Living It Up On a Summer Road Trip

Chicago Theater_Steve Miller Band

Winters here in the Twin Cities are looong. So when things start to turn green, Bill and I get crazy. Big-time. We maximize the season and make sure to focus on the things that bring us joy. Nature, outdoor dining, concerts, boating on the lake, walks in the park, watching storms, adventuring, and exploring our beautiful city.

For the last several years, we’ve done what we call a “Midwest Summer Road Trip.” We check to see which of our favorite musicians are touring somewhere in the Midwest…and then we plot out a plan of attack. Our past summer road trips have included Neil Diamond, Fleetwood Mac, and Steely Dan, to name a few. And the destinations have spanned Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Thanks go out to this year’s catalyst – the Steve Miller Band! With two back-to-back Midwest shows on their tour schedule, we were all in.

For us, a concert is never “just a concert.” And a road trip is never “just a road trip.” We make the absolute most out of everything we do. Call it “quirky,” “preference,” “over-the-top,” “habit” – whatever you want. It’s what we do.

While we put together somewhat of an agenda for our road trip, we also stay open to allowing the trip to unfold. When we trust that everything will work out perfectly, we’re always blessed with the most amazing experiences. To give you an idea of how things work out, I decided to bring you along on this year’s road trip!

2011 Midwest Summer Road Trip

The first Steve Miller Band (SMB) concert was in the big city of Chicago. The drive from Minneapolis gets to be a bit long and we like to break it up. So, Bill ditched cube-ville at the end of the workday in the middle of the week…and raced home to get the first leg of our drive underway.

I’m tellin’ ya – everything was on our side. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, and “life” was at its peak. In the car, we set our intention for what we’d like to experience on the road trip. Both of us agreed: “Be present, breathe it all in, and stay open to the magic of the moment.”

There. Intention set.

Our first night we stayed in the middle of Wisconsin and arrived at Hotel #1 under a purple dusk sky. A beautiful crescent moon shone over the parking lot as we unloaded our stuff. To our surprise, when we got up the next morning and pulled the curtains back – this was the scene outside our window:

Michelle Stimpson_Wisconsin Cornfield

I had never been up that close to a cornfield before, and now I get why some horror movies are made with a cornfield as the set. Uber dark and spooky! But so cool to be up close in the daylight when things are safe.

Back on the road, once we crossed the Illinois border – we got to play one of our favorite games. For every toll booth we hit, we left extra money and told the person behind the window to pay for the next few people. Each time we were met with: “What do you mean?” or “Are you sure you want to do that?” Not only did we (hopefully) put a smile on the face of the drivers behind us, but we also gave the worker quite a smile and a lift. And the best part was that every single interaction made our day, too. Try it sometime!

Several toll booths later and after the slow drive into downtown Chicago, we finally got to Hotel #2. Which just happened to be the largest Hyatt in the world. Who knew?

Hyatt Downtown Chicago

We got settled and found a hoppin’ bar near the venue that was playing SMB tunes to get everyone fired up. Then on to the historic Chicago Theater.

Concert #1

What fun to meet up with our buddies, Kenny and Joseph, long-time SMB members, before the show.

As Kenny walked us across the stage and through the halls of the theater built in 1921, we could hear the distant piano playing beautifully backstage and echoing throughout. Joseph was getting ready!

We got a tour of the backstage operations, and I was enthralled looking at the walls in the stairwell…so much history. So many legends had once performed there and left their mark.

George Carlin

Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme

Incredibly cool to be in a small historic theater and also hang out in the green room.

Michelle Stimpson & Kenny Lee Lewis

Joseph Wooten & Michelle Stimpson

The show was, of course, fantastic and had us up on our feet dancing and smiling from ear-to-ear throughout the entire show!

Michelle Stimpson & Bill Stimpson_Chicago Theater

Steve Miller

Afterwards, we hung out and met even more cool people – in the green room and then at a hotel lobby bar. Great deep and meaningful conversation, mixed in with laughs that still make my stomach hurt!

Bill Stimpson, Michelle Stimpson, Kenny Lee Lewis

Bill and I are usually in bed by 10, but when you’re a rockstar things are different. We raided the mini-bar back in our room and ransacked the chocolate shelf. Finally shut our eyes just before 3 a.m.

Thank goodness for room-darkening curtains.

