Seven day tour with a baby? Why the hell not? Then again, why? Why why why? When the Beard mentioned, way back when, that he wanted to plan a longish tour with our folk trio Battenkill Ramblers for this October I said sure. But secretly, I wasn’t very excited. I have very mixed feelings about touring, with or without getting a needy little human involved.
A few months before, we had been on a three-day trip with Baby Pickles—our first string of shows further than an evening’s train ride away—and it had been stressful. By and large it went ok, but the car rides were long and full of Pickles’ screams and tears. At that point we hadn’t started giving her bottles (supplementary feeding, which we have had to do because of some problems I had, I always did with this crazy gadget), and the van we used only had a car seat appropriate seat belt in the front. What that all meant was that she was pretty damn hard to console, and either the Beard or I had to be standing in order to even try. That was when I implemented the “at least one of us has to be buckled up at all times so that if we get in an accident she’ll at least still have one parent” rule. What a barrel of monkeys.
And so it was with a low level of dread that I watched our October tour dates approach on the calendar. I was excited too, but when I thought about the car rides with Baby Pickles, of the potentially horrendous sleeping situations, and of the late nights, I had to wonder if saying yes to the trip had been a good idea after all. I like the idea of being able to tour with a baby. I like playing music, and I like seeing new places and meeting new people. But what I like more than all of those things combined is sleep, something that can be hard to come by even on non-baby tours.
Photo below: The first night we played in Karlsruhe and slept in a gallery. Up before everyone else, we did a little photo shoot. Pickles loves standing. Too bad she still can’t do it by herself.
in the car
So how did it all go? Surprisingly well. I got a lot of sleep, the car rides were short and (almost) painless, and I found myself having a better time than I have had touring in a long time. In part this was because the Beard had planned our route to involve the shortest possible drives. With only about an hour in the car each day (the longest drive was just short of three hours), there wasn’t much time for Pickles to get upset. When she did, I was able to unbuckle myself and tip myself into her car seat for a bit of nursing (uncomfortable, but better than listening to screaming). Or offer her a bottle. And a couple of times she just fell asleep all by herself. (Miracle!) With shoulder seat belts on all the van’s seats, the Beard and I could plant Pickles right between us, which meant no standing. Hallelujah. When she was awake she particularly enjoyed chewing on the laminated band pass for a festival we had played during our last three-day tour. Not too shabby.
Photo above: For the most part I got really awesome sleep this tour, but there was one total zombie day, and this was it. Obviously nobody told Pickles it was zombie day, huh?
the fight for enough shut eye
As for sleep, Baby Pickles has never had a problem sleeping where ever we happen to be. If I’m still out and about when she’s tired, she conks out in the Boba Wrap. Though recently there have been more and more nights during which she has fussed until I’ve gotten her horizontal. Either way, my wrap is essential. Every time I put the damn thing on I see the little label with their motto printed on it, “Freedom Together,” and I think to myself how fucking cheesy. Then I sigh inwardly and think, and how fucking true. Since you’re hanging out in all sorts of random places when you’re traveling with a baby, having a carrier, no matter what kind, where the babe can get comfortable while you have your hands free for eating and packing and sound checking is great. The fact that wrap carriers can be folded up into a small little bundle only adds to their essential-ness when traveling.
I had wondered if the “new bed every night” thing might upset Pickles’ sleep in some way, but as you can see from the photo above, she was generally in a rollicking good mood. My main concern when it came to sleep had been being able to get enough myself, sleep-grubbing monster that I am. Concerts have a way of always starting just when I’d usually be putting on sweatpants and falling into bed, but as we were the openers this time around, we always got to play first aka a tad earlier than usual. Score. The other problem with getting to bed early on tour is often that the sleeping quarters are somewhere far away from the venue, somewhere that needs to be driven to, somewhere that you can’t get to until every one else is finished playing and drinking and enjoying themselves. This worried me most of all. But! Oh sweet fate! This tour that was only the case once. So every night I watched the Froggy Mountain Boys play a few songs and then slipped off to bed.
