On The Road

open-roadWhether you hopped in the car after the show and careened down the interstate to the next city by the time the sun came up, or whether you got your sleep and left early the next day, all of us spent ridiculous amounts of time on the road during Phish tour.  The open road, a metaphor for unknown adventure, seemed an appropriate place to be between mysterious inner journeys.  Crossing the nation multiple times, hitting just about every interstate, your car was your home during these month long odysseys.  The people you shared a car with shared your mission- all for one and one for all- but in between getting to shows on time, there were plenty of other decisions, debacles and events that had to take place on our daily commutes.

The Piss Break

restareaThe most consistent issue in a car with multiple people is the piss break. “Where do you want to stop?” ” When?” “Can you hold it?”  “Didn’t you just go 50 miles ago?”  These questions would fill the minimal air inside the vehicle as everyone tried to strategize the best scenario.  You had your options.  First, you had your no-frills highway pull-off rest areas.  Never very glamorous, they had facilities, picnic tables and maybe a vending machine if you were lucky.  Inevitably you’d walk by at least three cars of passed out heads who decided that the rest area was the best hotel for the night.  Or, you might decide to drive to the next exit- trying to combine a pee break and refueling- efficiency, baby!  Often times, if things were desperate or you were in Nevada, waiting to get off wasn’t an option.  And so comes the third option and last resort- the side of the road.  Choosing this course was effectively raising a neon yellow “Hey! Look at me!” sign for any passing police.  Always trying to avoid this option for legal and safety reasons, sometimes you just had to go.  And if you were in a state like Nevada, it was sometimes as good of a plan as any.


fltline_minimartWith the combination of excessive psychedelics, little sleep and extended road time, Phish tour often felt like one long visit to a gas station mini-mart.  With the patterns of Gatorades, sodas, and bottled waters indelibly burned into your brain, you navigated those stores like the back of your hand.  You generally knew exactly what you wanted, though routinely wound up staring at the shelves for minutes.  On your journeys, you began to absorb valuable knowledge.  You knew if all else failed, there would be a 7-11 to satiate you soon enough.  You began to learn the subtle differences between an Exxon Tiger Mart and a Shell Food Mart.  You soon picked up on which microwaveable products, if any, were actually edible.  You learned that nothing beats a Wawa, and couldn’t wait to get to the Philly or Jersey shows to hit one up for a freshly made hoagie.  You knew all the details; you were living the life.


The decision you had to make the most over the course of a tour was, “Where should we eat?”  Constantly a debate, the options were always somewhat limited.  The most prevalent choice was fast food, but many cars didn’t play that game, so what were some of the most appealing options?

1. images1Cracker Barrel: One of the Phishiest places to stop and eat on the road, this down home establishment came attached to a “Old Country Store” in which you could always find a treasure.  Taking on a Southern twist, Cracker Barrel was particularly good for breakfast, where you could find grits, hash brown casserole, and a tasty omelet.  You were guaranteed to find some heads there, and always had the opportunity to sit in in a rocking chair outside after your meal.

images22. Waffle House: A specialty once you got into the Southern half of the country, this “diner” was guaranteed to provide as much comedy as it did food.  With waitresses that are characters from an SNL skit, the cleanliness of the New York subway, and a cartoon style menu, any visit to “The Golden Squares of the Open Road” was thoroughly entertaining.  Or there was always Waffle House’s equally greasy bastard cousin, Huddle House.  Either way, “Scattered, smothered, and covered, please.”

images33. Applebees: This was a solid place for a dinner on an day off while on the road.  Applebees were plentiful enough across the country that you could hold out until you found one, and it had a big enough menu that everyone could be happy, even the vegetarians.  With a full bar and a feel of family fun, this chain off of seemingly every other exit never disappointed (too much.)

maryland_house_outdoor_service_sign4. The Northeast Mega-Rest Area Plazas: Whether it was the Molly Pitcher Service Area on the Jersey Turnpike, the Maryland House a bit further down 95, or the Ludlow Service Plaza on the Mass Pike, these huge conglomerates were a place to stop when you were in a rush.  Ranging from Sbarro to Bob’s Big Boy, Starbucks to Cinnabon, these plazas were traveler havens.  Resembling a Phish lot along tour’s main roads, these rest areas were a mecca for fans.  Offering much more than food, you could get any car gadget you needed, gas up, weigh yourself on the way to the bathroom, and find a new pimpin’ pair of shades.  These places had it all.

images45. Subway: Always a great idea for a light lunch before a show, Subway often came through in the clutch.  Six inch or twelve, veggie or meat, hot or cold, the sandwich artists did it right.  The meal deal of a foot-long, chips and a drink was a fool-proof remedy for any head’s hunger.  Filling you up without weighing you down was their specialty.  There were no emergency runs to the bathroom during the show with a six inch for lunch.  As years passed, Subways expanded to more and more territory making Jared’s meal of choice all the more accessible as we bounced from show to show.


open_road_largeOne of the beauties about tour was, in fact, all that time you spent in the car with friends.  With nowhere to go, and all the time in the world, it was within the confines of your vehicle that some of the most memorable moments happened.  Debating Phish, talking life, smoking and joking, the only boundaries were the lines on the asphalt.  There was nothing like open highway as far as the eye could see, in a state you didn’t know, heading for a Phish; your very own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Raging jams all the way- from analogs to CDs, to what will soon be iPod Tour 2009, we have advanced with the times, always making sure to have the band we love blaring as we drove on our merry way.  Looking out from behind your sunglasses at the fields streamed by, having just extinguished a hoover, the drop of a Reba jam filled the fresh air as you turned up the volume- your own little moving sanctuary.  Free from worry and concern, you continued on, knowing the mysteries that awaited and doing your best to solve them.