But then up early to make our way to the next city! We love road trips and all that they embody. One of my sweetest memories is of Bill and me eating our picnic lunch at a rest stop along the highway. You can always count on Subway to come through, regardless of the city.

Bill Stimpson_Picnic

The peacefulness and quiet with the summer breeze was so pure and refreshing. A butterfly hung out with us – and encircled us – the entire time. We saw cars pull up from a variety of states and we snickered at the various dogs flying out of the car as soon as the door opened. The cicadas were rockin’. And we were smiling. I gave Driver Bill the traditional shoulder rub, and then we were off and back on the road.

A few miles down the highway, I felt a little sheepish as we passed the SMB tour bus. I’m hoping that doesn’t officially define us as “groupies.” Or does it?

Next stop: Davenport, Iowa. We checked into Hotel #3 and hit the Mississippi Valley Fair where the band was doing a grandstand show. What a difference from the night before – outdoors and with 16,000 more people!

Concert #2

Our first purchase at the fair was two slices of pizza and two beers…totaling LESS than one drink at the Ritz in downtown Chicago the night before. Sheesh!

Bill Stimpson_Mississippi Valley Fair

Kenny Lee Lewis & Bill Stimpson

It was a blast to explore the grounds, meet some of the local folks, and see how they do things there. Everyone was super friendly.

Once again, it was great to hang out backstage. My highlight was giving the guys a hug as they were heading up to the stage…and a hug at the end of the night as they came off the stage. Priceless. I was one lucky girl.

Michelle Stimpson_Backstage Tent

Another fun moment was when Steve Miller heard about my blog and the premise for “Following Your Joy.” His comment: “That’s what it’s all about, and it’s why we’re all here.” Amen to that one!

I’ll never forget watching the 20,000 concert-goers, in amazement, from behind the stage. What a vantage point. Some up on shoulders, some hula-hooping, some smacking beach balls, everyone having a great time. It’s those moments frozen in time that can move me to tears. The way music connects all of us at the core is so powerful. I didn’t know one person out of the 20,000 and yet felt deeply connected to all of them for those couple hours.

Kenny does a great job of explaining this “transference of joy” via music in our previous interview. And Joseph excels at reminding people that even in a sea of thousands, we each matter.

Ahh…so grateful for another fabulous night…

Michelle Stimpson_Backstage Mississippi Valley Fair

Michelle Stimpson_Missippi Valley Fair Backstage

Bill with Randy, Diana & Jessica

Bill and I always trust that our paths cross with exactly the right people we are supposed to meet. And between those two nights, we connected with no less than a dozen people that we felt a “soul connection” with. You know who you are! And we’re grateful you showed up in our path. :)

Another late night and then back to our hotel.

The homestretch

This time, it was good to wake up on the homestretch of our road trip. Nowhere to be. No schedules. No rockstar performances. Just us.

We got out the map and instead of making the long trek home, we decided to pick a city along the way to set up camp for our last night.

Back on the road and found a patio for lunch, enjoying the sunshine and summer air.

Bill Stimpson & Michelle Stimpson_Road Trip Lunch

Then in the car, we blasted our SMB tunes, sang along, and reminisced about all the fun we had at the two shows. 

It was Clear Lake, Iowa, we chose for our last stop. Who would have thought that on that particular weekend, it was their biggest event of the year? There was a classic car parade with over 600 classic cars and a big town dance in the park that night. Funny! Some of the hotels had been sold out for over a year, but we happened to get a room on a cancellation. Meant to be, huh?

We learned that this was the town where Buddy Holly and crew played their last gig before the fateful plane crash in 1959. Haunting music trivia.

Classic Car

Classic Car

Classic Car

We walked around the town marveling at all the mint-condition classic cars and then made our way to dinner. Afterwards, we sat on a bench and watched a park full of people dance to the music coming from the pavilion.

Pavilion_Clear Lake, Iowa

The band played a bunch of 50’s tunes, which isn’t our style, but it was so heartwarming to watch the older (older than us, at least!) couples dance…you could tell this music brought them right back to their younger days as they smiled and whooped it up in front of the stage.

We saw moms twirling babies and grandpas jumping up and down with toddlers. Such a joyful scene.

When the band took a break, so did we. The park was right on the lake, and the moon was shining brightly overhead. We walked out to the end of a public dock and got mesmerized in the moon’s reflection on the water and the warm evening breeze.

