Friday, October 17, 2008

The End?

The Band traveled the final 20 miles to San Diego without much difficulty and then started on the logistics of getting everyone back up to Portland. Israel's friend Kate welcomed us into her home and everybody became very tired. Kati and Luke mustered the energy to ride to the train station and see if they could bribe a baggage handler to put his bass trailer on the train the next day. Amtrak wouldn't take it, and Luke ended up having to send his trailer via Greyhound, who had no problem taking the beautiful monstrosity back to Portland for only $32. They returned later that night and after some Big Kahuna burgers, it became clear that the band was not going to play a show on their last night of bike tour, and they began to feel like they needed a "finish line." Israel proposed (maintains he was joking) that they should either sit outside and meditate- "speak without speaking"- or ride naked to the bay and jump in. Maybe it was a reluctance to meditate, but Ryan jumped at the latter idea. So they celebrated by skinny dipping in the bay and then relaxing in Kate's apartment complex hot tub (clothed.) After only 3 hours of sleep, we all got up and headed to the train station for the 30 hour long ride back up to Portland.

Max boarded the train with the band in order to do interviews while Emily drove to the Bay Area to visit Jamie again and wait for him. The train ride, with the pacific coast on fast rewind through the windows, was a very compelling backdrop and the interviews were going really well, but the train ended up being a bit noisier and bumpier than the romantic notion we had in our heads. Despite the less than ideal shooting conditions, within the first 16 hours, Max had filled up the hard drive on his laptop with about eight hours of interview, and with only a USB1.0 portable hard drive to offload footage to very slowly (if given eight to ten hours to transfer what was already shot, it would have yielded space enough for another hour or so of footage,) he hastily disembarked in Oakland, where Emily could easily pick him up.

We are off for a little time off to relax with a friend here and then will be back up to Portland to do final interviews and figure out where we are going to edit the 250+ hours of footage that we now have stored in hard drives throughout the car. We will keep posting with updates about the film and our whereabouts over the next few months. Thank you Blind Pilot for a great ride.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goodbye LA and Hello San Diego!

After playing an awesome set at KCRW in Santa Monica, the band rode the 15 miles back to Los Angeles to make it in time for their sound check at Molly Malone's. After having a relatively easy time with the folks at Spaceland allowing us to film in their venue, we figured that an Irish bar would be a cinch. This was not the case. After many phone calls and Max being as persuasive as he could be, they allowed us to film and gave us a copy of the board recording, for only $20, instead of the $125 they wanted to charge us for being there. Ah, L.A. Blind Pilot was the second on a bill of four bands- the other three were local Los Angeles bands- but they definately drew the biggest crowd. Pumped with the energy from the afternoon at KCRW, set list ready, they put on the tightest show so far. Israel even told a story that was funny AND audible. Ryan looked so proud. Our biking friends from Venice (Josh, Steve and Bennett) came out and Brooke flew in from Florida to visit again. Josh also generously offered to bring and shoot with a second camera for us, which was awesome.

After the show at Molly Malone's the band decided to take it easy for a few days. They didn't have any more shows scheduled and only needed to make the train back to Portland Thursday morning, so could instead take the time to sit in cafes, work on some new music and relax in general. Late Sunday, they made their way to Venice Beach, stopping to play along the Santa Monica pier with the sun setting behind them. After the band had some dinner and we hung out with Ian for a few hours in LA beore he took the train back to Portland, we met up with Bennett and Steve in Venice Beach. They both put us up in their apartments, and Buzz looked happier than she's been in a while and seemed to really warm up to Steve. It was hard to pull her out of his place.

Monday morning we all headed out of the Los Angeles area to begin the trek to San Diego. It's not as easy to have late starts when the sun sets by 6:30, so after 50 miles we all packed into a small motel in Laguna Beach. We were all looking forward to having one last night of camping, so instead of making the final push to San Diego on Tuesday, we spent the night at San Elijo State Beach with plans to do the last 25 miles on Wednesday. We and Kati spent a long time body surfing on the waves, once our bodies had adjusted to the temperature of the water. It was beautiful, and astounding that we hadn't gone swimming since the lake in Bellingham, WA, where we started this tour.

Friday, October 10, 2008

TV and Radio in Los Angeles

After a relaxing morning at Emily's cousin Owen's house in W. Hollywood (who is awesome and letting us stay with him during our time in LA), we met up with the band at the studios of the internet television station, ManiaTV. They have a great studio space, with a performance stage and a talk show set, on which Kati and Israel couldn't resist posing for a snapshot.

