Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters reflects on the first leg of our Bluegrass, Bikes & Beer Tour. Stay tuned for the next round of tour dates starting next Friday, May 13 at Oskar Blues Brewing in Brevard, North Carolina.
Pale Fire Brewing, Harrisonburg, VA—4/23
7am departure from home in Brevard with almost 6 hours to drive. I had ample time to catch up on phone calls and have a listening party of one, road-trip style. I arrived in H’Burg under cloudy skies with rain threatening. I needed to install a new drivetrain on my singlespeed (once a year, every year), so I stopped in at Shenandoah Bike Company and dropped off the bike.
They were concerned about the rain and trail conditions, but we waited it out and once the rain cleared and everything dried out a bit, 13 of us rode from the brewery to the Hillandale Trails. The rocks were greasy, the riding techy and fun. Returned to brewery by 6pm, parking lot shower, chicken salad sandwich… I played for a solid hour before turning things over to The Hot Seats who tore it up from note one.
Attendance peaked during their set, raffle was really solid, happy winners, place started to empty out after the raffle ended, but got a late surge as the local crowd filled the tables. I played a few, joined The Hot Seats on Bass, then drank (excellent) beer and listened to Waylon Jennings with Tim, the owner, until well after midnight. Day 1 in the books.
Devils Backbone Brewing, Nelson County, VA—4/24
After rising early (kids schedule is hard to shake) I took the leisure route following the foothills highways before a quick detour on miles 1-14 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Setup went smoothly and the sky cleared and wind died down just as I took the stage. It being a gorgeous day in the Blue Ridge, the beer garden at Devils Backbone was already filling out at 2pm. I played for about 80 minutes, sticking to mostly favorites of mine, the crowd filling out and filling all the beer garden benches by the time The Hot Seats took the stage. I grabbed a pint of Trail Angel Weiss (what else?) and caught up with old friends and new acquaintances.
I used to live literally on the grounds of Devils Backbone; I personally laid out, hand cut, and maintained the 3 mile trail network we were riding that day, so it was, in many ways, a homecoming for me. After about an hour, I joined the Hot Seats and played some old-time rhythm guitar (my favorite) before raffling off the goods from our sponsors.The four of us rolled through a handful more tunes and our time was up. The early group rides had been well attended, but when I rolled out to lead the evening ride, it was just me. I welcomed the opportunity to revisit my trails in the evening light, alone, at my own pace without having to wrangle riders or shoot the breeze.It had been a labor of love, laying in those trails, and to see how CAMBC has picked up the maintenance torch, and how they’re being embraced and bedded-in by the local community made all of that work worthwhile. Post-ride I finished tear-down, grabbed another pint of Trail Angel and saddled up to the bar for a meal and some socializing with the bartenders. Eventually, Carey had to send me to bed before I fell asleep on the bar. It was only 10pm.Soaring Ridge Craft Brewery, Roanoke, VA—4/25
Dawn came early and I had breakfast with some old friends overlooking the Rockfish River before jumping in the 4Runner to get a head start on the day. Last year at Soaring Ridge had been a barn-burner and I couldn’t wait to get down there.
I listened through The Hot Seats record twice on the drive, picking out tunes I wanted to play with them that day, and gassed up in preparation for that evening’s quick exit post-show. The group ride was, again, the best attended this year.RIMBA has a really great thing going in Roanoke, with huge support for cycling. Despite our late start and cramped time-line, I squeezed in 9 miles before dashing back to Soaring Ridge, dumping a half-gallon of water over my head, putting on my shirt, pants, and boots, and taking the stage. Roanoke has always been a great place to play. I have a surprising number of fans there, and they were out in force. My set flew by and The Hot Seats took over, taking the packed house on an old-time/ragtime journey while I socialized, answered questions, and generally tried to fuel the stoke. By the time the raffle went down, the place was bursting at the seams, but due to a lack of food trucks (they bailed… and missed out on a banner day, I’m sure) as soon as the raffle ended, the bar started to empty out.No matter; the bar had sold a ton of beer (on a day they’d otherwise have not been open), we’d raised a bunch of money for RIMBA, and the music had been the best of the weekend. The Hot Seats and I ripped through another 30 minutes of old-time standards, then we said our goodbye’s. I picked up a couple 6 packs to go (no drinking before a late 4+ hour drive, so they insisted I try their beers on my own terms and it’s fantastic, by the way), and hit the road. The trip home was easy; Waylon Jennings and Bob Wills were the soundtrack, the 4Runner purred like a kitten, and I landed head down on my pillow at exactly 1am. Success. Can’t wait for North Carolina in May/June!
Travis Book is bass player for the Infamous Stringdusters, an amazing solo artist, and one hell of a mountain biker. If you’re going to be in North Carolina this summer be sure to catch Book at one of the three remaining Bluegrass, Bikes & Beer tour stops listed below.