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Journal 2004

February 2004 --- Volume I --- Volume II --- March 2004 --- Volume III --- April 2004 --- Volume IV --- Volume V-- Volume VI

Winter Western Tour

Volume I _ 2/16 -- We are on our way to El Paso, TX today and had to turn on the air-conditioning for the first time in 2004. Got out of Virginia just in time to miss the latest round of snow and ice, but had a beautiful, fluffy, snow early Saturday morning after our job in Dallas on Feb. 13th. It was the biggest snowfall there since l985. Dallas was our first concert on the tour and we couldn't have asked for a better way to start off. The folks at Uncle Calvin's Concert Coffeehouse do such a great job and we were sold out to the max. Bill Staines was the special guest opening up the show and it's always good to see and hear a long time friend. We also played a call in radio show hosted by Glen Mitchell at KERA on Friday afternoon and had a great time talking to people who called in to ask questions about songs or make requests.

Saturday we made our way southeast through Corsicana, TX __ hometown of Billy Joe Shaver, one of our all time favorite songwriters _ to the little town of Crockett, TX. It's cattle country and we loved seeing Longhorns grazing in the field. We also saw a large herd of pinto ponies on the way. It's an interesting part of Texas. Lots of little ranches on land broken up by rivers and creeks at every turn; unlike the flat, dry continuum of desert that we'll drive through today, tomorrow and the next day on our way to California. It's wet land where mistletoe grows in abundance in large old craggy trees that line the fences and roads and shade the houses in the summer. Guy and Pipp Gillette, friends from our early days of playing coffeehouses in New York State, moved to Texas 24 years ago to take over their grandfather's ranch in Lovelady. A few years back they bought an historic building on Camp Street in Crockett that used to be a regular stop for black blues musicians. It was also a barbershop, store, cafe' and pool hall back in those days. The great Lightning' Hopkins was one of those who came to play and Guy and Pipp had a statue installed across the street and dedicated to him not long after they opened up The Camp Street Cafe' as a venue for acoustic music of all kinds. It's a terrific place to play. People came from Austin, Houston, Ft. Worth, and Nacogdoches to this little Mecca in the middle of nowhere. Both shows last weekend were wonderful for us. The houses were full of people who were glad to see us and hear our new songs and their requests. They were anxious to purchase our new CD, which makes it that much easier for The Fine Group to get up and down the road.

We left Dallas and Robin's folks' house today. We had a wonderful visit with them. They are full of good will and hospitality and always welcome the whole Fine Group whenever we come to town. We've stopped in Pecos, TX after an easy day's drive. We got here in time to walk for a while before the sun set around 7:00. We walked Luke in an empty patch of desert between the truck stops and convenience stores on the interstate and some housing on the east end of town. We walked from one end of the patch to the other in about 40 minutes. Besides the usual litter of plastic bags, old appliances, car doors, and the one shoe, we saw a darn big jackrabbit. We were glad we saw it before Luke as he was not on his leash and would have been gone in a NY minute after that critter. There was a beautiful sunset tonight. We watched it go from gold and lavender to pink and grey, then to flamingo pink and flaming neon orange.

It's on to El Paso in the morning to be with Charlie McDonald and his gang at the Magoffin House historic home we've played before. We play without a sound system in a large room with high ceilings and a wood floor. The house is made of adobe and the acoustics are wonderful. Also the sound check is non-existent which is always nice.

February 2004 --- Volume I --- Volume II --- March 2004 --- Volume III --- April 2004 --- Volume IV --- Volume V-- Volume VI
Volume II

Saturday, February 21, 2004

We're leaving Phoenix and are heading to Pasadena for our Saturday night gig. It's over 300 miles so we've got a little pressure on us to make some time. Jimmy Gaudreau is at the wheel and is taking the first shift. Jim Watson will probably take the second.

Things are going good. Tuesday night, the 17th, we played at the Magoffin House in El Paso. It's one of the oldest houses in the city, if not the oldest, and is now designated as part of the state park system. We had a full house and the band had a lot of fun playing. We ran into some old friends that we've known from other areas of the country that have now moved to the Southwest. As well, several musician friends came to the gig. Tom Russell, a "real deal" songwriter from El Paso, showed up and Steve Smith, an old friend we first got to know in Virginia in the '80s, drove down from Las Cruces, NM. Tom has a new CD coming out soon on the High Tone label. He gave us a copy and it sounds really good. Steve sat in with us on the last song of the night as we joined with the members of The Applejack Band for a version of "I'll Fly Away." Steve picked up Jimmy Gaudreau's mandola and joined Jimmy on the break. Hearing a Rigel mandolin and mandola on the same break is a rare occurrence.

