A couple weeks ago I figured it was time to get our ’92 Fleetwood Southwind motorhome, the vehicle we tour in, ready for the winter. I made an appointment and brought it into a shop across town that only works on RVs. We had to get all the tanks and hoses emptied and dried, winterize the toilet, and fire up the furnace (for our first time ever). After I dropped off the RV I walked out of the building and then came back in to find the dingus behind the counter chewing out a co-worker for agreeing to work on such an old vehicle. I would have happily taken it elsewhere if they had just said they couldn’t work on it.
After attempting to turn on the LP gas system they determined that is not in working order, but refused to fix it or even investigate the cause. That didn’t stop them from charging us almost $200 for the LP inspection, though! They said they couldn’t look into it any further because it could easily need a whole new system and that could run thousands of dollars and take a long time to fix. Given their attitude towards our trusty road dog, and the way in which they handled themselves, I blew that of as a bunch of garbage, paid them, and went on my way (knowing I’d never go back).
Thankfully, it has been unseasonably warm (I always feel bad when I enjoy the byproducts of climate change, but here we are…) and we were able to do an entire weekend run without the need for heat. But then we went down to Mankato, MN for a Saturday night gig last week. Holy shit was it ever cold! Thankfully, Mankato is home to our number one fan (no joke), a rad biker dude/Slayer fan/mechanic/driver named Red. Sonny had exchanged numbers with him in the past, so he shot Red a text and asked if we could bum a space heather off of him for the bus. Red came down hours before the show started and hooked us up with an electric space heater that we could power off the generator (later he said we could just keep it). It took a little while to warm up, but once it did, it really wasn’t too bad. Which was important because the club we were at doesn’t have a dressing room! Red, you are a gentleman and a scholar. We owe you one!
Two days after the ‘Kato gig (which was a total blast, BTW), I brought the RV over to Mike’s LP Gas in Maplewood to get to the bottom of things. It turned out, like every Fleetwood from that era, there was a solenoid in the detector that went out. It took them hardly anytime to fix and cost just over $100 for parts and labor. After that, we put in some new deep cycle batteries, fixed the windshield washer tank, and we were ready to hit the road.
When we bought the RV, the seller told us the fridge needed to be recharged. Then we learned that no one recharges those old RV fridges and a replacement would cost thousands. All summer we were just filling it with ice and using it as a large cooler, which really meant we hardly used it all because the risk of the ice melting and food spoiling was high. But, from time to we chilled some beers in it.
Friday night, I took the RV back to my house to get a feel for how all of the components are working after the repairs. It was probably about 30 degrees outside, and it took less than 15 minutes to reach 70 degrees inside the RV with the furnace on. I tested the oven and stove, which worked fine, but I didn’t cook anything. I fired up the microwave, which also worked well, and surprise surprise, the fridge/freezer now worked… very well I might add. It runs off the LP system, not the generator. The previous owner didn’t realize that his problem was with the LP system, not the fridge itself. With all that stuff in working order, I took to fixing up a few things here and there around the RV. I replaced all the bent and broken curtain rods with steel wire, repaired an aesthetic issue with the steps, and even did a bit of surgery on the windshield curtains. By fixing all of the curtains, the backroom was damn near blacked out. It also has its own separate thermostat, meaning it stayed nice and toasty back there.
I let the guys know all the appliances were up and running, but they didn’t really have time to shop for food before the 8:15AM bus call the following morning. I on the other hand did. We were just making a simple one day trip down to Chicago to play at City Winery, so I figured I’d start with some basics and work my way up from there on future excursions. I brought some hard boiled eggs and tuna for breakfast the following day, as well as some microwavable curry lentils to eat along the way and keep me from eating crappy gas station food and McDonalds. I prepared the lentils in the microwave twice on the trip (once while going down the road) and also ate my breakfast with no issues at all. Having all of this stuff in working order will go a long way in saving money while staying healthy and happy on the road (which is not always easy). I think the hardest part will be managing dirty dishes, especially in the winter, when we do not have water in the tanks. We’ll probably need to stock plenty of recyclable plates and bowls and be a little selective about what we prepare on the bus. Simple will be the key to making it work.
We stayed very warm during the entire trip and from what I heard, that back bedroom became the perfect hibernation cave. The drive from Minneapolis to Chicago took us about 7 hours. It’s more than we usually like to drive in a day before a gig, but we didn’t want to book the day or two before because they were Thanksgiving and Black Friday. We had an offer to play a very cool venue in Michigan for Friday, but it would have required leaving town on Thanksgiving to make it there. While we were disappointed to miss out on that opportunity, we were all very happy to be at home with our families.
Upon arriving at City Winery we promptly loaded in and set up. While the in-house crew got to work setting the stage, we retreated to one of my favorite greenrooms in the country. It’s spacious (at least compared to most), clean, comfy, and has a big TV with surround sound. Oh yeah, it’s also stocked with their amazing wine and some charcuterie. After a bit of sustenance we went back out for a text book easy as hell soundcheck. Those guys are total pros, and honestly, that room sounds great. Several of us didn’t even use monitors.
After check, we had a few hours to kill. Thankfully, they had a copy of Pulp Fiction in the greenroom! Last time, they had Boondock Saints. So far, they’re 2 for 2!
By the time we were ready to hit the stage, the room had filled in very nicely. Right before we started, the “voice of God” (a pre-recorded or live announcer not visible to the audience) came on and asked the crowd not to speak or whisper during the show, as it could be disruptive to others, and to the performers. That didn’t stop Sonny from coming out and doing his best to burn the whole damn place down.
Between our set and the encore I grabbed Sonny and told him about the voice of God message. He couldn’t hear it from backstage, so he had no idea that crowd was in jazz mode. So when he came back out for the encore he just started screaming at folks to get out of their seats. Then he got them into a sort of call and response thing over a new intro we wrote for the song, Help Me. After that we were going to play a beautiful ballad written by our bassist Nick and his pal Ray Barnard, but considering the entire place instantly turned into a party during Help Me, we decided to pull it and replace it with our very upbeat cover of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper”. Lastly we closed out the night with our new single, “Sooner or Later”.
After the show we drank copious amounts of delicious red wine and met countless great people. I can’t say how much we love that room. From the staff, to the food, the sound, the stage, and of course all the people who come out for the show. We’re already looking forward to coming back!
Eventually we loaded out (much slower than normal) and made our way to our hotel, which was located in a very strange neighborhood out by O’Hare. It basically consisted of our hotel, a couple others, a Burger King, a HUGE strip club called Heavenly Bodies, a 24 hour vape shop, and bar that we just called the 4am bar, on account of the large sign out front that said “open ’til 4am”.
Upon settling in at the hotel, Tony (trombone) and I hooked up my chromebook to the TV and watched the battle royal from Wrestlemania ’99 (it’s basically what I expect every time I room with T Bone now… and it is awesome). Some of the others decided to head out and test the validity of the bar’s signage, which turned out to be 100% accurate.
The following morning we took off for what we hoped would be a casual drive home. Getting through Illinois was OK, but traveling through Wisconsin to Minnesota was terrible. The holiday traffic was bonkers. There were several accidents along the way that brought traffic to a grinding halt for miles. We just took our time and made it home safely, though.
Next up, Detroit on December 3rd. We’ll be in the Cube at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center (home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra) starting at 7pm. And it’s FREE! More info here.