The Legend Of The Cursed Rental Van
This is a true story from 1986, when we played in Phoenix, Arizona for the first time. At this point in our career, we were doing very well in the L.A. club scene, but we would always put any money we made back into promoting the next show, buying more amps, and paying rent for our large rehearsal studio. So basically, the band was doing great, but we were always broke.
Jeff still lived in Phoenix and decided to book a show for us there so we could expand out of L.A. We all thought this was a great idea, but of course we had to find a way to get all of our equipment there. (For L.A. shows, we would borrow pickup trucks from friends, but Phoenix was a bit too far for them.)
We managed to convince the older sister of one of our fans to let us borrow her credit card to rent a van. At the rental office, they told us that we could drive the van anywhere in California, but not out of the state, and if we did it would VOID THE INSURANCE. The gig was that night and this was our only chance to get a van, so we took it and decided not to tell them where we were going. Also, our roadie knew how to disconnect the odometer so we could drive 700 miles and it would only look like we had gone 50. (Yes, I know we were breaking the law. I'm Sorry!)
Soon we were on our way! The first stop was Scott's apartment to pick up his drums. When we got there, all the parking spots were filled. We decided to park in the street and put the flashing emergency lights on while we were loading the drums. We had just walked away when a drunk driver, who didn't see the blinking lights, smashed right into the back of the van! No one was hurt, but the back doors of our van were smashed and glass from the windows was everywhere. We waited for a long time for the police to come, so we could get an official report to show the rental company what had happened, then finally loaded up the drums, and started driving towards Phoenix.
It wasn't long before it started to get HOT. It was summertime and Phoenix is in the desert. It was probably about 110 degrees outside, so we cranked up the air conditioning as far as it would go. But it kept feeling hotter! Soon we realized that the air conditioner was broken and only hot air was coming out! When we tried to turn it off, the hot air kept coming. It was stuck on!
Now the other thing to consider is that the van was filled with equipment and US! We didn't have comfortable seats to sit in, but instead we were trying to squeeze ourselves on top of drum cases and amp heads. And having tiny pieces of broken glass everywhere did not help either! When we remember this story now, it's pretty funny, but at the time we were quickly losing our sense of humor!
Finally, after 8 hours of driving, we arrived in Phoenix. We were cut from the glass, bruised from bouncing around the van, exhausted from the heat, and tired from driving. But we were READY TO ROCK! Don Dokken and George Lynch both showed up to see us play and we had a blast playing over 11,000 notes for them and the whole audience.
After the show we were completely drained, but we decided that we wanted to get home, get out of the Phoenix heat, and save some money by returning the van early and not paying for hotel rooms. So we piled ourselves back into the van and started driving.
I was elected to be the driver on the way back. It was late at night so the good part was that there was very little traffic. The only problem was that I had no idea how fast I was going! When our roadie disconnected the odometer, he also disconnected the speedometer! There were no other cars to judge my speed by, so I just drove what I thought was about 70 miles per hour.
When the police pulled me over, I found out that I had guessed wrong. (I was going about 95!) They were very nice to me, and only gave me a warning to slow down. They must have felt pity for us. We all looked pretty beat.
So we continued on our way through the barren Arizona desert. I figured that after so many problems nothing else could possibly go wrong. That was about the time when one of the tires blew out.
The whole van started shaking hard, so I slowed down and pulled it to the side of the road. The tire was a shredded mess. We looked everywhere in the van, but there was no spare! And we were in the middle of the desert!
We started looking around, and then it appeared. A miracle! There was a gas station in the distance!
So, we started walking, and after 15 minutes stepped into the gas station. The man there drove us back to our van so he could see what kind of tire we needed. He had one in stock, and sold it to us for about 3 times what it would normally cost. We didn't have much choice, and we were just happy that we could get back on the road to California!
The rest of our trip was trouble-free. Our roadie even remembered to hook the odometer back up so it wouldn't look like we were tampering with anything. The people at the rental place must have wondered where we traveled in 50 miles to get so dusty, blow out a tire, and get the back doors smashed up!
As we were leaving the rental office, John suddenly had an idea. He went back to the rental desk and asked if we could get a refund for the money we spent for the new tire. There should have been a spare and we shouldn't have had to buy one, he reasoned. The rental guy said he could get us a refund, but he would need a copy of the receipt for the tire we bought. We still had it, so we gave it to him and went back to our apartments to finally get some sleep.
I was so tired and happy that the whole trip was over, as I lay my head down on my pillow to sleep. But suddenly, I had a terrible thought! The receipt for the tire is from Arizona! That's OUT OF STATE and will void the insurance on the van. That means that we will now have to pay for the smashed back doors, the broken windows, and the tire. Plus, we might be in even more trouble for taking the van out of state when we signed a contract saying we wouldn't!
I called John and told him this. We both started screaming, "AHHHHHHHHHHHH"
The next day we came up with a plan. We decided to stay away from the rental place, wait and see what the bill would be on the credit card, and book as many shows as possible to try and make enough money to pay for our debt. It was a suspenseful month as we waited for the credit card bill to come in the mail. We would make guesses on how much it might be: $2000.00? $5000.00? maybe $8000.00?!
When the bill finally showed up, it was $70.00!!
By this time we had saved up lots of money from our shows to pay for what we thought would be a much larger debt.
So, we bought more amps, did more local promotion, and we went on to become the biggest, loudest, fastest, scariest band in L.A.!
PS. We never went back to Phoenix.