Day 4 – May 13

Up and out early this morning, heading from western Iowa to Denver. I was absolutely thrilled to find some real country music on the radio at 7:30 a.m.! Caught the original Carter Family, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, the Browns Ferry Four, and several others on KWMT out of Fort Dodge, Iowa, a commercial AM station. Thanks to DJ Ross Campbell. You got my day off to a great start!

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Not much to look at through most of Nebraska except to examine the subtleties of the flat and monochromatic scenery. I thought this road sign was unique – turns out Sapp Brothers is a chain in Nebraska.

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Over the course of the day we saw a coyote, a pheasant, several wild turkeys and a few odd hawks. I was disappointed not to see any prairie dogs, however. I had to explain to George that they are not really dogs…

The travel highlight of the day was a stop at Ole’s Big Game Lounge in Paxton, Nebraska. This unusual restaurant is a taxidermist’s playground, displaying the trophies of a local big game hunter. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is as close as I will ever come to an African elephant, moose, giraffe, polar bear, or caribou.

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Had a wonderful meal and a memorable visit with friends Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore in Denver. They made me forget the 1,500 miles we have driven since Thursday. I am glad we got to play some music. Tomorrow, the Rocky Mountains!

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Day 3 – May 12

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These young heifers found us nearly as interesting as we found them. George and I took a much-needed day off the road in western Iowa and visited with my brother Frank, his wife Sylvia and son Brian. Sylvia was raised on a dairy farm in Sac County, Iowa. George and I enjoyed traveling out to the Fertig family farm today, where we saw Sylvia’s relatives among thousands of acres of rolling farmland and hundreds of beautiful cattle. I am so impressed by the dedication and determination involved in farm work! It takes a special person to shovel manure, build fences and houses, repair engines, birth calves, plant and harvest crops, stay on top of shifting technologies and government regulations, and milk 195 cows twice a day and stay cheerful!

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We ate lunch at the Old Market in Omaha – nice old buildings, cool restaurants and other attractions on the edge of downtown Omaha. We ate at a spaghetti place. Earlier, we went to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs – Frank knows a lot about trains!

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On the way back, we stopped in Avoca, Iowa, a quirky little town where they used to hold a big old-time music festival. Here we are checking out the Volkswagen spider sculpture in Avoca.

Day 2 – May 11

Today George and I drove and drove and drove from just east of St. Louis to Glenwood, Iowa, near Omaha, Nebraska.

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It got flat!

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And windy!

George received an early morning phone call from Glenville State College (GSC) in Glenville, West Virginia, confirming some academic and financial details, which will allow him to transfer from Middle Tennessee State University to GSC, where he will work toward a bachelor’s degree in bluegrass music. We have been anxiously awaiting this information, and George couldn’t be happier!

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Much of the day was spent making and receiving phone calls on the road nailing this sucker down. He starts playing with the GSC Bluegrass Music Ensemble as soon as we get back to West Virginia at the end of this trip. Congratulations, buddy! You deserve this!!

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We arrived late afternoon at the home of my brother Frank Lilly. Frank recently retired from the Union Pacific Railroad after 20-some years (maybe more!) and now keeps busy with lots of challenging projects including boat-building and gardening. We enjoyed our tour of Glenwood and loaded up on sweets at the local candy store.

 

Day 1 – May 10

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Here is me and my ride – ready for a 23 day road trip. I am excited to be hitting the road, and particularly revved up to be traveling with my son George, who took all of these pictures! Today we drove across 50 miles of West Virginia, all of Kentucky and Indiana, and a good bit of Illinois. We decided to bed down at a seedy motel on the outskirts of St. Louis.

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We took the liberty of trespassing on railroad property to get a few shots of a freight train making its painful way across an antiquated draw bridge over the Ohio River.

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We encountered a blinding rain storm in southern Indiana.  I recall these violent displays of wind, water and fury from my childhood, but I seldom find myself greeting them face to face these days. Powerful and cleansing!

After the rainstorm we kept hearing tiny taps on the windshield. At first we thought it was more rain – it was bugs! Splatting against the glass. Having insect sex and losing their lives in the process. If only bugs could write a country song!

Testing testing 1,2,3!

I am heading back out on the road in a few days and was thinking I might blog a little, ya know? Just checking if this stuff still works! Stay tuned...

 

I Done Done It! (Wrap Up)

I can’t believe I did it! I can’t believe it is over! I can’t believe how cool the whole experience was!! This tour was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am grateful to my wife, Cathy, my son, George, my employers at the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, and all of the other kind and generous people who made this possible.

I arrived home late Monday night, November 5, teetering on November 6. It was a long final day, driving from Kalamazoo, MI, to my home in Charleston, WV, with a very enjoyable stop in Lexington, KY, to see my oldest son, Mason, at Transylvania University.

In all, I was on the road 56 days (plus a three-day stopover at home in late September). In addition to car travel, I took 14 airplanes, three boats, and a train, traveling approximately 15,956 miles. I visited or traveled through 19 states and two Canadian provinces. I performed 38 shows in 32 cities, was a house guest in 18 homes, performed on seven radio stations, did two festivals, seven house concerts, three school shows, and more than a few honky tonks. I performed two shows with full bands, one show as a duo (with the talented Tania Elizabeth), and several numbers with my friend Brennen Leigh. I also sat in with several bands on my “nights off,” and went out to hear live music whenever I could.

Best guess is that I took 1,129 photographs. Here are a few highlights.

Harvest time in Saskatchewan.

Vancouver Island

Skagway, Alaska

Talkeetna, Alaska

New York City

Niagara Falls, New York

Rochester, New York

Henderson, Louisiana

Fort Worth, Texas

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this dream a reality. I’ll never forget it!