Today is a free day, albeit with a bit of travel. Very frustratingly I couldn’t sleep at all during the night, and was awake at 2am, when Liz, back in England was waking up, which meant we could have a chat online.
Eventually I managed to drop off and sleep until 7.30. I don’t have to leave until 12, but I seem to have spread my belongings far and wide throughout the room, so there will be quite a long period of consolidation and packing to be done.
My first job is to get a little washing done (the two ‘Tale of Two Cities Shirts’ suffered from the green dye in the waistcoat so I want to get them cleaned as soon as possible. Having done that I continue down to the lobby which is a seething mass of humanity. There is not a chair to be found, so I decide to go out for my breakfast.
It is cold outside, but the sky is bright blue, with a smear of white cloud across it to break the monotony.
Between the radio station that I visited on Friday and the gift shop that I visited yesterday there is a little café called Delice, which looks promising. I order a yoghurt and granola, as well as a croissant and sit near the window. It is a typical Sunday-morning scene in a café, that is replicated throughout the world: couples sit, sipping coffees, reading newspapers. Some students study, with books, folders and papers spread over their tables, whilst others are sat with their ears plugged in to a laptop or tablet, watching a movie, or a streamed TV show. At another table an actor checks his phone to see what the latest stats are for his blog site. It is very quiet, but much more relaxing than The Element would have been.
When I have finished, I stroll back to the hotel and slowly begin to fold and pack, watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the TV as I do so. It is very sad to see Alan Rickman and Roger Lloyd-Pack, both of whom died far too young.
As I am creating some semblance of order out of the chaos, a message comes in from Kimberly Howard in Kansas City, my next venue, saying that there is a live TV interview tomorrow morning and she will pick me up at 6.30am. It is a reminder that even though today feels like an ending, it is actually just another link in the chain that is my complete tour.
I finish packing (remembering to recover my shirts from the laundry) and load my cases into my neglected Camry in the parking garage. At midday, I leave The Element and follow the instructions that will lead me to Kansas City, a distance of some 161 miles. These instructions, it should be said, are not complicated: ‘Get on Route 29. Don’t steer for 3 hours. Arrive.’
It is not an exciting journey by any sense, in fact it is mind-numbingly dull, but a few things catch my eye. At one point I see a cemetery on a hill side, which does not appear to be anywhere near a community of any sort. Possibly it is reserved for drivers who fell asleep along the way.
On I drive.
I am overtaken by a 5 litre Mustang – what is the point of having one of those on roads like this? He is doing around 75mph, so is probably using a fraction of the power available to him, he doesn’t need the immense amount of torque, for there is no rapid acceleration to be done, and he doesn’t need performance steering and braking because there are no corners, and nothing to stop for. It looks nice though.
On I drive.
The only thing you can buy on this road are fireworks for the route is lined by countless Firework warehouses (when I stop for lunch I can see Shelby Fireworks, The Firework Emporium and Liberty Fireworks just from the restaurant window.)
On I drive.
Some birds dive and swoop in magnificent murmurations, over the flat, dusty landscape.
On I drive.
A freight train rattles beside the road, travelling in the opposite direction, and I marvel at the length of it: three mighty diesel locomotives at the front and then well over a mile of trucks, before more locomotives bring up the rear. I wish I could hear the hooter, or the bells at a crossing.
I drive from Nebraska, into Iowa and on into Missouri. To keep me entertained I listen first to my Christmas playlist, in a vain attempt to feel Christmassy, before playing the original soundtrack recording of 42nd Street. Next April, Liz and I, along with her sister Sheila and brother-in-law Martin, are going to see the show in London’s West End. I can’t wait to watch it again as its one of my favourite musicals. Soon I am bellowing out the well-remembered words to all of the songs
After 42nd street it is time for Liz, and I play her New York Connections CD and, as always when I hear her play, feel much closer to her.
Eventually I reach the Kansas City ‘City Limit’ sign and my journey is nearly over. I am actually heading to Liberty, a suburb of KC, and to a Hampton Inn that I know well. I have been coming here to perform on every single American tour that I have undertaken and have stayed in this hotel for the majority of those trips. It is lovely and comforting to be back.
As I pull into the car park Liz is playing The Entertainer, and I wait in the car until she has finished (it would be rude to cut her off in her prime).
I check in without problem and once in my room get on line to watch the first episode of The Grand Tour (the Amazon Prime programme created out of the ashes of BBC’s Top Gear), which premiers in the USA today. At once it is apparent that the production values are amazing, and it is great to see Clarkson, Hammond and May doing they do best. It is also apparent how poor the BBC’s attempt to re-hash Top Gear was in comparison.
When signing on I also discover an email from Pam Byers, who books and coordinates the tour from Byers’ HQ in Pennsylvania, to mention that I was supposed to take an interview call this morning which I wasn’t in my room for. I am so angry with myself: Pam had told me about the interview a week ago and I have no excuse other than plain forgetfulness. It is unprofessional and not good. Hopefully we will be able to arrange something tomorrow, instead.
At 7 go to dinner, remembering to take the little card wallet with my room number on it. For the past four days I have been in 620 and now I am in 230 -I am bound to get confused, so best to have a memory aid with me.
When I get in the car the Bluetooth connection catches my phone and instantly Liz is playing The Maple Leaf Rag to me, as I drive the short distance to the Longhorn Stake house, that I have frequented before.
I have my Kindle with me and read some more of ‘1606. The Year of Lear’ as I enjoy a Ribeye and baked potato, accompanied by some asparagus in lemon butter. It is a good dinner, but I am tired, thanks my relatively sleepless night. I return to the hotel at 8.30 and settle in for the evening. Hampton Inn has no Turner Classic, so it is back to a diet of CSI and NCIS, although it quite irrelevant for sleep takes me early tonight.