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US Odyssey

US Odyssey Part 15: Shannon

Sampling cupcakes at SXSW

As the US Odyssey comes to it’s conclusion, it’s fun to reflect on all the fun times that were had. Thankfully, nothing devastating happened (we were expecting at least something to go awry). After climbing canyons, crossing borders, and doing some serious touristic exploration, we made it back in one piece, and closer than when we left (despite still living out of a Ford Focus wagon).

Santa Monica Beach in Los Angeles, CA

However, with this concluding post of the US adventures, I wanted to thank my partner in crime, my travel companion, my love, my friend; Shannon Lepere. Without her this trip would have been much less exciting; I wouldn’t have seen some of the most random places in the US, nor would I have eaten at half the diners we did. Still, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Waiting for dinner on a double decker bus, Portland, OR

With this, I’d also like to pass the torch on to her, as she recently started her own photo blog called “Click“.

US Odyssey Part 14: Seattle

Yes! Gigantic Pipes! - photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

Ah Seattle, the home of the space needle. And right beside it, the biggest set of red pipes I’ve ever seen! I was at home, so we embraced.

photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

Seattle is also the home of musical legends like Nirvana, as well as lesser revered acts like the Presidents of the United States of America. Shannon and I stopped in at a museum of music and science fiction (that month featuring Nirvana and Battlestar Galactica). I went to the gift shop hoping that I could find some PUSA swag, but alas, no dice. The guy at the counter exclaimed that “it’s really weird they don’t have anything for sale here, considering their bassist Chris Ballew works here!” Small world. Also, it’s a sobering (yet oddly reassuring) thought when you realize that your rock star heros have day jobs too.

Glass skylight in the Seattle underground - photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

We did some other touristy things like take a tour of Seattle’s underground. You can read up on the history of the city, but in a brief summary: the city slid into mud and also burnt down, so when they rebuilt it, all the buildings were designed with ornate second floors, so that once they built it up again, the second story would become the main entrance. This underground series of tunnels and walkways have an interesting history and appeal to them that made a great way of experiencing a town I know very little about other than what I’ve seen on Frasier. Side note: there is only one place to buy Frasier merchandise, and it’s a t-shirt – that’s it. Weak!

US Odyssey Part 13: Portland

Sometimes being a one-man-looper seems like a lonely gig. And it can be with no bandmates, etc.

Polar Bear at the Oregon Zoo – photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

That being said, it’s nice to belong to a community of people that truly are musically open-minded. Loopers-Delight is an online community of people that use all types of looping software and hardware. Through this, I’ve been able to pick the brains of people all around the world, learn improved techniques, bought a (hard-to-come-by) LP-1 and most recently; meet international loopers face-to-face. Ted Killian was grateful enough to offer up some accommodations in Medford, OR, and while we didn’t take him up on it, we met up at a Starbucks for a quick chat about loops and life on our way through the state.

photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

I’d heard a lot of great things about Portland, OR, but we didn’t do all too much sightseeing. We attempted to find a “Mystery House” off of the highway, but it ended up being closed for the season. Even then, it didn’t look all too impressive, so it was probably for the best. We did stop in at the Oregon Zoo to examine the open exhibits as we rushed along with only an hour to view the whole thing!

The Big Cheesus – photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

After watching other animals laze around and eat food, we figured we’d do the same. We found a place downtown called the Grilled Cheese with a double decker bus parked out front  that you sit in to eat – looked interesting enough! We took one look at the menu and realized all the items were variations on a theme. Especially the piece de resistance; the Big Cheesus. Imagine two grilled cheese sandwiches, one with sauteed onions, another with diced pickles. Then, place a burger with all the fixin’s in-between these two grilled cheeses, and voila, eat a delicious, cheesy mess. Shannon had the Baby Cheesus because she couldn’t handle the gospel truth of what is one of the best food inventions. Note: your liver will not agree.

US Odyssey Part 12: Mt Shasta Revisited

Since we mostly relaxed the last time I was in Mt Shasta (literally only a few days ago!), we made sure to do some more ‘tourist-y’ things this time around. Here they are in point form:

photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

Radiostar Studios:

Not only is there a town nearby called Weed, but it’s also the home of Radiostar Studios,  run by Sylvia Massy. Why is this important and/or significant? Well, let me tell you. Not only are there very few female music producers in the world, but Sylvia is responsible for quite a few albums you may have heard of, including Undertow by Tool. We got a tour of her facility, which includes over 6 different studio spaces ranging an old theatre to an old church, chock full of the latest gear any musician/engineer could think of. I made sure to take a photo with the City sign, much like Sublime did quite some time ago (although our intentions weren’t the same!).

Lenticular clouds around Mt Shasta

The 13th Crystal Skull:

Mt Shasta is rife with folklore about aliens and our interactions with the spiritual world, so when we heard that there was someone that had a portal, of COURSE we had to visit it.

