Driving down the middle of the country was something of a hurried affair for us, as we had a minimal amount of stuff to see in places like Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. Nothing but corn, corn, corn. The abundance of corn in the region led to a steady supply of corn-based fuel, which led to us scratching our heads in confusion at the lopsided prices.
But before we left Oklahoma City, we wanted to see something to validate our drive through town. We settled on the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, which had a lot more to it than I expected. The building was massive, with gallery after gallery filled with artwork and artifacts. Much of the artwork was for sale, with price tags attached to them that I wouldn’t pay to free my own brother from a Mongolian prison.
Now, back east, we visited a handful of museums that prominently featured “period rooms” among their exhibits. A period room, for those of you who haven’t willingly experienced one, is just a room decorated in the style of a particular culture and era – for example, a Victorian dining room from the 1840s sounds boring enough to fall into that category. Every time we’ve paid money to enter a museum and encountered these boring rooms, I’ve muttered some string of gripes and groans before stomping past to something worthwhile.
At this here Cowboy Museum, they had not only a period room, but more of a small period town, an entire square in a nighttime setting, featuring everything you’d expect it to – a doctor’s office, a church, a school, and so on. This totally changed my opinion of the period room concept, because it belonged here as an educational tool. Still, the appropriateness of the concept here made all the other ones I’ve seen seem even stupider in comparison.
Once we had our fill of cowboy history, but before we drove over the Texas border, and our stomachs rumbled at us for their share of attention. Given our proximity to the state, it seemed important that we indulge in a little Tex-Mex – which is kind of a misnomer, considering it’s just Mexican cuisine with a few American ingredients. Regardless, we let Google show us a few local spots, and settled on the soon-to-be-fantastic Casa Juanito.
What a great decision. This place set us up with some massive quantities of food for very little money, less than ten dollars per person. I went with two enchiladas, one beef and one chicken, which came next to a mountain of rice and beans, and had a hard-shell taco on the side for good measure. Joey and Sarah got pretty much the same thing under a different name – the beauty of this type of food is that about ten ingredients make up about 90% of the individual dishes, just in varying shapes, sizes and ratios. But they’re all so good.
We made it to our hotel shortly thereafter and wasted no time in hitting the town, with help from a cab driver whose road rage was like something out of the Old Testament. He angrily drove us into the vicinity of a good Irish pub called Trinity Hall, where we eagerly took to the bar and enjoyed some delicious Guinness and authentic Irish music, as a warm-up for our main attraction next door.
Around 7:30 or so, we strolled over to Hyena’s Comedy Club, where we’d decided to enjoy a few laughs for the next few hours. A handful of different comedians would be taking the stage that night, starting with the host to get the audience going – for the life of me, I can’t recall his name. We paid a little extra to sit up front, which eventually resulted in the host binging me up on stage to give him a hug – whereupon he informed me that I was the “son he never had.” I’ve been using that line ever since.
Really, I’m kind of embarrassed that I can’t remember anyone’s name. I can’t say it’s entirely my fault – the venue held a two-drink minimum in return for their fairly low admission prices. So naturally, Joey and I went for the best value, which turned out to be the 24-oz. cans of Foster’s. I ordered my second a few sips before I finished my first, and a staff member came over and told me I couldn’t have more than two of them. Make up your mind, dude.
So we got a lot of good laughs, and filed our way back into a taxi, directing our driver (named AK, short for “African King”) toward our hotel. He drove us there cheerfully and left us off, where we soon discovered that we’d travelled to the wrong hotel. Got the name right, but there were several of the same chain of hotels in the area. Whoops. Another thirty dollars later, we successfully directed a new cab to the correct hotel, and finally called it a night.
Good day in Dallas, and big plans for the next. More on that from Joey, coming very soon.
I was the first one up which is very rare – it might actually be the first time on this trip that I have not been the last one up (I’m a lady who enjoys to sleep in). I had finished all my laundry the night before, there was a dishwasher in the hotel room that I loaded up and ran with our dirty flatware and there was a little counter space between where the beds were and where the kitchen was. As my mother would say, “it was almost civilized.” The boys weren’t far behind me in waking up and we made a slow exit from the hotel into Omaha’s high noon.
