Okay, so now its time to hammer out more of this gripping adventure story. I’m still doing extra-duty in the library, (my cohort, Tatiana, has gone to meet her future in-laws and I’m filling in) which is the equivalent of the graveyard shift at a morgue this time of year. I’ve spent most of my day getting ready to knock out a paper, and I managed to get the citation of sources out of the way first, which is a relief, because I need to use MLA style citation and I always wait until the last minute and end up pulling out tufts of hair as the clock ticks down. Now all I have to do is write and proof-read the paper. Man I wish they would standardize citation for all disciplines. I’m more comfortable with Chicago style, the historian’s citation friend, with the cool footnotes.
So, to continue the saga. That night, Thursday, I went to see a band called Dark Star Orchestra. They’re a good band, possibly more suited for a bar, but they play actual complete shows of the Grateful Dead—this one was from 1976 I believe. They sounded a little like I felt, tired but happy to be there, and they caterwauled a nice “Eyes of the World” which lifted my spirits even more. Of all these Dead revival bands these guys interpret Garcia’s nuanced evolution probably the best of anybody.
I walked around for a while after the show and entered into impromptu conversations at every level with people in different states of consciousness. I’ll withhold judgment on the use of contraband at these festivals, I don’t have a problem with it, (unless someone on something steals my tent) but I realize that if these things are expanding people’s minds, then to someone who isn’t partaking the effect seems to be the opposite—that their minds are imploding. (With that I’ll add yet another disclaimer where I out myself as a hypocrite, but won’t say why.) I got some decent information from a few people about how the festival works and what to expect in the next few days. I was putting off returning to my tent for two reasons. One, the sooner I went to sleep, the sooner I would have to deal with the broken-truck issue; and two, I knew that all of these revelers would want to be up all night whooping and hollering and making it difficult to sleep at all.
I misjudged the second part. All of the partiers appeared to be like me, exhausted. It is a big deal preparing for one of these things, and by the time you get there you just want to re-up on energy for a while. I slept really well as a matter of fact.
The first thing I realized when I woke up was how lucky I was with my campsite situation. I faced the back of the main stage and although I didn’t know exactly how cool that was going to be yet, I did appreciate the view. Dirty-stinkin’ longhairs as far as the eye could see, (I use these terms with the utmost fondness) shadowed but the rolling hills of West Virginia. I was camped on a ridge that overlooked a road, and beyond was a grove of trees which led down to the stage area on the left and the VIP and band areas on the right. I was in quick walking distance of everything I needed, including the infamous port-a-johns which I steeled myself to use the night before. I won’t go into gory details but I don’t understand why they don’t have risers for these things that allow the johns to flush into a tank that can be hauled away and eliminate the stench—which literally brought on my gag-reflex every time I walked by them. It required great fortitude to actually use the things.
But I had bigger things to worry about than the manufacture of transportable toilets. I got up, and with barely time to scratch a toothbrush across my teeth I started hiking back to my truck. Without the load of the night before I managed a pretty good clip and was once again picked up by a couple, about the same age as the last, who had been in the line to get in the night before and told me it took them something like four hours. I half-listened while the anxiety over my truck grew. It had to be the transmission, but what part of the transmission? The whole thing? That would be tantamount to having the thing totaled because the truck probably wasn’t worth the price to fix the transmission. I just had to find out for myself.
The couple was only going as far as the entrance gate, but the tow-truck people had told me that my truck was in town and that meant I would have to hoof another two or three miles to get there. That didn’t bother me very much because I often walk my dog about five miles at a time. It was the transmission and the cost of fixing it that had me worried.
When we got to the entrance I saw a tow-truck and then realized they were towing the truck right then and there. This was a real break, and I jumped out of the couple’s car, while thanking them, and ran over to see a young sturdy guy in a Harley Davidson tie-dye winching my version of Traveler onto his tow-truck. “I thought you guys were going to pick it up last night,” I said to the guy, and he must have taken my enthusiasm for something else, because he replied, a little defensively, “It was too crowded to get it last night.” I said, “that’s okay, no problem, can I catch a ride with you?” He caught on then and said “Yup. Let me just get it on the truck.”
I continued badgering him for a minute and found out that it might not be a total break down of the transmission. I heard him say, “yea, this is pretty common in long lines like that, the transmission fluid overheats and blows the cap off. We’ll get you into town and they should have you fixed up in about an hour or so.” Then, when I heard these words, it was as if the clouds had lifted and the angels were singing “halleluiah” in my ear. He offered me the passenger seat in his truck and as I jumped up I saw he had a very young woman with him. I believe I just started babbling to her about my travails, a little like the inebriated couple the night before. As we drove down the road and into town, I tell you I was giddy.
But I wasn’t out of the woods yet. It wasn’t a sure thing that the truck was going to recover. I tried to keep my enthusiasm down to a low roar so as not to jinx the process.
We pulled into the service station and, as I waited for the tow-truck-driver to unhook everything, I noticed the cheerful woman tow-truck-driver from the previous night and gave her a wave. She waved back and then the young-woman waved, a little less enthusiastically. “Do you know her?” I asked and she said, “Yes, she’s my mother.” “You have a nice mother,” I replied, to which she responded, “I wouldn’t say that.”
I got out and realized that the name of this operation was Ron’s Towing. The driver reiterated how the problem was a common one by pointing at three or four cars that had had the same thing happen to them. He told me that the guys at the service station were good people and that they would fix me up in no time. I asked him what his name was and he said, “I’m Ron.” “So you’re Ron!” I shouted happily as he drove off with the pouting young woman.
The name of the service station was Street’s Ford, (or Street Ford I can’t quite remember) and true to Ron’s word they took care of me. A group of mechanics came out to help push the truck into the garage and one of the guys said, “Here we go pushing a Ford again.” I took no offence, he was probably a Chevy man, and I’ve spent many hours hanging around with this truck in a mechanics garage watching them replace parts—it’s an old truck, 200,000 miles—listening to this type of derision about various makes and models. As the rolling truck picked up speed, the three mechanics pushing it casually hopped onto the back bumper and rode it into the service area.
I waited for about an hour-and-a-half, still a little in suspended motion about the problem. The main guy, I believe his name was Shaun, gave me the low-down and said that they wouldn’t know for sure until they had changed the filter and flushed out the old fluid, refilling it with new. So I sat in suspense as I watched straggling hippies stumble here and there. At some point the mechanics lowered my truck with the lift almost to the floor and I saw the wheels spinning as a mechanic pressed the accelerator. This was a very welcome sight. That’s what’s supposed to happen when you press the accelerator.
As I drove back up the hill, I was deliriously happy. I was singing loudly and trying not to get over-excited and bring on more mishap. But I couldn’t believe my luck, combined with the kind efficiency of the people of Mansontown, WV. The road into the festival was much less crowded on this morning, and as I parked my truck I heard the beginning notes of the earliest band on the roster start meandering over the hills. The main task would be to try and find Pete and Paris, but first I would sit on my hill and listen to whatever jam-band happened to be playing. I didn’t realize until I got back to NC that all of this good fortune had happened on Friday the 13th.
Note: I had to get that part of the story out before I can move on to the rest of the festival. Please excuse my “regurgitation of experience” but I don’t own a camera, so I want to get as much of this down as possible. More on external descriptions of the actual festival are on the way in the next part.