Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Tale of Two Trips

Since I last posted, Furthur announced they wouldn't tour in 2014.  Within a week of that announcement, VW Brasil announced they would stop production of the VW Kombi (bay-window bus) at the end of 2013.  While seemingly unrelated, for those who drive VW buses around the country to see music, this was quite the double blow.  The day after the VW Brasil announcement, I bought a pair of tickets to see Furthur at Marymoor Park east of Seattle to compliment the pair I already had for the following night in Eugene.  Today's post covers the 3-day adventure.

Getting Out of Dodge
Tuesday is a typical workday for me and the Marymoor venue is 3.5 hours from home with good traffic.  Since the show started at 6,  We had to leave by 2 to have any hope of seeing it start.  I'd written off the lot scene.  Work was, well, work, so I didn't actually get Boo and start driving north until almost 3.  With the compressed timeline, we left the bus at home and took the more consistently reliable Jetta.  As speed limits rose, the rain intensified.  We rolled music off my iToy to keep the mood calm.  Outside Fort Lewis, emergency vehicles were on maneuvers, jamming up traffic in both directions without any actual accident scene.  Lost 20 minutes.  We hit Olympia by 5 and the rush hour traffic that usually arrives with evening.  The Jetta handled well, drove fast, and we found the venue with very little trouble.  We arrived less than 30 minutes late, only missing the first song entirely.  We heard the second while parking and the third while walking to the gate.

Marymoor Map
We met our friend Grateful Ed just inside the gate.  He'd driven up much earlier in the day at a much less frantic pace.  Being a park, he was able to settle before 2, fell into a photo shoot for REI and pre-func'd with some heads from WA.  He'd landed us a spot less than 40 feet from the stage, and led us in to a nice 1/2-Step.  As a location to see music, Marymoor is fantastic.  It is one large flat lawn with a small berm ringing the outer edge.  On the other side of the berm are food carts (though the food options were weird and lines non-moving), beverage gardens (no line) and the restrooms.  Aisles through the lawn are painted: no railings, fences or concrete.  I'll absolutely go back for more shows there.  I just wish they'd have some back-to-back nights and a place to overnight camp nearby (EDIT: found a place: Vasa Park Resort).  The crowd was older and small.  We didn't see any wookies either, so we figured that the folks traveling with the band skipped this show and we'd meet them in Eugene.  The show was good, the second set really good with a foreshadowing "Goin' Down the road Feelin' Bad" encore.

Let the Real Adventure Begin
Since Boo and I hadn't eaten since lunch, and it was almost midnight as we left the lot, we concluded we should grab some eats before heading back to Oregon.  A Denny's stop with Ed later, we're ready to go.  Boo and I had been having some sporadic battery issues with the Jetta around town, with the battery light popping on after starting.  After driving for a bit, the light would go out, so we didn't pay it much heed.  I figured the alternator was failing, and had it tested.  "All good," says the mechanic.  I tossed the car-battery charger into the backseat anyway.  So, as Boo drove us through that construction zone between Seattle and Tacoma, we started to get some weird idiot lights firing.  The battery light was already lit, but the ABS light started to flash and the radio started to cut out.  We turned off the radio, but the ABS light stayed on steady.  The air-bag light then lit up.... then the dashboard lights started to dim... the blinkers stopped working.... the headlights turned off... Within a couple minutes we went from safely following Ed down the I-5 to completely failing electrical system.  We couldn't raise Ed on the phone, so we douche-dived the first exit we came upon: Tillicum, WA, and rolled into the Chevron.  While the engine idled, I spotted an electrical outlet on the side of the building.  We hooked up the battery charger and watch the idiot lights turn off one by one.  Boo asked (and was denied) to use the Chevron bathroom and got us a water.  After 15 minutes of charging (1:50AM), we figured we'd gotten enough juice to get going again, but we had the failures cascade again before we made the freeway on-ramp.  We were lucky enough to get back to the Chevron before the engine died.

from Google maps
Sitting in the middle of the Chevron lot in the wee-hours of the morning was surreal.  An older boy / young man was peddling a bike through the lot and helped us push it into a parking spot.  He then asked for a smoke and rode on.  I called in AAA for a tow home, and learned than my membership got 100 free miles.  The remaining 40 were my problem, but the driver would be there within an hour.  Once we got the immediate problem resolved, Boo and I looked around at where we'd landed.  Sketch.  Very Sketch.  Cyclone fencing, closed businesses and boarded up cheap apartments.  Sweet.  We saw the Taco Bell and McDonald's down the street had their lights on, so we walked down there to sit and wait.  Neither business was open, and we concluded they left the dining room lights on to reduce break-ins.  On the walk and wile waiting in the car, we got a more intense sense of how sketchy the area was.  The young guy on the bike kept re-appearing, clearly following a route from one location to another.  A a light blue cab stopped at the Chevron multiple times (though that could have been innocent enough).  And a young woman all dressed in black appeared multiple times, dashing from one boarded up location to another.

