It began as an idea at a house concert in late October 2017. Fred and Sara Guerrero were hosting a Donny Brewer Winnebago Tapes CD release party at their house concert venue known as Isla Bella. There were several of those in attendance that had driven their RVs to the concert and had plans to head to Meeting Of The Minds the following day. As we all discussed our travel plans Michelle Brewer casually mentioned, “Hey, why don’t we all go down there together, make some stops along the way and hang out. Like a caravan or something.” Just like that “Karavan To The Keys” was born. About half way through that journey everyone knew this would now become an annual event.
Just days after Meeting Of The Minds 2016, and what would now be considered “The first annual Karavan To The Keys”, Michelle began planning “KTTK2” for 2017. She knew she needed help and convinced myself and my lovely wife Gina to assist with the planning and execution. It was a natural fit since KTTK1 was the beginning of Gina and I’s “Trop Rockin’ The USA” radio show and we intended to broadcast most of the KTTK2 events live on Radio Trop Rock as part of the continuation of our show.
KTTK2 would require a budget and limited registration. It was decided to allow those that were part of KTTK1 the first chance to register, and to limit registration to 60. It was determined the venues we would be holding events would not be large enough to accommodate much more than that, but more importantly, trying to travel the 1,612 miles from Floresville Texas to Key West Florida with more than a group of 60 would be logistically difficult, if not impossible.
Within the first day of registration for KTTK2, which was only open to those that had attended KTTK1, we had reached over 40 of the 60 limit. Within a couple of weeks of open registration and we had our maximum participant level met. Michelle had the foresight to include hotel recommendations at the stops along with way which allowed those without RVs the capability to join the fun. We ended up with 15 RVs, XX cars/SUVs, and 60 participants registered. We had another 10 coming along as performing artists and “Krew.”
DAY 1 – Isla Bella House Concert – Floresville Texas – October 21, 2017
As with the inaugural year, the first event of the Karavan was a Donny Brewer house concert at Isla Bella in Floresville Texas. One thing that makes this location a perfect start for the trip is the fact Fred and Sara have about five acres, and RV pads with hook ups for 5 RVs.
The San Antonio Parrothead club showed up in force, as usual, to enjoy Donny’s show which included Johnny Doo on stand up, and electric bass, Paul Kleme on keyboard, Rick Brewer (Donny’s brother) on percussion, and Fred Guerrero on saxophone. Opening the show was three artists that were part of the Karavan; Joel Block, and Cory Young. I can’t fail to mention this event took place on Donny Brewer’s birthday making the evening a great celebration.
DAY 2 – T-Bone Tom’s – Kemah Texas – October 22, 2017
We left Floresville for the 242 mile drive to the next destination. We arrived at T-Bone Tom’s in Kemah Texas shortly after 4:00 PM. We set up “camp” in the Kemah Boardwalk parking lot. T-Bone Tom’s has long been a huge supporter of trop rock music and artists which made for a great location to hold a Karavan event.
This night, as any night there are trop rock musicians at T-Bone Tom’s, the Galveston Bay Parrot Head Club showed up to enjoy the fun. Jerry Diaz was the feature performer this evening and was joined onstage at one point or another by Joel Block, Cory Young, Donald James and Donny Brewer.
DAY 3 – L’Auberge Casino, Lake Charles, Louisiana – October 23, 2017
Prior to heading out a group was treated to a special rum tasting and tour by Kelly Railean of Railean Distillery in nearby San Leon Texas. Luckily the tour group was separated into two groups, “drivers and drinkers” since we had to head out of Kemah for Lake Charles for the 140 mile trek to L’Auberge Casino immediately after the tour.
After a parking lot “social hour” in the parking lot at L’Auberge a number of folks headed into the casino to for dinner and drinks, then into the gambling area to look for “Lady Luck.” I am happy to report that after several hours in the gambling establishment no one required a trip to the local pawn shop to hock granny’s ring. The night ended in the parking lot with a few of the musicians entertaining those that were willing to stay up and listen.
DAY 4 – Gulf Shores Acivity Center – Gulf Shores Alabama – October 24, 2017
Day four saw our longest drive day of the Karavan. The casino parking lot to the RV park in Gulf Shores Alabama was just under 400 miles. Since there was a concert to prepare for that evening those that had to set up the venue required an early wake up call to hit the road shortly after dawn. Initial thought during planning was to have a private Karavan event at the RV park clubhouse. However, once we reached over 45 participants it was decided the clubhouse could not accommodate a crowd that size and it was moved to the Gulf Shores Activity Center.
