Jul 6, 2012
Ever heard of the phrase, "having car trouble"? Yeah. Well let me tell you a story. It's a story of woe, of friendship, of hope and despair. It's rock and roll meets Chekov meets Spinal Tap meets Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. Let us begin. Leaving Dayton, OH that morning all was well. It was a short two hour drive to Indianapolis. After a Cracker Barrel stop, we were set to get into Indianapolis at 3 pm, check into the hotel and then have five hours to chill out until a 9pm load-in. It's awfully nice to have such downtime on tour. Most of the time you are driving and driving and maybe have an hour or so to yourself between gigs. But today we had five hours, that's like gold out here. About an hour out of Dayton, we received our first sign of trouble. In the midst of driving on the highway, all the gauges on our van's panel suddenly went out. No more gas level, no idea on what our speed was, etc. All gauges were reading zero. This had happened before, and we knew that we had a matter of minutes before the van would completely shut off leaving us stranded on the highway. So we sprung into action and began systematically shutting down everything electrical in the van we could think of. While boiling without A/C in plus hundred degree heat, we thankfully managed to make it to an exit and pulled into a gas station. I should mention that hanging out with us and trailing the van for the Dayton and Indy shows was our good friend and Sweet Amnesia singer Steve Kimball who brought along his girl Amanda. So Steve pulled in right behind us. As the van ran, we all gathered in the parking lot to explain the situation to Steve and Amanda and discuss our options. We were under the impression the van was going to die in a matter of minutes as the alternator had clearly blown, and the battery wasn't being recharged as we drove. Once it was drained of it's power, it was game over. Even with a jump we could only go a couple of miles before it drained again. And having a van suddenly shut off while driving on a highway was a risky thing to continually be doing, as you lost control of power steering and the like. Seth mentioned that once a year AAA will tow you up to 100 miles and he was willing to use it for us if need be. We were about sixty miles out and we could personally pile into Steve's car and follow the tow truck, so maybe. But really? Tow the van, sixty miles to the venue or a garage in Indy? Then what. It only solved one of many problems and we almost did it. We left the van running and went inside to all get Dairy Queen Blizzards. It seemed like the right thing to do. And we expected the van to be dead when we came out. But when we did, it wasn't. Something was different this time. So we decided to drive and see how far we could get. Worst case scenario we get closer, break down and then put an option in motion. We gassed up and we were out. Ricky the Red Rocket (our van's moniker) must have known something was up, because he responded to the challenge like a hero. Here we all were, driving for what was to be an hour, and all the time expecting at any moment to completely shut off. Ricky just kept going and wouldn't quit. (I always felt it weird when people give names to their car and think of it like a person, that is until I spent five years on and off inside a Red Econoline 350 who had been through so much with us: Snow, mountains, rain, nearly 180,000 miles. And Ricky had never failed us, he worked as hard as we did. Frankly, he had become one of us.) So I was amazed to see after 45 minutes we were just six miles out from the venue in Indy. Then the sputtering started and systems began to fail, one by one. We began cheering and driving as first, the blinkers went out. Then the windows no longer opened. We were nearing death, but we were so close. It felt a little like Apollo 13 as things continued to go wrong and we worked hard on the inside to contain them, to squeeze as much power out of our battery as we could in the hopes of making it to Local's Only Bar and Music Pub. We exited the highway and we were twenty blocks away. I think it was the stopping at traffic lights that eventually did us in as a half mile from the venue Ricky gave up. So we all got out to push him to the next available parking lot. While standing next to Rob and Steve, who had gotten out to help, amongst honking cars behind us I couldn't help but feel very proud of Ricky. He had given all he had and made it so close helping us avoid a world of further hurt and aggravation. So even though it was 105 degrees and pushing a van along Keystone Ave. was about the last thing I wanted to do, I was proud to be a part of a trio and van who would give all for the goal. When we finally pushed into Murphy's steakhouse, we bandied about the idea of getting a tow to a garage, but what about our gear then. Why not get a quick jump from Steve's car (he actually had jumper cables in his car which made him all the sexier at the moment), make it the last half mile to Local's Only, have the van crash as we load in all of our gear and luggage. Then recharge it and hope to make it the Ford dealer and garage before it closed at five pm. In short, we did it, again in 105 degree heat (man was it fucking hot). But when we recharged at the venue and hopped into the van to head to the dealer, the plot got thicker. Rob was driving the van. And in his haste and desire to move with speed he backed the van up in the parking lot of the venue right into a car behind us. We all turned to look. The car belonged to the bar owner Dave and the back left of the car had a nice healthy dent. Thankfully he is a friend and Rob deemed it best to just keeping driving and call Dave to let him know what happened once we got to the Ford Dealer. While we drove and awaited another power failure Rob wondered if he had fled the scene of an accident and whether we would visit him in jail. We made it to the dealer in time, just barely. Rob called Dave and gave him his surprise. Did we still have a gig after slamming into the bar owner's car? Yes, we did. So piling all our luggage on our laps and in the trunk we headed to the hotel in Steve's car. After checking in we had twenty minutes to settle in and then it was back into the car and to the venue to set up and play. So there it is, and it wasn't over yet. But for the night it was, aside from the two hour show. I remember talking with Steve shortly before the show and he said something I just hadn't thought of. I said something like, "shit happens." And he responded, "I don't know how you do it?" "We've been very lucky with van issues in the past. I guess it was our turn, but yeah, it certainly came like a tornado didn't it?" I replied. "No", Steve added, "I don't know, after all that, how you can get on stage and play a show." "Hey," I remember saying, "It's what we do." Then I headed to the stage. To be continued........