2008 Braun Brothers Reunion, Challis, ID

This past weekend Chris, Jake, Diane and I took a trip to see a concert; The Braun Brothers Reunion. What's about to follow is a very wordy recount of our trip. If you aren't ready for a good long read, you may want to turn back now. You've been warned.

Thursday afternoon I got off work around 4:00 PM. When I got home, Chris and I ran to the store for some last minute supplies for our trip. Over the past week or so we have flip-flopped on which car we were going to take for the trip. When we started pulling out all the items that we were taking, it became obvious that we had to go with the Charger for the extra space in the trunk. We began packing the trunk and when we had all our stuff in, the trunk was roughly 3/4 full. Unfortunately we hadn't picked up Jake, Diane or any of their stuff yet. No problem, we'll figure it out when we get to their house.

We arrived at Jake & Diane's around 7:00 PM. We quickly came to the conclusion that we could leave their tent behind and all share the 6 person tent we already had packed. We took out some of the stuff we had packed and then tried to organize everything so we could make it fit. Here's what was in the trunk: 2 ice chests, 4 sleeping bags, 1 suitcase, 1 gym bag, 1 camera backpack, 1 tripod, 2 full sized pillows, 2 sleeping mats, 1 tent, 1 inflatable air mattress, 2 jackets, 1 air pump, 1 bag of snacks. I think that about covers it. It took us a few minutes, but we made it all fit and we were on our way.

Thanks to Google Maps, our route would take us up the 15 freeway, through Salt Lake City in to Idaho. The drive to SLC is long. Driving it after you've already worked a full day is not a lot of fun. But, to be honest, I'm a TERRIBLE passenger. If I'm going to be in the car, I want to be driving. And, for the sanity of everybody else in the car, it's best you let me have my way on this one. As we were approaching SLC, it was a little bit after 1:00 AM. We had passed the half way point of the drive, so I decide it was time to pull off the road, find a hotel and rest until morning. The first exit we tried had 6 hotels. All of them had no vacancy. No problem, we'll just stop at the next exit. Once again, no vacancy. Rinse, Lather, Repeat. They would tell us, “Just go a little bit North of here and you'll have better luck.” This same scenario happened for the next 3.5 hours. Finally, at some point after the sun started rising, we found a place that had rooms available. This was in Blackfoot, ID. That's 188 miles away from SLC. Needless to say, I was super tired by this time and it took only a few minutes for me to go to sleep.

At one point on our drive in the middle of the night, we went through a stretch of road that was inundated with flying bugs of some sort. They were pelting my car leaving their lips and assholes all over the place. When the song playing on the CD ended, I realized that you could hear the constant sounds of the bugs hitting the windshield. When we made our next stop I got to see the carnage that happened on my front bumper and grill. It was not pretty. You can see it here if you'd like.

We woke up Friday morning and drove to Arco, ID where we stopped and had breakfast at Pickle's Place. As a bit of a joke I picked up one of their frequent diner cards. After 10 visits we get $10 off our next meal. If we make this trip annually, it'll be a while before I get that discount. After breakfast we finished up the drive to Challis, ID.

We arrived at the camp grounds in the early afternoon. We checked in, found our spot and made quick work of unpacking the trunk and setting up our tent. The ground was hard as hell, and even though we had a hammer, it was quite difficult to get the anchor rods in the ground. We did the best we could and called it a day. Since the show didn't start until 6, we had some time to kill, so we drank some beer and played some cards sitting in front of our tent. Then the rain started so the game moved inside the tent. The sky dumped pretty hard for a little bit and the wind was blowing making the sides of the tend bow in towards us. I wasn't sure it was going to stay standing, but it did just fine. We hung out in there until it was time to head to the show. By this time the rain had stopped and it was back to being nice and hot.

Our campground was just about 2 miles away from the venue. Some people chose to walk it, but I thought it would be a much better idea to drive. I was thinking more about how it wasn't going to be much fun to walk the 2 miles back at the end of the night as I expected we'd be standing on our feet for the next 6 hours. When we got to the show, they had us park in dirt field. I don't know if you know this or not, but a Charger is NOT an off-road vehicle. I was crossing my fingers that we didn't have a huge downpour that would turn the already soft dirt in to a giant mud puddle. Thankfully, that didn't happen and we were able to get out of the dirt with no problems at the end of the night. On our way to the show, my “low tire” warning light came on. Not a lot I could do about it at the time, so we went to the show and I figured I'd deal with it in the morning.