Wednesday, we got an early start, by our standards, and were on the road close to 8:00 AM. We wanted to get to Phoenix before the hard-core rush hour hit and we had to make a stop in Tucson along the way. We always try to build in an extra day or two in Arizona because we all have family here. Jim Watson's stepdaughter lives in Tucson and Jimmy Gaudreau's brother-in-law and Linda's brother live in Phoenix. In fact, and this is amazing when you consider how big Phoenix is, Jimmy's kin and Linda's live five blocks from each other. So we dropped Jim off in Tucson and then drove on up to Phoenix.

Thursday morning was relaxing. Linda's brother and sister-in-law had to work and their daughter was in school so we were able to get a lot of business done. We are constantly in touch with our agent, George Balderose and with our record company, Red House Records. It was nice to be able to take care of business in the comfort of a nice house where we don't have to worry about checkout times. Then we took Luke on a long walk in a desert preserve that was close by. We picked up Jimmy in the early afternoon and drove back to Tucson for a gig. It's the first time we'd played in Tucson since 1996. We all were pleased with how the gig went. We'd worked with Jonathan Holden, the promoter, at a gig in Flagstaff (or, as those in the know call it, "Flag") last year. It was good for us to have a successful gig with him in Tucson. You know it's a good night if the artists and the promoter end up happy. Peter McLaughlin, a wonderful guitar player and performer, came to the gig. WeÕve been recently listening to a CD by "The Perfect Strangers," an impressive bluegrass group that Peter is in, and it was nice to be able to tell him in person how much we've enjoyed it. We exchanged CDs with him, "Deeper Waters" for a copy of a CD that he recorded with Chris Brashear. The three of us drove back to Phoenix after the show and got back to our beds there around 2:00 AM.

Friday was a day for visiting with the family. Linda's niece stayed home from school and the women/girls spent the afternoon with each other while Robin and Linda's brother played golf. We had a great time that night eating good food and listening to "Jonathan and Darlene's Greatest Hits," a hilarious CD that Jo Stafford and her husband recorded in the late 50's - early 60's. Robin's father had this around the house when he was growing up and, now that it has been released on CD, we've been giving it away to special friends and family. It's highly recommended.

There was big news of a storm on the horizon as we left Phoenix on Saturday morning for southern California. Sure enough, the bright sunshine only lasted until just after we passed through Quartzsite, AZ. On the outskirts of this tiny desert town we notice hundreds of recreational vehicles parked haphazardly between tall big saguaro cacti in the desert. Then as we drove through the town, we saw literally thousands more RVs parked in RV parks. The town seemed, from the interstate, to be nothing but RVs. In the winter this place is "Snowbird Heaven." It's not a sight you see anywhere else in the USA. As we crossed into "the garden of Eden" a light, little rain started; no wind or torrential downpours, but the temperature did drop a little and the sunshine faded away to clouds. This bad weather was the talk of the town when we got to Pasadena.

We love Pasadena. Its main drag, Colorado Boulevard, is so familiar from old TV shows that we watched as teenagers. There is a great downtown area and all the side streets are lined with huge, old, spreading live oaks alternating with palms that reach many stories into the sky. You have to look up through the live oaks to see the tops of the palms. The houses are little bungalows from the 30's and 40's with flowers in full bloom in February. Along with full time annuals like Impatients and Geraniums, there are beautiful Calla Lilies and exotic Bird of Paradise and other plants we don't recognize. Certainly nothing like these grow in the Valley of Virginia anytime, much less February! We've played most of our shows in Pasadena for Ron Stockfleth and his Acoustic Music Series and this year was no exception. We always have a good time and see lots of old friends whom we call "the faithful" because they always come out to see us. There are actors (Ellen Crawford and Michael Genovese who have been seen regularly on the TV show ER for years and who also do regional theater all over the US and Canada) and movie people (Gary Swink, a lighting designer and manufacturer, and his wife, Dana, an Executive Vice president for New Line Cinema) and instrument builders (Ben Elder, who makes Weissenborn guitars) and radio people (Roz and Howard Larman, who have one of the longest running folk music shows in the country) who all recognize one another from being in our audience. We feel so fortunate to have made such good and loyal friends through our music. This year my brother and his wife and daughter also came from Phoenix, AZ for both our shows in southern California, which made them really special events for us. The distance between our homes makes family gathering precious. Linda's brother, Lamar (Bob) Hill), is also a very good musician and joined us on a song at both the Pasadena and Encinitas shows. Linda and Bob grew up playing and learning music together, but haven't had much opportunity to play together in years. After being with them at their home in Phoenix and on the road with them in Southern California, it was hard to say our goodbyes after the gig in Encinitas.

