Grand Voyages, Great Adventures
By suggestion of TigerLilly, who's been doing some traveling of her own lately: a place to talk about one's travel adventures (in the physical world!). Great road trips, the time you got a gig crewing on a yacht, your years in the Peace Corps, the time you walked the Great Wall... You get the idea!
y didnt u put this great story on the tribe around the fire storytelling site?peace..:-)
Hey man, that was well written! Keep up the good work! You made it easy to picture!
Are you kind?
We raced across town that morning making all the required stops as if we had rehearsed the procedure the day before. Dropping off keys to our house and stopping at the bank, we moved with such efficiency that we had plenty of time to pick up something to eat before heading to the airport. Arriving at the ticket counter just minutes before the mandated check-in cut off time we felt as if we had made a three point shot to win the game just as the clock ticked the last couple of seconds. Minimal preparation for this trip seemed to be paying off so far.
Coming to a rest in our seats on the plane we finally had time to unwrap our biscuits and hash browns. I like it when the plane pulls away from the gate; it pretty much means that they hadn’t found what was in my bag. It’s funny, the charge I get from sneaking contraband. I guess it’s sort of a kin to the sick pleasure I got by being me at a military school, or shoplifting as a kid. I just want to get away with it. I’m not one of these people who profits from this kind of thing, and somehow that makes me feel just in my mission to live the way I damn well please. Anyway, most of my friends tell me that taking weed to a Phish show is like taking sand to the beach, but really I didn’t want to be bothered; I just wanted to enjoy the show.
Besides, all you have to do is get a little creative and it isn’t really a problem. It used to be that you could put a bag in your shoe, or even in your pocket and get away with it, but not these days, no sir, these days you have to get creative. Your ass isn’t even safe anymore. I really can’t believe that I have to spend all of my effort figuring out how to hide my stash instead of planning my trip. It’s only weed folks; what the fuck is wrong with this place when I am made out to be a criminal and criminals are made out to be our leaders and role models? Anyway, if you call a place paradise you can kiss that place goodbye. Now we are forced to put forth thought toward an activity that takes full responsibility for irresponsibility, and damn-it if the fun just got wiped right out. All things being equal though, all I have to say is that this was still our America, and hell yes there was marijuana in my bag. We were on our way to the last Phish show ever, and no I don’t have to be high to enjoy it, but I do have to know that I can get high if I want to enjoy it. Does that make sense? It would if you value freedom.
Sitting back in our seats we began to discuss our plans. First we would get our asses from Mobile, Alabama to Manchester, New Hampshire by plane where we had a rental car reserved. We had packed as much camping gear in our luggage as we could carry, but being restricted to what we could check, we really didn’t have much. A tent, sleeping bags, a couple of changes of clothes each, and assorted other knick-knacks made up our gear. All of this fit into a couple of duffel bags and my Mountain Smith Bug-A-Boo day pack. I called it the mother ship because it had everything we really needed including our tickets to the show. I guess that was what our plans were based on; we had tickets to the show and a pocket full of cash. What could go wrong? We had certainly gone further with less in the past.
Phish was putting on their farewell performance in the town of Coventry. Coventry is a small town in Northern Vermont. The show was taking place at Newport State Airport on the grounds and adjacent fields on August 14th and 15th 2004. The information read: “COVENTRY is the band’s first-ever home state festival, and first public outdoor Vermont appearance since 1995. Located amidst the rolling hills and lush green Valleys of Vermont’s Northeast kingdom, COVENTRY will be Phish’s seventh “city size” festival, with an expected turnout that will qualify it as Vermont’s most populated city for the weekend of August 14th and 15th. As with all prior Phish festivals, COVENTRY will see the band performing three live sets each day, with on site camping as well as numerous attractions and art installations created by teams of talented artists and performers.”
