Thank You For Helping

From Left to Right: Me, Brandon, Lorie, J, Austin, Justin

From Left to Right: Me, Brandon, Lorie, J, Austin, Justin

It doesn’t seem real. None of it. This was such a wild project from start to finish, and now that it’s over, we’ve finished, but wish we could start again. This wasn’t just a build. There was so much love and emotion in this from everyone involved. Our blog has viewers from over 60 countries, and we received donations from all over the place. Everyone that contributed anything helped give the project life support.

I can’t begin to express to you how much doing this meant to me. (So much emotion.) The group I’m about to thank worked tirelessly and without ego. As much stress and pressure as we were under at the end, and as hot as it was, and as late as it was every time we got together, there was never any bickering, infighting, or ego. This is an amazing team, and their heart can’t be matched.


Brandon Wheeler, owner of HotWired Car Audio in Jonesboro Arkansas, THANK YOU. Your team didn’t just under promise, over deliver… you saved the project. I’m forever indebted to you guys for your hard work. People like you are EXACTLY what the world needs more of. I asked for very little from you at the start, and I asked for something nearly impossible at the end. Each time you didn’t just come through, you exceeded expectations with an unmatched level of quality and professionalism.

Lorie (we took full advantage of Sonic Happy Hour)

Lorie (we took full advantage of Sonic Happy Hour)

Lorie Beth, bunk and interior designer, and all around hard worker. THANK YOU. I recruited you for this because I knew you were a brilliant furniture maker, artist, and loyal fan of the band. I challenged you to do something no one had ever done before and you delivered. You drove countless hours, slept in your car, in the ambulance, and in sleazy motels while working around the clock on numerous occasions to pull this off. You were able to design and build our bunk set up from seven hours away with measurements and photos mostly taken over the phone. Your amazing attitude and work ethic will take you far in life, wherever you decide to go. You’ll always have a special place in my heart because I don’t think another person exists that would make the sacrifices you made to see this through.

Austin and Justin working hard

Austin and Justin working hard

Austin Kelley, diesel mechanic and fabricator, THANK YOU. Several people contacted me about doing the job I asked you to do. I chose you because of your training and I could tell by Facebook stalking you what kind of person you were. You showed up and busted your butt for us. You gelled with our group perfectly, and you had the same passion for this project the rest of us did. At the end, per J’s request for a gauge, you pulled the gauge we needed out of your own car and professionally installed it in minutes. Everything about that sums up what you brought to this project.


Justin Letson, carpenter, THANK YOU. You finished gutting Pandora’s Box for us, and built any and everything we asked you to. Your attention to detail is why this project looks as good as it does. The trim pieces and other details you added to the fundamental components you built really make her look first class.

Jackie Yee Grau, the legal team, THANK YOU. You’re such a positive and intelligent inspiration and a great friend to everyone. Every challenge we threw at you from local ordinance laws to blog editing you delivered quickly on. Thanks for representing me against the Jackson shop going forward. (And for those reading this, she was secretly included in our group photo by Lorie Beth. Lorie’s is holding a card from Jackie in her left hand in the group shot.)

Anonymous donor from the East Coast- THANK YOU. This project would not have happened without your donation. The transmission alone was more than the budget we had to start with. It’s tough to count on people to do what they say they’re going to do, you certainly did just that.

Anonymous donor from the Northeastern US- THANK YOU. I loved the inspirational stories about HURT you shared with me. You didn’t just deliver on the bedding, you delivered six fold, and got us EXACTLY what we were asking for.

Rickie Lindsey, hardworking support, THANK YOU. I shared with J the video of you and me tearing apart the driver’s side wall. You busted your butt doing the grunt work on this project on numerous occasions, and your work largely went unheralded in blog posts. I promise you, I do NOT group you with the shop in Jackson, and I apologize my frustrations with their management frequently seemed to filter its way back to you. You’re a good guy, and you have the work ethic to go as far in life as you want to go.

Trevor Arnold, lead mechanic to start the project, THANK YOU. Seriously, THANK YOU. This project would have ended up being done at a technical college if you hadn’t agreed to take it on. But since you did, I was able to assemble an amazing team and spend my summer working on such a cool and unique project. You were put in really bad places at the end by your boss, and I apologize you had to be the middle man at times, and deal with the frustration from both sides. You’re a gifted mechanic, and that’s why I chose you for this project. Hone your skills and grow your career.