After consuming most of the snacks provided for them in the green room, they recorded two tracks (One Red Thread and Three Rounds and a Sound), with their bikes displayed in front of the stage. They also recorded a short interview and did some "IDs" for the station. Then we shot an ID for the documentary. Hopefully the zoomed-in shot of Ryan goofing around and then stopping to say "We're Blind Pilot, and you're watching Blind Pilot documentary" directly into the camera will be featured somewhere prominantly.

They biked back to the Silverlake neighborhood to spend the night, while we went out to dinner at Garden's of Taxco with Emily's cousin Owen, a delicious five course meal and a fantastic show. The waiter informed us that there were no menus and that he would describe each dish for us with an amazing Hollywood/Mexican accent. Emily could not resist ordering the chicken mole - "the best mole in TOWN." After the five courses and some fruity margaritas, we walked back to Owen's house and checked in on Buzz, who is staying in the den and as far away from Owen's two dogs as possible.

The band had discussed the possibility of renting a van while in the Los Angeles area to get around to all the interviews and gigs they had, but have continued to bike through the streets and seem to be getting pretty good at it. Today they rode out to the KCRW studios in Santa Monica to record a segment for Chris Douridas' Saturday show. The station has been playing the album quite a bit over the past few months, and it is pretty special that they get to do an in-studio interview and performance there. The bicycles also provide a lot of conversation starters for the interviews.

They are off to their last show in Los Angeles at Molly Malone's tonight (Friday). Then we head to San Diego, where they still do not have a confirmed gig. It's hard to believe that we are this close to the end of this part of our adventure with them, and that Molly's may be the last show (in a proper venue) we film. Time flies when you're bike touring.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sunny Southern California and not-so-scary Los Angeles

Southern California has been a big unknown for us and the band since the beginning of the tour. Not only is Los Angeles the largest city that the band will visit on their tour, but none of us have really any first hand experience with navigating its streets and inhabitants.

Rolling into Santa Barbara Monday night, it definitely felt like we had arrived in SoCal. The night air was warmer, the architecture more Spanish and palm trees lined the streets. We went straight to Ryan's cousin Bridget's house where we spent the evening eating good food and relaxing. The band sleepily played a few songs for her and her roommates and we all went to bed early. It was lovely to not have to rush to play a show and instead be able to simply relax and enjoy good company.

The next day's ride was a short 30 miles to Ventura, CA, where they were playing the lovely Zoey's Cafe and Entertainment Loft and meeting up with Kati, who had taken a 25 hour train ride from Portland to rejoin the tour for the last week. After a giant breakfast at the original Sambo's on the Beach in Santa Barbara, we headed down the coastline to Ventura. Kati arrived on her bike moments after we did at Zoey's with lots of energy to spare. Apparently it is quite boring when one is not bicycling 40 miles everyday. The audience consisted of many of Kati's relatives as well as locals who were intrigued by the few songs that they played on the street in front of the venue before the show, a great way to bring in a crowd on a Tuesday night.

After spending the a fun night at Kati's aunt Ginny's house with her cousin John, we all awoke at 7am to start the 75 mile trek to Los Angeles. While hanging out in LA for the week, Ian had hooked up a show opening for some local bands at the Spaceland Theater in Silverlake for Wednesday night, which was great but put some strain on the schedule. Figuring out how to get out of Ventura and back onto the Pacific Coast Highway took much longer than expected, and by the time they reached Malibu for a late lunch it was 2pm. After lingering over burritos and fixing Israel's brake cable, they hit the road again at 4pm to finish the final 30 miles and arrive before 8pm. They had a vague route to get from the PCH in Santa Monica up to Spaceland, and we immediately lost them as soon as they left the beach bicycle path. Although it would have been interesting to film their first trip through the streets of LA, it was all we could do make it through the rush hour traffic and make it to the venue in time. The set was short, but it allowed more time to hang out with the three bicyclists that we met in Big Sur (Josh, Steve and Bennett), who rode their bikes out to the show from Venice.

So far, being in Los Angeles has not been as intimidating as we had feared - driving took Emily a little while to get used to, especially in contrast to the tiny towns that we have been traversing as of late - but in general it seems like a fairly laid-back, albeit expansive city. What were we worried about again?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chance encounters of the close kind along the Central Coast

Ryan and Amber got an early start leaving Kirk Creek campground on Friday morning and Israel and Luke stayed behind to cook some food and hang out around the scenic hiker biker site and watch the fog and smoke intermingle above the mountains.

We had a bit of a hard time keeping up with Ryan whilst still getting shots of Luke and Israel bringing up the rear. After the last of the mountains were behind us, and the terrain began to level out we decided to push on ahead to San Simeon and stop driving back and forth between the two pairs. We were distracted by a beach full of elephant seals, though, and spent a while watching them belch and roll around on the sand.

