Updated: Sep 16, 2019
Day 26: Charlotte to Jacksonville, Florida
As usual on travel days after staying in a place for a while, the morning was spent cleaning and repacking the Tour Loaf. The Captain was uncharacteristically motivated to depart early, which I later discovered would have been much better than what we actually did. Ah well, it is good learning for next time.
We pulled out of Stephanie's at 1235 hours, but it was another hour at least before we got on the road towards Jacksonville. First, we refueled our gasoline and purchased some supplies at an automobile parts store. The next few hours passed without incident as we headed south through South Carolina. At 1630, once we were on the main thoroughfare of I-95 that would take us all the way to our destination, I suggested we stop for gas, a quick meal, the calibration of our new mileage gauge, and to check and remedy our tire pressure. I was aware from my research that we would need to find a truck stop to increase our tire pressure, since typical air pumps would fail to fill our large truck tires, so we found one of these, I thinking myself to clever. Unfortunately, we were unaware of how to go about the task of checking and filling our truck tires, which proved different in more ways than one than with a smaller vehicle. This circumstance immediately heightened the Captain's anxiety. In response, I stress-ate a Subway sandwich, a Dairy Queen blizzard, and downed an ice blue Gatorade. Eventually the Captain solved the problem, by enlisting the staff at a Michelin Tire establishment across the way to check and fill our tires for us. Due to our prolonged stop, the Captain became tired three hours before we reached our destination. I played his choice of loud, familiar music, hoping he would find something he could sing along to. Our moods were dark by the time we arrived at Megan's parents' condominium around 2200 hours. Their hospitality saved the night. They had reserved an RV parking space for us, and had cooked a sumptuous feast of penne with a choice of meat or vegetable sauces, and baked chocolate chip cookies. Kathie and Bill were well-prepared for the meeting of Spanky, their large white dog, and the Ugly Bear. Since Spanky had been known to treat other dogs violently, despite his friendliness towards humans, they had erected a fence that divided the living room from the kitchen. The Ugly Bear and Spanky were kept safely apart, and regarded each other curiously from afar. After the meal, we unloaded our gear into the condominium for temperature-controlled safekeeping, and divided ourselves into the various sleeping arrangements. Kathie and Bill were possessed of a multitude of sleeping arrangements for us, including another entire one-bedroom condominium belonging to a relative, Sandy, a few steps away from their own. Kathie kindly provided linens for the couch in the extra condominium for my bedding, Molhy retired to the bedroom there, the Captain took the extra bedroom at Kathie and Bill's, and McRage and Magoon used the cot and hide-a-bed, respectively, in the living room.
Day 27: Jacksonville, Florida
Streaks of morning light peeked through white shutters in the beach-themed condominium. I had slept marvelously on the couch, in the quiet. Basking in the calm semi-darkness, I picked up my book, the fifth installment of a tale of time travel, love and adventure in Scotland and the early American colonies and read for a time. Molhy eventually emerged from her bedroom and went exploring in the direction of the beach we had heard about from Magoon's parents the night prior.
Today we would play our final performance as a full band on the tour. We were scheduled for three hours in the evening at Lulu's Waterfront Grille, which was located just a few minutes from the condominium by car. After today, the crew will begin to disperse, with myself being the first to leave: I have booked a ticket to travel by air back to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to meet with my family for a celebration and brief reunion. A few days later in Louisiana, McRage is scheduled to depart by air, to return to Austin before the rest of the group in order to begin teaching at a high school band camp. The remaining three crew members will play a show in Lafayette, Louisiana as a trio, and arrive last in Austin by August 9th, bringing the grand total of days on the road to 35 days. For today, we had no concrete plans until the performance. Around midmorning, I joined Magoon, the Captain, McRage, Kathie and Bill in the main condominium, where Kathie had prepared a breakfast feast of hash browns, bacon and sausage patties, eggs, and vegetables. We socialized over breakfast, and I enjoyed seeing Magoon so at ease with her family, after the trials of the journey. I retrieved my computer after the meal, and sat with the group while updating the tour finances. I found us not only in the black, but standing to make a considerable net profit, even after the substantial repairs. Plans were made for the evening's performance. Magoon's voice was not so bad as it was in Charlotte, but it would surely fail to sustain three hours of singing. To fill our three hours, we designated Molhy as the opening act - she would play a 45-minute solo set, followed by the full band playing for the remaining two hours. Molhy set herself to practicing and reviewing her songs for the day in the extra condominium. The weather began to sour at midday. Rain fell heavily, and the air remained damp with humidity even between showers. I feared for the pads of my instrument, and arranged to rent an intermediate flute from a music shop nearby. Richard, the shopkeep, was initially suspicious of my request, having been robbed of good instruments under a similar pretense of short-term rental in the past. After