Saturday, August 23, 2008

Camping with waterfalls and rocking Elma, WA

Israel did arrive at 8am as promised, but we lingered around Britta's apartment for a few hours finishing laundry and eating breakfast. We all began to head towards Pier 52 in Seattle to catch our third ferry so far. The ferry ride to Bremerton would begin the ride to Astoria.

We drove onto the ferry, sure that the band would be making the earliest ferry possible in hopes of covering some real ground that day. We were wrong and ended up arriving to a hard rain in Bremerton two hours before they were destined to show up.

The rain let up for a brief time as soon as they arrived, and we all started moving towards Twanoh State Park for the night. Twanoh has separate campsites for hiker/bikers and motorized travelers. We arrived and found a semi-remote campsite near a waterfall, thanks to the helpful advice of Robin, the park ranger.

Following them in a car has been frustrating. Can we be unobtrusive and also expect to be there for the good stuff? Will their experience be drastically altered by the presence of us and our car? These questions and more led us to believe separate campsites would do us some good. The band was thinking the same thing, but the same rush hour traffic we hit slowed them down a lot and they set sites on a closer park than the one we camped at. We got the call as we were settling in and thanked them for giving us the time off. We thought it might be better to let them do their thing and have something to tell us about next time we rolled up in the car. It poured that night, and we, safe under our tarp, worried about their precarious rain flies and if they had set up before the rain and dark settled in.

When we caught up with them the next morning we found that they did indeed have a great story to tell us. About a mile from their campsite, in the pouring rain, they happened upon a tavern with a sign out front that read simply "songwriters." They described venturing in to see what this meant and finding a great band playing country songs from the 50s and 60s. The guitarist was apparently enormous, his gigantic hands somehow touching only the right places on the fretboard to produce beautiful music. The bass player was painted as an intriguing man with a mustache that curled round in a fantastic way. When the band was done playing, our intrepid travellers asked if they could set up and play, and were welcomed warmly. This allowed their perfect streak of playing a show every night, no matter where they ended up, to continue.

Lady luck would grin widely once more that night when one of the patrons recognized them from the ferry to Port Townsend, introduced himself, and invited them to sleep at his house- a warm dry place complete with surplus hospital mattresses. We will never worry about these folks again.

The next morning it was decided that the best they could hope to do was make it to a rendezvous point in Elma, WA, where Israel's father would meet them in his car, U-Haul trailer attached for their instruments. The band hit Highway 101 for the first time and made it to Elma before dark.

As we were packing up their bikes with Israel's dad Royal outside Shujacks, one of four bars in Elma (the locals informed us that only three were worth our time, though), we were approached by the owner. Although they weren't expecting to play that night, almost immediately a deal was struck to have the band play a show before they hit the road again.

The carpeted room provided awful acoustics, and a wireless microphone was rigged up halfway through the set for the vocals. They set up by the pool table and the crowd soon warmed up to them, and began making references to Nirvana, which had originated in that area. It seemed that every person had a personal connection to Krist Novaselic. Elma, WA was impressed, and the streak continued. Six shows in six days, not bad.