I made the trek out west with drummer Kevin McDevitt, his girlfriend Caroline and a ’71 Chevy Beauville with all the band’s equipment. We left Oswego, NY on Saturday, November 22nd, 1980 and spent the first night near a garage in Toledo, Ohio having suffered the first of three blowouts. By the time we reached San Francisco I was certain we would call ourselves Colorblind James and the Blowouts. Fortunately, the choice was quickly rejected.
From Toledo we made started heading southwest through St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Phoenix, and then Albuquerque. We hit Albuquerque on Thanksgiving eve and started looking for a place to park and sleep. We couldn’t afford hotels so the three of us hunkered down in the van each night, usually me in the front seat and Kevin and Caroline in the back. By the time we hit New Mexico we were smelling up the joint something awful. Someone in a gas station suggested we pull around back for the night and maybe later they’d stop by and party with us. As young and as stupid as we were, there was something wrong with the deal so we kept on driving. We wound up on the west side of Albuquerque high up on a hill overlooking the city.
It was the Angel’s View truck stop. When night fell we knew why it was called that. Albuquerque lit up like the mothership in Close Encounters. It was absolutely beautiful. We smoked Kevin’s Marlboro’s long into the evening before turning in. There was something about the evening that was magical even though nothing extraordinary happened. We were all just feeling upbeat and recharged about our move west. We were filled with hope and my head played the same fantasy over and over of our quick rise to the top of the San Francisco scene.
The following day within minutes of waking up we all began to choke on the stench. I remember windows being rolled down quickly and random socks and underwear being tossed from the van. Kevin took his seat behind the wheel, lit a cigarette and we were off once again.
Within an hour we had our second blowout of the trip. Shortly before nightfall and just outside Kingman, Arizona we had our third. We managed to get into Kingman and get the van going again but it was Thanksgiving and we were frazzled. I was the only one who had any kind of money with me so I treated Kevin and Caroline to a Thanksgiving dinner at the local Sambo’s. Compared to the exhilaration we all felt the night before, there was something sad and lonely about being at a crummy restaurant in Kingman on Thanksgiving Day.
I wasn’t that savvy about old rocknroll hits at the time so I couldn’t even savor the fact that we were tracing all the cities laid out in Route 66. Old Route 66 was pretty much abandoned by that point but the interstate stayed true to the lyric. And yes, the following day we went through Barstow and San Bernardino before making our way up to Frisco.