Russ Ringsak

Just a One-Truck Show

March 3, 2001

Our show took off for Germany and Ireland and left us here, some of us; and I have to say I'm doing all right with that. At my age it's a good thing to face up to the hard reality of one's non-essential status in the great scheme of things. I was privileged to go to Edinburgh and Dublin last year, and about the only familiar equipment we had along then were some laptop computers and the felt markers to write the show's rundown boards. Everything else we rented or borrowed at the gig.

We pretty well fill up a 48-foot semi-trailer when we go on the road stateside these days. It takes a lot of cable and electronic equipment to get this little radio show out there, and we also carry office gear, a Hammond B-3 organ, rugs, signs, sound effects, and a take-down mockup of a full-size farmhouse, including the porch, for a backdrop. It seems like a lot and it's a surprise to find out that in a bind we can get along without any of it; but, as the main man says, it's just a radio show.

One is reminded of that when we come into a place the same time as a major touring act, as at Interlochen, Michigan, a few years ago; Vince Gill's crew loaded out eight big rigs when they left. And last fall in Lexington, Kentucky, the Dixie Chicks were in town, at Rupp Arena, with 13 semis. A while back I bought chains for a western trip through the Rockies right when the Rolling Stones had just left town, and American Trailer Supply was down to their last set, because the day before the Stones had bought chains for 16 trucks. Sixteen tractor-trailers for a four-piece band. Sometimes we back in to a dock at some big venue and a stage hand will say, with surprise and maybe the slight touch of disdain in his voice: "It's just a one-truck show?"

Well, yes, and right now it's a no-truck show. Now it's just some footloose Americans with a little extra luggage on a business trip to Europe, putting together enough rental gear to do a show. No Hammond organ, no house and no truck. I remember that, from last year, as kind of a free feeling; and I remember being glad to not be driving on the wrong side of the road. Bad enough to try to cross a street there and finding yourself always checking the wrong direction.

Trucks and trailers are different over there in Europe. They've got four-lanes, their "dual carriageways," but they aren't geared for the big rigs we run here, which are generally too long and too tall to get through those old city streets. In England I saw semis but they typically were shorter than ours and ran 12 wheels instead of our 18, usually with single-axle cab-over tractors with three-axle trailers with six single wheels, instead of the eight-wheel bogies we use. There were a lot of heavy cab-over straight trucks with long boxes; some 32, maybe 34 feet long. To keep the weight on the front from becoming a problem, they had two steering axles up there, making tight turns look dramatic. You see those only on cement trucks here.

Last year I saw a road sign in Limerick, Ireland, that read: ROAD DEATHS 1999 AT END OF NOVEMBER: 378. SPEED KILLS. I was reminded of that this week driving behind a Chevy pickup, whose owners truly love to bug Ford pickup owners: on the rear window of the topper the guy had written, in single reflective mailbox letters from the lumberyard: SPEED KILLS - DRIVE A FORD AND LIVE FOREVER.

Back here in Minnesota we are still digging out of a series of snowfalls. Heard about a couple in Minneapolis who sat down to morning coffee and the weather report last week and were told to expect 2 to 4 inches of snow and to park their car on the odd-numbered side of the street, and the old man went out and did that. Three days later they were told there were four more inches on the way and another snow emergency had been declared and to park on the even side, so he moved the car again.
Two days after that the announcer said: "The weather forecasters are expecting 6 to 8 inches of snow before morning. All vehicles in the Minneapolis snow emergency district are to park ----" and right then the power went out.
"Now what?" he says. "So how do I find out where I'm supposed to park now?"
"To heck with'em," she said, "just leave the dang car in the garage. They'll never know the difference."

After the destructive Seattle quake this week, a local morning radio show host said that we are due for a "big one" ourselves, and it could happen virtually any minute. They like to make these kinds of speculations to spice up your drive to work in the morning; something gigantic to worry about, to break the tedium of this long drab winter.

The last earthquake to strike Minnesota, or at least the last one we heard about, was in late October of 1995 on a Friday morning at 11:00 AM, out near the three-way border with North Dakota and South Dakota. The epicenter was about 3 miles beneath the surface under Rosholt, SD. A bartender in Wheaton, MN, said he felt the building shake as if by a strong wind. "There was no noise," he said, "The barber shop next door didn't feel a thing."

A woman who was baking a pie in Hankinson, ND, heard a boom and thought the furnace was acting up. She checked that and it was okay and then went outside to see if if there was a train going by and there wasn't. She put it out of her mind and went on with her baking.

The quake measured 3.7 on the Richter scale, "enough to rattle teacups on a shelf," in seismological terminology, but not enough to rattle beer mugs or even coffee mugs. Not only did it cause no physical damage but it even failed to alarm anybody. There were no teacups on shelves out there for it to rattle, basically. If anything, it put people more at ease, since we have an earthquake only about three times every twenty years or so and now we probably won't worry about it for a while.

So it was a beneficial earthquake, in that it gave folks something to talk about over morning coffee all over the whole state. Blizzards, floods and tornadoes are our usual catastrophes, and it was nice to have something different to fret about.

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