Share your favorite memories from the road in Comments below!



4.1.92 Liberty Hall, Lawerence, KS < LINK

Liberty Hall, Lawrence, KS

Liberty Hall, Lawrence, KS

April Fools Day and Spring ’92- quite a Phishy combination!  With Fishman sporting a black dress and a boa around his neck, and Trey introducing himself as “Tommy Dorsey’s third cousin twice removed,” this great sounding AUD is filled with classic Phish humor.  Featuring a set list with tons a lot of classics, this one is a under-circulated piece of Phish history. Enjoy!

I: Golgi Apparatus, Foam, Bouncing Around the Room, Brother, All Things Reconsidered, Sparkle, Runaway Jim, I Didn’t Know, The Landlady, David Bowie, Carolina

II: Llama, You Enjoy Myself, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Uncle Pen, Tweezer, Horn, Chalk Dust Torture, Cracklin’ Rosie, The Squirming Coil, Tweezer Reprise, Contact, Rocky Top

E: Lawn Boy, Good Times Bad Times


17 Responses to “On The Road”

  1. Matt Says:

    One of my best memories on the road was going to the 4 new years shows in Miami. I just got done doing the “fall tour” (Nassau, Philly, Albany, and Boston) so I was very excited about seeing another Phish new years show. My friend Joe was a new phan, and never seen Phish live before so he was pretty excited (yes he missed out on seeing them in the 90s, but its better late than never). We left upstate New York on December 26th with a cooler full of sandwiches, drinks, tickets in the the glove box, and most importantly, a HUGE bag of goodies. It wasnt until we left NY and entered PA that we realized that neither of us had a lighter. We stopped at a local gas station, then the fun began! We had the music cranked up and we laughed as we talked about our days as roommates in college and reminisced about the old times. He was asking me all about my experiences at Phish shows and I could see the excitement in his face. I just bought a new car at the time and got great gas mileage, so we only stopped a couple of times on the way. It was great looking at the thermometer on the car and watching the temperature increase the farther south we went. It was 21 degrees when we left NY. After driving sraight for 21 hours, I made it to Jacksonville at 5am and we stopped at an IHOP for breakfast. I couldnt believe how fast the time went, but im sure our bag of goodies helped pass the time! Joe took over driving from there and I fell asleep and I woke up at my hotel in Miami. This trip turned out to be one of the best vacations of my life! I mean, 4 nights in a row of Phish in Miami?!? How could you not love it! The ride home was definitely not as fun…. we were both sad that we had to leave

  2. Rupert Says:

    One of my friends used to talk about the chicken fried chicken at Cracker Barrell for months in advance of heading out for a run of shows. Personally, I pull for Taco Bell or random truck stop diners for hot turkey sandwiches.

  3. mitch Says:

    I loved going on tour with my friends. A few of us were in college and irresponsible but one of them was 27 so he was older and had everything planned out. Ahead of time he printed off back roads to all the shows from mapquest (no google maps at the time) and on Phantasy Tour when people would get back road maps for the locals. These turned out to be priceless on many occasions. We got into IT in a couple hours and Coventry in about 4 by taking back roads. It was always comical popping out of a random road and hopping in line being asked how the hell we found that?

  4. Matso Says:

    Ah yes, the Cracker Dank! You had to venture out of the Northeast for the really good stuff. I know Waffle House had its moments, but I remember getting some weird looks in a CB because I couldn’t stop laughing my ass off (I can’t remember what set it off other than the obvious J consumed at some point before we arrive).

    Btw, did anyone else name their tour rides? Summer 98 we used my friend’s beat-up but reliable as hell Honda Accord and called her “Blackwood Convention”.

  5. paul hannon Says:

    ah,tour was and will be the ultimate journey a man can endure..(well in my book anyways!)

  6. Scott Bernstein Says:

    Great post, as per usual. I was all about the Steak and Shake and Waffle House down south on Phish tour

  7. Gr8ful_PH Says:

    Ah…the names for rides….my buddy in High School had an old beat up station wagon that we called the “shwagin’ wagin”. You could get a buzz just breathing the air in that thing. The upholstery was resinated.

  8. Chicago_Head Says:

    Nothing like leaving a show…preferably on some nice mellow hawaiin shrooms…finally arriving at your vehicle….loading the music player…magically getting everything situated and ready to go…laughing your asses the entire time…and hittin’ the road for a few hours. Always a learning adventure. 🙂 Buckle up!

