A Tale of Two Roadies: The Maiden Voyage

I can’t believe I quit my job for this.

After 4 blown tires, 8 dead car batteries, 2 lost side panels, a broken generator, smashed A/C, a faulty alternator, and busted spirits, I can say with confidence this road trip was one of the best experiences in my life.

Our adventure begins back in Austin with our new toy, a 1984 GMC RTS II bus. Yes, an old city transit bus, capable of storing and transporting a hefty Bassboss speaker rig. Derek and I had high hopes for our unnamed love child. She was an instinctive and impulsive purchase from a friend leaving the country, a detail to which I should have paid closer attention. This raggedy bus had been hollowed out and kept in seemingly good condition, and we had hopes of one day turning it into our very own Feral Artists tour bus. A lofty goal, but still attainable.

We set sail on our maiden voyage to Tyler, Tx for a glow and foam rave. We needed to provide 2 ZV28’s, 4 BZERO’s, and 4 high top speakers with all the necessary amps and cabling, really heavy things. The itinerary was simple. We depart Thursday for Hot Springs, Arkansas to visit Derek’s parents and work on the bus, then we drive Saturday to Tyler for the gig, then we finally drive home. Simple enough.

Our spirits were high, even with a late start leaving Austin, and our first pit stop at Buc-ee’s was just 2 miles ahead…Suddenly, a huge BAM goes off. We start to lose speed, and my heart sank. I knew what had happened, but i refused to acknowledge my fears. While still on I-35 We pull over into the exit lane.. In the darkness I see a cluster-fuck of shrapnel and rubber, two blown tires.I couldn’t believe it. We frantically started calling tire shops at 10PM, but no one seems to have these ancient city-bus tires. Finally, a cop arrives, calls us a tow, and after a few hours we get towed off the highway thru the exit ramp and get dumped 200 feet from our original spot. I knew the bill would be large, but i had a near heart attack when Derek told me $1,440. Thanks to Derek’s resilience, we haggled down to $960. We decided to wait until morning to find our tires, so we began to wander the dark highway in search of the bus’s side panels which had been lost in the tire rupture. After a half mile walk, we found it shattered and in pieces. Just another half mile down the road we see a lone ‘W’ and we quickly reverted to survival mode. We needed sustenance, shelter, and most importantly, alcohol. The time in now 1:40am and there were only 20 minutes left to find our oasis. Alas! A bar was only 2 miles away! We quickly get our whataburger, call an Uber, and make it to the bar at 1:55am. We order 4 drinks at once and kept them coming till they kicked us out. That was easily one of the best beers we’ve ever had after such a horrendous evening. We got dropped off at the bus and prepared for a rough nights sleep. With a lone couch for Derek, I slept between the two front tire wheel wells on a deflated air mattress. Our generator had no juice from the dead battery bank, so I made do with what I had. The rumbling of semi trucks 100 feet away put us to sleep, and we forgot our problems until morning.

7AM came quickly. Upon further research, we found some old semi truck tires that would make suitable substitutes. After a quick $600 tire change and a hasty jump-start we were back on the road! I talked to an insurance agent and found that we could possibly get reimbursed for our tow and some other expenses, great. Our spirits were revived as we buzzed back down the highway. I look up and noticed we’ve traveled another 60 miles. I thought to myself we made it as far as we did last night before we blew the tires. Before i could finish my thought another BAM crushes my soul. Where most people would scream and rage, I sat there blankly staring at the two blown tires on the other side of the bus. Another shattered panel and another $600 tire change. Luckily, we had been sighted by the local tire shop so we were back on the road within an hour or two. We continued through Dallas when our blinkers and lights start acting up. Our batteries were dying and they could no longer power our turn signals. We knew we had to change the batteries out, so we set course for a shop. Just 10 miles out, Derek stands from the drivers seat to stretch and triggers the bus to shut off. The bus dies along with the batteries. We were forced to Uber to the shop, and bust out another $300 for four new batteries. By now, as the one in charge of finances, I just start adding up these costs and think of how we are going to make it out of this trip with our wallets in tact.

