The word Intelligence, in the sense that the military uses it, is the art of forward thinking and planning, while having a sense of where you stand in space and time and geography I guess, and then sometimes applying lateral thought solutions to problems as they occur on the fly, all the while meting out information to the troops on a need to know basis so as to not cloud the proceedings in the fog of war. Phew, that was a long sentence but it somehow sums up touring for me.
As commander in chief I’m often so consumed with piloting the actual ship that I’ll not have all the intelligence to hand but can generally rest assured that someone in the platoon will have a handle on a specific aspect of it all, whether it’s knowing if there is parking available ahead of time for our tour vehicle and trailer, what the weather conditions will be like or any one of a miriad of issues about to occur down the road.
Yesterday was truly a taxing day which encompassed all the issues a touring band might encounter along the way, some of them quite extreme. We set off on the highway, leaving Phoenix Arizona for the town of Ramona in California. Pretty soon we made a turn on to 78 and before I knew it we were into serious desert conditions cutting SW on a two lane black top, while passing through increasingly more arid conditions. Someone called me to do an interview en route but the cell reception was fading so we abandoned that. I noticed the outside temperature gauge gradually increasing as we made our way. Scrub land gave way to exotic cacti and then Sahara like sand dunes.
Some intrepid folks had hauled dune buggies up here to ride the dunes. It looked like a lot of fun but in 100 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, I was dubious. I was so relieved that I’d had the good sense to get the oil changed in our van the previous day, as well as all the fluid levels. There were no gas stations along the way but we did pass some California Border patrol people on serious looking ATVs. Eventually, we ourselves were pulled over and a very fit movie star-like lady smilingly asked us if I was “carrying any criminals on board?”. I replied that if she “classified musicians that way, then I was”. She laughed and waved us on after asking our nationalities. I guess people smuggling is a big issue in these parts.
There were wild turkeys and buzzards of course and even a wild pig was encountered on the way, although that particular creature was in the form of road kill. The temperature was rising and eventually it made it all the way to 109 degrees. After an interminal distance and and incredible array of different landscapes we started to climb. This was worrying me because the engine temperature gauge was steadily moving towards the red. Eventually, I could hear the coolant liquid bubbling and boiling. It was time to stop and let things cool down. Shortly after we started on our way again the scenery changed to lush verdant pastures and pines as we descended from 5000 feet. This was more like the California I knew. We entered gorgeous horse country and there were some prime specimens in the pastures as we arrived in Ramona.
The crew and promoter were extremely good and the venue, a converted cinema, first class. A riotous crowd and some folks all with their stories to share with us after the show, made for a fun evening. We decided to take our medicine in one go and drive the 1.5 hour journey to San Juan Capistrano after the show, so that we could have a somewhat relaxing day before the gig there. After about an hour (I’m getting pretty tired by now) I see a strange light formation in front of me on the freeway. I could not fathom it until I was right on top of what turned out to be a car going 90 degrees across the 4 lane freeway. My split second decision was whether I should go in front of him at 60 mph or go round his back end. Remember, I’m pulling a 1500 lb trailer loaded with gear. I opted for the rearward manoeuvre, all the while hoping the driver, if there was one, would not suddenly decide to reverse the direction of his car.
We made it sailing past him and I was not about to stop and find out what it was all about but needless to say it was one of the more bizarre events I‘ve ever encountered on a drive. It reminded me of the time a giant elk decided to stroll across a freeway in Colorado. What a day!
The next day was indeed pleasant and worth it all. We went down to the harbor at Dana Point not far from our show location and had a relaxing brunch at one of the restaurants there, followed by walk in the gentle sunshine.