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Breakdown!


November 4, 2017

“Being a stay-at-home dad with no kids is tough.”

- Ken Ross

And then we woke up and the van wouldn’t start.

We were planning to go to the gym. Exercise is important on the road too for physical and mental health. It’s good to put the headphones on and just get into the workout zone. Your body feels better, your head feels better, and it adds a bit of normalcy to a life that can be unpredictable.

But the van wouldn’t start.

One day in? Seriously? Isn’t that supposed to be a mid-tour marker?

Evidently Volkswagen doesn’t care about the usual schedule, and our little bus decided to cross its arms yesterday morning. The key wouldn’t even turn in the ignition. Zip. Nada. What was supposed to be a leisurely two-hour afternoon drive to Gramsbergen suddenly teetered on the edge of crisis. We needed help. Fast.

Fortunately, Sjoerd Ferwerda, he of the massive metal drum kit, was there. He and his family are those kind strangers I talked about in the last post. First, Sjoerd took us to the gym, so we could at least get that done. When we got back, he jumped into action to try to figure out what was wrong with the van and what we could do about it. We figured the battery was dead – probably a light left on accidentally – but there was a strange clicking sound coming from the engine.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to access the battery on a European Volkswagen cargo van? Crikey. We opened up the hood and there was no battery to be found. Did someone steal it? There was a battery-sized space, but no battery. I could spend the next ten minutes describing the adventure of finding the thing, but I’ll spare you the details. It’s under the driver’s seat. You need Allen keys and screwdrivers and voodoo dolls and a dude with big hands who can rip plastic covers out of the floor.

Anyway, we found the battery (I say “we” only because I happened to be in the vicinity, brows furrowed and speculating as men do when there’s a problem to solve and we have no idea what we’re talking about). Fortunately, Sjoerd and his friend Eelco do have some idea what they’re talking about. They hooked up jumper cables and eventually the van came back to life.

Huzzah!

And then it went to sleep again.

Bummer.

We let the van run for a bit to charge the battery, but when we shut it off, that peculiar clicking sound persisted in the engine. Something was running in there, and whatever it was sucked the battery dry again. Thus began a flurry of phone calls and messages and bat signals to the rental company and mechanics and anyone else who might know what to do. As for your band of travellers, we walked to the local public house in search of nourishment. When there’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can do.

The pub was cool. As a football fan (that’s soccer to most of you), it was neat to see scarves hanging on the wall representing Dutch clubs like Feyenoord and SC Heerenveen. Back home it’s mostly English clubs, plus Real Madrid and Barcelona and some of the other European giants. I’d like to take in some local footie while I’m here, but the schedule may not allow it.

The best thing about the pub, apart from the awesome people behind the bar, was our recommended lunch of boernbrok, served as always with fries. Boernbrok is a rectangular pork meatball patty. Sarah told us to try the pindasaus (peanut sauce) with our fries. Delish. Another one for Anthony Bourdain to sample.

The van saga went on for hours. We boosted the battery again and drove to a local mechanic, hoping he could solve the problem for us before we had to go in search of another vehicle. We still had a show to get to in Gramsbergen. In my last post I gave a teaser about where I was sitting to write it. At that moment, I was in the back seat of the van at the garage, waiting for an update. When it came, we were relieved to hear that the clicking noise was a fan in the engine that’s related to the air conditioning – not something we need at this time of year. They dealt with it, the clicking stopped, and we were on our way at last.

The kindness of strangers.

And so we drove to Gramsbergen, a tiny hamlet with winding streets and a cool bar called The Alley. It has a great stage and the staff really took care of us. We unloaded all of our gear from the van and set it up for the first time. After some trial and error we got everything working, did a full soundcheck, and went to see our accommodations. The venue put us up in a kind of log cabin in a nice resort complex. Our accommodations have been terrific so far. Nice beds, hot showers, peace and quiet – simple pleasures that make everything okay in the end.

The show was a lot of fun. Some of Sarah’s fans drove seven hours from Germany to be there. We sounded great and played well, and Sarah’s a master at engaging the audience from the stage. She made some new fans last night, as she does wherever she goes.

We left The Alley at about 2:30 a.m. That’s pretty typical for a club show. We had to pack up and load the gear out again, and we were happy to share a farewell drink with the staff. That’s the part of road life that a lot of people don’t see. It really is a lot of work handling all of the equipment in the wee hours of the morning, but we love it. It’s part of the job.

Later we talked more about the nature of reality, the historicity of Jesus, and consciousness. And Steel Panther.

The road, man.

#SarahSmith #Gramsbergen

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