Tour of Eastern Yurp – April 2011 – Part III

Note: To aid your reading, you may wish to check out the whole set of photos on Facebook.

Dave Redmond on the train to Olomouc

OLOMOUC

In the morning we wake, and drive to Wien. Bratislava and Wien are surprisingly close together, so we’ve decided to drop our rental car back to Vienna before hopping on the train to Olomouc, to the east of the Czech Republic.

Olomouc’s astronomical clock, the second oldest in Czech, before it was destroyed in WWII and before this 1950s Communist addition to the Town Hall.

Dropping the car is a simple enough task, and finding the correct train station on the U-Bahn (Vienna’s underground railway) where we can change to a regional train to take us north and across the border. Trying to find the correct train was a nightmare. Thanks to Party-Fifi, we eventually confirm that I did find the correct platform, and was waiting for the correct train. Not ONE sign or notice on the platform could confirm it though. Bloody irritating. Anyway, we grab some coffee and pastries to see us through the trip.

Sitting in some old border train stations at places like Breclav, you can’t help thinking of all the old Cold War films and spy swaps under yellow street lights. If it weren’t for all the bizarre espionage goings on between Russia and the US lately – with spies getting expelled and whole cells being uncovered – I’d say that those days are gone. But you never really know, do you?

Our little espionage meeting is with Vlad on the front steps of Olomouc train station. It seems pretty, but when Vlad whisks us to the venue in a taxi through the leafy streets, we quickly realise that the train station is in the ugliest part of town. Olomouc is amazingly beautiful. A gorgeous old university town, with a really lively feel. The venue is massive, and seems to be close to sold out, which is great news, and a great way to end the tour. We kicked out the jams. We’re only disappointed that it’s the final night of the tour… we were really enjoying it.

WIEN

After a slap-up breakfast in Olomouc, we head back to Wien where we hang out with my old friend Party-Fifi (not actual name), and get to see a little bit of the city, and move a washing machine. I’m a big believer in avoiding tourist traps wherever possible. Partially because I hate crowds, but also because if we all have exactly the same experience of a place, then it will inevitably lead to dull conversations. So, there’s a challenge for you all. Go forth and move washing machines.

Party Fifi at Cafe Sperl

At a bar that night, someone asks us what we’re doing in Austria, and I tell him we’ve just finished a small Eastern European tour. He’s surprised that we include Vienna in Eastern Europe. I don’t think he’s pleased. So, the final night brings a diplomatic incident. Oh well! Thanks to everyone for looked after and fed us so well, translated for us, and especially to those who came to the shows. It really means a lot. Hopefully myself and Dave will be back again soon.

Tour of Eastern Yurp – April 2011 – Part II

Note: To aid your reading, you may wish to check out the whole set of photos on Facebook.

BRNO

At Stara Pekarna, Brno

Our driving seems to be perpetually punctuating by traffic jams in Praha/Prague. Just before we arrive we get done by the motorway patrol people – I don’t think they’re police, but I’m not sure. (I didn’t test their trigger-happiness.) Nobody informed the idiot musical tourists (us) that you need a vignette (sticker) for the window while driving on the motorways of the Czech Republic. We would’ve got away with it too if it wasn’t for a toilet break we took on the outskirts of Brno with just 800 metres of that motorway to go. Shit. So close, and yet so… broke. Dave returns to find the car empty, and no sign of me. I’m sitting in the back of a van handing over hard-earned cash as a fine for our offence. So the moral of the story is : never stop.

We make it to Brno after my experience , rolling in beside the main train station, where we meet up with Ivi and Iva, the finest ambassadors for Slovakia and the Czech Republic you could ever meet (and the first ones I ever did – years ago back in Dublin). Dave & I stuff ourselves with food, which is often what one ends up doing on tour to compensate for the tiredness and fatigue, when one doesn’t have the cocaine budget of, say, Fleetwood Mac at their peak.

The language barrier is in evidence again. Soundcheck at Stara Pekarna is navigated ably via a series of hand gestures. (Not the ones you’re thinking of. Honestly.) This is the first plugged show we play, which is quite a change. We have a great crowd. I’m not sure where they’ve all come from. Yes, some have come all the way from internetland, and I recognise them. But the others seem to have followed posters and flyers! Old school.

After the show we trek to a pub up the road called The Immigrant, where we get involved in Irish Immigrant activity like drinkin’, fightin’ and playing more music. The smoking ban is not in place in the Czech Republic yet – so I carelessly shred my voice singing in it.

