Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Houston, we have a problem...

“Dude, we’re supposed to be there at 3:00 pm for load-in/soundcheck so get ready; we have to leave at 1:30 -- and we’re still going to be late!” That was the voicemail I received from Kevin yesterday around 11:00 am. We were scheduled to play the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo last night at The Hideout as we have for the past couple of years. Kevin had been calling and emailing the folks for the past week trying to advance the show, but his phone calls and emails fell on deaf ears and went unanswered so we really only knew we were to play a 90 minute set from 10:15-11:45 that night after the Keith Urban show let out. We met at our usual spot and Dennis and I quickly loaded up our gear and we headed for Houston. It rained for most of our trip on the road and somewhere around 3:00 pm or so, our “Check Engine” light came on with a very persistent chime informing us that we were waaaaaay overheating and that we better pull over quickly to do something to remedy the situation.

Saturday in Gruene was so much fun -- why can't every night be this fun?

Our initial stop was made along the side of Eastbound I-10, on the shoulder. When I opened the radiator, I was surprised to find any water in there! We recently had our water pump replaced and haven’t had any issues with the van, but we travel with a gallon jug of water just in case we need to top it off. I was able to put that gallon of water in and decided that I should find more because the van would not cool down. Dennis joked about pulling water out of the creek near where we stopped, but a barbed wire fence prevented me from getting to what little water was in there. Due to the van being on the incline of half pavement/half road, I figured there must be air in the radiator that was trapped and preventing me from filling anymore water in there. After 10 minutes or so, we started the van and hobbled along to the next exit that at least helped get us out of the way of highway passersby. Once the van was a bit more level, I realized just how low the water in the radiator was and that we were going to have to put quite a bit of coolant in the radiator to get us to the nearest filling station. I spotted a little pond of what must have been rainwater run-off about 50 yards away and I headed off in the rain to fill up my gallon jug. Along the way I picked up another gallon jug and was back in no time with 2 gallons of freshly squeezed tadpole juice!

Drawing water from a deeper well...

Meanwhile, the engine continued to burn red hot with no sign of cooling off. We tried turning on the heater to help pull the heat away from the engine, but the fan blew weakly and the air was cool (go figure that?) We were able to limp into a Shell station and Lady Luck smiled upon us when we saw that we had pulled in just a few feet from a water hose. I continued to nurse the poor van’s radiator while Kevin decided to buy everybody “a round”. About that time, we also were brought to the realization that we had pulled in right in front of two commercial dumpsters and the garbage guys needed to get in there to empty them out. Dennis started the van only to overheat it again quickly while trying to move out of their way! And the rain continued to come down.

They're just doing their job...

At some point, the radiator started to burp and spit a little bit internally and I realized that even though I couldn’t seem to get anymore water in there, I knew it needed more. So I did the only thing that seemed reasonable at the time, I performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the radiator. I poured a bit of water in, and blew it in there. I poured a bit more water in, and blew it in there again. This went on for 10 minutes more until I signaled for them to turn on the van. Voila! The engine sounded normal and when Kevin revved it up, the temperature began to drop! The fan blew strongly and the air was HOT! After another couple of gallons of water, the radiator seemed full and the van seemed happy! I filled the coolant reservoir up to the very top and closed it all up. (Screw the “Fill fluid to here when cold” line on that little plastic tank!) I was soaked from reviving the van in the rain, but we were back on the road!

Kevin makes the best of a bad situation while I do
my best to revive our Charlie Brown van...
(Notice my bier on the car battery...)

Kevin had been in contact with the stage manager all afternoon long letting him know what was going on, but in all the higgledy-piggledy, our booking agent sent a quick email around 4:00 pm to the venue to let them know we were on the side of the road and working on our situation. Now here’s where the story gets really strange. By 4:30 pm we were back on the road and let the stage manager know we were back on our way only to find out that in the 30 minute window from when the email was sent to when we called to let everybody know we were okay, Jason and Stephanie had found another band for the evening and we were told “Don’t worry about coming – it’s already been taken care of.” The most bizarre part of this is that Kevin had been emailing and calling for over a week with no responses. However, a quick email to inform them of our plight was met with anger towards us and swift action that resulted in our being replaced. We were only 45 minutes away when we were told that we wouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds if we showed up! Apparently Jason Kane and Stephanie Stegall are NOT Two Tons fans! With the amount of time and effort and dollars that go into preparing for and advertising for a show, most promoters are heartbroken to find that their band has to cancel or elated to find that their band will make it after all! No amount of our time spent trying to convince Jason otherwise had any effect on the outcome of our situation so we turned ourselves around and headed for home.

It was a good thing we had these, lest we never would have gotten in!

The attitude in the van quickly turned from anger to confusion to laughter. I was still wet from the rain (and cold by this time), and every time we stopped I had to add another gallon or so to the radiator (where in the world was all the water going? We spotted no leak!) The last of our hi-jinks came at a stop when I got out of the car to go fill up my jug. Upon my return I found the van door was not fully closed and I thought Kevin had locked it. He was inside telling me it was open but for the life of me, I couldn’t open it. I decided to climb through the back doors and with one swift tug on the interior door handle in an attempt to close it fully; I ripped the door handle completely off the inside of the door! In my disbelief Kevin muttered, “And now you break the door…” (Speaking in a tone as if to say, “What else can possibly go wrong?”)

I've said it before, I'll say it again -- I'm a badass...

The best part of this segment? The door still wasn’t closed -- nor would it open! I was somewhat relieved to find that the reason was because the seatbelt had become stuck in the latch thus jamming the door. I was able to finally break it free and we were once again on our way. The rest of the trip was spent laughing about how crazy our day had been and we made it the rest of the way without any further incident. Kevin also pointed out that we only spent $70.00 in gas -- as opposed to the $100.00 or more it would have cost to go the rest of the way and back!  For those who made the trip out to The Hideout only to find we weren’t performing (or if this irritates you just as much as it did us), you can make your voice heard! Drop Jason an email at or Stephanie at or join their FaceBook page and post up here:!/group.php?gid=47148260735&ref=ts

Thanks, everybody, for your continued support of our band and our music. If you make it out to a show, be sure you come up and say hello to us – we’re glad when you do. Be safe out there and we’ll talk soon!

- Dodds

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