Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thunderosa AZ run, Day 9

Tuesday Jan 12, 2016

Awoke to a cold clear morning. The ice on the hotel pool was even thicker. I think Drew tried to throw a rock into it and it didn't break.

AJ went and bought a pipe wrench to retrieve his wedding ring. Then we hit the road for the long haul back.

Made it back to Texas finally!!!

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

But then outside of El Paso we had to pull over.

Stopped at a gas station, and sure enough the wheel we JUST HAD FIXED was smoking a little. FUCK. By now we had burned out the bearings on both sides. And were starting to worry if Van Hellsing would even make it home.

AJ went into the convenience store and asked about a body shop. Lady said follow her pastor husband around the bend and he'll take us to one.

He took us to a place surrounded by crumbling buildings and with piles of weird shit in the vacant lot nearby.

The guys running the place were awesome. We pleaded our case, we're broke and trying to just get home, and had been delayed and bankrupted by numerous repairs.

They told us not to worry, fixed it in decent time and were super fucking cool to us.

They had us back on the road in no time. We gave them CDs and T-shirts, and traded contact info as one of the guy's cousins is in a local band that does well. We vowed to return to play with them.

Turns out we'd be seeing them sooner than we thought.

Got back onto the highway, only for the bearings on the other side to immediately have problems.

So we limped back. "Hey, you guys said come back to visit! Here we are!!!"

At this point we had admitted defeat. We would be staying the night in Sierra Blanca TX, and probably selling or trading the van in the morning just to get the fuck home.

But sure enough, they fixed the other side in less than an hour!!!

Success! We hope!

And this time the front end carried us all the way home, 8 hours through West and Central Texas.

The drive through the Hill Country at night was quite harrowing. We must have passed at least 100 deer. Thank God none of them were in the road. We were babying the front end, cringing at every pothole and bump, waiting to hear that goddamned telltale CLUNK.

But we never heard it. We finally pulled into Austin around midnight.

Holy cow. We made it. We actually fucking made it. And I gotta say, that despite us spending all of our tour money on repairs to get home and the resulting headaches and delays from said repairs... This run was a blast. Mind you, I don't want to do another run like this anytime soon, or ever, but we had fun.

What a long crazy trip. But it wasn't over yet.

I still had to take I-35 to get home, and after midnight.

This was the most white-knuckle part of the whole fucking trip for me. Why? Because for more than a year someone has been dropping rocks on cars from bridges and overpasses on I-35. They still haven't caught the guy(s). More than 50 cars have been hit, many with serious injuries. A friend of the music community Kenneth Johnson is one of them. More than a year later he is still struggling to recover.

But I did make it home without incident. Good to see Heather finally, and Nacho as well.

But sleep eluded me all night, partially from the coffee and two 5-Hour Energies that propelled me on the return trip, partially my frayed nerves from the run, and partially coming home to find out that a friend on Facebook had died unexpectedly.

Holy shit.

RIP W. Stuart Rose.

I never even got to meet you tho we knew all the same people. Fuck.

Thunderosa AZ run, Day 8

Monday Jan 11, 2016

I got little to no sleep. Every time I would dose off, Jody's little cat would get into something or someone would snore loud. Ugh.

But the van was ready by late morning/early afternoon and we'd be on our way home! I could sleep in the van so no prob.

So begins the 14+ hour trek back. We thought about doing it in one shot, but settled on stopping for the evening in Deming NM which was probably wise.

Stopped here for quick pitstop. Guess Mr T had the day off, I didn't see him there.

By the way, whats up with these damn 4-packs?!?

Drive was smooth and uneventful, Van Hellsing seemed to be holding up just fine. Until we threw the bearings again. FUCK. So we lost an hour or three in Benson AZ getting that fucking fixed. Again.

AJ was on the phone with the place from Tucson who supposedly fixed it, and was not amused.

After some delay we were able to get back on the road and made it to New Mexico without further incident, finding suitable lodgings in Deming NM.

Of course, disaster caught up with us in no time.

AJ washed his hands in the bathroom and his wedding ring immediately slipped off his finger and went down the damn drain. Seriously?!? The front desk was closed and no maintenance person was on site. So we'd either have to wait for him in the morning, or go out and produce our own pipe wrench.

I took a very very much needed shower. And we were happy to have a proper restroom facility at our disposal, as the one in Jody's apartment only had a sheer curtain for a door, and one of us promptly clogged the toilet on our arrival there, leading us to run out for a plunger... Rock n Roll.

