Cross Country 2012, Day 1

Saturday, June 9th, 2012
Nola – Dallas/Fort Worth

So. We’ve decided to add our Cross Country 2012 trek to the Shunpike Expedition.
Final destination: Couer D’alene Idaho.
We have two new travelers this year:
Rivers Gleason, age 7.5 month and Blair Casey, Gleason Family G.M.

We were scheduled to leave on June 5th – but due to an ankle staff infection on Steve, croup and ear infections on Rivers and Strep throat on Michel – Friday June 9th was our day of departure.

We’re driving the MV-1 with a tiny Uhaul attached.

After lots of help from friends, fam, and mostly my parents, we said our goodbyes and rolled out, approx 12pm.



We had no idea what route we were gonna take until we drove away.
We decided Dallas as we approached the interstate.

First stop… Krotz Springs, Cajun Cafe.


Here, we ate boudin balls, meat pies, cracklins. Very HOT.
Good – but doesn’t compare to the Jazz Fest.

Rivers new trick.. He sits on his dads lap and reaches for things on the table. Today, he couldn’t reach so he grabbed Steve’s joystick on the wheelchair and rammed them into the table. No one was hurt. It was awesome.

Next stop – fuel up at Shreveport.


Dallas hotels were sold out for some country band in town plus a republican convention.
So – Blair drove his 10th straight hour to Fort Worth.

As we pulled into the last gas station for the night we saw 3 guys riding horses, two chasing after the other one, on the interstate…
Thinking we were probably in a rough neighborhood we drove past a couple of fellas that threw a gang sign to Blair, followed by the fact that there were seven bail bond shops on a street somewhat close to our hotel, we thought it best to get a lock to attach our trailer to the car, so we spent the next hour driving through neighborhoods with all Spanish billboards and signs.


We finally found a truck stop and walked in to a guy sleeping at the counter. We said “hi.” Nothing. We said “Bobby?”. Nothing. Blair yelled “BOBBY!” He woke up, his hands immediately going in his pants, and he directed us to the locks.

We pulled up to our hotel around midnight and there were two guides on horse and buggies riding down our street.

Fort Worth is interesting.

We were all ready for bed after a long, eventful day. Especially Blair.

*** this journey is in memory and honor of Maelan Elizabeth Graffagnini, our little angel watching over us all. ***


Welcome Home Steve-o!!!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Steve and Jim pulled onto Grand Route St John in the IronHorse at 12:45pm today!!

After a quick and exciting welcome home, we went to lunch at Mr John’s —
and were joined by:
Thad, Madeline and Chris, Thais and Marcus, Allison and Neil – and visited by Shawn, Pauly, and Willy P.




3 hours after lunch we had a welcome home dinner at Mila – joined by:
Vin, Jules, Pauly, Hil, Thomas, Kerry, Mad, and Chris.



The 11 day wait is finally over.
I’m so happy to have Steve back home. And I’m so grateful to Matt, Mikey Mo, and Jim for getting him back safe and sound to me.

PS – the IronHorse smells like crap…

Music Heals

Sept. 3, 2011: a doozie of a post.

If music heals, and I’m sure it does, I am a healthy boy.
Music can foster an energy that hard to tap into. Music can be calming or powerful or angry or inspiring. Or healing.
I love hearing a song and having it take me to a memory with feelings so real its as if they are brand new.
This weekend was an incredible reunion of friends who are like family to me.

Yesterday I received a text message from a great high-school buddy, Josh Hartnett.
As follows…


I am not even sure how to explain the rest of this plot. It turns out that Josh was at the show with a guy named Chris. Well, Matt and Chris have been corresponding for the last month or so. Why? Because Matt, being Matt…


was trying to get the best connection possible to enhance our PJ 20 experience.

Back Story: Through a friend, Erica Perkins, I connected with Mike and Ashley McCready a few years ago and I got to go backstage a couple times for PJ shows. Me, being me…


I never really want to ‘bother’ Mike if I’m going to a PJ show especially a 20th year anniversary show.
Well, it turns out (hold on tight here) that Chris works for Mike and Matt was talking to Chris and Chris knows Josh and Matt knows Josh and I know Josh and Matt and Mike. But none of us really knew that we knew each other until this text (see above)!

Long story short, Matt and I left Spokane four days ago content with any version of Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary show. Then we picked up Mike Moses… Then Salters arrives… Then Hartnett…


Next thing I know we are camped out on the hill overlooking the amphitheater. Then we are all shining love on eachother in the VIP tent behind the stage talking about the best of times.


Mike and Ashley came down to catch up and say hello.


And Ashley, being Ashley…


…says she wants us side stage for the show. Then she does a little wave of her hand and has someone print these up.


So, why not? Better now than never right?

Play this video for my exact pre show thought:

And then…
The lights dropped and things got crazy…

The man:


“…Let me run into the rain
To be a human light again…”

So we were on stage. Rockin in the free world. For two nights. Cameras. Bodyguards. Crowds. Tambourines. Set-lists. And it was incredible.