We met up with Ryan at the visitor center for the Hearst Castle - an astounding building perched up about San Simeon built for the wealthy William Hearst at the turn of the last century. Emily began to panic about finding a spot to camp in so late in the afternoon on a Friday and left Max on the side of the road for about an hour as he talked to Ryan, met up with the rest of the band, and then watched them bike away. Two friendly girls also on adventure, April and Vicki stopped to see if Max would take their picture in front of the sign. They had seen the band up the road and were interested in the project and what we were up to. Emily found a beautiful spot in the more primitive part of San Simeon State Park, but forgot completely that a storm was coming and managed to choose the only site without two trees to hang a tarp from. This required Max to climb the only tree and use the car as the other "tree." Our distance from the main campsite also thwarted us from hanging out with the band and a new group of touring bicyclists down at the hiker/biker site. We did manage to stay dry, though.

After stopping in Cambria for some breakfast, the band easily made the 30 mile push to San Luis Obispo, where randomly, April and Vicki drove past us at a burrito stand and yelled hello. Jayson in Big Sur had given the band the phone number of his friend Abbey who runs the Spirits of Africa gallery in the Creamery building in San Luis Obsipo. Once the foursome had arrived, we headed over to meet him. Abbey was awesome and provided a needed burst of energy for the afternoon. He didn't know that they were touring by bicycle and hoped that they would make it for a drum rally for Obama that he held at his gallery the night before. The gallery walls were adorned with brightly colored paintings of African vistas and many portraits of Barack Obama. His friend played a bit of hand drums for us before Abbey began trying to figure out where they might be able to play that night. San Luis is a pretty big town and trying to find an opening on a Saturday night proved to be quite difficult. The band stored their bikes behind the gallery and began to walk around for a few hours trying to find a show, and when that seemed to not be a possibility, tried to figure out a plan for lodging. Israel decided to take a walk around town, while we hung out at the Frog and Peach trying to find a close enough campsite for them to ride to, and talking to some friendly locals. Emily met one who had also attended the tiny Pinewood School in Thessaloniki Greece, that she had also attended 12 years ago. Small world.

Israel returned from his walk feeling ready to busk on the street before riding to the campsite. They set up in front of a little archway up the street from the Frog and Peach and almost immediately had a small crowd watching them play. It was a great, diverse group of traveling 'street' kids, college students from Cal Poly and people heading home after a dinner out on the town. Vicki and April (who began to see Blind Pilot as a theme in their road trip adventure) also happened by and were really excited to see them play. After Emily chatted with them for a while, April mentioned she was from Eugene, and Emily helped her make the connection that she went to school with Ryan's older brother Paul. Once again, this world is small.

One couple, Barry and Joanie, stayed for the entire set and when Israel asked if anyone would take them home, they offered their place a few miles away. We continued on to the campsite to set up camp and took advantage of the hot spring pool the next morning before driving back into town to find them.

Amber called the next morning to let us know that Barry had invited a few friends over to hear the band, so we hopped over to catch it. They were really kind couple and it was great to see another example how good music can move people to open their hearts and their homes.

After getting a bit of a late start, the band set their sights on Lompoc. Almost immediately, we began having logistical troubles including: one of the hard drives almost crashed and needed to do a full backup, Max realized that he didn't have his debit card anymore and Emily sat on the modem, breaking it. It took us many hours to visit Verizon and Best Buy, find out that it would cost about $200 to replace the modem, then have Max use his wizard skills to fix the modem using tape and a screwdriver, and then park the car in Pismo Beach and tear it apart and put it back together again in an attempt to find the debit card. By 5pm, we realized that we weren't going to be able to track the band and that we really needed some time off from shooting. We headed to Lompoc, did laundry and searched for a good restaurant with steaks. By the time we tried to go eat, though, everything in Lompoc was closed, so we chose the nicest looking steaks from Albertson's and headed to River Community Park for the night. We were able to stay in an RV site with power, complete the backup of the data and enjoy Max's famous steaks cooked over a fire. The band came by around 9:30 to wish us goodnight.

We woke up this morning and made pancakes with the band and have been having fun today trying out various ways to attach the camera to Ryan's B.O.B. trailer to get some in motion shots. It's a beautiful sunny day and it's hard to believe that we will be in Santa Barbara tonight and in L.A. on Wednesday.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sur, Yes, Sur: Out of the Spirit Garden and into the Fire

Luke and Amber spent the day in Big Sur waiting for Israel and Ryan to arrive, and looked for a show for them to play Wednesday night. They found the Big Sur Spirit Garden - a beautiful garden and performing space run by Jayson, an extremely friendly guy. What sold Luke on the space was the two giant "nests" that Jayson had constructed and said we could all sleep in that night.

