Burning up the Road

Apparently Jessie and I have been burning up the road.  How do I know?  In the last seven days, we have replaced seven tires.  I already posted about the two camper tires last week.  Today we brought five new tires into the family.

This weekend we had a show in Florida, and Jessie’s car needed an oil change.  I decided that I should do a tire rotation too, so I took it to my grandfather’s shop Thursday night to do all of the work.  I jacked up the car and took off the tires while the oil cooled.  As I was rotating them, I noticed one tire was so worn on one side that I could see the cords that are embedded under all the rubber.  That was not good.

I went ahead and changed the oil (it’s much easier with the front passenger-side wheel removed), and I put the bad tire in a position where I thought it would get the least amount of wear.  It was 9 p.m. the night before we leave for Florida – no time to get new tires before we leave.  The rest was going to be luck.

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Jessie kissing a gator at Bayou Bill’s in Florida

We made it down there, did our gig, had a fun weekend on the beach with our friends, and then headed home Sunday afternoon.  Monday morning, I was at the tire shop having my tires (I thought) balanced to remedy some shaking I noticed as I towed the camper back from Paducah.  Unfortunately, one of my tires was beginning to separate, meaning I needed a new tire.  $$

I had made an appointment for Jessie to get new tires today too, somewhere between teaching music lessons and meetings.  $$$$

All this on top of the two camper tires, having work done on my truck, and my gas-and-tire-saving bicycle being stolen.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks around these parts.  My friends suggested we start a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to replace my bike so I can get back and forth from work.  It seems more and more like a good plan every day.

We have a couple of shows in Wisconsin this weekend.  I’m hoping we sell a bunch of merch at these shows to help offset all of these recent costs.  For those of you who won’t be in Wisconsin, feel free to check out Jessie’s merch over at Swampicana.com – there are even a few new items I have yet to add to the online store.  That reminds me – I need to add the new Jessie Smith tank tops to the store.

Maybe we can make a case for a tire endorsement…

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This is Cam and me getting the spare tire out to put on the camper somewhere in Nebraska.

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The Whole Family Is Home Again

Since my last post, we have had some excitement.  After packing up in Nebraska, we headed for home.  We knew it would be a long drive, we just didn’t realize it would take as long as it did.

As we were driving down Interstate 80, I looked in my left rear-view mirror to check on the trailer.  As I did, I felt the right trailer tire run over what felt like truck tire debris.  I thought to myself, “I don’t remember seeing any debris on the road, but maybe I missed something.”  I kept driving.

A minute or so later, I felt another bump, and I decided to pull over to check my tires.  I’m glad I did!

The right trailer tire had lost about 70% of its tread.  The tire was still inflated and riding smooth, but it was definitely no longer safe.  Cam pulled out the spare as I pulled off the old tire.

The new tire looked as if it had never touched pavement, much to my delight.  I inflated it to the proper pressure, I mounted it on the trailer, Cam packed away the old tire, and we were on our way once again.

About two hours from home, we were passing Paducah, Kentucky.  It was just after 10:30 at night, and I felt the trailer no longer pulling smoothly.  Since there are often miles between exits on this stretch of interstate, I pulled onto the shoulder.  Our like-new spare was apparently not like-new.  The tire had shredded and was half off the rim.

We tugged the trailer about a mile or so to the next exit, then off onto the shoulder to remount the old tire.  We then towed the trailer to the nearest parking lot, where we decided to leave the camper overnight.  We crammed as much stuff as we could into the car, including the two bad tires.  I left only what could be left in the hot sun in the trailer until I could return with new tires to get the camper home.

We rolled into the driveway as the clock struck two in the morning.  We unloaded Cam’s instruments and sent him on his way.  We then unloaded all of our gear, I showered, then crawled in bed around three.

Monday morning hit us like a ton of bricks.  I got up and started calling tire shops looking for the small trailer tires.  I found a place that had them, and set off to drop off the rims.  They said they would have my new tires ready this afternoon.

I went to the office to check in after being gone and prepare for a the week ahead.  After lunch, the tire shop called to tell me the tires were ready.  I took off to get the tires and started the journey back to Paducah.

I made it to Paducah about seven in the evening.  I got the new tires mounted and the camper hooked up to my truck.  I stopped to fill the tank, and then I headed for home.

The camper made it home just fine on the new tires.  I arrived back at the house around ten Monday evening beat like a rented mule.  Now the whole family is back home.

The rest of the week will be spent catching up on sleep in between pressing more CDs and hopefully making some new Jessie Smith tank tops in preparation for several more shows this month.  The fun never stops!

P.S. I apologize for the lack of pictures.  In my exhaustion and working to keep on the road, I neglected to take any pictures of our distress.

Off and On the Road Again

First, the off the road story:

Shortly after the last post about riding my bike to work, I did something stupid. About a week and a half ago, I was fixin’ to head home on a Friday afternoon on my bike. I wanted to pump up my tires before starting my homeward trek, so I unlocked my bike and took it to the door that leads from the parking lot directly to my office. Here I pumped up my tires using an electric pump, then took the pump back inside. I changed clothes to my riding attire, packed up my things, and walked back outside to my bike.

