THE 8:30 NEWFOUNDLAND CROSS CANADA TOUR/ OCT. 13 TO OCT. 30, 2009 (PART 1)

Well…

In late September it dawned on me that I didn’t have a vehicle for the upcoming
tour which was due to kick off on October 15th in Summerside, PEI.

I looked into renting a van but that was gonna cost me a fortune.
500 bucks a week.
500 free miles a week.
9 weeks.
20 cents a mile after the first 4500 miles.
Then I did the mileage for the entire tour on google maps and discovered that the tour.
Leaving Nashville on October 13 and deadheading to PEI.
Then traveling all the way west to Vancouver and then head east back Ottawa and then down to Nashville by December 14th.
All told, this tour was gonna be a conservative 13,000 miles or 22,000 km.
That meant an additional, give or take, $1700.00 in mileage charges.
That didn’t seem like an option or at least not a very good option.

With time running out, I hopped on eBay and for the next week or so watched the action on 27 different Dodge Vans.
The first weekend in October, Jenny, Ruby and I were in Kentucky hanging around with a bunch of friends at the Tim Horton Camp for Kids on Green River Lake with her skies so blue.
On Saturday afternoon, I made a bid on a van in Cleveland.
Three hours later I had the winning bid.

On Sunday I bummed a ride to Cleveland to buy a low mileage 2000 Dodge Conversion Van and started making my way back to Nashville.

Over the next 7 days I got things ready for the trip.
Vehicle inspection.
Plates.
Insurance.
New tires.
Picked up guitars from the shop.

When I know that I’m leaving for a road trip I spend the week leading up to my departure dreading the inevitable time away
from my family.
It drives me crazy.
In fact, I hate that part of the road.
Vividly.
The night before I left, Jenny, Ruby and I went to a Nashville
Predators hockey game.
The Oilers were in town.
It was Ruby’s first hockey game.
We had a blast.
Hotdogs.
French Fries.
Cheese Burgers.
Peanuts.
Popcorn.
Cotton Candy.
The works!
You’d have thought I was going to the electric chair.
The next morning, Jenny and I took Ruby to school.
We walked in the front doors and we stood there.
Jenny gave her a hug and kiss and told her she’d
see her after school.
I gave Ruby a hug and kiss and I told her I’d see her soon.
“How long?”
“Not long.”
“How long?”
“Nine weeks…”
“How long’s that?”
“Not long.”
“Okay…”
“Love you, Ruby…”
“Love you, Daddy!”
“See ya…”
“See ya…”
And with that she walked down the hall.
I stood and watched her walk away from me.
Her school uniform.
Her backpack.
Her ponytail.
Slowly, she disappeared in amongst the other students.
I have never been more sad.
I actually felt like I was going to the electric chair.
I dropped Jenny off at work.
Gave her a kiss and was on my way.

Nine hours later I was at the border between Detroit and Windsor.
Crossing the border wasn’t much of an issue but road construction added an additional 3 hours to the trip.
Grrrr…
My merchandise was waiting for me at Ben’s place in Toronto and so on my way through town I dropped by his apartment and picked up 150 pounds of t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies and cd’s.
We stood outside and visited for about 15 minutes.
We talked about the upcoming tour.
Ben seemed very excited about the cross Canada run.
I was excited too but found the whole thing very daunting.
It was freezing.
The wind was howling.
Winter was on it’s way.
It was only mid October, but you could see it from where I stood.
You could smell it.
At about 11:30PM, I made my way back to the 401 and headed east. At one in the morning I stopped at a truck stop on the outskirts of Port Hope and went to sleep in the van.
At 5AM I woke up thinking I was gonna freeze to death. I topped up the tank and got a cup of coffee from Tim Horton’s and was off and running.
I arrived at my dad’s place in southern New Brunswick at 11 o’clock
that night.
I slept like the dead.

The next morning I had breakfast with my dad and his wife Lucille.
Later that afternoon, my dad, my uncle David and I took the
Confederation Bridge over to Prince Edward Island.
The first of 15 shows with Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans was in Summerside.
When I walked in the front door of the venue in the lobby setting up the merchandise table was Joe Party.
Remember him from my Vancouver story?
I hauled in all of my merchandise and after a quick soundcheck I headed over to Subway for a bite to eat.
Show number one went off without a hitch.
After the show, we drove back to my dad’s place.