When I say we drove to the venue, by “venue”, I mean Golf Course. The show takes place on the driving range of the Challis Golf Course. From the parking lot it was still a pretty good hike to the entrance. When we got there we were informed that we had to finish our beers prior to being let in. They were big boy cans that we had just opened, so this took a few minutes. Finally we got in and the music was already going.  They were doing a “guitar pull.” There was a group of guys sitting on stools and each was taking turns with the guitar and the mic. When it was their turn they'd take center stage and play an acoustic song or two and then pass the mic to the next in line. The line-up was: Robert Earl Keen, Willy Braun, Muzzie Braun, Micky Braun, Cody Canada, George Devore & Randy Rogers.

One of the bands that was supposed to play had to pull out at the last minute, but that didn't slow the show down. Next we saw George Devore. This was our first time seeing him play (other than the guitar pull, of course) and I have to say, Chris and I were blown away. The guy has a fantastic voice, his songs are catchy and you could tell he was genuinely having a good time. This came through in his music and made instant fans out of both of us! We picked up his CD “Wonderland“, and I suggest you do the same.

Next up was Robert Earl Keen. I had found out a couple months ago that he was playing this show, so I went in search of a CD by him. I found out he has about 19 of 'em. So, I picked up his greatest hits called “Best“. Most of his stuff is pretty mellow and I've really enjoyed becoming familiar with some of his songs over the past month or so. Getting to see him play live was a real treat. He, too, has an excellent voice and is a great song writer. During REK's set, the weather started acting up a bit. The clouds had rolled in and there was an awesome thunderstorm. They made an announcement that they had to cut the power to the stage for a while and wait for “this stuff to pass.” About 20 minutes later they started back up and he finished his set. If you don't pick up his CD, at least give a listen to “The Road Goes on Forever“.

Finishing up Friday night's show was Reckless Kelly. They were one of the 2 main bands we were here to see. Chris and I have both been listening to these guys a lot and absolutely love their music. It's funny, with this type of music, I always tell people that they are a “country” band. But once you get these guys on stage, it's all Rock and Roll. These guys definitely rock. They played all the songs I had hoped to hear and, as was pretty common with most of the sets prior to theirs, they had members from other bands join them on stage for different songs. I loved that the show was a little less like a formal show where there's a specific set list and each song gets played exactly like it was played the time before. Pick up their CD: “Reckless Kelly Was Here.” It's a two disc live set and it rocks.

After RK finished up, we made the walk back to the car, easily made it out of the dirt and the parking lot and found our way back to camp. We figured out that our neighbors 4 spots over had also bought their tent at Walmart. They had the exact same tent as ours. I pulled up and realized we were in the WRONG spot. Hope my lights didn't wake anybody inside. Oops.

When we did find our spot, I pulled out the camera and tripod to try and take some photos of the stars. We just don't get to see that many stars in the sky here in Vegas. After a few unsuccessful shots, I headed to bed.

We got up the next morning and I watched Jake brush his teeth using Michelob Ultra to rinse. He was giving me shit for being a pansy and using water. I told him that the thought of using beer had never even crossed my mind. I felt like such a rookie to camping. After that, we went and had a nice breakfast at a little restaurant. We got there just in time as the place filled up quickly and it would have been a bit of a wait for a seat had we been a few minutes later. After breakfast we headed over to the store for some beer and a can of Fix-a-Flat. As we were nearing the door, two older ladies were standing outside smoking cigarettes. As we approached one of them reaches over and snuffs hers out and says, “You can't even have a cigarette in this fucking place!” and storms inside. It was all I could do not to bust up. Thankfully it wasn't our approach that caused her to yell. She was bitching about a guy standing at the check-out counter who she had to go wait on. We presume she was upset that another employee didn't come help him. Either way, it was funny as hell. 

We ran in to Robert Earl Keen while in the grocery store and my wife later laughed at me saying that was the first time she ever heard me tell another man, “You were great last night.” You really gotta watch what you say when you hang out with a bunch of 12 year olds. Everything turns in to a dick and fart joke.

We stopped by the gas station for some help with the low tire. The great thing about small towns is that the older guys that work in the service stations are really pleased to help you out. This nice guy advised against using the fix-a-flat unless it was really flat. He said to just put air in it and if we had any trouble we should just come right on back. He filled the tire with air for me, I thanked him and we were on our way back to camp.

The girls took turns taking showers. The guys had no time for such nonsense! A quick change of underwear and a couple swipes of deodorant was all that was needed on this trip! We vowed not to shower while out “roughing it”, so damn it, I wasn't about to go against that! We hung out and played some more cards for a while. The show was going to start at 12:45, but the first band I wanted to see wasn't on until 3:45 so we had some time to kill, so Chris and I decided we wanted to take a nap. Big mistake. Jake and Diane took off on foot towards Main street for some beers and some shopping. Chris and I laid in the tent, which felt more like an oven thanks to the mid-day sun beating down on it. After about an hour of not-so-restful rest, we gave up and headed towards Main street to meet up with our friends.