Rose Haley, graphic design, THANK YOU. You did a great job with your artwork and designs. You drove hours out of your way to work on this, and stuck around to meet me, and never got the chance to. Thanks for your contributions to this project.

Donnie Tipton, hardworking nice guy, THANK YOU. I don’t think I’d ever met you until the last hours of our time with Pandora’s Box, but you showed up with an awesome work ethic and energy. You busted your butt for us when we really needed it. THANK YOU.

Barry Martin and Jessica Yarbro at Sign Design Graphics, graphic design, THANK YOU. I don’t know anyone else who would put vinyl on for free at 3:00 am. Your artwork really helped make the exterior look good.

Josh Fischer, Antoine Nihart, Jessie Henry, James Merritt, and Adam Morris… THANK YOU. You guys supported us in a variety of different ways and rolls. You guys frequently came at crazy hours with no notice, and helped make this happen for us. You guys are all great friends.

Karla Fisher, editor and blog street teamer, THANK YOU. You’ve been a good friend to me for years, and your editing skills and feedback came in handy throughout this project. Thanks for continuously promoting the blog on your Facebook page and in all the other ways you helped me.

Cain LaVelle, Pete Tellez, Brad Covey, Chad Hardin, and anyone else that donated gear and equipment. (IF I’m leaving your name off, please shoot me a quick message and I will edit this.) Thank you! This blog was titled Life Support, and you guys gave us the exact support we needed to help make this possible.

The rest of the HotWired Crew I didn’t name… THANK YOU guys for all your support. We tore your shop up, and you responded by buying us food, letting us use your tools, and be in your way. Thank you.

THANK YOU to every last person that read this blog. You guys kept us on track, and kept everyone motivated. You guys were awesome support.

I hope I’m not leaving anyone off this list. There were so many people that helped in so many ways.

Finally I want to thank J Loren.

What it took to build him, wasn't enough to kill him.

What it took to build him, wasn’t enough to kill him.

Your music has been an inspiration to countless people from around the world. The trust and faith you put in me to deliver this for you was greatly appreciated. You handled a really negative looking situation at the end beautifully. I hope you’re able to get exactly what you need out of Pandora’s Box, and I hope she truly serves you well. Somehow you find your way into some of the most bizarre moments of my life, and you’ve become a true friend through those experiences. THANK YOU.


Thank you to everyone that read this until the end, you were my support… until the rapture should come to meet us.



What It Took To Build Her Was Almost Enough To Kill Her (And Us) Part 3: Chasing Ghosts

From Left to Right: Me, Brandon, Lorie, J, Austin, Justin

From Left to Right: Me, Brandon, Lorie, J, Austin, Justin (In Lorie’s left hand is a birthday card from Jackie, the legal team, who was a tremendous help with several aspects of this.)

I coach my oldest son’s football team, and we had practice Saturday morning. I let J know the night before that he’d have the house to himself until about lunch time, then I’d clean up and we’d head down to Jonesboro just before dinner. Instead, he decided to join me for practice. That was a lot of fun for me. I didn’t introduce him to anyone, and I gave him a solid black folding chair to sit on that matched his solid black wardrobe perfectly. He sat for a good chunk of practice and cheered on my team. I kept waiting to hear, “I command you to move!” from his direction, but I guess he was pleased enough with my team’s execution to only yell positive comments. After practice, his cover was blown. A kid came up to him and said that one of my kids called him a ‘rock star’ and he wanted to know who he was. Before J could respond, the majority of my football team’s parents had him swarmed.

Brandon and Justin are heroes to HURT fans everywhere.

Brandon and Justin are heroes to HURT fans everywhere.

A few hours later, it was time to take J to Jonesboro and meet our worn out crew.

The owner of the Jackson shop decided to send two techs down, late Saturday to ‘work’ on the ambulance. I put that in quotes, because one of the guys told me later that afternoon he doesn’t work weekends, and his boss didn’t tell him until 1:00 pm that he had to head two and a half hours to Jonesboro immediately to work on this. I explained to J on the way to Jonesboro that things may get heated with the Jackson crew because they basically killed what was set to be such a beautiful project.