The next morning, after breakfast, I went to Costco and bought a GPS unit.
All those years of roaming all over North America and Europe and never quite sure if I was going the right way would have been eliminated if I’d had one of these things.
Later that afternoon I made my way to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and my trendy new GPS unit lead me right to the front door of the theatre.
I almost cried with joy.
I walked into the lobby of the Glasgow Square Theatre and saw Joe Party setting up the merchandise table.
So once again, I hauled my junk into the venue, did a quick soundcheck and set up my merch.
Show number two was a pile of fun.
The venue was great and the crowd was even better.
After the show, we all went out for a couple of drinks.
Everyone was in a good mood.

The tour was now officially underway.

The next day, I had my own show in Bridgewater, NS.
The show was originally booked in one venue and for whatever reason the club was double booked or, more than likely, they got cold feet.
So the show ended up being booked into the lounge of the Boston Pizza in town.
Usually, when I walk into a venue and I’m not sure what to think about the show I end up having a great time.
Once again, this was the case.
I had a great time.
The promoter, a guy named Brodie, opened the show and it just got more and more fun from there.
Brodie is a top shelf individual and has a great family and visiting with his wife and kids made me wish I was home.
Anyway, the show finished at midnight and I could’ve stayed up all night but for some reason the word “pacing” kept popping into my head.
So, by 1AM, I was in my hotel room setting my alarm so I could get an early start.

At 6:30 in the morning I topped up the tank, grabbed a cup of coffee was on the road heading towards Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Four hours later I pulled into Havelock (Butternut Ridge) NB and went to my cousin Nick’s place and had some new brake pads put on the van. Thanks Nick!!!

Then I hopped back on the highway and headed north to Fredericton.
Pulled up to the venue around 5 and, as usual, did soundcheck and set up my merchandise.
Over a dozen family members came to see the show.
Twenty eight hundred gigs under my belt and this was the first time most of them had ever been to a show.
After I’d finished soundcheck we all went “up the hill” for dinner.

We met up with some friends of mine at the restaurant.
Tammy Ryder and Lisa Thorne Lewis were friends of mine back when we were kids in Elementary school.
I was amazed that friends of mine from elementary school knew everyone in my family.
I mean, it makes sense, seeing that they all live in the same little corner of New Brunswick, but, it just never really crossed my mind.
I sat there listening to everyone talking and laughing and telling old stories when it hit me as to just how much I’ve missed over the years.
I’m not sure I said anything at all.
I just watched and took it all in.
For a split second, I felt like I’d never left.

The show was fun but, at the end of the day, I would have much rather been sitting in the restaurant with everyone laughing and drinking.

Lisa’s husband Brad made it to the show and we got to talk for a few minutes.
The gigs can be a crazy place if you’re trying to visit with old friends and this night was no different.
After the show, I said goodbye to all my aunts, uncles and cousins, I said goodbye to Nancy, Weldon, David, Noanie, Nick, Jayne, Sandy and Janice.
I said goodbye to Tammy, Lisa and Brad.
I said goodbye to Lucille.
I said goodbye to my Dad.
He had a look in his eye like he enjoyed the show.
I didn’t ask him what he thought and he never offered.

Having been on the road for most of my adult life I feel like I am always saying goodbye to people.
The thing with the road is you never know when you’ll see them again.
One thing for sure, it won’t be tomorrow.

The next show was the following night in Saint John so I decided to stay at my uncle David’s place in Salisbury.
The next morning I got up had breakfast, said goodbye to David and Noanie and then made my way towards Saint John.
On my way through Petitcodiac I stopped at my aunt and uncle’s house (Madeline and Doug) and had a way too short a visit.
After an hour, I said goodbye and drove the rest of the way into Saint John.

The Imperial Theatre in Saint John is a beautiful venue.
Everything about it is worth writing home about.
I guess, in a way, I am…

Anyway, as usual, I set up my merchandise did a quick soundcheck.
We were leaving Saint John after the show so we didn’t bother with getting hotels and instead just hung around the theatre.
After my 30 minutes on stage, I went to the lobby to work the merchandise table.
My cousins Diane, Janet and Cathy made the trip in to Saint John to see me play.
It was great to see them and as always, it was nice catching up with family.

