I know I should be starting the huge amount of reading I need to do before I write my paper on the film Tampopo, but since I’m filling in this afternoon at the library, I’m going to go ahead and start the first part of my post about my trip to the All Good Festival in West Virginia. Procrastination is keeping this blog alive folks.
I’m not going to go through the boring details of preparing for the trip. Basically I met my friends Pete and Paris in Asheville NC so I could follow them up to the festival. The drive up was relatively uneventful, with me driving behind Pete and listening to the latest Sun Volt recording which has become one of those CDs that I have to get a daily dose of or else I become erratic. It took around seven hours to get there, through the Appalachian Mountains, and the scenery helped to ease the monotony of the drive. All was going as planned. It was, well …all good.
We finally made it to the area of the festival and as soon as we got to the little town of Masontown the traffic all but stopped. I’ve gone to enough of these hippy events (in 2004 I went to the monstrous Bonnoroo Festival in Tennessee—80,000 sweating youths) and I know that one of the few things that are unpleasant about them for me is the line of traffic going in. The other unpleasant aspect is the port-a-johns, but I won’t go into that—yet.
This festival was no different. The line of cars was huge and Pete made the wise decision of gassing up before committing to the milieu. Running out of gas in this crowd would be embarrassing, if not disastrous, and I knew that the last thing I wanted to do was get a large amount of retro-stoners uptight with me before I even made it to the show. The cars were rolling forward slowly, with two abreast at times, and we were making about one mile an hour. Cars from Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida all jammed the craggy-rocked dirt road, with music from a variety of bands blaring out of stereos and blending into the cacophony. I started to resent my fellow festival-goers from who I could catch snippets of “Yo dude” conversations about getting into the festival and wigging-out or something. Most of them were having a great time, but I wasn’t. I had to piss, and the CD player I brought along skipped on this road so I couldn’t drown the rest out with some real music. I tried my newest mantra which is a simple, “I’m cool,” (this is “I’m cool” in the “I’m okay” sense, not the “I think a lot of myself” sense) but this wasn’t working either. I began to stew. I found myself quickly saying “I’m cool, it’s all good,” over and over.
Only thing is, it wasn’t. As I was saying my fifty-eighth “I’m cool,” I heard a voice yelling from the car next to me, “hey dude, there’s something pouring out of the bottom of your truck.”
My first reaction was to believe that it was only run-off from the air-conditioner. But I quickly hopped out to see red liquid spilling out of the middle of the truck’s chassis on to the dirt like a bleeding draft-animal. Transmission fluid. “Oh shit,” I thought and jumped back into the truck and pulled over as best as I could on that narrow road. I then ran up to Pete’s car which was three or four cars ahead and let him know what was happening. Then I ran back to the truck and one of the people I was grouped with was outside of his car looking for the transmission run-off cap which he believed was lost somewhere down the road. The two of us hurried down the road, past bewildered bohemians, both looking frantically for the cap. It was no use though, it wasn’t anywhere in sight, so I returned to my truck, yanked out a long strip of aluminum foil I had for cooking, and shoved it into the hole to stop the leak. I then got back into my truck and decided to see if I could keep driving until I made it to the campsite. Then I could take a better look at the damage.
I made it about another half-mile, but as the line turned up a particularly steep grade, the transmission started to slip dramatically. All I could do was reverse, park and jam on my emergency brake. While I was getting out I heard a variety of comments, mostly sympathetic, like “bummer dude,” and “so close and yet so far,” but one particular dumb-ass (excuse the crude slang, but this instance has me thinking only in these terms) yelled out, “shoulda gotten a four-wheel drive.” He was apparently very proud of the new four-wheeler his soulless parents had more-than-likely paid for. [Disclaimer #45: I’m not mad at all young people whose parents buy them cars, just this particular one.]
I put myself in the mental-crises-zone that allows me to take one moment at a time and started running down the hill. On the way down, a guy was coming up and shouting “what’s the problem sir?” I ignored the fact that he had called me sir in front of a bunch of college kids and told him the problem. He said, “Oh, follow me.” I put my trust in his calm demeanor and did as I was told. At the bottom of the hill we came to a couple with a four-wheeler and the first guy told me that they were the wrecking service. Wow, I picked a pretty good place to break down, one- hundred yards from the wrecker.
The man rode off on his four-wheeler to get his wrecker, and his partner, a sturdy, cheerful woman, directed the younger man to block traffic. I didn’t really have time to consider the fact that I was making the nightmare of getting into this place even worse by stopping traffic for however long it took to haul my truck off. I do know that if I was in the line I wouldn’t have been all that sympathetic with the broken-truck-owner. But I never heard anyone say anything disparaging (except the four wheel drive crack) and it seemed that most of the hippies took it in stride.
I had to get my bare necessities out of the truck because by this time I realized I would be separated from my truck until the morning. I grabbed my tent, my back-pack, and bedroll as my truck became attached to the wrecker. I rode down the hill and back to the main entrance in the cab of the wrecker with the cheerful woman and they parked my truck in a field, got my information, and told me to get a ride into town the next morning. I grabbed my gear and started the long-hike into the festival.
I hiked a while, until I met someone who told me I had better get a ride because I had a long way to go. Soon a little gray car stopped and I heard a somewhat unsteady voice yell, “hey dude, you wanta ride?” I yelled back “yes” and ran up to the car. I got in and the couple, who looked like they were about fifteen, introduced themselves (I’ve forgotten their names already) and told me they were from Jersey. It was the young man’s birthday. I have to say this next thing delicately, but the couple was either not the brightest bulb in the chandelier or they were on some very potent inebriants. Somehow, I suspect both. They kept saying, “ooh baby baby, just park in this person’s yard,” and “where did everybody go?” (By this time we were driving away from the line of cars waiting to get in the front gate.)
Finally we got to the camping area. When we pulled up, I quickly excused myself from the Jersey couple’s car because I knew that if I rode in with them I would probably have to camp with or around them, and I just wasn’t in the mood. They were babbling incoherently at this point, and I left them in this state, after thanking them profusely for saving me the hike.
This turned out to be the best decision of the entire trip, not because of the Jersey couple but because by walking in this way I was able to luck out on the best campsite I could possibly hope for. I had lost Pete and Paris, and maddeningly lost their cell phone number as well, but they had told me that they were going to try to camp on a hill and by some trees. So in the off-chance that I might reunite with them I started combing the hills along the tree line. By the time I found a clear enough place I was tired, but determined to put up my tent, rain-fly and all. It was around ten pm.
I used my little wind up flash-light that my Aunt Boo gave me for Christmas and amazingly made quick work of the task. The experience frazzled my nerves, and the celebratory mood of the rest of the festival-goers was lost on me. Fireworks were going off periodically, making the crowd cheer with every blast, but I was cursing in unison. I knew that things didn’t look good for my truck, the transmission was more than likely shot, I was very far away from my home, I was separated from my friends and I wasn’t having the great time that I had looked forward to for so long. Self-pity was knocking at the door.
I decided that there nothing I could do about it, that whatever happened happened. “I might as well get into the spirit,” I told myself, besides, at least I’m in the festival. I decided to walk down the hill and follow the music, which was provoking wild cheers from the hippies. My mood improved as I walked. I made it to the main thoroughfare as throngs of American vacationing youth swept me up.