Sure enough, his guys weren’t there very long before they “had done all that they could do, and just needed to collect money.” They explained that everything was good, but the overdrive. I gave them a check for half of the ‘bill’ per my verbal and written communication with the shop owner. He called me and tried to cuss me about it and tell me I’m stealing from him. The voice of a half dozen hurricanes came out, and I proceeded to once again put him back in his place for about twenty minutes. He tried to tell me we would burn up the transmission if he didn’t haul it back to Jackson. I told him, his own mechanics and Austin, all agreed it was safe to drive. He hung up, called his crew, called me back and told me he sees things differently than his mechanics do. I agreed that he probably did. They were looking at reality, and he was looking to collect money for a job he didn’t finish and a project he sabotaged. I marched over to the two men he sent down, and gave them my perspective of the situation very bluntly. I concluded with, “If he doesn’t feel like the check I’m giving him is fair, then he doesn’t have to cash it.” They fully agreed that what I was saying was more than fair.

Our version of a set list.

Now that they were out of the way for good, we had an ambulance to finish, and a dinner to eat. J had planned to go out with everyone who had worked on this project and get to know them before he left. There was no longer time for a fun night of drinks, but I made sure we kept our dinner reservation because everyone there had already given so much to this project. They earned much more than what they got, and deserved an extended night out, but unfortunately there wasn’t time anymore.

On the way to dinner we stopped at a hardware store to pick up supplies. J treated us to an impromptu Tool cover using a large piece of aluminum. It was beautifully done, and sounded brilliant. On the way out of the store, I managed to cut my finger on the same piece of aluminum. That’s why he’s the rock star, and I’m the guy frantically trying to pull a miracle out of nowhere.

After dinner we quickly went back to work. The crew was already extremely tired from working all night Friday. It didn’t matter though.

J, Lorie, and I talking shortly after dinner.

J and I talking to Lorie (not pictured) shortly after dinner.

We were determined to make it happen, and we damn sure weren’t going to let the Jackson shop ruin our project.

As we worked through the night, tears were shed by just about everyone there. It was bittersweet to see something that we put so much of ourselves into, getting set to go away. It was difficult for us that J had to see it before it was ready to be delivered to him. It was a shot in the stomach to all of us that we were having to do so much at the last moment, since we had been working on this all summer. We thought we were finished by about 9:30 or so Sunday morning, just minutes before J came around the corner. I think J was surprised by how much different she looked in just a matter of hours, and that none of us had been to sleep. He still didn’t have a transmission with overdrive, but he had three solid gears that could get him back in time for his prior arrangements.

We backed her out of the shop, and J took her to the same gas station where she broke down on July 4th. It turned out the instrument cluster wasn’t working. We scurried back to HotWired and rounded the mechanics up. She had a host of electrical problems now that weren’t issues last time I drove her. The guys worked throughout the morning going through checklists of potential solutions we found on the internet.

The floors went in early Sunday morning.

Austin Kelley told the team he had to leave in an hour because he couldn’t miss work. J had to cancel his Monday plans. We failed him. It was Sunday afternoon and his ambulance only had three gears, and a plethora of issues we hadn’t even begun to diagnose because they didn’t exist the last time I drove it. J began researching flight plans. He was getting set to leave without the ambulance.

Not only did I fail him, I cost him a bunch of money, and wasted countless other people’s time and money. It was a devastatingly brutal feeling.

Everyone at HotWired had gone above and beyond what I asked them to do. They worked overnights after work over the course of several months making this happen with me. Austin and Lorie traveled from out of state to work on this. They slept in their vehicles, camp sites, and cheap motels. They worked hard, and they didn’t ask for anything in return. Everyone there just wanted the same thing I did. They didn’t want the music to die.

This wasn’t their fault, it was mine, but we all had to feel the pain of being there at the moment where it felt like it was going to end in disaster.

Justin putting the finishing touches on the AC and fridge area.

Justin putting the finishing touches on the AC and fridge area.