BRATISLAVA

Scherz Kafe, Bratislava – Taken by Ivi

Tonight we play the Scherz Kafe in downtown Bratislava. We’re staying with the lovely Ivi and
Anton tonight, in their magnificent apartment. My voice is tired, so we spend the day running around buying herbal remedies and honey.

Scherz Kafe was in a lovely part of the town. Unusually, across the street from the cafe was a Tesco Express. Globalisation is a real blight! (Tesco are a massive supermarket chain… apparently, the world’s third largest after Walmart and Carrefour.)

The sound is fantastic in the café tonight, and great craic to play. My voice holds up thanks to the diet of honey and some incredible fresh mint and honey tea made by the lovely cailíní at the Kafé.

I’m always amazed and really impressed by the energy and enthusiasm people have for concerts outside of Ireland. Some music fans regularly travel to multiple shows on the same tour separated by hundreds of miles. We’ve seen it all over the States and all over Europe. It’s a great honour to have people making that effort, and I can only hope that our gratitude translates and we send them home happy.

Tour of Eastern Yurp – April 2011 – Part I

 

215541_10150225212109257_99979_nNote: To aid your reading, you may wish to check out the whole set of photos on Facebook.

WIEN

We had a welcoming party at Wien Flughafen (Vienna Airport to you and me) and were whisked immediately into the city, swallowed whole by history and architecture. Dave Redmond (double-bass player extraordinaire) and myself were to play that night, so apart from eating, we did nothing but try to catch up on sleep from the previous night. Last minute packing is no fun. Nor is the lack of clarity and sleep that normally accompanies it.

The venue which was the Laden at Verein 08 was tiny. A living room. But it made for a cosy gig and one which we enjoyed immensely. Usually we’d like to play shows like this a capella and unplugged but we couldn’t afford the huge costs that comes with transporting a double bass – so we brought an electric instead. We plugged into a crappy guitar amp and set up. It actually worked very well. The a cappella thing really focuses your mind on projection. It was interesting. I’d love to compare recordings from plugged and unplugged shows to see which I prefer.

LITOMERICE

Undaunted by the bed-sharing that inevitably follows these budget tours and heartened by the fantastic welcomes received wherever we go, we managed to keep sane… or maintain the same level of insanity we arrived with. Touring the States has been good training for this, where you’re masters of your own destiny completely. Our second show is in Litomerice, which is in northern Czech Republic near Dresden, East Germany. It’s a long drive from Wien, so we rent a car. It turns out that the rental costs a great deal more than expected… so our delicate budget is feeling the strain. Still, onwards to Litomerice.

Now I know practically nothing of Slavic languages, and the fact that it’s not New Year’s Eve means that the number of phrases I can

 

301761_320841924656103_2015549049_nrealistically use have just been halved. Our hosts for this evening are Lukas & Marta. Marta has made us some vegetarian wraps with soya that we could’ve sworn were chicken. (They say everything tastes like chicken. Not true. Humans taste like pork. The cannibals used to call humans “long pig”. What I never found out was whether we taste like wild game, or domesticated animals. I’d like to know – preferably without having anyone killed, or indeed eaten.)

We have a little lie down before heading out to the venue, which is in a park beside the summer cinema. It’s another unplugged show, but with a split level floor, so a ready made little stage. It’s another small venue, but it’s full and the people, as we become quite accustomed to, are lovely. (And all quite beautiful too. Slightly intimidating!)

We didn’t get much time in the town, but it’s got a beautiful old square – cobbled and well-preserved. We also are quite lucky. That night, after a little after-show chat, food, and drink, we spent the night in an old Communist apartment block. Nothing strange, but it was a first.

Wrappin’ Up – US Tour 2010

I’m writing this from a flat in Paris, which is trés chic of course, but then, that’s how we roll.  I had some things to say about the final stages of the US Tour with the Guggenheim Grotto for quite a while.  Inevitably, with the madness of the tour, the post-tour physical crash, and the scramble around rehearsing and recording for “Fingertips of the Silversmith”,  I have left these notes languish in my notebook for far too long…  I’m rescuing them, and just publishing them in the hope of freeing up my mind for more productive, forward-looking acts.  After this I’m going to venture out towards Shakespeare & Co, a bookshop near Notre Dame.  What better way to spend a Sunday?

