The autobahn is pleasant and easy to navigate, once you learn to watch your mirror like a hawk. You may decide to pass a truck, and in an instant that little dot back on the horizon becomes a Mercedes on your tail, and the guy driving it is giving you the stink eye.
Our van is a Ford Euroliner with a five-speed stickshift. Neither Darren nor Franher can operate the clutch, so Mark and I are doing all the driving. In exchange, the others agreed that to load the gear after every show. That’s okay by me.
In Amsterdam there are plenty of cars and pedestrians and boats, but the main mode of transportation is bicycle. The Dutch bike is not a sports bike, like the racers or mountain bikes you mostly see in the States. It is a practical street bike, with a chainguard to keep the rider’s pants from getting caught and handlebars set high so the rider sits up straight. Some pull cargo wagons behind them. Some have big wooden boxes out in front like wheelbarrows. I saw a rickshaw-like contraption with one guy in front doing all the work while a couple sat side-by-side behind him.
We rented four bikes and spent a day exploring the city, stopping here and there for tapas and Belgian ales. About 1:30 in the morning we headed back to the hotel. Darren was pedaling along in front of me when suddenly down he went. He scraped his hand and hurt his wrist. He couldn’t ice down his wrist that night, because European hotels don’t have ice machines like American hotels do. But with the help of some ibuprofen, the next day he was sore but okay. We didn’t need to advertise for a German drummer.
From Amsterdam we hit the road back to Germany for our gig in Ratingen, near Dusseldorf. Here we met and had dinner with Alfie Falckenbach, the head of our European record label, Blues Boulevard. Alfie and I had been communicating for some time by phone and e-mail, but it was good to put in some hang time and get to know each other. Everyone seemed to hit it off.
The venue, Manege-Lintorf, was in a local youth center, but the room was set up like a rock club, with a round bar and a good stage. When we came out for the start of the show people were standing right up to the edge of the stage.
The gig went very well. Everyone on stage and off was all smiles. Alfie told us, “I knew I had signed a great band, but I didn’t know it was a great live band.”
Back at the hotel we settled in with cold pizza and a bottle of red wine. On TV a pair of rough-looking nude women were laughing and batting at each other with boxing gloves. Brother, this ain’t America.