Today was going to be a driving day. We were slated to hit Wichita to find the elusive Jack Straw (as per the Grateful Dead song) and then head to Oklahoma City for… uh… well, we were going to Oklahoma City too. We got in the car and headed on down the road. The ride was going to be about five hours to Wichita where our plan was to look at a phone book, find Mr. Straw, invite him out for a glass of wine and then head two more hours to Oklahoma City to… sleep…
Well we drove and drove and drove some more and then, Toto, there we were in Kansas! I had my head buried in my laptop in the backseat, generally uninterested in the flat cornfield-esque landscape until Joey called out – CASINO! Tom pulled into the Sac & Fox Casino without hesitation and suddenly the long driving day got a little bit more exciting for us! We wondered aloud as we walked into the casino if it was on an Indian reservation of some kind since there was no town to speak of nearby. Almost as soon as we entered the building we spotted a set of five pictures of the Tribal Council which, naturally, satisfied our previous inquiry. We each took twenty dollars to gamble with and each found ourselves a slot machine that looked lucky. Tom was out of money first and said he would wait in the car until we were done. Unfortunately for him, almost as soon as he left I hit a hot streak and almost made all my money back. I tried a few more times to pull in another big win but ended up down to my last five bucks. Joey was at a machine near mine enviously watching my screen light up until I started losing again. He was down to his last five spot as well so we both cashed out and took our ten dollars on the road.
The day was wearing on so we booked it over to Wichita. There were only eight days remaining until Joey’s eating challenge at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, so he wanted to get some training under his belt. Once we got into Wichita we found an all-you-can-eat buffet called Hometown Buffet and stopped off for dinner. We didn’t forget about old Jack though – we looked him up but were unlucky – no Jack Straws in Wichita, only in Grateful Dead songs, so we moved on down the line. One of the boys secured us a room in Oklahoma City and we pointed the GPS that way. We arrived pretty late, so we hauled our bags up to the room and got some sleep, ready to see what Oklahoma City had to offer the next morning.
Until next time America.
Our first priority of the day was by far the lamest. After 11 glorious days, my lovely Bernadette's time with us had drawn to a close. We drove her to the Omaha International Airport, which was far less complicated an endeavor than picking her up in Chicago. But it really hurt to see her go - so much that I didn't even have the strength to snap a goodbye photo. Man, do I miss her.
Things didn't really get better from there. Remember that laptop charger I bought from that shady guy back in Miami, maybe a month before? Well surprise, surprise, it broke in about three different places all at the same time. Grumbling, I directed us toward an Office Depot and shelled out another $120 for a new charger. And once again, I left my camera out of it, because nobody needed to see the shame in my face.
Having accomplished that, it was getting on time for a meal. Moreover, we'd just spent the last week completely slacking off on our little "blog" here - mainly because of the lack of an internet connection at the festival and the Badlands. So we did a Google search for free Wifi in Omaha, and landed on Fuddrucker's, less than a mile away.
It was happy hour, and we were pretty thirsty, which worked out for everyone. I chuckled to myself about where we were exactly - my only experience with Fuddrucker's on the East Coast was with the movie Idiocracy, in which Luke Wilson's character gets frozen in an army experiment for 500 years, and wakes up to a world overtaken by giant, clumsy corporations. Among them was Fuddrucker's, though the name had morphed into something slightly funnier that goes against our no-foul-language rule here on the blog. I was shocked to discover that this place existed in real life, so it was appropriate that we stopped at one at some point.
We were there at the slowest time of the day, arriving around 3:00 and staying for a couple of hours - we got a lot of work done that day. With regard to the food, they push their burgers more than anything, and we were happy to indulge. Opposite the food counter was a long condiment bar, with tomatoes, onions, pickles, relish, peppers, cheese sauce and anything else you could think of to dress a burger. The food was considerably better than I expected it to be, and with the happy hour and free Wifi, it all added up to a much better experience than I was expecting.
