As the Labor Day weekend approached and Hurricane Dorian loomed, Rebecca and I packed our bags to head for West Palm Beach (FL). She’d done a great show the night before at Seven Bridges on Jacksonville’s southside where many supporters showed up to celebrate their friends’ birthdays.
Although the hurricane was hundreds of miles away, our family went into overdrive on concerns. I kept wishing I could send them a map of Florida so they could visualize how far away the storm was. I also kept wishing I could toss my phone into the pool. When we set out, I told her the trip would be like all road trips—an adventure. And it was.
Things were rolling right along and we were making good time and then we hit the turnpike. This was not a good moment. The cash lane was to the far right, but the direction we needed to take was to the far left. Traffic was beside us and behind us, and there was no safe way to get across those lanes to go south. We weren’t foolish enough to dare any of those big trucks going 90 mph through the Sun Pass Lanes not to hit us if we tried to jump those lanes.
So we did the safe thing and went north. For a moment I was fretting—I wasn’t familiar with this turnpike and I had no idea where the first jumpoff spot would be so we could turn around. In the end we wasted about an hour of our time, maybe more, and we both agreed we would not be taking the turnpike on our return trip home.
By now Rebecca was concerned about getting to the venue on time. She was due to load in at the VIP Lounge at Coral Sky Amphitheatre around 4 p.m. We got to our hotel with little time to spare, and although the room had been reserved for weeks, check-in was slow. She had just enough time to change and spruce up before we headed to the amphitheatre where we encountered our second challenge of the day.
We found the amphitheatre—she had done this show before for the Tim McGraw concert. The area had been set up for the concert, though, with streets blocked and such. We couldn’t find the entrance to the loading area. So I told her to pull over and ask directions to the load area from the policeman who was talking to another policeman at an entrance on the main boulevard.
That particular policeman was not eager to assist. He rattled off directions rapid fire style and sent us packing. It was a striking moment of sorts—in Jacksonville where we live, our policemen are usually very nice. Even the young cop who wrote me a speeding ticket years ago was nice about it (yes, I was speeding, I told him so, and asked him to just write ‘er up so I could get to my meeting). That, by the way, is the only ticket I’ve had in all the years I’ve driven a car.
Thing is we couldn’t find the loading dock. So we’re driving around and saying some really lousy things to her GPS when I arrive at a decision. Go back and ask that cop for directions again. Yes, we are crazy sometimes, but we keep the music going.
The policeman was not happy to see us again. First he fussed because he said he told us already and we didn’t do it right (we did it to the best of our ability). Then he gave us a different set of directions that took us right where we wanted to go. Maybe he was just having a bad day.
Did I mention it was humid as a rice steamer? By the time we got her equipment in and she got set up after re-parking the car, she was definitely working up a sweat. Stormy weather was looming, so it was pretty warm inside the lounge as well. We got the sound check done with about five minutes to spare, and soon it was time for her to do her first set.
While she performed, I walked around to take in the sights. I’d never been to that particular amphitheatre, and all I can say is these people have it together when they do a concert. Employees buzzing around on their missions. Food vendors and drink vendors taking care of customers. And everyone was just extremely nice, even the security guards. Live Nation has some very nice folks working for them there in West Palm Beach.
In the VIP Lounge there were two different food vendors I tried after they invited me to sample their wares.
Bolay was there with a gluten free assortment—pasta (made from rice), pesto, roasted veggies, and lemon chicken tenders. Y’all. It was wonderful. All of it. The women manning the tent were very nice, and I learned they do catering, pickup, and delivery. This Bolay group was from their Wellington location. I told them I wished we had a Bolay in Jacksonville. Bolay has more than half a dozen locations in South Florida, four in Central Florida, and locations coming in Orlando, Coral Springs, and Miami Lakes soon. I don’t usually eat gluten free food, and I’ve rarely found gluten free food I am crazy about. Until I tried Bolay—that definitely changed my mind.
