by Leah Sottile
The following is the latest installment of local band Terrible Buttons' road trip diary, written by keyboardist Sarah Berentson.
The final stretch of tour was a whirlwind. We headed back to Denali to pick up Reed Lakes, all still a little confused about the events in Fairbanks, and headed to Talkeetna — which seemed to be our Alaskan home - to play a show in the busiest bar in town. The place was packed, and fully equipped with hula-hoopers and a rowdy crowd. The energy was through the roof. Leaving Talkeetna was bittersweet, and it meant that we were heading to our last show.
We left for Anchorage in the afternoon and were met with familiar faces. Many people who had come to other shows drove out for our last show in Alaska, pleasantly surprising us. Better yet, they all brought new friends to share our music with. We had several people approach us telling us that a friend had called them and insisted they come. It felt good to be so supported in a state we had spent less than 2 weeks in. Needless to say, Anchorage was a good way to close our tour, and we were ready to take the Alaska-Canada highway back home.
Unfortunately, the van still had a broken radiator, the only thing between us and the road to Spokane. We drove her to a radiator shop, hoping for a quick fix, but instead we waited on the curb outside a potato chip distributing company for 8 hours. Shaun, our trusty radiator hero, came out to tell us that he wouldn’t be done until the following afternoon. Morale was at the lowest it had been all trip.
We walked, heads down, towards the van and retrieved our backpacks, pillows, and sleeping bags, and started to brainstorm a plan for the evening. A man who worked at the distributing company had approached Kris earlier, worried that we were planning on camping in their yard. Kris told him what was going on, and assured him we wouldn’t try to sleep in front of their business. Moments later, Gary emerged from the building with a box full of food, saying “Here, this should hold you over. Good luck.”
We didn’t know what to do, so we headed down the street in hopes of finding a bar. We walked into a sports bar three blocks later with our backpacks, sleeping bags, and pillows. We were quite the sight.
By a stroke of unexpected luck, Evan (the great man who booked our tour) informed us that the owner of The Brown Bear Saloon, where we had played earlier in tour, would put us up in a cabin behind his bar for the evening. Evan came and picked us up in his big blue van. So instead of spending the night on the streets of Anchorage we played pool, drank beers, and had somewhat of a slumber party in a cabin in the woods.
The next day we reluctantly forked over the cash for our van repairs, and were on the road for fifteen minutes before we turned back to the radiator shop. Something just wasn’t right. Shaun, though unhappy to see us, provided us with a quick fix, and she was finally running like a dream. We were on the road, 24 hours later than previously anticipated, and we couldn’t believe it.
About an hour into the drive we stopped at a gas station. Ryan Georgioff, keyboardist and vocalist for Reed Lakes, was catching a ride back to Spokane with us, but in a moment of impulse, he decided to hitchhike back to Talkeetna. Moments later, KB was informed that her childhood dog had died, and seconds later we received a phone call about the police shooting in Spokane. We were feeling strange and sullen, but continued to drive. As the drive progressed and grew in beauty, we regained our energy, and our spirits.
The drive home did not affect us mentally at the same intensity as the one to Alaska. We were anxious to get home. Once we entered Canada, it seemed like we were in a zoo. We saw herds of Bison, adults and babies, and the same for mountain goats. A small black bear in the middle of the road, indifferently approached our van, and we even saw a cub.
We approached the border to enter into the United States, and for the first time, had our van searched. As we were inside, the border patrol asked us how much alcohol we had in the van. We replied, “Only a few shots.” He raised his voice, in a tone that could have either intended humor or intimidation, “I don’t care how much you have in your bodies! I want to know how much you have in the van.” During the inspection the men inside put on “Mother’s Medicine” from our album, and we all felt a little relieved - until they mentioned the tour video blog.
The last three hours of the drive were the longest, and anxiety to get home turned quickly into insanity. We sang, yelled, laughed, and impatiently awaited the lights of Spokane. We’ve all rested up, and are reminding ourselves what life is like in Spokane. It’s good to be home.
Oh! You must be wondering about total the bear count. We ended up seeing a total of 28 bears on the way home, making the bear count a grand total of 36: equaling roughly three and a half naked runs around the van, but that information will remain between us and the Yukon.