Released and on the mend

Howdy friends.

As I write this, I’m convalescing after a particularly pernicious bout of pneumonia brought on by pushing beyond my limits.  The good news, though, is that, after almost four years of Sisyphus-like effort, my CD, “American Road” has successfully been released (release date: March 2nd, 2018) and is receiving airplay across the US, Canada and New Zealand.  It’s available on my web site for those who like to own a physical disc and on any of the myriad music services for those who prefer digital copies.

Unfortunately, I got really sick on my way to the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, MO and, never really recovered; it’s what led to the pneumonia.  Don’t want to do that again.  Even had to cancel performances and, for those who don’t know me, I never before had to do that.  I figure another few days before I start going out of the house again and consider coming out to play music once more.  Keep an eye on my schedule.

For those who’ve supported me on this project, I gratefully extend my thanks, with the hope that you are enjoying listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it.

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December 2017; the best of times, the worst of times.

We are in the throws of the holiday season, 2017 as I write this entry, which has been one of the bleakest holidays I can recall since the days of the protests and riots of the late 1960’s, made even worse by the ravages of wind, rain, fire and flood.  It’s also been quite a while since I’ve sat down to add some thoughts here. On the plus side, In that time I’ve won two New Mexico Music Awards, with an additional 8 nominations and am preparing for the release of my first CD in ten years.   You’ll also note that, for performance purposes, I’ve let my last name sit off to the side, so that much of what you see will identify me simply as Gary Paul.  Sadly, Big Moose Music is gone, but Storm Canyon Music has taken its place. Also in the time between writings, I’m sad to say that I’ve lost a number of friends to the great mystery that is death; one I’m not looking to solve any time soon.

I’m grateful for the new friends I have made here in Santa Fe, though.  They have helped me on the road to new adventures.  Still, there comes a time when any doctor visit brings with it some level of dread; a time when the news will not always be good and and the prognosis can be worse. As Bette Davis said, “getting old is not for sissies!” My first procedure, Carpal Tunnel Release, has thankfully been a great success.  Although arthritis and tendonitis  is making its presence felt, I no longer suffer from numbness in my right hand.  However the ticking of the clock adds greater urgency to everything, which is why the time it’s taken to raise the money for each hour of studio time has felt like forever. I’ve continued forging ahead, dear reader. And, so long as the guy with the scythe and the black robe doesn’t come a-knockin’ I’ll continue to do so.  We’re very close to putting “American Road” out the door and into your hands.

Fate, I’m pleased to say, seems to be making its presence felt just at the most opportune of moments.  Several voices from my past have reemerged in my life just at the time their presence can make a great difference. A student of mine from many, many moons ago has reached out from the past to reconnect just as I prepare for the next step in the CD’s development, so that I can look forward to the excellent ears and perceptive skills of Mark Dann to make itself felt in the mastering process.  And a dear friend and masterful musician, Maurice Oliver, with whom I worked for many years in the band Satie, has once again become an active part of my life.  His label, Electronfarm records, will be handling the digital distribution of my upcoming CD.  I look forward to collaborating with him once again, with the possibility of his joining me on tour as my percussionist and me joining his Chillfactor-5 ensemble on bass.

And so, dear reader, though the year has been stormy, I hope you have been spared the worst of it and that you are celebrating your holiday season with joy, good cheer and good will to all.  My the coming year bring only happiness.


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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Northeast Travels

We began the Summer with a journey from Santa Fe to New York City for the 45 year reunion of the Graduates of Performing Arts High School.  Rather than brave the strip-search at the airport and worrying about my guitar in the hold for the entire trip, we decided to make it an extended vacation by car.  This was a mixed blessing at best.

As we worked our way across Oklahoma behind the second deadly weather front of the Summer, the devastation was daunting.  It is most unnerving to see a plaster wall standing in the middle of nowhere and then to realize with a start that it used to be surrounded by a house.  We continued on to Little Rock for a visit to the Clinton library, but the ghost of Tornadoes past seemed to haunt us in the rearview mirror.

After a stop in Nashville to play some music and visit with friends we continued the journey, turning North at Knoxville.  That’s where we met the deluge.  From Knoxville all the way up to the New Jersey border, it was blinding rain, long accident-related backups and hanging on to the steering wheel for dear life as the wind buffeted us as if we were a toy.