That was it. No running around the city, no seeing museums, no going out for drinks or anything like that. Omaha was a strange place, this strange mirage in the middle of practically nowhere - where, as I discovered, the grocery store sells your beer, wine and even liquor. Quite a far cry from back in Pa., where beer is sold at licensed beer distributors, and wine and liquor at state-operated spirit stores. After we found a hotel for the night, I dropped by a supermarket and bought all three, and we proceeded to mourn the absence of my wonderful lady friend for the remainder of the night. A more eventful, uplifting post is up next from Sarah, coming very soon.
As Sarah mentioned, Joe Jansen was the impetus behind our plans to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Joe is the father of my roommate in Conshohocken, Ian, and has done some mighty traveling of his own, with the help of a killer RV and a terrific travel companion named Liz. And one day, Joe sat down with me and shared more than a thousand of the most unbelievable photos of this great country, from NYC to California and so much in between. The Badlands stood out like a bright, shining thumb, and while we were there, Sarah and I set out to rival his photographic experience. See below for our results.
That's Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Make a mental note.
As we drove out of Wall, South Dakota the excitement in the car began to mount - we were on the way to Badlands National Park. A very helpful Mr. Joe Jansen recommended the park to Tom while we were still in the planning stages of this trip, and once Joe showed Tom pictures from the area he was committed to the idea.
During our senior year in college, Joey and I jumped in his trusty Xterra and raced across the country with only a GPS and a desire to get as far as we could before we had to turn back. As a result of this no-plan-just-go attitude, we drove through the Rocky Mountains at night and pretty much skipped the middle of the country all together. Wicked. Bummer. As we toiled over our route decisions for this trip, Joey and I were very excited for the opportunity to right our past wrongs and see this magnificent part of the country during the day, in the summer, and in its full glory.
Now, growing up in New England I know all about beautiful scenery – rolling hills and distant mountains, trees whose leaves burst into fiery oranges and reds each fall, shimmering lakes, babbling brooks and- way out in the country- the most amazing display of shining midnight stars you can imagine. So as a New Englander I like to think that I know how to appreciate a good view – but – New England doesn’t have scenery like this.
The highway drive towards the park turned into small log cabin ranger stations where we handed over our America the Beautiful National Park Pass, gathered some park info (including a map) and pulled slowly into an amazing scene. Our eyes were met with an expanse of mountainous earth stripped in grey and red bands revealing the passage of time. Long expansive prairie rolled to the horizon and kissed the wide blue cloud spotted sky at the meeting of the two beyond the curve of the world. Lazy black cows lifted sleepy eyes towards our passing car as they lackadaisically masticated the green grass around them. The sun was hazy behind a thin veil of puffy white clouds and magnificent mountains were vying for our attention ahead of us as the Xterra rolled on. Joey had us pull over right away so he could set up his video camera outside of the car to capture the whole drive through the park. Get excited America, this was an amazing ride. That video will come soon - I know - the suspense must be unreal.
The four of us jumped out of the car at each pull off and climbed up the dusty pale grey rocks. Joey marveled over the loose topsoil wondering why the whole mountain didn’t just blow away and Tom and I played the daredevils as we stepped one foot in front of the other on a skinny bridge between plateaus of flat steep mountain pillars, then turned, smiled for somebody’s camera and carefully retreated to wider ground.
The scenery lay out before us and kept everyone’s face pressed to their respective windows. As a result of this vigilant watch over the passing countryside we saw several wild animals. We saw an antelope first (well…most likely… no one in the party was quite sure what an antelope looked like, but if it was going to look like anything, that animal over there was probably it). It walked a little then gracefully lowered its head into the tall grass and nibbled on the vegetation. We pulled over and got out of the car all quietly stepping closer and snapping pictures. Joey followed closest to it taking pictures and wandering maybe 100 yards away from the road in pursuit of his elegant subject. I turned back as soon as the antelope moved more than a few feet away from the road - the "beware of rattlesnake" signs posted in the crunchy dead grass deterred me from moving too far away from safe ground.
