It's 9:07 on a Thursday morning and I'm standing by the side of the road.

My footing is on New York soil, within an earshot of the Lake Champlain ferry dock. Soon, the boat arrives to port. Numerous motorcycles, convertibles and soccer mom minivans depart from the vessel, their heads momentarily turning towards the anonymous man pacing the shoulder of the pavement. They stare in my direction, making note of my dirty neon yellow Crocs, disheveled patchwork plaid shirt and shaggy mop of curly black hair. I look away and casually, but intentionally, sip my coffee like nothing is out of the ordinary.

But, just when I'm about to feel like an ugly prom date, a 1998 Blue Bird school bus, doused in elaborate street graffiti, emerges from the lonely route back to nearby Plattsburgh. I stick my thumb out. The side door swings open and I'm hastily picked up by a roving ensemble of ragged musicians.

The band is Lucid and today they're going to play on the radio.

Heads pop up from the back of the bus (aptly named "Lucy"). Bodies move and meander, always in search of the ideal spot within this sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes cradling mode of transportation. The ferry quickly shifts gears and starts motoring toward the Green Mountain State.

Suddenly, the man at the helm of the bus, saxophonist Jamie Armstrong, jerks around with a look of urgency. "Uh, guys, we're low on diesel."

"How low?" a voice shouts from the depths of the band's gear.

"Lower than I've ever seen it. Maybe enough to get to the next station that sells diesel," Armstrong warns.

Merging off the ferry, the solution is found at a store a few miles down the road. The yellow nozzle is immediately spotted as Lucy is yanked into the service station. The crisis has been averted, for now at least. With enough fuel for the trek to the Vermont Public Radio (VPR) studios in Colchester, the group is once again back on the road, worry free, but not for long.

"Hey, what time do we have to be at the radio station? Like 10 or 10:15? I better call and tell them we'll be running late," says keyboardist Andy Deller.

"Just tell'em we missed a ferry or something to buy some time," a voice echoes from the musty couch anchored in the middle of the bus.

Another crisis, another mission to erase it. Deller grabs his cell-phone and shuffles around the rear, looking for a signal.

"Hello? This is Andy Deller from Luc-," he says on the first attempt, to no avail. He turns to the rest of us, his body shrugging. "Damn, the call cut out before I could tell him where we were. Have to try again."

Second attempt: no service.
Third attempt: lost call.
Fourth attempt: success.

All is well again in the Lucid world. The destination is awaiting their arrival, the journey continues to the unknown spaces and faces and places they desire to venture, whether in their pure intent or beautifully unexpected dreams amid the highways and byways of this great bulging land we call home.

Entering their eighth year together, the Plattsburgh sextet has made their mark throughout the northeast with a pure rock-n-roll sound soaked by tones of blues, reggae, jazz and funk.

"There is no substitute for experience and we've been racking it up," says Deller. "That experience translates into what you see onstage, which is a heavier, tighter and more confident band."

2011 proved bountiful for the rock bandits. Besides kicking off the renowned snoe.down festival, the group also ventured into New York City for two memorable nights at B.B. King's in Times Square (post-Furthur after shows) and zigzagged across the region this summer to innumerable gatherings (Strawberry Jam, A Bear's Picnic, Liberate, Wormtown, Evolve, Bella Terra).

In September, they once again hosted Backwoods Pondfest, an ever-evolving celebration combining national sensations and local favorites in an intimate setting amid the foothills of the Adirondacks. The lineup included Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Rubblebucket and Break Science with Chali 2na (Jurassic 5). The iconic wordsmith later joined Lucid onstage, merging the essence of hip-hop and rock into a frenzied collaboration.

Last fall, Relix magazine selected them as one of their picks for the music sampler by adding flagship song "Styles of the Smooth" to the collage of high caliber anthems meticulously selected.
And with the snow melting, it will finally be time to release a live album and provide their loyal following with something to defeat cabin fever. The upcoming record showcases the band at their core, which is the precise and unrelenting force found before a raucous live audience.

"I enjoy listening to live material from my favorite groups," says percussionist Lowell Wurster. "There is something truly special about hearing how the crowd reacts to a band and vice versa. Our live shows are filled with a great energy and that's why our fans have been looking forward to a live record."

