So many months ago we got booked for a few shows up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada by The Earl of Halifax. We were super excited to be doing our first out of the country shows, and started making preparations immediately. I applied for a passport and went searching for a band vehicle. We needed one anyway, and this trip was a great excuse to get one now instead of later.
After a bit of drama trying to find a vehicle, we came across a black Thomas built short bus. The price was right, and besides that, it looked the part, only had 77k miles on it, seemed to be in sound mechanical shape. For someone who usually doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve, it’s fair to say that I was giddy with excitement driving back to the city with our new vehicle.
Anyway, it seems that the bus wasn’t in quite as good shape as we were led to believe. Before we used it for a show I brought it to a shop to get it looked at and tuned up. $950 later we were good to go, with a rear brake adjustment, oil change, gasket and seal replacements for the drive shaft, transmission and intake manifold, new belts, pretty much the works and then some.
I pick it up the night we’re supposed to be playing a show in Pawtucket RI, and on our way there we smell a burning. The car following us with the folks from Pretty Not Bad gives us a call and lets us know that the rear right wheels are smoking, so we pull over. Long story short, the brakes seized due to a bad master cylinder. We get it towed from Randolph back to the shop in Cambridge, where they do another $530 worth of work, mostly at the cost of parts. It appears the bus sprang an oil leak as well and needed new pressurized hoses. At this point I was pretty discouraged, but was assured that the worst was behind us, and that it would pretty much run forever.
Anyway, after that it seemed to run well. We had an issue with the battery dying before our next show (probably an omen of things to come) but we swapped it out and it seemed good to go after that. I took it for a 100+ mile test drive a few days before we were scheduled to leave for Canada, and things seemed to be going alright.
Friday, May 16th we pack up the bus with all our equipment and head out toward the great white north at around 9pm. Things seem to be progressing smoothly and we make it through Mass and New Hampshire without incident. At around 1am we get a frantic call from Earl, letting us know all is not well in the world.
He lets us know that Yesterday’s Heroes almost got arrested at the border. You see, we had been told a couple weeks before we went up that we should tell the border guards that we were not going up to play any shows, that instead we were going to record a compilation CD, to avoid getting work visas. We were provided with receipts and such that we had with us. I had a bad feeling about this, and having researched the laws and regulations about crossing the border, knew that it would be fine crossing to play a show, as we had no contract stipulating payment, thereby negating the need for work visas. Goes to show I should have followed my instincts, but alas, we got rid of the receipt, and told the guards the truth when we crossed the border. It was pretty easy, and we pretty much got across without incident, less having to pay a $11 tax for commercial goods the case of CDs we brought across.
After we crossed the border we kept driving for a couple hours, up through New Brunswick. When we hit Moncton Tony (Yah!Dude, camera man and roadie extortionare), who was driving at the time said the bus was losing power, and we couldn’t go past 45mph. We knew we had a problem, so we got off the next exit to try to find a shop to get it checked out.
Unfortunately, as we were rounding the bend, the bus lost all power, and we basically glided to a stop on the side of the road. Ironically enough, a guy wearing a Thomas Built hat drove by, and stopped to see what was wrong. He was kind enough to hang out with us while we waited for a tow, although he couldn’t help us with the bus since his shop was closed.
After about 20 minutes we got a tow from a guy he knew to a place we were referred to by the people at the screen printing shop we broke down in front of (who was also kind enough to give Tony a T-shirt). We were brought to Phil Goudreau Auto Services in Irishtown, New Brunswick, owned by a great guy named Phil, who is probably the most friendly, straight up mechanic I have ever met.
He had us turn over the engine, and after two seconds immediately had us shut it off, telling us the bad news that it had seized. After making a few calls, he informed us that he could rebuild it for about $3k to $3500, or drop in a brand new one for around $5k. The other bad news was that it wouldn’t be ready until next Monday or Tuesday, more than a week away.
We let him know we needed to talk it over, and he left us in the bus to discuss what we were going to do. While we were making frantic calls and pondering where to go from there, he was kind enough to bring us a box of Tim Horton’s donuts, which were well received.
After weighing our options, we decided we would let the bus rest in piece, as it had been nothing but bad luck up until that point. It’s really hard to let go of a $5000+ investment when you haven’t even been able to bring it to a single show, but sometimes you just need to know when to let go. Even though the decision still pains me, I feel it was the right one to make.
After we let Phil know what we were going to do, we made arrangements to get our stuff out of the bus and get home. Phil and his employee Kevin were kind enough to let us hang out at their shop for the afternoon, and drove some of the guys out to town to get a bite to eat while me and Steve stayed behind, trying to get the U-Haul squared away.
On the phone with the U-Haul rep they said they had a 14″ truck that we could bring one way to Boston for $560, including 600 or so miles, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too bad. Once the guys came back with the food and we’d had our fill me and Kevin headed out to the U-Haul place. Once I got there I was informed that the only truck that they could send one way was a 24″ truck. Let me tell you, it was a monstrosity. At least they gave it to me for the same price as a 14″ truck, but the gas was a killer (Gas in CA was $1.29 a liter, or $4.88 a gallon, not good!).
Anyway, I drove it back to the shop, where the guys had been busy stripping everything of value out of the bus. We got pretty much everything I wanted, except the chrome rims and the sleeping loft we’d built, not to mention the countless hours we’d put into making the bus our own, but I digress.
The drive back home was fairly uneventful, given the circumstances. We took turns sleeping in the back of the truck, with 2 in the cargo hold and 3 in the passenger compartment. Now I know how illegal immigrants feel, it’s pretty scary being in a moving vehicle hearing the strange sounds of the road in near darkness, and wondering what every turn, shake and bump means.
Crossing the border back into the states was interesting. A few miles from the border we let everyone out of the back and all crammed into the cab so it wouldn’t look too bad coming in.
We basically told the border guards the story of what happened, they had us park and come inside, where the border guard grilled us on if we had any drugs or paraphernalia. Our reply of “Not when we’re crossing the border” seemed to appease him, and we got off with a simple search of the cab.
We didn’t end up getting back in until about 3:30am on Sunday morning, having driven for the better part of 30 hours. We were exhausted, down around $1800 in fuel and rental expenses, plus another $5000+ for the bus, but we’re all safe back in Boston, which at the end of the day is the most important thing.
We really feel bad for anyone who came out to see us, we’ll try to make it back up there sometime, hopefully under better circumstances.
Until then, we’ll lick our wounds, confident in the fact that what didn’t kill us will only make us stronger.
If you’d like to help us out, go to our MySpace page (www.MySpace.com/TheMurderMA) and pick up a CD or two, there’s a direct link to buy it on the front page.
Thanks a lot guys!
Roach & The Murder Crew