So here are the cliff notes on the final days of the June/July US Tour 2010…

Baltimore, MD

We stayed in Baltimore on a few occasions during the summer tour.  Kev & Mick were seeking a quiet place to record their new album, The Universe Is Laughing (http://www.guggenheimgrotto.com/store/), and a good friend of mine and her sister stepped in to offer us the use of a house in the city.  On a quiet street, in a lovely house, with endearingly noisy plumbing, we settled in with sleeping bags from a local Target superstore.  The only furnishings we had were deep pile carpets, which made for lots of static-electricity-related fun.  With our shaved heads, sleeping bags, and general appearance after several weeks on the road, Kevin likened it to a Berlin squat…  I’m not sure which parts of Berlin he was referring to though.

I say it everytime I’ve been here, but I can’t help but think of The Wire when in Baltimore.  One of my all-time favourite series.  I would swear to seeing Hamsterdam in the flesh.  Squares of boarded-up terraces and overgrown pathways… and the occasional brand spanking new SUV parked suspiciously on the street.  Apart from the odd dodgy moment Baltimore was kind to us.  The guys got lots of recording done, I got some writing done, and even managed to ascertain that all but two pairs of jeans in Baltimore make me look like a complete and utter tool.  (Maybe this has something to do with me being a tool?  I’m not sure.)

Brighton, MA

Siobhán, the family and Jen have looked after us in Boston countless times now.  This time is no different.  Recording had been planned for here… but bizarrely the weather prevented any real work from being done.  The torrential rain during our short visit was being heard on the ultra-sensitive microphones…  which sometimes can suit a track – but not every one.  To perk up our spirits we’ve tended to frequent Café Nation… purveyors of fine coffees and tasty crêpes.  It’s just the ticket for these miserable days.

Queens

Karen’s place is a smorgasbord of photography and literature, smack bang in the middle of Jackson Heights.  The area we stayed in has quite a South American feel, but only a few blocks away are huge Indian and Far Eastern areas.

After arriving back into NYC, and finally reaching Queens after a trek through rush-hour traffic, Kevin & I had what’s termed as “a fierce goo on us” for an Indian meal.  We don’t often find Indian food in the States, so being back in Queens we thought it was high time that we partook.  This was Paddy’s Day.  Our one concession to the Irish that day was a photo of the Indian condiments which strangely enough is shamrock-shaped.  Co-inky-dink?

We ended up in The Scratcher – as ever – our own personal Irish embassy.  The night was a long one but fun.

Staten Island

Our return to Staten Island was tinged with sadness.  We adored our previous shows here and were really looking forward to our return, but our hosts had had a hellish week.  Not one, but two friends, one of whom was an employee too, had died that week.

We come from a culture of “wakes”, where the life of the deceased is commemorated through stories, songs, drinking and general celebration.  I think it’s a healthy way to deal with death.  Give them a good send off.  It’s not an easy thing to do though under tragic circumstances.

RH Tugs, the venue we play that evening, is by the water, and every so often a colossal tanker glides by with the weight and quiet menace of a ship in Star Trek.  They’re truly incredible machines.  Very difficult to get your head around the sheer scale of the things!

West Milford

In all the times I’ve been through New Jersey, The Garden State,  this is the first time I’ve really felt like the name was in any way justified!  So much of our time in NJ has been barrelling down the NJ Turnpike that cuts through the industrialised areas, Newark, and down towards Washington, etc…  This place really feels like the countryside.  We’re in the woods here.

Such a warm audience.  Sometimes the rubbish that ones management puts you through before the gig really ruins a show for you.  You never get into the zone, and can never give it your best.  This was one of the rare shows that the audience saved the day and put us in the frame of mind to give good show!

Tonight was my last show of the tour, and my farewell to the Grotto.  We’ll be glad to see the back of each other, but we’ll miss each other lots too.  I can’t say that they’re the ying to my yang (nor, thankfully, the wing to my wang), but definitely kindred spirits…

And speaking of spirits… end of tour drinks beckon…

Jamminess vs Spaciness

Mick & I are amazed by Kevin’s spaciness much of the time.  He’s away with the fairies for a vast percentage of the day.  I’m not entirely guiltless in that regard, but Kev’s off the charts.  The Universe however is on Kevin’s side, not mine.

