End of tour.

Chris, Aaron, Ross, Corey. Spanish For 100. ©Ryan Schierling

It was somewhere near The Crazy Mountains in Montana - day 17 - when I began to lose my mind. The air conditioner had just given up the R-134 ghost after 14 straight hours of driving out of Denver and temperatures were climbing. I was moist, sticking to my clothes and my clothes were attached to the red bench seat. I had dim memories of seeing the sun coming up, but that could have been one of at least five other sleepless nights on this tour.

Polaroid pictures secured with duct tape to an overhead rail swung back and forth beneath the blue and brown headliner; a pink stuffed ape wearing a mortarboard sat across from me in the captain's chair, the butt of a yellow flashlight unceremoniously shoved into a break in the stitching in its ass. Where was the Uriah Heep that had kept us going for so long? Everyone was silent, a little lost and glassy-eyed, moving in slow motion. The energy drinks for shift-driving were gone. The ice was melted.

I tried in vain to think of some type of candy that has a crunchy exterior and a chewy center. That's what Horchata, the Spanish For 100 bus, had become - crusty on the outside and moist and tender in the middle. We were bad nougat that was quickly heading south, churning west over mountain passes at 47 miles per hour. I couldn't think of the damn candy.

Instead, I drifted back to the trio of passersby in Bloomington, Indiana that walked past the bus, craning their necks with disgusted looks on bobbing heads.
Man: "It looks like a prison bus."
Woman 1: "It's so dirty."
Woman 2: "I know, isn't it awful?"

In Chicago, the imposing-looking bus was parked in a Ukranian neighborhood near the venue. A local remarked that, much to his amusement, all of the elderly Russians on the block thought we were KGB.

Jamestown, North Dakota was a strange one. The night off, a halfway point between Billings and Minneapolis, started at Applebee's and ended at The Office Bar with Old Milwaukee and shots of what the bartender called "liquid cocaine" - a mix of liquors and fruit juices that went down terribly easily. The grand finale of the evening was Corey walking into the bar at 2 a.m. with his acoustic guitar, slapping Aaron's fakebook on the counter, belting out Tom Petty's "Learning to Fly" and then walking right back out the door.

The delicate balance of road noise and roaring engine fan recalled Bozeman, while waiting outside The Filling Station after hours for the owner to let us back in for a left-behind jacket. A train whistle in the distance was perfectly pegged by the band (and faithfully recreated) as a note that is a blend of C-sharp, E, G, and A at different frequencies - a soothing A-minor seventh chord.

Two shows at Kirby's in Wichita were a special occurrence. Paul fed everyone beer all night long and the packed room kept asking for more, even as the bar lights came on. There were no better bands in Wichita those Friday and Saturday nights, period, and certainly none more willing to give back-to-back blistering sets.

There are more randoms, but they're still lost in a road-induced haze. The only constants I can find right now are the coffee shops, the truck stops, the PBRs and a Seattle band so consistently on top of their live show that one listener called them "anointed good."

Thanks, guys, for another wonderful experience.

I'll call you after I'm over the urge to walk down the street to the Shell station every time I need to use the bathroom.

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