  9. Brian T. Bowman Says:

    there’s nothing quite like walking into a Waffle House with a head full of psychadelics.

    Sitting in a booth with “Crosseyed and Painless” swishing through your head. Waitress takes the order and leaves… “still waiting, still waiting”

    MMMMM…that waffle was good.


  10. themanatee Says:

    love your description of the post hoover drop into Reba feeling. There really is nothing like it traversing this vast country for Phish. The juxtaposition (as you mentioned) of the inner journey at night and the open road during the day or night, is just incredibly complimentary, revealing, and gorgeous. I think it was Atlanta 99 , not sure (I just know it was incredibly hot out)…and for some reason we were in the car during the day (it must have been early morning…though that doesn’t seem right) and I was still liquidized heavily and listening to Trey’s solo during Sugaree from the Phil and Friends April 99 shows…I was so moved by the enormity of the solo that I had no idea what to do with myself … it felt like it lasted 20 years … and carried so much weight … it is one of my favorite moments of Trey’s tone, funny that it came in the context of the dead. But is quite a memory from the road.

  11. HSV 007 Says:

    Summer 98, after seeing Atlanta & Raliegh, the traffic into Merriweather Post was awful. Since everybody was already on the exit ramp, Shakedown just broke out right then & there. I can vividly remember walking next to the car going 2mph, drinking a cold libation in the summer sun, and trying to predict openers/closers/encore. After a sick-o Sabatoge encore (no one predicted that!), we headed to VA BCH that night. On the way both cars broke down, one catastophically & the other in the shop for 2 days. Rented a car for the 6 of us (no sir, we’re not going to take this vehicle more than 50 miles from Richmond), drove to VA BCH & caught one of the most incredible shows all summer, capped off with a Terrapin encore that touched all of our souls.

    “There isn’t even any road, our Destiny was bound…”

    See everybody @ Hampton!

  12. lanser Says:

    i have a bunch. i will share this one. after L.A. 2000 i was driving my friend rob’s van with cole and rob’s dog chance. rob had flew to wisconsin for a wedding that morning with these instructions. Lanser drive my van with the dog and cole and ill meet you at shoreline. no prob i say. so the show happens and it was fun. and now were rolling north. we have plans to meet judd at a rest area 2 hours north of the city. any way i stop to get gas in the van first gas station north of the city and its crawling with kids. so im gassin up the van let chance out of the van to run around, so i start talking to the kid filling up next to me. he asks if i want a little somethin to help with the drive? sure i say. step into his van and did a little bump. well all of a sudden my face is on fire and my eyes are running and im all spun out. i pay for the gas jump in the van and were off feeling like a mad man but driving safely i reach the rest area where we are meeting our friends. they are already there. i jump out of the van and slide the door open. come on girl come on chance. OH FUCK WHERE IS THE DOG? not being a pet owner myself i see how it happend. so we jump in judd’s car and haul ass back to the gas station. no dog. talk to the woman inside she said yep that dog sat by the door for the last couple of hours. some one must have grabbed her. so we leave and head north. so i know that chance has a collar on with a phone number to his parents house in a iowa. so by this time its 6:30am in iowa so i start blowing up there phone. not the best idea looking back. you see chance was a part of there family and i lost her in west L.A. so no one calls there house to say we have your dog. by now rob has been informed that i lost his dog he is at the wedding in wisco and not stoked on the lanser. so we finally get to S.F. i drop off the crew at the hotey. and head to shoreline to walk the lots and look for chance. i still have not slept at all. walk the lots all day, no dice. so by now it is getting close to show time and i am beat tired. and sad that i lost my friends dog. so we were all meeting at will call before we go in. so i tell everyone that im going to the van to go to sleep. not in the mood for a phish show even though its the second to the last show for a while. so im feeling lower than low just then chance jumps on my chest she is with these wooks they had taken her to the beach for the day and made her a hemp leash well all of a sudden i was in the best mood ever called rob at the wedding told him i fund the dog called robs parents told them i had the dog then took the dog to the van locked it. and ran into the show so stoked and completely crazy!!!! and then bobby comes out and plays west L.A. fadeaway we all fall down laughing and the event is forever known as the west L.A. fadeaway. tour:)

  13. proj Says:


    Why do you bring a dog on tour?

    I just don’t get it.

  14. lanser Says:

    we are wooks^^^

  15. Mr.Miner Says:


  16. judd Says:

    ha, that night sucked! we drove in a huge 4 hour loop in the midst of an already crazy drive that night after LA. we didn’t get to SF until noon, and I was so tired from driving that my legs were cramping and I could barely push the clutch in. it was such a relief when we got chance back right before the show.

  17. Mathew Says:

    just wondering but there is an It’s Ice between Sparkle and Runaway on the download of this show. phish.net does not have the It’s Ice either, but from the sounds of the show it fits in perfectly. Anyone else have a different setlist or know if it is correct?

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