No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


August 19, 2006

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The Rocky Mountain Folks Fest is celebrating its 16th year as one of the premier songwriter’s festivals in America. Held each year at a beautiful site in a beautiful mountain valley along the St. Vrain River in Lyons, about 20 miles from where our mountain cabin, the Folks Fest offers 3 days of some of the most talented and interesting performers from around the globe. This is our second trip to this small, low key yet wonderful music festival.

We arrived early and set up, we had two large pop-up sun shades for our group which included Kathy & me, Marika & Brian, our friends Kerry & Bruce Darby, Kerry’s parents Mike & Donna Egan and her nephew Nathan. The event is very family friendly with many children who enjoying playing in the river as the music plays. It is also not that crowded, allowing easy access to the front for any performer you choose to get close to. There are tons of cool food vendors as well as the local New Belgium Brewery serving the best microbrews in Colorado. The other cool thing is the vibe of the place, so laid back that the performers often come out and hang out in the crowd or join each other on stage for interesting musical collaborations.

There are about 12 hours of music each day and yesterday we saw Billy Jonas, Pat Flynn, Sonya Kitchell, Amos Lee, Mindy Smith and Jeff Tweedy from Wilco. Unlike many music fests, the artists are given time to play full sets which is cool, especially if they are someone that you like, if not you can go hang in the river or check out the vendors or just relax. Many of the performers are people you may not have heard much about, but chances are you soon will. They seem to have an uncanny knack for selecting people just on the verge of hitting it big. A few of the stand-outs from yesterday include Sonya Kitchell, Amos Lee, Mindy Smith & Jeff Tweedy.

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Sonya Kitchell is only 17 years old, but she has been compared favorably to Rickie Lee Jones and Norah Jones. She has already opened for the likes of Herbie Hancock & Bob Dylan and after seeing her electrifying set it’s easy to understand why.

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The music of Amos Lee is a mix of classic Philly soul music and rough jazz. He was probably the most popular of the day’s performers. He played a long set and most of the songs from his two remarkable CDs. If you have not heard this guy, his music is awesome and I have a feeling he is going to be breaking through to mainstream success very soon.

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Mindy Smith is probably best known for her amazing cover of Dolly Parton’s song, “Jolene” but her talent and songwriting ability were evident in a quiet, inspirational performance highlighting her beautiful voice and poignant lyrics.

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The headliner on Friday was Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco. He played a set accompanied only by a harmonica and acoustic guitar that was a powerful conclusion to the first day of music. Considered by many as one of the founders of the alt-country genre, Tweedy is a multiple Grammy winner who was chosen by Woody Guthrie’s daughter to record unused songs from Woody’s archive. His set was an awesome way to finish up a great day of music.

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Amos Lee Website

Sonya Kitchell Website

Mindy Smith Website

Jeff Tweedy & Wilco Website

Friday, August 18, 2006

Estes Park

August 18, 2006

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting The Rock Inn

Located high in the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park is the gateway community for Rocky Mountain National Park. It is a spectacularly beautiful place and will serve as our base for the next four days as we attend the Folks Fest music festival in nearby Lyons over the weekend.

We drove up with Marika & Brian yesterday but not until we spent the morning giving them a brief tour of the area around Manitou Springs. We started with a drive by of our home there, before heading into the Garden of the Gods Park, where we did some shopping at the old trading post there and then walked around the central gardens area where huge red rock formations jut out of the ground in an incredible display.

Our drive from Manitou to Estes was fairly traffic free and easy; we stopped at the amazing Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder for lunch. Built as a gift for Boulder by their sister city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the teahouse is an incredible creation that took 3 years and over 40 Tajikistani artisans to create. The ceilings, tables and ceiling are all hand carved and beautiful and the food and huge selection of teas served are fantastic. If you ever find yourself in Boulder, stop and see the place.

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After lunch, we drove the rest of the way into Estes and checked in at our beautiful cabin at Aspen Brook Vacation Homes. Located just outside the entrance to the National Park along the Big Thompson River, the cabin is beautiful and perfect for our needs. It’s also conveniently located just up the road from The Rock Inn & Tavern, the wonderful restaurant that our good friends, Bruce & Kerry Darby and their partners opened in May. We headed there for an amazing meal, some of the best food we have had on our trip and not just because it’s our friends place. I have had a link to the Rock since the beginning and I include it again below. Check it out for great food and music.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Bruce shows us the kitchen

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The area around here is literally crawling with wildlife. We have seen tons of mule deer and elk, including the huge bull elk pictured below that we noticed munching on a shrub near our cabin. I’m sure we’ll encounter more during our stay; it is always exciting to see wildlife to me. Whether it is a prairie dog, a squirrel, a deer or a bear, it always makes me feel good.

