Montana Schoolbus

We have had a swell time this trip. A lot of it has been good pacing on the shows and driving and rest days, and a lot of it is we know some nice people in gorgeous places. After Bozeman we headed to Flathead Lake where the Gibson Family has a cabin and stayed up there for about 4 days and played in Bigfork, Whitefish, and Missoula.

Flathead Lake Montana

Then we headed west to Richland, Walla Walla, and Gig Harbor. My sister and her family live there, so we got to hang out with them for a few days. The thing I did not know about Washington is that there, a blackberry is considered a weed. In Texas, we pay $6.99 for a pint of berries, and in Washington they grow along the side of the road. We walked around my sister’s neighborhood and picked a bunch and ate them with ice cream.


I also got some quality time with my nephews and niece. Jenny works at a coffee shop (and when you work at a coffee shop near Seattle it is SERIOUS BUSINESS) so we caffeinated and I saw my nephews off on their first day back to high school. Excellent.

Jenny at work

We had a few days to get here to Livingston, Montana, so we stopped in Spokane on night one and saw a movie which rarely happens. Then we headed to Missoula and had a leisurely evening there, too, after stopping at the Cataldo Mission in Idaho – an interesting National Landmark along the highway.

Catalo Mission - Idaho

It’s all about the pacing. From this evening for about the next 12 days we have to be somewhere every day…but again, all good places and good people. And I must say…my luck at finding wifi on this trip has been astounding. America is considerably more wired than it was even 2 years ago…I say as I sit in the Murray Bar in downtown Livingston, Montana next to a guy with a miner’s hat and beard.


We are meandering through Montana right now…we had the luxury of leaving Washington on Monday and not having a gig until tonight (Wednesday), so we’ve seen a movie in Spokane (The Campaign) and walked around the Cataldo Mission in Idaho and downtown Missoula. Now, back to work!

But first…some ask Jana.

Deborah asks: Does the amazon sprinter have a cot in the back for the non-driver so you can drive non-stop? And as a follow up does the cot have a safety belt system or would a supposed roll of the sprinter also toss the salad sleeper?

Excellent question and salad sleeper is my new favorite term. Yes, there is copious amounts of sleep space in the Sprinter. The dogs take up about 80% of it, though Susan does sleep in there with the dogs from time to time and one of us can sleep should the other one need to keep driving. However, this trip all the sleeping has been done in the passenger seat. There is a bunk bed over the back cargo area and I have seen people sleep up there while driving and no one has been hurtled off, but Susan is a responsible driver.

Michael asks: What’s your favorite TV show?

My favorite right now that I can watch over and over again is Better Off Ted, which was short-lived but is on Netflix. I found it because I am a big Arrested Development fan, and Portia de Rossi is hilarious in both. Since Better Off Ted is no longer with us, all I watch on a regular basis are things like MasterChef and Kitchen Nightmares, because I think Gordon Ramsay is awesome. I don’t have cable so Netflix and Hulu are my suppliers.

Denisa asks: I wanna know TEN THINGS ABOUT MONTANA that I would not otherwise know, had you not told me. Montana doesn’t get much PR since Zappa.

– If you’re on I-90 you’ll cross over the Clark Fork River about 47 times.
– It’s cold here a lot.
– Hardin, Montana is the first town on this tour where we did not think, “We should have a satellite office here!” Sorry, Hardin.
– Bozeman has a really cool venue/studio collective called Peach Street Studios and Jackie and Jason Wickens, who run Live From the Divide there, are awesome.
– The Gibson Guitar Factory gives tours on Wednesdays at 2:30.
– Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi in the lower 48.
– Missoula is a lot like Austin but it’s colder here but people ride bikes anyway.
– Missoula has the hippest Motel 6 I have ever stayed in.
– Cherry season is amazing along Flathead Lake, when tons of roadside stands pop up from the orchards that line the lake.
– The grizzly bears are giant here.

Matthew asks: Turkey burger or black bean burrito with rice?

I’m loathe to turn down anything wrapped in a tortilla, but I’m on a meat protein kick lately, so…turkey burger.

Lisa asks: Jana I want to know why some people in my family think I need a “Real Job”? Why don’t they understand how much work it takes to play music? Yes we stuggle to make ends meet, but we work our asses off and are doing what we love. So why don’t some people get that?

First of all, it always blows my mind how people tend to insert their opinion in places it is not needed. If you work your bums off to make a living, what more is there to say? You’re working and earning and enjoying. There is no better way. There is no opening to offer you an alternative job because you don’t want one and are not asking for one. It’s like someone coming up and asking you if you want to wear a new shirt when you’re already wearing a perfectly good shirt that you love. Weird.

I think folks don’t understand “the entertainment industry” because in most people’s lives, they are exposed to the music industry via Clear Channel radio and what little music is left on MTV. I still have friends (and friends of friends) inquire, after having worked with Susan for four years, whether she actually makes money doing her job. I should hope so because my rent is not paid by glitter and french fries. People sometimes don’t connect that just because we are not on Sugarland’s Christmas Special on CMT, that doesn’t mean independent artists don’t make money.