I also invited the folks who work with Curbside Gourmet to come to Jax. One of the employees went around with a tray of pork sliders. This was the best I’ve ever had—the meat was so tender it was like a good filet mignon. All the employees were very accommodating. Curbside Gourmet is the first food truck in Palm Beach County, according to their website. They also cater, and they’ve been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. They had some incredible watermelon slices laid out, and I took Rebecca a couple of those because watermelon is one of her favorite foods in the universe.
Rebecca performed sets in between each act at the concert, doing a final few songs after Florida Georgia Line wrapped up their performance. Somewhere in between acts, it rained and there was lightning in the distance, but even the fans on the lawn stuck it out. Watching the crowd, I realized the groups there—other than FGL, Dan and Shay were part of the mix—have a large number of really young fans. I didn’t expect that.
One nice moment for me came from meeting Mike Carroll, founder of South Florida Country Music. Mike is a walking encyclopedia on the music business, and I had a great time listening to accounts of his experiences. This organization has been a very good resource for Rebecca and her music.
We had a long break before Rebecca’s last set, and we talked about Dorian with some other people. On the trip down, everywhere we’d stopped, people were talking about the storm. We hit two gas stations before we could refill our tank. Based on many conversations, including some with locals there in West Palm, I realized a lot of people were going to voluntarily evacuate in advance of any official pronouncements. And a lot of those people were going to hit the highway the next morning.
As Rebecca and I debated our plans, we both agreed we might do ourselves a favor by grabbing our stuff from the hotel and driving back to Jax that night. My concern was for Rebecca because although I’d been part of the trip’s activities, I didn’t have to get up on stage and perform. Because we’d run behind, she didn’t eat lunch. She’d had a banana that morning and two slices of melon that afternoon, and by now it was almost 10 p.m. I fretted over availability of food and also safety factors if we stopped at a fast food place late at night. Then it hit me. We could look for a Wawa. That place has the best selection of healthy foods I’ve been able to find on the Interstate when it comes to a place where you can also get gas.
After her last set, we loaded up with the velocity of a speeding train. We zoomed to the hotel, grabbed our stuff, and took off.
That was a good decision. There was almost no traffic at all that late at night. We found our Wawa in Vero Beach, and got a cup of great coffee to help us stay awake. We didn’t stop again until we got home to Jacksonville. It’s a good thing we’re both night owls, because by then, we’d been up for almost 24 hours without sleep.
Once we were back, phone calls rolled in about Dorian, just as they had before we left. I slept through most of those calls.
The next day, Rebecca had a show at a resort in St. Simons Island, Georgia. As she traveled north from Jax, on the other side of 95, she said a long line of utility trucks proceeded south, staging ahead of the hurricane.
This week’s shows are scheduled for Wednesday at Whiskey Jax, Baymeadows in Jacksonville, and Marion Street Bistro and Brew House on Thursday in Lake City. These shows are currently at the mercy of obstinate Dorian, but we’re hoping nothing interrupts them.
Next week, Rebecca is at Hemming Park and towards the end of September, she and Jennifer will perform for the Clay County Veterans Appreciation event. We should have the full September calendar posted tomorrow if we don’t lose power and I can work in the office.
Hopefully we won’t go through the hurricane chaos again, but with Mother Nature, you never know.
In Florida, we’re accustomed to lively storms, and it doesn’t take a hurricane here to topple trees, zap your power, or drop lots of heavy rain and flood low lying areas. I’ve heard it said before and I think it must be true because most Floridians like it here very much. Dorian and his siblings are one of the prices we pay for living in Paradise.
Be safe, fellow southeast coasters, and don’t tempt Mother Nature who will not take kindly to folly. Dorian isn’t our first rodeo, and it likely won’t be our last. One bit of wisdom I’ve gained from surviving a number of hurricanes—you know what a storm will do just as it’s about to do it. Staying glued to media presenters won’t make it get here quicker or keep you safer.
I’ve traveled with Rebecca and Jennifer to shows in all types of weather and situations. Above all obstacles, they’ve managed to keep the music going. Hat tip to all working musicians who do the same.
Finally, a hat tip to Wawa. That wonderful cup of coffee and tasty snacks helped us make the final leg of that trip ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
(Kay B. Day/Sept. 3, 2019)
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