Greetings Everyone: From August 7th through the 13th, I took a wonderful road trip through Northern California and Western Oregon. During that time I drove nearly 1500 miles and saw plenty of beautiful scenery. I also reconnected with family and friends, sharing laughs, stories, and lots of music. But on the last night of my travels, for a few dicey moments I thought my return home might get delayed. For the first time in my many years of driving, I was within a hundred feet of some serious forest fires. The location of these fires was Lewiston, CA, roughly a hundred miles south of the Oregon border. I'd opted to take Highway 3, a gorgeous side road away from the quicker, more heavily traveled Interstate 5 route I usually take between Portland and San Francisco. Even with the fires, I have no regrets that I took this longer, more scenic route. But by the time I got to Covington Mill, a tiny California town about 40 miles north of Lewiston, a local grocery store owner warned me to prepare for the worst. The air already was filled with thick smoke, and I was still a good distance away from the fires. He warned me that I may have to delay my return home a day or two due to possible road closures. It's one thing to watch fire fighters on the television news. It's quite another to be driving along and suddently seeing multiple patches of raging flames on the hillsides all around you. That, and dozens of fire trucks and emergency vehicles, with busloads of firemen being rushed in to deal with the fires, etched a memory into my mind that will likely last a lifetime. I had extended my trip as long as I possibly could, and was due back for a 4 PM piano performance the following day - Thursday, August 13th. But at the moment, I was still six hours from home. Not being one to cancel a gig for any reason, I was determined to make it back for this one. But numerous roadside signs were visible throughout my final night of driving that warned "Roads are subject to closure at any time." I quickly made it my goal just to get out of the region as quickly and safely as I could. Fortunately, I succeeded. I fought my way through numerous delays and one-lane controlled traffic to limp into Redding a little before midnight. After a good night's sleep, I had a mere three hour drive the next day, and made it to my performance with room to spare. There were plenty of highlights during my trip that were more welcome than the fires. Playing music with old friends Will Sullivan and Jim Schlauch, with whom I co-founded The Spunkies musical aggragation 28 years ago, was a treat. So was a fun musical session I had with Jim Nolan, an old friend from high school. I also spent time with my dear friends Steve and Paula Barsotti, some cousins and in-laws, and of course my wonderful parents, Ted and Rita Hudak. It's always fun returning to one's home and hometown, and in spite of the growth and changes, Portland remains an outstanding city in so many ways. There was also some music business conducted during my trip, with stops at several stores who carry or will be carrying my CD's for sale. It's fair to say that Portland and Oregon in general has some of the nicest, friendliest people anywhere on earth. They also have lots of great radio stations and music lovers. For me, there's nothing quite like a road trip. The daily routine of cleaning out the cooler and adding new ice and re-freezing ice packs quickly becomes a ritual. As is repositioning of clothes, hiking boots, and the array of musical instruments and equipment I always seem to carry with me on my roadtrips. That's one great advantage driving offers over flying: you can pack a lot more stuff and have many more choices as to what you eat and drink. But driving certainly takes longer than flying. And forest fires are a lot more dangerous when driving near or around them than they are when you can literally fly over them. But then, that bit of danger and suspense only added to the adventure of what I'll refer to as My Road Trip Of August '09. Till later, then. Thanks for checking in. Jim

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Jim Hudak

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