On Monday we left the San Diego just after rush hour in an effort to avoid as much traffic as possible. In reality it's not possible to avoid traffic when you are traveling through LA. We keep thinking that LA must be "full." But it just seems to get more and more crowded. Three hours later we were through LA and the mountain pass to the north and into the great agricultural breadbasket of the San Joaquin Valley. It's flat as far as you can see and, except for occasional houses and farm out buildings surrounded by stands of tall Eucalyptus trees, there are just fields. Some of them are planted and some are freshly plowed either waiting to be seeded or waiting for the seeds to sprout. The dirt is black. After a couple hundred miles the flat gives way to giant rolling hills of that are velvety green this time of year but turn golden in the heat of summer. We saw the first signs of spring up in those hills as some of the orchards of fruit and nut trees were in full bloom providing a few patches of bright to pale pink. We put in a good day's drive to get within a few hours of Arcata for our show today. Arcata is on the northern coast of California in Humboldt County. It is one of the few places in the country where the Green Party has a strong presence. There are a lot of old brightly colored VW vans and people wearing tie-dyed clothing, some of who hang around the town square and panhandle for spare change. So today it's back to the late 60's and early 70's. They have a strong public radio station there and it's a good place for musicians like us to work.

February 2004 --- Volume I --- Volume II --- March 2004 --- Volume III --- April 2004 --- Volume IV --- Volume V-- Volume VI
Volume III

It's been a fast few days, but then most touring days are fast. On the way to Arcata on Tuesday we stopped by KHUM in Ferndale, CA and did an interview. Their motto is "Radio Without Rules." We had a good time talking with Gary over the air. The four of us did the interview while Luke entertained Molly, one of two radio dogs at the station that day. Then we headed to our motel where we dropped off our bags and went straight to the gig. The Humboldt Folklore Society presented us at the Red Radish restaurant in Blue Lake. We had a fun night of music and were glad to see our beds afterwards. Driving 800 miles and doing a show is a good couple of days' work.

We were looking forward to seeing the giant Redwoods on our drive up highway 101 on Wednesday. But it was not to be. A huge storm came in Tuesday night and knocked out power in Arcata, which was a real problem because we only had a few gallons of fuel. If you've got no electricity, you can't pump fuel. Also the storm washed out the road we needed to take from 101 up to I-5 in Oregon. So we had to backtrack 150 miles and drive over the mountains to Redding, CA before we could head north to Roseburg, OR, our destination that day. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful drive through some high mountains and we did find fuel eventually and in time. But by the time we got to Redding we knew we weren't going to be in Roseburg by 5:00 for our sound check. We did think we could be there by 6:00, which meant we'd still be able to grab some "snackage" (that's Jimmy Gaudreau's term) and do a quick sound check. Even that was not to be because Mt. Shasta was socked in with winter weather. For a little over an hour it was extremely slow going as we drove in sleet, rain, snow and even hail while thunder and lightning flashed. It was quite a scene. We kept climbing and the traffic slowed to a crawl in both lanes. What should have been a four hour drive turned into almost eight and we got to our gig 20 minutes before show time. We did the world's quickest sound check in front of a full house and then did our gig. Robin didn't even have time to change from the clothes he'd driven in. The audience made us feel so good, and we were so glad to be there safe and sound, we played our hearts out. It's just too bad we didn't get to see the giant Redwoods.

