Razor City Hiatus

My first car was a 1989 Chevy G series van, which I purchased collectively with a band I was playing in around 2006. This band actually consisted of myself and the four original members of Real Estate. We bought this van together to do a month-long tour of the United States. It was the first time any of us had ever gone on a tour like this, and the first time I would see many parts of this country that I would come to return to often as I got older.

The van was beige with dark red upholstery. It had mood lighting in the back, and seats that you could really settle into. No CD player. Cassettes only. We bought it for a reasonable price from a friend of the father of one of the band members.


That van took me to cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and Austin for the very first time, and to Madison, Wisconsin, where I would move to just a couple years later, and where I still reside. That van also brought me all the way to the west coast for the first time in my life. We drove it right up to the Pacific Ocean. We drove that van through national parks, like the Badlands in South Dakota, and we drove it past the Hollywood sign and other icons of American culture. In just a single month, that van saw mountains, lakes, rivers, deserts, swamps, and of course thousands of miles of interstate highway.

Since none of us had much experience with cars, we neglected to check our fluids often enough, and ran into trouble at one point in our trip. Just as we were pulling up to the Devil’s Tower in the northeast corner of Wyoming, the van started smoking. The transmission fluid had gotten too low, all dried up in the summer heat. We had to get towed to a mechanic that was around 30 miles away. We had no idea what was going to happen to our van, to our tour, or to us. The ride in the tow truck was bleak. There were wildfires tearing through that part of Wyoming. It was the first time I had seen fires like that. We watched deer sprint frantically across the interstate, fleeing the smoldering landscape in the distance.

Anyways, we had to pay for transmission repairs. It cost a lot of money. We were stranded for about a week while the van was getting fixed. We stayed at a campsite in Gillette, Wyoming. The Razor City. Once repairs were complete, we were able to make good time to pick our tour back up in Seattle, having only missed a few shows.

We didn’t make any money on that tour. We each lost a bunch of money on that van. It got sold at the end of the tour, for far less than expected. Before it got sold, I remember the tires getting slashed at some point while I had it parked overnight outside my house in Washington, DC, where I was living at the time. I remember the van feeling like a burden at the end. Strange, of course, since it represented something so different to us before our journey with it.