We continued on, tracing a finger along the map to see how far we had come. The road was quickly running out in front of us but had one more thrill in store for us. We pulled up next to a field of grazing bison, and, awestruck, pulled our cameras to the ready. We turned down the Grateful Dead’s jam and pulled off to the side of the road. The giant beasts, like the cows, lethargically munched on the field below them and slowly meandered below the summer sky. A few flopped themselves down in the dirt and vigorously thrashed around - the best way to satisfy an itch if you lack opposable thumbs I guess. Content with our million and a half pictures and videos we piled back in the car and, disappointed for the end, we moseyed on.
When Joey and I were on our senior year race-across-the-country road trip we made it to South Dakota to check out the mightily famous, immense Mount Rushmore. A demonstration of American pride, this monument rests on the sacred ground of our country’s native people as a testament to strength, wisdom, country and perhaps a bit of oversight… On this road trip we thought we would end up too far from the monument to make it worth it to stop but as we pulled out of Badlands National Park and plugged Mount Rushmore into my GPS we realized it was closer than we had previously thought. We made the quick jaunt over to the large, serious faces in the side of the mountain, took a few pictures and hurried on.
Today was a sad day for A100 traveler, Tom, despite the beautiful views. His special lady, and our featured guest traveler, Bernadette, was scheduled to fly out of Omaha the next morning. We made a hotel reservation, thanks to “Priceline Negotiator (!)” (you have to sing it like the commercials for it to be effective), near the airfield and planned on finding a good place for a good-bye dinner on the way to Omaha. I looked up restaurants on Google and found a few places whose menus looked pretty good. We decided on a place called Hot Rod’s which advertised sandwiches and burgers as well as fried chicken gizzards as a local favorite (we were interested in the new experience…) and pointed the GPS towards the establishment.
Well… Hot Rod’s didn’t turn out to be very good - go figure I guess. We tried the gizzards and barely managed half the basket before admitting they were terrible. We also tried “American Fries” which were just potato wedges and seemed a little silly. We paid our check and all but ran out of the dump before continuing on.
Most restaurant kitchens don’t stay open past 9 p.m. or so in my experience and trying to squeeze in at 8:50 is likely to get you a lugee in your burger. So as the sun sank lower in the sky and our restaurant search became more desperate we decided we would have to settle on a farewell breakfast for Bern and headed towards our hotel with only nasty gizzards and lame potato wedges in our stomachs. We arrived at our nights lodging and went to our separate rooms for some brief TV watching and a good night's sleep before a riveting day in Omaha (I’m kidding of course). More on that later, so until next time America.
After waking up, we packed up our camping gear and headed west. We stopped in the Fryin’ Pan for some diner-esque food. Our next destination was Badlands National Park, but the long drive meant we would not get there until nightfall.
We headed to Wall, a middle-of-nowhere town that has a drug store that it tries to pass off as famous; Sarah and I had purposely skipped this establishment on our last short jaunt around the US. The signs for hundreds of miles before the exit were too obnoxious and I didn’t want to support that type of ridiculous behavior.
We stopped this time because Tom wanted to check it out and it was on the way anyway. We checked in to our motel and went to Wall Drug. It was a cafeteria, a gift store with Wall Drug merchandise, a leather store, and a few other things. Somehow all the signage had made this the most major city in the area, but I didn’t see the big deal; if they should be famous for anything it should be artificial hype. We decided to go to a beer garden in the area, confident that any beer garden would be better than Wall Drug.
Man, were we wrong. The “garden” portion of the beer garden was closed, so we had to settle for seating inside, which was no problem; at least we would be drinking some delicious microbrews that any beer gardens were known for.
The five or so beers on the short menu were headlined by Budweiser and Bud Light, and it didn’t get any better from there. Nothing was on tap. I have been to only a few beer gardens, but from what I have collected, they should have an exceptionally large selection of exceptionally good beer, usually served in large German-style steins. This was just a sign to get people to come in and spend money on subpar beer and food that I won’t even mention. Everything was overpriced.
