Hey everyone! Once again, Brian here. My wife and I are currently on a two month tour across America, playing music, (we’re The Wallens) camping out, and seeking adventure along the way. Here’s where we’ve been in the last week or so.
Stop #1: Wichita Falls, TX
If you’ll recall, our last stop in the previous post was Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Our next scheduled gig was in Albuquerque, and we had a couple of days to get ourselves across the country. We set our sights on Wichita Falls as a stopping point, with one specific goal in mind. Watch the Super Bowl, of course! My Christmas gift from Molly was a TV for the camper, and it has been a great source of entertainment on this tour. We set up camp at the Wichita Falls RV Park, just in time for the big game and a spectacular sunset.
Temps were in the upper 70’s when we hit town, but a massive winter storm was looming, with a Winter Storm Watch in effect. We hightailed it out of town with our sights set on Albuquerque. Fortunately (or unfortunately for my wallet), our route took us through Childress, TX. This tiny Texas town is home to a Justin Factory Store, which might as well have been paradise for this boot-wearing guy. I have a pretty peculiar boot size, and they had more options in my size than I could have ever imagined. They also allowed us to bring our dog, Charlie, in with us, so we spent a good hour or so scoping out all of the options. At the very end, I spied a box on a shelf, and within was this little square-toed slice of perfection.
With boot shopping complete, we drove on through some strong crosswinds to the Land of Enchantment.
Stop #2: Bernalillo, NM
We arrived just after sunset, but we were able to get checked into our campsite with relative ease. Bernalillo is a bustling little town about 25 minutes north of Albuquerque proper, and the Coronado Campground is perched atop a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande. It’s also next door to the Kuaua Ruins, remnants of one of the largest Pueblo Indian communities in the Southwest. The settlement dates back to around 1300, and Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado first visited in 1540. To think of what was happening hundreds of years ago in the very place we slept was humbling.
Remember that winter storm? It only grazed us in New Mexico, but we still woke up to bitter cold and a bunch of fluffy white flakes falling from the sky! We purchased a Mr. Buddy propane heater after a 20 degree night earlier in the tour, and that proved to be an excellent purchase. We were able to keep our little Aliner totally warm and toasty during windchills that got down towards the 0 degree mark. The payoff was a breathtaking view as the fog and clouds lifted in the afternoon.
Winter camping has its perks.
Stop #3: Corrales, NM
We stayed at the Coronado Campground for four nights, so the next few stops will be about the venues we played. The first was the Corrales Bistro Brewery, a warm and homey place tucked into a village of 5,000. There is something magical about this little town, wedged in between Rio Rancho and Albuquerque. The sprawl of Starbucks and Walmart superstores hasn’t made it here, and the result is a sort of old Southwest charm.
Speaking of Southwest, that is a burger in a tortilla, smothered in green chile on the inside. New Mexican cuisine is great, you guys! So was the crowd that night, which was a total listening audience. It was almost like a house concert at times, and we were so grateful for the brave souls that ventured out into the cold to come hear our hippie songs and John Prine covers.
Stop #4: Santa Fe, NM
Up the road a spell is that most famous of towns, sunny Santa Fe. We had a gig at a really funky little spot called the Cowgirl. I knew when I walked up that it was our kind of place.
The place was just oozing with charm and character. We really had a fun gig, but the best part was the nachos. Some places that claim to have nachos should be EMBARRASSED to even try to put themselves in the same category as the Cowgirl. They come with brisket, for goodness sakes. Enough said!
Stop #5: Nob Hill
Every city has a hip, vibey part of town. In Indianapolis, it’s Broad Ripple. Cincinnati has Over-the-Rhine. In Albuquerque, it’s Nob Hill, a stretch of Route 66 a couple of miles from downtown. The first show I ever played out here was at Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro all the way back in 2014, and they have been gracious enough to keep booking us whenever we come through. The shows take place in their cellar bar, a fun and funky little space.
I really enjoy playing there. We almost always meet interesting people, and Zinc really treats their musicians well. On this occasion, we got to dine on some outrageously good beef tacos. Check out Zinc whenever you come through ABQ, and I promise you won’t regret it!
Stop #6: Phoenix, AZ
So we loaded up the truck and we moved to…Arizona! We have some truly great friends who have become family here, and Quint and Nancy are gracious enough to let us stay at their house whenever we come to town. They had the distinction of being the guests who traveled the furthest to attend our wedding, if that gives you any idea. We’re blessed with some really great people in our lives, and these two are some of the absolute best. Anyone who would let us unload this amount of stuff into their house deserves some credit!
Our first show in AZ was at a new venue for us, Fiddler’s Dream. I love the eclectic spaces we’ve been encountering on this tour, and this was no exception! It’s a little outbuilding on the property of a Quaker church, and it’s a completely volunteer run venue.
I mentioned that our show at Corrales Bistro Brewery had a house concert feel. Well, this WAS a house concert. Chairs wrapped tightly around the stage area, and a totally unplugged format. No speakers, no mics, just acoustic guitars and voices. This is my favorite type of show, and Fiddler’s Dream did not disappoint. We had a wonderful audience, and we got to share the stage with a couple of great musicians from Jerome, Christy Fisher and her friend Tina on percussion. They were absolutely phenomenal!
Touring is a whole bunch of things packed into a bundle. It’s exciting, exhausting, expensive, and rewarding all at once. This week was a great example; we came into these four shows tired. Just plain tired in a physical sense, from fighting a nasty cold that we both ended up catching and the cold outside. But the emotional lift from playing music we love for people who love music, and the connections and new friendships that come with that, is enough to make us forget all about the other stuff.
I’m just so grateful for what we get to do. Thanks to all who make it possible.