October 6-13, 2013, the band boarded a big blue and white school bus and rolled on down to the Land of Enchantment for a week of wild, southwestern adventure. We were joined by 12 young adults experiencing special needs as diverse as autism, Down syndrome, bipolar disorder, and developmental delays. Some members of our group communicated verbally, and some did not, and all members experienced varying degrees of mobility. We also welcomed 2 thought leaders, 1 artist-in-residence, 4 tour managers, and our beloved bus driver Mike for a total of 20 band members. It was The Wayfaring Band’s first out-of-state tour, and we had a boundary-breaking itinerary in place that included site-specific activities during the day and a thought leadership curriculum for some of our members during the evenings. We climbed higher, traveled further, and banded together to achieve astonishing milestones. Read all about it below!
This has been one of my most favorite weeks of my life because I have seen my son PJ live so many incredible experiences away from his family. Thanks so much for providing more independence for PJ, more treasured moments with his friends, and peace of mind for his family, knowing he’s safe and having an amazing time! – Peggy Bernardis, mother of band member
That was the best trip… EVER. – Conor Coleman, band member
I just wanted to let you know that Mandy has been spilling over with stories about her adventure! I also want to thank you so much for all you do for the kids. You all are amazing! – Marion Lichty, mother of band member
After a full day of travel on Sunday, we boldly woke up Monday morning at 4am to visit the world’s premiere hot air balloon festival! We arrived in time for the launch of the Dawn Patrol and then continued exploring Balloon Fiesta Park after the sun came up. It was incredible to see oodles of brightly-colored balloons soar into the sky that beautiful morning!
The following day, we were up before dawn once again to taste that sky-bound adventure for ourselves. The sensational people at World Balloon organized a safe, special, and spectacular hot air balloon ride for our whole crew! We highly recommend this company: their entire team was fantastically accommodating of our group, and their kindness and energy were boundless. While up in the air, Andrea even got to take her famous Australian-accent news reports to the next level… by interviewing an actual Australian! Later that afternoon we trekked up to Santa Fe to tour the Plaza and peruse the art at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. It was a culturally-rich experience, and we felt steeped in Santa Fe style.
While we were in Albuquerque we stayed at Casa Esperanza, a remarkable facility that provides temporary housing, mostly to people whose family members are receiving treatment at the nearby hospital. We were welcomed with open arms, and over the course of our stay we enjoyed getting to know the various individuals and families staying there. We participated in a service project one afternoon, stuffing bags with candy as gifts for the guests. And in true Wayfaring Band style we held an impromptu talent show one evening after dinner, inviting guests to join in the fun. One abuela even participated, singing a lovely song in Spanish and teaching our band members movements to accompany the words. It was a fantastic bilingual community experience.
On Wednesday morning we ate brunch and shared some epic hugs at Tim’s Place, the world’s friendliest restaurant. Tim Harris, the owner of the restaurant, generously shared his time with us and answered questions posed to him by some of our band members. He even showed us some of his famous dance moves! Local Albuquerque television station KRQE was there to capture this remarkable meeting between the band and one of our role models, and band managers Andrea and Pavel had a chance to speak with the reporter about the band’s vision for a radically more inclusive global community. That afternoon we loaded up the bus, waved goodbye to our hosts at Casa Esperanza, and headed south to infamous Roswell.
Thursday we took a campus tour of the Eastern New Mexico University Roswell, learning about their special services program. Our friend Jenny from Denver is a student there, and she generously helped the ENMU staff show us around. More than a few of our band members said they could see themselves as students in the program! After lunch in the cafeteria we headed back to our rental house to unwind before an afternoon dip at a local pool. The pool had a pretty sweet high-dive, and band member David was able to fulfill some Olympic dreams.
We hobnobbed with aliens Friday morning at the infamous UFO Museum, nestled right in the middle of Main Street among gift shops selling extraterrestrial knickknacks and otherworldly souvenirs. We learned about military cover-ups, crop circles, Mayan prophecies, and archeological digs, all aimed at uncovering unconventional truths. Mulder and Scully couldn’t have been more proud of The Wayfaring Band that day: we went in with an open mind, prepared to accept even the craziest of stories. As we always say, inclusivity means everybody in — even aliens. Once we’d had our fill of the weirdness we were back on the road to our final rental house, located just south of Santa Fe on the Turquoise Trail of Highway 14.
For our final day, we wanted to go out with a bang! We toured beautiful and historic Chimayo in the morning, sifting our fingers through the holy dirt in the sanctuary and enjoying the spices and eccentric art for sale. We particularly enjoyed Arthur “Lowlow” Medina’s paintings, featuring lowrider cars parked in front of the holy sanctuary. Lowlow was a pretty righteous dude, and he blessed the band mightily before wishing us well on the rest of our journey.
And what road trip would be complete without a foray into a good old biker bar? Saturday evening we sauntered down to the wicked little ghost town of Madrid, New Mexico, where we had a New Mexican-inspired dinner including burgers with hatch chilies, enchiladas, and fish tacos at the Mine Shaft Tavern, one of the last great American roadhouses. After dinner we hit the dance floor and enjoyed some honky-tonk blues dancing… until a full-blown marching band crashed the bar in a cacophony of Southern-style trumpeting! There was no shortage of entertainment all night long, especially since the patrons of the Mine Shaft were colorful characters. We danced and conversed well past our own bedtimes. It was a rock-and-roll night on the town for sure, and we were proud to wear our Wayfaring t-shirts, proclaiming “I’m with the Band” on the back.
Sunday morning finally arrived, and we hit the road early, tired to the bone from our week on the road and looking forward to greeting our friends and families in Denver and Boulder. On the drive back we participated in an appreciation circle, where each member of the band went around the circle saying or showing something they appreciated about every other member. It was a wonderful expression of gratitude and a terrific way to cap off a week to remember.
All in all, we feel like our first out-of-state tour was a resounding success! We were honored to travel with such a warm, loving, and rockin’ group, and we can’t wait to hit the road again. Everybody in!
(click on the map above to follow our route and get more details about some of the sites we visited along the way)