Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Touring Series: R.I.P. Jerry

A Guitar Ted Productions series
Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale as it was posted on the blog in 2009. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 


The "Race Against Death Tour" stops for the night in Wynot, Nebraska........

When we pulled into the small town of Wynot, we saw a little town square, if it could be called such. It was basically a poor excuse for a park with a central restroom facility, a couple of weathered old picnic tables, and a swing set swaying gently in the breeze. Along the western side of the main street there were a row of low buildings that served as business fronts for the post office and two small bars, along with some other non-descript buildings.
Wynot, Nebraska as it appears today from the Southwest

We spied the park as a place to set up tents and hit the hay. Troy went in to ask to see if this was okay at the bar. We followed in behind, but we were redirected down the street to another place to get "official" blessing. On the way down, an old man hailed us, and began to get into a conversation with Troy, but he quickly passed him off to Ryan and I.

Well, this old man was either half crazy, drunk, or both. (I vote for both), and he proceeded to try to talk to us in half sentences, ravings, and unintelligible bursts of sound. Ryan about busted a gut several times, but managed to keep it together. I never really did get the gist of what the old fella was saying, but Ryan seemed to tap into some of his verbiage, as he would oft repeat snippets of it afterwards, much to Troy's and my delight. This fellow helped us give rise to the concept of "V.I.P" that we instigated for folks of this sort the rest of the trip. We dubbed these folks "VIP's", but "very important person" wasn't really what we meant. We were to meet several more similar folks along our road.

Troy finally emerged from the building he went into. Now that we had the "official" blessing, we could set up camp in the town square. We made quick work of our setting up, having had enough practice now to be really good at it. We discovered that the rest room had a central drain, so we took a big pot that Ryan had brought and used it to fill with water from the faucet and pour over our heads to take make shift showers.

After getting cleaned up, we hit the bar we had walked into earlier. Calling it a "bar" is a bit unfair, I guess. It was basically a restaurant with a bar in the corner. Anyway, they had a board above the back counter with the menu on it. They had about every fried concoction available and known to mankind. Fried cauliflower baskets, fried mushroom baskets, fried cheese curd baskets, you name it, they had it. And........we ordered it! We filled our round table with fried food baskets and looked at it all with wide eyes. We were amazed at the volume of food. But you know what? We ate every last morsel!

After retiring to our patch of grass, we took to a lone picnic table and faced the lowering sun that was lighting up the clouds on the western horizon. It looked like some thunderheads were coming our way. But now everything was peaceful and relaxing. Troy said he wanted to go into the bar to ask to use the phone to make a collect call to his wife. (Amazing that we used to do this!) He was gone long enough that Ryan and I made note of it, thinking, and hoping nothing was seriously wrong. When Troy came out, it was apparent that the news from home was not good.

Thoughts ran across my mind of what it could be, but it wasn't "close to home" bad news. We found out from Troy that his wife had told him the news that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead had died. Troy, being a huge fan, was devastated by this. We all sat on that picnic table for several minutes in silence, staring as the sun went down in a red and orange haze.

After some conversation we finally hit the hay and settled in for the night. I could hear the distant thunder and the flashes of lightning grew closer. I lay unable to sleep as a storm rolled up on Wynot, Nebraska that night, wondering what the following days might bring.

This is a small town scene that is something not uncommon even today in the Mid-West. Run down, dilapidated buildings with  small bars for businesses and "colorful" characters which are the only real outstanding elements for most of these places. Wynot, Nebraska was going to just be another avearge stop on the route but for the crazy old man and what happened in the news that day.

Of course, we'd have never known about Jerry Garcia's death, maybe for days, had Troy not called his wife. No Twitter barrage with "Jerry Garcia" trending. No waves of social media outpourings on Facebook, Instagram, or Snap Chat. It was just another sleepy day in Wynot and that Sunset would not have been as memorable had we not gotten that news.

We did get rained on that night. The way we dealt with wet stuff will be told in a couple weeks, if you remember to catch that. It wasn't a bad storm, but laying in a tent in a strange town with thunder rolling all around you sure has a way of making a man feel lonely........

Next: A Dead End

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