Thunderosa AZ run, Day 7

Sunday Jan 10, 2016

So we were fortunate to locate a shop open on Sundays. Just Brakes, right around the corner.

Drew had AAA so we were able to procure a tow truck no prob, as AJ tried moving the van to see if he could limp it there but that was not happening.

Spent most of the day lounging and waiting for word, as we were officially done with all bookings and needed to get home.

Sometime in the afternoon, the word came. And the word was "You better come down here." SHIT SHIT SHIT

Turns out the spindle went out which fried the bearings. It would take until Monday to fix. DAMN.

Old wheel bearings on the right. Wow.

So we holed up that night at Jody's and drank/watched the Golden Globes.

I no longer had the van bench to sleep on, so made do with the circular wicker chair in the living room. I slept very little. I think I also learned that David Bowie had died. Damn.

Thunderosa AZ run, Day 6

Saturday Jan 9, 2016

Drive to Phoenix to play that night at Chopper John's. Lodgings would be provided by Jody, an old friend of AJ's in her awesome little bungalow apartment.

Weather had improved for the drive.

$6.66 The Purchase of The Beast!!!

Rolled in to her place in the afternoon. Pulling off the highway there was a sound. AJ: "What was that?!?"

We hoped it was just the rough patch of road. But then the sound was followed by a distinct CLANK as we pulled onto her street. That's not good. Another CLANK as we pulled up.

AJ had recently had the spindle and bearings replaced on the left front tire. It was ok. However, the right tire had signs of leaking grease. Shit.

Not good.


So AJ got on the horn and secured a friend with a vehicle to get the trailer to Chopper John's that night, and looked for a body shop nearby that would be open on Sunday. Van Hellsing was going nowhere under her own power.

So we chilled at Jody's until she got in from work. AJ made friends with a neighbor's dog across the street. I think he dubbed the big ole goof "Captain Chango". The dog didn't care :)

The bundle of energy named Jody finally came home and there was much catching up and regaling of tales from the current journey.

But disaster was going to be a recurring theme. The friend's truck that was carrying the trailer to the venue took a wrong turn, wound up on the highway, and immediately blew the transmission. SHIT.

They were able to limp to the venue. I was already there having met up for a quick dinner with Kim, a former Austinite and friend. So I was relaying updates to John the owner as I waited at the venue to see if the rest of the band and gear was going to show up at all.

They finally did, and with no time to spare. We threw our gear onstage, had a beer and hit it. Hard. Fun show to the best of my recollection. Lots of AJ's old friends in attendance as well so we had a great crowd.

AJ and local Phoenix anti-celebrity, Terry Trash

We also pleaded our case re: vehicle problems and set up a tip jar. The wonderful denizens of Chopper John's graciously filled it. And turned out we'd need every penny, but I jump ahead of my tale.

We had luckily secured another friend/vehicle (the transmission held up this time) to get us and the trailer back to Jody's. Her place was very small so I opted to sleep on the bench in the van. Luckily I had my warm-ass sleeping bag as it was cold as balls. I slept very well, and did not die.

Thunderosa AZ run, Day 5

Friday Jan 8, 2016

Began the day taking Bonnie (well, her driving us, but our treat) to Bobo's Kitchen for an awesome breakfast. En route she played The Mother Truckers "Let's All Go To Bed" album, which I haven't heard in 5 years. A good stroll down memory lane, what a time and what a band.

Lost cat poster at Bobo's. Hope he turns up haha

Then loaded our gear in early at Loudhouse so one less thing to worry about. Tonight was also their grand opening and was looking like was going to be an awesome show.

Snow on the mountains

Awesome Tucson sunset. Desert sunsets are some of the best.

Drew getting ready for the show:

Good crowd at Loudhouse. One of the bands had dropped off the bill but Gila Bend was still on board to lay down some awesome country-rock. The guitar player reminded me a lot of Josh Zee from the Truckers with his stunt-country guitar playing. Bad ass.

AJ sat in with them as well

Thunderosa's set went great as well. Holy crap it felt good to finally play! Mike the owner took great care of us and lots of old friends in attendance. While our good friend Mike Mihina (Love Mound) couldn't make it, his brother Sparky (Love Mound bassist) and sister were there. Good to see him again/meet her.

