After dinner on the train, me and Rich went back to the carriage to find our beds had been made up and turned down by Courtney, the guard - very impressive! We both did our teeth etc and then Rich turned in for the night while I watched Netflix (The Dirt, the Motley Crue film, pretty rubbishy but it passed the time). I then turned in and managed to get in a respectable 6 hours sleep. Some of the others hadn't slept so well.
The landscape of Iowa - mostly farm country from what I could see out the window.
Passing through Creston - trains are a lot slower than in Europe generally (they don't have high speed trains here).
Arrival at Ottumwa - pronounced 'TOMB WAH' by the locals - our journey had covered over 800 miles and taken 13 hours - we also found we had changed time zones again and 'lost' an hour - but we were still on schedule to make the gig.
The wind here is cold and biting - the landscape being flat dosen't help - I later found out that this is pretty much the centre of America, so it can get very humid and there are HUGE temperature differences between winter and high summer. I have taken the precaution of putting on my winter jacket and putting away my windcheater.
We were greeted at the station by bus driver Bryan, who said he had english antecedents and handed us his business card - the bus was more comfortable than the one we'd driven to Denver in, a bit like a living room or lounge on wheels, and of course, 'no seat belts' (us crazy European types - with our safety concerns!).
Driving through the flatlands of Iowa - more farms
More dozing Ukes - that person, who looks like a terrorist hostage, is in fact Leisa, trying to keep warm. The journey to Cedar Falls from Ottumwa took about two and a half hours going through some (very) remote landscape and drifting in and out of mobile reception - truly the boondocks.
Stopping off at a service station; Ben is constantly on the look out for crazy sweets that you can't get in Europe (for his kids - he claims). I, too am under strict instructions from my daughter to buy as much US candy as possible.
More farms and silos
OK - here's the last one - I took about 30 photos! This is our hotel - The Isle Casino, standing like some Soviet or North Korean brutalist monument, totally incongruously in the landscape and lashed on all side by the howling wind.
Checking in before dashing out to soundcheck for our gig
I'm not a gambler, so my impressions of casinos mostly come from old James Bond style movies etc - the band did once visit the casino at Monte Carlo prior to a gig, and Jonty, famously wandered in (in his tuxedo) before the show - only to be asked by a punter, if he wouldn't mind taking his coat. Here, there are no men in dinner jackets or women in minks and pearls - rather, the clientele resembles a 'grunge' reworking of 'Oklahoma!' - all Marlboro Reds, plaid shirts and crystal meth stares.
Driving to the theatre in Cedar Falls - we WERE going to make the gig!
The theatre on the campus at the University of North Iowa had its own 'brutalist charm'.
A nice auditorium - about 1600 seats and we'd sold most of the tickets.
However tired we were, and I hadn't showered or shaved and I'd slept in my clothes on the train - the gig wound up being an absolulte blinder and we got a terrific reception.
Grabbed this photo when we went out for the encore
Plenty of young people (mostly ukulele players) came along and said hello at the signing.
We all piled back to the hotel and bumped into a couple of people in the casino bar - the guy in the centre is called Anthony - he'd been at the show and said hello at the signing, asking us if we wanted to come to his bar whichs stocks loads of craft beers - as we didn't have a car, we'd had to just come back to the hotel. He was there with his friends, Mouse (right) and Laura (girlfriend) - they very kindly bought us drinks and we had a grand old time. I hadn't been drinking much after the shows, so with the long journey etc it was good to have a blowout. It turned into a lovely evening of fun, friendship and generosity of spirit - and I must remember not to make judgements on people or places in future!
HEADS UP PEOPLE!
Its my birthday tomorrow - 13th April (keep up! - you're running a day behind). if you've enjoyed reading these blogs (they might only take 5 minutes to read, but they take a couple of hours to write, edit, upload, correct spelling etc ) please think about making a donation to Meningitis Research, which nearly killed me a couple of years ago.