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The Bookshop Band US Tour - The Mr B's Road Trip and Beth's Longest Birthday

Woke at 3.30am. Bundled all our stuff and Molly into the lift and shuffled/shuttled it to the taxi. Weather warnings of rain, ice and snow had been rumoured for New York. We were heading in the right direction to escape the minus temperatures expected on Monday. Our first flight was to Chicago and luckily Molly had fallen asleep in the taxi and didn’t wake up til we were well on our way there.

I also had a little snooze on the plane. When we got to Chicago, Ben was eager to get to our next gate asap as the timing was tight for the transfer. We walked as fast as we could! We had forgotten that there was a time change so it turned out we had an extra hour til our next flight to Albuquerque. For some reason I fancied popcorn for breakfast so I went off to find some. Ben bought a muffin and some sweet pastry treats so my birthday breakfast was pretty special and American. There was snow in Chicago. As we flew down to Albuquerque on the next flight, I was intrigued by the circular fields down below. I hadn’t seen farming in that way and it looked like a maze of many corn circles. The landscape was changing and getting more red-orange as we were above the desert areas of New Mexico. When we landed it felt like we were in a totally different country and surroundings. We got off the flight and a few minutes later were greeted by Nic of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. It was so nice to see a familiar face in a new city. We were to see more of those this week! After retrieving our many bags, we eventually found our way to the car park (after a few wrong turnings and extra lifts and elevators. We started packing the (reasonably sized) car but it was soon apparent that it was going to be a tight squeeze. Ben was optimistic but Nic less so. Even with removing clothes from various bags it wasn’t going to be a spacious, comfortable journey to Durango. The decision was made to go and get a bigger car so Molly and I went back to the airport (or Sunport as it’s known in Albuquerque) restaurant to have a birthday lunch. We ordered a very tasty shrimp salad in a huge tortilla. Molly got an extra tortilla for being cuter. She’s so useful sometimes. Within half an hour, Ben and Nic were back with the new bigger car. We picked up some snacks for the car and found our way (more easily this time and with less stuff) back to the car park. Durango here we come! We knew we were cutting it fine to get to Maria’s Bookshop for a 6pm gig but we were going to try! Somewhere along the way we messaged ahead to say it would be a bit more relaxed if we could play at 7.

We were in awe of the landscape. Of the colours, textures, natural formations and structures. This was a land we’d never seen before. Once out of Albuquerque we drove for miles without seeing any sign of a settlement. We didn’t see many cars either. It was an endless beautiful desert with a road in the middle. The first small settlement we spotted had a tiny wigwam and a few huts. It was possible that there were more. of these away from the road and as we went on, we saw a few more Pueblo villages. The bigger towns we passed through were Bernalillo, Cuba and Bloomfield where there were more signs of life and even a gas station. The hire car was filled up when we got it so we didn’t have to worry too much. The scenery started to change from desert colours to more rocky ground and we were seeing more mountainous areas in the distance with snow on top. We were entering Colarado.

At some point I spotted this huge white thing on the horizon. I wasn’t sure if it was the moon but it was a few minutes before we saw it again and sure enough it was the biggest moon I’d ever seen rising. It wasn’t far to Durango now and as it got dark we saw a collection of lights in the distance. The road didn’t seem to be going towards them but as we were quite high now (6000ft?), the road was more windy and we ended up heading back towards the lights. Durango looked pretty with the snow in twilight.

We pulled up to Marias Bookshop a few minutes after Molly had fallen asleep. As we were a bit late, the shop had found a last minute support from a local ukulele festival contact. He seemed to be keeping the crowd happy and as we walked into the Maria’s there was laughter and a set of ukulele covers from Leonard Cohen to The Jungle Book. We piled our stuff and us into the back room where we were welcomed by Peter and Andrea and their staff who gave us water and offered help. We were quite dehydrated and much higher up than we’re used to. We got everything out the cases and put Molly in the capable hands of Andrea. Molly was still asleep in her car seat. When the ukulele guy had finished we had about 10 minutes to get everything plugged in and set up. Once we were sitting down and the hired in film crew had been informed about which songs to film, we actually had a chance to view the shop and the crowd. It was a great view. The shop was all wooden with a canoe on the ceiling and some old boots and skis. It also had a lot of books and cool merchandise. The crowd had been nicely warmed up and were smiling at us in anticipation.

