Over the years, I have penned many Rider articles about entertainment opportunities that can enhance great rides. I’ve written about riding to a Pearl Jam concert in Montana. I have traced my way on the tarmac and in print from watching “Hamlet” in Oregon to “Much Ado” in Utah. I love mixing concerts and theater with motorcycle travel.
While riding is clearly a great social-distancing activity, you may think that the post-ride entertainment aspect has been nullified by Covid. To some extent, that is certainly true. However, responsible and creative venues and organizers are finding ways to stage safe theatrical and musical events.
On a recent tour through southern Arizona’s mine and wine region, I found two such events at the end of lengthy days in the saddle. Both were entertaining and, most importantly, I left each feeling public safety was prioritized and well-planned.
After carving through the historic mine country of south central Arizona, I spent a night at the historic Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson. It so happened that there was a Blues and BBQ event being staged at the hotel. The outdoor concert filled my post-ride afternoon and evening with a nice diversion.
Masks and social distancing were mandated, and the happy audience willingly complied. Interestingly, I was not the only motorcyclist attending. A couple of riders rolled up on Indians, pulled off leather jackets, and immediately pulled on masks.
The musicians were great, the BBQ was delectable, and the social consciousness was refreshing. The Hotel Congress has an intimate indoor concert room that will surely be vacant until the virus is held in check, but their outdoor courtyard venue will continue to allow for safe, small gatherings.
I had a chat with the hotel’s general manager, Todd Hanley, about his concerns in re-opening the hotel and staging limited entertainment opportunities. It was clear that he was carefully balancing public safety with some return to normalcy for the business. He had a meeting planned that afternoon with city officials on how to continue that balance.
Phoenix Music Theater
The second day of my adventure, I traced the southern Arizona wine region and border towns. After five hours in the saddle, I ended my day in central Phoenix. I again found something to get me out of the hotel room.
The Phoenix Theatre Company has found ways to stage a limited-attendance season. The production I attended was “Unwrapped: An Original Christmas Revue.” The email confirmation that I received after purchasing my ticket outlined the Covid precautions that would be implemented. There would be no tolerance of non-adherence.
The PTC has moved all productions outdoors to an adjacent church. The setting is a fantastic palm-tree-accented, open-air courtyard. Again, masks were required at all times, even when seated. Pairs of comfortable lawn chairs were widely spaced throughout the courtyard. Programs were viewed via Q-codes on the armrests, and contactless food ordering was accessed the same way.
The production was supremely entertaining, the sound system was top-notch, and the musicians were talented. Again, I left the show feeling totally comfortable with the safety and audience support of the effort.
There is a full season of entertainment scheduled at the venue, and I will certainly be back for the March production of “Ring of Fire,” as I am a big Johnny Cash fan.
Clearly, there are those who will argue that full isolation is the only responsible approach in this pandemic. However, my recent journey has reinforced for me that responsible and carefully-orchestrated events are both entertaining and safe. There are still options for motorcyclists who crave post-ride entertainment.