I grabbed my phone and began looking for a mechanic to replace Austin. I know countless mechanics, but finding a diesel mechanic on a Sunday, who’s able to come on a moment’s notice to a car audio shop, and repair a transmission and chase electrical ghosts for no money is basically impossible. I made two phone calls, one to James Merritt and the other to Adam Morris. Both guys picked up their phones and came within minutes.

They weren’t diesel mechanics by trade like Austin, but they were all I could come up with. They got to work with Brandon and crew and got almost everything working within an hour.

The final victory came when Brandon discovered a faulty fusable link that restored enough of the systems to give J a fighting chance to make it home. A quick test drive revealed the same relay was also what was preventing the overdrive from kicking in.


J now had a vehicle he could at least get home in. It shifted really rough, and will need some adjusting. The cruise didn’t work, although we were told it was fixed. It didn’t have a muffler, but the shop in Jackson told me it was put on.

J was able to make it home Monday about 14 hours after he planned to be there. The money I haven’t paid the shop in Jackson is going to be used to pay people near J to finish the job they started.

Ultimately this project ended up not being the overwhelming success I thought it was going to be, even as late as early August. However, it wasn’t the ultimate failure it almost became at the last second either. I will continue to update this blog with the work J has done to Pandora’s Box and as he records and tours with her.

I have an enormous amount of love for the crew that worked on this project so tirelessly in Jonesboro.

Thank you for listening,


Pandora's Box is filled with subtle and not so subtle reminders of J's music. This is a replica of the window art outside of the music store J group up with. The last four digits of the phone number should give fans some insight into it's importance in his life and music.

Pandora’s Box is filled with subtle and not so subtle reminders of J’s music. This is a replica of the window art outside of the music store J grew up with. The last four digits of the phone number should give fans some insight into its importance in his life and music.

Microwave and Safe

Microwave and Safe (The safe was graciously donated by Cain LaVelle)


The four sliding bunks with curtains.


Finished view from the rear. The boxes on the right contain the bedding that was donated by an anonymous donor from the Northern US.


Reads “HURTBAND.COM” in your rear view mirror.


Voltage gauge for battery array that Austin took from his car and installed for J.


Fold up bunk and bench in couch mode.


Vinyl work


Please use these guys if you’re in the market for anything they provide. They are the reason this project got done.


Rear speakers


Couch in Bunk Mode with curtains closed

Fold up bunk

Couch in Bunk Mode with curtains open


View from the monitor.




Load lights ON


Bunk view from side entrance


Bedding that was graciously donated by an anonymous donor. THANK YOU AGAIN!


Fridge, AC, and Monitor


Donnie Tipton worked his rear end off all night and gave it one last wipe down before J takes her away.


View from just outside of the back doors.


The other side.



Barry Martin and Jessica Yarbro doing final touches on vinyl

What It Took To Build Her Was Almost Enough To Kill Her (And Us) Part 2: Wars


Art by Rose Haley.

Art by Rose Haley.

Come Thursday, Pandora’s Box HAD to be moved to Jonesboro. (It’s not like the Jackson shop gave a fuck about her.) And while J Loren has the voice of a thousand hurricanes, I’m much bigger than he is and I’d like to think I can muster up the voice of at least a half dozen hurricanes.

Seriously, there simply wasn’t any more time. She had to be moved to HotWired in Jonesboro or she wasn’t going to be finished before J needed to be home. The Jackson shop agreed to move her to Jonesboro for us at the close of business on Thursday. Rose Haley ended up driving from Little Rock, Arkansas (almost 5 hours) to join Lorie Beth, Rickie, and Trevor to do as much as could be done with the ambulance stuck in Jackson.

Linens, safe, and SOME of  the other goodies donated by HURT fans stacked at my house, waiting to be put in Pandora's Box.

Linens, safe, and SOME of the other goodies donated by HURT fans stacked at my house, waiting to be put in Pandora’s Box.

I asked Lorie Beth to stay with Pandora’s Box until she left, to make sure the ambulance made her way to HotWired. The shop owner in Jackson agreed to send his mechanic to Jonesboro on Friday to finish the job for us. It took until just after midnight, Friday morning, for the driver to load up and begin to move Pandora’s Box back to Jonesboro. The last thing the shop owner told the driver who was hauling her back was, “Do NOT unload it without payment in full.” He asked if their shop was going to send a mechanic to work on it on Friday, and the owner responded with “probably not.” Lorie Beth overheard this and let me know. This should have given me barely enough time to formulate a plan, but because the shop suffers from a severe case of incompetence, they actually ended up giving me much more time –

Their truck lost a cylinder while pulling it, so the ambulance didn’t arrive in Jonesboro until 5:06 am, only six hours from when J’s flight was landing.

