Grateful Dead Roadie Update
Here's the story from StarPulse:
Grateful Dead Roadie Is Lawnmower Man Hero
Former Grateful Dead roadie Paul Woods is making headlines in America after embarking on a 3,500-mile trek to claim a home left to him by his late mom - on a lawnmower.
Woods set off on the trip from Alaska to Virginia back in 2005 but his adventure has only just come to light after well-wishers in Utah discovered who the lawnmower man was. Woods is expected to reach the home he has inherited some time in 2009.
A Utah paper has a bigger story and some audio. This is from HJNews:
On ‘a long, strange trip’
By Aaron Falk
Man traveling from Alaska to Virginia on riding mower stops for repairs, movie watching at Beaver Mountain
BEAVER MOUNTAIN — Paul Woods hunches over his broken-down Toro mower, his blue eyes piercing through his soot-covered face. Caked with oil, his rough fingers tinker with the shot brakes that landed him in this ski resort parking lot.
Woods, 44, said he has traveled from Point Barrow, Alaska, and is on his way to Virginia. As the crow flies, the trip covers more than 4,500 miles — a lengthy journey made even longer by the fact that Woods is traveling mostly by lawnmower.
“Literally, it’s been a long, strange trip,” he said.
It’s a fitting analysis from the self-proclaimed “Dead Head” who stopped counting how many Grateful Dead shows he’s seen. At one point, he even acted as a body guard for the band, he said, displaying the green-ink Grateful Dead tattoo he gave himself.
“You’ve got to be pretty strange and pretty weird to be driving a tractor mower across country,” he said.
Woods said he moved from Los Angeles to Alaska to care of his ailing mother. When she died, Woods said his mother left him a house in Virginia — the reason for his journey.
He said he flew from Barrow to Fairbanks, Alaska, and then traveled to Dawson, Alaska, in the back of a pickup truck. Since then, Woods said he has come the rest of the way by mower.
The machine — an old, beige riding mower — sits just inches off the ground. Only three of its five gears work and the mower goes about 15 mph when it isn’t weighed down by the shopping-cart-turned-trailer that holds tools, Doritos and Woods’ traveling companion, a terrier mix named Yoda. Woods said he’s gone through three motors since coming from Alaska.
His wallet, along with his driver’s license, was stolen in a small Oregon town, he said, preventing him from taking an airplane or a train.
“I kind of like driving slow anyway,” he said, “you know, meander across the United States.”
The last couple of weeks, Wood said he stayed in Green Canyon and Logan, working odd jobs for gas money. He planned to drive through Idaho, Montana and South Dakota on his way to Virginia. The detour, detour, he said, is designed to avoid Wyoming.
“I try to avoid long distances when the towns are too far apart,” said Woods, whose mower’s gas tank only holds a quarter of a gallon.
But on his way to Bear Lake, Woods’ brakes went out. He drove into the Beaver Mountain parking lot to make repairs and plug in his one electronic amenity — a portable DVD player — so he could watch the movie “Billy Jack.”
“I’ve spent more time fixing it than driving it,” he said of the mower.
Woods spends most of his nights with his dog in a one-man tent. He dresses in layers, topped by an old black sweatshirt and ski pants. He uses a propane tank to cook his food and heat his engine.
When he drives, he warms his hands on the exhaust from the lawn mower. Still, he said, the cold doesn’t bother him much.
“This is not cold,” he said. “Alaska can be cold. ... You have to wear goggles or your eyeballs will freeze.”
Driving through the windy canyon roads, Woods said conditions can be dangerous.
“I drive as safe as I can even though I’m from California,” he said. “I pull over when I hear them coming. They don’t slow down.”
Woods said he’s not sure how long it will take to reach his destination, and the home willed to him by his mother. But when he gets there, he said, he plans to turn the house into apartments for low-income families and medical students.
“I want to do something with my life that means something,” he said. “When you’re strange, nobody remembers your name.”
click here to listen to Paul Woods talk about his trip
Scooter McGavin blogged about the 2007 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. His post included a mention of the "token" In Memoriam package. He wrote that the presentation "obviously goes beyond just those inducted as they included the dude from Molly Hatchet. But why was a roadie for the Grateful Dead included?"
I haven't been able to find out any more details (or mention of it) but my best guess is that they honored Lawrence 'Ramrod' Shurtliff, who passed away May 17, 2006. And why would the R&R Hall of Fame give him respect? Well, he was one of the more famous roadies in Rock 'n' Roll! In fact, how many fans of other bands know the name of a single roadie, let alone several, as most Deadheads do?. And Ramrod participated in many historic Rock 'n' Roll events. From 710 Ashbury to Woodstock to Egypt and on and on...
While there wasn't much info about the "in Memorium," much press has been given to an auction of Ramrod's possesions.
Here's what Mike Green wrote in Relix:
Lawrence "Ram Rod" Shurtliff (1945-2006) served in a number of capacities with the Grateful Dead. He began as truck driver and later fuctioned as crew chief as well as the President of the Grateful Dead's corporate entity. On May 8 (the thirty year anniversary date of the group's celebrated Cornell University Barton Hall show), much of his Grateful Dead memorabilia will appear for auction at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco.
The auction will feature a range of gear and artwork. Of particular note are several guitars formerly owned by Jerry Garcia. These include the electric made for him by Doug Irwin, a second electric guitar made by Travis Bean and a custom built acoustic created in a collaboration between Modulus and Alvarez. Some original Garcia art will be in the auction as well, including an ink drawing of Hot Tuna from the late 60's. Tie-dyed speaker covers, amplifiers, and mixers from the Wall of Sound will be available, as will arrange of road cases. Other items include concert posters, original Grateful Dead photographs, signed Stanley Mouse artwork, a custom-made leather jacket, and a framed and mounted ticket stub from the last concert in which Garcia performed (7/9/95 at Soldier's Field in Chicago).
In the days before the auction, a free preview of items will take place and an illustrated catalog is expected as well, with information to follow at http://www.bonhams.com/us