Thursday was a much easier day for the group. We got a late checkout from the motel and then went to eat lunch at our friend Jeri Frank's house. It worked out well for us as: 1) We'd had some mail sent to her house which hadn't arrived yet, so we needed to pick it up; and 2) We only had to drive 90 minutes up to Eugene. We've known Jeri since she was a college student in Ithaca, NY and have followed her as she has moved from Ithaca, to Albuquerque, to Madison, WI and to Roseburg, OR. She and her husband Woody Lane are stalwarts of the folk and contra dance scene in Oregon and were instrumental in having us come play in Roseburg. They have a nice house outside of town in a rural area amongst the trees, which are all covered with moss. We've never been out here in the summertime and wondered to ourselves whether the moss stays on the trees year round. Jeri is an outstanding cook and we sat around and ate and talked about contractors and house repairs. We all had our own war stories.

Linda drove us up to Eugene and we did a gig at Cafe' Paradisio. It went really well. We got to see our friend Pete Lavelle who has promoted several shows for us in the past. Though he wasn't promoting this show, he was in charge as the promoter is at the Folk Alliance in San Diego. We had big crowd come out to see us. A the roadwork over the years is paying off as we had people drive from Corvallis, Seattle, Bend and Florence for our gig that night. It was especially good to see Tom and Nan McCreesh. They are a hilarious duo that we've known since the early '80's and Tom's a fine fiddler. Lollie Rogers, Gamble Rogers' daughter and an old friend, also came by. Getting to see folks like them is one of the perks of this life. We met Pete for breakfast at the Keystone Cafe' the next morning. The Keystone was established in the mid 70's and hasn't changed much since then. They have great, real food.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday we were in Tacoma, WA at the fabulous Wintergrass Festival. It's held at the Tacoma Sheraton hotel. Four of the five venues are in the hotel and the fifth is a beautiful old Baptist Church about three blocks away. It was our favorite. We played three shows and did a workshop. As well, Jimmy Gaudreau teamed up with his former band mate in Chesapeake, Moondy Klein, for a couple of sets. So we were busy. We did manage to see some music and catch up with many of our friends who were either playing or attending the festival. A highlight was a reunion show of Hot Rize. It was the first time we'd seen them with Bryan Sutton playing guitar. He's a wonderful player and does a spectacular job of filling the large hole left by Charles Sawtelle's death a few years ago.

Music was played 24/7 in every nook and cranny of the hotel, in the hallways, in the lobby, in the bathrooms and even the elevators. The Wintergrass board decided to market jars of "Elevator Jam" this year to commemorate the playing that goes on in between floors. The festival ended on Sunday afternoon with a concert featuring our group and The Seldom Scene and Pacific Northwest favorites Marley's Ghost. By 5:00 PM there was an eerie quiet in the hotel with just the few staff and musicians left who were spending the night before leaving on Monday. It was hard to believe it was the same place where so much music was being played just a few hours before.

Robin's sister, Jeanne Ann Williams, and her husband and son, Larry Thibodeau and Murphy, came down from Seattle on Sunday afternoon. It was really good to see them. They used to live two hours from our home we'd get to visit quite often. Now that they're 3,000 miles away we realize how much we miss them. They are always fun to be with and we went to a nice restaurant after the festival was over and had some good food and laughed a lot.

An extra added attraction to being in Tacoma was The Art Glass Museum and The Glass Bridge. They were only three or four blocks from the hotel and we went over to see them several times on our walks with Luke. They are absolutely amazing - day or night - and not to be missed if you are near. This whole area has been splendidly refurbished and features an almost silent "light rail" train to help pedestrians get up and down the street to the museums, hotels and restaurants.

On Monday and Tuesday we eased a few hundred miles south each day towards our jobs in California this weekend. This time through, Mt. Shasta was bathed in bright sunshine. The scenery was spectacular and the drive was much less stressful than the drive up. We've caught up on correspondence, business, laundry and sleep and are ready for our last string of concerts before heading back east. Among the news was a list Bob Feldman at Red House Records sent us of top Albums, Songs, Artists and Labels for February 2004. Our new CD was #2 in airplays; we were tied for #3 as artists and had 3 songs in the top 20. The list is based on play lists of 161 different DJs and accounts for 13,764 plays. We felt good about our initial showing on this new chart.

Wednesday, we finished the long drive down from Tacoma. We stopped off in Nevada City, CA to play on Che Greenwood's show on WVMR, a community radio station there. His show reaches a lot of people and we're hoping it'll help get the word out to some of our jobs in the area. Che really knows his music and we all had a good time being with him. U. Utah Phillips lives in Nevada City and came down to welcome us to town, which made us all feel good. He's a master performer and songwriter and a great guy. We don't get to see him near enough. Here's to you Utah.