Given that information we were confident that we would arrive the day before, get in our car, and drive up to Coventry with plenty of time to get to know the area before the show started. Shows like this usually have interesting food both inside and out, so we even planned to eat inside instead of bringing much of our own food.
We actually put off taking our honeymoon for this trip. We were calling it our honeymoon, but we got married the following weekend so it was kind of a preemptive honeymoon. Still, it kept us from being able to take any other kind of trip, so all in all it was our honeymoon. It would have been nice to take a trip after our wedding to just relax and be pampered and shit, but this was history. You have to be ready and willing to put things off and travel to make stuff like this. Hell, that’s part of it. I almost feel like I am selling out by flying. We should have, in order to have done it right, been driving the little Nissan truck my friend gave me leaving our much more efficient, reliable, and comfortable (not to mention legal) Pasaat at home.
I like to fly though. There is something about the airport, especially Atlanta, which appeals to me. It’s like this narrow spot in the river that we all rush through. We are exposed to people we normally avoid, and people who normally avoid us. I am most definitely a people watcher by nature. I think the feeling I get when I watch people is fear. I’m not saying that I am afraid of them exactly, but more like I feel the fear around me in a sense, like an aura. I feel like the weight of the world is gone, and I am no longer the future leader of tomorrow I once was, but rather a drop-out in so many words. I guess I just got the message all wrong, but I always thought of leaders as people who believed in things, fought for the good of us all, and opposed the evil oppressor to set us all free. The root of it all has been infected.
Without a doubt we do live in a great country, but doesn’t being great come with some responsibility? The nickel and dime industry preys on us to the extent that we must each dedicate our lives to somebody else’s higher purpose in order to receive the currency that fuels us. What ever happened to my purpose, or yours? The sadness that money causes makes me cringe and feel sorry for those people out there striving for a promotion and missing the best years they could have ever had with their children. A sick obsession, and to what end? I guess I did all the prep work right alongside my fellow future leaders only to find out that there was a vast difference between what I felt was right and what was expected of me. I guess I see what might have been at the airport, and it makes me happy to be me.
Anyway, there we were, a couple in our thirties trying to live down our twenties, and forsaking all things responsible to see a band play music. Out of all the people we knew who wished they could have done this; we were the only ones going. It wasn’t really convenient, and we couldn’t really afford it, but it was history and a chance to be surrounded by good souls. With the exception of the people who make money on the road the rest of us account for an awful lot of irresponsibility. Hell, it isn’t like vendors are exactly responsible people or anything. I just think of it as our responsibility to keep irresponsibility alive.
Now it was real. We had left the sterility of the airport and were thrust out into the wet cold of New England. Man we were excited, and what a far cry we were from a month before when we pulled the trigger to come on this trip. I guess it must have been two months…huh. As soon as we heard about Phish’s decision to break up after Coventry, we immediately knew that we had to go. Putting off our honeymoon to Amsterdam, which we also couldn’t afford, we ordered our tickets the day before they sold out.
The first thing we wanted to do after getting our rental car was to purchase a cheap cooler and expensive beer. We arrived in the early afternoon, and the traffic was just kicking into gear. The weather was a gloomy New England day, much the same as a gloomy “Old” England day I guess. Clouds hung motionless overhead, and the cool felt strange for August. The first gas station we pulled into had a pretty good beer selection and sold Styrofoam coolers. We loaded up on Newcastle and a couple of Gator-Aides and off we went. Soon after we were on our way and payin’ tolls to follow the path that lead to Coventry.
We drove the day away and happily welcomed the dark evening. Having left civilization behind in a sense we began to get hungry and sort of regretted our decision to just eat on the road. There wasn’t much on the road between New Hampshire and Vermont. Finally an oasis appeared in the form of a truck stop in Lebanon, New Hampshire. After a full hour of nothing on the road we happily devoured whatever they had to offer. I tried to ignore the very Boston-esq sounding rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama” being performed in our honor by the owner, but the pain was much to bear. It was a small place, and we might as well have been wearing Mardi-Gras costumes the way he immediately recognized that we weren’t from around there. It wasn’t a bad experience, but there is little comfort in small town hang-outs when you aren’t from that place. Meanwhile there was a Taco Bell and everything just one exit down. Well, we were fat and happy and back on cruise control before long anyway, and probably better off. What could I have possibly told you about Taco Bell?
