Notes From the Dragon Wagon
by: Tristan Risk "Little Miss Risk"
There is a certain romance and occult to travelling on the road. Ever since we pulled up stakes in Vancouver, BC and travelled east through Canada, I have returned to my deep gypsy roots. I am not always able to to maintain certain luxuries we take for granted living in places with electrical capabilities, wifi and a flushing toilet, but these sojourns into road dogging it remind us of these things that others tend to not think twice about. Living out of our 'Dragon Wagon' has certainly refreshed my appreciation for such things, but at the same time, I have abandoned a lot of attachments I had to non-mobile living. I have certainly had some laughs at other people's expenses while on this tour, and on our own. Part of these come from having lived the life of five stars and not one star less, to living in a situation that has me counting coins for produce. It all amounts to laughs and a varied life experience that I felt was worthy of sharing. Part of that is some of the observations I've managed to make whilst on tour and from the comfort of the Dragon Wagon....
1. Everyone loves seeing you on the road, but not parked in front of their houses.
It's the oddest thing - While on the highway, we often gets folks honking their horns as they pull up alongside us, giving us the thumbs up or even high fives in gas stations. When people see our big black Dragon Wagon, they are inquisitive and want to know all about it and us - the weird circus weirdos spilling out while we buy coffee, gas, and empty our bladders. However, there is a strange climate that comes when we roll to a stop. We have had homeowners - of which who's homes we aren't even parked in front of of, ask us when we are moving along to being nearly chased out of a shared church parking lot. I'm happy that pitchforks and torches were not involved, but there was a moment when I was worried. The kicker came when we had it parked on a street near our home in Vancouver and had one snotty neighbour ask us how long it was sticking around. I won't lie - I took pleasure in telling them my address to point out that we had every legal right to park on the street. They took a step back as I took a step forward. I might be living in East Vancouver, but growing up in a good but tough family, I don't take shit from yuppies who don't know that some of us dig the upper crust, but also know how to roll with the crumbs.
2. We are the Humans Of Walmart.
You know the site - the one that post photos of the colourful humans who populate Walmart dressed in inappropriate clothing. I've looked at it and laughed, because on the road, I'm a human skid mark at the best of times, and sometimes I need to feel better about myself. And yet, the universe loves to make me into a hypocrite. I have found myself in Walmart parking lots using their power to charge my devices, slinking into their washrooms to use their facilities and wash my dishes, and also (sigh) buying things. As much as I'd like to take the moral high ground for supporting them, I cannot deny that when one is road dogging it, every spare nickel counts, so the affordability trumps my ethics. Yes, I've bought cans of beans from them. Yes, I've camped in their parking lots. But with Canadian campsites being reserved by tourism companies for foreign wilderness enthusiasts who've more money than we do, as well as the ability to reserve months in advance, our options become more slender in the avenue of either parking in front of friend's homes who risk the wrath of their neighbours, or else in Walmart parking lots. I didn't choose the Walmart life - it was borne out of necessity. That said, we have made friends with people willing to sell us flat screen televisions from their trunks and retired RV enthusiasts, so no one can say it doesn't enrich one's social spectrum.
3. Gas station gourmet.
I used to do this a lot in my old band. I often thought that this was the substance for a legit reality show, but Ryan Seacrest is too busy making the Kardashians more money. The game is to go into any shitty roadside gas station and try to concoct a viable meal using canned food. Given that I am organic, and a veggie eater at home, one must shelve that pronto the moment they decide to tour and travel. While McD's has only passed my lips once on this tour (coffee and fries) it is still a challenge to eat well and not want to have the sort of bowel movements that bring to mind a Jackson Polluck painting. In this, I have created our tour Iron Chef challenge. To go from full kitchen to no sink is tricky, but not impossible. That said, you tend to get highly creative in you culinary endeavours and it vexes my soul when I now eat Dennys and consider $25 a 'splurge' meal. While it takes a hot minute to readjust your thinking, it's not impossible, but at this point I'm feeling I could survive a zombie apocalypse and still eat like Nigella Lawson. Part of the game is to craft meals out of found objects and still eat as well as you can without consistent cold storage for perishables, storage space, and limited pots and pans. I will say, that there are a number of rinky-dink gas stations that we've rolled into, where I was shocked and happy to see cans of coconut water and even 'healthy' snacks. I can recall a time when on the road, you could tell you were getting closer to California by proximity of varied healthy drink choices, but now it would seem since 2010 and my hardcore road dog days that these have become more commonplace. Not that I mind in the least, I should say.
4. Home is where the four wheels are.
This is my first tour in a bus where we are also sleeping. While I have done tours in other buses, they were equipped for gear and had some sleeping areas, but were not able to accommodate more than three sleepers at a time. The Dragon Wagon has a sleeping area and a lounge, which makes it ideal for a longer haul and for performance groups who have not yet begun booking shows where hotels are part and parcel of our contracts. While knowing where you are going to sleep every night is a comfort, the lack of bathroom is a sacrifice made for this consistency. Not to say that having a vehicle with sleeping facilities and restroom facilities are out of the question, but I know from experience that the drag on hauling around a water tank (not to mention grey water) is more than our modest tour budget can accommodate in terms of gas consumption. Still, we've the consolation of knowing that while showers are far and few between that we do not live in fear of someone eating a bad burrito the night before and the rest of us having to live with the consequences, but also that there has been large advances made in the realm of dry shampoo. In all seriousness, I cannot believe that I'm only learning the joys of this now - I have been using cornflower as a dry shampoo, which always left a white and dusty look to my hair, which causing my bathroom to look like the scene of a cocaine fight. It's not pretty. So while it hasn't been always the most comfortable, other times it has been. I never thought I'd be able to live in a bus with two to five other humans for any length of time, but it would seem that I am surprisingly adaptable in my older age. Maybe wisdom of age and experience is just teaching me to relish them strange moments to spin into good storytelling later on...