lawyer turned road manager and nanny

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you are the morning…i am the night

many friends who travel for work have asked me how i do it.  they’re exhausted and they wonder if i end up exhausted.  i’ve come to learn that touring actually doesn’t exhaust me.  there usually are a few first days of adjusting and then once you are in the rhythm of it, it just flows.  i know this aspect of touring is easier for me than for mama and papasquared.  they have so much more stuff to unpack and repack every day.  and, they have whole other layers of sleeplessness with which to contend.  i find that the exhaustion really only hits me once i stop moving – usually about day three or four of being in one place.  and then it becomes incredibly difficult to move.  i also know that traveling has been easier for me over the last two months because i haven’t really had a home base.  in total, i think i have spent about 36 hours in winnipeg over the last two months.  so a lack of sense of home actually helps make every place feel a little bit like home.

i’m fortunate to have generous friends here in d.c. who routinely open their homes to me.  and my most recent visit has coincided with some of these friends traveling themselves – which means that for two weeks i’ve had a place to myself that feels homey and nice.  the picture below was taking from one of these homes.


sand and foam

i am for ever walking upon these shores,

betwixt the sand and the foam.

the high tide will erase my foot-prints,

and the wind will blow away the foam.

but the sea and the shore will remain

for ever.       ~ kahlil gibran

from the summer

the one thing that i am certain that i learned from this year is that i love to travel.  even in my time off this summer, i have traveled.  i’m reluctant to let it go and spend some portion of my day, however brief, trying to figure out how to fill my days and years with travel.  that, and how can i acquire an ocean front home.  important questions.

What the last evening will be like

Night is endless here, silence infinite.

wow.  i guess you could say that i’ve been away for a while.  so, i’ve decided to come back.  and this time mostly just a photo blog.  and we’ll see what else.  hope you’ve been well.

highway run into the midnight sun

wow, sorry about that big gap in posting.  after about a month at home, we are now back on the road.  we arrived in portland, oregon today for four shows on the west coast.  after we finish here, we fly across the country to north carolina where we will go as far south as georgia and then make our way all the way up to vermont.

we learned a lot on our first tour – everything from what to pack, how to plan drives, how to most efficiently check-in at the airport, calling hotels a few hours before we check-in to make sure they have our specific requests met.  this last one has been particularly frustrating – no matter how many times i explain our requests to someone, it is never correct when we arrive.  i don’t think it has been right once.  not once.  how hard is: 5 rooms, 2 connecting or next to each other, the other 3 spread apart from one another – king beds, non-smoking.  that’s it.  not hard, right?

we run into the same problems with airline reservations and car rentals.  i book our flights on-line, enter all the frequent flyer numbers, assign seats, and then call the airline to add the babies to the reservation and pay the taxes associated with flying with babies.  you arrive at the airport, no frequent flyer numbers, two babies yes – but one is named sinn and assigned to a non-parent, and you can’t sit in the seats you picked because there aren’t enough oxygen masks for the babies on this type of aircraft.  and i can’t even start to describe what is like for us to go through security (p.s. winnipeg has the most intense security of any place i have ever traveled.  winnipeg, yes.)  the security experience is a separate blog post altogether.  then you finally arrive at your destination and go to pick up your car rental and they don’t have your corporate i.d. number and they’re not sure that they have the minivans you reserved.

all of this relates to a question i posed mama and papasquared on our way to the airport this morning – why is airplane travel so stressful?  i don’t get it – when i look at the big picture, it seems so simple and easy if all is planned correctly, but then when you are in the thick of it, it can be maddening.  as mamasquared listed all the details of what can go wrong – you miss a flight, your bags get lost, and therefore miss a show, you have an evil airline personnel exchange, you get stuck in the immigration office for hours – i had to ask her to stop, i could feel my anxiety rising.  in the end, it is just so hard because so much is out of your control.  no matter how much you prepare, it’s like throwing yourself into this huge improvised sh$t show.  of course, most of this is manageable if you travel alone, with one piece of luggage.  but if you travel with 8 pieces of luggage (3 of which are special handling), 1 car seat bag, 1 stroller, 2 car seats, 2 roller bag carry-ons, a ukulele, and a diaper bag…life is a different story.  i marvel at parents (usually moms) who i see in airports traveling alone with their kid – sometimes more than one kid.  how do they even go to the bathroom on the plane?!? that being said, there are many kind strangers out there – about 1/2 dozen people offered to help me today as i boarded planes holding a baby.  we’ve had people help collapse and then assemble the stroller, put our luggage in the overhead, offer to go get us food, etc.  woohoo for the kindness of strangers!

i’ve saved the best tidbit for the end of this post – after experiencing touring with the babies during the last tour, everyone decided it was time to give a tour bus a try.  so, when we reach north carolina, bus driver fred will be picking us up.  all you need to know about fred right now is that he drove a tour bus for journey last year.  this little factoid has sent us on a week long journey-singing binge.  we can’t stop ourselves.  we attempt to memorize lyrics, we watch youtube videos, we imagine what our journey music video would look like.  we even got some amused looks today and we strolled through the airport singing, “they say that the road ain’t no place to start a family.”

i’m forever yours….faithfully.

