Finding the Folkway Tour with Mark Dvorak – May 7 to May 19 (Part 2)

Picking up where we left off, heading from Norwood, Ohio to Mount Vernon, Kentucky.

Monday May 13- When we left Lawrenceburg IN, Mark drove. Decided he would drive to Lexington, KY Exit 110 where there is a Cracker Barrel. He did well, and I was not nervous or nauseous. Have not had anyone drive me in over 25 years. He said the vehicle is good. He bought an accordion at Cracker Barrell. Said he would annoy me by playing it as I drove. But it sounded quite good.

We changed drivers and we stopped at the Kroger in Richmond KY for supplies. Then drove to the Days Inn Mt Vernon. We will be back here again on Friday for SongFarmers. They are remodeling the hotel. We got two nice rooms side by side. We brought desk chairs out from our rooms and Mark had his small table, so we sat outside and had some wine as the owners walked by a couple of times checking on the renovation. Very nice people. I think they were amused. There was the Limestone Grill on top of the hill.  We went there for dinner. Mark had a ribeye, a bit chewy. I had a burger and fries and ate the whole thing. Went back to his room for a glass of wine. We always keep the door open. I sat in the chair by the door and Mark decided to lay on the bed. The TV was on and within a few seconds he was out like a light. I got up and quietly shut the door behind me. The next day, he said he woke up when he heard me close the door and wondered if he said something wrong. Ha! This whole schedule, getting up early each day, is totally not what he is used to. But he has been doing great. 

Tuesday May 14- We left at 7am for Knoxville for the Blue Plate Special Radio Show. Load in is 10:30 am. It is located on Gay Street, downtown Knoxville, at the Visitors Center. We walked the Main/Gay Street.

The Blue Plate Special is a great space. Mark was on with 16-year-old Parker Collins, a banjo player from Louisville. Parker was on WoodSongs before. Mark went first and played a half hour great set. Red Hickey-she is so cute- was the DJ, and she asked him some good questions. Then Parker played, and we left about 1:30 for Salisbury North Carolina for the Library show there tomorrow. Driving I-40E was much better. We took a frontage road and went to the Super 8 Salisbury who said they did not have our two-night reservations. Mark checked the paperwork and saw that it was the Days Inn that we passed. So, we went back to the Days Inn that turned out to be a run-down transient motel. I did check in, gave Mark a room key, and he said the rooms were “questionable.” I took a look at the rooms, dirty, smelled like smoke and chemicals. He was already taking things out of the vehicle and I said we are not staying there. I called the Super 8 and they had two rooms for two nights for us. I told the guy at the Days Inn we needed to cancel; we had the wrong hotel. I think he knew that when we checked in. We didn’t belong there. Went back to the very nice Super 8. He said he would charge us for one night and credit the next one.

I booked all the rooms in advance through Wyndham, which is Super 8, Days Inn and Baymont. I could not believe they would have something like this on their website.  

It was an early night, 9:30pm. We watched the end of the Cubs game.

Wednesday May 15- Kind of an easy day before the Library performance this evening. We did computer work. I filed a complaint with Wyndham about that Days Inn Salisbury and caught up on some texts.

We took a drive to downtown Salisbury to see where the library was. It was surprising. They have a festival this weekend called Cheerwine Festival. It’s a local soft drink. Mark bought us each a bottle of the chilled beverage. It is a bottle like an antique Coke bottle and tasted like a Dr. Pepper without the pepper. We had fun walking down main street sipping Cheerwine.    

Stopped at a grocery store. Eating in, hummus, pita, and salad after the Library concert tonight at 7.

“This is better than any cruise or destination vacation.”  That seems to be my moto for this whole tour.

Thirty plus people were at the library concert. Dave, who does the booking, plays music, and he did a song with Mark at the end playing a washtub bass that he made. Mark did great- funny, personable. He sang and played great, and I could see he was having a good time. We went back to the hotel for our dinner of snacks and wine. Called it a night at 11:30.

