Oct. 23-26ish, 2004
St. Louis, MO
It took a while to adjust to the RV thing. The piece o’ crap began to slowly disintegrate the minute all 12 of us climbed aboard, and though we were bulls on our best behavior, we were a wee bit salty (at the Sleepy Trucker) that we had to spend the rest of the tour in a china shop.
It couldn’t be helped, of course, but the lesson we all learned is that if you’re going to buy an RV, don’t buy a new one. They’re held together with tape.
Cyclecide didn’t spend more than 2 days in St. Louis, we don’t think. Business as usual, pressing on, et cetera. We hadn’t gotten to see much in the way of touristy things at all — because of the wreck, we had no time to go to Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron in Wisconsin, and boy were we sad about it.
This was by far the workingest, not-sight-seeingest tour of all time. Until…
We don’t think we even have to tell you readers out there what St. Louis is famous for. A most beautiful beacon, a true American icon built of brick and steel… Some say it’s a pointless, a sinful building, a total waste of money, a monument to excess. Others say it’s a sublime historical artifact, a working example of American industry at its finest, a paean to the cleverness of humankind and the kindness of God.
Yes. The Budweiser flagship factory. We drove past this arch thing to get there… Actually, Laird, who was driving the RV with Jarico following in the truck, hijacked our collective, Jarico-decreed errand to the hardware store to get drywall — why would it take 12 people to get drywall? — and drove us straight to the Mothership, with Che navigating in the passenger’s seat.
Jarico threw a mini-fit, then understood our longing. He and Linda and Fox went to the hardware store — why would you not want to take a tour on Budweiser’s home turf? — while the rest of us worshipped. This writer put on a red vest we’d covered in cut-apart Budweiser cans for a “Beer Can Can” skit with the Can-Teens of Cyclecide Ladies’ Auxiliary — our fancy Budweiser clothes — and Shotwell and Che got out all their Budweiser gear too. Properly dressed, we went into the golden hall.
The place was packed — part museum, part advertisement, and wholly the best brewery tour ever. Nobody really appreciated our vest, or either they were scared to make eye contact with a small red-headed chick surrounded by large, scruffy, pungent and dirt-covered men.
The factory itself is beautiful — a one-stop spot to ooh and aah over antique St. Louis brickwork — and we got to meet the Budweiser Clydesdales, and the dalmatian even let us pet it, and the lady let us keep a piece of beechwood that had really been used to make their delicious beer.
At the end of the tour, after many a Strange Brew joke, we scammed more than twice the free beers we were allotted, and the police were almost called on various members of our party on three separate occasions. We think that’s all the details we should go into. Let’s just say we came away with a couple unofficial souvenirs from the Budweiser factory.
Since our show was the next day, it was determined we should flyer the hip college section of town and then sleep in the park where the Tour de Fat was to be held.
On the way to hip-town, we drove through one of the most picturesque and desolate ghettos we’ve ever seen — rows of artfully-crafted, abandoned brick buildings with intricate metalwork, peeling paint, and the ubiquitous, humid smell of barbecue. We all stared out the window in reverent silence, wondering how cheap these gorgeous fixer-upper buildings must be, and fantasizing about gathering a grip of friends to take over the neighborhood. Nobody else seemed to be using it.
We parked the RV-and-box-truck combo in a lot behind the street where local university attendees shopped for overpriced thrift clothes and coffee drinks. Instead of flyering, though, most of us sat in the parking lot while Linda and Big Daddy cooked us a delicious spaghetti dinner.
Some young punks on their way to a U.K. Subs show spotted our franken-bikes and came over to say hello. It turns out some of them knew some of us, through mutual train-hopping friends and whatnot.
They asked us for spare change at first, but after we told them our sob story, they brought over their last 24-pack of Keystone Ice and gave it to us. You know your crew is hurting when gutterpunks take pity on you.
One of the boys brought out his acoustic and we all drank beer and sang classic punk songs in the parking lot. Cops circled and circled around us in their cars, but never said anything.
Then Laird and Koit and Moses and this writer went on a bike ride to check out the park — and it was one of the most breathtaking (and large) plots of civic space any of us had ever seen. To drive the “wow” point home, as we cruised down one of the park’s well-paved bike paths, a volley of 4th-of-July-caliber fireworks exploded directly above our heads.
