Nevada at the town of Jackpot, where we stayed on the first night out our journey. Another hour south on Highway 93 took us to the town of Wells and I-80, where we switched drivers and headed west for eons. Claudia drove from Wells to Reno, where we tanked up again before making our way into CA and over the Donner Pass into Auburn, where a short rest stop and a sandwich for dinner got us all the way back to Mill Valley by 11 p.m. Including the time change (we gained an hour heading into PST on the way back) it took us 16 hours to drive the 903 miles from Jackson to Claudia’s house, and, as luck would have it, we logged exactly 2,000 miles on the odometer of my trusty 2007 Dodge Caravan from where we began the trip in her driveway eight days back. The soundtrack on the return journey was provided by Chris Stuart & Backcountry, Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen, Tom, Brad & Alice, Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley, Tom Rozum, The Lynn Morris Band, Hot Rize, Carol Elizabeth Jones & Laurel Bliss, Larry Potts, The Whitstein Brothers, and Ralph Stanley’s “Clinch Mountain Sweethearts” recording. It was one fantastic road trip, visiting with friends, attending a wedding, singing a lot of songs, and seeing some fabulous scenery in the western part of this country. If you have never been across Nevada to southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming, you are missing out on a lot. Claudia and I have now been there two years in a row, and we look forward to maybe going back next year. And hey, it was worth going there this time just to be able to come back with new cowboy hats and boots!
This page updated 8/8/12