When the evening was over, we drove out to the darkest country road we could find and turned the car off. We watched the spectacular lightning show way off in the distance, reveled in the warm nighttime breeze, and didn’t say a word as we listened in amazement at the sheer volume coming from ‘whatever those insects were’ in the grass and trees! The epitome of a summer moment. It’s these kind of experiences that make you pause with a full heart.

The next morning as we headed toward home, we were ready. Ready to get unpacked, ready to sleep in our own bed, ready to get back to our regular routine. And as we cruised up the Interstate, we talked about how grateful we were for such a fantastic road trip. Chock full of nature, music, and deep soulful connections. We’re so happy we made this trip a priority!


Following your joy

Following your joy is about deciding what’s important to you…and then doing something about it. It’s about making space in your life for the things you love. This is exactly what I help my clients with, and I base my LifeShine business on this great quote by Harold Whitman:

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Does the way you live your life match with what matters most to you?

A great indicator is to take a look at how you’re spending your time, your money, and your energy. Are those precious resources of yours going toward the things that are important to you? Or are things a little (or a lot) “off”? If so, that’s okay. Now is the perfect time to make adjustments.

First, take some time to get clear on the things you love and the things that jazz you. Need some help? Here’s a great way to get started. And then be sure that a chunk of your time, money, and energy are focused in those areas. If that feels like too big of a leap, no worries. Start small.

It has taken Bill and me time over the years to clarify what’s most important to us and then learn how to structure our lives in a way that’s aligned with our true spirits. You may have even read about our major life overhaul when we sold our custom-built dream home and downsized and started the business? Check it out – it’s a great read. Just remember that life is a journey, and wherever you are right now is perfect.

One thing we’ve known at the core – and declared when we were first dating almost two decades ago – is that vacations and adventure are A1 top priority. And both of us have been loving and enjoying concerts since we were each in junior high. So, these Midwest Summer Road Trips we’ve created couldn’t match our “aliveness” meter any better. :)

When I posted a hot-off-the-press photo on Facebook from our road trip, one of my friends commented: “I like the way you guys roll.” Thanks, Jill. Me, too!

Following your joy feels goood. It adds such depth and richness to life.

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7 Responses to “Living It Up On a Summer Road Trip”

  • Randy G says:

    Wow…Looked Like a Fun Time…Rain and all…..Here today in LA Doing Rehearsals for all the R&B Jazz Guys getting ready for the Cruise to Alaska….Adventure is out there!…Always Randy G

  • Char says:

    Thank you for letting me “live” your trip along with you! Truly enjoyed it!! I feel more relaxed right now and just plain happy!! :-) Ahh…those Upper Midwest Summer Nights!!!!

  • Wow! What a joy-packed trip! On the day you were leaving town, Brad said something about you guys hitting the road to see The Steve Miller Band and then we remarked to each other how great it is you found each other – two peas in a rockin’ pod! So glad you had such a great time together.

  • @ Randy: Great to hear from you and thank you for being a fun part of our experience! Have FUN on that cruise and enjoy every moment. Can’t wait to hear about it!

    @ Char: And thank YOU for going along with us! I’m smiling knowing that you are feeling relaxed and happy. Me, too. :)

    @ Liv: My favorite new phrase for Bill and me: “two peas in a rockin’ pod.” Love it!

  • Tim says:

    Hey Michelle:

    Thanks for sharing your musical journey…you and your husband have great taste in music and, I’m sure, you’re very fun to hang out with. I’m a Steve Miller Band fan and my only chance to see them when they opened for the Grateful Dead in Chicago back in the summer of 93(?). Steve came on stage to jam a few tunes with Jerry and the boys.

    Thanks for sharing your photo’s of backstage at the Chicago Theater…while I live in CHI and have seen some great shows at that theater…I’ve never seen those interesting scribbles.

    Thanks, also, for sharing your philosophy about following your joy…so cool that you’re able to articulate it so well. Keep on rockin’!

  • @ Tim: Hi there and thank you SO much for the fun comment! Your positivity and support surely made me smile today. Sounds like we share a similar love of music! I appreciate you being here and taking the time to read the post and share your sweet thoughts. Thanks, Tim!

  • Phil Bolsta says:

    Michelle, you and Bill are made for each other. Every post I read drives home that point over and over!

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

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