The flatbed tow truck arrived shortly after 2:30AM, driven by a guy with a long chin-strap beard that ended flat (like ZZ-Top).  He reminded me of a gnome with a plumber's crack.  While hooking up the car, he admitted that he'd worked until midnight, had worked the night before, and had very little sleep.  We climbed into the cab, and Boo told him that we needed first to stop at a restroom.  The driver flipped a U-turn, led her into the Chevron and got the clerks to let her use the restroom.  Apparently, they don't let customers use the restroom because they've been robbed so many times.  Awesome.  With thoughts of "lets get the hell out of here", our gnome wheeled to the freeway and we nosed south.  The truck was bouncy, the bench seat nearly as hard as a bleecher, but fatigue finally caught up to me.  I was awakened by a few big bumps, as was our gnome-driver at least once, motivating Boo to stay awake, chatting him up so he didn't fall asleep.  Her sacrifice meant I could sleep (we thought she'd sleep on the drive to Eugene), and I didn't awaken for good until we were on the Freemont Bridge watching dawn break over downtown Portland.  The Jetta was tucked away on the driveway at 6:AM, and after refusing a cup of coffee, the driver-gnome took my $160 for the 40 miles of towing and headed back to Washington.

Boo hadn't slept for more than 15 minutes, and I'd gotten about 2 hours of rough sleep, so we decided to take a nap or a few hours before thinking about Eugene.  At 9, we hosed off, scarfed some instant oatmeal, and started loading the bus.  Since we were going to overnight in Boo's sister's driveway, we didn't need much camping gear, just sleeping bags and food.  We'd agreed to meet at Grateful Ed's at 11:30, and we arrived a few minutes early.  Hapy (the wonderbus) needed to get his gears warmed up, but once we got to operating temperature, he handled great.  I'd driven him to work and back a few times last week to get some confidence up and to confirm that the leak was solved.  Once Mayhem arrived at Grateful Ed's, we started the carabus south, taking turns leading.  Hapy can cruise at 60mph with the RPM's just under 3k.  We discovered that pushing the RPM's above 3k increases the noise significantly, so 60mph became the standard cruising speed.  Because of the late start, we drove straight to the Cuthbert Ampitheater parking lot, agreeing to meet Boo's sister and husband there.  We arrived just after 3, and got a prime parking spot along the main strip (parked with sliders facing each other), but not on Shakedown Street.  We did not see many other old buses, but the few we did see were close by.  Again, we leveraged the removable middle seat as a lot couch, creating seating for all 6 of us easily.  I'm really loving that.  On the whole drive, Hapy's temperature never hit 190*, and stayed at 185* almost the entire time, only climbing above after pulling uphill.  He handled very well, making the drive to Eugene the highlight thus far.

Furthur farewell
The Cuthbert Ampitheater, unlike the Marymoor, is almost completely pitched ground.  The front now has reserved seats, but the concrete is not flat.  Behind the seats is a narrow non-flat grass area where seats are not allowed, backed by a 18" drop-off down to a cement walkway.  Behind the walkway is the steeper lawn where low beach chairs are allowed.  Simply standing on that grass wears on your muscles like running downhill.  Now, try dancing for 3 hours.  Yeah, that can hurt, but its worth it when the show is smokin'.  They started with a Brother Esau, and kept it funky throughout.  The crowd included many more of the usual road-warriors, supporting our thoughts about them skipping WA.  It also included many of the Oregon old-guard 60's-era hippies.  We sat next to a couple who drove in from the coast, for example, who had been seeing forms of the Dead since the mid-60's.  Ken Babbs was there.  Very cool when you contrast that with the kids dancing on the walkway who were born after Jerry died.  Unlike 2 years ago, the scene in the lot after the show was much more calm.  The staffers weren't trying to cowboy the concert-goers out of the lot 20 minutes after the last note was played.  There were tour-heads swinging beer, T-shirts, posters and coasters.  For the first time since the 90's, I heard a nitro tank filling balloons.  

Belle heading home
Boo, her sister, Grateful Ed, Mayhem and I skipped the after-party, but Boo's sister's husband went and closed The Cooler.  The band played until almost 2:AM.  If we'd gotten more sleep over the prior couple of days, maybe we would have gone too.  Instead, we tipped a couple beers, played with Boo's sister's dog and visited in the comfort of the old hippie Dr. Seuss house.  We grabbed breakfast at Brail's and headed north.  Hapy again, drove like a dream.  This time, Ed led the carabus (see picture at right), setting a slightly slower pace to help keep his temperatures down.  That also lowered the noise in my bus a little bit, making the drive all the more pleasant.  We got home a little after 2, making the entire Eugene run, including to/from the venue, Boo's sister's house, grocery stops, etc on less than one tank of diesel.  I'll know my actual mileage when I fill again, but I figure I drove 250 miles and I put in just under 10 gallons before leaving home.

As always, thanks for following along.  The long trip with the bus has helped me understand what needs to be looked at next (adjust shifting linkage, headliner, deep-cycle battery charger, tighten steering, better seal for engine hatch, fuel gauge, painting the exterior...).  The journey is the destination.