Musician, singer, songwriter, artist, and HELM boot namesake, Will Johnson has been called "one of the most prolific artists in American indie rock," and we feel extremely lucky to have snagged him as a guest writer this week.
Although travel and touring have been put on pause this past year, talking with Will about some of his favorite places that he's been (and looks forward to returning to) infused some normalcy and much-needed nostalgia into our day. We hope it can do the same for your weekend with this special edition of our weekly Saturday Six.
You can get a great hotel room for cheap, and downtown is a gawker's paradise when it comes to a brightly-lit relic of mid-century Americana, people watching, and barely pulsating old motor lodges adorned with beautiful neon signage. Breakfast at The Squeeze In, hiking at San Rafael Regional Park or Woodchuck Trail, and supper at Great Full Gardens are all satisfactory options. Spend the evening wandering the streets, the vastness of The Silver Legacy, or paying witness to karaoke night at the Cal-Neva over econo drinks. It makes for hours of high-velocity sensory intake and lots to consider. Time comes to die here. There's a hardened beauty, manageability, and authenticity to Reno that I'm never not in a hurry to get to.
FORT COLLINS, CO
A great downtown to walk, and tailor-made for tour day "Operation Time Kill." Breakfast at The Regional or Silver Grill Cafe, book shopping at Old Firehouse, the vintage stores on S. College Street, coffee/beer/just sitting a spell at Wolverine Farm Letterpress and Publick House, and supper at Lucile's are all fast conduits to joy. There's a wealth of good hiking and trail running near the Horsetooth Reservoir, and the Odell Brewery is convenient for a great afternoon beer experience with daily rotating food trucks out front.
With a classic downtown square full of independent business, it's easy to post up and walk the world for a while here. Coffee at Hopscotch or Soma, breakfast at The Runcible Spoon, book shopping at Caveat Emptor, and record shopping at Landlocked Music make for a good few hours. Meditate or read for a spell in Dunn's Woods on the IU campus, followed up with drinks and supper at Farm or Lennie's, and you've got a full day of positive options and rightful thoroughfares toward successfully demolished time.
Akin to the layout of Bloomington with a busy downtown square and the Ole Miss campus nearby, it can be another one-parking spot kind of day. Square Books alone magically transforms hours into mere minutes. Coffee at Uptown, breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast or The Beacon, record shopping at End of All Music, and a stroll through campus or visit to Rowan Oak all make for the good occupation of daytime hours. A beer at Proud Larry's and supper at Ajax or City Grocery, and you'll marvel at the lightning-speed death and destruction of time in this great town.
I'm usually late to the show in Petaluma due to the fact that distraction and downtown walks there are of such high quality. Breakfast at North Bay Cafe or Sax's is recommended, book shopping at Copperfield's, a beer at Ernie's Tin Bar or Andreson's (one of my favorite bars anywhere), and supper at Wishbone or The Wild Goat have all made for the effortless devouring of hours. Another one-parking-spot-for-the-day, yes-I'm-a-touring-musician-
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ
Reno's eastern sibling, at least to an extent. There's a hollowed out frame of old Americana to its boardwalk; a strange and beautiful scene that once took different shape. Cheap souvenir shops, pizza parlors, casinos, taffy dealers and corn dog stands, (some occupied and some long abandoned), for about as far as you can see. Breakfast at Kelsey and Kim's, soul food at Kelsey's (different establishment), drinks and eavesdropping at Pic-a-Lilli Pub, and a long stroll along the boardwalk easily decimates the hours. It's the kind of place that breeds songs and stories. It only feels like it's a matter of going to get them.