So if you’re keeping score on this blog:

  1. The truck the Jackson shop used to pick up the ambulance, broke down on the way back.
  2. They couldn’t repair the ambulance, or even diagnose the exact issue in three weeks of working on it.
  3. The truck they used to bring the ambulance back to Jonesboro, broke down.

I was told they had to collect payment in full before they would unload the ambulance. The guy reached into his pocket and handed me a folded up post-it note, and said, “Here’s your bill.” I opened it up, and it was a thousand dollars more than our maximum budget. I loudly used multiple explicative words as I described the utter incompetence I was dealing with. Not only did these guys NOT deliver even remotely close to on time, they didn’t fix the issue, they continued to act like they knew exactly what was wrong, they came in a grand over the maximum that I told them I was willing to pay, and they never gave me a quote until I got the bill on a hand written post-it note.

The hand written post-it note ironically included sales tax.

I had to fight to get her back, I wasn't about to lose her again.

I had to fight to get her back, I wasn’t about to lose her again.

I asked if they were sending their guy to come finish the transmission job in the morning. They assured me they were. That was the last lie I was taking. I wrote them a check that read “Void Void Void” across the currency line in cursive, and filled the rest of the check out as they requested. On the memo line I put a note to the shop owner that read, “Please do the right thing, send your guy here and finish the job.” I handed it to them and thanked them for delivering Pandora’s Box to us at 5:06 am. I parked the ambulance behind a utility truck and a dumpster — the exact fashion the Jackson shop used to keep me from getting her before — just in case they decided a voided check wasn’t sufficient for the job they didn’t do. My intent wasn’t to steal from them, or avoid paying what was owed. However, I couldn’t risk paying them all of our money and them not finish the job. Giving them a voided check would force them to either finish the job or agree to take less than what they were attempting to bill me for since they didn’t actually finish the job, and were almost a month behind schedule.

On Thursday, I had a sneaking suspicion things might go down that way, so I made a quick call to Austin Kelley, and asked him to be ready to go Friday morning on the transmission. Austin is a diesel mechanic, but isn’t a transmission guy. However, at this point he was my only hope. I needed a trained and competent mechanic that might be able to get the job done at the HotWired shop, while teams worked around him repairing the damage from the Jackson shop and finishing her up.

Over the next several hours Friday morning, my calls to the shop in Jackson went unreturned. It wasn’t until shortly before I picked up J that the shop owner called and accused me of check fraud. I quickly unloaded a month’s worth of built up frustration with him as I went into detail explaining their lack of professionalism, inability to do the job asked, and how they fucked us over on being able to do this job at all. I also told him that in NO WAY was that check given to him in any fraudulent manner. It clearly said VOID on it THREE times, and had a note written to him on it. I let him know that if his guy fixed it today [Friday] as agreed, I would pay him his extremely high bill, in full, IN CASH. I explained if his guy was able to get it fixed Saturday, I would pay him my original maximum, and he could deal with the rest because he never gave me an estimate or a quote, and just demanded a grand more at the end. I concluded my conversation by saying if he was unable to fix it by Saturday night, I’d give them exactly half to cover the parts, and I would have to pay the rest to someone else to cover their labor.

I hung up the phone and sent him a recap of our conversation via text message, including the amounts and the time frames to make sure there was NO misunderstanding.

He didn’t respond, and they never sent a mechanic.

Within minutes of talking to the Jackson shop owner, I picked up J Loren from the airport. He hadn’t slept the entire night before, and he felt terrible. I was equally as grouchy and sleep deprived, but slightly more stressed.

I took him for energy drinks and BBQ. Once we sat down, I explained to him what was going on with the transmission, and that the entire project might not be 100% as advertised because I simply fucked up by not getting the ambulance moved sooner. He acted like it wasn’t a big deal, but I’m not sure he fully understood the gravity of the situation. I didn’t want to stress him out anymore and ruin a weekend he had been looking forward to, and I had faith in team HotWired, Lorie Beth, and Austin Kelley. They have as much heart as I do.

