Wisconsin Is a Fabulous Place

We went to Wisconsin to play at the Band on the Sand festival for the third year in a row. We get to meet so many great people on the road, and Wisconsin is no exception. In fact, it was one of the first, if not the first, places where we felt at home on the road.

Thursday night we played at a place called Xpeditions. This place is an underground bar, street-level coffee shop, and upstairs yoga studio. It’s fantastic! We had people singing along to our songs, which is rare so far in our journey. We hung out and talked with people that love Jessie’s music, and what a treat it is to share that bond through music with strangers-turned-friends.

Friday we started making our way to Band on the Sand, but not before a little fly fishing. I fished the Timber Coulee, and it was beautiful. It’s just a little creek running along the road. I found a place to pull off the road, geared up in my waders, and started fishing while Jessie relaxed and read. While I didn’t land anything and get pictures, I did manage to hook about 6 before they spit out the hook and swam away. I had so much fun anyways.

Then Band on the Sand. I don’t know what to say that I haven’t said about it in previous years. We love it. Dennis and Joyce are fantastic hosts to us, and Dick and his wife Pam help them put on our favorite stop along our tour. Two days of music, food, and camaraderie on a sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi River is just what the soul needs. I especially needed it after the previous two weeks’ frustrations with tires and the fact that we had to leave town with a tub full of water that wouldn’t drain (more on that story later).

Jessie and I love our travels. We also love being home. I’m so glad we get to make these memories sharing our music with people.

Burning up the Road

Apparently Jessie and I have been burning up the road.  How do I know?  In the last seven days, we have replaced seven tires.  I already posted about the two camper tires last week.  Today we brought five new tires into the family.

This weekend we had a show in Florida, and Jessie’s car needed an oil change.  I decided that I should do a tire rotation too, so I took it to my grandfather’s shop Thursday night to do all of the work.  I jacked up the car and took off the tires while the oil cooled.  As I was rotating them, I noticed one tire was so worn on one side that I could see the cords that are embedded under all the rubber.  That was not good.

I went ahead and changed the oil (it’s much easier with the front passenger-side wheel removed), and I put the bad tire in a position where I thought it would get the least amount of wear.  It was 9 p.m. the night before we leave for Florida – no time to get new tires before we leave.  The rest was going to be luck.

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Jessie kissing a gator at Bayou Bill’s in Florida

We made it down there, did our gig, had a fun weekend on the beach with our friends, and then headed home Sunday afternoon.  Monday morning, I was at the tire shop having my tires (I thought) balanced to remedy some shaking I noticed as I towed the camper back from Paducah.  Unfortunately, one of my tires was beginning to separate, meaning I needed a new tire.  $$

I had made an appointment for Jessie to get new tires today too, somewhere between teaching music lessons and meetings.  $$$$

All this on top of the two camper tires, having work done on my truck, and my gas-and-tire-saving bicycle being stolen.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks around these parts.  My friends suggested we start a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to replace my bike so I can get back and forth from work.  It seems more and more like a good plan every day.

We have a couple of shows in Wisconsin this weekend.  I’m hoping we sell a bunch of merch at these shows to help offset all of these recent costs.  For those of you who won’t be in Wisconsin, feel free to check out Jessie’s merch over at Swampicana.com – there are even a few new items I have yet to add to the online store.  That reminds me – I need to add the new Jessie Smith tank tops to the store.

Maybe we can make a case for a tire endorsement…

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This is Cam and me getting the spare tire out to put on the camper somewhere in Nebraska.

The Whole Family Is Home Again

Since my last post, we have had some excitement.  After packing up in Nebraska, we headed for home.  We knew it would be a long drive, we just didn’t realize it would take as long as it did.

As we were driving down Interstate 80, I looked in my left rear-view mirror to check on the trailer.  As I did, I felt the right trailer tire run over what felt like truck tire debris.  I thought to myself, “I don’t remember seeing any debris on the road, but maybe I missed something.”  I kept driving.