February 2004 --- Volume I --- Volume II --- March 2004 --- Volume III ---

Spring Mid- West Tour

April 2004 -- Volume IV -- Volume V -- Volume VI
Thursday, April 15th, the April 2004 tour starts out in Staunton, VA, essentially our hometown. We played the Blackfriars Theater, a unique replica of Shakespeare's theater with wonderful staging and a lot of wood. Consequently, it sounds great in there. There was a big crowd with a lot of friends from the area and from afar. We were pleased that so many drove over the mountain from the Charlottesville area. Musically it was exciting because the group was back together for the first time in a few weeks and there was an extra edge to the performance brought on by our desire to remember every thing and to be good in front of the hometown folks. The Blackfriar's Theater is one of the best places we play and it's ironic that it's in our hometown.

Friday, the 16th, we loaded up the vehicle with instruments, gear, suitcases and Luke, the dog, and drove to Greensboro, NC. We played a concert series sponsored by the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. This is the church that Robin's father grew up in and where Robin's grandfather once preached. There are portraits of Robin's grandmother and grandfather still hanging in the Parlor of the church. Robin remembers his grandfather's funeral in this church mainly because the aisles were lined with policemen and firemen. All those uniforms made a strong impression on an eight-year-old boy. It is an old church that has changed in many ways. As families started moving out to the suburbs and the neighborhood started changing, the church had to change with the times and seek a non-traditional ministry. Today it opens its doors to several different congregations and serves as a beacon of light to many in the inner city of Greensboro. It was a special night for us. Robin's niece, who attends Greensboro College, was there and it was good to see Jennifer. We had breakfast with her the next day at a Waffle House next to our motel. We go for true fine dining when we're on the road.

Saturday, the 17th, we drove to Charlotte. It took us a little longer than it should have as Linda missed the turn onto I-85 and we ended up driving 35 miles south before any of us noticed. Robin once missed a turn in Pennsylvania and was heading to Allentown when we should have been heading towards Hartford. Another time we were coming out of Idaho heading for Salt Lake and ended up in Rock Springs, WY. Our past is chock full of wrong turns. It was a beautiful day and Charlotte was in full bloom. The dogwoods, the azaleas, the redbud were all in peak form. We'll miss the full bloom at home but at least we'll get to see it other places on this trip. The gig at the Neighborhood Theater was a lot of fun. It is turning into a terrific performance spot. Every time we return we see major improvements. It is successfully leaving behind its storied past as a porno theater. The whole neighborhood has changed and there now are some art galleries, some coffee shops and Boudreau's Cajun restaurant, a nice place to eat. Linda's Aunt Jeanette and her daughter and son-in-law, Teresa and Rainey, came to the gig. After the show Linda got to visit with them while Robin packed up and talked with a good friend from his college days, John Ford. Friends and family, they're good to have. Our pals Gail and Tom Watts were there as well. They coordinate the volunteers for a wonderful radio station in Spindale, NC, WNCW. WNCW plays our music and has been tremendously supportive of our new CD, "Deeper Waters." Tom and Gail brought us a copy of the station's new CD from their "Crowd Around The Mike" series. Performers show up at the station all the time and play live on the air. Then the station produces CDs for their fundraising. They selected our "October Light" for inclusion on their Volume 7. We're pleased that they did so.

