Smilefest Reunion 2011

I made a trip up to North Carolina last month to see some friends and visit with my family. The primary purpose was to go to Smilefest. This year was my fifth or sixth going to that festival, I believe. I’ve been to it in three different locations now, and the latest one, while still not quite my favorite, is definitely great. My favorite was when it was in Union Grove on Van Hoy Farms. Least favorite was at Deerfields outside Asheville. Of course, I love that area, but that park is not conducive to festivals whatsoever. We bitched the entire time about having to hike our stuff in for miles (even though there were flatbeds to ease the walk if you could catch one). It was still ridiculous, and I’m not a fan of sleeping in a tent pitched on a nearly vertical mountainside. This year, for the second year in a row, it’s been held at Jomeokee Campground in Pinnacle, right at the foot of Pilot Mountain. It’s a beautiful site, and they’ve kept the ticket sales semi-private for people who have been before (hence the “reunion” moniker), so you end up with people who know how not to act a fool, and who are experienced festival-goers and are there to enjoy the music (okay, and also have a little fun).

As usual, we heard a lot of really awesome music and drank a lot of beer and camped and got real dirty for a few days. I live for those weekends. Good times with good friends. Met a lot of awesome new people too. Saw folks I only ever see at Smilefest (another reason why it’s like a reunion). Here are some pictures my good friend Jenny took, since I have none of my own to share because I didn’t take any. You can check out the Facebook page of her photography business (Dancing Lemur Design) here. She is really good, and you should “like” her.

Me and my flip flops on my patchwork quilt, enjoying the band, Doby.

Every year, every location, they always have these cool windows and bottles hung in the trees.

Our buddy Kelly with his friend Laura, enjoying some muscadine moonshine.

Me trying to figure out how I’m gonna get a queen-size air mattress into my 2-man tent. Travis totally did it, and it was like my own private bouncy castle. Awesomeness.

Always love the hula-hoopers and wish I still had mine. Unfortunately not everything can make the cut when you move. I would like to investigate the collapsible options, though.

We had a huge campsite set up, with about eight people camping together, complete with four or five easy-up tents. We basically created an open-air house. One tent was just the kitchen area. One was the sitting room. We dubbed it “Cabanapyland.” The Jerry tapestry provided a little shade and privacy. In this picture, I’m standing in the living room. LOL. We had not one, but two solar showers. And, because we are seasoned veterans and smartipantses, we totally camped right beside a pole with a power outlet and a water spigot. SCORE!

Here’s a nice shot of the main stage with Pilot Mountain in the background. So pretty. Great time. Can’t wait til next year!

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Time to Move All Our Bad Habits Outside

I feel like I’ve really been neglecting my blog lately. I have a lot of updates, but I never remember to blog about stuff anymore. I know hardly anyone reads this anyway, and so it serves as more of a diary with pictures for my own purposes. But even diaries need updating now and then.

1. I got my hair cut! For normal people, this is not a big deal, but when you are like me, and you don’t pay attention to things like hair, this is huge. I got five inches chopped off and a new style. The new style is nothing major — just sort of an update with a side part and long layers — but I feel like a new person. My standard routine for the past many years has been getting three inches cut off the bottom when it got long enough to get stuck in my armpits. Which is annoying. But I now look like I am actually sort of trying to look hip and decent, which is cool. LOL! To be honest, I look more like I did in high school than I have since 1996. But getting carded regularly for cigarettes at my current unmentionable age has convinced me this is, in fact, awesome. Here is a pic:

