March 4th, 2019 (Wichita, Kansas)
Remember when I said there would be more?
Working the day you’re flying out is the absolute worst. But, work pays for vacations, so you just suck it up and power through. After a quick stop at a parking lot to change, I was off to airport for a late flight to Kansas City, followed by a comfortable drive to Wichita in the morning.
Part of the fun of these middle-America trips is the road. After roughly six months of on again off again trips, some days on the road are better than others, but seeing the country has been great nonetheless.
The best part of the road (outside of the shows,) continues to be the food. I have had some truly legit meals on these trips, which hasn’t been great for keeping me in ‘playing shape’, but I can always diet tomorrow — You know tomorrow, the day that’s always coming, but never arrives. Add Wichita and B&C Creations to the ‘legit’ list! This is the first BBQ buffet restaurant I’ve been to, and I have to say, it was all great! Flavor, sauce, variety. Huge win, and one of the better BBQ places I’ve been to, which is a lot.
I was lucky enough to escape another ticket in Wichita. “Since you’re from out of town, I won’t give you a ticket.” Where was that hospitality in Arkansas?!
I won’t go much into the final few Metallica shows. At the end of the day you won’t need me to tell you they fucking killed! Would I keep going if they didn’t? They’re a true constant, and an unrivaled experience every night.
Day 2 was a side trip through Oklahoma. Besides the opportunity to see Metallica 17 times in roughly 6 months, the Black Ticket also gave me a reason to see and do more on the road. I stopped at Nic’s Grill for a mammoth grease-dripping burger (in all the right ways,) before stopping by the Oklahoma City Thunder’s arena to fly a middle finger high. (RIP Seattle Sonics, and suck it Clay Bennett.) It’s too bad too, because OKC has some potential. The small ‘Bricktown’ baseball stadium district looks great, with Mickey Mantle’s statue and restaurant an ever-present centerpiece.
March 6th, 2019 (Kansas City, MO)
I took the scenic route back to Kansas City after a night at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino outside of OKC. Old Route 66 was calling my name, the way the open road called to drivers across America until the late 1950’s, before its decline after the Interstate Highway Act.
Through Miami, Oklahoma, to Commerce and Mickey Mantle’s childhood home, to Picher, Oklahoma, one of the few towns in America to be declared completely uninhabitable due to overmining, which increased the risk for cave-ins, and the scorched Earth groundwater contamination caused by the piles of chat, a toxic by product of the mines.
To say it was surreal to be standing in a completely evacuated, and later mostly razed town, is an understatement.
I got into KC a little later than I expected, but in enough time to grab dinner at Q39, adding another notch to my BBQ belt (both figuratively and literally).
March 11th, 2019 (Indianapolis, IN)
The end is near. This is the last leg, and the end of the road for me — For now.
Timing lined up perfectly for the show, but it didn’t give me a lot of time for the city, which was why I planned for a flex day tomorrow. The hotel I’m in is an old train station that was built over; it has some cool character, and the city as a whole is an easy walk.
Day 2 was spent checking out the city before hitting the ‘Mug N Bun’ for a pork tenderloin. Finding the local ‘specialty’ is always top on the list, and my friend Jake, who hits the Indy 500 ever year, swears by the pork tenderloin, texting me a steady stream of sandwich shots every qualifying weekend up to the race.
The tenderloin was bigger than my hand, but flat as a pancake, so pounding that, along with a chili dog and some onion rings was easy work. (I’m clearly traveling alone, because that is not a makeout meal. Haha.)
A quick snack later and I was off to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a tour lap of the track, ending with the obligatory shot at the bricks.
March 13th, 2019 (Grand Rapids, MI)
It’s all come down to this. My 17th and final show of the tour. (And 29th overall. Why couldn’t it have ended at 30? Clearly I should have gone to one more.)
I remember starting the tour with hopes of 12-20 shows, while debating the feasibility, expense, timing, and everything that would have to go into it. Did I think I’d hit 17? Maybe a little. I’d had it as high as 23 at one point, but the cost at home wasn’t going to be worth the extra dates. There were days I wondered if I hit a number where I’d already started pressing my luck. Probably everything past 10, if not sooner.
A lot of the Black Ticket guys decided to wear suits to the show, but that was too much work for me on the road, so I ended up matching the crew with my tuxedo t-shirt, bringing it high class. I met up with Jake to end the tour. It’s always good to hang out, even infrequently.
Enter Sandman. An explosion of cheers. A short blast of Frayed Ends Of Sanity, and the tour is over. It’s weird to feel empty so quick, knowing that when I get back, everything is back to how it was. I’m going to miss the excitement of the upcoming dates and the energy from crowds. It’s bittersweet. The opportunity to go was amazing, but when you mix that with the sad reality that it’s come to an end, it’s easy to feel a little hollow.
I grabbed my gear the next morning and hit the road to Detroit. I drove past Notre Dame to see ‘Touchdown Jesus’ in person, before stopping at Crane’s Pie Pantry. I’m a sucker for pie, enough so that I didn’t mind driving the 30 minutes off route to have it. When I’m on the road, detours are a given. Especially for food.
My last night post-Metallica was spent on the glass watching the Detroit Red Wings. I saw them play in their old arena, but was happy to see that timing worked out to see them this time around too. I love watching hockey live and it was just another reminder of how exciting it will be when Seattle gets our team in 2021. I can’t wait! The Red Wings lost, but it was a good way to end an amazing six month journey.
But it’s over now. Part of me, a big part, is always longing for what’s next. And I don’t mean that as just what’s next for me. I mean the family too. Traveling is just so much fun. I long for it — Hunger for the next opportunity to be on the road.
Let’s face it, ‘regular life’ can be a real drag. School, work, responsibility. The road is the escape. Even though I end up working (a lot) on the road, it just feels different.
Having the opportunity to do this tour was that reprieve. The escape from reality for even just a few days here and a few days there. For those few days the stress takes a backseat; it’s still there, and I still had to deal with it, but it sure felt different when I knew I was seeing Metallica that night.
I hope the girls continue to crave the adventure of the road too. Our trips with them get better every year, and my solo trips with just the two of them are some of my favorite memories. I’d like to think the travel will carry over to when they have kids too. They’re living a life I didn’t have growing up. Part of me worries that they’ll be spoiled, but the other part of me says ‘Fuck It”. We only have one life to live and we waste more than enough time dealing with the day-to-day bullshit.
At the end of the day, that’s what these trips are to me. They’re a chance to live in the moment. A chance to try and forget everything for just one random day in September, or November, or March. I’m going to miss it now that it’s gone; this last year as a whole was one for the books, so how I’m going to adjust to what will be a slower travel year is anyone’s guess. But there’s no denying that the opportunities I’ve had are already something I’m extremely thankful for. I work hard for it, but I don’t take my good fortune lightly either. This trip showed me that in a ton of ways.
So what’s next? I guess we’ll see.
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