During my ten years on the road, it seems like something memorable happened every single day.
One night, Randy, (our bus driver), kept hearing truckers on the CB talking about a crippled plane coming down for an
emergency landing, but the radio was so crowded with excited truckers, he couldn't get any details. He heard one trucker
say, "I can see it, he's comin' down to the interstate; Oh my God, it's gonna land on that tour bus!" Randy started leaning on
the brakes when suddenly the tail of the plane dropped down right in front of his windshield. The plane landed directly in front
of us on the highway, and it was all Randy could do to stop the bus and avoid hitting it.
He woke up our road manager, and the two of them helped the pilot push the twin-engine plane off the highway. The rest of
us slept right through it.
Another night, I woke up in my bunk, as the bus seemed to be making a funny motion I hadn't felt before. Everything
seemed o.k., so I drifted back to sleep. The next morning I asked Randy about it, and he said, "Yea, we were on a bridge
and hit some black ice. The bus started sliding, and there wasn't much I could do. We eventually slid almost all the way
around, about 270 degrees. Amazing we didn't hit either side, with a 40-foot bus, on a bridge that was only about 50 feet
One night we were awakened by a big jolt. Seems we had slowed down going around an exit ramp, and the
eighteen-wheeler behind us slid on the ice and bumped the back of our bus.
We had the bus catch fire, get stuck in the middle of the night on a fire trail in a National Forest in Oregon, and break down
innumerable times on the side of the highway. At least once a month, we'd wake up and walk to the front of the bus, only to
find we were sitting on the side of the highway, just 60 miles past where we went to bed. ("No wonder we all slept so well",
we'd say.) Once, the generator engine leaked diesel fumes into the passenger compartment, and we all had some very
strange nightmares. I'm just glad we got to wake up again.
The scariest bus event wasn't an accident. We had a substitute driver, and I wasn't too sure about trusting him. My
suspicions were confirmed when I got up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. On my way back to the bunk, I
peeked into the front lounge of the bus, to see if anyone else was up, and there was our driver. He was in the lounge,
stretching and trying to reach the drink cooler for a soda. His other arm was stretched back to the steering wheel, and we
were still rolling down the highway at 60 mph!! He actually let go of the wheel, dipped into the cooler, (some five feet away),
then lunged back to the steering wheel before we went off the road. I was stunned and needless to say, that was his last
night driving for us.
We had another new driver show up and hang out at the concert site all afternoon and evening. He should have been back
at the hotel sleeping so he'd be fit to drive all night. Everytime I saw him, he had a beer in his hand, and when it came time to
leave town, he was passed out in the back lounge of the bus. We took him back to the hotel, gave him money for a bus ticket
home, and with our road manager behind the wheel, pulled out of town.
Several times over the years, we had near misses with cars traveling the wrong way on our side of the highway. One foggy
night about 2 a.m., I was driving Michael Murphey's Suburban from Nashville back to Dallas. I'd been driving almost twelve
hours, and as the fog was getting thick, I was driving carefully. Out of the fog in front of me, a car came speeding at me
head on. I swerved violently to the right, avoiding a crash by just a few feet, but in the process, I lost control of the top-heavy
SUV. The Suburban lurched and started to spin on the wet pavement, and I was correcting and pumping the brakes
furiously. Each correction was an over-correction, and the vehicle just kept swerving back and forth. I knew that if I hit the
shoulder or the grass that it would roll, and I just kept fighting it. I finally got it slowed down and straightened out enough to
pull off the road. I was shaking and sweating, and several drivers stopped to check on me, as they had witnessed the whole
thing and had narrowly missed being hit. It was such a close call that it affected me for several days.
One bright sunny day in Iowa, a driver passed our bus at about 120 mph. He was swerving from one shoulder to the other,
just barely in control. We pulled off the next exit and called the state police, who said they'd been getting reports and trying to
catch the guy for over an hour. A few miles up the road, we saw the car pulled over, the driver passed out on the steering
wheel. We headed to the next pay phone to call the police again, but by the time they got there, he was off again.
Another twenty minutes later, we camea dozen police cars, ambulances, and fire engines. The driver had gone off the right
side of the road, down a steep embankment, back up a hill and across a field, finally crashing into a tree. The police had
dragged him from the car, and were handcuffing him on the ground. The back of his car was filled with wrinkled clothes, fast
food containers, and liquor bottles.
One winter, we got trapped in a massive snow and ice storm in Texas. It took us three days to get across Texas, spending a
lot of time in crowded truck stops. A report came over the truck stop TV about Air Florida Flight #90 crashing into the
Patomac River as it took off from Washington National airport. The flight number sounded familiar, and when I got back out
to the bus, I looked in my suitcase for the ticket stub from my recent flight out to meet the band. Sure enough, I had been on
Air Florida Flight #90 exactly one week before the crash. I distinctly remember the plane making that sharp turn right after
takeoff, and passing over the river at low altitude, to avoid passing through restricted White House airspace.
Once again, I thanked God for not calling my number yet.