It turns out that’s what they do in the STL for weddings, and there were three weddings that night. So, three fireworks displays, one right after the other. Awesome. We got separated from the boys, who found a surreal bird sanctuary somewhere. We meandered back to the RV and bought Linda a drink at a sports bar with Nelly posters all over the walls. Some game like the World Series was going on, and we were the only ones in the place not looking at the TV screens.
Laird found our show’s location and we took the caravan to go sleep in the park. “Our” venue / parking lot sat at the top of a big hill, overlooking reflecting pools, fountains, and a wicked night-time cityscape.
One of the firework-weddings’ receptions was still raging in the building beside us, so Moses busied himself casing the place, trying to blend in, stealing beers, and flirting with the bridesmaids. He found some sizeable parts of an ice sculpture that the catering staff had thrown out, and he and Koit and this writer took turns coasting down the steep grassy hills on blocks of ice until 3am.
Daylight confirmed that the St. Louis World’s Fair Pavilion was the most glorious place we’ve ever played, with a myriad of fountains, hills, bridges, creeks, birds, and other landscape-nature things we couldn’t see the night before and couldn’t go to now because we had to set up the show.
This was our last Tour de Fat performance before branching off on our own (now-to-be-abridged-because-of-the-damn-crash) tour, so we wanted to make it a good one. Again, everything took longer than it should’ve, because we were all still sore, and the truck-packing thing was new.
We hung all the blankets and futons out to dry that were still wet from sitting outside at the Minneapolis show where it snowed and rained and sleeted all day. If there was any doubt that we were the ghetto stepchildren of the Tour de Fat, a bunch of dirty laundry being aired on the security barriers surrounding our midway rides sure did hammer the point home.
Spandex-clad person after spandex-clad person ascended the hill we’d slid down, armed with fancy bikes and helmets and those hard-bottomed clicky bike-riding shoes, to assemble for the morning Tour de Fat ride. It turns out St. Louis is a cyclist-filled town indeed. And everyone was inordinately cool, friendly, and cheerful at 8am, too. That always makes us suspicious.
Some people called the Banana Bike Brigade showed up, and immediately we felt a kinship. Cyclecide takes junked bikes to make crazy alter-cycles for people to hurt themselves with, but these people manufacture one-person parade floats. They’ve got bikes dressed like flamingoes, hot dogs, loreleis, unicorns, and rolling picnic lunches — with rider costumes to match each bike.
They’re the “us” of St. Louis — bike-rapers with wild creations and tallbikes, too — but they’re much more convivial. For example, they ride in tons of parades and do things for charity. We don’t. Also, their jousting poles are made from a stick and a long piece of foam … designed to let people get off easy, not to eff people up. But we like them anyway.
The best part of the day was when the Handsome Little Devils, after another kickass performance, told the audience what Cyclecide had been through in the past two weeks — and then announced that all their pass-the-hat tip money was going to us! …
Linda and this writer were sitting in the RV at the time, putting on klown makeup, and our eyes involuntarily welled up with tears, smearing our whiteface. So we had to re-apply, but we were joyous at the prospect of actually having enough gas money to get us to New Orleans. God bless those Devils.
The punks from the night before came with more punks, and rode bikes and rides all day. The rest of the crowd appreciated our show, but weren’t too interactive, and the Banana Bike Brigade ended up helping us not fizzle during the performance.
Mike, who we’d dubbed “The Chicken” because of his silly fuzzy yellow pantsuit, jousted Jarico and lost bravely, with quite a melodramatic thumb-wrestling match at the conclusion of the joust.
Then, at show’s end, he and his friend-girl offered us an empty house to stay in — the “playhouse,” as she called it, located right behind their own home. Woo hoo! They’re investing in real estate and remodeling old homes. Houses must be cheap there.
We went to the BBB’s neighborhood (we forget the name), which they likened to Brooklyn or Oakland — a with-it enclave of art-minded people who’ve mixed in with the poor folks and bought up some unwanted properties. The “playhouse” was a comfort to our travel-weary posse, not just because we had a whole house to ourselves, but she’d painted and designed every inch of it like some sort of thrifty hipster’s dream-home. Plus, there was a fireplace.
We made dinner and shot the shit with the Handsome Little Devils. They were off to Japan the next day, where tons of earthquakes were rocking the nation and evicting thousands from their homes. We realized we didn’t want to leave the Tour de Fat, or leave each other, so we all stayed up late, by turns sad at our parting and giddy that our next stop was New Orleans.
New F-ing Orleans. Yahoo. Time to fluff our tutus, leave our sponsor’s nest, and get dirty in the Big Easy…
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