2. Camping awesomeness. We went camping a few weeks ago right when it started to be warm and springy, with a group of friends in Tuskegee, which I always try to refer to as “Tuckasegee” until someonei reminds me that’s in North Carolina. Weird random fact: Lionel Richie was born in Tuskegee. I’m not sure what other claims to fame it has except that there is a pretty cool national forest there, and it’s only about 20 minutes from here. Every schoolkid growing up in North Carolina learns that the state has three distinct regions: mountains, piedmont, and coastal. Here in Alabama, there are four or five, and all I know so far is that we live in the river region, although learning more about Alabama geography has definitely been on my to-do list for some time now. Apparently it’s called that because there are a lot of rivers here. If you can imagine that logic. The place we went camping in Tuskegee National Forest was by a river, although I have no idea which one. We went with a group of friends to a secluded spot they love and refer to as “Rock Beach” although it doesn’t officially have a name, and the road you take off the main highway to get close to it has no name either, and you just have to know to look for it in the dip in the four-lane, off to the side. This is my kind of camping. The beach is by one of the lower parts of the river with a wide pebble shore, backed by pine forest for about a mile in between the river and the nearest road. But it’s an easy hike in, with just a few hills and valleys and nothing too strenuous. A good thing, since we were carrying gallons of mojitos in Sprite bottles along with us. It will definitely be a place I go back to repeatedly, especially when it gets so hot this summer. Which reminds me, I need to get the rattlesnake vaccine. And no, I didn’t know there was such a thing either until I moved here and started hanging out with outdoorsy people. Evidently, it is only minimally effective — maybe like 4 out of 10 people bitten still die — but better safe than sorry, right?

“Rock Beach.”

All our tents.

Friends by the camp fire.

3. Birdy discovered she can swim!  There is a pretty awesome city park just down the street from us where I take Birdy to hike around. This park has a small lake, which is home to two very pretty mallard ducks. I have named them Ethel and Frances, because they are always together, and they always appear to be chatting as they skim around the lake side by side. Birdy has always been a big fan of creeks, where she enjoys plopping her belly down and just sitting in the cool water while her tail floats. And she has been to the beach once, where she discovered the joys of running on the sand but was a little frightened and perplexed by the water trying to chase her. But I had never seen her try to swim before, until she spied Ethel and Frances one day in the lake at the park, and plunged in to chase them halfway across it. Alas, even slowpoke ducks are still too fast for Birdy to catch them while swimming. So she ends up trailing about two feet behind them and following them around in figure-eights. They don’t seem to pay much attention to her. On days when we don’t see Ethel and Frances, I throw big sticks in the lake from a little sandy beach. While Bird won’t dive in after the sticks, she will wade in carefully and then swim out to retrieve them for me, sometimes returning with bigger ones than what I tossed in. Evidently this is yet another way she has adopted some of my personality traits.

Birdy with Ethel and Frances.

4. My first Deep South music festival!  Last weekend, we drove about 20 minutes away, out to Waverly (population 184) for the 280 Boogie music festival, an annual event held to commemorate the celebration that occurred when the state decided NOT to send the big highway straight through the middle of a tiny little town. This year was the 11th annual Boogie, and it was well worth the ten bucks we paid to spend the day there. (This was also the first year they’ve ever charged admission, so I heard a lot of hemming and hawing about that from people who had been before.) For ten bucks, we spent a glorious spring day, warm and breezy, sitting on a blanket under enormous black walnut trees, drinking mojitos, eating crawfish and barbecue, and listening to several really good bands while chatting with our friends. I wouldn’t really call it a hippie festival, although there were some people wearing slightly hippie-ish clothing there. It was a pretty good cross-section of the population, I think. All ages, all walks of life. At one point, my friend wandered off in search of lunch, and came back with a new pottery coffee mug for me (I collect them) and Nag Champa soap, which I had been looking for recently without his knowledge. Afterward we headed over to Sean and Kalli’s house for more socializing and a cook-out.

The music stage at the Old 280 Boogie.

Birthdays, Phish, Traveling

I’ve been taking advantage of my recent forced unemployment by traveling a lot — something I love to do but never seem to have time for. It’s lovely not to have an excuse to stay home now. Traveling is one of the things I love most about life, even if it’s not very far away. Lately I’ve been reminded that I haven’t been doing nearly enough of it in a while.