At least this evening and the next morning we would have refreshing showers to wash off the festival and drive of the past few days. NOT! The local water was oily and disgusting, and left a residue all over our skin.
The town of Wall is like a traveling salesmen selling snake oil. You are (over)paying for what is advertised, and what do they care if they deliver, you are never going to see them again. Let me assure you that once is too much. It is rare that you can review a whole town with a thumbs down, and I am not even that picky, but Wall is a rare town. Avoid it like the plague.
Our last day at the 10,000 Lakes Festival began with a craving for a hot breakfast, which would generally necessitate the building of a fire and a careful selection of items from our waning grocery supply. Instead of all that trouble, Bern and I walked over to the vendors and got a delicious meal of eggs, sausage, hash browns and biscuits with gravy. I concentrated most of my fury toward the biscuits and gravy – back east, I was a huge fan of cream chipped beef, a very similar concoction which seems to have been completely replaced by this biscuits and gravy business. The day I find a restaurant with both on the menu, will be the day I renounce all other restaurants (at least for a month or so).
The fruits of our pre-festival WalMart shopping spree had lasted us fairly well to this point, but a few items were running low – most notably, the beer. We’d split four cases between the four of us and mowed through nearly all of it by this point. We did, however, have plenty of Bloody Mary fixings left over, and wouldn’t you know we made fine use of them on this final morning. Except for Bern, of course, who finds the drink to be shallow and pedantic.
It’s not cheap to embark on this kind of a venture, so heavy reliance on groceries is a fundamental. Just as with any ticketed environment, once you’re inside everything costs about twice as much as if were outside. During my trips to Gratefulfest in 2006 and 2007, I was able to bring a bookbag full of beer right up to the front and dance in the sand – not an option here, where you could only bring bottled water in to the music, and the beers cost $6 a pint. The cost of food and beer were enough to keep us near to our campsite for more time than we probably should have been.
But not altogether. We got out in the early afternoon to see Tea Leaf Green, a band which I’d discovered on the Internet Music Archive way back in college. I did so in the thick of a burgeoning interest for the Grateful Dead, which completely overshadowed the discovery and threatened its utter existence until now. But the name rang a bell in my head and we ambled over to check them out for a tick. They were as I remembered them, a good, generic jam band, but sounded better this time without Jerry Garcia upstaging them.
Not long afterwards, Umphrey’s McGee took the stage, and I was chomping at the bit. I’d seen these guys twice before, once at Gratefulfest and again at Penn’s Landing in Philly last year, when they opened for STS9. I went for STS9 and got blown away by Umphrey’s, so my expectations today were high – a little too high, as it turned out. They didn’t deliver the way they had back on the East Coast, perhaps because they had less stage time here, or maybe because the vibe here was less than what they needed.
Indeed, the atmosphere was changing. Tonight was the final night, and headliner night, led by none other than the Dave Matthews Band. This is a group that everyone I know (including Joey) was really, really into… about eight to ten years ago. I remember the big DMB craze hitting my school back in eighth grade. And since this was the last night of the festival, the folks in charge had sold a large number of one-day passes with no camping, for all those kids who were only interested in Dave. This sapped a lot of the beauty and serenity away from the crowd and from the general ambience, which was a shame after it’d been so pleasant just yesterday.
Dave and company took the stage and played the sun down over the hills. The music was good, don’t get me wrong. As a general rule, I’m fond of Dave’s music, with the exception of his most recent album, which I found to be unimpressive, bordering on intolerable. And the music tonight was generally good, and lasted for a long time. But by the end I found myself wishing for the end at every song. The crowd has such a profound effect on the experience that our festival had been utterly crippled.
As if a reward for our patience in not leaving the show early, a short fireworks display followed the band’s exit from the stage, long after night had fallen. A gradual departure from the grounds and back to our campsite included a check by security, to make sure we all had the proper wristband credentials to enter the campground. This made me sleep a little better.
We got to bed on the early side, poised for a long drive west the following day. More on that from Joey, coming soon.
