Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello in the park (for free.)

We backpackers love cheap thrills. Free ones are even better. That’s why I saw so many backpacker types at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Golden Gate Park’s legendary free music festival. It’s hard to pinpoint the greatest moment: Ralph Stanley serenading the crowd with “O Death,”; Robert Plant and Alison Krauss trading vocals on “The Battle of Evermore,” with that eerie mandolin riff echoing just behind them; Elvis Costello doing his barnstorming version of “Friend of the Devil” — my third-favorite Dead tune — and a rave-up of Merle Haggard’s “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down,” with Jim Lauderdale harmonizing. The legendary Emmylou Harris motored right past me and waved to the crowd as event staff rushed her from one stage to the next. It was an unforgettable day in the park.

Also this weekend, I took part in the Bridge to Bridge 12 K run, on what must be the loveliest urban footrace course on the planet: the Embarcardero, Fort Mason, the Golden Gate Bridge and up into the Presidio. It was not free, but it raised money for a great cause — the Special Olympics. I ran at a desert tortoise’s pace, but who cares? These days, it’s all about the experience, not the stopwatch.

also, in other (unrelated) news: I will be speaking at the Livermore Public Library this coming Tuesday (October 7) at 7 p.m.
The event is part of their Authors, Arts and More series

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