I stuck my head in the theatre to watch some of the Hurtin’ Albertans show.

From the stage, Corb mentioned how there was no beer in the dressing rooms.
So for no other reason than the hell of it, I decided to bring him a beer.
I mean, what could it hurt?
It’s only a beer.
Right?
So I went back to the lobby, walked up to the bar and bought a couple of beers.
I walked backstage and waited in the wings.
I got Corb’s attention and gave him the beer.
In between songs, Corb told the audience just how upstanding of an individual I was for bringing him a beer and with that he raised his glass, said cheers and chugged the beer.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

Once people realized that Corb was drinking on stage everyone ran out to the bar and smuggled in their very own pint or two for the show.
Suddenly people were dancing on the chairs, in the aisles, and even up on the stage.
The Saint John Knitting Community was hired to provide security for the quaint little folk show.
Needless to say but, they were outgunned.
The lady who was in charge of the theatre for the night went up to get one of many drunks off the stage and promptly got dry humped by the dimwit.
It’s all funny now, but at the time it wasn’t too pleasant.
The cops were called in.
He was charged with assault.
Oh yeah, what a hoot Saint John was…
We packed up our stuff and got the hell out of town.

We drove to Edmundston NB and checked into a hotel at about 5 in the morning.

By 10AM, we were rolling towards Quebec and that nights show in Montreal.
We rolled into Montreal around 6 in the evening, set up and did the gig.
I was dog tired and didn’t enjoy myself even a little bit at that show.

My niece Megan goes to school at McGill and so she came to the show and it was really nice to see her.

There was also a bunch of friends of mine from Camp Manitou who came out to the show.
Daniel Freder, Matt Freder, Josh Kaplan and Jaime Eisen.
As luck would have it, Jaime and Josh missed the entire show.
Not too mention they paid 20 bucks each to get in and and the show was already over.
The only people making less money than I do are college kids, so I gave them each their 20 bucks back for their trouble.
Anyway, it’s neither here nor there, but it just felt like a good idea.
So I did it.

We were given a list of warnings of where to not park and hotels not to stay in while in Montreal.
We were told horror stories of thugs breaking into vans and tales of the mob stealing entire tour buses.
So for the second night in a row I got the hell out of town.

I’ll stay in Montreal for two nights next time.

Au revoir…

Anyway, I drove for about an hour towards Ottawa and at 2 in the morning I checked into a hotel and had the first good sleep since I left Tennessee.

The next day I was up at noon.
Topped up the tank, got a cup of coffee from Tim’s and drove into Ottawa.

This was gonna be the first show on the tour with a full band and I was excited to make some noise.
I picked up Ernie at his place, loaded his drums into the van and went to the venue.
Ben and Jackson had both made their way Ottawa and met us at the club.
Corb and the guys were doing soundcheck as we were loading in our stuff.
I set up my merchandise.
The club manager asked me to move my stuff because he felt it was in the way.
“Yeah, okay, sure…”
Then he told me to move everything again.
Then he said that I shouldn’t even bother setting up my merchandise because I wouldn’t sell anything anyway.
That pissed me off.
Anyway, we walked across the street for dinner at the Keg and then went back to the show.
It was the first club show of the tour.
The place was packed.
We played great and the crowd was even better.

And to top it all off, we sold t-shirts like it was laundry day in Ottawa.

Backstage after our part of the show Corb walked up to me and said, “Hey man, the Prime Minister’s wife wants to say hello!”

Could life get any more weird?
Probably, but not much.
Anyway, five minutes later I was clearing security and meeting Mrs Harper.
We talked for about 30 minutes and she couldn’t have been nicer.

She said that she really liked my song “This Is Our Home”.
She told me that she noticed that I changed the lyrics from “the Ottawa Canal” to “the Rideau Canal.”
Life just got a little more weird.
She said that she played the song for her husband and he liked it to.
Weirdsville: Population Me and Mrs Harper…

I told her that I was going to go and get her a copy of my new record.
She said not to worry because she’d bought it already on iTunes.
Weird to the umpteenth power.

By noon the next day, we were all piled in the van and rolling towards Toronto.