Sunday, the 18th, we drove to Atlanta. Jim took the full shift and handled the whole 239 miles. We stopped in Maysville, GA for a few minutes to visit Linda's father's family's graveyard. Linda's paternal great-grandparents, grandparents and all of her aunts and uncles are now, or will be when they die, buried in this old graveyard, some of the stones of which go back to the mid-19th century. Linda's father is the only one in his family who is not buried there so Linda had a memorial bench for him placed in her grandparent's plot. She'd never seen it so we stopped at an Eckerd's Drug Store, bought a disposable camera, and took pictures of the memorial. It was a nice thing. We had a lot of fun playing that night for the Atlanta Area Friends of Folk Music Fiddler's Green Concert Series. A young group called Bailey Jester made up of two brothers, Matt and Young Stryker, did a fine job on the opening set. Again, lots of family was in the audience. Two of Robin's cousins and their children, Dot Moye, Murphy Davis, Hanna Loring-Davis, and Todd and Will Moye, all live in Atlanta and Linda's cousin's wife, Marsha Hopkins and her son Ethan made the trip down from Gainesville, GA. Several friends from here and there who now live in the Atlanta area also came and it made for another special evening for us. And for the third or fourth time we were invited to stay at a beautiful bed and breakfast, The Sycamore House, owned by Ren and Judy Manning in Decatur. It's a gorgeous old house with one of the best porches we've had the pleasure of passing time on. They are great supporters of acoustic music and were also housing one or two of The Austin Lounge Lizards who were playing in town on Sunday night too. They seemed to have no choice but to have a party after the show so we could all catch up with one another and we stayed up much later than we should have. We can't thank Ren and Judy enough for being so good to all of us.

Monday and Tuesday, the 19th and 20th, we spent in Nashville, TN with Robin's cousin and his wife. Robin and Linda once lived with Les Davis and Tracy Smith in a big, purple house on stilts outside of Nashville, back when we were all newlyweds. We've remained close through the years. Les' brother, Mac drove in on Monday night from his farm outside of town and we had supper at Les' house. They're all great folks. Jimmy Gaudreau's been working on a compilation project of people he's played with over his long career and took the opportunity "Music City" offered to get The Fine Group into the studio to record a version of our song, 'Rumble.' We put it on the Devil of a Dream CD originally, but have worked up a good version with Linda on banjo since Jimmy's been a part of the band. We did the recording at Scott Vestal's studio in Greenbrier, TN. He's got a great situation there and we enjoyed being around him and his wife and 14-month-old daughter Scott's not only a great banjo player, he's a darn good engineer. Jimmy is hoping to release this project sometime this year which will mark 35 years in music for him. We look forward to it.

April 2004 --- Volume IV --- Volume V-- Volume VI

Wednesday, the 21st, we drove from Nashville to St. Louis, MO and played at one of our favorite places in the Midwest, The Focal Point. Carol Kuntz is the driving force behind the place and has seen the club move to a new location in the last 4-5 years and develop a great working relationship with The Maya Cafe', which is next door. The whole neighborhood is undergoing a face-lift and is being revitalized. We had a wonderful, warm crowd of folks there. One of the many things we like about The Focal Point is Eric, the soundman. He keeps a record of the musicians that come through to play so that when they return he can look back and see what he needed for them last time and can be ready for them when they walk in the door. This saves SO much time on the sound check, which can be the most tedious part of our work. He's able to cut the time required in half because of his preparation and, boy, is that ever appreciated by folks like us. He's the only person we know of who does this and it's such a good idea. Our hats are off to Eric. The combination of Carol and Eric and the volunteers makes for a terrific place to play and to see live music.

Thursday, the 22nd, we left St. Louis heading towards our jobs in Colorado this weekend. We always look at the weather when we head toward the Rockies and sure enough, there is snow coming. There is a prediction for 1-3 inches at least for the foothills. We are trying to put as many miles behind us today as possible as we don't know what we'll run into tomorrow. We remember snow in late June when we were in Aspen right after getting married in l973. We've driven through drizzling rain all day, which we'll take anytime compared to snow.

Friday, the 23rd the snow definitely came. we drove through some rough weather from limon to Colorado Springs with a lot of snow packed on the roads and blowing back from any plowing we encountered. We kept humming the old Johnny Horton song, "when it's spring time in Alaska, it's forty below." but at Colorado Springs, the roads cleared up even though the snow kept falling. the snow fell late into the night but we made it to our gig in Salida, Co and played to a very good crowd of hardy folks who came out in the unseasonable weather. One of the hardiest of them all was Ron Thomason who came down from his ranch of an even higher elevation where 3 feet of snow had fallen and he had lost his power. The Steam Plant Theater Saturday, the 24th, we left Salida in bright sunshine on the new snow and headed down and up to Denver. We drove through a beautiful river canyon going to and coming from Salida and, both days, we saw lots of folks waist deep in the river fly-fishing. We got to Denver, checked into the hotel and had a few minutes to peruse a nearby CD store where we bought a few used CDs. Then we headed to the sound check. Jimmy Gaudreau had "Big Family Weekend" with his brother and sister-in-law who live north of Denver, his wife, Gloria Bliel, who flew in from Washington DC, and Gloria's nephew and his family who came down from Boulder. They are a fun bunch and we were glad we had a big full house at our Swallow Hill concert to make a good first impression on them. Swallow Hill continues to be one of the most vital acoustic music venues and teaching centers in the country. Their dedication to teaching and presenting traditional music is inspirational and backed up by lots of hard work by both the staff and the volunteers. We always look forward to playing there and this time was especially exciting due to the very large audience and the friends and family who were with us.