Visiting with friends, many of whom I’d not seen face to face in 45 years was truly a joy.  Performing for them was that much more special.  We toasted friends departed and celebrated those who’ve survived ’til now.

Too  soon, it was time to go.  We stopped in Woodstock to recharge the Catskill mountain memories, but the weather was mostly uncooperative.  Then all the trouble lights went on.

When one has over 180,000 miles on a vehicle these things shouldn’t be a surprise but, in truth, it was.  The good news was we could drive home; the bad news was that probably due to rainwater mixed into the gas we’d bought along the way, one of the catalytic converters had burned out.  This was bad news indeed, but with the silver lining that we could continue our trip and deal with it when we got home.  Still, it’s less fun driving the highways and byways with a dashboard full of yellow lights flashing at you.

We tried to brighten our spirits with a visit to Niagara Falls.  It was the first time either of us had ever left the country, but we were armed with our new passports and so, we joined the unending line of visitors crossing into Canada at the rainbow bridge.  It felt stranger than we expected, being in a country that was, at once, familiar yet, at the same time, foreign; a bit exhilarating and intimidating.  But the falls were everything we had hoped and, bathed in the spray from the horseshoe falls from the deck of the Maid of the Mist one experienced the awesome power that is nature.  So glad to have done it.

Our trip home was uneventful, other than the caution-lit dashboard until the outskirts of Oklahoma City.  There, dead ahead was a huge black supercell.  A fortuitous error took us off the main highway into OKC, steering us instead to the south of the city and to the southern side of the supercell.  Still, the rain was horrendous and the quarter-sized hail denting the roof and hood, positively daunting.  Looking up, we sighted a wall of high clouds beneath the supercell, suddenly beginning a slow rotation.  All I could think of was Jeff Goldblum in “Independence Day” and “Jurassic Park” saying, “Must go Faster.  Must go Faster.”

Thankfully, the cyclone didn’t descend and, driving at speeds I dare not mention, we got out from under it.  But it certainly gives one pause.  Perhaps we ought to keep our visits to Oklahoma limited to the Winter months.

Conference Season

With that trip behind me, I look forward to “The Conference Season.”  We folk musicians reserve the Autumn months to get together in conferences across the country. September will be Austin TX and October will be Irvine CA then St. Louis MO.  It’s a chance to catch up on the latest trends in the industry, catch up on gossip over breakfasts and catch up on what each of us have been doing.  After all, it’s rare that we actually get to hear each other as we are usually working at the same time as the other person is working.  So I look forward to the kind to experiences had by anyone who has gone to a conference or a trade show.  But I also look forward to sharing the joy of music with friends that keeps us doing what we’re doing.

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New Year; New Plans.

Greetings friends.

I’m pleased to say that I’m facing the new year with new plans for 2013.  For one thing, I’ll be getting a little time in on bass again.  I’m now playing bass behind Lisa Carman as part of the Lisa Carman Band.  It’s fun getting the bass chops back up to snuff and playing ensemble.  Yes, solo performances are very rewarding and I am hoping to expand that.  But playing with friends has worth too and I’m glad for that opportunity.

You may have noticed sevreral new sections added to the latest update of my web site.  For one thing, I’m pleased to report that I am working with Charlie Stewart at Handshake Management.  His advice has been sound and his air of Southern charm makes it easy to take.  I’ve also added a section on house concerts. They are fun to have in one’s home and fun to play as a musician.  I hope to do more of them in the future.  If you’re interested in sponsoring one in your home, why check out the information under that button. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how much fun it can be.

On another front, I’ve been working on evaluation demos for the long-awaited second CD.  I don’t want to let too much out of the bag so early in the process, but we are hoping to be able to deliver on it in time for Christmas.  I may need your help though to make it happen.  In the coming weeks I’ll be posting more on this subject as well, so keep tuned in!

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The (not so) Great Southwest Tour

We’d been planning this tour for a number of months; our first since coming West.  It would be a week long, take us out West as far as Lancaster, CA, back on a Southeastern oblique to southern New Mexico and back up to return home to Santa Fe.  Our car was packed and our hopes were high as we headed for our first destination; Flagstaff Arizona.

