This crazy story from the road was written by MJ Lambert, of the rock band, theSHIFT. You can check out the band’s story, after the break.


This crazy story from the road was written by MJ Lambert, of the rock band, theSHIFT. You can check out the band’s story, after the break.

Time Versus theSHIFT (and their Van) / by MJ Lambert, drummer of theSHIFT

It all went wrong South Of The Border…well, south of the North Carolina border that is.

1,000 miles into our first cross-country 25,000-mile tour, our van broke down. We had just crossed into South Carolina when we decided to stop at “South Of The Border”, a famed tourist trap just South of the North Carolina border featuring a 100-foot tall Mexican statue dubbed “Pedro” nowhere near Mexico.

John (Shannon, guitars/vocals) had never been there, so Ben (Geiss, bass) and I decided to stop just so he could get the S.O.B. experience. After a quick visit comprising of poking at firework displays and a quick photo in front of Pedro, we were back on the road. As I was turning onto the highway, Pedro still visible in the rear view, the overdrive light on the automatic gear shift began to rapidly flash like one of those firework thrills you’d find 100 yards behind us, followed by the illumination of the service engine light and a brief sputter of acceleration. Hoping this was just an electrical hiccup we pulled over and restarted the van. Upon restarting, all systems were go and the flashing had subsided. Confident we had gotten to the bottom of the problem, we continued our way onto Charleston about 2.5 hours away.

About 50 miles from Charleston, the overdrive light started flashing again and we pulled over once more to restart the van, but this time the alerts continued. As it was past business hours for any sort of mechanic, we decided to power through to Charleston. Upon arriving at our gig, I immediately began researching “honest” mechanics in the area until I found Jimmy’s Automotive Repair on River Road. The next morning, I woke the boys up early and headed to Jimmy’s. A friendly technician by the name of Lee ran our diagnostics and told us it was reading a speed sensor issue in the transmission. Our hearts sank! Transmission! 1,000 miles in?

However, Lee was hopeful. “Have you had any performance issues?” he asked. “No.” “Well, perhaps it’s just a hiccup. I’ll reset her and y’all should be good to go!” Lee reset the van’s warning lights and elated, we drove off toward the highway and our next gig, tour intact! About 200 yards from the shop and 50 yards from the highway, 3rd gear shit the bed. I immediately made a U-Turn and drove straight back to Jimmy’s.

This time we were greeted by Jimmy himself. As it was Saturday, all the transmission places were closed and he said there was nothing he could do. I then explained to him, in great detail, our scenario. We were a nationally touring band out of NYC, we had 53 cities to visit in the next 2 months, 25,000 more miles to drive and we needed to figure this out today.

Jimmy now understanding the time sensitive nature of our plight began making calls as did I. Both of us looking for rebuilt transmissions already on the ground to switch with ours or anyone selling an equivalent of our tour vehicle as it can be cheaper to buy another van then to rebuild a transmission. After exhausting all possibilities, Jimmy and the 3 of us came up with the quickest and most plausible solution. Jimmy would remove the transmission that day (something they do not usually do) in order to have it ready for their transmission specialist on Monday. They would rebuild it Monday morning and Jimmy would put it back in for us for the van to be ready Monday evening.

Meanwhile, it’s Saturday at about 1pm. We had to be on stage in Charlotte, NC by 6pm that day for a gig (3 hours away). Sunday we had to be in Asheville, NC (4 hours away from Charleston). Monday we had off. Tuesday we had to be in Nashville (8.5 hours away from Charleston) and Wednesday we had to be in Fayetteville, AR (15.5 hours from Charleston). So the plan was to rent a cargo van in Charleston (2 seats for 3 people) and drive the rental to our gig in Charlotte and then to Asheville, leave Asheville early morning on Monday, pick up the van in Charleston, drop off the rental and drive to Nashville early on Tuesday. Whew…We can do this!

Monday arrived and everything was going to plan. I had spoken to Jimmy and he had told me to “Come on down!”, so we had started driving back from Asheville toward Charleston thinking “This isn’t so bad!” Then when we got the call. “There is a snag and they gotta order a part that won’t be in till Tuesday morning, which puts us at the end of day Tuesday for van pickup.” We started to explore options within our seemingly ever changing scenario. I even asked if we could go pick up the part for them in Charlotte where it was coming from, but it was already on the Fed Ex truck heading to Charleston. Nothing we could do but drive to Nashville. Morale was waning.

Now we had to extend the rental and it had begun to get hairy logistically. So far we had not missed any gigs…we hadn’t even been late to a gig, but now it was looking like we would have to drive 8.5 hours back to Charleston and then 15.5 hours to Fayetteville, AR. A total of 24 hours of nonstop driving.

As we had a double header at two different clubs in Nashville, we wouldn’t be on the road until after 11pm Nashville time (10pm Charleston time), putting us into Charleston around 7am with stops for gas. With unloading the rental, repacking our van and dropping the rental off, we were realistically looking to leave Charleston around 8am South Carolina time (7am Arkansas time). With everything going according to plan, we wouldn’t reach our gig in Arkansas until around 11:30 with load in and set up we wouldn’t be on stage until midnight, not even close to our scheduled start time of 10pm.

As we were thinking of canceling the gig altogether on Tuesday morning, my cousin Chris called from his home in Charlotte, NC whose band we had shared a show with days before. “Everything works out with the van?” he asked. “No, actually want to go pick it up for us and meet us in Nashville?” I joked. Quite to my surprise Chris said, “I could probably help you out with that.”

Jumping into action, we started making the necessary arrangements. As we still had to get the rental back to Charleston and Chris back to Charlotte there was again a lot to figure out before our first gig at 8pm that night. I had Chris text me a picture of his license, then John and I rolled down to Enterprise Nashville and added Chris as a driver for full insurance coverage. Next I called Jimmy and made absolutely sure the van would be ready by the end of business that day and asked them to leave the van unlocked with the key underneath the driver’s side mat. Logistically Chris would have to get to Charleston, SC which is 3 hours from Charlotte. We were racking our brains how to get him there when his girlfriend (enter stage right) came to the rescue and was willing to take off work and drive him down there!

As Nashville was 8.5 hours away, we decided to meet halfway outside our previous gig in Asheville, NC just over 4 hours from both our locations. We still had to get Chris back to Charlotte, NC however, so we got the rental company to okay him dropping it off in Charlotte rather than going back to Charleston, saving Chris 7 hours of driving.

After our second gig in Nashville, we packed up as quickly as possible and jumped in the rental to drive back to Asheville to meet Chris and our rebuilt van. It was about 11:30pm and the weather were horrible. We arrived in Asheville around 4:30 am North Carolina time. Chris showed up literally at the same time. We couldn’t have planned it better. We quickly switched out the gear and gave Chris the proper paperwork, a bro-cousin-love-you-more-than-I-thought-possible hug and were on our way to Arkansas back the same way I had just driven, through more of the same horrible weather. Just after 10.5 hours of driving from Nashville to Asheville and Asheville to Nashville, I was all done. I had been up just shy of 24 hours and turned the wheel over to John and we eventually rolled into Fayetteville, AR around 4pm. Chris had effectively saved us 7.5 hours by driving a total of 9. He saved the day! Without him, we never would have made it.

The way we figure it…it was time versus theSHIFT. The universe tested us, asked us how bad we wanted it and we answered. With a little help from our family, of course.

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