“What exit were we looking for?” I asked Marjie.
“Uhmm……Exit 26,” she was shuffling papers and maps as we talked.
“Well there goes 24,” I got excited as I realized that our timing for this conversation was ideal.
“Yay!!!” Marjie responded in her usual fashion. Her natural positive energy is why I love her, among many other reasons.
“Okay,” I got serious for a moment, “we must be getting close.” Marjie studied the directions. “Yep, close to something,” I added.
It was just about that time that we came upon what appeared to be a wreck or something. We drove down the left side a short while, but it didn’t take long before I realized that everyone was politely pulled off to the right in what was actually a really long line.
“Maybe we should get over to the right,” Marjie said what I was thinking.
“Yea, I think you’re right.” I was thinking that she was right. Then I thought that maybe I hadn’t thought it at all, but rather the idea had been planted there by her. Then I began to wonder how she could just get into my head like that, and I immediately suspected that she must be some kind of mutant or something. She flagged this car down and we got in line. I then began thinking that maybe she was more like a Jedi and uses mind control to help my aimless ass along in life. I decided to always trust her when I realized that mutant or Jedi, she was very much my guardian angel. We thanked the guys who let us in with a wave, and we pulled behind a Pacifica from Maine. It was around 8:30 P.M. I smiled at my guardian angel. Sometimes a silent smile holds much love beyond words.
I soon realized how a rental car made me as homesick as a hotel room. Even with Marjie right there beside me, I missed the smell and feel of our car. (She would have won that one, there is no way we would have been sitting here in my buddy’s illegal truck.) All sorts of cars passed on the left with a variety of license plates and stickers identifying them as fellow travelers bound for the same destination. I kept wondering where they were all going. That lane kept a movin’, and our lane kept a mostly sittin’. Hours passed and we could still see the place where we had started. We switched drivers and took turns walking and peeing. We got stoned, we talked, and we listened to music. Was the joke on us or on the left laners? A few cars behind us bailed out. Did they have to circle around and get shuffled back to the end of the line? Who knew, but hours invested in our spot made it difficult to consider finding out.
Our ill-preparedness hit hard when the Pacifica began to produce sandwiches right in front of us. They had also been making rum and cokes throughout the night. I walked up a good way and found a place to pee. There was so much activity on the roadside. Several carloads were out on the side of the highway, and there was dancing in the street.
I struck up a conversation with a guy who claimed to have walked a good way up. He confirmed that the left laners were being shuffled back. He also said that there were only 15 ticket checkers and that people were falling asleep causing gaps in the line. It felt true enough because it explained the randomness of our motion about every 45 minutes or so. There was nothing to do really except go back and fill Marjie in on what I had discovered.
About 1:30 A.M. I decided to make the back seat comfortable for my sweet bride to lie down. I got out stretching while she caught some Z’s. I stood there and watched these three guys talk to two chicks who were wandering by. After they left I observed the three of them divide up the two chicks they were likely to never see again. It was amusing, and they had lots of energy. They were playing heavy metal albums, and one of them reminded me of my friend Blaine’s younger brother Britton. He was the one with all the heavy metal trivia. My mind tried to wrap around all the different types of people who were drawn here this weekend, and all the motivations they had to make such a trip.