Another thing that had fallen through on this trip, was that AJ, Mike and myself were planning on recording a record for the hell of it. But a proper studio could not be locked in and Mike had to go out of town anyway. Well shit.

Still had a blast. An old version of Thunderosa also made an appearance for our set:

Photo by Bonnie

Very good times with very good people!

Also our last night at Bonnie's before heading up to Phoenix. We cannot even begin to thank her for her wonderful hospitality!

Thunderosa AZ run, Day 4

Thursday Jan 7, 2016

Change of plans.

We were booked to play in Bisbee this night, a cool little mining town south of Tucson near the border with Mexico. The deal had been changing as we were on the road, getting worse each time to where we were initially going to bow out. But they came back with an acceptable offer, only now the weather was not cooperating.

In the words of the Ryan Bales Band, the weather was "complete ass-piss", meaning barely 40 degrees and raining. There was snow in the mountains all around us. We opted out as the drive was further than we originally thought in conjunction with the aforementioned weather.

Turns out we chose wisely. Bisbee got hammered with several inches of snow, the show was cancelled, and we would have been stuck there and missed the Tucson gig the next night. That was close.

But we felt bad as this meant an extra night at Bonnie's. She was a gracious host on all points, but we also felt bad being stuck at her place for an extra night (Bisbee venue had rooms to stay in upstairs and would provide a home-cooked breakfast in the AM).

So we spent the day nursing our hangovers from the DOOM JUICE, cleaning and relaxing. I did the floors and tackled the dishes, and kept the fireplace going for warmth. We certainly had drank waaaaaay more on Tuesday night, but this morning we were slow to recover.



Thunderosa AZ run, Day 3

Wednesday Jan 6, 2016

I forgot to mention that the original plan for Tuesday was to rehearse for the Friday Tucson show as there would be some guest players, and I believe that was also our original lodging for the evening. But that fell through as one of their room mates had to be rushed to the hospital due to a kidney stone.

Hence the hospitality of Bonnie was that much more appreciated.

We began the day with AJ cooking breakfast and us trading off cleaning and doing the previous night's dishes.

Thunderosa: We make a mess and we clean it up. Then we make another mess, and clean that up too.

This evening would be AJ Mac solo (and possibly a semi-acoustic Thunderosa set) at Independent Distillery, run by his/our old friend Larry, but we still had the day to kill.

AJ went to visit a tattoo artist friend, and Bonnie took Drew and I for a nature adventure.

Beautiful country in Tucson, high Sonoran desert plains flanked by mountains on all sides. She was taking us to the top of Mt. Lemmon, and we brought lots of warm clothes as it gets real cold real fast as you ascend in elevation.

But our path was blocked by police and road blocks. Turns out the El Nino-fueled weather pattern had the road closed off due to snow. Well shit. So we detoured and drove through Sabino Canyon.

Not finding a suitable hiking area, we created our own. Drove down some back desert residential-ish street, parked in a random spot, and walked down some official-looking but not exactly closed to the public road.

Fucking beautiful out there. I don't think I would want to live in the desert per se, but I do love visiting it and spending time there.

A Saguaro cactus forest

Drew, Bonnie and myself

Selfie with a cactus

Beautiful country

Back to Bonnie's to rest, regroup, have dinner, and prepare for the evening at Independent Distillery. Awesome day so far.

Pulled into Independent well after sundown. Did I mention it was cold as balls by now? This would be a recurring theme.

The solo opener was a younger kid with a great voice and good songs, def a Hank I vibe. Can't recall his name now, for reasons I will soon get to.

Plan was for AJ to play solo for a bit, then Drew and I join him for some stripped down tunes. We called the second part off real quick as (a) we still would have been too loud and (b) Drew and I spent AJ's set getting good-naturedly hammered at the bar. He and I had coordinated before hand to heckle AJ like the two old guys on The Muppet Show (and AJ was ok with this) but we drunkenly forgot.


This was Larry's own creation. His aged and specially blended potion. He described it as an improvement on and replacement of Fireball.

It was aptly titled. Drew and I were rather obliterated on this fine beverage which could probably send a rocket to Mars as well as some of the local craft beers. Good Lord. And good times!!!

AJ Mac solo. This is pretty much how the world looked at the time.

Near the Independent. Not sure what the story is here, but curious to know

Eventually went back to Bonnie's where we all slept like the dead.