FIELD NOTES: Welcome to the (Tour) Crew
A little slice of life on the road through the eyes of tour crew members.
Written by: Ariel Knoebel
I’m currently sitting in the Seattle airport after spending a few weeks on the road, with the new tour crew and without. First, a few of us spent dusty days in the warehouse repacking the trailers, visited future sites we have yet to see, and hosted the first few events of the season to give the new team a chance to pack up their lives and make the appropriate arrangements to get on the road for the next seven months. There is surprisingly a lot to figure out in that time period: where will your mail go? Do you have to put things in storage? Who will hold onto your car – or maybe even your cat – while you’re gone?
Last year around this time, I remember giving away the last key on my key ring. I shedded the one to the front door of my old workplace, the apartment that had been my home for many years, the mailbox I always forgot to check and finally my car, which would take me to the airport with someone else behind the wheel. I felt immediately unmoored. I’ve had a key ring since I got my driver’s license at 16. It has held keys to friend’s houses, to storefronts, to many places that felt like home and a few that were simply a place to sleep. It’s opened doors across the country and lived in purses and jacket pockets for more of my life than not. On tour, I felt its absence every time I left a house (none of them my own anymore, always borrowed for a night or a few) reciting the routine refrain of “keys, phone, wallet” to keep track of my most practical belongings. Except now, I had to learn to keep track of all of my belongings, at all times, packing them in and out of the two bags I was allotted in order to maintain enough space in the trucks for six individual identities.
For the rest of this year, I will be a visitor on tour. The full-time crew will be on the road together, day in and day out. It’s strange to see the dynamic from the outside; even this early in the season, you can tell this collection of individuals is braiding into a unit from which they will never untangle, regardless of where their lives take them from here.
Meet the Crew
Service / Tour Manager
Will still sleeps New York bartender hours (read: very few, and never before 3am), and concocts the most delicious mocktails you’ll ever find on a farm. He manages to ooze both professionalism and goofiness in perfect balance, and can work a full farm dinner in a cream-colored sweater without staining it. I promise the latter is a more Herculean feat.
Driver / Infrastructure Manager
Nolan is a lanky Santa Cruz native with a lackadaisical swagger who drives the truck and trailer with a film camera on the dash and a birding book on the center console, pointing out wildlife as we cruise down the freeway and beautiful plants as we wander through strange cities.
Driver / Reception Manager
Lily is an effortlessly cool and exuberant young woman with countless adventure stories and a collection of refined skills that make her as suited to driving the trailers as she is to manning the reception kitchen (and maybe, if we’re lucky, one day whipping us up some croissants at an airbnb).
Host / Marketing Coordinator
Megan is taking over my role as host for the year. While she is petite enough to necessitate that she stands on two boxes to get into the same photo frame as Jim during opening remarks, don’t let that sweet smile and small size fool you. She is strong as hell.
Front of House Manager
Rose may just be the kindest person you’ll ever meet. The service staff that she manages love her for the unshakable sense of calm and radiating positivity she brings into every service, from cold, dewy early mornings through to late nights loading the trailer.
Expeditor / Kitchen Manager
Brent is my former teammate back for his second year as the Kitchen Manager and Expeditor. Last year, after a beach event grilling in ankle-deep tidewaters, one chef told me he executed dinner so well only because he felt metaphorically swaddled in Brent’s arms the whole time. I’ll just leave it at that.
While watching this year’s crew find their footing on uneven ground over these past few weeks, I was constantly reminded of my first days on the road – the bruises up and down my forearms from carrying tables, days of layered sunburns from before I learned how often to reapply in the California sun, sore muscles from lifting and a raspy voice from yelling over ocean breezes. There were plenty of moments in those first few weeks when I asked myself, “what did I sign up for?” But I also remembered, in my bone-tired haze, the late nights rubbing aloe on each other’s backs to soothe those sunburns, laughing until I couldn’t breathe at my teammates’ faux-bickering in the front seat of the truck, the wonder I felt with each new site we visited, feeling unspeakably lucky to be able to set foot in some of the country’s most beautiful places – and then trusted to share that with hundreds of others.
This week, the team left California for the PNW. This is the first major milestone of the tour, when the trailers fly the nest, the Watsonville warehouse is no longer a drive away to pick up lost supplies and there’s no option to call in reinforcements for difficult events without some extra planning and purpose. The team is embarking on their own, producing memorable experiences for hundreds of people each week – and countless unforgettable moments for themselves. I can’t help but feel so proud of them — and a little bit envious, if I’m being honest. There’s nothing like the joy, exhaustion, abundance and never ending challenge of being on tour.
In my last note, I talked about flow — that feeling of effortless immersion in the task at hand, a separation from oneself in service of a single task. That flow state is not easy to come by. It necessitates hours of practice and countless repetitions to burn a memory into tired muscles. That kind of ease only emerges from earned expertise, from a lot of painfully obvious effort. I’m watching this wonderful new crew tackle the same difficulties and excitement and the lack of understanding that I felt last year, and even now seems only to expand as I continue to wrestle with its margins. But I guess that is what mastery is all about — learning more and more of what you don’t know as you climb on top of what you’ve learned.
If you’re attending an event anytime in the near future, I hope you take the time to say hello to these folks, many of them mainly operating behind the scenes. They work really hard, and the work is endlessly rewarding because of people like you. Your presence at the table allows them to earn that expertise, to grow into a place where the effort becomes invisible, or at least a little harder to see.