It was about this time that we had to start rationing our water, and reclaiming water from the cooler. Man what a honeymoon. I am a veteran of the long hard road, but having Marjie with me made it seem harsher than ever. I was happy to share a side of me, though, that hopefully she would rarely get to see. Still, a family that gypsies together is bound to stay together. What better way to begin our lives together than to team up for basic survival. We could have always bailed out, but we didn’t even consider it a possibility. You know, if you take your girl to Cancun or something, and she smiles, well that is what is supposed to happen, but if you take her to the top of Vermont and sit on the side of the road for hours on end without any food and very little water, well that is when her true spirit shows, and if it shows a smile then let me tell you that there is nothing on this earth more beautiful than that.
I stayed in the driver’s seat the whole night. Every hour I made an entry in my journal, and looking back it reads like a man’s journey to insanity starting out completely rational and positive and ending up with whole entries that only read, “Cheesecake…Cheesecake…cheesecakake…Ceeseekakee.”
I spent the night hours making friends and buttering the Pacifica guys up for a possible food purchase. People would randomly walk by shouting things like, “NUGS, anybody got nugs, will trade shrooms for nugs…a cap for a bowl people…anybody got nugs?” It was the turning point for many, but the majority stuck it out.
Sometime during the night I had been turned on to the radio station being broadcast from inside the show. The Bunny, 92.1, was our only source of hope and information. The DJ came on about seven in the morning to tell us that a traffic update would be coming soon, but it took a couple of hours more to find out that the situation had been caused by rain flooding much of the campground. We began to loose hope when the Pacifica from Maine finally bailed out. It was getting pretty awful out on I-91.
It was 9:15 A.M. when the hammer fell. Thousands of people turned away. The once polite right lane society had immediately filled both lanes, and it was well past noon before we got out. We scurried along listening all the while for a message telling us what to do now, but all they could tell us was that we would be able to refund our tickets and that they would come up with something nice to make it up to us.
We cruised along through all the traffic. We saw I-91’s highest elevation, and we even saw the famed exit 26. It was apparent that the moving we experienced was little more than filling the voids when people bailed out. I guess the joke was on us after all.
We saw camps and the remnants of a good time. Some cars had no people, and one guy was walking along trying to motivate everyone to leave our cars and walk in. I only heard Phish being played from one car as we passed. Many cars brandished signs like, “phuck em.”
People were everywhere, and the trash was piled up. The closer we got to exit 26, the more primal and savage it became. Vermont got pissed on good that night, and it wasn’t pretty.
After all the sacrifice and hardship, being subjected to a room at the Hampton Inn of White River Junction was a fate worse than suddenly finding out that you are an accountant. It did feel good to drive after all the sitting though, and the Taco Bell, oh the sweet sweet big beef burrito supreme was nourishment fit for a gypsy king.
At the end of the day though, we found ourselves back in the sterile environment we had purposely left behind while our motivation for doing so was happening just right up the road.
We ordered pizza and tried to find a bar. Ultimately visions of our Lebanon experience kept us away from the White River Junction night life, so in the end there was nothing to do but smoke a bowl. Thank God we had that.
There were other travelers and thieves among us at the hotel, but nobody knew quite what to do. We pretty much decided to salvage our weekend and just go see what there was to see in the area. Marjie was very excited. She had been dieing to go see the Cabot creamery, but I had told her that there would be no way we would have time. Well now, it had become our number one destination. I don’t know what everyone else did, but we loaded up and headed for the back roads.
Now this was Vermont. Farms and dairies spotted the landscape, and if I had never realized it before, I was reaffirmed in how I wanted my life to turn out. Just being among this beautiful landscape melted away years of stress imposed on me by our highly commercial and competitive society. It made me realize that we are all dieing, but only a few of us are living.
We stopped at a cross road fishing store where we would turn to head toward the Cabot farm. We had to stretch and pee, and the stream across the way was begging for my bare feet. As I came out of the store I noticed another car in the lot that didn’t belong in much the same way as our car didn’t belong. Recognizing our own kind, I struck up a conversation.
