Russ Ringsak

It's True What They Say About Getting Older

August 31, 2004

We did a show at the Ravinia Festival, in Highland Park, Illinois, a couple weeks back. Itís in Chicago but not quite; to get there you nibble at the north edge of the city but donít plunge in. Weíve been into the heart of the metropolis quite a few times, and of course most truck driversí philosophy in regards to large cities is "Less is More." So I was happy way up there on the north side. Slept in the truck during the loadout and was able to boogie straight home to Minnesota in six hours afterwards. Only two toll booths. The folks who actually do the shows find little difference from one trip to the next; for them itís always the ride to the airport, take the plane ride, the van ride to the hotel, the van ride to the gig, do the gig, van ride back to the hotel, van ride back to the airport, take another ride on a plane and ride home.

To the truck it was drive to the gig and drive home. And itís always different. Every labyrinth has its own cipher, some straightforward and some complex. This one was about as direct as it could get, and except for the lush neighborhood it was hiding in, it was a sweet deal. The one catch was an acute left turn through the gate, avoidable if you came at it from the right street but a challenge from any other direction. It was one of those turns where you have to back up cranked hard right and nearly touch the trailer to turn square enough left, and even then you almost scrape the sign. Later, people ask about how the show went and the musicians, of course, flash on the catering. I flashed on that corner, which nobody else even noticed.

I had Sunday at home, just enough time to pack for our annual motorcycle trek through the Dakotas and into the vast beauty of Montana and Wyoming. We took old Highway 12 and found a first-rate primo-A-number-one shuffleboard in the Drink Factory in Aberdeen (I was in a rare shuffleboard zone and won). We stayed that night in Mobridge, crossed the Missouri in the morning on a steel bridge so elegant they named the town after it, and were immediately up on the Great Plains. Heading for the Montana Bar in Miles City, a living museum where you can buy a shot and look at yourself in the big mirror in the beautiful carved and curved dark hardwood back bar. On the high wall behind you are mounted the heads of Longhorn steers that led the great trail drives between there and Texas; racks so wide a grown man cannot reach tip to tip. They make the buffalo head on the end wall look underpowered. Beneath you is a brass rail and below that an intricate floor design of small hexagonal Italian tiles, all hand laid and containing some errors, which the new visitor is encouraged to find.

Our crowd had grown to thirteen this year and, but for cancellations, almost reached seventeen; enough to start a cult. There were four bikes and three rental cars, with folks flying in from Florida, New York and Minnesota. We met up with some at the Billings airport and others in the Rock Creek saloon in Red Lodge. We all escorted the rookies on their mandatory initiation over Bear Tooth Pass, through Cook City and the northern line through Yellowstone and up through the aptly named Paradise Valley into Livingston from the south. At a gas stop along the way I saw a teenager in a t-shirt that read: ďIíve gone off in search of myself. If you find me before I get back, please donít let me go.Ē And somewhere in a small restaurant: ďIf you want breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen.Ē

Weíve been doing variations of this drive now for fifteen years, cruising the mountain highways and ending up in the Murray Hotel in Livingston. The Rockies hold an endless fascination to flatlanders like myself. I canít lie still on a warm beach for fifteen minutes but I can ride the mountains for weeks.

The biggest news of the summer reading season, in spite of what you may have heard or not heard, is that your humble truck driver has a book out. Itís called Semi True and is published by Globe Pequot, and itís generally hidden off in the Travel section of your local bookstore. I went looking for it myself in the Great Literature department and then into Recent Notables; looked in Semi-fiction, and Humor, and then in Future Classics; but itís in Travel. It may never make it out of Travel. Itís at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon, and a lot of independents, like our Valley Bookseller right here in Stillwater.

It began as a simple collection of website pieces and, through creative editing and stern discipline, ended up with almost nothing from the web. A part of a chapter. I encourage you all, however many you are, to buy it and write a flowery online review somewhere. You might say, for instance: ďThe book is only five and seven-eighths inches wide and just eight and three-eighths tall, so thatís pretty good, for a hardcover book. Itís not too heavy either, and it fits on the shortest shelf in my book case. How wonderful.Ē Something like that.

I need to get a buzz going about it so I can buy a heavier motorcycle. The one I have is fast but I find myself more interested in comfort these days, and Iím thinking I need a Road King. With a windshield, even; something Iíve avoided all these years. Itís true what they say about getting older, whatever that is. I canít remember it exactly, but Iím pretty sure itís true.

Iím also encouraging folks to write to me directly. Iím taking the brave step of giving out the email address, trusting that readers who are able to find this column arenít the kind of people who will load my mailbox up with spam. Or with talent recommendations for the show, either, because Iím not of much use in that department. And Iíve been warned against this, that there are all sorts of wackos out there. So Iím also asking that if youíre a wacko please donít bother to write. Just donít bother your pretty little head. I mean, itís not that I need the mail. Iím okay with it when the mailbox is empty.

But if you should be moved to comment directly to the author please keep it frank and to the point. Examples:

ďThe book sucks, dude. Get a day job.Ē

ďWhoís that dumb-looking doofus on the cover? Is that you? Sheez.Ē

ďI never got to page three. Dropped it like a hot tomato. A hot enchilada. Whatever.Ē

ďI couldnít put it down because I didnít pick it up. Howís that for a putdown?Ē

ďYou should stay in the truck and shut the hell up.Ē

Brief impressions like that. You get the drift. Not everyone does, but Iím pretty sure you do. And the doofus on the cover isnít me. I have no idea who that guy is. Iím not sure the art department of Globe Pequot even knows. The doofus on the inside back flap of the jacket is me.

Anyway, here we go. The address is: Be honest, now.

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