Only it wasn’t there.

My bike had been stolen.

I think I know who did it, but I haven’t been able to spot them or my bike since. I still have a little hope.

We’re now back on the road. Jessie and I are currently in the camper in a park outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. Last night, we made it to Monroe City, Missouri, with our friend and drummer Cam. We spent Independence Day driving to Monroe City, then headed down to the park marina for dinner and to do a little people watching. Monroe City didn’t disappoint! It was a warm and muggy night, but we made it all right!

The camp site was beautiful; the bathrooms were not. As hot and sticky as we were, we opted that the showers were too nasty to get us clean. We got a night’s rest and packed up in the morning for hopes of better facilities.

Today we drove to Lincoln. We arrived at the camp site, and Jessie decided to first check the bathrooms and showers in hope we had found something better than what we had just left behind. What she found was an outhouse – a glorified hole in the ground. This was not how we thought it would go.

She knew there had to be more, so she went searching while Cam and I got started setting up the camper. Several minutes later, Jessie came back with a smile on her face – she had found better bathrooms and clean showers!

Jessie gathered up her things and headed to the showers to get ready for tonight’s show. She discovered a problem – these showers required quarters to operate. The rate was 75¢ for the first three minutes, then another 25¢ for each additional minute and a half. That was going to cause a problem. I went through the car and found quarters for a 9-minute shower for Jessie. She was determined to make that work. I luckily found a dollar that I could feed into the machine to get four more quarters. I was able to get a shower before the show as well, and Cam had braved the “prison showers,” as we called them, at the previous camp site and would wait until later for his turn.

Now that we were clean, we headed to the venue in Lincoln to scope it out and find some dinner.

We had found out before we left Nashville that they had accidentally double-booked the night, and there was already a poetry slam happening. They graciously said we could take the stage when they were done at eight, and they would stay open an extra hour for us – all so kind!

After seeing the room, Jessie, Cam, and I found a great Greek restaurant called Sultan’s Kite. With our bellies full of Mediterranean baklava, we headed back to the venue. The slam was going a little long, so we decided to break out the guitars and play a couple of songs with the girl who was opening for us right out on the patio as we waited. As soon at the slam ended, we quickly took our places.

As Grace, the girl performing before us, sang to the crowd in Mo Java, Cam and I played along. It was fun to help this 14-year-old feel like a star with a band. She is very talented, and we were happy to help!

Jessie took the stage next and absolutely blew away the crowd! They were hanging onto every note that fell off her lips, and they were already trying to get us to play their hometown of Omaha on our way back from Wyoming this weekend!

We had a great time playing at Mo Java, and our new friend Rex, who ran sound for us, even helped suggest a new name for our camper – Jim! “Jim the Camper” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?! Well, maybe not.

Anyways, we were so excited to make some new friends this evening, and we are thankful for clean showers. Now it’s time for a little shut-eye before we head to Wyoming in the morning for our show on Saturday. It’s going to be long days from here on out to make it back to Nashville for work on Monday, but we’re up for the adventure.

It’s always an adventure in the camper, but it makes touring possible. Cam has his own bunk, and he’s got the hang of camper life already! We’ve got the A/C on full blast, and it’s feeling quite nice in here tonight. Tomorrow is another day with another song to sing; we have to give it all we have and put on a show for the people. Until then….

Our New Tour (Camper) Bus!

Jessie and I have been talking about a pop up camper for a while. It would make it so easy to pack up and tour, save money that we would have spent on hotels, and we can take a little bit of home with us wherever we go! So several weeks ago, we bought a pop up.

We found one on Craigslist that was just right for us, and that was ready for some work. We have found a little website called ThePopUpPrincess.com that gave us the confidence that we can make a pop up our own. We have big dreams for this little thing, and I can't wait to get started.

The camper is in good condition, and I think we can do quite a bit with it. Some of the first things we would like to do are replace the floor with some faux-wood vinyl (or something similar) and paint or replace the cabinets. When we do this, I also want to carve out space to build-in our mini fridge. Eventually, we want to redo counter tops, upholstery, curtains, paint the exterior, and a laundry list of other things as well.

Shortly after we bought the camper (just days after), we headed off on our maiden voyage. We had a show at our favorite venue on the Gulf of Mexico – the Green Door Music Hall in Ft. Walton Beach. Jessie survived the heat and humidity in the camper for two nights, and we called the trip (and the show) a success! We had so much fun!

We love the quiet peacefulness of the camp sights we've found so far, and we can't wait for the adventures that await us. As I write this, we are currently on a week tour across Wisconsin in our camper, playing our music for the wonderful people in this state. We have yet to meet people that are better friends or love music like these cheese heads! I can't wait to update you with our latest adventures when we return. Until then, I'll enjoy the ride and reminisce about the awesome times we've had like lunch at the Back Porch a few weeks ago.

I'll do my best to log our adventures, both on the road and in remodeling the camper, right here.