Kate here – Entering 2010, we are grateful for the gift of you.  Hokey but true.  Your support and encouragement made it possible for us to venture out from home in Portland, Oregon to sing and play (and get other people singing and playing while we’re at it) in new places around the country.  You gave us courage, gas money and dreamed that we could do it and we did.  A lot of you were on the tour with us, in spirit at least.  Some of you even came all the way to some of the gigs, Pete Seeger, Passim.  It was a great time of discovery and connection.  Thank you for that.  It worked.   You spurred us on and went 10,000 miles.  We are back and the year has turned.

Lights at the end of the day

Lighting our way home....

We traveled the country for 72 days, eating and sleeping in “Modoc”, our trusty silver & blue-lined Airstream conversion Ford Econoline van.  We found state parks and folk-friendly driveways on the way to music stages and stores, and community centers filled with the locals.  People were curious about us. “The Ukalaliens are here!” they’d smile and they made us welcome.

We left home to try out the unknown and hit the road on Thursday morning, Ocotber 1st.   For the next ten weeks we aimed for gigs and workshops with 26 ukuleles, three guitars, a banjo, two more ukes,  a new book, in fact 500 copies of the new “Ukalaliens Songbook”, published and released that very same day, all snug in their boxes overhead in the cab.

This may not sound appealing to some, but for us it was epic.  The physical act of it was enormous.  19 feet long, ten feet tall.  City parking, no problem.  Modoc handled like a mid-sized boat on wheels.  9500 pounds plus us, it was like driving an ark.  Power steering, high beam button on the floor, cruise control and the reflexes of a sensitive elephant.   Reflexes jolted if you hurried the brakes or took a corner too fast. Not the Westy by a long shot.  More like the elephant it was named after.  Before long our pace was in synch and the road was ours.

The discovery of new towns and places, people, each with a flavor of its own.  Friendly chit-chat across parking lots over 10,000 miles made for a lot of encounters, mostly friendly.  Brief stops with old bonds across the country, each day so different from the one before.  We met and played for people from the deep past, from life before Portland, before Artichoke, before children, before we met.

Musicians, friends and family going all the way back, forty years or so, came out in force.  Some were following our journey with relish; a couple even toyed with quitting their jobs to create their own rendition of freedom, to do what they are passionate about while they had the gumption and wherewithal to do it.  They toasted us for catalyzing their decision and influencing them to make a move.  Gulp. Clink. To Life!  Smile and cheers, we wished them well and were gone by morning.

Circumnavigating the country in the current economic climate was a long mix of empty buildings, even malls; ghostly downtown hubs left haunted by the crash.  All but a few shopkeepers in some places, sweeping the front of their doors, pondering how long they can last.  Furrowed brows and gravity in their smiles hello, wondering what happened to life as they knew it.

We were in the hands of hosts and strangers most days who confounded us with generosity and hospitality.  Places we had been nervous about passing through turned into favorite stops.  I never knew I could love so many places the way I do now.  Missouri, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, California.  Stereotypes broke daily, some were reinforced.  Almost always, it felt good to meet people, get our bearings and do the gig. They were glad we came and we were happy to be there.  They dug what we were there to do and liked our music.

Digesting and sharing the stories that grew between stops will take a little time – brewing to unfold.

10,000 miles renewed our perspective and encouraged us to carry on.  The chance to explore, interact and connect, teach and sing with all kinds of people through the songs,  stories was a gift. In return, they explored their dreams and aspirations with us.  Making music together makes friends of strangers.

This story all started and ended here with you, dear readers.  Home indeed is where the heart is.  Music connects at the heart, crosses  borders and heals.  Thank you for being with us as we go.  The trip may be over but the journey has just begun.

We’ll start telling the stories one by one.  There are good twists to share.   Here’s to life!  On the road and back again, it’s good to be home.