Monday, August 17, 2009

Well, We’ve Never Been to Heaven …

Early in the morning of August 2, The Tim and Bob Show began our biggest road trip to date, both in terms of mileage and importance. We set off from Steve and Kathy’s house before breakfast to drive to Western Hill Guest Ranch on the shores of Fort Gibson Lake in northeastern Oklahoma. We were going there to take our posts as “Artists in Residence” for the Southwest Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute, popularly known as SWUUSI. For an entire week, each of us would be acting primarily as members of a band. Our day jobs, our volunteer work, and even my increasing addiction to Fulham Football Club were all taking a very long and very distant back seat to acting as artists. Amazing. As our trip would take 10 hours to complete, however, we’d have plenty of time to acclimatize ourselves to the concept, as well as to do crossword puzzles, snack, search for radio stations playing “our kind of music,” snack, and generally chatter and snack.

It was a hot morning on its way to another all-too-typical South Texas triple digit day when we stopped for breakfast on the north side of Austin. We weren’t really all that hungry by the time we got to West, but our ancient rented minivan [alright, only 3 years old, but with 50,000+ miles] was, so we stopped for gas and, of course, for coffee and kolaches. West is famous for these Central European treats, and justly so. My first kolache was eaten by the time we reached freeway speed! Thankfully, the other three had more restraint than me, so we were able to enjoy these throughout the week. Good stuff.

Once we crossed the Red River, our trip took us through most of Eastern Oklahoma. The farther north we drove, the less the landscape looked like the flat, bleached out, parched oven that we left behind. There were plenty of hills along the way, lots of lakes and rivers, and several shades of green fields, hills, and trees. Steve and I traded off the driving duties, only stopping for gasoline and food along the way. Kathy and Mary Lou kept us hydrated, loaded with snacks [grapes and cherries, yum], and entertained as we drove. We got to our destination with plenty of sunlight remaining in the day.

Western Hills is near Wagoner, OK. The “ranch” facility where we stayed is on a narrow peninsula surrounded on three sides by Fort Gibson Lake. There were lots of tall trees, egrets, and deer. While SWUUSI has been held annually for years, this was the first year for this location, so Mary Lou and I were as much in-the-dark as were Steve and Kathy about the resort’s amenities. We didn’t know whether the accommodations would be spartan, and we weren’t taking any chances. We were pleasantly surprised, then, when we discovered that our adjoining cabins each had a flat-screen TV[!] along with a comfortable queen-sized bed and a nice bathroom. Steve and Kathy’s room had a small refrigerator, a hot plate, and a microwave, so it only seemed fair that we eat and drink in their room and use ours as the repository for everyone’s guitars, music stands, luggage, and miscellaneous band paraphernalia. Had Mary Lou and I experienced a sudden emergency in the night, it would have been easier for us to escape through our partners’ room than through our own front door only a foot or two away!

We knew that the Artist-in-Residence responsibility included two evening concerts, as well as a small private performance for the middle-school aged group called “Hogwarts.” In addition, Steve and I volunteered to teach a two-day course in song-writing. In between there were to be opportunities to swim in the pool – and maybe in the lake? – as well as perusing the nature trails, looking at the horses in the nearby stable, watching the daily feeding of the predatory birds that have found a sanctuary there, and attending other classes. Additionally, we had planned a day “off campus” to visit Tulsa’s historic Deco District, as well was examine the artworks and historical objects in the Gilcrease Museum. We planned for each evening to end with the four of us polishing off a bottle of wine and noshing on cheese, fruit, crackers, and the like. And some time during the week, darn it, Steve and I were determined to find a stretch of grass where we could play catch.

More to come, stay tuned.

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