We’d yet to clear Albuquerque, though, when our first sign of trouble showed; a flashing AC indicator on the dash, followed by the sudden disappearance of any cool air from the vents.  A review of the manual revealed the bad news; a problem with the Air Conditioning which required dealer service.  The problem was, of course, that there was no time built into our plans for such a delay.  We would arrive in Flagstaff less than two hours before performance time and would have to be on our way fist thing in the morning to get to our next stop; Palmdale CA, where my brother and his family would have a place for us to sleep.  It was a Friday afternoon and we were heading into Flagstaff faced with the Mojave Desert to cross the next day, a trip through Phoenix and down to southern New Mexico with no AC to mitigate the anticipated temperatures well over the century mark; a truly daunting prospect.

We tried to set our concerns aside as we pulled up at the hotel.  After all, I had a performance to get through just  an hour and a half away, so our worries would have to take a back seat to more immediate concerns.  We made it to the venue without incident and began to unpack.

It was a funky coffee shop, two storefronts wide, with a small but mixed crowd.  I was set up and playing in under an hour and, though the crowd was small, they were beginning to gravitate my way and pay attention.  It was then that I noticed some not so good attention from behind a white van which had pulled up outside.  A couple were eyeing me with less than good intent as they began unpacking instruments from the back of the van.

My stomach sank with the suspicion over what was occurring and, sure enough, my fears were confirmed about ten minutes later when the manager came to me.  He seemed a nice young man of college age, hair in braids, tee shirt and jeans, but he was clearly uncomfortable as he approached. He gave me the bad news; he had not been aware that ANY music had been scheduled for the evening, yet someone had double-booked the place with two different traveling acts.  I was very disappointed, but what was there to do?  The manager made recompense and we were given the dinner we had been promised, so I quickly packed and got my equipment out of the way, ‘lest there be any confusion as to who’s wires belonged to whom. We ate quietly as the “opening” act, a local friend of the traveling couple did his shtick.  Without further ado, we went back to the hotel and settled in hoping that, somehow, this tour would recapture its positive vibe the next day.

Keenly aware that we had much desert to cross without benefit of AC, we departed early the next morning, hoping to be across the Mojave ahead of the hottest part of the day.  As we descended out of the Arizona mountains we were faced with more heat than we came upon in the depths of the Mojave; 96 degrees a little bit West of Kingman.  By that time we progressively gave up on the internal vents, tilting open the moon roof and opening the windows to the blistering roar coming through them, like the breath of a blast furnace.  If it was this bad this far North, what could we expect working our way to Phoenix the following Monday? Desperate, we hit the smart phone for the nearest Toyota dealership to our destination and rang their service department.  We were told that the only way we could be seen was as a walk in; otherwise they wouldn’t even look at us before Monday.

We hauled butt for all we were worth; we HAD to get there before closing time.  As we crawled our way along the route to the Pearblossom highway, we began to dispair.  But then things began to open up and we were back at the speed limit.  We pulled into the dealership a half hour before closing.  The staff were reticent to even begin to look at it, saying that the AC system testing process was extensive and would take more time than was left in the day, let alone figuring any time for actual repair.  We pleaded as piteously as we could manage, telling them we’d just crossed the Mojave without AC and were facing the prospect of 108+ degrees Monday on the way to Phoenix. Reluctantly they agreed to at least take a look.

Imagine our surprise when, not five minutes after driving the car down into the repair shop, there was the mechanic standing outside the shop director’s office with a smile on his face.  ‘Turned out it was a known problem for which there was a service bulletin; a failing compressor clutch relay.  AND THEY HAD THE PART IN STOCK!!  The repair wound up taking less time than the paperwork. With unending praise and thanks we bid the Lancaster Toyota team farewell, deeply grateful for the promise of cool air to get us across the desert to Phoenix.  We made our way to my brother’s house and set up camp, relieved and relaxed by the prospect of our bad luck spell being broken;  Now things would finally start turning out way!  We spent a pleasant evening with family catching up while enjoying the cooling high-desert breeze as the night sky moved in overhead.