Sunday, the 25th, started off with the traditional morning-after-the-show brunch with Rich Moore and Mollie O'Brien and their lovely daughters Brigid and Lucy. They have always invited us over for a social moment and it's great to catch up with the changes in their lives. Of course, we stay a little more involved with them now that Mollie has joined The Hopeful Gospel Quartet, but getting to be with the whole family in their own home in Denver is always a treat. And Rich Moore is a great cook, which was especially advantageous this time as Mollie was flying in that morning from a weekend with The Jive At Five guys in Michigan. We're excited about the prospect of being with all of them at the great Wheatland Festival together this September. After a couple hours of eating, talking and laughing we headed to Fort Collins, CO to play our second time at Avogadro's Number. Since we were first there 2-3 years ago, Rob, the owner, has expanded the room and increased his dedication to presenting music in his beautiful music hall. It sounds great in there and has a well-deserved reputation as a fine acoustic music venue on the Front Range. We look forward to getting back to this area more often. We ended this day watching C-SPANÕs coverage of the 1,000,000 strong March for Women's Lives. It was inspirational to see so many of all sexes, colors, ages and ethnicities coming together. Being able to freely stand up for our beliefs is the essence of what our country is about and it's good to see people getting involved.

April 2004 --- Volume IV --- Volume V-- Volume VI

Monday, the 26th, there is no evidence of the winter storm that came through this part of the world three days earlier. It's warm, sunny and beautiful. We have two days off before we have to be in Ames, Iowa for a concert at The Maintenance Shop. We sauntered out of Ft. Collins and up to Cheyenne, WO where we stopped to check out the town. Some great old buildings downtown that have been preserved and new building going on that is in keeping with the feel of the old western flavor. We poked around antique stores and pawnshops before starting our drive east. We ended up in North Platte, NE for the night, staying at a motel located in town where we could walk to restaurants, movies, and stores. We love this kind of location where we are not tied to the rig and can get out and do some walking around. The weather was spectacular and we stayed outside late to enjoy it.

Tuesday, the 27th, we started off the day by going to a Goodwill store across the street from the motel. That's always a good way to start the day. Upon checking out of the motel, we drove to Lincoln, NB. We got there in time to hit a couple of more thrift stores and an antique mall. We like Lincoln. We played there a couple months before and didn't have any time to spend taking in the town. There is a great area in the middle of town called The Haymarket District, which is the old part of town near the train station and the Capitol building. It's a hopping place with shops, galleries, coffee houses, brew pubs and restaurants. We thought we might eat there but parking the rig was a problem and we ended up eating at a place out on Cornhusker Highway called The Steakhouse. It was established in l949 and it was great. We'd go back there any time.

Wednesday, the 28th, is another gorgeous warm day, but we fought a strong wind from the south (Jim Watson at the wheel) as we drove east to Ames, IA. We played The Maintenance Shop located in the Memorial Union on the campus of Iowa State University. vThis is the only place we have played every year since we started in l973.v The venue is located in what was once the actual maintenance shop of the building but was turned into a venue for music not long before we started coming to play. vIt has been remodeled and improved and is now one of the best rooms we play.v It has a great reputation among traveling acts and, over the years, their calendar has included the greats in blues, jazz, folk, country, bluegrass, and rock and roll. The venue maintains its tradition through the dedication and hard work of not only a professional staff, but also a student staff that, although it's continually changing, has respect and love for the music and the venue. The gig went great. There was a "homecoming" feeling to the evening even though there were a lot of folks in the house who were seeing us for the first time (that's always a good thing). The crowd had a lot of energy. It was like a Saturday night crowd on a Wednesday. All in all, it was a great day. The only problem we encountered was we couldn't access our email from the motel room.

Thursday, the 29th, Robin got up early and had breakfast with Diane Corson, her son, Scott, and Dan