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Boulder Teahouse Website

Aspen Brook Homes Site

The Rock Inn Website

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Red Rocks Canyon

August 17, 2006

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingRed Rock Canyon

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingGarden of the Gods

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Today we are off to Estes Park, but we managed to sneak in a little more hiking yesterday prior to our departure. Kathy & I, along with Sophie & James went over to one of Colorado Springs newest parks, Red Rock Canyon to hike. The mostly untouched 787 acre property was recently purchased by the city of Colorado Springs and is being transformed into a beautiful park. There are huge red rock outcroppings, pristine mountain lakes and a plethora of hiking trails. We had perfect weather and spent the better part of the morning making our way through the place. We next headed over to the Garden of the Gods visitor center. The Garden of the Gods is a National Historic Landmark and an amazing collection of rock formations that just happens to be located just up the street from our home here. There are more than 8 miles of trails and some amazingly beautiful rock formations and we wanted to get some information in case we return with Marika & Brian who we next drove to Denver to pick up at the airport.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Kissing Camels- Garden of the Gods

In the airport is this wonderful wacky art piece featuring a map of the USA with many of the zany places found there highlighted. It seemed a perfect backdrop for a photo since we have visited many such places this trip.

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Once arriving back in Manitou, where Marika & Brian settled into the Victoria’s Keep bed & breakfast, we were joined by the Kilroys for a delicious Mexican meal at the loop restaurant. Today, we are on the road again, driving to Estes Park for the festival, Rocky Mountain National Park and to see yet more friends.

Garden of the Gods Info

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


August 16, 2006

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Colorado Springs

For the first time since our trip began almost three months ago, our car sat idle for more than 24 hours as we took a couple of days to rest, relax and enjoy family before we begin the final hectic portion of our journey. Not that we didn’t enjoy ourselves. We have managed to stay active, mostly by visiting some of Manitou Springs’ finest eating establishments, all of which are with-in an easy walk from Casa Kilroy where we are staying.

Monday we did all sorts of exciting stuff, like packing stuff up to mail home thus lightening our load in the car. We also did fun stuff like laundry and watching television and internet surfing and such. We did sneak out at one point to take the kids to see the animated movie, “Monster House”, which despite its advertising campaign, is not really a very good kids movie. Creepy in the tradition of Tim Burton, but not as interesting, the film involves a creepy haunted house and is darker than a kid’s movie really should be.

We went to dinner at a nice little Pub called the Keg, where they served the tasty local brew called “Beehive Ale” and the kids were able to play video games and pool. It was a nice easy-going day.

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Tuesday was more of the same, with the notable exception that it was my 42nd birthday and I can’t imagine a better way to spend it than to just relax a little. Kathy, Sophie & I walked down for breakfast at the wonderful Adams Mountain Café and I took a quick trip with Kari into Colorado Springs, but other than that we were fairly slug like until we went for a wonderful, boisterous birthday dinner at a fantastic fondue restaurant called the Mona Lisa. In addition to stuffing ourselves on the delicious and varied cheese, meat and chocolate fondue, we all signed a bottle of celebratory wine that will remain on display in the restaurant.

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Things pick back up today, we are going hiking at Red Rocks Canyon in the morning before heading to the Denver Airport to pick up my sister Marika & her husband Brian who are flying in from North Carolina to attend this weekend’s Folks Fest with us.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Denver Grand Prix

August 14, 2006

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We are back in Manitou after one of the busiest weekends we have spent in a long, long time. Packing so much in is exhausting and I’m thinking we will be taking it somewhat easy today as we start to look ahead to another fun and crazy week ahead.

Yesterday, we spent the day at the Denver Grand Prix, this time for the actual races. We were up and at the track early, walking around the paddock and seeing all the preparations for the big race. We also toured the activity are, where tons of vendors and events were taking place. By far the coolest was the Red Bull BMX Moto-Cross exhibition. Two guys took turns launching their motorcycles up this huge steep ramp, then performing amazing and crazy stunts high above the crowd prior to making perfect landings. It was truly incredible to witness and difficult to truly capture on film. At times they were completely off their bikes and the variety of aerial maneuvers they performed was spectacular.