The next day we took an easy start and headed out to the house concert site.  Wayne and Charlotte made us feel welcome and, amid thoroughly enjoyable banter we got set up and prepared for the audience to arrive.  Unfortunately, mostly, they didn’t.  A dear friend from high school showed up with her very sweet long-suffering husband, having made a two-hour journey.  However, the rest of my West Coast classmates couldn’t make it; neither could most of the other folks who promised to show up.  So we had an intimate gathering, including 7 people following along on the live streamcast.  The show was quite good and we got some excellent video from it (see youtube). I had a lot of fun, as did the audience.  So it wasn’t a financial winner, but it was a success nevertheless.  We continued the pleasant conversation while packing, headed off to spend another lovely evening with my brother and his family and prepared to face the drive to Phoenix the next day.

We made reasonably good time and were exceedingly grateful for the AC, considering the temperature made it to 111 degrees.  Once checked into out hotel, we got together with another couple of friends from high school, currently living in Phoenix.  Yes, we Performing Arts HS grads do manage to get around.  The next morning we were off to Silver City, New Mexico.

About mid afternoon, we pulled into the center of town; an artsy little main street of  antique shops, nick-knack shops some restaurants and coffee shops, with more than its share of empty storefronts.  My wife got in a little shopping while I checked in at the coffeehouse where I was to play the following night.  It was a pleasant day but for one thing; off to the North, the sky filled ominously with what at first glance looked like angry thunderheads – that is, until you realized the color was wrong; thunderheads aren’t tinged with brown.  Wildfire smoke, however, is.  The Gila National Forest was beset by fire; a conflagration approaching a 100,000 acres.  We had booked a cabin at a cozy campground in Pinos Altos, high in the piney mountains overlooking the Silver City Valley, several thousand miles below.  The closer we got, the more the sun was obscured by the roiling smoke plume of the blaze.  Thankfully, though, the smoke had been lofted so high that the air at ground level held no scent of it.  We could look forward to a pleasant dinner in town and a quiet evening in a romantic cabin and an easy set up the next day.

As the next evening approached, my wife curtailed her shopping activities and I began to set up at the equipment for the evening’s show.  Again, the manager had neglected to mention me to Sam, the Barista, but we straightened that out in short order and Sam was exceedingly helpful.  The crowd was not large, but they spanned the age spectrum and they lingered and listened.  After a quick pack we were back at our little mountain hideaway; the wildfire getting closer, but the smoke mercifully blowing elsewhere.

The morning found us reluctant to leave our cozy little cabin, but I had an afternoon to play in Socorro, so we packed up and went looking for some real southwest cooking for breakfast.  We found it, after several false starts, in what had been an old motor court, repurposed as a mini-mall, with a wonderful Southwestern style restaurant.  A hearty breakfast had us back on the road, heading North for Socorro.

Until one begins to approach Hatch, there’s not much to speak of.  But then the green fields of peppers and fruit orchards loom up well before the sign that officially lets you know that you’re in the chili pepper capital of the world.  Once on I 25, though, the wind became fierce.  We were unfortunate witnesses to the wind’s power and the havoc left in its wake; a car and the trailer it was pulling were flipped over on their roofs. With a shudder, we both hoped it was only a vacation brought to an abrupt end and not more.  Further down the road an 18-wheeler was flipped on it’s side in the median.  We were relieved to pull into the parking lot of the coffee shop in Socorro – until we opened the doors.  The smoke billowing angrily at 20,000 feet in Silver city fell to earth in Socorro, burning one’s eyes and throat.  We unpacked in record time and set up well ahead of time for performing.

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM is not high volume traffic time for a coffee shop, but people drifted in and out, staying long enough for a cup and pastry as well as a song or three.  Many were very generous, a fact much appreciated by this humble performer.  It certainly helped put a little gas in the car to get back to Santa Fe in one piece.

So now, we recover, with only some local gigs on the calendar.  I’m sure I’ll get cracking in a few days, but for now it’s recharge the batteries to prepare for it all to start over again.

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January 2012: Back From Far Worlds

It was a hard 2012.  We lost three of our family and had spent much of the year traveling for less than pleasant reasons.  So to decompress, I lost a number of weeks on one of my pet vices; sci-fi/fantasy novels.