The ride to Big Sur was spectacular - Highway 1 hugs the coastline for most of the ride, featuring giant cliffs with pounding surf. It was hard not to stop almost every mile as it seemed that every curve led us to an even more beautiful location. The three bicyclists that we met along the way didn't believe that we don't always stop that frequently. We arrived before dark to find Luke relaxing in one of the nests and Amber exploring the garden area. A few people arrived who saw the posters that Luke had hung up around town, and some even drove down from Monterey to see them too. It was still a small show and after a short set, they asked if Jayson would come up and accompany them on the hand drum for "We are the Tide." He's an excellent percussionist and they had so much fun they all played a few more songs for the audience.

After an interesting but not the most comfortable night sleep in the smaller of the two nests (Buzz was not so pleased to be that high up in the air and we couldn't really stretch out), we woke up to start the relatively short day down to Kirk Creek Campground near the Los Padres National Forest.

We had heard that there were fires south of Big Sur, and rumors were flying that Highway 1 was closed and that we couldn't leave. Luke and Ryan rode down to the Forest Service Station to get accurate information, and were told that the road wasn't closed but some campsites were on evacuation watch. We made it to the small town of Lucia at 3pm, right as the fire update meeting was being conducted by local fire fighting officials. The fire was still blazing up in the hills, but they all seemed pretty sure it wouldn't spread and cross the road. We did camp at Kirk Creek (where the ranger told us that the only campfires that night were the ones up on the hill) and settled in to watch a forest fire about 2 miles away. The noise of the helicopters that were gathering ocean water and dropping it on the fires died down around six, but the fire raged on. We ate dinner and talked while splitting our attention between a fairy tale moon setting over the vast Pacific and the inferno crawling down the mountains. Travelling down the coast has been a constant reminder of the intense beauty and power that this planet is made of. Travelling with cyclists has made us stop and reflect in places like this that we might have otherwise passed through because it was the "smart thing to do." Although the fire did spread down to Highway 1 a bit further north of us, we were able to sleep well and not get woken up by firemen, but it was a bit surreal to fall asleep worrying about the possibility of evacuation and wake up to find bits of ash on our tent.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Monterey: Rock Salt and Broken Spokes

The ride to Monterey from Santa Cruz was described in The Book (Bicycling the Pacific Coast: A Complete Route, Canada to Mexico - our best friend when following bicyclists) as "completely lacking in scenic interest."

This wasn't completely true; we drove through fields upon fields of strawberry and lettuce farms, and drove through Castroville, CA - Artichoke Capital of the World. Although the coastline we have been traveling on has been spectacular, it was actually nice to see a different type of landscape. The three band members still bicycling (Israel, Ryan and Luke) made the relatively flat 40 mile trip in under four hours, and met up with the van traveling with them containing Kati and Ian as well as Sarah, Fen and Olaf. Amber, another touring bicyclist who we met along the way, also joined up with us again in Monterey and plans to ride along to San Diego. All eleven of us made our way over to Monterey Live, a great venue in Central California with really friendly ownership and staff. They sounded great, and the crowd was surprisingly large for a late September Monday night. Ryan's awesome cousin David shuttled us all up to his house in Salinas and generously put all eleven of us up for the night. Thanks David and Nina!

The next morning, the band returned to Monterey to get some errands taken care of before they headed off for a 30 mile ride to Big Sur. After some deliberation, Ian decided to take the train to Los Angeles and visit with his friend for the next ten days before the show at Molly Malone's on October 10. It was sad to see him go, but we really admire his drive to keep going on the tour. Ryan had a broken spoke, and was told by the bike mechanic that more looked like they were going to break soon. Wanting to push on and not wait, they decided to ride to Big Sur anyway. A half mile down the road, another spoke broke and Ryan and Israel headed back to Monterey to get the wheel fixed. Luke and Amber had already biked ahead about eight miles when we caught up with them. They were happy to be back on bicycles and decided to push ahead and camp by themselves in Big Sur. We drove back to Monterey to find Israel and Ryan looking for a place to busk. Not having a permit to play made this a bit more difficult, but on the advice of a nice volunteer police officer they headed down to Fisherman's Wharf to play (sans donation bucket as to not appear to be panhandlers). It was nice to see the two of them exploring the city and playing together - we got a glimpse of what it was like on their last bike tour. The sound was stripped down, but they got the attention of many passerbys and were not harrassed by the police.

Ryan and Israel headed off to spend the night with Amanda, a friendly local who is planning her own biking adventure for next summer, and we camped amongst many raccoons again in Veteren's Memorial Park in the center of Monterey. Ryan was able to fix his spokes this morning, have a leasurely time in Monterey and then begin a stunning ride to Big Sur, where Luke found them a show at the Big Sur Spirit Garden, which not only hosts a lovely looking garden and stage but also giant nests for them to sleep in tonight. Hold tight for pictures tomorrow...