But at some point on the second night during ‘Given to Fly’, I walked over to Matt and hugged him and we started weeping.
It’s his favorite song.
And suddenly this wasn’t about passes or access or crowds.
It was about music and friendship. A good combination. I went to middle america with an intention. An intention to enjoy the band that built the soundtrack of our lives with my friend. And it infected the people we met up with. More friends. New friends. Family. And even when life turns brutal and impossible the soundtrack remains to hold us together. Even if we are weeping. The soundtrack remains.


“…And he still gives his love, he just gives it away
The love he receives is the love that is saved…”

PJ or Bust (Part II)

I was insistent that we visit Yellowstone national park on this road trip. At this point we had lost some time due to roof problems and tire blowouts but we also purposely built in some time, buffer time, in our itinerary.
Matt, being Matt, was a little ‘nerped’ that that we didn’t have enough time in our schedule to visit the park. That’s one reason I love Matt. He keeps me on point.

We drove through Yellowstone anyway and it was a nice detour from the I-90 route…



…but took longer than we thought it might so we stayed just east of the park in ….

The Cabin:


Some of the best scenery was just east of Yellowstone.



After that, we literally drove east for a day and a half… …stopping only to eat…






…And grab some nifty souvenirs…


Note: somewhere in South Dakota, I noticed the Ironhorse’s spare tire was making a awful rattling sound. Learning from our tire incident (see PJ or bust Part I), we chose not to ignore the sound. It turns out that the ‘swing away arm’ that the spare tire rests on was cracked.

Long story short, we backed into a tree in the Alaska and it finally caught up with me. So now we have a spare tire as a companion in the van.


Speaking of companions, we met back up with Mike Moses after he finished his work in the state of Montana. He made a last-minute decision that was okayed by Laura, his wife, and hopped in the van on the quest for Pearl Jam.


Luckily he did because we needed his expert weather tracking skills to dodge one of the more gnarly thunderstorms we’ve encountered.



Partial Nerpy:


Half Nerped:


Fully Nerped:


We finally arrived in East Troy on Friday evening, right on schedule. Massive love to Matty for putting in some long hours driving the iron horse.
We anticipate some great hangout time watching a band we grew up with. Perfect.

It’s funny, I can’t do as much physically as I used to, so sometimes I feel like I’m not helping on these trips. But, when we got into the hotel in East Troy, Mike and Matt commented that this is one of the coolest things they’ve ever done and I helped spearhead it, so that felt good. And we haven’t even seen any music yet!

Play the vid:

“…One night thunder cracked.
Mercy backed outside her windowsill.
Dreamed I was flying high above the trees over the hills….”

PJ or Bust (Part I)

August 30, 2011:

Michel flew home with the family and Matt Shaw offered to road trip with me back to NOLA. We thought it might be fun to see the Pearl Jam anniversary show on the way. What an epic way to wrap up this summer’s trip.
Being raised in Washington and being “a child of the 90’s”, I have grown up with Pearl Jam in the background, and sometimes, the foreground of my life. I can lay songs from the bands portfolio over scenes from my life like a soundtrack. Highschool – College – Pregame – Postgame. I’m not alone on that, I know. Twenty years later…

Matt and I did some route calculations and decided to go for it. Next stop Wisconsin…


Jim Salters offered to join me for the second leg. Milwaukee to NOLA. I anticipate a great trip but already miss Michel. It is amazing how much a part of each other we are.

Sitting on the dash as we loaded the Ironhorse:


As Matt and I were about to leave spokane, the poptop roof frame broke. It took us (help from my dad) the better part of two hours just to get it down and locked in place.

Pre-broken roof photo…


We finally hit on the road and started getting that road trip vibe, when my drivers side, rear tire de-treaded!


The velocity of the tread severed my water intake and my coolant line also…

Thinking we may never get to Milwaukee, we limped into Kellogg Idaho. We happened to find a tire shop and they luckily, were able to get us on back the road.


A little post action play by play from Shappy:

Knowing that we definitely were not going to make our intended destination (Bozeman, MT) today, we took a slight detour and rendezvoused with Mike Moses who was on business in Helena Montana.



It sounds cliché but most road trips like this really are more about the journey than the destination. Being able to catch up with Mike in such an organic fashion was really special for all of us.

“…I can’t see what’s next from this lonely overpass…”

Infinite Joy

We thought this might be a good ‘side post’ to our adventures.
ESPN listed the top 10 plays of the past 25 years.

Play this video:

I don’t think the video is formatted for mobile playback.

The Variscos storm the NW – Couer D’alene

So we spent the next couple of days living in this:


We enjoyed breakfasts outside in the crisp Northwest weather:



We took morning walks / golf cart rides along the beautiful grounds and golf courses of Black Rock:
(some in our new Gonzaga Prep attire)






Sean did lots of filming:



We hung out at the Black Rock country club:




We bade farewell to Seanny P


We carted to the beach on Lake Couer D’alene:



We hung out with friends:





We took a cocktail cruise on the Stewart’s Stancraft “the hornet” – after Paul impressed Steve and Michel by jumping in the cold lake:





We hung out at night by the fire pit with the colored heat flames and chatted with friends and looked at the stars. Unfortunately, no pics available.

We played liverpool rummi..



It was a heavenly few days – some of our favorites of the trip.
Thanks to Ray and Annette Kish for letting us stay in their house – we’re fortunate to have such loving, amazing people in our lives.