She owns a store in what used to be a gas station, and where the pumps used to be there were several rainbow triangular ribbons. Apparently that is the portal, the place where humans can connect with the aliens living beneath the mountains. That’s ‘Telos – the city under the mountains’, for those of you that are unaware. At certain times of the year, circular cloud formations appear over / near the mountain, and then stay there (yes – with next to no movement) for extended periods of time – even weeks. The strangest part is that the locals can pinpoint when the clouds will arrive – TO THE DAY – and there are often stacks of these disc shaped clouds. Because of this, Mt Shasta is believed to be the location of an interplanetary conference, which explains why the cloud-cloaked ships remain closely stacked for days.

More lenticular clouds

Once we were in the actual store front, we found out that she is the keeper of the 13th Crystal Skull. Yes, she’s seen the newest Indiana Jones movie, but she was given this skull in 2000 by a group of Mayans when she was visiting some ruins in Central America. After just one meeting, they felt so convinced that she was meant to be the keeper of this Crystal Skull, that they flat out gave it to her. However, If we wanted to see it, we’d have to cough up $85 a person for a viewing. I was tempted, but I held my ground in light of what was 99.99% a scam. What? So what if it intrigues me!? Leave me alone. Here’s the hilariously terrible website.

At the bridge from 'Stand By Me'

Stand By Me bridge:

As if we hadn’t seen enough neat things that day, we were told that they had filmed a part of the movie Stand By Me (based on Stephen King’s novella, The Body) about an hour away. What part? The train bridge scene! We drove there only to find out that the rails had been rerouted. While there were no tracks on the land, the bridge was still in great shape, however, it had been blocked off on either end. Likely, to prevent people like Shannon and I from recreating one of our favourite scenes.

US Odyssey Part 11: San Francisco

photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

Besides LA, San Francisco was the place Shannon was looking forward to the most. And, so was I, but for different reasons.

Lombard St in San Francisco - photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

She was excited to do some sight seeing, visiting places like the house from ‘Full House’ (as seen in the opening credits), and the most crooked street in the world.

Pablo and I on Lombard St - photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

I just wanted to meet up with my old friend Pablo Saba, who was in San Fran doing web related work, and developing some pretty interesting ideas! We’ve known each other for many years, but haven’t seen one another in a decade, so it was a pretty cool reunion. I mean, sure, we’d been in touch over the years, chatting on MSN, Facebook, and through email, but it’s not the same. We had also been watching each other’s musical paths as we started bands in high school and developed our music tastes in university. Pablo even designed my old band Vaya‘s album artwork, merchandise and website (if only there was a record of it online somewhere).

Hovering at the Golden Gate Bridge - photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

Anyway, we had a lot to catch up on, and then he also helped show us around the city. We visited some parks, walked around his neighbourhood – Haight and Ashbury (infamous in the 60’s) – and made a mandatory stop at the Golden Gate bridge for a jump photo. While wandering we also came across a penny arcade near the water, with all sorts of antique games and interactive attractions.

Jumping in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Side note, we saw a posting for a one-bedroom apartment for rent: $3,400 a month!

US Odyssey Part 10: Mt Shasta

Where is Mt Shasta, exactly? It’s in Northern California, and while we thought the weather would be comparable to southern California, Jesus, were we in for a shock. That day, 10 ft of snow had landed upon the mountain. Yep. 10 feet. Seriously, what’s the deal with this trip and adverse weather conditions? I was supposed to play a snowboard festival ‘Rail Jam’ but 10 feet was too much even for the ski hill. They moved the show indoors and switched the Rail Jam to the following week so I still had a gig, but nothing to watch while it happened!

Ryan Marchand in The Lottery - photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

Regardless, both Shannon and I were there to visit with our old TBay friend Ryan Marchand, who now plays in an awesome band called The Lottery. We shared a few shows together during our Shasta visit, and it was cool to start to get to really know a town for once, instead of only staying somewhere for a few hours.

photo by Shannon Lepere (www.shannonlepere.com)

After the ski hill show, we played at the Legion, which blew my mind as it would take me about 7 minutes to get across to the other side of the bar simply because of how busy it was. It was a ‘moustache’ party, and they were also giving away free hot dogs all night, so it was a popular spot! After playing my set, I joined The Lottery on stage and did some improv vocalizations on top of their set.

Billy Corgan and Djin Aquarian - photo by Carl Johnson

We crashed at the place where Ryan was living, and met his housemate, Djin. Djin is important for three reasons; he was in an underground (yet influential) psychedelic band in the 70’s, he’s quite good friends with Billy Corgan (yes, that Billy Corgan), and he introduced me to White Flower, a strong chinese herbal essential oil that helps clear your sinuses in a ridiculously effective way.