It's going to be a long drive. But it's well worth it. It looks like it's my one shot at saying goodbye.

I'm planning on driving up to Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Thursday (Jan. 31) to catch George Strait's farewell tour, which for some bizarre reason isn't stopping in the Bay Area.

That's one heck of a round trip, from my home in San Jose. Yet, it's also a pilgrimage I feel compelled to make. I just have to see the "King of Country" one more time.

There have been, of course, many contenders/pretenders to the country throne over the decades. None of them can match Strait's credentials.

He has scored a staggering 59 No. 1 hits in his career -- which is more than any artist (country or other) in history. Unlike many country chart-toppers, most of Strait's smashes have stood the test of time. He's also sold more than 68 million albums in the U.S. alone, which is a tad short of Michael Jackson's tally and just above the Rolling Stones' total. The only country artist to have sold more than Strait, at least in the U.S., is Garth Brooks.

I have so many memories connected to Strait's mighty songbook. The tunes that resonate the loudest with me are the 1980s tear-jerkers, such as "A Fire I Can't Put Out," "You Look So Good in Love," "Let's Fall to Pieces Together," "The Chair" and "What's Going On in Your World" (all of which were No. 1 country hits).


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Another big selling point of Strait's Cowboy Rides Away Tour is the opening act, Martina McBride, who is hands-down the best female country artist of the last 20-plus years. She's also my pick for the genre's best live act.

I'll be tweeting about the journey, during stops to fuel up at gas stations and at Jimboy's Tacos, as well as, of course, from the actual concert. So feel free to follow along on Twitter (my handle is @jimthecritic). Better yet, why don't you join me in Sacramento for the concert? Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $69.50-$89.50 (www.ticketmaster.com).

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.