Although it still doesn’t really feel like Summer yet, here in Vancouver, we are deep into June now, and that can only mean one thing – the start of the Summer concert lineups and the opportunity to make a few road trips south of the border to catch the odd band at Washington State’s (and maybe even the USA’s) premier concert venue – The Gorge!
The best road trips are often defined by the quality and personality of your fellow traveler’s and I knew from the get-go that this one was going to be a cracker. Joining Chris, Andrea, and new acquaintance (friend of Adrienne and Jim’s who were already down in Washington) Emily, we set off early on Friday morning with the intention of making it across the border by 8am. Despite me holding everything up with the old “Australian-passport-caused” fingerprinting and photograph session, we made our target and were soon sitting in a great little brekky joint in Blaine called the “Seaside Bakery Café”, while we waited for the rest of the crew to catch up.
Before long, TJ, Danica and Trevor were sitting along side us in the café and everyone was getting their fill of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast – the perfect start to what we were hoping was going to be a great, sunshine-drenched weekend.
One of the highlights of heading down to The Gorge, is the scenic drive along the way. After blowing past Seattle to the east and leaving some pretty ordinary wet weather behind us, we headed through some really beautiful forested areas, farmland and eventually semi-desert which is when you know you are getting close to your destination. It’s once you reach the bridge over the mighty Columbia River, however, that you know you are within minutes of The Gorge’s rolling grassy camp grounds, sun, your first ice-cold beer and the start of a great evening of good music and great times!
As a bonus little surprise when we arrived at the camp ground, our two friends Adrienne and Jim (below), who had spent the previous couple of nights down in Washington camping and exploring the area, announced to us with beaming smiles that they had got engaged the night before. Knowing how much Adrienne was dreaming of the day that Jimbo was going to pop the question, this was just awesome to hear and the news lifted us all to a new level of energy that was already being generated under the beautiful deep blue skies.
With BBQ hot dogs put away, along with a good amount of beer and engagement-celebratory-tequila-shots, we packed up our blankets and made our way to the end of the camping paddock and onto the famous gravel walkway that twists its way up to the stage area.
We were all really keen to walk up the hill to the back of the amphitheater together with Trevor who was the only one amongst us who hadn’t made the trip down to the venue before. Just like the rest of us on our first time walking over the rise, his jaw dropped and goosebumps popped as he saw the stage before him with the sun setting over the Columbia River and gorge behind as a backdrop. Yup, there’s definitely something very magical about this place.
With Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers not due to hit the stage till around 8:45pm, the thousands who had gathered early on the hill in the amphitheater with us were treated to a classic warm-up performance by none-other than legend Joe Cocker. Belting out all of his signature hits like “Come Together”, “Unchain My Heart”, “With a Little Help from my Friends” and the always awesome “You Can Leave Your Hat On”, the crowd, which consisted of fans from all generations rose to their feet and were in a great mood by the time Tom Petty and his band hit the stage.
What can you say about Tom Petty… he’s a legend, his sound is timeless, and a great show is always delivered no matter when or where he performs. All the hits you would hope for and expect were in the mix on Friday night. The set list for the night looked something like this:
- Kings Highway
- Listen To Her Heart
- I Won’t Back Down
- Free Fallin’
- Oh Well
- Mary Jane’s Last Dance
- Drivin’ Down To Georgia
- Jefferson Jericho Blues
- First Flash Of Freedom
- Running Man’s Bible
- I Should Have Known It
- Don’t Pull Me Over
- Learning To Fly
- Don’t Come Around Here No More
- Runnin’ Down A Dream
- Mystic Eyes
- American Girl
Wenatchee State Forest
With a long, wild night of fun and good times behind us, we rose mid-morning on Saturday, packed up our tents and rolled out of the grassy cow paddock leaving thousands of hard-core fans behind us to enjoy a second round of Cocker and Petty on Saturday night.
Our band of merry travelers, on the other hand, were hell bent on finding a nice camp spot in the middle of the nearby Lake Wenatchee State Park where we could stretch out, chill out and soak up some rays on a sandy beach on the shores of a cool, crystal clear lake for the afternoon.
It’s exactly what we were able to do and the first few hours of the afternoon consisted of lazing on the beach, making a few quick trips below the surface of the freezing cold lake, digging into some amazing cold meat sandwiches (thanks again ladies), sipping on a few beers and even getting our hands on some double-scoop ice waffle ice-creams (still one of the best ideas you had all-day TJ!)
As the sun began to set over the distant snow-capped Cascade Mountains, we set up camp across our three reserved camp sites, set up ready for dinner and enjoyed a few rounds of cards. A couple of small chipmunks were in our camp area and were keeping a sharp eye on any stray crumbs that left the table.
They probably went nuts with whatever we had dropped around the camp table, after we all upped and left to get stuck into what is kind of becoming a tradition on these kinds of trips – Extreme Bocci. We’re not talking your average grass or gravel playing strip here. No, we play through forests, over roads, through children’s playgrounds, onto and along beaches all the while not letting any kind of natural or man-made obstacles get in our way. SO MUCH FUN!!!
Back at camp, we set about preparing for our steak, potato and salad dinner, and sat around having a laugh and just enjoyed our time in the beautiful great outdoors in that part of the world.
As the night went on, many beverages were consumed, stories were told, laughs a plenty were shared, smores (an enhanced variation on toasted marshmallows) were enthusiastically scoffed and we all made the most of an awesome pit fire that we had available to us – the perfect end to a memorable road trip weekend away with great people!
A huge congratulations again to Adrienne and Jim on their engagement and a very big personal thanks to Chris, Andrea and Emily for providing such amazing company while on the road all weekend. I can’t wait to get back out and do it all again one day soon!