I played the bass guitar, so yeah, I got all the girls…. NOT
However that’s what’s important when you are 19 and playing in a band isn’t it. Truth be told I did have a girlfriend at the time and she pretty much scared the other women away.
There were lots of stories, but one still sticks in my mind.
We had to cut class to leave early enough to make it to the venue. It was a Prom dance for a little town called Bowdle, located way up in northern South Dakota (oxymoron anyone). Earlier we had used a broken down Ford Econoline van to transport our gear, or a trailer behind one of the bandmember’s cars, but this time we were going in style. My father and I had refurbished an old school bus into sort of an RV complete with stove, kitchen, hot water heater, sink, running water, the works. It was awesome. We spared no expense.
The fact that it still drove like an old broken down schoolbus, was beside the point. To us, this was living large.
On the way up to the event we were excited. We had never played this venue before and it was always nice to go someplace new.We started to wonder what we had gotten into when it took us more than a half an hour just to find the place on our map using a magnifying glass. (Google wasn’t yet invented, so that didn’t count)
We stopped for gas at the only gas station in town on the way up, because we knew it would be closed when the dance was over. We filled the tank, and went to start the engine, but the battery was dead. That was odd. We had just driven it all the way here.
We got a jump from one of the station attendants who ironically had a disfigured face. When we asked him what happened, he told us that it happened when a battery blew up in his face last month while jumping a car. You see the irony right? OK, glad you are still with me.
We played the event, which is another story in itself, and while the dance was happening, we charged the battery, because we just happened to have a battery charger along, you know, in case we needed it. Which we did.
After the dance we set off down the road, and everything seemed fine. We were tired, but still awake enough to keep going. About 60 miles from home, in the middle of nowhere, the bus started running very rough. It was then that I noticed that the alternator wasn’t charging the battery, and that we were almost out of juice. (Don’t ask why I didn’t notice it in the 8 hours of driving that had already happened)
Since it was about 3 in the morning and there wasn’t any traffic visible in any direction, we turned off the headlights and navigated via a flashlight along the edge of the road. When we did meet cars, we turned the lights on right before we met, then turned them off after we passed. Not real smart, but I did mention that I was very young, right?
About 45 miles from home, we ran out of gas. In the middle of nowhere. (Which is pretty much everywhere in South Dakota)
About a half mile away we saw the security light for a farmhouse, so we set out on foot. We woke up the poor farmer, who luckily had a gas tank for his tractors and such, and filled up a few plastic jugs with our fuel. We trekked back out to the bus, gas in hand, but by the time we got there, the jugs were being eaten through by the gas, and we barely got it in the tank before the jugs disintegrated.
One more trip back to the poor farmer to get a jump, and we were off again.
At this point we were approaching the big city town where I lived, and traffic was increasing. The headlights had to be turned on more frequently (pretty much all the time). We reached about a mile from our destination, and the bus just died. We tried to start it by coasting down a hill with it still in gear, but it wouldn’t go. It was as dead as one of the bugs on the windshield.
I hitchhiked into town with a scary movie villain dude guy who turned out to be a friend of my fathers, and snatched a battery from one of my dad’s vehicles.
Sidenote: Right about this time the story of the Uruguayan Rugby team disaster came out. You remember that right? It’s where the planeload of people crash into the Andes mountains and they have to resort to cannibalism to survive the winter. So that sets up the next part.
I drove the fresh battery back in one of my dad’s vans and pulled up to the bus. One of the other band members came out to tell me the bad news. I was too late. They couldn’t wait any longer to be rescued and had to eat Simons (band groupie). We all had a good laugh, got the vehicle running, and drove home.
The next day I found that the charging wire from the alternator to the battery had fallen off because of a loose screw. That turned out to be the source of our adventure, well, except for the rest of the loose screws riding in the bus.