A road trip to remember down memory lane

Rick Stiebel | Columnist

When George suggested we sail over to Abbottsford to see Santana, my initial response was lukewarm. Once it became clear that the trip would not include our beloved brides, however, I was full in in a blink.

Road trips with George span a friendship that dates back to 1965. They could stock a library of books filled with dusty reminisces and recollections in the vault of what we still remember, or have to remind each other of. The tales and chapters, some best left untold, have distilled into a comfortable chemistry that only we can decipher.

Many of the most memorable moments revolve around an old apartment we shared at 2484 Mayfair St. in Montreal, a den of innocence and iniquity located near what was once called Loyola College.

Back in the infant days of peace and love, that flat was a revolving door for friends, roommates, draft dodgers and an odd assortment of vaguely questionable characters. Those years have the feel of a favourite concert T-shirt, one you pull out of the closet occasionally because it’s such a comfortable fit, despite mother time’s wear and tear or occasional tug on a thread.

The first time George saw Santana was at Woodstock, perched upon a grassy rise with a couple of hundred kindred souls that included my brother Rod’s brother-in-law, Gary. You might recall him from the movie that attempted to capture those fabled three days in upper New York State. Gary’s the guy in a white shirt, the first to slide across the screen in a splash of mud and euphoria.

George’s one Woodstock regret was not hanging in long enough to see Jimi Hendrix, while I still lament leaving on the second day with Heather from Lincoln, Nebraska, who thanked me for a ride to Montreal by infecting me with something that put me in the hospital for 10 traumatic days.

While George and I scaled back the shenanigans that would have been an integral most road trips in the past, we still laughed a lot more than I have in a long long time. We’re at the age where although we realize this may have been our last foray, we came home buoyed by the belief that similar adventures further on up the road remain within reach.

If that trip last week indeed turns into a last hurrah, Carlos and his band made it a most memorable farewell. They filled the place packed with weaving heads of hair mostly grey and white with two hours plus of musical manna that had them shifting gears effortlessly from older songs to new. The vocalists were diverse and superb, even angelic at times, rising above the ruckus of perfectly controlled percussion while Santana picked the spots to put his guitar brilliance on full display. If you left that arena disappointed, you don’t have a pulse. Gracias, Carlos and George, for reminding me there’s still some rock and roll left rattling around in these old bones.

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Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.

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