Rockford Files

Jason Michaels CardShark FaceCardOriginally published in February 2009.

It’s December 30, 2008 and I got up early to fix a going-on-the-road breakfast for my crew.  I’m very excited because we have a friend, Greg Owens, joining us on the road.  I was talking to Greg about a week before the trip and just mentioned that we were headed out for a couple of days to Rockford, IL, just north of Chicago, to do a show.  We’re going to Rockford to perform on New Year’s Eve for about 3500 people who are going to be in attendance at the Rockford IceHogs hockey game.  (The IceHogs are the Chicago Blackhawks’s minor league team.)  Greg said that he was planning on taking off from work for a few days and would love to go on the road with us.  After thinking it over, he decides to go.  That’s awesome!  We’re going to have a blast traveling together.  So I wake up to get a few last things together and fix one of my favorite breakfasts – Crème Brulee French Toast.

Greg arrives and he has his video camera with him.  I realize it’s a brilliant idea.  We’ll be able to shoot some video to show friends and family what it’s like to be on the road with me.  At least, that was the initial thought.

So, Scott, Greg and I are hanging out eating and waiting for my assistant Jamie to arrive.  Nine o’clock gets here and we decide to shoot a little pool.  Nine thirty rolls by and we’re still shooting pool.  Ten o’clock gets here and I’m wondering where in the world is Jamie.  We were supposed to leave an hour ago.  To be honest, it really wasn’t a big deal since we didn’t have to perform until the next day.  But I’m one of those on time freaks and when people show up late it drives me crazy.  Finally, an hour and fifteen minutes late Jamie arrives and we hit the road.

Now, whenever we get started on the road the first couple of hours is crazy.  We always act like a bunch of nuts.  We’re telling jokes, picking on each other and just having a great time.  After a few hours though…the monotony hits and we just plug away until we get to where we’re going.  Unfortunately, due to the crazy traffic (and all the toll booths) in Chicago a nine hour drive somehow turns into a twelve and a half hour drive.  UGH!

As we’re making the final stretch of about 45 miles or so we start hitting the deepest, widest potholes you’ve ever seen in your life.  It felt like we were getting blasted out of our seats.  At the same time, it’s going from really cold to downright frigid outside.  We finally make it to our exit and get off the highway.  Two u-turns later we find our hotel and start making our way through the snow that has blanketed the area.  As we get to the hotel, I hop out of the truck so I can go get us checked in.  As I head back outside to grab my bags and get everyone situated, Greg walks up to me and says, “We may have a problem.”  Oh, let the fun begin!

Always the optimist, I pay no attention to the look on his face.  That’s when Greg and Scott point out that the two front tires of the Trail Blazer are pointing in opposite directions.  Yep that’s right!  One tire is pointed all the way to its right the other tire is pointed all the way to its left.  That stopped me in my tracks.  I was seeing something I didn’t even know existed.  I had never seen anything like it.  I didn’t even know that two tires could do such a thing.  It was like I had been mentally frozen and I just stood there looking at the tires like an idiot.  (Now anyone who knows anything about auto mechanics probably already knows what happened here.  My crew and I, on the other hand, we’re totally ignorant and have no idea how bad this might be.)

We soon figured out that one of the tires was free floating while the other tire was still attached to the steering wheel.  So, Greg and I had to manually push the one tire into a position that made the vehicle drivable while Scott inched it forward little by little.  The problem was we had no idea if this was dangerous or not.  For all I knew the tire was getting ready to fall off and the truck would land on one of us.  So, we finally got the truck out of the way and decided to go inside and get warmed up.  Over dinner we make a plan to wake up early in the morning and try to fix this little issue.

Take a moment, stop and put yourself in my position.  It’s late at night the day before New Year’s Eve, we’re a good ten hours away from home, and our only means of transportation is totally worthless.  I don’t know if it can be fixed or if the whole vehicle is trashed.  At this point, I’m not sure how we are going to get the show to the venue in the morning and get ready to perform.  This isn’t good.

The story continues in Part 2.

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