some explanation and assurances of my trustworthiness, however, he agreed to help, and I went with Bill and the Captain to retrieve the rental flute. By the end of our interactions with Richard, he was wishing us a good show and much financial success, and we left him with a complimentary copy of Last Match, the FlecHaus EP. We continued on to Jacksonville Beach to view the area from the car, since we preferred not to explore it in the rain. It is a quaint beachside neighborhood of bars and shops, with nearby neighborhoods of extravagant residences. Bill and the Captain deposited me back at the condominium and went to gather toiletries and ingredients for dinner (the Captain had accidentally left his toiletries at Planet Fitness in Bel Air, Maryland). I, struck by compositional inspiration for the first time in weeks, composed until the time came to depart for the show. In the process of gathering my things from both condominiums, I found that Magoon's grandparents and aunt had arrived in anticipation of our performance, and were eating an early evening meal at Bill and Kathie's. I sincerely hoped that some of the delectable looking mashed potatoes remained after the show, when I had time to eat them. We left the Ugly Bear safe in the spare bedroom in preparation for our departure. We departed for the show in Bill and Kathie's two cars at 1730 hours. It was no longer raining, but the threat of weather weighed heavy on the minds of the crew, as the bass rig and the bass itself were even more susceptible to water damage than my flute. We found Lulu's Waterfront Grille to be a charming and beautiful restaurant, but to our dismay the stage was unfinished, apparently in stages of development. While its columns and roofing were well-constructed, the "floor," if it could be called that, consisted of thin, damp wooden panels laid over each other and barely concealing the mulch and dirt underneath. It was apparent that if any rain came, we would be unprotected by the small roof. A few large puddles still dried in parts of the stage, with the end of an orange power cable resting in the largest pool of water. McRage, feeling anxious and guilty in response to the Captain's mounting anger-anxiety, stepped inadvertently in this pool, but the wire was luckily undamaged and did not electrocute him. Unfortunately, this was not his only misfortune. He had broken a special cable for our mixer at the end of our last show by pulling it from its socket, and kept his own counsel about it at that time to avoid the Captain's ire. This made it so that Magoon and the Captain discovered the broken custom-order cable as they set up, further provoking a cocktail of frustration and guilt between the three crew members. Molhy and I escaped most of these stressful proceedings by attending to the set up of merchandise, with Kathie's assistance. Reflecting on the circumstance, I find it to be a product of incompatible stress coping mechanisms in the crew, and a month in close quarters in which we preferred to delay conversations which would cause immediate conflict. By our final show together, we had all had enough. A few angels of the night ensured that we did not turn on each other completely. Kathie then treated us to drinks, for which the Captain was most grateful (root beer is one of his anxiety coping mechanisms). Bill retrieved a large tarp from the condominium as emergency protection for the bass rig in case of rain. Marilyn, who had booked us the gig, made certain that we were paid even before beginning the performance. Lulu's Waterfront Grille is a large establishment, boasting several other areas that seemed large enought to accomodate the band and access to power with unsoaked cables. As the Captain was unwilling to negotiate for a safer location, Magoon spoke with the manager on duty. Unluckily, said manager was not much aware of the electrical outlets on the premises nor concerned with finding us a solution, and refused flatly to relocate us. Magoon, the Captain and McRage set up our equipment on this dubious stage, praying for fair weather for the evening.
In the end, tempers cooled, and we were spared a weather emergency by benevolent gods. Molhy performed beautifully, as did the full band. The most notable difference for me was that i was unable to sway in my normal manner with the music, as doing so caused my microphone to bounce distractingly on the thin wood and dirt. I stood as still as possible, but began to enjoy myself regardless. I ventured a few extra harmonies in the last few songs, causing Molhy to barely restrain a fit of giggles onstage, and we were in good spirits by the end of the night. The long dock stretching over the Intracoastal Waterway, affectionately known by locals as The Ditch, provided a relaxing place to walk and enjoy the sunset in between sets. The crowd, comprised of a large constituency of Magoon's relatives and Bill and Kathie's friends and acquaintances in the area, was cheerful and appreciative. We sold several tee shirts and CDs after the show.
I was pleased to find that there were mashed potatoes remaining at Kathie and Bill's, and helped myself to a heaping plate of them. We had a bit of trouble with the sleeping arrangements. With more of Magoon's family in town, the crew planned to divide ourselves differently than the previous night, with some of us sleeping in other condos - two of Kathie and Bill's friends had offered rooms for us. One of these, we were not able to access due to an incorrect key code. The other, we successfully entered, but then went to retrieve more belongings and were locked out upon our return. All five of us ended up sleeping at Kathie and Bill's, between the living room (Molhy, Magoon, and me), the covered porch (McRage), and the spare bedroom (the Captain and the Ugly Dog).