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Our seats for the race were great, right in the first turn past the start/finish line and the site of most of the important passes as well as most of the accidents and spin-outs. There were two races, The Formula Atlantic race which is sort of the minor league was won by 17 year old Graham Rahal, son of former champion and Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal. The main event featured the Champ Cars and it was a truly thrilling race, with lots of action and passing, most of which occurred right in front of us. Sebastian Bourdais dominated early, but A.J. Allmendinger came on midway through and charged for an exciting pass and eventual victory. The real excitement came on the final lap, when in a battle for second place, Paul Tracy crashed out Bourdais and they got in a scuffle after getting out of their cars.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Allmendinger gives Tracy a lift after Victory.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Drivers Will Power (4th place) and Katherine Legge (9th place) with Michael

After the race, we headed into Boulder for a great dinner at a Japanese restaurant on the cool Pearl Street Mall. The mall along a street that has been blocked off and made pedestrian only is a cool collection of restaurants and shops and is what Duval Street in Key West could be, if people there were as visionary as the folks in Boulder. We next headed back to the Chautauqua Auditorium in a Déjà vu experience for the Nanci Griffith show. This time, the power was on and the show went on. She was fantastic. The best part was that because so many people didn’t return for the Sunday night show, we were able to move up from our seats way in the back, all the way to the 4th row. It was great. Photography was strictly forbidden, but I did manage to sneak a few pictures, none of which came out too great as you can see. Nanci played for almost 2 hours, digging deep into her amazing 20 year catalogue. She seemed really thankful that people had been so patient and had returned a second night to see her performance and it was reflected in her beautiful story-telling and singing.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006


August 13, 2006

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Sebastian Bourdais

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Robert Earl Keen

Wow! Sometimes we have managed to pack so much into a day that it seems like a week. Yesterday was just such a day. It started early when we awoke and had a hearty hotel breakfast before heading into downtown Denver to attend practice and qualifying for the Grand Prix of Denver.

The Grand Prix of Denver is a street race through the streets of the city around the Pepsi Center (home of NBA’s Denver Nuggets) and Six Flags. They race mainly on twisty road circuits rather than standard the oval tracks that the rival Indy Racing League or NASCAR generally utilizes. We were able to get Pit/ Paddock passes that allowed us access to the garage area where they work on the cars and gave us the chance to see and meet the drivers and to watch the teams work on the cars. The cool thing about this race series is that they realize that many people come more for the event than because they are actual race fans, so they have a variety of special events held in conjunction with the racing. They had a beach volleyball pit; X-games style motorcycle jumping, a huge Midway full of vendors and activities, a family fun center featuring rides and games and music featuring groups like G-Love & Special Sauce.

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Thankfully it wasn’t too crowded back in the garage area and we were able to mingle and meet a variety of the drivers including Sebastian Bourdais, Paul Tracy, A.J. Allmendinger (pictured below) and others. We also got to see and photograph actor Paul Newman who owns one of the teams. We missed seeing, in person at least, actor Frankie Munoz of the show, “Malcolm in the Middle”. He is actually driving a race car in one of the minor league support races. We will return today to watch the actual races as yesterday we only stayed to watch practice and qualifying.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting A.J. Allmendinger & Michael

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After a swim and brief rest at the hotel, we headed back downtown for the evening portion of our entertainment, the Robert Earl Keen show at the Fillmore. Once there we ate dinner at a truly seedy bar called the Rosyln Grill a couple of blocks from the venue. The food was decent and the ambiance was what made it so cool. Think of the seediest bar you have seen and go down a notch or two and you’ll have this place.

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We thought the show was at 8 because that is what it said on the tickets, but Robert Earl did not come on until 10, giving us plenty of time to drink at the awesome venue. It also gave me time to bid on a trip backstage to meet Robert prior to the show as part of a benefit for the Denver Texas A& M alumni scholarship fund. Well, some kid is going to be a little farther along with his education cause I got to go backstage for a meet and greet prior to the show.

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The show itself was amazing, playing for more than 2 hours, Robert and his band lived up to their legendary live performance reputation. If this band comes anywhere near your town, do yourself a favor and go. If you want to know more or hear music samples, click on the link below.

Champ Car Website

Robert Earl Keen Homepage