Things lost on this trip

We travel with so much stuff, it is inevitable that we will leave some stuff behind. Here is a list of items lost along the way (some are in the process of making their way back to us):

– pc power cord
– corkscrew/bottle opener (possibly the most devastating loss)
– head band
– ceramic orange picnic knife purchased while on this trip. Probably for the best since mamasquared cut her finger while cutting cheese with it. No, it wasn’t sharp cheddar.
– incense matches used to mask the cigar odour in my hotel room
– baby bath thermometer
– baby toy
– green hat, returned two days later by two dedicated Luther College students who drove across state
– camera attachment for laptop video chatting
– moments of sanity

seaside room

we are two weeks in to touring now and i think we are getting a better hang of it. people kept telling me that we have to get our “touring legs” back. and i feel like i am getting there. and not to be a total band wagon rider, but i bought an iphone when we were in madison and i loooove it. it is amazingly helpful for the road – checking and responding to e-mails, routing drives, finding restaurants, posting to the band’s facebook and twitter pages. it is amazing. i heart it big time.

we are in north-eastern california. we had a beautiful drive yesterday from chico (home of the sierra nevada brewery where the band played – yum!). we were running a little behind leaving the hotel in chico, so mamasquared was able to give the boys an extra nap and feeding in the hotel room. this worked out well as we were able to drive directly to grass valley without stopping (ah-hm, except for the burrito truck for the adults). this was smart for many reasons, not the least of which was that we arrived with time to spare at our hotel in grass valley. we needed that extra time because our first hotel was frightening. we all displayed an initial amusement with its kitchiness. i, for example, was given the seaside room complete with a full wall photographic mural of a seaside landscape and a fake port hole window. however, after a more thorough assessment, we realized that the motel simply wouldn’t do. it was cold (had baseboard and space heaters), uncomfortable beds, and thin thin walls. the doors that connected our two rooms were basically made of styrofoam. we were concerned that the babies would freeze their little butts off. and quite frankly, it felt a little too Bates Motel for the rest of us. so, alas, i called the presenter who very graciously moved us to much better hotel. papa, mama, and i did a little dance and hug of joy when we walked into our rooms. nightmares would have been had in the seaside room. i kicked myself for not taking pictures, but realized that it would be bad form to ask to get back into the room to take pictures after having canceled five reservations. thankfully, the internet provides the below:

what you can’t quite see in this photo is that there was a giant piece of plexiglass as a pseudo headboard – to protect the mural i believe.

now for some more picturesque views of california.

bat in the bellfry

it is over a week in and i think it is more than fair to say that this is exhausting. there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for everything. not enough time to get from one place to the next, not enough time to load-in all the gear, not enough time for sound check, not enough time to feed the babies, and obviously, not enough time to sleep. we make the best of the 24 hour days that are given to us, but it is a struggle indeed.

for the most part, our show days involve some working from hotel rooms in the mornings and then i take papasquared to the venue in early afternoon. i then go back to the hotel and get mama and take her and the babies to the venue. we unpack all our baby gear, settle in backstage for some play time, maybe a nap if we are lucky, while mama goes to sound check. mama comes back and we all eat dinner and she feeds the babes. then we pack up the babes and i take them back to the hotel and change them into their pjs and put them to sleep. it works for the most part. and the babies are usually dead asleep by the time i get them back to the hotel so that makes for easy nannying. there have been a couple of shows where i have stayed at the venue for the show with the babies asleep in their tents. usually this is because the distance from the hotel to the venue is too far (thus causing mama to get back to the hotel too late after the show) or because it is a long travel day and we can’t get to the hotel ahead of the show to unpack all the baby gear.

the whole exercise involves a delicate balance of planning a lot of details (driving distances, stops, baby feedings, hotel rooms, van reservations, load-in times, sound check times, dinner times) and trying to live in the moment at the same time. if you allow yourself to think too far ahead, you soon start to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of each day. i felt this especially on the day we drove 3 or 4 hours from winona, mn to minneapolis, mn to take a flight to san francisco and then another flight to san luis obispo and then rent our vans and drive 20 minutes to our hotel. it was one of those days where you really had to keep your focus on the immediate task.

on the humourous front, we spent one really odd day in wisconsin which included overhearing not one, but two discussions about cysts and drainage while at a roadside restaurant breakfast buffet. as well as a Jennys show that involved a bat flying through the theatre during the middle of their set and a fire alarm siren. it was truly bizarre.

we also have met some lovely, enthusiastic, and warm people who are so excited to have the Jennys playing in their little corner of the world. they’ve had several sold out shows and there are more to come. it is really amazing to see the genuine connection people have to their music.

by the way, please submit any tips you might have for traveling (by car and/or plane) with babies in the comments section. we’ll take all the suggestions we can get.

hit the road

it’s official.  we’re on the road.  first city – st. paul, mn.  the band plays it’s biggest show of the tour tomorrow night.  how’s that a way to start?  1351 tickets sold last time i checked.  they are doing two radio shows this morning for the local npr station.  then quickly back to the hotel and then off to the venue for sound check.  our plan, whenever possible, is to have me go to venues with the babies and spend a couple of hours there.  that way they get more time with mama and papa and an additional late afternoon/early evening feed with mamasquared.  then i’ll come back to the hotel, feed them some solids, wrestle through a bath, and tuck them into their tents.  did i mention that they are sleeping in tents?  well, let’s hope they do some sleeping in there.  overall, the babies did really well today.  they were troopers and were as happy as could be when i checked in on them last tonight as they got ready for bed.

traveling was hard yesterday.  we left home at 10 in morning and didn’t get into our hotel until 8pm.  not a big deal normally, but we only went as far as st. paul.  check-in was complicated, then we had to deal with u.s. immigration, security searched every fiber of our beings, and did i mention that we travel with about 101 pieces of luggage?  see picture below.

jeremy (fiddle/mando side man for the Jennys) sat next to a musician on his flight out of winnipeg.  the guy was a guitarist for Air Supply!  how amazing is that?  i happened to overhear part of their conversation – the part where the guy said, “humans aren’t meant for touring.”  hmmm.  not really the words i want to hear as i take off on my first tour.

wish us luck!