It’s been a week since the start of my 2019 Dead run and it just ended Sunday, so here’s a quick look backward in the blog’s rear view.
“Colorado Springs? I thought I had to take you to the Denver airport!”
Tuesday morning started with a 3-part journey, but at least the first leg was shorter than Sara was expecting. I had told her some time back that I would be flying out of Colorado Springs to Dallas rather than Denver International Airport, but she had forgotten that little detail until I reminded her the night before. That shortened the morning drive to one hour rather than two, with her total round-trip drive time two hours rather than 4-5.
As for me, the Colorado Springs airport did make for a less stressful security & boarding experience than DIA. But our flight to Dallas was full, including a dozen or more Boy Scouts returning from summer camp and some sort of youth group with chaperones on their way to France. I passed the time waiting by the boarding gate with a Bloody Mary, my favorite flight beverage thanks to Willie Nelson’s “Bloody Mary Morning.”
After an uneventful flight, I Ubered to our rendezvous point at the hotel. Our little group was arriving from 4 different directions: me from Colorado, Kate from Houston, Shawn from Austin, and Albert from Bastrop. Shawn might’ve ridden along with Albert except he was returning to Austin the next day while Albert & I headed onward to Colorado.
Once we had gathered at the hotel, we bundled up in Kate’s car and headed over to the Deep Ellum District for food. A few tasty burgers and beers at the Twisted Root Burger Company later, and we made the quick journey over to the State Fairgrounds and the parking lot.
Lotsa Deadheads like to cruise “the Lot” (aka “Shakedown Street”) for various Dead t-shirts, stickers, and memorabilia, but that’s always held a limited interest to me. I’m that “one in 10,000 that comes for the show” that they sing about, so I’m always ready to head for the line to grab a good spot. We gawked at the some of the wares, grabbed some cold water, and wandered over to get in line.
The Dos Equis Pavilion, like so many modern outdoor venues, offers reserved seating and a pit area under a large open-air cover. We had general admission tickets for the sloping lawn behind that the pavilion. We nabbed a spot just about dead center — always important to me, for the audio balance — about 15 feet up the grassy slope where it levelled off a bit more.
Albert spotted some of the Austin Deadheads he knew from various shows and ended up standing a little further up from us. Me, I’m always so focused on hearing the music and watching the interplay between the musicians that I sometimes find it distracting to hang out with too many friends, so I was fine where we ended up standing.
After the inevitable wait, the band wandered out and quickly kicked it off with “Bertha.”
I didn’t even notice it at the time, but John Mayer chose a Stevie Ray Vaughan t-shirt for the first set, paying tribute to the hometown guitar hero, even playing some licks with his teeth a la SRV.
Of course, the Dead have always had songs that appear in setlists to name-drop any city they’re playing in, but they seemed to be having a grand time touching base with Texas fans.
Sprinkled among the first-set songs with distinct Texas/Dallas references were “Deep Ellum Blues” (of course!) and “El Paso.” Naturally, Dallas got the local name-drop in “New Minglewood Blues.”
But it was the totally expected line from “Jack Straw,”
Leaving Texas 4th day of July…
that had the crowd roaring in appreciation as the band wrapped up an energetic opening set.
Set I: Bertha, New Minglewood Blues, Row Jimmy, Deep Ellum Blues > Friend of the Devil > El Paso > Sugaree > Jack Straw
Set breaks are significantly shorter these days and it wasn’t too long before they launched the second set with a sizzling version of “Shakedown Street.”
Settling in for their second set, they trekked through a bevy of classics, with a particularly sweet “Uncle John’s Band,” playing the tempo closer to the original upbeat speed rather than the later, slower versions. This one seemed to split the difference nicely and provided plenty of space for the band to play off each others’ strengths as they stretch out into the jams.
Set II: Shakedown Street > Uncle John’s Band > St. Stephen > The Eleven > Drums/Space > Black Peter > Good Lovin’
Encore: Black Muddy River
The whole show flowed as smoothly as you’d expect after several weeks on tour. Wiped out from a day of traveling and night of marvelous music, I was happy to hit the hotel and fade for the night without much additional revelry.
Come the morning, we scattered like the wind with Kate, staying at another hotel, already on the road and Shawn heading southward to central Texas but wishing he was riding along with me & Albert. We had “miles to go before we sleep” with the map app indicating a travel time of 11 hours. Add in food breaks for breakfast and lunch and a few other stops along the way, and we figured on 13 hours before reaching Cañon City.
Mostly “miles and miles of Texas.”
There’s not a lot to write about that journey except for our food forays along the way. Both Albert and I remain committed to finding real food along the road and avoiding the chain “restaurants” with their food-like products. If you know who and where to look, you can almost always find something better.
For breakfast, it was the Longhorn Cafe in Bowie, Texas. Though we rolled in a little later than the usual weekday breakfast time, our waitress had us quickly seated with coffee and water, took our orders and had us munching down on a basic American breakfast in no time. Stop in there anytime you’re in the neighborhood — well worth the stop and the lunch menu looked even better.
After a late breakfast like that, we made it to Amarillo before looking for lunch. When we spotted Torchy’s Tacos along our route, we knew we’d found our food stop. While technically a chain, Torchy’s is Austin’s homegrown taco chain, so it’s markedly different than anything like MacDonald’s.
Besides which — tacos! One of the things I do miss about Texas: tacos everywhere. So, of course, we stopped at Torchy’s before heading on.
Beyond the taco stop, our road just continued onward…and onward…and onward. Hours later, we crossed into New Mexico. Still later, we climbed over Raton Pass into Colorado. After another couple of hours, we finally arrived home in Cañon City, ready to rest up for Part 2 of the 2019 Dead Run, the tour-closing Boulder shows.