Dino (left) and Taco Olmstead (right), photo by Phats Photo

Written by Taco Olmstead

Birthdays come and birthdays go, the significance waxes and wanes from year to year. The importance of each rotation tends to hold its weight based on the trials, tribulations, obstacles and hurdles faced in any given year. To be honest, as many of you already know, the transitory year from 44 to 45 was one of the most difficult in my life. My own strength was measured, my resilience tested and choices in life were all too consequential.

Cooper’s Lake photo by Bradford Watkins

There is an ebullience to wading through a jungle of shit and finding solace on the other side. Retribution ebbs and flows throughout our lives but 44 felt like a decathlon of missteps that somehow led me to the gold. While it’s precious luster is breathtaking, the weight can be akin to a burden as it leaves questions that linger in the heart and mind. Getting caught up in the how, where and when can be simultaneously gut wrenching and breathtaking on any given day and my soul itself was left in question. Old dreams and fantastic plans were now in a shambled state of disarray while I questioned my new found perspective of priorities and for the first time in over a decade I questioned both my path and my passions.

This years celebratory choices were the same as last despite a location change. I would be spending my week leading up to my birthday with my family, the Essential Productions team as well as various other players who have played major roles in the casting of the character I am today. Resonance was being built at its latest location Coopers Lake in Slippery Rock, Pa. My arrival was needed on Monday night and despite the pressure of having to devote a week of my life to a festival build, undoubtedly there is no other place I would have wanted to be.

Elise and I made the drive to Slippery Rock Monday evening after a chaotic day of planning, packing and evaluating the idea of being on the road together with our dog for two straight weeks. The first week was essentially set in stone, pun intended but the second week, an adventurous trip to the wilderness of Maine was entirely left in question without a single detail mapped beyond the Nesowadnehunk River in the shadows of Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak in the boundaries of Baxter State Park. It goes unsaid that our anxiety was running at an all time high at the prospect of attempting to make a trip of this length followed by two weeks in Colorado with only a 6 day lapse at home, work. Having fought cancer and being relatively home bound for 8 months had created a higher sense of caution within our hearts and this upcoming month was everything that an adventure should be, uncertainty of a path forward and a relative ignorance to a reward for doing so. The price for adventure is always the understanding that there is no confidence in the outcome, only a trust that growth comes with the ability to pivot as the river winds.

Kenny Holmes with Taco, Zack Szabo (of Essential Productions) and Dino in the background

Upon our arrival to Coopers Lake Kenny Holmes was waiting for us at the gate due to our awkwardly late arrival time. There are few people I treasure more in this life and even fewer people I would want at my back in a time of need. Despite our differences, though I believe it’s our similarities that create that friction, Kenny is truly a brother in arms as well as of my soul. Don’t let him fool you, he’s all heart and the evidence is in the few missteps he has made. Seated beside him in the UTV was “Costa Bill”, a friend we had made in Costa Rica whose warmth is overshadowed only by his innocence. I could already feel the comfort of being close to those who have enveloped me with their compassion numerous times and I already felt like I was home.

Kenny directed us to our RV where we would live for the next week. He made sure to shower us with his praise which greatly differed in type. Elise was told how awesome she was for putting up with me and fighting cancer simultaneously while I was showered with Kenny praise of “stop being an asshole, why are you so ugly etc.” it was good to feel his warmth.

“The Disco”

We began to unpack “the disco”, my latest road bound friend, a 2003 Land Rover Discovery I traded outright for my 2001 Subaru Forester. I could no longer deal with cramped quarters of the Forester and needed to upgrade for my aging joints and despite the increase in fuel costs, “the disco” is undoubtedly going to be my favorite travel agent now and in the future.

Once we were properly situated in our RV I had Elise connect with our point man for the week, Jake “Papa Bear” Ottmann. To our surprise we were immediately contacted by his assistant for the evening, Jamebo Corsini who is another kindred spirit of mine whose grin is more infectious than my own. The festivities of the celebratory process began early, or late, depending on perspective at the expense of Edward Link whose whiskey was commandeered and shenanigans were to be played out into the early hours of dawn. What better way to start your birthday festival build than with merriments of heathen like body breaking spirits while your newly sober wife laid quietly in a cozy embrace of blankets in your festival RV?