On the morning we left Pittsburgh, Kevin couldn’t find his hat anywhere.  He gave up on it (without a word), and we went to the 24 hour diner next door to our grimy Days Inn to grab some breakfast before the journey to Easton.  It’s a large diner, and we’ve been three or four times before, since we’ve been in Pittsburgh for three days.   The waitress shows us to the same seat as Kevin and I sat in the morning before.  He looks down, and there’s his hat, from the previous day.  He’s so jammy, it’s ludicrous.  The chances of being placed at exactly the same table as before in a place this big, just an hour before we left Pittsburgh…  I don’t know.

So off to Vienna.  We’re staying with Kev’s cousin there, so we’re all looking forward to a nice sleep after the show.  That may seem like a crazy thing to be saying before a show, but when your routine is not routine, you find solace in the strangest of places.

The Jammin’ Java show works out well.  A good turnout and really good sound for us, so we’re all pleased.  My tuning on the final song has been good lately, so I’m on a roll.  (It’s in a strange guitar tuning – which is hell on the strings… realistically I should have two or three or guitars onstage with me, to reduce the messing with tunings… but it’s too difficult to travel like that right now.)  Sean, our soundman, is an absolute saint, because he borrows a keyboard stand for Kev (he’s mislaid his!) before the show.  Venturing out into the wild D.C./Virginia/Baltimore rush-hour traffic is not for the faint hearted.  The venue has just one real flaw… the percentage they take is extremely high.  Huge thanks to Paula & the family again for the hospitality!  Amazing as ever.

We’re almost in Easton, MD before Kevin remembers that we need to replace the keyboard stand.  The closest keyboard-related music stores are 20 or 30 miles back across the colossal Chesapeake Bay Bridge, in DC which is now in rush-hour mode.  We’re losing the plot.  Kev’s calm as a cucumber.  Cool as one too.  There’s one hope at this stage, a music store… which on closer inspection of the internet ad, is actually a second hand music store… so we think – no chance!  But we must be nearby, so we should at least check it out…  and no sooner have we uttered those words, but we see the place.  It’s a little tumbledown shack, off the road,… and it contains nothing that we could possibly use except for, miraculously, a fairly new keyboard stand.  We suspect that it wasn’t even for sale, but the owners figured that some business is better than no business, so they sold it to us.   (If you’re ever in the area, check out Rabbit Hill Music.  They have some pretty amazing original vinyl for sale : Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon, etc.)   Kev’s jamminess knows no bounds.

For some reason, we expected a dry crowd at the NightCat in Easton, not in temperament, but non-alcoholic… which can be a worry sometimes because people are harder to warm up when they’ve still got all their inhibitions in check!  The NightCat’s a coffee-shop by day, so we just assumed they wouldn’t serve alcohol.  But we got that one very wrong.  The vibe was lively and fun… yes, indeed.  A good night had by all.

I have definitely acquired a chai latte addiction too… I’m drinking it everywhere we go.  It’s far from chai lattes I was reared!  But it’s like a big hot mug of Christmas.  Impossible to resist.

Mandy’s Lost Years – US Tour 2010

The drive to Pittsburgh isn’t too long, so we’re okay with it, but we’re sad to be leaving Fort Wayne, where we’ve been treated like High Kings.  The good news is that Pittsburgh shares three rivers with Fort Wayne.  At least we’re not leaving it all behind.

There are two places that Mandy our sat-nav/GPS doesn’t like : Newark & Pittsburgh.  In Newark, Mandy goes offline, leaving us helpless in the streets driving through random street gangs, and muggings.  In Pittsburgh Mandy clearly hasn’t been here since college. All the streetnames have changed; roads closed; junctions moved and renamed.  Or Mandy just never went to class here, and instead got high and to this day doesn’t know her way around.  We regularly add ten miles to simple journeys in Pittsburgh by taking wrong turns… all thanks to Mandy’s lost years.

The one benefit of Mandy’s incompetence, is that we get to see more of Pittsburgh.  Myself and Kevin went exploring one night, in search of water (very useful if one is to avoid dehydration in constantly air-conditioned rooms).  We drive for miles and we’re directed around in circles the whole time.  Pittsburgh’s quite hilly though, so when you start roaming around the hills, you can end up driving on ridiculously steep lanes, one car wide, like you’re in a remote part of the Slieve Blooms or something. Norm, our trusty Town & Country, is a match for these lanes, but I shudder to think what these lanes were like only last week when the blizzards were here.  Imagine a roller coaster reaching the peak of a ride… now remove the track!

