Our first night on the road, in Allentown, was unknowingly the premiere of a six month crucible that would spit me out in November a very different person than I was that previous June.
[For clarification, BANDADE is my charitable business that allows me to host different musicians in venues across the United States to generate funds to pay artists, cancer organizations, and myself. BANDADE was what sent us on a 32 show tour in the summer of 2017.]
After our first show, we drove to Hickory Run State Park. We hadn’t perfected a system for storing all of our things in the Jeep Wrangler yet (our new home). As a result, at midnight, we barreled down the Pennsylvania Turnpike with four giant, $11 Amazon duffel bags, stuffed with clothing, strapped to the roof of our vehicle. Strapped through the open windows, because we didn’t know we needed a roof racked to actually put items on the roof… life is all about learning as you go. We lumbered down the highway that night, and, to this day, I am so grateful that those cheap sacks full of band tees didn’t fly off that roof and cause an accident.
We found our campsite just after midnight, the grounds were pitch black and the air was cold as ice. Nick and I hurriedly set up our tent (which connected to the tailgate of the Jeep thanks to Napier Outdoors – very cool) and unpacked all of our belongings. This would become our ritual over the next six months. Pull up, talk to park ranger/hotel clerk, unpack like trained soldiers, change, eat, and then fall on our faces with exhaustion.
This is what I had always wanted. It doesn’t sound very glamorous, I realize that – living in an SUV with two dogs and driving 15,000 miles, but to help people while simultaneously booking/hosting concerts every night was my dream completely come to life.
But before I dive deeper into this story and our travels this passed summer, let me rewind a little bit.
I met my boyfriend, Nick, almost four years prior. I was subletting a room in Spring Hill, Tennessee from a chef named Mario. I wanted to work in the music industry in Nashville, Tennessee, and my cousin’s new pizza joint in Williamson County was my ticket.
The second I heard that I would have family in the Nashville area, I packed up my little blue Elantra, put my hound mix, Presley, in the passenger seat, and hit the road (see, I told you it wasn’t my first time taking a leap).
I remember the night before I left home in Virginia so vividly. It was August, 2013, but it felt like October. Crisp, honest, true, it was probably one of the last moments that I really felt like a kid. This resonates so far beyond a memory to me. Instead it’s a feeling; feeling young, drinking too much wine, wandering around my parents’ neighborhood like a queen, talking to a friend about life and all its meaningless bs, and still all of its persistent beauty. I think youth is defined by having no regard for consequence, no fear of rejection. You dream until finally one important person, or incident, proves to you that dreaming is difficult, a challenge, and the life you know will show your ego little attention. Just thinking about that night stops me now. I think I knew then that my comfortable, sheltered life would never be the same.
So I drove. I left behind the northeast, my home. I left behind my childhood dog, Buddy, my friends, my family, my security, and my favorite cities.
I drove to Spring Hill, Tennessee, and served gourmet, New Haven style, pizza six nights a week to people who would’ve been happier sitting at home eating Pizza Hut.
There is one major road that runs through Spring Hill. When you exit the highway (just after the buffalo farm), you drive straight south, past the Waffle House and the Walmart, past approximately 425,468 protestant churches, then you bang a right at the Sonic, skirt by the town library (where, honest to God, they label the Christian-appropriate books with a stickers), and *Bam!* you’re at my old apartment.
It was just Mario, me, and Presley in that little place. Mario was probably in his 50s. He walked to work every day and had tattoos. I had never met him or seen a picture before that long, fateful drive to Spring Hill. Living with him was really maybe one of the craziest situations I have ever ended up in. I locked my bedroom door every single night and Presley took to sleeping right next to me and being my protector. Still, Mario turned out to be one of the gentlest, kindest, most hardworking people I have ever known.
It would end up taking hard work, loneliness, several odd jobs, and strange twist of fate to land me in my dream job in Nashville that winter. More on this tomorrow…
(DISCLAIMER: This blog primarily chronicles my six month trip around the country putting on concerts. And really my life in general… You don’t need to, but, if you have the time, I recommend reading the blog posts prior to this one for the full context. Thanks for reading! ❤ Knight Pines)