Whether 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
The 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.
With 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. Cracker 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.
2. 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.”
3. 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.)
4. 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.
5. 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.
One 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!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
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 TimesTags: Culture