Tour Tales # 4: Stranded in the Canadian Wilderness


There is something about travelling through actual wilderness that I love.

There is no cell phone service; there are no lights, no gas stations, no stores… Nothing. Beyond the odd vehicle, it is just you, the road and endless expanses of trees or mountains or flats. It’s places like these that remind you what you are and how powerless you are at the end of the day.

“I know we’re lost. My phone stopped working. Shut the fuck up, Barbara.”

Take away all forms of technology and how far can you make it beyond the remaining fuel in your vehicle? For many people – not very far, I guess. Most are busy living in populated areas full of every amenity and modern convenience you can think of. I believe if all of a sudden, the power went out and stayed out, then total anarchy would arise within weeks. Many wouldn’t have learned to live without a distraction, having taken these things for granted most, if not all of their lives. The worst thing is that a lot of people feel like they have a right to most of these technologies that they had no hand in creating.

And to some degree, I suppose the life they were born into grants them that. As of typing this, I am only 28, but I remember when computers were a very expensive and almost pointless (by today’s standards) luxury that took up way too much space. The internet was only a soft word spoken on many a tongue; few knowing what insanities lay in store!

Regardless, pluck someone out of their luxurious modern western life and plant them down in the middle of nowhere with hundreds of kilometres of nothing surrounding them and you’ll learn what kind of person they are! Will they be a self-sufficient hero of the wilderness, building you shelter and shaping a spear from that duct-taped on tail pipe of your equally duct-taped van to hunt the meal for the day? Or will they crumble from the weight of having absolutely zero survival skills and curl up shivering under the van?

Well… enough with the doom and gloom… this is supposed to be a fun blog!

My band were on the road one April and we had just finished a tour that had been routed across the entire continent within 20 days. We had a show every single day, most of the drives were around 10 hours and almost all of the load in times were around 3 pm. Some were earlier…

I think we averaged about 2-3 hours of sleep per night, then made up another 2-3 each in the van each day. It caught up with us really quick.

This was fun after 2 hours of sleep.

I’ll think I’ll chalk up this story to that condition!

So we are driving through North Ontario. We had played in Thunder Bay the night before and were on route to Timmins (about a 9 hour drive). Before the show in T-Bay had ended, we voted to drive through the night so we could get to Timmins early, get a huge breakfast and chill out before the show the next evening. So off we went!

I remember earlier on that tour we had driven the opposite way on the exact same stretch and there was a 200+ km stretch of highway that had nothing but 2 lanes and trees. Before you left the towns on either end, there are gigantic flashing signs saying ‘NO GAS STATIONS FOR 211 KM, CHECK FUEL’ or something of that ilk. I was the driver on that particular stretch, and having half a tank of gas I thought we were well in the clear.

In the past, we would have made it without any problems, but our van’s oxygen sensors were fucked. So of course we burned way more gas than I thought we would. We made that entire trip with all the windows up, no music playing and me counting every single kilometre beneath my breath. We literally made it to the next gas station before we ran out of gas. Thank FUCK.

On our way back through that very stretch, I was one of the lucky ones to get to sleep after that show in Thunder Bay. Slinking down onto the bench behind the driver’s seat, I went to bed stressing the importance of making that last stop for gas before the warning signs numerous times and then I drifted off…

I awoke sometime after sunrise to our guitarist and soundman having a bit of a panic between themselves. Sitting up, I was just in time to catch a sign indicating the next town was about 100 km away pass us by. I then looked at the fuel gauge, whose needle was nearly resting on EMPTY. And of course buying fuel canisters was only a conversation we had on numerous tours and of course the fuel warning light did not work. I love band vans.

We ran out of gas pretty quickly after that.

It just so happened we ran out of gas just as we were passing the entrance to an abandoned quarry, which was easily large enough to pull the van sideways in.

We came to a stop and got out to stretch our legs. We were in the middle of nowhere, broken down with no phone service with one remaining date on our tour.

What we did was write ‘GAS?’ in the back of a pizza box with a sharpie and took turns trying to flag down passing trucks…

Pictured: Every musician ever.

There were mostly semi trucks, who didn’t even bother to slow down – not that their diesel fuel would have helped much. Before long, we found some beer left in the cooler and continued to hopelessly flag down traffic.

After about 2 and a half hours, an older couple driving a pickup drove up to us. I guess one of the truckers passing by had radioed to them to tell them about our situation, which was VERY lucky for us. They gave us a full canister of fuel which allowed us to get to the next gas station.

We actually made it to load in on time.

The moral of the story: just buy a fucking gas canister and keep it filled.

Thank you for reading Tour Tales! Next Monday I will be back with another installment Tour Tales. To help spread the love, share this blog with your musician or traveler friends!

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