A Telluride Bluegrass adventure with my 80 year old Father in law…..Telluride Bluegrass Blog contest entry
Ed seemed a bit uptight, as he asked if he could have a few words with me…….. It was mid May, and I was scheduled to use his motorhome for our family’s annual mecca to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. My wife and I had been making the trek every year since our oldest son Jack was born. First camping in a borrowed pup tent, packing our young son in a backpack. In the years to follow, our tents got bigger as our family grew. We added Coleman stoves and lanterns, folding picnic tables, fishing poles, skateboards, bicycles, and all the outdoor toys we could carry to entertain our 3 young sons. Our gear was growing as fast as our family, when Ed, my Father in law, suggested we take his motorhome…..”Just pack your guitars and beer and you are ready to roll”. We took his offer and for several years we loaded his Holiday Rambler and lived like kings for our June visit to Telluride. The only thing he asked in return, was to feed him CD’s of acts we enjoyed on our trip. He soon was listening to Emmylou, John Prine, Peter Rowan, Bela, etc etc……loving the music and always asking for more.
Ed was career military, now retired and 80 years old, but very crisp in everything he did. He was a man who loved his family, martinis, a good steak, and the best wine. Most of all he demanded the best of his children, and of those who joined his family through marriage. He was a man of the truth, of an age where you were only as good as your word. The stock market had been good to Ed, and to reward himself he traded the Holiday Rambler for what looked to me, like a rock-n-roll tour bus……..”Son, this is a diesel pusher…….top of the line, a modest mansion on wheels”. I was blown away when he gave me the tour…….hard wood floors, washer and dryer, wine cellar…..even a chandelier. “Look here, this rig even has a full sized freezer……your steaks will be ready to go as the festival run ends”. I was in hog heaven as his tone changed, and he said “Son, we gotta talk”.
Ed was visibly nervous as he struggled to find the words he was about to share with me. He said, “I promised you could always use my rig for your trip to Telluride, but I am going to have to go back on my word. If it was up to me, you know I’d keep my promise…….but…..my wife says nobody drives this new rig….nobody”. With my heart sinking, I said “No problem…..I have plenty of gear…..we will camp”. As he tried to find more words, I assured him we would be just fine in sleeping bags in the tent. “Don’t worry about it Ed, I understand”. He pressed on about how things change, and I told him it was no big deal. He finally said he had a possible solution…..”How about I drive you to Telluride? I have heard the stories and listened to so many of the acts, I have wondered what is so big in Telluride that you plan your whole year around it”. After several minutes of verbal exchange I thought it important to give Ed a bit of a warning. I told him The Telluride Bluegrass Festival is a gathering of the tribes……the free spirits……from Wall Street to hippie kids of all ages. I mentioned the music goes 24/7 in the campgrounds, beverages and substances of all types are shared, and perhaps he might be exposed to some pot smoking…… He said very sternly to me..”Son, I was part of the occupation of Japan after WWII, I served in Korea twice, I have froze my ass off training in Alaska, and fought in Viet-Nam…….I don’t think anything you show me in Southwest Colorado is going to shock me……Can I Go?” What could I say? “Yes sir, let’s go to Telluride”.
The years have blurred one fest to the other,our kids have grown,and our hair turned grey,……. but I do remember we set up camp in Iliam, and it rained and rained and rained….and Willie Nelson headlined. Our boys loved having Grandpa driving the new big rig, throwing the frisbee, and just spending time with them. He built bon-fires to warm our drenched dreadlocked camping neighbors, and always had fresh coffee ready long before most greeted the morning mist. He shared beers with anyone who needed one, and critiqued the acts from the previous night with anyone who would listen. When his Grandsons were coming up empty at the trout pond, Ed ran to the hardware store for salmon eggs, powerbait, and a stringer that soon was filled with rainbow trout. He also bought disposable ponchos for all……..a commodity that was priceless that weekend……especially for Willie’s set, when the sky opened and the rain came in buckets. We huddled together, as 3 generations of a family that night as Willie played and Ed became a Festivarian in the truest sense of the word.