While looking for Jake and Diane, we stopped in to a place called Buxs Place Bar. This place was RUSTIC! Unfortunately we didn't stay. I would have loved to belly up to the bar and knocked back a few beers in there. Next time, I guess. We found J&D and set off for some food and beers. We found the beers, sadly no food, inside another little bar. This place was also awesome. But for different reasons. They had a full sized shuffle-board game (the kind you play on a table with sawdust) that was being played by guys wearing flannel shirts with the sleeves ripped off. There was a guy sitting at the end of the bar drinking “Natural Light” from a can. To call him a regular at this bar would have been an understatement. I'm certain if he ever moved off the stool he was on, you'd find his name carved in it. We also watched the bar tender open a new bottle of Wild Turkey. This means that somebody finished the old one. Remember, it's 2:30 in the afternoon. I also watched the waitress pour a round of shots of Jack Daniels. No, she didn't use shot glasses, she used paper Dixie cups.

By the time we finished our bucket-o-beers, time was running short and we needed to get to the show. When we got inside, Jake and Diane headed up the hill to relax on the lawn. Chris and I are more of the “Up Front” crowd, so we headed towards the stage where Pinto Bennett was already playing. Just as we found our spot to stand, a piece of ice landed a foot or so away from me. I thought we may have stopped in front of somebody and were blocking their view and they were using ice as the method to convey their displeasure. But, I turned around and didn't see anybody who looked upset, so I turned back around and went back to watching the show. Then another chunk of ice. Then another, and another. Turns out it's hail. The sky opened up a bit and let loose with chunks of ice that were roughly the size of quarters. That may not sound big, but when you get hit with one, damn that smarts! I took one on top of my shoulder, nearly on my neck and it hurt like a bitch. We turned around to watch the crowd huddling up trying to take cover under chairs or anything that would block the ice. Nobody panicked, nobody looked upset. The hail lasted about 5 minutes and then gave way to some rain. 5 minutes after that it was back to being 95 degrees and sunny. Pinto and his band never stopped their set. He only offered these words of sage advice: “Don't look up.”

This was my first time seeing/hearing Pinto Bennett. He's an old timer who plays some good ol' country music. There were quite a few people dancing to his music and signing along. I didn't recognize any of his tunes myself, but his music sounded good. I downloaded a couple tracks from iTunes to check him out. One of the songs that he wrote was performed by a different band this weekend. It's called “Carolina Morning.” Great tune. You can hear it on his MySpace page if you want to check it out.

After Pinto was Randy Rogers Band. Here is another band that would be hard to squeeze in to the “Country” box. Actually, these guys will tell you that they are more “country” than the crap you hear on today's country radio station. He is not a fan of any of it. These guys like the old school country, with a heavy mix of rock and roll. I'm noticing a pattern to the type of bands I'm enjoying the most these days. This guy has catchy tunes, an amazing fiddle player and puts on one hell of a show. I sure hope these guys will make it to Vegas! They have a bunch of CDs to choose from, but the guy at the boot suggested I check out the one called “RollerCoaster.” We bought it and gave it a couple listens on the drive home. I definitely recommend it!

Next was the Braun Family. This was a lot like the guitar pull from the previous day, but it only included members of the Braun family, of which there are plenty. This is one talented family, I have to say. Muzzie, Gary, Willy, Cody, Micky and a few others who's names I'm forgetting took turns singing all sorts of tunes. I was thinking that it must be a pretty big thrill for the parents to be on a stage and watching their kids play, too.  That has just got to be cool.

Next on stage was Cross Canadian Ragweed. I've spoke about these guys plenty of times in the past. I'm a big, big fan of their music. We've seen them here in Vegas 7 or 8 times and we've driven to St. George, Utah to see them as well. It's only fitting that they were part of the show that had us drive 700 miles to see. Once again, CCR put on a kick-ass show. We were right down front buried in the mass of people rushing the stage and we wouldn't have it any other way. Live music should enjoyed from up close and nice and loud!

