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Amsterdam to Hamburg


September 20, 2018

"Yes, you're doing tour quotes! They're the best part of the blog!"

- Deni

It is so, so lovely in Germany this morning.

Sister Amy, I want you to close your eyes. Picture yourself in that gorgeous back yard of yours on the most perfect late summer day you can imagine. Tall pine trees. Maples still green, but with just the slightest tease of yellow on the fringes. The world is quiet. The sun is bright. The air is warm and clean – not a hint of chill or humidity. Breathe deep and just settle yourself in this space. That’s what it feels like here today. It feels just like Canada, at least until you turn around and see the old brick house behind you, wise and charming beneath its slate tile roof.

It's home, but it’s not home. That’s the German countryside to me.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

One of my favourite things about being on the road is that you meet such cool people. Sometimes I suppose you meet jerks too, but mostly you remember these fabulous, fleeting relationships with people who flit in and out of your life, but leave an indelible mark. Anna at the bar in Vienna last tour comes to mind. Kateryna the dancer. I always look forward to those memorable strangers. One day in and we have two new ones on this tour already.

I find that when you’re out there chasing the dream, you run across other people who are chasing it too. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the girl serving us drinks at the airport lounge. Her name is Monique, and she’s a stunning firecracker of, I think, South African heritage. She was awesome and bubbly all on her own, but then she told us that she’s leaving her job this week to live her dream and travel the world. She was excited and we were excited for her.

Then, as we were in the long, long immigration line at the airport in Amsterdam, my ears twigged to a collection of voices straight out of my past. I glanced over and found three guys speaking in Japanese and my heart smiled. I lived in Japan for a year back in the late nineties. Any time I hear the language it brings back warm feelings and memories and affection. Among the speakers was Ryo – a green-haired Tokyo native who had recently moved to Amsterdam after living in New York. He told me he was in the process of opening up a ramen noodle shop.

“Oishii desu ne!” I said.

“So desu,” he said.

Isn’t touring great?

I love the Moniques and Ryos and their big dreams. My whole blog is about what happens when you take a chance on what you want. It’s always so heartening to meet people who think the same way. People who are optimistic. People who aspire. They encourage us just as we hope to encourage them and others like them with our stories. That energy is fuel for everyone, my brothers and sisters, and it can carry us a long, long way.

After we got through immigration, we were met outside the Arrivals area by Adelino, our contact at the van rental company. He drove us to headquarters, where we signed some paperwork and then took possession of this year’s version of the Silver Moose. It’s another big cargo van – Mercedes this time – and we made a point of asking where the diesel tanken is (see last year’s blog for our adventures in diesel tankens). Funny thing: I seem to be riding up front this time, after staking my territory in the back passenger’s side seat last time. Up front is like being in the first car on a roller coaster. That’s not a knock on Sarah’s driving. It’s just that the noses on these vans are super short. It’s almost like I’m suspended above the highway. Trippy.

Van possessed, we drove to a hotel outside Amsterdam that offers day rates (read what you will into that – or just come right out and say it to the girl behind the counter like Sarah did). We booked a bunch of beds to sleep in for the afternoon, and that’s what the mature people did. Your embedded blogger, on the other hand, went to work on getting the first entry posted before eventually trying to sleep too. Sleeping isn’t my best thing, as my long-time readers will know, but I gave it a shot. Post-nap, it was friets with mayo in the hotel restaurant. Huzzah!

Friets friettered, we drove the van to the home of three other great new characters: Joost the gear guy and his wife Yvonne and son Sjoerd (another Sjoerd!). Joost is providing our backline for the tour, so we had to load up a PA and amps and drums (Mapex this time, drummer friends – a nice backline kit). As all Europeans seem to do, they welcomed us with open arms, gave us drinks, and told us stories. Joost told us about being a professional long distance skater, and about the time he was at a skating event and wrapped his arms around a fan for a photo. The fan turned out to be the President of Mongolia.

Joost and Yvonne then ordered the most fabulous Indonesian food and we had a delicious feast. Have I said before how generous people are to us over here? I’ll say it again. But you know, we just came back from a short tour in eastern Canada, and people were just as generous to us there. Don’t let all the bad news in the world skew your perspective on things. There are wonderful people everywhere.

And how can I talk about wonderful people without mentioning the great Kenny Stewart? Monique and Adelino and Ryo and the girl at the hotel counter and Joost eventually handed us off to our old friend and his wife Anja in Schermbeck, Germany. You may remember Kenny (aka Blind Baby Squid) as the former Londoner who now lives in Deutschland, plays drums, and books gigs for touring artists like Sarah. Our stay at his house last year, mercifully, produced a hard and much needed sleep. I needed another one this year and more or less got it.

Last night was unofficially the first after-party of the tour. It was unofficial only because technically it wasn’t an after-party. There was nothing for it to come “after,” but the boys in the band bellied up to Kenny’s bar and we laughed and talked and laughed some more. We had a really great conversation, but were unable to resolve that most challenging of musical questions: Would you rather have Eric Clapton or George Harrison in your band?

Heavy.

The only conclusion any of us reached is that Ken would rather play in George’s band than Eric’s. No one could decide who would be best to join their band. Frankly, I’d take Ty Tabor from King’s X over both of them a hundred times out of a hundred.

Can I say how cool it is to be back here? Can I say how great it is to see these places again? To look at the flat, green Dutch fields? To shake our heads in awe as cars whiz past us on those wide open sections of the Autobahn? To snicker to ourselves every time we pass a sign for a German ausfarht? As ever, I’m feeling an intense sense of gratitude today. It’s warm outside. We had good coffee. I’m riding along in sleepy silence with people I love and we’re on our way to the first gig of the tour.

Life is beautiful.

#TheRoad #SarahSmith

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