Exhausted and excited, the group explained how they were taking the back way in to Coventry, and it turned out to be the same direction as we were already planning to head. I ran inside to tell Marjie. She emerged from the bathroom and I explained the situation. Hurriedly we loaded up on whatever supplies the place had to offer, and we hit the road. We still made our stop at the creamery, but we didn’t take the tour.
The landscape was amazing as we drove further down the real rabbit hole. This was it, the way in. We stopped at a gas station that welcomed Phish fans on their sign to get some information. We found out that all non-local vehicles were being stopped about 30 miles out or so. We pressed on, it didn’t seem to be slowing anyone else down. As we got closer we started seeing yards full of tents and cars. This amount of activity was unusual for this corner of small town America, but somehow it was fitting. This was the area where Phish was born and raised, so this must be the place for it to be destroyed in a blaze of tents.
We followed a sign down a side road to a yard where people were camping. A local woman was picking them up for $20 a piece, and so we asked if we could pay our way too. We loaded everything we needed into my backpack, and we ditched the rest. When our ride arrived it proved to be a tight fit, but I stuffed myself into the hatch-back area, and away we went. I couldn’t see what was going on, but it was worth it. They dropped us at the final road block. No more cars were permitted past the turnoff toward the airport. I was happy to be free and on my feet, so the hike was a welcome change.
We couldn’t believe we were there, especially since we woke up that morning in White River Junction. People in droves moved upward toward the energy. As we neared the top we began sharing stories with other fans and soon we could see it, the door to Gamehenge, the turnstiles that would count at least two more people.
Finally our tickets were reduced to stubs, and we were set free on the other side. We still had quite a ways to go, but the people and the campground fueled us with excitement and curiosity of what lay ahead.
You could tell that there were many cars that would not easily escape. Suddenly I was happy that we weren’t residing among this mess. From the looks of it, it seemed for sure that we would have had trouble making our Monday Flight. Even still the nastiness was a sight for sore eyes, and the closer we got the more I couldn’t believe that we had done it. I have never felt such a sense of accomplishment just for attending a concert.
Around a corner and there it was, Shakedown Street. It was an open air head shop complete with food and drink. It was our mall, the place where commerce took place, and the busiest part of the show. The first place we stopped was called the Common Ground Café. It had a seating area, and we needed to rest. Two random guys who seemed to have been there a while offered hospitality, good spirits, and shots of Curevo 1800.
Moving on we passed through crowds of people and we followed the flow toward the stage. Artwork, balloon rides, and Ferris wheels made us feel like we had entered a different land, and indeed we had. The closer we got, the more we slowed our pace to take it all in. What can I say, it was magic. The desperation of a guy trying to find nugs on the roadside had been replaced by an abundance of everything. With plenty to go around, we made ourselves comfortable.
We spent the next several hours exploring. I don’t think our feet stopped much at all. Around the stage we danced, and in the interim we walked though Shakedown Street. As the day turned to dusk we realized how tired we were, and realizing that made it all too apparent just how far away our car was and that we didn’t exactly know where it was. Eventually we decided to leave before the final set was over.
Shakedown Street was quiet but not empty. Some people lingered as we did, and we wandered until we found ourselves back in the camping area and the road home. Through the trees we heard a familiar chord, and then “WIL-SON” rang through the night as the crowd joined the band in a final rendition of one of their oldest numbers. Knowing it was almost over our head start felt good and right, and so hearing one of our favorite songs through the trees like that was somehow made better than seeing it through the randomness of the crowd. We were no longer fans, we were travelers, and we heard it as we should, with our feet pounding the ground through the dark.
Just outside the gate a van pulled over and a woman beckoned us inside. Good fortune was ours. Her name was Celeste, and hers is the only name I remember from that day. Celeste was a happy, glowing, Janis Joplin type who was a professional vendor on her way to the Dead show in Atlanta. Even though her marriage depended on making it on time, she took the time to help us find our car. We gave her bad directions back to the highway by mistake, but we later ran into her at an I-91 rest stop, so we know she isn’t still lost up there. Anyway, thank you Celeste, we promise to pay it forward. We took a moment to exhale before getting back into our car.