Kevin likened Pittsburgh to a large scalextric track that his brother set up in a room at home.  The highways seem to cross rivers to through buildings, disappear through mountains, only to reappear and cut across another river.  Everything’s made of steel, unsurprisingly as it is the City of Steel and home of the Steelers… but still.

Mark Dignam, a fellow Irish musician based here, takes us out for a meal and gives us the low down on Pittsburgh.  Of course, to divulge what he told us would not be befitting of a gentleman.   We notice while we’re out that Pittsburgh seems to be a very tattoo-friendly town, which is kind of cool.  All the waiting staff and bar staff seem to sport them prominently.

The show at Club Cafe goes well, and although Pittsburgh seemed quite interesting, we’re glad to be leaving our hotel rooms which are a little bit dank and could only have been co-ordinated by a Thomas Hardy fan.  It wasn’t cheery stuff.  Not a patch on our palatial Fort Wayne digs.

A word of advice to tourists.  If you buy foreign beer at a restaurant, make sure you check the price.  We got killed by that one evening, for a mere beer each – twice the price expected.  At the same fabulous place though, I got a chipotle ice-cream and chocolate cake.  Rarely do we manage dessert here, because the food is normally portioned for pre-hibernation bears, but I really wanted to try this.  For the uninitiated, chipotle is essentially the spicy treatment.  To enjoy this dessert, really you need to use the chocolate cake to soothe your mouth, after you set it on fire with the spicy ice-cream.  Kev hated it.  I loved it.

One sign around the corner from the venue, that really brought me back to Dublin, said, “Buy 10 tans, get 2 free!”… I hope they were spray-on tans and not UV tans.  Ugh.

Dun Uaine (Wayne’s Fort) – US Tour 2010

The following day, we make for Fort Wayne where we’re playing Come2Go, a very well-equipped, flashy space in downtown Fort Wayne.  Brad looks after us here and when I say that he looks after us, I mean, he’s the most generous fella you could ever meet.  The venue is huge, and they have a guy making the most amazing coffees there.  Honestly, after the weird motels/truckstops/etc that we seem to live out of, good coffee is the manna.  (Although I’m currently addicted to chai).

The show goes really well and all in all it’s a fantastic experience before another full house.  After my set I was pestered by some insane kid hepped up on fizzy drinks or something for the whole night.  I didn’t throttle him, much as I would’ve liked to, so I’m pleased that my patience won out in the end.

The Grotto do some recording while they’re in Fort Wayne, so myself and my friend Katie from Bay City wandered around the town a little.  One thing that struck me was the number of churches in the area around our hotel.  I’ve never thought about world records for this. I know there are towns in Ireland that boast a huge number of pubs on one street or in one town, but I swear, Fort Wayne must challenge when it comes to the number of churches in the downtown area – many of them are the same denomination, but a different division.  How to describe that?  Anyway, many, many churches!  [Having checked this out, Jamaica apparently has the most churches per square mile in the world.]

We also have the pleasure of enjoying our first full-on music session with American musicians over here.  We’ve had nights where myself and the Grotto initiate a session in a pub somewhere, but it was cool to be welcomed in and join a session as outsiders for once.  The night’s a good one, punctuated with double-bass, snare drum, tenor guitar, nashville guitar (same as regular guitar but tuned very high with steel strings), mandolin, and regular standard tuning guitar.  ’twas really good fun.  Some great moments, and some awful ones too – but sure that’s the beauty of a session!  You never know what you’re going to get.

On our last night, we all curled up and watched “Zombieland” in the hotel.  If you haven’t seen it – do so!  It’s quite enjoyable if you like nonsense zombie movies.  Bill Murray has a show-stealing cameo in it, which has become a habit for him.

‘Ark the ‘Erald – US Tour 2010

We arrived in Ann Arbor and narrowly escaped the clutches of an awful hotel downtown, on a cold and snowy night.  Bizarrely, he recommends that we stay at the Best Western, which we do, except someone has rebranded it as a Clarion.  It’s a nice hotel, and deathly quiet – maybe five other rooms occupied in the whole place.  Some friends from Bay City have tipped me off about the rivalry between another university in Michigan and Ann Arbor’s university. (Ann Arbor’s a university town.)  Another friend from Pennsylvania informed me that at their university they had the chant : “Ann Arbor’s a lady of the night”… but not in those exact words.  It’s not smart and it’s not clever – this is not on a par with the chants of Pompey Supporters Club.  Anyway, we feel Ann Arbor’s much maligned, ’cause it’s been very nice to us.

