Road Trip

How a mid-list band spent six weeks in an RV, fueled by chili

More debate ensued. The chili-diem wasn't fair to Mike. He's vegetarian. Tough titty! Eighty percent of the country didn't cater to him; neither would the chili-diem! End of discussion.

The chili-diem had its drawbacks. After a week-plus of our eating nothing but chili, the RV started to reek like a sweat-drenched sulfur mine. We had a strict "No shitting on the RV" policy and, because of this, the chili-diem was forcing us off the road with alarming frequency, adding hours to each drive.

After day 11 of chili-diems, our eyes would water every time we had to step into the gaseous RV. After close to two weeks of chili-diems, most of us were ill. We put the idea to bed.

I stretch out for this number.
Daniel Kramer
I stretch out for this number.
The "slightly glam trash" rockers go at it.
Daniel Kramer
The "slightly glam trash" rockers go at it.

Funny thing, though. Many of us, even after the chili-diem was put on ice, found ourselves craving the stuff. Ordering it even when we had to pay for it ourselves. Some bands are addicted to heroin. We might be too if you could shoot it with cheese and onions.

Beginning of the End: Leaving Portland October 10 on Our Way to San Francisco

It was a gorgeous day, filled with the most majestic views through the wooded mountains of Oregon. As the sun went down, I headed to the beds in the back of the RV with a book. We were crossing the California state line.

Not soon after, we started smelling smoke. "These California fires aren't a joke," we thought to ourselves, ignoring that it smelled more of tire than of tree. It got worse. And worse.

Roy turned on an overhead light. We could barely see one another. "Holy shit!" he exclaimed. "That's us!"

Roadie Jason pulled to the side of the mountain. Flames rumbled from under the hood. Quickly, he grabbed an extinguisher, dived beneath the undercarriage of the RV and suffocated the flame.

Our transmission had blown. We were, in a word, fucking fucked.

Soon the California Highway Patrol arrived. Then a fire truck. They applauded our fast thinking. They called a heavy-duty tow truck and warned us not to wander onto the pitch-dark, undulating interstate. "If one of you got hit by a big rig, that'd be a lot of paperwork for us," they said, only half joking.

We were towed to an RV and transmission repair shop in Yreka (pronounced "why? reek-uh") where we would stay overnight and wait for the shop to open. We bought chili and beer from a grocery store and were forced to watch the terminally unfunny Jay Leno with the lousy reception we were getting in the mountains.

The next morning the shop took a long look at the transmission while we ate chili and played air hockey at a bowling alley across the street. Jason got the call. They were ready to give us the estimate.

Bob, head of repair, resembled Mark Twain and had a bushy push-broom mustache that would make Phil Garner envious. "Well, it turns out there's a highly technical term for what's wrong with your transmission," he said.

Up to this point we were hoping we'd only blown a hose and sprayed fluid on an overworked engine hot enough to ignite it.

"Your transmission is a POS. You know what that is?" We didn't. "It's a piece of shit."

Price tag: $1,600 for a new transmission, $1,200 labor. We nearly puked up our chili.

Jason got on the phone with his pops, who told him to ask Bob if he'd be interested in purchasing it.

He would. For $300.

How's that expression go? Oh, yes -- our nuts were in a vice. Jason accepted.

The Massacre

The night our transmission blew in the cold California mountains, we made a phone call to our booking agent, Michelle Cable. Michelle is based out of San Francisco, books mostly Japanese bands and is keen on getting them van rentals for cheap. If our worst fears were confirmed and our RV was dead, we'd need her help.

She dealt with a company in San Fran that could rent us a van for $100 a day. With the remaining guarantees on tour we could afford this, but we still needed a way to travel the 300 miles with our gear to the Bay Area to meet up with our tourmates for the next ten days, Japanese heavyweights (and Michelle Cable-booked) DMBQ.

Once Bob told us the bad news, we asked him about rentals available in the Yreka area. Turns out there was an Enterprise Rent-A-Car up the street. He told us we were the fourth band in the last month that'd had their tranny blow in the mountains and that Enterprise was doing a bang-up business renting vans to them.

We were in luck.

Sitting on the Enterprise lot was a 15-passenger van. Packed carefully, we could be on our way to San Francisco in time for our show.

We called Michelle to tell her the good news. It was expensive ($206 a day), but we could return the van in her town and pick up another at the agency she normally deals with for cheaper.

Not so fast.

Days earlier our band had had to make a tough decision. The West Coast was beating us silly with $3.15-a-gallon gas. We were losing our ass. We decided to cancel three shows. Bellingham, Vancouver and Seattle would get no Guillo-love this tour.

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