Peter introduced Nic and pronounced Bottomley in his best English accent. I wouldn’t recognise that as an english accent! Nic then introduced us as he had done many times before at Mr B’s and we started our set with Once Upon a Time. This always gives the audience a chance to engage from the start and to see if they can spot all the first lines of books that appear in the song. I think this crowd got three or four. About three quarters of the way through, Molly woke up. I was worried that she would want mummy and daddy but after crying for a short time (she had woken up in another strange place to strange people) she saw Nic and heard her parents playing. Andrea brought her into the shop and Molly was calm and even enjoyed our gig for the first time! She apparently clapped along in time to Faith in Weather which isn’t in a regular timing! Andrea and her baby whispering was to come in handy later in the week. Although we were completely shattered and I was slightly spacey with the altitude, we had a really wonderful gig. Everyone there was kind, enthusiastic, sympathetic and they all sang happy birthday to me at the end of the gig. I’d almost forgotten that it was my birthday. The day seemed to be going on and on! We were looking forward to an explore of the town the next day but now it was time to get back to Peter and Andrea’s. We said goodnight, left most of our belongings in the shop and I got into Andrea’s car and Ben into Peter’s as Nic was staying in a hotel. Once a the lovely house surrounded by snow, Molly found Marbles the cat and was entertained by following her up the stairs where we met Andrea and Peter’s daughter Lydia. She was very patient with Molly and so was the black cat! We hadn’t eaten any dinner so when Ben and Peter got back, not only did Peter make us cheesy toast with local green chillies on, but there was a birthday cake with candles too! This birthday was the longest birthday I’d ever had! It was definitely longer than 24 hours and we’d been awake for most of it! To top it all off, we had a clear sky enabling us a perfect view of the eclipsed Blood Wolf Super Moon. What a treat.

The three of us shared a sofa bed and had the best night’s sleep! After showers and a homemade muffin, we ventured into the snow to feed the chickens. Molly found two eggs in the hen house then we went down towards the train track where there was due to be a train. It was the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad originally laid in 1882. As it was Martin Luther King Day (21st January), the train wasn’t running but the track was a sight to see and you could stand right on the tracks! We tried pulling Molly along in the sled as the snow was pretty deep (I lost my feet a few times and the snow went over my boots!) but she wasn’t that keen. She discovered some ice and slipped over a couple of times! Past the railroad was the river that flows through Durango. I believe it’s the Animas River. There were geese on the water. Peter told us of the recent wildfire that had reduced the wildlife and fish in the river. It was only just making a comeback after a year or so of being pretty empty. It was a controversial subject locally as there was speculation that it had been started by the train.

We stomped through the snow back to the house and got ready to go into town for some breakfast and to fix Ben’s phone that had a screen issue and had frozen. We popped back into the shop then headed to a place called Carvers to meet Nic. They’d stopped doping breakfast (it was after 11) and it was a wait for food so we found another place (via Nash the phone genius). We ended up at Steamworks Brewing Company and ordered a beer - they brew their own and we didn’t have a birthday drink the night before! I also had a hot chocolate and we ordered some (very) spicy buffalo wings to start and had a great brunch between us. Molly did her usual thing of socialising with everyone and I liked the fact that there were monkey nut shells on the floor by the tables that people had purposefully dropped and presumably would be swept up later. Nic found me a very appropriate birthday card at Marias and I felt like it was my birthday all over again!

We wondered back to the shop and had a little browse and bought a few (tiny) things before loading up the hire car. We hadn’t left much time to stop on the way back as we had to get to the Indian Pueblo Centre in Albuquerque for the opening reception of the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute. We admired the scenery. Nic thought he saw a wolf, we saw lots of tumbleweed (after getting very excited about the first tumbleweed and failing to get good photos/videos), and it was incredibly windy. We thought there might have been more snow but we think there was just more on that side of the rocks. We were trying to get back to Albuquerque without having to fill up the car (so we could fill it up before taking it back to the airport) but we had to stop at a rare gas station on the way back. We were on the look out for cool/funny signs and came across a number of them. We also played a game where we had to spot number plates from different states. Maybe by the end we will have all of them! So far (from that trip only) we have New Mexico, Florida, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Minasota. We got back in time for the reception and Nic did a heroic job and took the car back to the airport after dropping us at the hotel where we then got the shuttle bus to the Indian Pueblo Centre.

Sorry this blog has taken almost a week to post. It’s been a busy one here at the ABAWI. Now that I’ve finished it, I hope that I don’t have to remember how to spell Albuquerque for a while. Hot dog, Jumping frog….


Huge thankyou to our sponsors Gardners and All Media Supply for making this tour possible.

If you would like to pre-order the Best Of Tour Live Album, recorded in American bookshops and libraries, please find our Kickstarter campaign here:

Jan 27th: OpCit Books, 157 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501 2pm

Jan 27th: The Collected Works, 202 Galisteo St, Santa Fe, NM 87501 5pm

Jan 28th: OpCit Books, 124 Bent St, Taos, NM 87571 5-6.30pm

Jan 28th: Historic Inn ??? Medicine Night???, Taos?

Jan 29th: SOMOS, 108 Civic Plaza Drive, Taos. 7pm - 8:30pm

Jan 31st: Denver Public Library - Denver Public Library, 10 W. 14th Ave Pkwy, Denver, CO 80204 1pm

Jan 31st: Hearth Fire Books - 1254 Bergen Parkway, Suite D118, Evergreen, CO 80439 6pm

Feb 1st: Boulder Books - 1107 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302 7.30pm

Feb 2nd: Second Star To The Right - 4353 Tennyson St, Denver, CO 80212 2pm

Feb 2nd: Tattered Cover - 2526 East W Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206 7pm

Feb 3rd: WORD Bookstore - 126 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY 11222 5pm

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