Thursday May 16 – Left Salisbury at 6:15 am and got to Lexington KY at 2pm. Stopped twice, once at McDonald’s and another time for gas. We took I-64 (a long and winding road) to Lexington. We went through a Tunnel in West Virginia and Mark took a video. He has been documenting the trip on his Facebook page. As I drove through the tunnel and he was taping I had to keep quiet, while my inside was saying “Holy shit!” At the end of the tunnel was a bright light, like entering heaven, and then everything was green and then there was the sign: West Virginia – Almost heaven. A very cool moment. 

I was exhausted by the time I got to Lexington and could barely walk. Checked into the Red Roof Inn, like home to me. I have been staying there for years when I go to Lexington. 

Mark’s shows that evening at 4 and 6 for Sayre Christian Village went great. One of the women wanted to adopt him. Marie Wilson does wonderful work there, keeping the residents active. She is a total joy, a shining light. 

Stopped at Kroger for snacks. Each night we eat, have a glass of wine, and review the day. Mark is very grateful. We travel well together, which may seem odd for some folks. As I type this, I have come to realize that Mark reminds me a lot of my brother Steve, who passed away in 2005. Our conversations and his stories– something always sparked a story, and Steve was a teacher to me about life and helped me to overcome my shyness. Also I have come to realize that on this tour, I have gone days without using the F-word!!!

Friday May 17 – Left Lexington for Mt. Vernon, Kentucky.  We drove by the Kentucky Hall of Fame and Music Museum so Mark could see where it was located. Then drove through the small town of Mt. Vernon and checked into the Days Inn. This time we have rooms on the other side, not as nice as before. They’re still renovating. Mark caught up on some computer things and then we went to the SongFarmers Gathering. Met Shannon working the registration table and Gavin. Michael was not there yet. Ron Pen, the two Rics, Josh and his wife, Chris Desa and his wife were there. When I helped work registration, Mark was outside in the tent conducting a song circle. He also recorded a video of himself playing “Bluebells in Kentucky” in Kentucky, very cool. He also did a turn at the open mic concert and accompanied an old friend who was playing the ukulele. Michael arrived and had an issue because the food truck bailed, so he ordered pizza for the crowd. It was Little Ceasar’s; I had a piece of cheese, not bad. Ran into Bryan Klausing a bit later. He said that he and Abby (The Rainjunkies) are working on some music. Their song “Into the Sun” is my favorite.  

It was raining out. During a break, Mark and I went to the vehicle and had a beverage standing under a tree. We left about 6:30 and went back to the Days Inn. Had pita, hummus and salad for dinner. Big day ahead tomorrow.  

Later that night in my room, I checked the page for the Marietta Days Inn where would be staying on Saturday, our last night. It had some bad reviews, like a dead person in a chair in the parking lot and a couple in the hallway spooning under a blanket watching a movie on a phone. My radar went up. We were not staying there and would have to find something else. 

Saturday May 18- Road to Atlanta. We left for Atlanta at 6:15am. I told Mark about my room concern and he said we would look for something else. Seems like I am coming down with a cough, feels like an allergy thing. Hacking and eyes watering. Stopped at McDonalds for breakfast to go.

Mark called Frank and Kristi and said we should be there by 1pm. Plan is to go to their condo, then to lunch, then to visit the Frank Hamilton School and then to the venue. This booking for the Atlanta Area Friends of Folk Music is what started this whole tour.

Mark called Marianne from the vehicle to check in. Plan was to have her talk to Frank during lunch.  I overheard Marianne say, “I can’t wait to see you.” That is when I knew my job was to bring him safely home to her. 

Mark tried to look up another hotel, the Baymont Kennesaw. I called and got the reservation line; they said they had two rooms. We stopped and found out that they only had a suite, and we took it. Separate bedroom and sofa sleeper. Check-in was at 3pm and we would be back after the show that night.