Yes, I admit it; I’m a sci-fi/fantasy  junkie.When I was younger, trilogies like Tolkin’s “Lord of the Rings” and Stephen R. Donaldson’s “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever” could mean whole weekends without sleep; just eating munchies and doing everything one-handed while reading the book held in the other.  I’d often share books with my brother, Lance, who would then call me at the end of a long weekend doing the same thing.  We’d then spend hours excitedly recounting our favorite parts, the surprising plot twists, etc, fairly dancing in place with animated joy.

At one point, I got lost in C. J. Cherryh’s Chanur Trilogy, an exciting space opera featuring a protagonist and her associates that were a race of leonine space farers. I revisited that trilogy  and its sequel in the fall.  In early December, I discovered Cherryh’s first Foreigner Trilogy.  I lost the better part of a week drinking them up.  It’s surprising after spending most of my reading time slogging through high-density nonfiction books of computer stuff, math texts, social science and administrative theory and case study, where it seemed to take forever to read a few pages, how intently I can plow through hundreds of pages of science fiction.

Having devoured the first trilogy, I trolled the web to purchase the second Foreigner trilogy, which I finished this weekend.  Barbara’s been a bit concerned, what with me sitting at the kitchen table until 3 or 5 in the morning with hardly a move other than occasional runs to the bathroom, the sink or the refrigerator.  What can I say; when I’m into a book, I’m lost in it.  It’s like seeing a fast-paced exciting movie and not even wanting to go to the bathroom, lest you miss something.

I promised Barbara I would take some time off and get back to real life again; exercise, music, etc.

However I’ve just ordered the third Foreigner trilogy.  I’ve got until the UPS truck pulls into the driveway to get some other things done.

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Dia De Los Muertos

Halloween, that holiday of tricks and treats is also the time for the Day of the Dead – a time of celebration and remembrance.  Santa Fe is festooned like the cover of a Grateful Dead album.

This year, though, the numbers calling for remembrance have gone up.  In one year we lost a mother, a cousin and an aunt.  And so it is that the spiritual celebrants at our Dia De Los Muertos festivities get more crowded as the years add up.  It has also meant spending far more time away from home for all the wrong reasons.  Tours, I like; death watches and funerals, not so much.  Yes, one does get to drive through new and interesting environs, but the purpose for the trip tends to sour the waters.

As for you, dear friends, we can only wish that you have few to remember this Day of the Dead.  And may your remembrances be ones of happiness and love.

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Southern Oddyssey

Having the need to spend time with relatives in Florida, we decided to drive from Santa Fe to Fort Lauderdale by the southern route; a chance to broaden our knowledge of an area we had yet to travel. So, on a crisp early January morning, we left our home in the hills of Santa Fe and began the first leg of our journey, stopping in Fort Stockton, Texas.

Fort Stockton is an outpost of civilization at the junction of interstate 10 and 285. There is a bit of life around Roswell and Carlsbad, but mostly the trip revealed the similarities of Southern New Mexico and West Texas; dry and a bit desolate. Looking to either side of the road reveals miles and miles of miles and miles. A fella could go offroad, let go of the steering wheel and mostly not worry about hitting anything until he approaches the side of the next Mesa.

The next day had us descending through the gathering lushness (and rain) of the hill country to stop with relatives in Houston. There is only one word to describe Houston; BIG. It is verdant beyond measure and equally traffic laden. The refinery areas had that same stagnant feel that it shares with places like Linden NJ. But it sprawls in all directions and the traffic is the heaviest I’ve seen anywhere between New York City and Los Angeles.  it also has the odd feature of toll highways without toll takers!  If you have the misfortune of stumbling onto one of these, you can work yourself up a hefty fine if you don’t have an EZ Pass.  As we have no need for such things in New Mexico, it was a trial to avoid those toll roads.  And the road we took to the Louisiana Border the following day had a toll every few miles!  Seems one could make fewer tolls on the one and send the extra toll collectors to the other, but that’s just me.

Riding the bridge over the Achafalaya swamp is a unique experience.  It’s one thing to see some nature show pictures of cedar swamps and bulging tupelo; quite another to look in all directions and be surrounded by miles of it as far as the eye can see. Didn’t spot any gators, but I though I saw Amos Moses in a shallow boat working his way through the swamps just a bit North of Thibideaux.

With Jerry Reed ringing in my head We pushed on; over the Mississippi river, through Baton Rouge and out to the Mississippi state line in the pouring rain.  By the time we hit Mississippi, it was dark and foggy.  It stayed that way through the state, out through Alabama (lost Mobile in the fog, but the tunnel was neet) and to within a stone’s throw of Pensacola, where we spent the night.

