I’ll Be Leaving Raleigh Town

Sunday 5 October 2014.  Raleigh North Carolina

I woke up early.  It was time to move on and I was ready for it.  I was determined not to have another Days Inn breakfast, even if it was included in the tariff – sweet cereal, sweet yoghurt, sweet bread and sweet smuckers jelly, no more!  I walked up to nearby Daily Planet Cafe but it would not be open for another hour.  I headed on, to downtown and the first place I found open was the trusty The Morning News.  A vegetarian omelette with bacon on the side and a china mug of Irish Breakfast tea was invigorating.  I had plenty of time before the rental car pick up, so I used the time industriously to reflect on the past days and to record some events and emotions.

The town looked like one that had a hangover.  A lot of the clean-up from just last night had already happened, but there were still many sign of the past few days’ activities.  People were moving slowly.  One of the guys at the cafe said it had a record receipts day yesterday – I was not surprised.

Time to head back to the motel.  The number of people going to the many, many churches on the walk back, was notable.  Maybe that’s why the festival closes up on a Saturday so as not to interfere with the Sabbath.  Back at the motel one last time, I packed and waited for a cab.  While there I was talking to a group of three Italians who came over especially for this event.  Finally the taxi arrived and, twenty minutes later, I was at the Budget rental office.  Checking all the documents, I asked whether any available cars were equipped with Sirius Satellite radio and the kind lady found me one.  At an extra $45 for the ten-day hire, I figured it would be value for money, particularly given that I was riding solo.

Tuning immediately into the Outlaw Country station, my favourite, I was delighted to hear the Buddy (Miller) and Jim (Lauderdale) Show, with special guest Doug Seegers (Doug sang an introduction song at the Americana Awards show this year).  I motored in my VW Jetta north-west up the I-40, with a stop at the first (and as it turned out last) Starbucks I saw that day.  Back in the vehicle, I heard producer, singer and Music City Roots announcer Peter Cooper interview Mac Wiseman about his new album, an interview and live performance with Carlene Carter recorded at the Americanafest two weeks ago and Hillbilly Jim from “mud-lickin’ Kentucky” play some top songs.  I figured I had already got my money back from that radio.

My original e.t.a. at The Blue Ridge Music Centre was 1.30pm.  When that time arrived and the GPS was silent, I figured something was awry and it turned out that it was still set on U.S. Central Time (where I had been previously on the trip with Trish and Sandra), rather than Eastern Time.  Another hour to go.  When that elapsed, the GPS seemed to be a little uncertain due to the unusual address of where I was heading.  My cell phone had lost range to add to my uncertainties.  Asking directions at a gas station, I eventually found my way to the Blue Ridge Park Way.  The route was incredibly beautiful and I finally saw some signs and found my quarry – The Blue Ridge Music Centre – which, to my surprise, seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.

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I arrived at 3pm, two hours before closing.  Extremely lucky for me, there was live music that day – jamming in a performance annexe.  I stayed until they finished, around 4pm.  The band was The Fisher Peak Timber Rattlers (aka Stu Shank and friends).  A terrific experience as they jammed to traditional mountain or hillbilly music.  This music to me pre-dated genres, it was not country or bluegrass.  To me it was more Celtic but with an African or European overlay.

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The Fisher Peak Timber Rattlers

The Blue Ridge Music Centre celebrates the music and musicians of the Blue Ridge.  Established in 1997, the Centre includes an outdoor amphitheatre, an indoor interpretive centre/theatre, and The Roots of American Music, an interactive exhibition highlighting the historical significance of the region’s music.  You can trace the history of Blue Ridge Mountain Music through local artists back to the creation of the music generations ago by persons from Europe and West Africa, and shows its continued influence on many forms of folk, rock, and popular music made today.

The Music Centre hosts a summer Roots of American Music Concert Series, which take place in the beautiful outdoor amphitheatre (capacity 2,500) at the base of Fisher Peak and features local, regional, and national touring performers and bands, most Saturday evenings from late May through September.  Just to show that this is an incredibly vibrant scene, artists that have played here, or will soon, include Chatham County Line, Kruger Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Roseanne Cash and The Steep Canyon Rangers.

The Blue Ridge Music Centre is operated by The National Park Service, and the Music Centre’s programming is coordinated through a partnership with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

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It was a wonderful place and oh, to be at one of the outdoor concerts would be a treat indeed.

It was time to find a bed – I had come around 170 miles today – and I decided on The Hampton Inn in nearby Galax Virginia.  It has been a day ending well, with The Blue Ridge Music Centre a real treat and I had found The Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail.

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Author: Rob Dickens

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