Shinybass Journal Entry 03-07-15
Oh, the Places You Will Go!
There are many ‘I can’t believe it’ moments I can recall in my career. The first time I played the Ryman was one of those. The thrill of playing Woodstock ’99 was up there, but looking back on it, that memory was slightly tarnished by the festival’s sad overtones. Traveling for 2 USO tours – one to Europe, and one to the South Pacific – were both full of those moments. The list actually is a lot longer than I’d like to admit. I’ve been fortunate to see and do a lot of amazing things.
When I saw this particular show and location date on the calendar, I had to sort of pinch myself. There are a lot of perks to this job, and my musician friends (who know the secret), please bear with me for this part. When someone has an idea to have entertainment for a function, well, that’s a good thing, because we are entertainment. The up (and sometimes down) side to that is when the function is a cruise, a festival in a remote part of the world, or a private function on an exotic resort. Well, when someone says ‘Hey Phil Vassar and band, we want to hire you to play our company party. Oh, and it’s in Costa Rica at the Four Seasons resort.’ I think more often than not, one would say yes.
So at a time where the entire country is frozen beyond recognition, we packed up our sunscreen and our flippy-floppies and hopped down to the first fully-certified environmentally sustaining country in the world. Wow. Where do I start, except for wow. I tried to read ahead to know what to expect and maybe get some insight as to what to do and see with the limited time available. As fate would have it, there was plenty of time for everything, even without a plan.
The Four Seasons is impeccable. The service, the food, the grounds – everything. We each had our own rooms overlooking one of two beaches, 4 pools, and lush tropical fauna, We spotted monkeys on the beach and in the trees, and huge iguanas roamed the grounds as green parrots flew overhead. We were greeted at the airport by cold Imperial beers and ice-cold towels. Not a bad start.
Upon check-in, I grabbed the activities sheets offered by the resort, and the possibilities are staggering, without having to pay a cent. My goals were simple: I wanted to see Monkey Head Island, and I wanted to do something offsite a little unique. The rest was gravy.
Checking in, I ordered a fat Caesar salad from room service and opened my massive teak patio doors to let the breeze and sounds of the ocean help me wind down from my day of travel. A little Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington go a long way to help soothe me as well. As the lush tropical breezes wafted through my room, I picked my horse for the morning: a zip line experience.
I called JDawg and told him I would treat him for his birthday if he wanted to go. He and I are slightly scared of heights, and as we walked up to the first line, he started to think about backing out. Needless to say, we had the best time. The runs were set up in the canopy of a place called Witches Rock, and the longest line was over ¼ mile long over a huge ravine. I highly recommend it, and if you have the helmet strap for your GoPro, bring that as well. The setup is top-notch, and the views are insane. It’s the dry season, and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be in the summer with waterfalls and a lush green landscape.
The video I am posting is what NOT to do during a zip line adventure. Do not put your hands in front of the pulley. It could cut off a finger with notice. Keep your hands and fingers safe, and enjoy this quick ride over the Costa Rican jungle. Oh, and Bill Gates rode this zip line. Twice.
Jeff and I headed back to the resort for lunch, then met up with the rest of the band, regaling them with stories from the canopy. Phil got so excited, he wanted to go as well, so later that afternoon, we were back. Again, we had such an amazing time, as is evident by the smiles in all the video footage.
All the meals on site were so well done from top to bottom. The preparation was perfect, as was the presentation, and I didn’t have anything that wasn’t a 10. I had some of the best ceviche of my life, and the breakfast offerings were like no other (I’m still smiling from my white chocolate/coconut/banana pancakes…)
The time I spent on the beach was pretty extensive as well. If I had 45 minutes before I had someplace to be, I was on the sand. I didn’t go in the pool once. What’s the point when the Pacific Ocean is outside of your door? I was up at 6AM and walking the beaches with my coffee, and late at night letting the wide moon and hermit crabs be my company as the day passed from reality into memory.
On the day of the show, I managed to snorkel twice, once with Jefferson and once solo with the camera. I loved the fact that when soundcheck was moved from noon to two, I could just walk out and jump in, then clean up before I had to go to work. And with GoPro in hand, I managed to grab some decent footage from just a few feet blow the waves.
We actually did have a show, which was a lot of fun. It’s always hit or miss on backline gear (especially in more remote locations), however, we were able to get (almost) everything in working order. My Ampeg SVT rig had seen better days, but I was able to muster up a usable tone. At that point, the harsh reality is that no one really cares if your tone isn’t what you are used to: they want to hear the hits.
Our show ended, and I FaceTimed my wife to say goodnight, then walked downstairs to again let the moon tell me a story. I had a hard time sleeping, and I actually dreamed of stingrays and crocodiles between periods of lying awake. I was up first thing again, only to be told that our flight home was cancelled, and we would have to overnight in Newark before we could get home. Well, it was only 8AM, and I still had 3 hours before our shuttle left for the airport, so I was going to make the most of it.
I asked a resort guide if we could kayak to Monkey Island. He smiled and said of course, so this morning at 8:45, I was in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean kayaking to a rock formation that was simply amazing. My guide, Adam, was great. He told me stories of the area and the local ‘spots’ – best beaches, best fishing, and he was a new Dad as well, so we had some things to talk about. I was back in my room by 10:15, and I made it to the lobby at 10:45, and now I am in the middle of a 6-hour flight to New Jersey.
The couple next to me is Canadian, and they have just concluded a month in Costa Rica. They found a reasonably priced rental house, and walked 2 minutes to the beach every evening to watch the sunset. A fine ritual indeed. They have plans for 2 months next time. Pura Vida indeed. Meeting random people with great attitudes can really motivate your soul.
They say no good deed goes unpunished. Well, that’s the truth. First, we are leaving, oh, heaven for 2 feet of snow. The heaviest thing I packed to wear was a hoodie. It’s like 4 degrees in Jersey. I am OK with easing back into society and real life, however, this is like a truck slamming into my existence head on. I ended up buying a different flight home that would get me back to Nashville sooner than the rest of the band. My wife was leaving for job training for the week, and being Daddy day care for 5 days needs more prep time than the other flight would have allowed. But that was in the morning. For now, we just wanted to get through the airport.
And that was no easy feat. Since over 6000 flights were canceled, we were with hundreds of weary, pissed off travelers trying to get through customs and to a hotel. Our fearless leaded, ‘Scud’ Buchanan was ahead of the game, and had booked us a hotel immediately when the flights were derailed. The trick now was just getting there. Every elevator, tram, and shuttle was backed up, and there was a 2-3 cycle wait for everything. We had a half an hour line just to leave customs.
Ah well, the calzone arrived somewhere around 12;45, and by 1Am I was upstairs and almost in bed, ready to dream of Monkey Head Island and smiling at the fact that only 16 hours prior I was in the Pacific Ocean, letting the morning sun kiss my shoulders as I paddled in sparkling blue-green waters, and now I was in Newark, frozen in on the Eastern Seaboard. Oh,God, you are a prankster.
The flight home was easy as pie, and the sunset headed home was awfully nice, but in a different way than the one pictured above. I was headed home to see my family. Travel is great, but there really is no place like home.
So there you go. A few thousand miles, a few red sunburn spots on my back, and only a short delay getting home. It could have been much worse, I suppose, and I think I am OK with wherever someone wants to fly me to play my guitar for a couple of hours. Next stop: Illinois and Wisconsin. I WILL remember my heavy coat, I WILL remember my heavy coat…
See you on the road!