The Road Trip Chronicles: Lessons in Music History and Yard Art

Is it possible to travel for a living?  How does one become Anthony Bourdain’s slightly quirky redheaded co-host?  I’d try just about any food if it meant I can go to Singapore with him.

Yep, I’ve got the travel bug.  Eleven days gone and I wasn’t ready to come back.  Surprisingly to all, Joe and I didn’t get into any fights (well, maybe one, but you’ll have to wait till the Yellowstone portion for that).  Being cooped up in the car for hours at a time until we reached the next destination was manageable.  We each had our selection of cds – Driver picks the music.  It was fun.  I had never been to any of the places we stopped at, so it was a wonderful adventure.

We hit the road at 2 am after I’d finished working inventory at the store.  Joe let me sleep in the car while he drove.  Our first stop was to Vermillion, South Dakota to the Music History Museum.

Scenes from Vermillion, SD:

Joe standing next to the very coveted/very expensive Stradivari-made guitar!

The audio tour of the Music History Museum is really cool.  At each listening station, you can hear clips of what the instrument sounds like as well as its history.  They have some rare instruments from all over the world.  Their prize is a guitar made by renowned violin maker Antonio Stradivari, think Stradivarius…you’ve heard of him, no?  There are only 3 guitars still remaining.  One is privately owned, one is on display in London, and the third is in the Music History Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota.  It’s valued at 3 million dollars!

You may not have guessed it, but I love blues music.  Ever since my brother and sister-in-law took me to a Blues Festival, I’ve loved the sound of a steel guitar.  In fact some of my driving music included tunes by Muddy Waters, Son House, Bessie Smith, and Robert Johnson.  I left my Blind Willie Johnson at home; he’s a bit much sometimes.

Did you know we have Slovakia to thank for that tinny, slide sound of the Dobro?  Jan, Rudi, and Emil Dopyera, from Straze, Slovakia, moved to Los Angeles as children in 1908.  In 1926, Jan patented a resophonic, steel guitar.  He and his brothers would go on to found the Dopyera Brothers, a music company making string instruments.  The term “Dobro”  comes from their name, DOpyera BROthers.  The steel guitar was the early catalyst for electric versions, but blues music hung on the sound the steel made.  It’s wooden brother was known more widely amongst country music players.  Have a listen!

Kraig Kenning is the artist I heard at the Blues Festival and loved the sound of the dobro ever since!  He’s a Slide Guitar Champion.

1978 Resonator Guitar by the Dopyera Brothers, one of the last they made.

The craftsmanship of so many of the instruments was breathtaking.  Look at these Norwegian violins!

Ok, this guy was created by Benjamin Franklin (I don’t recall if he made this exact one, but he invented the design).  After listening to the water glasses of all things, he wanted to recreate the sound without fussing with water levels in the glasses.  Behold his invention!  This instrument is an early form of piano and high society like Marie Antoinette played this in her parlor.

This elaborate instrument was worn as a headdress in the South Pacific region, and acted as a ceremonial horn.  I think it’s watching you…

My favorite instrument of the day was found in this mayuri (peacock) lute from India!  It’s awesome!  I sent a postcard of it to my sister and she told me it was the ugliest post card she’d ever received.  Well, guess what you’re getting for Christmas…

The celebrity section of the museum contained some big names indeed!  Inside this case, the center guitar was played by Johnny Cash!  To the right is his wife, June Carter’s guitar.

Ok, I had more than one favorite instrument.  I was also a big fan of this!  Stan Fritts and the Korn Kobblers used washboards with spittoons and horns attached.  For entertainment, it had all the bells and whistles, literally, for a hootenanny of the time!

What collection is complete without some Beatles paraphernalia?  This Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band trumpet was used as a prop in their film by the same title.

Scenes from Sioux Falls, SD:

Another quick stop along the way was Sioux Falls, SD to the Observatory overlooking the falls.

Our first “bison sighting”!!!

Scenes from Wall, SD:

We made it as far as Wall the first day.  You may have heard of Wall for its umpteen-million billboards for Wall Drug, a run of old west looking stores that pretty much all sell the same stuff.  If you’re still curious, this is what it looks like.

Other scenes of exotic Wall, SD include this random, giant dinosaur.

And my particular favorite, this person’s yard!

I don’t have a clue what’s happening there, but I really like it!

More travel stories yet to come!  Tune in to hear about historic Keystone, SD, home of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial!  Until then, if you didn’t yet vote in the “What Should Jess Blog About In the Future” Poll, please do so here!  

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17 responses

  1. Glad you had a good time. You’re so much better than I am about taking pictures along the way.

    1. They are my keepsakes. I didn’t buy a ton but I took lots of photos.

  2. I’d like to bid for the Beatles Sgt Pepper’s trumpet. How much?

    This looks awesome, Jess. So glad you shared!

    1. What, not the Stradivarius? Make a great anniversary present don’t you think?

      “I bought you this guitar, honey! Now, don’t touch it!”

  3. Thanks for taking us along on your trip! Now I feel like I’ve been to those towns too and I’m looking forward to the next stops!

    1. Miss Toronto though! Better shopping! Although, I could get use to this western wear…maybe I was a cowgirl in another life?

  4. Fantastic! You made me ache for my guitar. Off to play. 😉

    1. Yah, Joe was like a kid in a candy store at that place. His jaw was dropping at every corner. But I admit, even I was impressed.

  5. Those instruments are gorgeous! I have to go there one day! Maybe when I make some money off my books we’ll buy an RV and travel all over. That would be traveling and making a living!
    You and Joe are so great at taking pictures. These are beautiful and wish i was with you.
    I think that yard scene is so cool! I’ll bet the owner made all those figures. I love learning about other people’s hobbies.
    OK, now, hurry up and post the rest! 🙂 Oh, yeah, glad you guys are home safe!

    1. LOL. Thank you Marcia! We should make this happen: The Redhots Hit the Road. Catchy, no? 😉

      1. Yes, yes, yes! I love it!

  6. First of all, I dig the new blog look.

    Second – I had no idea there was a Music History Museum in Vermillion, of all places! And I lived in South Dakota for three years. Ack. This would have definitely been a worthwhile stop during my road trip last year.

    The dinosaur in Wall is part of a group of dinosaurs crafted by a local artisan many years back. It’s part of a collection, the rest of which reside at Dinosaur Park overlooking Rapid City. Great views of the city and prairie from up there!

    1. Ack indeed! We were in Rapid City! We want to go back there. Cool place. City of Presidents and dinosaurs. I’m so in.

      If you go back, check out Firehouse Brewery. We really liked that spot for its brews and food!

  7. So cool Jess-love the photo of you and the dinosaur! I got into blues music in college–some Robert Johnson, Albert Collins and the Robert Cray band (saw them twice in concert). 🙂 Love the travel posts!

    1. Did you like the Kraig Kenning clip? It’s a cover of Robert Johnson’s Crossroads. His own albums are amazing though too. Every Precious Moment is a pretty song.

  8. Look how great your blog looks!!!! I love redesigns. Always refreshing. Mine is coming out in a few weeks.

    1. Thanks Nina! It took me forever to get it to work, but it’s worth it, I like it!

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