Finally got to Kristi and Frank’s condo. Seeing Frank and Mark meet was very touching. Kristi gave me the condo tour and we sat at the kitchen area table. She gave me some water and cough drops. Mark was working on tweaking one of Frank’s banjos in the living room. Then Frank came and sat with me for a chat, asking about my work, education, writing, music, etc.

Kristi drove us to Pan Asian restaurant. We sat outside, which was nice. Frank is so kind and vibrant. Kristi is the same, glowing personality and so good for Frank. I had broccoli chicken with a veggie egg roll. Mark had pad Thai. Kristi brought their own turmeric and ginger tea, which was good. 

Mark called Marianne, so she was able to talk to Frank and Kristi. Mark bought lunch. Kristi drove us back to the condo so we could get the Tahoe and follow them to the Frank Hamilton School. Kristi dropped Frank off and would pick him up later. Frank gave us a tour of the building. Very nice with several classrooms, office, kitchen, library. A bluegrass jam was going on. Frank and Mark joined them for about 4 songs. Mark had a good time, then we had to leave for the venue.

Got to the venue at 5pm. Met Chris Moser and his wife and other volunteers. I helped Mark set up the merch table. The other band, Blackfoot Daisy, was also just loading in. Showtime was 7pm. The refreshment table was open, and I got Mark a red blend and me a pinot grigio. Mark did sound check and sounded good. Frank and Kristi came, and Frank will be doing a few songs with Mark at the end of his set. Mark would go on first and Blackfoot Daisy second. Had a nice crowd and Mark sold some merch. 

I guess we got back to the Kennesaw Baymont at 11pm. Our suite was on the second floor up the stairs, no elevator, wo we only took in what we needed. I tossed things in a bag and so did he, and he had his instruments. The important stuff.

It was a nice room. I gave him the bedroom, with his own TV.  I had the sofa sleeper in the living room area. The room was large and the bathroom was in the middle. We had some wine and a review. Pulled out the sofa sleeper and I found a blanket and pillow in a drawer, and he tossed me another pillow from his room. Plan was to leave at 6:15am and head for home. He went into his room and shut the door and I went to the bathroom to take out my contact lenses. I remember pulling the blanket up to my chin and being so comfortable, then I was out like a light. When I woke up, my phone was on the floor.

At 6:15am we headed for home. I got some coffee and egg product ( scrambled eggs shaped in rounds) from the lobby. 

And off we went. I thought I was going to take I75 North through Lexington to I64 West to I65 North, the route that I know and have traveled before. Well, no…the GPS and its controller said to take 24 West through Nashville. It was curves and slow moving, and I felt I could run faster than what the vehicle was moving. I started coughing more and my sinuses felt like I was wearing heavy glasses. Glad it happened on the last day. I drove till Franklin IN then gave Mark the wheel for about 1 ½ hours. He said he would take us in, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. He got us through Indy, and we switched at exit 152. We had 150 miles to go. The home stretch.

I dropped Mark and his stuff on his front lawn at 5:45pm.  Marianne came out to greet him with an embrace and a kiss.  My job was done. He was safely home!!

Marianne gave me a beautiful flowering plant, candy and a lovely thank you card. I got home at 6:30 pm. Only took myself and my purse inside the house. I left everything in the rental vehicle, planning to transfer it to the Jeep tomorrow. When I opened the front door, I expected to be greeted by a jumping, barking beagle. Instead, Lukey was lying on the sofa and wagged his tail, wanting his belly rubbed.  Guess he had too much yard work that day. Home.

“This was better than any cruise or destination vacation.”  

The following week, Mark still carried on the tour, doing area shows, and then had to go to Eagle River and Minocqua, Wisconsin.  I went back to work, and on May 22, my birthday, I took myself to Immediate Care just to have the cough/sinus thing checked out. Negative Covid test and was told to take some cough meds and a nasal spray. 

Looking forward,