Life on the Road: A Touring Band’s American Adventure [Vol 6: The Bay Area, California]

A six-week tour is the best thing in the world.  It is full of music, new friends, old friends, trying different kinds of regional foods, and exploring the entire country.  But there are some downsides; having zero time to oneself and no personal space is exhausting.  After successfully playing 30 shows across the United States of America, Big Tree decided to settle down for a while and record a new album.

What better place to set up shop than Northern California!  I was born and raised in San Rafael, CA, so I convinced my band mates to relocate to my hometown so I could participate in all the activities I’d been missing on the East Coast and on the road.

After the unavoidable unpleasant task of finding places to live and some “real” jobs to pay rent in one of the most expensive places in the country, we got down to business.  Scattered across Berkeley, San Rafael, and Woodacre, the band spent a ton of time getting together to rehearse, cook extravagant meals, and book shows.  We played a couple times a month in surrounding areas, including Hotel Utah, Amnesia, and Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, and the Starry Plough in Berkeley.  If you’re looking for intimate shows with excellent sound and tasty drinks, these spots are a perfect way to spend a night out.

But what we were really excited about was taking a little time to soak up all that the Bay Area has to offer in the way of outdoorsy adventures.  As soon as we made it to the Pacific Ocean, I began planning magical journeys to take the band on.  The ocean, the plains, the valleys, and the mountains were all shining in their majesty, calling our names and begging us to come play.

First quest: Hiking!  North of the Golden Gate Bridge is some of the best trekking around.  We started out nice and easy, taking a leisurely stroll to Tennessee Valley Beach, part of the Marin Headlands.  This trail is always amazing, and changes with each season.  In the spring, the path is lined with a variety of wildflowers and wildlife.  The fall is a little calmer, with darker hues of red soil and green succulents.  At the end of the relatively flat walk, the hills open up to a protected beach that sparkles with sunlight and a view of dolphins.  A perfect place for a picnic at sunset, or a morning yoga session.  We did it the Big Tree way and brought some beers and snacks, cheering with each sea lion sighting and burying our toes in the sand.

NEXT: Camping!  My 5th birthday party was at the Samuel P. Taylor Campground, and every time I set up a tent in those woods amongst the giant redwoods, I feel like a kindergartener again.  There are walks to swimming holes, climbs uphill to breathtaking views, and beautifully secluded campsites with picnic tables and grills.  Big Tree brought some whiskey and smoked salmon and spent the night telling not-so-scary ghost stories and admiring the quiet.

Our desire to catch some rays led us to Stinson Beach, another frequented spot from my childhood.  I learned how to dive into a wave here, and spent hours constructing the perfect sandcastle.  As a senior in high school, I ditched class (gasp) with a couple friends and spent the whole day at the beach, exhilarated by breaking the rules (I was a goody two shoes and this was a huge deal to me at the time).  Now I took my band mates and friends here, to show off the icy waters and epic backdrop in one of the most incredible places on the planet.

And, of course, you can’t spend time in the Bay Area without climbing to the top of Mt. Tam (or Tamalpais, if you’re not a local).  There are many different trails along its lovely curves and changing landscapes, and when you finally make it to the top, it’s well worth it.  Big Tree sits in a van all day and then plays a show and drinks beer for a living, so you can imagine just how out of shape we are after a long tour.  Well, even we made it, so you can, too!  At the peak, you can see the entire Bay Area, from Berkeley to San Rafael to San Francisco.  It’s incredible.  I have never felt so lucky as I did standing on top of that mountain with my best friends, looking out onto the entire world as the sun sunk in the sky and we watched it in silence, grinning.


Kaila McIntyre-Bader is a freelance writer and a musician splitting her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. Born and raised in San Rafael, California, Kaila received a Liberal Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Kaila lived in Cuba for four months, taking Biology, Spanish, and Opera Singing classes while learning how to smoke cigars and stay up all night. She has backpacked through Europe, traveled through Central America, volunteered for the Amigos Program in Panama, and toured extensively across the United States of America with her pop band Big Tree. When she’s not working as a waitress or teaching flute lessons to children, she is wandering the world and faithfully reporting back to readers all of her secrets and adventures.