I also think many people are stuck in a rather anti-abundance train of thought. You work for money and work is hard and money is bad but necessary and therefore work should be hard and not just hard, but a chore, a labor, a burden.

The truth is…that is not the truth! Jobs can be fulfilling and FUN and interesting…and they can make you money. While true in the music business, it’s true for anyone who wants to work for themselves…it’s hard, and it takes a lot of effort to make things work. I don’t know what could be more “real job” about it then having to be the business manager, financial officer, marketer, merchandiser, AND “product” all at once.

This answer is long already, but I’ll end with the thought that for the folks who do care and get it, there’s no need to justify your living or your job. For those who don’t quite understand yet, just keep living by example. Maybe they’ll be inspired to do something they’ve always wanted to do because you kept doing your thing.

Jeff asks: If a car is traveling at the speed of light, in a vacuum, and then turns the headlights on, what happens? And, as a follow up, what’s your favorite breed of puppy?

a) Then the back of your head is illuminated.
b) I like kittens.

Norma asks: Is the McKenzie River Pizza Company in Missoula still open? If so, will you send me some?

Oddly, I just had McKenzie River pizza for the first time ever this trip, and yes…it was awesome. We ordered the Thai Pie, with peanut sauce and chicken. I could eat that stuff all day, until I got tired of it and then I’d have to eat something else.

Laurel asks: How fast are you guys driving? No speed limits in Montana, right?!

I inquired of Susan and apparently Montana used to be all loose and carefree about it, but now there are definitely speed limits. Her rule is 5 under the limit just because, and I think the limit on I-90 is 70. I can’t verify it though because I have looked up about 3 times while writing this post and have yet to see a speed limit sign, bringing me back around to the beginning question and perhaps, Laurel, you are right. Then the question becomes, “What is 5 under none?”

Zach asks: Here’s a question from my science teacher back in High School. ‘Please explain the universe. Give examples.’

The best I can do for that is cite an article from the September 2012 issue of Vogue about Lady Gaga, wherein when asked to describe Gaga, a friend says, “It’s like there’s no little star that doesn’t get through her galaxy. She catches every single one and puts it in the sky, and she makes it the most important star that ever existed.” That does not explain the universe but it does explain Lady Gaga, who is indeed part of the universe. Next!

Amy asks: Have you ever added up the amount of days total you have been on the road in the last 3 years?

No…although I might be able to guesstimate. Most weeks there are about 3 gigs…sometimes more, sometimes less. I have been on 4 thirty+ day tours since 2010, so that’s 120 days right there. Add in maybe 4 two week tours a year, so that’s another 60 days…and then all the 2-3-4 nighters every week, but minus the ones I already counted…plus crossing time zones at night, plus gigging on solstices and accounting for daylight savings time…67,905 days. I think I messed up somewhere.

Denise asks: When are you coming home…really?!

For reals the arrival date is September 10th. We left on July 31st. This is a long tour, but so far KNOCKONWOOD…a well-paced and fun tour. Lovely scenery, nice people to stay with, good shows. It might also have something to do with the tiny coffee pot we bought and the beans from New Mexico and Seattle we purchased. Those might aid our stamina.

Becky asks: Favorite places/parks to visit in SW Montana! And best place to get pancakes in missoula. That’s important.

Man, I have never had pancakes in Missoula. Now I feel a little dizzy at the admission. However, I recommend Worden’s Market for a good sandwich and last night we found out the Iron Horse has an awesome veggie plate appetizer. I recommend you go half tempura half fresh, and then get some extra dressings like the Thai peanut and the Avocado Orange. Yum.

Everyone needs to see Yellowstone, and then Missoula, which is not a park. But Greenough Park in Missoula is a great park. Also head north to Whitefish and Bigfork for some close-to-Canada fun.

Shawn asks: I’ve seen the Long Island psychic communicate with dead dogs, so why can’t psychics channel dinosaurs to find out what really happened? Do insects have souls?

Fabulous. If we could get a dinosaur psychic on the case, we could break this thing wide open. Perhaps psychics can’t get a good connection because dinosaur brains were all the size of walnuts. Perhaps they can’t because dinosaurs are actually the superior species and live deep in the earth controlling our weather patterns.

On the insect note, the only ones that concern us are the bugs preserved in amber because their souls are preserved in a suspended state of limbo and someone should smash all the amber and let their souls out already.

Jay asks: What is the REAL color of orange?

Whatever it rhymes with, that is the real color of orange.

Jeremy the Tour Guide

We had a great time in Bozeman, Montana on Thursday. We stopped by the Gibson Guitar factory to see if we might look around, and while they only do tours on Wednesdays, a nice employee named Jeremy took us through the factory anyway. We saw how a guitar gets made starting from a flat piece of wood all the way to the final cased up instrument.