A minute or so later, I felt another bump, and I decided to pull over to check my tires.  I’m glad I did!

The right trailer tire had lost about 70% of its tread.  The tire was still inflated and riding smooth, but it was definitely no longer safe.  Cam pulled out the spare as I pulled off the old tire.

The new tire looked as if it had never touched pavement, much to my delight.  I inflated it to the proper pressure, I mounted it on the trailer, Cam packed away the old tire, and we were on our way once again.

About two hours from home, we were passing Paducah, Kentucky.  It was just after 10:30 at night, and I felt the trailer no longer pulling smoothly.  Since there are often miles between exits on this stretch of interstate, I pulled onto the shoulder.  Our like-new spare was apparently not like-new.  The tire had shredded and was half off the rim.

We tugged the trailer about a mile or so to the next exit, then off onto the shoulder to remount the old tire.  We then towed the trailer to the nearest parking lot, where we decided to leave the camper overnight.  We crammed as much stuff as we could into the car, including the two bad tires.  I left only what could be left in the hot sun in the trailer until I could return with new tires to get the camper home.

We rolled into the driveway as the clock struck two in the morning.  We unloaded Cam’s instruments and sent him on his way.  We then unloaded all of our gear, I showered, then crawled in bed around three.

Monday morning hit us like a ton of bricks.  I got up and started calling tire shops looking for the small trailer tires.  I found a place that had them, and set off to drop off the rims.  They said they would have my new tires ready this afternoon.

I went to the office to check in after being gone and prepare for a the week ahead.  After lunch, the tire shop called to tell me the tires were ready.  I took off to get the tires and started the journey back to Paducah.

I made it to Paducah about seven in the evening.  I got the new tires mounted and the camper hooked up to my truck.  I stopped to fill the tank, and then I headed for home.

The camper made it home just fine on the new tires.  I arrived back at the house around ten Monday evening beat like a rented mule.  Now the whole family is back home.

The rest of the week will be spent catching up on sleep in between pressing more CDs and hopefully making some new Jessie Smith tank tops in preparation for several more shows this month.  The fun never stops!

P.S. I apologize for the lack of pictures.  In my exhaustion and working to keep on the road, I neglected to take any pictures of our distress.

Our New Tour (Camper) Bus!

Jessie and I have been talking about a pop up camper for a while. It would make it so easy to pack up and tour, save money that we would have spent on hotels, and we can take a little bit of home with us wherever we go! So several weeks ago, we bought a pop up.

We found one on Craigslist that was just right for us, and that was ready for some work. We have found a little website called ThePopUpPrincess.com that gave us the confidence that we can make a pop up our own. We have big dreams for this little thing, and I can't wait to get started.

The camper is in good condition, and I think we can do quite a bit with it. Some of the first things we would like to do are replace the floor with some faux-wood vinyl (or something similar) and paint or replace the cabinets. When we do this, I also want to carve out space to build-in our mini fridge. Eventually, we want to redo counter tops, upholstery, curtains, paint the exterior, and a laundry list of other things as well.

Shortly after we bought the camper (just days after), we headed off on our maiden voyage. We had a show at our favorite venue on the Gulf of Mexico – the Green Door Music Hall in Ft. Walton Beach. Jessie survived the heat and humidity in the camper for two nights, and we called the trip (and the show) a success! We had so much fun!

We love the quiet peacefulness of the camp sights we've found so far, and we can't wait for the adventures that await us. As I write this, we are currently on a week tour across Wisconsin in our camper, playing our music for the wonderful people in this state. We have yet to meet people that are better friends or love music like these cheese heads! I can't wait to update you with our latest adventures when we return. Until then, I'll enjoy the ride and reminisce about the awesome times we've had like lunch at the Back Porch a few weeks ago.

I'll do my best to log our adventures, both on the road and in remodeling the camper, right here.