Alana made J an awesome birthday cake.

Alana made J an awesome birthday cake.

Friday night was scheduled to be the night J would hang out with the Jackson team and thank them for their efforts. However, I knew if I was around any of them I would lose my cool. So instead, we had a quiet evening at my house. My kids gave J a Paper Jamz guitar and asked him to play for us, so he did some stunning renditions of the preprogramed rock/pop songs. After dinner, we relaxed and had a few drinks. I had to ask J his opinion of his songs being put into Gizoogle and posted on the HURT Forum. He wasn’t sure what I was talking about, so I read him the lyrics to ‘Rapture.’ He laughed, and quickly asked me to pull up ‘Role Martyr X.’ I did, and had him sing us the “Gizoogle” version. I can still hear him singing “since I be da most thugged-out humble playa up in tha ghetto. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass” as I type this.

The HotWired team grew dramatically Friday night. Brandon, the store owner, put out an “all hands on deck” post on Facebook. They worked throughout the night and made tremendous progress. I felt very guilty hanging out with J while everyone else worked their rear ends off tirelessly all night.

To be continued…


At War with Summers Lost

Lights InstalledI think of all the days this summer where we could have done something more. There was never a day that went by that she wasn’t on my mind, but now we are rushing to get everything done. I’m smiling though. As the team’s leader, it’s my job to make sure everyone buys into the mission, has clearly defined objectives, and understands when things must be done. All this must be done under budget and it must be built to last.

The flurry of texts messages and late night emails I’m getting from our team members lets me know our group is as focused on our goal as I am. At this point I’d say Pandora’s Box is about 80-85% of the way done. However, the remaining 15-20% is without a doubt some of the most critical parts.

Justin looking fantastic!

Justin looking fantastic!

The bunks are installed and the monitor is in. All the lights work, including remote controlled interior color changing LED’s (click to check out the vid!). She’s had one coat of paint on the interior, and the floors ripped out. She’ll need another coat or two before we install the flooring and trim. She still needs the main AC fixed, auxiliary AC installed, mini-fridge, microwave, safe, locks fixed, cruise control repaired, solar panel installed, and a TRANSMISSION.

J and Victor have been adamant about me field testing her after she gets finished. Trust me, I want to as well. We need to make sure there are no bugs or quirks with her before she sets out to tour the country. Victor sent me a text this week that read, “Have you been driving it around? Getting a feel for the engine? Do you think it will tour well pulling a trailer for long periods of time?”

I guess a loaded set of questions deserves a loaded answer:

Q: Have you been driving it around? A. Well, my last time driving it I took it from Jackson, TN to Jonesboro, AR with no tags, or working lights or signals of any kind, and the torque converter failed a block away from HotWired, leaving it un-drivable since July 4th. At the time I thought it ran out of gas, but it turned out to be much worse.

All the bunks slid back in place.

All the bunks slid back in place.

Q: Are you getting a feel for the engine? A. Trevor Arnold, one of our Jackson TN mechanics, did a pretty thorough inspection of the engine and concluded it’s in great shape. Austin Kelley, who came down from Missouri, looked at it a few weeks ago, and gave me the same report without any knowledge of what Trevor had told me. I don’t know much about diesel engines, but a couple of guys that work on them for a living have given me assurance that everything’s going to be fine.

Q: Do you think it will tour well pulling a trailer for long periods of time? A. We’ll find out very soon. I’ve given Trevor and his crew our budget and specifications. It’s up to them to make it happen, and make it happen quickly. I asked him to do it, because I know he can do it well.

Brandon, Justin, and the HotWired team have spent several late nights and countless hours working on this project now. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I asked these guys to do some simple wiring and help me out with a head unit. So far, they’ve had Pandora’s Box for a month and have feasted on her. Ripping apart her insides, installing new walls, lights, wires, the stereo, speakers, and helping us install the bunks. It’s unbelievable how much work they have done. I’m incredibly thankful for their work, and humbled by the passion and commitment they’ve shown to this project.