We gassed up in Prescott Ontario and were getting coffee at the Tim’s when I got an email on my Blackberry.

It was from the manager of the Imperial Theatre in Saint John.

She said that after “putting out fires” and “dealing with the fallout” from the Corb Lund show it had been brought to her attention that it was me who brought Corb the beer and therefore felt that I was at least somewhat responsible for the riot that ensued.
She said that when I gave Corb the beer that I had compromised the venue and the safety of all of the patrons who were there that night.
She said that she was very disappointed in my behavior.

I was dumbfounded.

I was probably more disappointed in my behavior than she was.

Anyway, I called her to apologize for my actions.
How was I to know that the stage was not licensed for alcohol consumption?
I mean, who’s ever heard of such a thing?
Not me.
For Christ sake, we were in the shadow of the Moosehead Brewery.

Regardless, I was in the wrong, so I apologized for my actions and lack of good judgement.

We rolled into Toronto about 4 hours later.

We went to the Horseshoe Tavern and set up our stuff for the first of two nights at the “Shoe”

The shows were an absolute zoo.

In fact, all the shows in southern Ontario were crazy.
The band played great every night.
Loads of laughs and I met a lot of great people at every show.
Every day, though, I’d wake up in the morning, look at my watch and wonder what Jenny and Ruby were up to.

“Well, Jenny must be dropping Ruby off at school right about now…”
“Jenny must be picking up Ruby right now…”
I could picture Ruby in her school uniform.
Same thing all day, every day.

The last show in southern Ontario was in Guelph.

We had just played 14 nights in a row and I was looking forward to having a day off.

Instead of sticking around for Corb’s show we decided to go back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

The next show was two days later in Thunder Bay and no matter how you sliced it it was going to be a long drive.

As the van was being packed, I ran backstage to do a quick check and make sure that we weren’t leaving anything behind.
Corb and the band had just gone on stage.
They were playing “Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer”.
Back in the dressing room, Corb’s tour manager, Kevin Bushey, was going over all the details that tour managers go over when on the road and their band has just walked on stage.

Also backstage, picking away at the deli tray, was Joe Party.

I told them that we were heading to the hotel to get a good night sleep and that I’d see them in Thunder Bay.

“Okay, dude, I’ll see you in Thunder Bay…”
“Yeah, cool, Joe. I’ll see you when I see you…”

And with that, Joe smiled, popped a cheese cube in his mouth, and started to make his way back to the merch table.

I turned and started talking to Kevin about the Thunder Bay gig.
I noticed that Joe had stopped at the door.
He just stood there with his back to us.
He coughed.
Then he coughed a few more times.
He turned around.
He had a weird look on his face.
Fear.
Absolute terror.

“Are you okay, Joe?”

Two words: Heimlich manuever.

Thirty minutes later, I was sitting in the pub of the hotel drinking my first of two double Jack Daniel’s wondering what in hell had just happened.

Old Joe Party and I are forever linked now.

Goddamned cheese cube.

The next day, we were on the road by 6AM.
We drove for 12 hours and stopped for the night in Sault Ste Marie.
By six o’clock the next morning, we were standing in line at the nearest Tim Horton’s.
By 6:15 we were rolling north towards Wawa.
We pulled into Thunder Bay around three in the afternoon and went straight to the venue.
We did sound check, set up our merchandise and then checked into our hotel.
We went back to the venue around six thirty.

Thunder Bay was the 15th and final show of my run with Corb Lund and The Hurting Albertans.
It had been a crazy couple of weeks and by and large we managed to accomplish what we’d set out to do.
Thunder Bay was a great show all the way around.
The crowd was great.
We played great.
Corb, Grant, Brady and Kurt played like a house on fire.

Backstage, after the show, we were all sitting around having a couple of drinks when the idea of a quick game of cards came up.
This sounded like a bad idea to me, so I passed.
I’m not sure if you know this or not but Corby has a song called,  “All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards”.
Now, I’m not the brightest light on the porch but, maybe, just maybe, Corb knows a thing or two about playing cards.

Anyway, half an hour later, Corb “All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards” Lund is leaving town with over a thousand dollars of my band’s money.
I watched as their bus pulled out of the parking lot.

Pretty soon it was gone.

Mike Plume

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