We were married the next weekend. Marjie wore a Shield Maiden’s gown from The Two Towers, and we made our vows in front of a 100 year old springhouse in the mountains of Northeast Georgia where I was raised. We told our story to everyone, still happy to have even survived it. Mostly I could see that our guests just didn’t understand. “Aren’t you too old to go to Woodstock?” What can you say to that? It’s true that Marjie and I were in a struggle to grow up, but growing up doesn’t necessarily mean growing out of something, and growing older doesn’t mean a damn thing except your hangovers get worse.
The last time I saw the Grateful Dead was in 1994 at Nassau County Coliseum, and one thing dawned on me then. I knew as Jerry walked out on stage that I was witnessing a living legend practice his craft. It literally made tears well up in my eyes when his nine fingers picked that guitar. We never even got close enough to the stage to see the band at Coventry. It isn’t that they aren’t great, they truly are or we wouldn’t have been compelled to make the journey. It’s like this, Jerry came from another time and space, he was an alien who came in peace, and his band lives on after his passing because of his powerful energy. You see, Mike, Paige, Jon, and Trey are four guys I feel like I could be friends with, and even though their music is genius, it isn’t the sum total of the art they create.
Growing up I watched my father struggle to keep himself and everyone around him clean. He isn’t content until all is bleached and freshly painted. I personally think that it is our dirt and scars that define us and tell our story. You can work hard your whole life and take a few years to travel in the end and see the world for yourself basically from the comfort of your chair, or you can choose to spill your blood, sweat, and tears into the ocean for a chance at front row seats to the real world. Comfort is nice, but on the other hand you could have something beyond comfort that few will ever understand.
Comfort is an illusion anyway, a carrot dangled in front of us. I prefer truth, because if I can’t be comfortable then I would rather have the knowledge that at least I don’t have to worry about it. We fought hard and struggled to be among four musicians and thousands of fans. The canvas was us. It was beautiful and dynamic. It was freedom, and it was dirty. People have made a business out of music festivals, and they finally commercialized Woodstock, but we evolved. Now that we revel in commercialism, Phish created something beautiful by going out into the woods with us to destroy it, and that destruction was the art we left behind.
Some art you see, and some art you hear. Still other art must be read and processed in your own mind. This was different than that. It was all of it, and it was none of it. Phish made art you have to experience, and by experiencing it you became part of it. In other words, you don’t stand back and listen or view, you aren’t moved by it; you live it, and you are changed by it. People talk about the breakup of the band, and opinions are thrown around, but like Robert Frost said, “It means what it means to you.” I see their breakup as a random extension of their art as a whole. In some way, because they did what they did and I experienced it, no matter how grown up I ever get my true spirit will always remain in tact.
What song is that from?
Strange line considering that the "sea" has shrunk!
Must be a Phish tune...
Are you kind?
"I am from Caspiar, an Island in the Caspian Sea. It sunk."
badger, if you take pics, please host them on imagevenue.com and please post them here on the board, too.
pretty please with sugar on top!
"There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease"
Do you take photos? If so can you email them? Intriguing places.
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
Yeah, that sounds really interesting, I hope to make it to the Caspian sea in summer. I always love to hear about strange places, I find it inspiring. J
Are you kind?
the Caspian Sea! Always thought it was cool looking on the map, but I know NOTHING of that part of the world. Say more!
I may be the only Dead Head in Turkmnistan right now, currently working on the laptop and listening to the Dead/NRPS Vine 1970/05/15.
Ashkabat is extraordinary..wide boulevards, every grand building clad in white marble, few cars. The people have been very kind and friendly (like most people). Cold air, grey skies.
Off to the remote shores of the Caspian Sea tonight...could be an adventure
till the next time................