This event included Don Chamber’s famous “Bushwackers,” a regional drink favorite. The evening’s entertainment consisted of Eric Erdman from Mobile Alabama putting on a show with Donny Brewer joining him. It was quite the interesting discussion after the show as those in attendance tried to figure out who had more fun; Eric and Donny, or those watching the show unfold before their eyes.
DAY 5 – The Intracoastal – Orange Beach Alabama – October 25, 2017
The great news for day five was the fact that after the long drive the day prior, we were staying for one more day in “lower Alabama.” This day saw the first KTTK golf tournament at Glen Lakes Golf Club in Gulf Shores. Seventeen Karavan participants spread among four teams enjoyed 18 holes of golf which included a “closest to the pin” and “longest drive” contest.
The Karavaners, along with local residents, began to pack the Intracoastal at The Wharf Entertainment Complex in Orange Beach, beginning around 5pm. This show was a “songwriter round” with Rob Mehl, Cory Young and Donny Brewer. It was a fantastic show with Rob bringing his west coast style in to offset Donny’s gulf coast and Cory’s Florida styles.
DAY 6 – Walmart Parking Lot – Tallahassee Florida – October 26, 2017
An easy 250 mile drive east on Interstate 10 and we were “circling the wagons” in a Walmart parking lot in Tallahassee. This night was something that is unique to the Karavan concept. An Impromptu private jam in a parking lot. It wasn’t long before Susan King had her steel pans out accompanying Joel Block, Cory Young, Donald James and Donny Brewer.
The evening progressed as Steve Johnson, from the band Southbound, stopped by to share some tunes. There was even a visit from Mark Friedman, the CPA for the Trop Rock Music Association, to hand out some TRMA stickers and buttons. You can see concerts at bars, shows in community centers, and events at beach venues day in, and day out, but you’ll only see a Walmart parking lot jam on the Karavan.
DAY 7 – Suncoast RV Resort – Port Richey Florida – October 27, 2017
The Karavaners woke up on their own schedule this morning knowing the next stop was only 210 miles away, and there was not a planned event that evening. Upon arriving at the Suncoast RV resort in Port Richey Florida the group got together for a pot luck weenie roast and watched game three of the World Series.
DAY 8 – Gill Dawgs – Pit Stop Party – Port Richey Florida – October 28, 2017
The Karavaners headed over to Gill Dawgs for Pit Stop Party 1 which featured multiple performers on two stages. The Karavaner “uniform of the day” consisted of the Trop Rockin’ The USA radio show t-shirt that was included in their Karavan goody bag.
DAY 9 – Dolphin Key Resort – Pit Stop Party – Cape Coral Florida – October 29, 2017
The next “pit stop party” was in Cape Coral, about 160 miles down the road. The venue had a great empty lot nearby for all the Karavaners in RVs to easily park in for the night. It was another day consisting of multiple artists performing before a great crowd at a pit stop party.
DAY 10 – Boondocks Bar and Grill – Pit Stop Party Too – Ramrod Key Florida – October 30, 2017
The final stop for the Karavan before reaching Key West was Pit Stop Party Too at Boondocks on Ramrod Key, about 280 miles from Cape Coral. This is a charity event hosted by the Southernmost Coconut Castaways which raised money for the United Way of the Florida Keys to assist with victims of Hurricane Irma. The Karavaners enjoyed the non-stop musical event wearing their bright green Karavan “RV There Yet” shirts.
DAY 11 – Meeting Of The Minds – Leo’s Campground – Key West Florida – October 31, 2017
As the Karavan rolled into Leo’s Campground from the 27.5 mile drive from Boondocks we knew the group would soon be separated by the crazy busy schedule of Meeting Of The Minds. During the week of MOTM we did get together at some events around the island, such as Donny Brewer’s early morning Casa Marina show on November 1st. However, it was more frequent that we’d see each other in passing in the campground or along Duval Street. As tradition dictates, we set an appointment to meet at Mile Marker Zero for a group photo before we all left the island as a reminder of the 1,600 + miles we had all just traveled together.
The Karavan To The Keys may be considered a “party on wheels.” It might be described as a rolling adventure to the annual PHlocking of Parrotheads known as Meeting Of The Minds. It is a unique opportunity for fans to meet on a special level the musicians they normally only see on stage. It gives them a chance to see the behind the scenes making of live radio broadcasts. Whatever you may use to try to explain it to those on the outside, no words can describe the friendships made along the way. While the journey began with seventy individuals heading south on an adventure, it ended with a single group of seventy close friends that now feel like one family.
Thank you Susan King and Donny Brewer for contributing photographs to this article