Pulling into the VPR parking lot, there is barely enough room for Lucy to properly fit and unload gear efficiently. Drummer Ryan Trumbull, once a big rig driver, gets behind the wheel and parks the bus with razor-sharp precision. Outlines of curious faces can be seen looking out of the building. What is the meaning of this cosmic vehicle wandering into our presence?

"Nice bus, reminds me of my youth," a bystander comments.

Setting up in the picturesque studio, the room is an array of chords, microphones and instrument cases. Producers and sound engineers zoom in and out like a manic beehive, their instructions and expectations beamed across the space like the endless rays of sunshine cascading through the windows. With a few minutes until air-time, they finalize the short list of melodies carefully chosen to fit time constraints and appropriate lyrical content for the airwaves.

The last seconds are winding down. The sound engineer signals the host, who in turn notifies the group. The musicians, these longtime friends and colleagues, take one final glance at the burning red numerals on the ticking clock behind them. With a look around at each other, they take a hefty breath and ready themselves for the plunge, fingers crossed and God willing.

*15 minutes later*

"That felt great," says guitarist Kevin Sabourin exiting the studio, now gathering his thoughts in the hallway. "I think I messed up a word in one of the lyrics, but, all in all, it felt great. Not bad for thousands of people listening. We probably just played to more people than we will in the next two-hundred shows combined."

A producer emerges from the control room and shakes his hand. "You guys sounded fantastic, it was a real treat to have you here."

Seemingly another day at the office for this renegade band of backwoods string pluckers, horn blowers and foot stompers. But, just as one endeavor comes to a successful close, another is immediately within sight on the horizon.

"Where to from here?" someone asks.

"Well, we kick off our southern tour this weekend. We're in Syracuse tomorrow night, then work our way down to Florida and back. Something like two weeks on, a few days off, then another week towards home," answers bassist Chris Shaklett.

Around the corner, Wurster, the de facto band leader, is standing beneath the limited shade on the side patio, taking a moment to clear his head, mulling over those fine details still needing to be addressed before everyone is dialed in and ready to venture south.

"We play sixteen shows straight and it makes me wonder about what can do in that situation," he says. "Over time, we've trained our voices to not overdo it, but I worry about that. Just fatigue. I used to lose my voice with the way I sang when I first joined the band. But, we want to push ourselves as hard as possible. This is what we want to do with our lives, so might as well go hard now."

So, why should people care about seeing Lucid?

"Because people should care about live music and music in general," Wurster said. "Music is the international language, right? Or is that love?"

Both, I suppose.

"Yeah, it's the same thing. We could play our music for a group of people that don't speak English and they're going to dig it. It crosses all boundaries, all races, genders, monetary means, all that stuff. Music is an important thing and this is what I'm supposed to be doing. One of our friends once said 'if you aren't spreading love and light, then you're a waste of space.' And, I think we're doing a good job in trying to spread that."

What is the attitude, the rhythm of your music?

"Have fun, work hard. Don't take anything for granted. Always strive to be better. Be happy with what you got. Put smiles on faces, that's what does it for me. It can be a little intense sometimes when someone comes up after a show and say your music does this or does that for them. But, they're being sincere. Although it can be incredibly flattering, to them it can mean more than it does to us, a certain song or whatever. It's a surreal feeling."

During the course of their existence, there have been innumerable people coming in and out of this musical circus. But, most notably, two beloved and influential mentors have unexpectedly passed away during the last year. Of them, Mike Potashnick, best known for his work with Gathering of the Vibes, took Wurster and the group under his wing, guiding them in the right direction, teaching them to take nothing for granted, that it all could disappear in an instant.

"Mike was my mentor and one of my best friends. I have questions for him every day I can't ask now," Wurster says. "It makes me want to keep doing what I'm doing. Everything he taught me, I keep in my head. I think about him constantly, I quote him constantly. Be happy for what you got, because it could be gone soon enough."

If Mike were still alive, you'd probably call him tonight before leaving on tour. What would he say to you?

Wurster laughs and shakes his head.

"What would he say to me? Probably 'don't be your usual weird selves around the southerners.' He'd say, 'don't fuck up, don't get arrested, don't die.' That's pretty much it. Things are moving fast, but they are going in the way they should be. No rest for the weary. Keep going, keep pushing forward."