CCR did something that I had heard about at one previous concert, but never actually took part in. At the end of the first song, Cody Canada took off a bracelet and says that at the end of their show you can go up to their t-shirt booth and purchase one of these bracelets. It has a flash drive built in and it will contain the recording of tonight's show. When the show ended, we went up to the booth and waited. By this time the sun had gone down and so had the temperature. It was windy and started to get pretty cold. After close to 30 minutes and still not being able to get one of the bracelets, I was just about to give in and walk away. But, they fixed the issue they were having and started selling them. We got one and headed back down to the stage. I listened to a small bit of it this evening and it's excellent. What a brilliant idea these bracelets are. I expect to start seeing them at a lot more shows as people/bands start to learn about them.

One final note about the CCR show. When we saw CCR in St. George, we saw a very drunk/obnoxious girl at the show who was also from Las Vegas. She was dancing by the stage and professing her love for the lead singer between every song. It was amusing, but at the same time annoying. Wouldn't ya know it, during the show in Idaho as we are standing in a very packed area in front of the stage, here she comes again. She plows past us without any sort of courtesy. Then I realized who it was. I was no longer surprised by the lack of manners.

Finishing off night 2 was Micky and the Motorcars. We had seen them once before when they opened up for CCR at the House of Blues here in Las Vegas. But since then they have put out 2 new albums and really started making a name for themselves. Based on the crowd reaction this weekend, from what I can tell, MMC was one of the big draws for this show. I have to say that I'm not as familiar with their music as I am with some of the other bands, but man these guys can rock. They have a brand new CD out called “Naive.” I bought it on iTunes and definitely plan on paying more attention to it. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing these guys again!

After the show we headed back to camp. It was a fair boot colder than it had been the night before. It made for a bit of tossing and turning in the night as I tried to stay warm. Had to do over again, I'd actually zip up the sleeping bags and sleep in them instead of using one under us and one over us. Live and learn.

The plan was simple; whoever gets up first, start waking up everybody else so we can get packed up and on the road. Around 7:15, Chris did just that. We all got up and in less than an hour we had backed up all our gear, loaded it in to the car and were on our way back home. Several people had told us that we should take highway 93 back to Vegas. The lady at the store even suggested she knew somebody who made the trip in 7 hours. (I have to call BullShit on that one) So, we figured what the hell. We'll give it a shot and that way we would know for next time which route to take. We head on out towards Vegas and make our stop in Arco, Idaho for breakfast at Pickle's Place. We got ourselves a second stamp on our frequent diner card, so we are that much closer to $10 off. Sweet.

It's in Arco where we have to finally decide for sure which route we are going to take. 15 or 93. To this point, it's all the same. We make the turn for the 93 and away we go. The navigation system in my car starts complaining immediately. Turn around in .5 miles. Turn around in 5 miles. Turn around in 13 miles. Basically, it really wanted us to take the 15. We pushed forward and after 2 hours of the car telling us to turn around, it finally figured out that we can take the 93 and recalculated the route and ETA for us. Based on the time it was telling us, this was going to take longer than the 15. But, it's too late now, we have to push forward.

We stop in a small town and I took some photos of a couple cool old buildings. We then had to stop in Twin Falls as we passed over Snake River. The view there was absolutely amazing. Then we hit Nevada. I don't know if you have ever taken highway 93 through Nevada before, but I will tell you this; never again. There are stretches of road where you can go 50 miles without seeing another car, let alone a place to stop and get a drink or gas or help of any kind. Thankfully we were doing this during the day. Had it been the middle of the night, it would have been scary as all hell. Pitch black with no end in sight.

Everybody has a list of things they want to do or things they want to have happen in their lives. I'm no different. I have such a list. I'm happy to say that on our drive home down highway 93, in the lovely city of Ely, Nevada, I was able to cross one of those things off my list. Ya see, I have always thought it would be cool to have a police officer speeding past you in the opposite direction, hit his lights, make a U-turn and fish-tale his car to get back on the road and come chasing after me. I can now tell you, yep, it was pretty cool. The officer walks up to the window and says, “I clocked you at 89.” I said, “I had my cruise control set at 83.” He says, “The speed limit is 70.” I said, “I understand that.” He then asks for my license, registration and proof of insurance. I, of course, can not find my current insurance card. He says no problem and heads back to his vehicle. He comes back 5 minutes later and has me sign the ticket. He wrote me up for doing 80, which is pretty cool. He could have been a hard-ass, but he wasn't. He shows me on the ticket that I need to pay $84 for the fine. I also need to fax a copy of my current insurance. He points out the total amount of the ticket is written for something just over $800 because of the insurance issue. He says “Just fax the insurance and send the $84. Don't send the whole $800.” Uh, OK. No problem there. Yikes!