This is one of those points that I'd really like to drive home. If you ever drum up the courage, money and free time to scamper off to a jam-band festival, chances are you'll stumble into one of the most pleasant atmospheres you've ever happened upon. For most of these people, this is their vacation - possibly their only vacation all year. The rules are loose, the music is perpetual and everyone is just so happy. Forget Disneyland, this is the happiest place on Earth.
To prove this, I watched the crowd from our blanket in the grass, and tried to get an accurate sample of the nearby population. Have a look.
While we may be approaching the end of the summer (and the optimal festival-going weather), it's not too late for you to drop everything you're doing and find one of these miraculous collections of smiling, carefree people. The best way to find them is the festival guide on Jambase, which can find a festival for you no matter where (in the U.S.) you live. I'd recommend you take a minute to browse through your region, or any region you'd care to visit, and then take a week off to make your life a little happier.
Bloody Mary’s kicked off the day again on day three of the 10,000 Lakes Festival. I groggily stumbled out of my tent and quickly took a shower. Tom, Bern, Joey and I pulled out the cards and killed some time before the music that we wanted to check out started.
The night before we arrived at the festival we prepared ourselves by going to a WalMart to buy all the food and previsions we thought we might need. As we wandered around the long white isles dripping with low, low prices we picked out hotdogs, bread, lunch meat and snacks. We decided we were going to make ourselves one big amazing dinner to celebrate the midway point of our trip and our first festival. We took our cues from the Crab Shack in South Carolina where we had been several months ago and bought shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, baby potatoes and mushrooms to put in a large roasting pan and steam over the fire. As we sat around playing cards, Joey and I decided to tackle the meal and began preparations.
I love to cook. It has been a favorite hobby of mine for a long time and I like to think I’m pretty good at what I make. This trip is posing new challenges for my culinary prowess however as there has only been one meal that I can think of off the top of my head that was cooked over a stove top. All the rest have been cooked over a fire. In preparation for this eventuality I armed myself before the trip started with several jars of my favorite seasonings - nobody wants bland food- especially if it’s slightly charred.
Joey and I assembled the fantastic meal and I sprinkled garlic and onion power along with salt, pepper, rosemary and parsley over the feast. We had started a small fire and as we were finishing our preparations, the wood had burnt down to coals and was ready for cooking over. I sat outside stirring at the contents of the roasting pan and squeezing lemon over the food for added zest. Finally the potatoes were soft enough for a fork to pierce them, the sausage was juicy and plump, the shrimp was curled into the most succulent little pink morsels and the corn on the cob’s kernels were bursting with flavor. Very proud of the meal, I carefully pulled the hot tin pan off the fire and carried it into the tent to be immediately devoured by all.
Bellies full of hot scrumptious food, our eyelids began to grow heavy. Tom and Bern opted for an early afternoon nap so they could be fresh for the music later that day, but Joey and I thought a little moving around might be all we needed to stay energized. We left the sleeping beauties and headed down the dirt path between many campers tents towards the main stage. As we passed by the food venders and headed over a grassy hill towards the music Joey noticed a girl about my age sitting on the ground offering free face painting. Acting quickly, Joey convinced me to get my face painted as he edged me over to the woman and I sat down to her huge smile.
I didn’t know what I wanted so she suggested a butterfly. I was OK with that so she asked what my favorite colors were and I told her orange and yellow. She asked if I wanted my whole face painted and I heard Joey saying yes at the same time I said no. She laughed and said she would show me half before doing the other half. I closed my eyelid and a cold, wet sponge padded gently around my eye. After a little bit she said I could look and I opened my eyes to a mirror reflecting a giant yellow butterfly wing over half my face. Feeling slightly ridiculous I knew this much butterfly over my face would be a hit for the other festival goers so I thanked her and Joey and I headed down to the main stage. We lounged together soaking in the sun and the sound for a long time. There was a break between sets and an older man came on stage to let everyone know that they could do whatever they wanted but it might be a little dull around the stages until later on. Lazily we decided to head back to see if we could rouse our companions.