Today she started to make the move back to Jackson for the transmission work, but then I guess it was just a twist of fate, or irony, or just plain dumb luck. As I’m posting this, Trevor is stuck on I-40 at the same spot where I broke down with Pandora’s Box and Uncle Pervy. This time they weren’t even driving the ambulance, she was on the back of a truck. God speed Trevor, god speed, and I feel your pain.

Been there... done that... I'll send you a t-shirt.

Been there… done that… I’ll send you a t-shirt.


Thank you for listening.



Bunks In

Side door view of the bunks.

Bunks Out

Bunks Out

All the bunks slid back in place.

All the bunks slid back in place.

Fold Up, Down

Couch Mode


Getting set for her trip to Jackson.

Rear Sound

Your first shot of the rear sound system.

Fold Up, Up

Bunk Mode.

Fold up bunk in down position

Fold up bunk in down position.


The chair on the left is removable.


In couch mode.


With the bottom bunks out.

On the way to get stuck on I 40 near Jackson!

On the way to get stuck on I 40 near Jackson!

Intervene Her

Front Hood Up“You’d have to see it with my eyes, cause it sure was quite a sight, just the way she looked with men like me surrounding…”

The anticipation for last weekend couldn’t have been bigger. We planned to have the entire crew together for a weekend campout in Jackson to do the bulk of the work on the ambulance. The planning for last weekend started almost two months ago. Perhaps I’m not the seer I thought I was. We had to shift our trip to Jonesboro, Arkansas because of the transmission issues. In my last post, I mentioned we’ve had a mild summer to this point. Mother Nature decided she wasn’t going to let that continue.

She needed brake lights, head lights, tail lights, turn signals, and a TRANSMISSION.

She needed brake lights, head lights, tail lights, turn signals, and a TRANSMISSION.

Our weekend started with a drive to Nashville to have a laptop configured by Pete Tellez.  This computer will serve as the hub for the rear electronics. Pete works in IT at the corporate office of Logan’s Roadhouse. His office is located on the third floor of a corporate office building, which looks just like every other corporate office building in America until the elevator doors open on the third floor. That floor looks just like a Logan’s Roadhouse, complete with neon lights and all the décor you’d find in the restaurant wrapped around the desks. Pete was able to fix up our laptop and as a bonus, he provided us with a second monitor and other equipment for the numerous devices J and crew will be using in the ambulance. It was the perfect start to the weekend.

Lorie (we took full advantage of Sonic Happy Hour)

Lorie (we took full advantage of Sonic Happy Hour)

I met Lorie Beth [who designed and built the bunks at her house] while I was in Nashville, and she followed me all the way to Jonesboro in the blazing heat with no air conditioning. When we arrived, Austin Kelley, who had already made the drive down from Missouri, was hard at work in the Hotwired shop. He was quick to point out that I drove the ambulance from Jackson TN through Memphis, to Jonesboro with no head lights, no brake lights, no turn signals, no tags, and a torque converter that failed a block away from the Hotwired shop. I had already thought my trip from Jackson was an extreme trip, all I could do was laugh when I found out a week later exactly how crazy it was.

The Hotwired team continued to gut and clean up the ambulance over the course of the last week.  They didn’t want to install anything until our entire crew arrived in order to make sure everything was done right the first time. Now that we were all finally in the same place at the same time with the ambulance, we were able to have a production meeting to create a final plan for the weekend.

Friday night ended with the crew going to visit a local bar for dinner and a few drinks with some friends of mine from high school. Our tab was graciously picked up for us. It was the first of many times that our tab was picked up when we ate. I made sure to relay to J how well everyone treated us while we were in town, and told him he had to do a show in Jonesboro on a future tour. I’m insisting on it.


Justin being Justin (building shit)

Saturday, everyone was fired up. The crew quickly jumped into action. Justin,

from Hotwired, framed out the walls for the driver’s side bunks. As we removed the vinyl from the passenger side rear wall, we were all grossly reminded of Pandora’s gruesome past. The padding on the wall hid over two decades of dried fluids that had never been cleaned. With not so subtle hints like that and the music of HURT playing in the background while we worked, it was impossible to not feel emotion from every aspect of every part of this project.

A quarter century of bio-hazardous fluid build up was found behind the padding.

A quarter century of bio-hazardous fluid build up was found behind the padding.