I'm really bummed that I didn't ask the officer if he minded if I got out of the car and took a photo of his car with it's lights on pulled up right behind me on the side of the road. I think it would have been a nice addition to the batch of photos I took. Oh well, next time. 😉

So back on the road we get. More stretches of absolute nothingness, only this time I have my cruise control set at 73. We roll through a bunch of virtual ghost towns that can't have more than a couple hundred population each and their only reason for existing is to force you to slow down to 25 MPH as you go through. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, we see the Vegas skyline. We make it to Jake and Diane's place at 8:15. A full 12 hours after leaving Idaho. We quickly unpack them (yes, we came to a full stop before kicking them out the door) and headed home. It took me a while to wind down after driving 700+ miles in one day. I messed around with some photos for a bit, downloaded a bunch of new music from iTunes, watched a few minutes of the Olympics and then fell fast asleep.

This was the first time Chris and I have ever gone camping together. It's taken us 19 years of marriage to make it happen. And like everything else in our lives, it's not like we do it the easy way. We don't just go and camp a couple miles from home to try it out, we have to drive 700 miles away to do it. There were several people who questioned our ability to survive after they heard about how little we knew about camping and how little camping gear we were taking with. I'm glad to say we proved all them suckers wrong. We came back unharmed and ready to go back again next year and do it all over again. We've already started making a list of improvements for next year's trip.

Thanks to Muzzie Braun for putting the whole show together. We had a great time and look forward to seeing you all again next year!

Photos from the trip can be seen on Flickr.com.


  1. jason on August 11, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Awesome recap John! Sounds like a great show and I hope one of these times Sara and I will be able to meetup with you there. Man I'd love to hear that bootleg, awesome idea (I've heard of it before but never been to a show that has done it).

    So was the girl from Vegas the same one that attempted to jump the stage and fall flat on her face? She needs a nickname.

    And Micky and the Motor Cars: is Micky part of the Braun family?

    Hope to hear about more camping trips in the future. Hopefully you'll score enough experience points that you can make it to level 2: campfire!

  2. John on August 11, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Thanks Jason.

    No, it wasn't the same girl that fell on her face. Man, that was so funny and so well deserved. How 'bout we just call her FacePlant?

    Micky Braun is the brother of Willy & Cody Braun from Reckless Kelly.

    Campfire, yikes. I think Idaho as a whole would like it better if I stayed away from things lit on fire.

  3. Cj on August 12, 2008 at 1:34 am

    AWESOME story John. I know we saw your car in the parking lot some where over the weekend. We had a couple of Vegas girls in our group but I cant imagine it would be one of ours but you will have to check out my pics to be sure. I will post the link on Gallywinter when I am done editing!

    PS if you are going to go again next year, you HAVE to go to the northgate fire pit, AND book your hotel now, much better than camping!

  4. seattlegal on August 12, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Nice blog, John! A couple of things: you need to plan to come up for the Street Dance on Thursday next year, book your hotel now, Gary Braun is also in the Motorcars and you need to buy everything Randy Rogers has ever sung!!!!! Period.

    (we all share our pictures in the BBR thread on Galleywinter, check there in the next few days for links)

  5. John on August 12, 2008 at 2:40 am

    @CJ – even if the crazy girl from Vegas was with you guys, I won't hold it against ya. 😉 As for camping, I gotta tell ya, it was a lot of fun. I can't say that I'm in a hurry to rent a hotel for next year, but we are definitely planning on going back.

    @Seattlegal – Ya know, I knew Gary Braun was in MMC and totally spaced it when writing last night. As for Randy Rogers, I hear ya loud and clear. I'll be burning up some itunes credits downloading more of his stuff real soon!

    Thank you both for stopping by the site! Let's meet up in Idaho for a beer (or several) next year! First round is on me!

  6. Jake on August 12, 2008 at 3:44 am

    Thanks John and Chris, that was one of the best road trips I have ever been on. Can't wait til we do it next year. But after everyone sees the photos and read this blog post they will all want to come with. We are going to need to take a tour bus to hold everyone… or at least a "short bus".

    Cheers – Jake

  7. Cj on August 12, 2008 at 4:43 am

    PS, next year try to do what we did and spend a week in Idaho, You HAVE TO go to STanley Idaho, an hour from Challis where the Braun's are from originally, AWESOME town, and go white water rafting with us!

  8. Sarah on August 12, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Nice recap, J. Sounds like an awesome time! Most memorable for me was when you "watched Jake brush his teeth using Michelob Ultra to rinse." Classic. I'll remember that tip for the next time I go camping…

  9. Jake on August 28, 2008 at 7:22 am

    John, Diane set up two new flickr sets of the crazy Idaho trip – Enjoy