After an aborted show in Beaumont, where the manager of the place double booked and Ed Starkey and I wasted gas and time driving over there and then darn near killed ourselves with bad food at a waffle house on the way back, I left Houston for Georgetown, Texas. None the worse for the wear, having made some new friends, and with a little money in my pocket.
Georgetown is just north of Austin, a handsome town with a quaint square and well kept shops and houses. My buddy Rick Dinsmore has lived there for several years now.
I've known Rick for decades. He's a singer/songwriter who used to have a deal on United Artists back in the day. We occasionally write together. He's got a baritone voice that's to die for, and has recorded a number of my songs through the years.
Rick moved to Texas back in the late seventies, after having become unenamored of the music business. He hung out with the likes of Townes Van Zandt and a very young Lucinda Williams.
The musical culture of Texas re-inspired him. He moved back to Los Angeles, got married, got divorced, and wound up playing at lots of military bases and selling sausage to support his relatively meager lifestyle. After inheriting some money when his father (who was a band leader in the big band era) passed away, he bought a house outside of Georgetown, and moved in with his new girlfriend.
We were going to have a house concert at Rick's house... but his girlfriend had just left him. And he wasn't really in the mood for it, seeing as most of his friends in the area are mutual friends of hers. The timing just wasn't right.
The house is off the highway and down a little dirt lane, overlooking a river. The original owner painstakingly built it for his bride, to her specifications. It has a log cabin feel, but is big and airy and full of light. Lots of exposed beams and such. Rustic and modern at the same time. Once it was finished, the guy's bride decided she didn't like it. Or him, either. So she left, and he sold the house and moved into a trailer park and commenced to drinking heavily. And Rick bought the house. One man's loss is another man's gain. Or some such thing .
Far from being despondent about his breakup, I found Rick in pretty good spirits when I showed up.
We mostly hung out and bullshitted. Or bullshat. Whatever. And drank a fair amount of rum. And we recorded a couple of instrumental ditties in the studio. We spent several days in relative bachelor bliss, barbecuing red meat and playing guitars and such.
It was raining pretty hard the morning I left. Rick had gone to a doctor's appointment in Austin for some tests, because his heart was occasionally skipping a beat. Skipping a beat is a good thing, I suppose, if you're Buddy Holly or the Everly Brothers or someone like that. It sings good, anyway. But for us mere mortals, it's a bad thing. So he'd gone to the doctor.
I slipped and slid a bit in the mud pulling out of the driveway. It was Monday morning, and cold for Texas. I was bundled up and had the heater on full blast. I was worried about the transmission. It just didn't feel quite right as I was driving. I drove through Georgetown, and then back through it again, looking for a mechanic shop that was open. The days when gas stations all have mechanics on duty are long gone. They all have convenience marts attached to them now.
I didn't see any place that inspired any confidence. I figured maybe the van was just cold, having sat for a few days. It gets a little creaky sometimes. It's old, and a bit temperamental. I decided I was just being a wuss.
This was where my itinerary pushed north, and I wasn't looking forward to running into real weather. Half my growing up years were spent in Colorado, where winter can come early and way overstay its welcome. But it had been a long time since I'd willingly gone into it. And I didn't know how the van was going to do. I'd taken it on the road, and it did fine. Spectacularly well, really, all things considered. Though it does much prefer two lane highways to interstates. It had passed the heat test when I drove it through the heart of Texas a couple of years earlier in the middle of summer. But I'd never taken it into the heart of winter before. My plan was to go to Oklahoma, and after that, Lincoln, Nebraska.
I'd been looking at the weather maps on the internet. Oklahoma had been cold and snowy by their standards. But nothing that really worried me. Unless I hit a lot of ice. That idea made me nervous, because I didn't have snow tires. Nebraska in the winter is pretty much cold by anybody's standards. So I'd played out all kinds of scenarios in my mind.
But you can only play out the possibilities so many times. Eventually you've got to go for it, or not.
I pulled onto Interstate 35, and headed north.