Tom and Bern were up and hanging around the camp site and after they saw how much fun we had been having without them they eagerly wandered back out with us to the stages. The four of us spread out a tapestry to sit on and relaxed in the slowly fading day. The music pulsed around us and every face that passed by had a smile across its lips. I kept running over to the same stand to get beer because I was getting such a kick out of the whole experience. I was the only customer at the stand the majority of the time that I went up but they still clanged a large bell when I tipped and made a big commotion. Someone yelled, “I like your butterfly!” and I was all smiles.
Dusk rolled in over our heads but the bands played on, and we caught Widespread Panic, which we’d been unable to do during their show on the first day. Joey and I were walking up towards the vender area when he spotted a glow stick stand. We got a tube of 100 glow sticks and brought an amazing night surprise to our companions. As the music came to an end we slowly made our way back to our tents and decorated the plastic rafters with neon glowing light. We sat for awhile admiring our art then crawled into our tents for a long sleep in the cool Minnesota darkness.
Until next time America.
Our first morning waking up at the festival started out like every morning at the festival—with a Bloody Mary. Somehow we forgot the Worcestershire sauce, and while the drinks were a little different than we were all used too, they were not inferior. After all, they still had V8, horseradish, black pepper, lemon juice, green olives (and sometimes a splash of the green olive juice), ice, celery, Tabasco hot sauce, and, of course, vodka.
We had bagels and cream cheese and a couple mini-muffins for breakfast. We sat around and met our camping neighbors, recounting stories of the great times everyone had the previous night. We played cards and relaxed all morning before eventually having another meal: Sarah made everyone roast beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mustard sandwiches.
After lunch it was time to go see some music. We walked to the festival and bought a round of beers. They were serving a beer from Summit, a local brewery, and I especially enjoyed their Extra Pale Ale. We found seats in front of one of the four main stages in the concert area—The Field Stage—and watched Pete Francis featuring Barefoot Truth.
I was interested to see them perform because Pete Francis was one of the three members of one of my favorite bands in high school, Dispatch. We sat on the grass and enjoyed the music until the end and then got back up, looked around at some of the shops too see if there was anything we wanted to buy, and continued to the Barn Stage to see our second jam band of the day, Garaj Mahal. Once again, we enjoyed the band and the crowd was fantastic.
Sarah and I retrieved burritos and Tom had his eye on a hot beef sundae from the same vendor. It was genius: three rounded scoops of mashed potatoes topped with a generous helping of pulled beef, then topped with another scoop of potato and smothered in gravy and topped with a steamed cherry tomato. The burritos were good but we all went nuts for the hot beef sundae. Bernadette enjoyed a corn dog. We headed back to camp to nap and prepare for the evenings festivities.
We were all determined not to break what I consider the cardinal rule of festivals—never miss the headliner. This had happened to us the first night and, in my experience, seems to happen once per festival. After dancing and drinking and hanging out in the sun all day and no cares in the world, it is hard not to fall asleep early. In doing so, you miss what is by far the best party of the day.
We napped for a couple hours and emerged from our tents refreshed, and headed to the main stage to see Mason Jennings and Wilco. Bernadette was especially excited for Mason and we used the time during the music to put down our blanket, look for another place to open up on the grassy field, relocate, and repeat the process until we were near the front of the grassy area, which had a lower concrete area in front of it where you could stand and dance. This whole process struck me as funny, as we probably could have just walked to the front right away and found a spot. Tom seemed committed to this tactic, however, and no one cared to be more efficient. We were having such a good time that even if we had decided to crab walk or crawl to the next location, I doubt anyone would have objected.
Wilco was next, and Tom had gotten us pretty excited to hear them. He was the most familiar with the band, having heard them on the band when he was around nineteen on WXPN in Philadelphia. He went to a music store to find an album, and they were being played in the background as he made his purchase. At the festival, Jeff Tweedy (the lead vocalist) was cracking jokes the whole time and Tom enjoyed this band more than any other at the festival, and the rest of us had a great time too.
We headed back to our campsite with smiles on our faces and hung out with each other and neighbors who stopped by, happy that the next day would be as good as the amazing one that we had just experienced.