It was still cool along the gulf as we worked our way along the white crystal sand and it stayed that way down as far as the middle of the Peninsula.  But from there all the way to Fort Lauderdale, the temperature just kept on climbing.  The natives were dressed in sweaters, but we were comfortable in short sleeves.

The Borders in Fort Lauderdale overlooks the intercoastal waterway.  It is a free-standing two story affair with lots of room to wander and a wonderfully friendly staff.  They had set up several dozen chairs just to one side of the CD section and I got to play on one of the warmer Sunday afternoons after a January cold snap.  Though the number of folks that actually sat in the assigned chairs were small, the better part of the audience sat in the small niches and stood along the CD racks listening, smiling and applauding.  The staff showed themselves to be surprisingly musically knowledgeable, discussing the subtle motifs that hide in the fingerstyle open chord structures that I favor.  All in all, it was quite pleasant and I look forward to doing it again.

After spending some time with family, it was time to head back.  Our first stop was in Tallahassee where I got to reconnect with an old friend and fabulous jazz guitarist from my days with the fusion band, Satie.  Tallahassee has a markedly different feel from the palm fronded beach culture of Southern Florida; one that I find more familiar and more comfortable.  A college town, the feel is refreshingly hip.  While we couldn’t tarry this trip, I am inspired to try to find places to play there when next we pass through.

Once again, we found ourselves riding through Mississippi and Alabama in darkness.  I will say that the Mobile skyline was exceedingly pretty and one I hope to enjoy at greater length in the future.  However, other than that, we have been through these two states twice without having any idea what they actually look like.  We pulled into Baton Rouge close to midnight, ready to log some sack time.

Back riding through the Achafalaya the next day, I discovered that it is possible to O.D. on Cajun accordian.  Don’t get me wrong, I love both Cajun and Zydeco.  But, on this particular day, it seemed the local Cajun station played 127 songs not only in the same rhythm but in the same key as well.  and in each song, the accordianist seemed to play the same four couplets over and over until it felt like a four note marathon dance.  I almost lost control of the vehicle from shock when a waltz finally came on!  As we approached Houston for another stay with relatives there, it was a bit of a relief to take respite of the Gallic and Creole patois.  And a short visit to Galvaston in the rain seemed to cleanse our travel pallet.

We next stopped in Austin.  There is Texas and then there is Austin.  In some ways, it felt like a sister city to Santa Fe; the place called, “The City Different.”  In Austin, the battle cry is, “Keep Austin weird!”  The 6th Avenue music scene was somewhat remeniscent of Duvall Street in Key West, but we found some very comfy artsy communities in the West, around the colleges and along the south side of the river.  Austin is one of the few places where you’ll see a profusion of Cattleman hats side by side with Natty Dredd hats.  However, it seems as though all the young hip folks smoke, ala Rive Gouche, Paris.  My lungs found that a bit hard to take.  And one might call the service road along 35, “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The number of panhandlers along each intersection was truly staggering.

We let San Antonio for another trip and, after an overnight in Fort Stockton, worked our way back up 285 for home.  The mountains were a welcome site after being away for three weeks.

Lessons learned:

1) it is much easier to pack when you don’t have to prepare for three different seasons in one trip.

2) The back roads of Texas are littered with Bar-BQ pits but really good Texas barbecue is as rare as hen’s teeth.

3 The road can be exciting, illuminating and sometimes exhausting, but there’s no place like home.

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New Roads to Travel

Some of you may have noticed that the “Notes From The Road” Section of my web site has been sporadic at best.  Started with the best of intentions, it was just too much to maintain and just plain lacked the ability to be in any way spontaneous, let alone interactive.

Well, we’ll leave those postings up for now; they are fun tales after all.  But we’re setting aside the old programming blunderbuss, pickin’ up a new six-shooter and strapping on some new leather (well after all, the West is now my home).  We’ll be saddling up and exploring some new roads.  Like any new-born colt, we’ll be a little unsteady on our feet for a while but, with your forbearance, we’ll be galloping down the trail in no time.  So board that stagecoach and lets see where this road leads us!

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