Even though I was still getting much less sleep than usual and napping remained essential (aka baby juggling between the Beard and I needed to be planned around meeting times and car rides), I felt much better than I expected and much better than I have on any other tour. See, on tour without a baby you almost always end up drinking too much—the drinks are free after all. On tour with a baby you just don’t. I mean, you could, but I didn’t because I am breast feeding, and with a milk shortage problem, I am absolutely horrified at the thought of having to pump and dump. Some nights I drank two beers, some nights two Radler (that’s beer mixed with lemonade), and some nights nothing at all. Which is a really good way to never get a hangover. I sometimes vaguely miss the ruckus, but I sure don’t miss the headaches. And did I mention that I still can’t stand the taste of whiskey? Sigh. One step at a time.
Photo below: Baby Pickles outside of the Vrankrijk—apparently one of the (or THE) oldest squat in the Holland—before the last show of the tour. Not even a year old and she’s already been to more countries than I had been to at 20.
Packing for a baby is basically the biggest bitch of the whole baby-on-tour ordeal. I always end up packing too much clothing, but then again, with the potential for a baby to get covered with food/spit/pee/poop and cod knows what else, I would say that more is always, always more. Then you’ve got diapers, feeding gear, toys and before you know it, your baby has taken up all the space in your suitcase. Good thing that since having a baby you’ve gotten into the habit of forgetting everything you might need to bring along. (True story.) This trip we had the added challenge of starting in a van, but ending on a train. Because the Froggies would be driving back to Berlin from Amsterdam, they dropped us off at a train station rather than drive hours out of their way to drop us off. I packed with this in mind and still cursed myself for every extra gram on that last tired day. But as far as baby gear went, it was worth it. See, look at how happy all those toys made her (photo below, in our sleeping quarters in Solingen). It was good to have enough to keep rotating the baby distracting devices in the car or for a few minutes of peace before going onstage.
cloth diapers on parade
But oh the diapers. On our three-day tour we brought cloth. I have a sweet Planet Wise wet/dry bag that I fucking love and that makes doing this pretty easy. (One pouch for the clean diapers, one water-tight pouch for all the used ones.) But this trip around we weren’t really on top of the laundry. We have a hell of a lot of cloth diapers (52 originally, minus the tinies that don’t fit anymore), but a hell of a lot of cloth diapers is roughly enough for three days. Which means that in order to have them all clean and dry (when you don’t have a dryer) takes some serius planning. Because we played a show in Frankfurt (aka home) on day two of our tour, we only needed enough for five days, but shit. 1. We don’t own enough cloth diapers for five days so we would need to get our asses to a laundromat sometime during tour and 2. Did I mention that we totally weren’t on top of the laundry situation? So we used cloth in Karlsruhe, and when we returned to Frankfurt for show number two, I did more wash. When it was time to leave for show number three, it wasn’t all dry. And so, boo hoo hoo hoo, we decided at the very last second to use disposables for the tour.
Photo below: Baby Pickles getting changed on a couch at a venue. She didn’t seem too fussed about the switch to disposables, even if I kind of was.
The Beard has suggested doing this for tour and shows a couple of times, and I’ve always been all NO FUCKING WAY! But with wet diapers hanging everywhere, and a serious need to bring as little stuff along as possible, I had to agree. Using disposables was an easy out, and since it was only this one package this once, I could afford to buy the biodegradables. My main beef with disposables—right after their price, environmental consequences, and the whole baby-skin-on-chemical-crap factor—is that I hate the way they look and feel. But as Baby Pickles didn’t seem to mind, we all ended up ahead. Except for that 8 euros I spent on the paper pants. Ah well.
Photo below: Pickles in Amsterdam with one of the Froggies. As we didn’t have room for an extra babysitter in the van this trip (our usual deal when playing shows), the Froggies took turns with Pickles when we played. This led to the discovery that she falls asleep quickly to early Motorhead. Heh.
in conclusion, fucking finally
What I figure is this. Touring with your baby can be total awesome! Plan a lot! Bring lots of extra clothes! Make compromises for the sake of convenience and sanity! Bring a babysitter if you can! Most important though, I think, is to not let the thought of the potential stress of it all scare you into not leaving the house. Yer baby will get to have a lot of awesome experiences because of it, and so will you.
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