Giving up the Ghost

By Eric Riebling

Note: The Midnight Ghost was the band's tour van. She was acquired last fall and named after a Jack Kerouac poem. May she rest in peace.

We had just made a midnight rest stop at Sheetz, and were back on the road home from Elkins West Virginia. Everyone was really enjoying their BMT sandwiches and drinks, when suddenly the rear wheels of the van started spinning out of control on a patch of ice. The engine revved, the rear of the van swung completely around, and suddenly we were going backwards at 55 mph. What happened next is uncertain, but from my perspective, we slid off the highway into the median ditch, rolled over onto our passenger side, then stood upright again. If you ask the passengers and eyewitnesses, however, they'll tell you that we rolled completely over.

Todd wasn't wearing his seatbelt, and remembered being upside down. Ray was riding shotgun and managed to hold on to his seat, but ended up wearing nachos and beer. Chris ended up buried under equipment and gave us a big scare when he didn't respond to our cries of "Chris!! Are you all right?!" Slowly, but surely, his lifeless arm regained motion and he rose from the wreckage intact.

Some concerned motorists stopped right away and came to offer their assistance. Within minutes a heavy-duty tow truck arrived, followed by an ambulance, then police. We were huddled into the ambulance to receive first aid, shelter from the subzero wind chill, and plenty of good humor from the paramedics. None of us needed to be hospitalized, but all were quite shaken up.

Todd described his minor head injury something like this: "I felt the back of my head where it was hurting, and discovered something hot and wet. I was afraid my head was busted open. I looked at my hand, sniffed it, and realized... that's my cappucino!" Similar story from Chris, who upon coming to his senses saw steam rising from his legs. His first thoughts were "Oh, this is interesting, I wonder what's happened." Only to realize it was his tea.

So aside from the shock of being in fear for our lives, there was little permanent damage to the musicians. The Midnight Ghost, however, may not live to sail again. Two of the rear windows had popped out, and the runner bar and right hand mirror had been ripped off completely. The roof was buckled by the windshield, most of which remained attached. All the loose objects inside were thrown about, including all our unfinished food, but miraculously the heavy equipment stayed in position thanks to the tight pack we made earlier at Davis and Elkins College.

So you can imagine how glad we were to be alive, even though our trusted Ghost may have given her life to save ours. The next morning, after a hotel stay, the rescue squad, Bill and Paula, arrived just in time for a pizza party in the hotel room. This was just the ice breaker we needed before assessing the damages at the garage where the van had been towed. Surprisingly they managed to get the right rear wheel attached again, and the van actually drives. So it's up to State Farm to decide whether it will be a total loss.

Thank goodness for seatbelts, AAA, trooper WJ Bramer, the Fairmont paramedics, and the man upstairs for allowing us to make it through this incident relatively unscathed. And thanks to the incident for giving us a newfound appreciation for life and an excellent performance the next night at Rosebud.

Keep it fastened!

P.S. Aside from the van, the only other permanent damage seems to be my driving record. Because we wrecked, I was given a ticket for driving "too fast for conditions."

Copyright 1996 by Eric Riebling, all rights reserved
Reprinted with permission by Marbles

Eric is the bassist for the Pittsburgh band The Gathering Field. He was also a member of Pittsburgh's legendary Affordable Floors.

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