Heading back to Plattsburgh, the bus is quiet, faces are smiling and content, for now. The road is long and arduous, but it's also blissful and gracious to those willing to go the extra mile in pursuit of their dreams.

"A lot of people have been asking me if I'm excited about this tour. I'm excited about life, period," says Shaklett. "Its taken a crazy turn. I quit my job and I'm going on the road. God bless my mother if she ever finds out. This will be the longest on the road stint we've done. It will bring us closer. We're taking it to the next level, taking a huge responsibility, physically and emotionally. Jamie and I had a conversation about all this, how you can worry and you can praise it, but the thing we concluded is that you can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

What is it about this band that makes you believe, to the point where you quit your job to keep this dream alive?

"The fact that the three years I've been in this band only seems like three months. We've been through so much of this and that, going through and just making sure we're all on the same team. That alone is something I want to be a part of, six down to earth guys, with things we're each proud of and not proud of and that's wonderful."

Was there a specific moment for you where you realized this wasn't just some weekend warrior thing, that it could possibly blossom into something bigger than anyone involved?

"The minute I joined the band. We were in Jamie's apartment, sitting around, having a discussion about me being part of the group. I was working at Target at the time and I was standing on this precipice and I had to make the jump. Target was killing me. At that moment I pretty much knew what I was in for. All the details would be worked out as time goes on. I knew I would be part of a system, part of a well-oiled musical machine that we could work very effortlessly in."

But, before they cross the Mason-Dixon Line in the coming days, a celebratory barbeque is in order at the band house bordering the campus of SUNY Plattsburgh. A salute to a shining day in the band's history, a nod of good luck and safe travels in preparation for tomorrow. As the joyful sun falls behind the majestic Adirondacks to the west, I think of the old nautical saying, "red sky at night, sailor's delight."

Sitting on the porch of their humble abode, I watch Lucy pull up front. Her engine rumbles idly. The band goes back and forth, piling up supplies and checking (then double-checking) the mechanics of their mobile home away from home. Deller is taking a break, leaning on the porch. The oldest, most experienced member of the band, he's done several tours around the country with previous projects. But, with this, with Lucid, it seems truly promising.

"Though it's already looking good, with all the work we've put into the band, and the bus, I'm excited to see how it pays off," he says. "The single thing I'm looking to get out of this tour is the realization that everybody in the band can do such a tour, that it's not a big deal. This is the proving experiment and, once it plays out, hopefully it shows we can do it and eventually it can be self-sustaining, not worry about our own lives with being away for a month or more."

Munching on barbeque chicken and sipping cold microbrews, a dozen or so people are huddled around the living room, watching March Madness and cheering on Syracuse as they try to defeat Wisconsin (which they did). Some are band members; others are girlfriends, wives and close friends. Conversation hovers around spelling errors on the tour poster and if there are enough albums ready to sell and scatter across the southeast.

Eventually, the multitude dissolves. Some have work tomorrow, while most have to get enough shuteye before a nonstop month of disturbed sleep and midnight drives between unknown cities on unfamiliar roads. One by one, hugs and best wishes are shared. Emotions are running high for the group. They are anxious, nervous and, most of all, excited to see the process unfold, to finally take their place as a professionally touring act.

I step onto the porch to retrieve the rest of my Pabst Blue Ribbon and head home.

Armstrong walks out and makes his way towards the bus. There is still plenty of tinkering left to do and only a few hours left to do it.

"Our band has some sort of quality that lots of bands these days might not have," he turns to me. "It's about value-driven songwriting and substance. We're in it for the long run and we want to try and make valuable contributions to the longevity and history of music."

Is it surreal to finally walk-the-walk with this tour after talking-the-talk?

"It is. It's funny because we've talked and made plans before, but we've been lucky with this, getting it finally put together. I think the values we hold in the North Country translate well through our music and will translate well in the south, too. A lot of bands describe themselves with genres and stick to it. Not us. We want to venture into all genres and push it wherever we can. We've invested so much time into this and we all believe in the music. If we don't do this, we'll be cheating ourselves."

I say goodbye and shake his hand. He smiles and looks out at the bus.

"We were playing this festival once and this older musician told us, 'the young bull runs down the hill to the cows and tries to fuck the first one he sees, but the old bull, the old bull takes his time and fucks them all.'"