The vinyl surfaces were dyed black, the flooring was removed, and parts of the interior and bunks were painted. Austin was able to get all the lights working. We only paused briefly for meals and worked until just past 3:00 am Sunday morning. Everything was starting to come together now. It felt like we made more progress between Friday and Saturday night than we had in the months leading up to this. It was finally taking shape.

By Sunday everyone was showing signs of being drained from the long hours, but the energy level was still high. Austin began the day installing a brace to support the passenger side fold up bunk, then did the remaining fabrication work for the bunks. Lorie worked to prepare the bunks for installation and painted a second coat on everything we had painted the night before while I purchased supplies. Brandon, from Hot Wired, joined us after dinner to install the bunks.

Austin's mount for the fold up bunk.

Austin’s mount for the fold up bunk.

The bunks have been the most expensive element of this project so far, and there simply wasn’t another project we could find to copy from or a kit to use. Every aspect of them was custom designed and built by Lorie, 9 hours away. I think everyone involved in this project so far was somewhere on a range from ‘cautiously optimistic’ to ‘not understanding at all how this would work, even with sketches and measurements.’ I was on the cautiously optimistic side. I recruited Lorie for this because she owns a business building furniture. I knew the designs would be sound and the craftsmanship would be top notch. By 3:00 am Sunday we were able to install the passenger side folding bunk and test fit the four driver’s side sliding bunks. SUCCESS! The bunks wouldn’t need any modifications and the ambulance would only need a couple of adjustments for everything to work perfectly.

At 3:30 am early Monday morning we were all in the back of the ambulance

Brandon, passionate music fan and Hot Wired owner.

Brandon, passionate music fan and Hot Wired owner.

reflecting on the work we’d just done. I looked around at a worn out crew and couldn’t hold back from smiling. Austin, Brandon, Justin, and Lorie all share a passion for being the absolute best at their craft. All weekend I kept having to remind them that this didn’t have to be flawless because we don’t have the budget for flawless. It just needed to function well and be durable. Despite intense heat, twenty hours days, and the obstacles that come from truly doing something that’s never been done before; we were actually making this thing happen! In that moment “The Seer” popped in my head. It just seemed fitting the way we all converged on her because we all wanted the same thing, and we all saw her true beauty.

Pandora’s Box is going to stay in Jonesboro until the Hotwired crew finishes with her. They are doing some more cosmetic work, installing interior and exterior lighting, and installing the AV components. By the time you are reading this I’ll be hard at work installing the flooring. Then, she’ll have to be towed back to Jackson for a new transmission, solar panel install, air conditioning work, cruise control repair, and the modifications made for her to run on biodiesel.

She’s had a hell of run so far, but I’d like to think her best days are just ahead of her.

Thank You For Listening


(More photos can be found here. Compliments of Austin Kelley.)

Removing the vinyl on the rear doors.

Removing the vinyl on the rear doors.



When Atlas slips, she won't lose her grip.

When Atlas slips, she won’t lose her grip.

The inverter

The inverter

J's roof mounted stripper pole and rear wiring.

J’s roof mounted stripper pole and rear wiring.

The vinyl was died black

This vinyl was dyed black.

Prepped for paint

Prepped for paint (and newly dyed black door panel).

Justin putting in the new wall.

Justin putting in the new wall.

We'll shine up the chrome and these doors will look great.

We’ll shine up the chrome and these doors will look great.

Custom fitting made by Austin to repair the passenger side rear door.

Custom fitting made by Austin to repair the passenger side rear door.

Passenger side bunks in couch mode.

Passenger side bunks in couch mode.

Austin and Lorie raising the bunk into place for the first time.

Austin and Lorie raising the bunk into place for the first time with Brandon watching.

They are in!

Bunk up and secure! (Bo and Lorie pictured).

Lorie adding slides to the bunk rails

Lorie adding slides to the bunk rails.

Both braces in and ready for sliding bunks

Both braces in and ready for sliding bunks.

3 bunks in, with the bottom bunk slid out.

3 bunks in, with the bottom bunk slid out.

Bunks 2 and 4 slid out.

Bunks 2 and 4 slid out.

Letters are no where to be seen anymore.

Letters are no where to be seen anymore.