Wood Ready to be Cut

Neck to Body

The Lacquer Room

And THEN to make a great day greater, our good friend and amazing musician/writer Walt Wilkins (who lives in Austin) just happened to be in the neighborhood and came to the gig at Peach Street Studios. That never happens a few thousand miles from home…except in Bozeman. The Live From the Divide series they do there, run by Jackie and Jason Wickens, is a gem of venue and atmosphere.

Susan Gibson and Walt Wilkins in Bozeman, MT

go get Walt’s new album Plenty – it’s amazing.

Centennial, WY

Centennial is one of my favorite places to be. It’s about half an hour west of Laramie close to the Snowy Range Mountains. Susan’s cousins, Tony and Kelli and Baby Chance live here! Kelli and Jenn also own the Friendly Store…which encompasses a gas station, convenience store, cafe, bar, and motel all in one. Kelli told me that all the businesses in Centennial are owned by women…very cool.

The Friendly Store

Susan is “Centennial’s Favorite Cousin” (official title) so we always have a great time playing music there and it feels like the whole town comes, which is maybe the case.

I have decided I will take a month sometimes and rent a room at the Friendly and write a novel or perhaps a book about Centennial itself…it’s got loads of character and characters in it. If I went in the winter there would be nothing to do except sit and write, I am pretty sure…I could get a ton done. I’m pretty sure I would be ok and not go all stir crazy and end up not writing a thing and watching Oprah instead…but it does get cold and snowy and the wind does blow 100 mph sometimes.

Friendly Motel

Future Novel Spot

Colorado Sky

I guess there is a reason Colorado is named from the word “Color.” The first shot was taken somewhere outside Walsenburg and in the second the tree is in the front yard of Don and Teri Richmond who hosted a great house concert for us last weekend. Don is a brilliant musician with a great recording studio. I camped out on the futon in the control room overnight. I threatened to make an album while everyone slept but I did not push any buttons and had a good night’s sleep instead.

Colorado Tree

On Saturday Susan played the Rhythms on the Rio Festival in South Fork. Every type of weather imaginable blew through during her hour-long set…first it was grey, then really windy and people had to hold their tents down. Then it rained for about 5 minutes, and then the sun came out and it was really warm. All of it was gorgeous.

Susan Gibson - Rhythms on the Rio Festival

Then it was on to Wyoming…

Nuevo Mexico

As gorgeous as our drives are…and as cool as the places are we visit to play music, we often see a town at dusk, play a show, stay overnight, and leave in the morning. This leaves hardly any time to really get to know a place.

I’ve been to Taos several times over the past few years and have always loved it. We got to spend a couple of days there this time and actually acted like tourists! We wandered around the Plaza and I found a retablo for my wall at home – the Patron Saint of Writers, St. Frances de Sales. Lynn Garlick is the artist and I love her style. I’m not Catholic, but this kind of art reminds me of New Mexico and I love it.

Patron Saint of Writers

Susan is awesome and found me this magnet, which should probably be attached to me at all times.
Patron Saint of Computers

We stopped a the Taos Art Collective to browse and both of us were drawn to a bunch of paintings by Bill Binger. He uses really bright colors and paints New Mexican landscapes. I decided I wanted a print but we had just started walking around so I figured we could stop back in on our way to the car. As luck would have it, by the time we returned, Bill Binger himself was manning the counter at the collective so we got to talk to him about his awesome work. I got the print with Georgia O’Keeffe in it…she’s one my my heroes.

Bill Binger Art in Taos

Luckily we get to be back in Taos for Michael Hearne’s Big Barndance in September! I shall try to shop less, though. I’ll just take photos next time.

Pretty thrilled to be in my home state of New Mexico for almost a whole week. We have spent three days in Albuquerque and head to Taos and Red River this week. The weather is sublime considering there is no humidity and it’s under 100 degrees. I am having to drink water like a camel, though.

New Mexico Sky

The road to Santa Fe.

Golden Pride Tortillas

Tortillas off the conveyer at Golden Pride.

Susan and Jamie

Jamie and Susan at Solid Grounds in Albuquerque.


A ristra by the merch in Santa Fe.


Cute boys I claim as my nephews!

A week in and so far so good on the touring…we hit San Angelo, Amarillo, and Albuquerque.  We’ve had the chance to stay in Amarillo (Susan’s hometown) and Albuquerque (mine) for multiple days which is always nice.

Pool View

San Angelo was warm and Susan played with Ray Wylie Hubbard.  Maybe my first time merching next to a pool.

Ice Cream Stealer

To make up for the heat…there was ice cream.

No Pushing

Push did come to shove the day I got to Albuquerque, though. My laptop track pad has given me some issues in the past, but it’s been ok for a while. On Saturday I pulled it out of my bag and it was permanently depressed into the computer. I had a spare mouse for just this situation, but after a bit that wasn’t even working and things were selecting and deleting and moving around on their own volition. This will not fly for four weeks on tour with no Apple stores around, so I decided it was time to invest in a new laptop.

The purchase was in my 6 month plan, though not my week plan…but once I manhandled all my files over to the new one, I felt a lot better and am now ready to take on the portable technology world again. It was a 4 year old laptop that has been around the country several times and it was time. RIP, old laptop.