Thriving Ivory

By • Oct 21st, 2010 • Category: Features, Guest Editorials, Thriving Ivory

The Longest Drive

12PM: It was a cold, cold day in Chicago…
We needed to make a 17 hour, 1,000 mile drive to Boston and we had about 24 hrs to do so. Normally, this would be no problem…. but on this particular winter day…this wasn’t the case. Some of the guys in the band had to stay behind in Chicago to do some on-air promo and would not be able to make the drive. What was once a healthy rotation of seven drivers now were three. Still, this normally is not a problem but again, this day – this day was different.

1PM: We set off right on schedule and started heading on 90 East. We had just played a really late show the night before and were all running on about 6 hours of sleep. About 3 hours into the drive, it started snowing, adding to what had already dropped from the week prior. An hour later, there was a blizzard. This blizzard did not let up. We were forced to reduce our casual speed of 60 MPH to 30MPH. We were only about 250 miles into our drive and it was dark and snowy, we were moving at snail speed and then what…. oh, a blown tire. With freezing temperatures outside, changing the flat tire took much longer than expected. Frozen knuckles, a bloody finger, soaking wet socks…this was fun.

9PM: We had just fueled up and ate some delicious Subway and had taken a gas station stop. With the conditions outside, I was unable to sleep during my rest hours. I was too nervous that we would roll off the side of a mountain or a semi truck’s tail lights would appear out of nowhere and we would slam into the back of a big rig. Not rested and over-caffeinated, it was my turn to drive. Great. I jumped behind the wheel with my mittens and beanie on, (the heater didn’t work too well) said my prayers and began my journey.

10:30PM: We came to a sign: CHAINS REQUIRED BEYOND THIS POINT. Chains for our van? No problem. But chains for our 2,200 lbs. trailer? We didn’t have those. After what seemed like pointless negotiating with an officer of the law, he let us through and we were asked to reduce our 30MPH speed to 15MPH. At this point, the wind was howling so hard against the van and pushing the trailer every which way, I was more than fine driving at 5MPH.

This is the kind of scary drive where you insist that the radio be turned off and all laptops stowed so that there is no light reflecting against the inside of the windows. The four of us sat there, quiet as mice with eyes as big as saucers. The van was making some scratching and skidding noises like we had never heard before. Weird, weird noises. This is the kind of drive where 15 minutes feels like 2 hours. Everything was so intense. I remember seeing our merch guy (Craig) who was riding shotgun, looking scared shitless. His face read, “This is the end. This is how I’m going to go.” His knuckles were pressed up against the dashboard bracing himself for the next big gust of wind. His knuckles were white. At this point, we wouldn’t brake and then stop, we would brake and then plan on skidding about another 12 feet or so.

2AM: It was pitch black outside but thankfully the snow had let up a little. Now fueled up and over-caffeinated again, it was our tour manager’s turn to drive. I forced myself to lie down on one of the benches and do what I could to make myself go to sleep. IF we were going to crash, we were going to crash. That’s just the way it goes.

3:30AM: Our tour manger was from Houston. He was NOT experienced with driving in these conditions (really, none of us were) and pulling that enormous heavy trailer was not helping at all. He pulled over to the side of the road, threw his hands in the air and honestly threatened to quit the tour right then and there. He had had it. Talking to himself, kicking snow in the air, he was losing it.

3:45AM: Back into the store for what would hopefully be my last Red Bull of the day and I was right back behind the wheel again. What about the other guys, right? Well, Craig had driven first and then stayed awake and rode shotgun while I drove. Him getting behind the wheel for his 3rd shift wouldn’t have been smart. So here I was again…I blinked a nice and long hard blink…. dropped the van into drive… and this is where the story ends. That’s all I can remember. Honestly.

1PM: We arrived in Boston. I don’t know how and I don’t care. I think my mind either blanked out due to excessive “Red-Bulling” or somewhere deep in my sub-conscious, I really didn’t want to remember how we made it there.

24 Hours and 1, 011 miles later, we had done the unthinkable. The show in Boston was and still is to this day, one of our best shows we have ever played. Maybe because we were lucky to be alive? Maybe because when we looked around the stage, we realized that these are the guys we almost died next to? Who knows?

But all is well that ends well. The guys who flew treated us to THE best clam chowder and Sam Adams that we have ever had. : )

Paul Niedermier
Thriving Ivory
October 2010

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