The Ark’s a nice venue, but hard to describe.  It’s somewhat like a cross between a theatre, a lecture hall, and something else…  I’ll work on that description.  The walls are covered with photos of more folk and rock people who’ve played here over the years.  It’s a nice way to get a sense of the place.  The walls of the dressing room also give you a sense of the place, but as the messages were written by touring bands, the messages are rude, crude and far too obscene to be listed here.

The show goes well, as do sales.  Ann Arbor is the HQ of the Grotto’s booking agents, so after a long meeting following the show, we all had a few beers…   and a few more beers later, Mick’s creating the Guggenheim Grotto spelled out in peanut shells on a bar table, and Kevin’s convincing us that it’s a great idea to hop into the hotel hot-tub.  I will concede that these were both fantastic ideas, but it’s hard not to feel self-conscious when all the hotel rooms, upstairs and down, are facing out onto the pool and hot-tub.

Dark folk’s newest exhibitionists!

Gremlins of Mind & Sound – US Tour 2010

Tonight we play in SPACE, which is a phrase I’ll never tire of hearing. The final frontier. The beautiful and large venue, restaurant and recording studio in Evanston IL, is just north of Chicago.  The area needed a centre like this for a long time, and the locals have really taken to it.  We have too.  This is mine and the Grotto’s second time here.  The last time we played it was with Kaiser Cartel, a pretty cool NYC outfit.  We had a great night then and expect a sweet one tonight too.

Last time we were here, it was the final show in a run of 7 straight days of gigging, with 3500 miles of driving over the week.  It was exhausting.  We criss-crossed the North-West in some insane brutal order encompassing : Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Greensburg, Lowell, Ann Arbor, Buffalo, Evanston…  If we were truckers we’d have been locked up for the hours we drove, and the lack of hours we slept, but there are no such laws governing musicians.  In fact, quite the opposite.  It seems to be encouraged.  The record companies lick their lips at the thought of another box set release, the lost recordings, the posthumous album release.  It’s an awful shame that dying can be the best career move an artist ever makes.

By the time we hit the stage we were all zombified, talking absolute nonsense, and incredibly we were in a a very funny mood.  If only we were conscious enough to remember some of the stuff we said!  We were the walking dead.  I had also mislaid my suitcase of clothes too… so I was a little emotional, and looking forward to another week or wearing the same clothes… not fun for an Irish musician in a sweltering American summer… nor for anyone else who encounters him.

We have a good show, despite some sound-gremlins creeping in.  It’s awful when it happens mid-set, after a great soundcheck, but sometimes it happens, and you just have to fight through and hope that the audience can hear.  I saw the Swell Season in Saratoga Springs opening for Dylan and Levon Helm a few years ago, when they had an absolute nightmare onstage.  We could all hear what was going on, but it was clear that the musicians onstage couldn’t hear anything.  It’s an awful predicament.  Playing without being able to hear what you’re doing is very disorientating… It’s like running blindfolded.  (If you’re fans of European cinema, check out the spanish film “Intacto”, for the perfect illustration of this activity.)

Dave, one of the owners, shows us around the recording space, which we didn’t get to see last time.  It’s a great space (no pun intended), with vintage guitars and amps coyly littered about the place.  We all dream of having a few little rooms like this adjoined to our future houses… ‘twould be nice.

The next morning we linger, and make our way slowly to the inventor/creator/manufacturer of a Sytek pre-amp, which the Grotto are using for recording.  Kev has just written a blog about the experience [I’ll add the link here when it’s published!]. On the way we pick up a new baritone ukelele.  It’s a little beauty – and is just what the doctor ordered.  The last uke wasn’t holding its tuning.

And so finally, we leave the Chitown area, and head across yet another time-zone, just after Gary IN (birthplace of the Jacksons, and one of the most industrialised areas in America).  Gary, like so many industrialised areas, suffers the most when the economy is under strain.  It’s telling that most of the roadside billboards are advertising legal advice specialising in claims relating to lung-damage, and asbestos inhalation. It’s a depressing place, and one can only hope America pulls out of the current depression soon, to provide at least some respite for the hundreds of areas like this across the country.

Through more blizzards, slush, ice and freezing rain, we make for Ann Arbor, MI.