The battery swap was quick and we were able to get back on the road. We hit the 60 mile mark again and my anxiety rose just waiting to hear the blast from underneath. After more smooth sailing, it occurred to me that our technical difficulties were behind us. We made it to Hot Springs late Friday night and had a peaceful, warming evening with Derek’s parents.

I was glad we made the extra trip, despite our troubles and all, because this was the one part of the trip that kept Derek motivated to push forward. We stayed up late sharing stories of Derek’s delinquent past as his dad loaded bowls and his mom filled my chalice with white Zin. I felt at home, just as he did. We only had these few hours together as well as an hour for breakfast before we had to hit the road again to make our gig. After leaving Hot Springs an hour late, we were in a race against time to make it before 5pm. Of course, the bus can’t exceed 60MPH, so we had the pedal to the floor praying we don’t get sidelined again.

We arrived in Tyler just 20 minutes before the show starts and rush to set up. The volunteers for The Electric Rabbit company we’re great. We unloaded and plugged in by 5:30 and everything was functioning properly. I must apologize here to the opening DJs who’s set was cut short because we were late. I know the feeling all to well of having my set cut short due to production tardiness. The bus was pulled around to the side of the outside stage with the A/C running and i was finally able to relax. The party carried on as we made new friends and discussed the future of the bus with our artists, Steez. We crashed for the night in the bus until the sweltering heat forced us to get back to work.

Hungover and tired, we came to the realization that someone had stolen Derek’s phone. An unspeakable, subhuman act that was the cherry on top of this whole adventure. He traced it to Nacagdoches, Tx, about 70 miles away. Some scumbag stole his phone in the early morning and took off with it. That was the last straw, so I let Derek have his pity party in the bus. He laid back down and silently cried himself back to sleep while i gathered our cabling and moved speakers around to load back into the bus. The time had come to head back home after loading up. We said goodby to the crew and headed for Austin. We made it all the way back to Temple, the first city we broke down in, and stopped for a quick snack. Only 60 more miles till Mecca. Then, as if by some joke from a higher power, the bus refuses to start. The engine wouldn’t turn over, meaning the batteries and alternator weren’t getting along. We lay waste to another $400 buying new batteries and I could feel my debit card on fire. We swapped out the batteries, but it still wouldn’t turn on. The frustration was unreal and just before i ran into the middle of the highway, Derek noticed the bus is still in drive. We put it back in neutral and she starts right up. I rejoiced at the thought of just being home and putting this endeavor behind us, regardless of the thousands spent on this trip.

We finally returned home and our adventure was over. The maiden voyage was complete, and needless to say, it was a dumper fire of epic proportions. However, looking back a week later, after it was all said and done, I have to say these are the events that make a person as tough as nails. Like a boxer who is endearingly berated by his trainer, we had been beaten to the point of abandoning the bus in a ditch. This was the type of trip that makes every other obstacle just a speed bump on our journey to success. Im glad we had these issues on our maiden voyage because nothing else will compare to my disparaged soul on the side of the freeway trying to cope with the unfolding events. And hey, even if it does get worse, I know that I’ll be able to overcome it. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I will always make it back home regardless of how many upper-cuts life throws at my face. The art of being able to pick yourself up, dust off the “woe as me” feelings, and get back on the road to your destination cannot be taught nor read. It has to be experienced. Those experiences will toughen your mental callouses so that any road block in the future becomes a stick in the road, ready to be crushed on your journey forward.

I now know for certain that Grindhouse, our Feral Agency, and everyone involved in our organization will find success in what they put their minds to. I have utmost confidence in our ability to grind our way to the top of the Austin music scene and make waves in our community as we aggressively take over Texas with our thunderous sound rig and unbelievably-talented line of producers. The Feral Tour is coming. A venue which Grindhouse can call “Our Grind House” is coming. A studio space for our artists to call home is coming. Grindhouse is coming in for the kill. Be ready.