So last week I had a birthday…the 3rd anniversary of my 29th birthday to be exact. Ha! My friend Jeff took me out for a kick-ass Japanese dinner and gave me a beautiful silver initial necklace that I love (it looks like a wax seal), and we watched the new Robin Hood movie with Russell Crowe — one of my favorite stories and kind of Jeff since he had already seen it.

I went back to my hometown for a few days to visit with my family and friends. I got to see my goddaughter for the first time since she came home from the hospital, and she is already looking more like her dad and acting more like her mom. My mom makes me a birthday cake every year, and usually I choose coconut, because she makes the world’s best coconut cakes. This is also my dad’s birthday cake of choice. But this year things were a little rushed so I opted for something easier for my poor mama — a heath bar chocolate sheet cake. It was fabulous. My cousins, grandmother, and aunt came over for pizza and cake, and it was so nice to hang out with them since we only see each other two or three times a year.

This is the first year in history I’ve felt completely ambivalent about my birthday and didn’t even really care about celebrating it at all. I feel so old. I know that’s silly to say. In the grand scheme of things I’m not old, and age is just a number anyway. I suppose I feel a bit down because now that I am “in my thirties” my life is not at all where I imagined it would or should be by now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But at times I do feel like quite a failure. I have been reminding myself for years that everyone has their own time line, but I still have trouble believing that to the fullest extent rather than feeling like it’s a cop out, or an excuse I’m making for why my life sucks.

But when it comes to maturity, I don’t feel old AT ALL. I have friends who are 10 years younger than me that I completely relate to, and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing, but it is what it is. I feel like there are two distinct sides to me — one that is very mature and wise beyond her years, who is fairly responsible and shit, and another side that is still a kid and just wants to have fun, party, break all the rules and be rebellious and live it up while I am still unencumbered by attachments and responsibilities. Maybe that’s why my mom says people don’t really become adults until they have children. Maybe that’s part of why I don’t want children. LOL. But seriously? When I’m not at least aware of current pop music, I feel like a geezer, and my younger friends keep me in the loop. Pop music is like my crack — I’m so ashamed that I like it but I can’t quit. (Luckily, I listen to lots of “good” music also.) And when I hang out with them, I still have to say, “Wait, who is this?” every five seconds. Anyway, enough about being old.

I’m really excited about this coming weekend because I get to do some more traveling to Charleston with my friend Swampman for Phish! We are only going to one of the two shows because he (fortunately) still has a job to go to on Friday, but Saturday will be amazing with communing with fellow Phans and camping and hiking in Congaree National Park. Swamp and I don’t go anywhere we can’t incorporate a camping/hiking excursion. Also promise a post on that after the fact. With pictures.

Crafty Love! Festival Accessories

I’m getting pretty excited about my musical summer, which began last weekend with an Acoustic Syndicate show in High Point, NC. Next up is the Phish 3D movie this Friday. We’ve got a whole group going, and with any luck we’ll have the theater to ourselves. Or else I might be really surprised at how many closet Phans there are in the Triad and possibly meet some hot hippie boys. At the end of May, we have a weekend-long music festival, Smilefest, up in Stokes County. Looking forward to seeing Michael Franti & Spearhead, as well as more Acoustic Syndicate, Larry Keel, Barefoot Manner, David Via, and others. Also looking forward to camping amongst hundreds of my closest friends, playing some music before hitting the world’s comfiest sleeping bag, and eating camp stove grilled cheese. In July, I’m going to the two North Carolina Phish shows on summer tour (Charlotte and Raleigh). After that…who knows what else will present itself as an opportunity for more fun. Since I’m daydreaming about shows today, I’ve got some Etsy love for the hippies in my audience. (I know there’s at least one!) You need these things for your next show/festival. You need them bad.

It goes without saying that you’re gonna have to have a cool t-shirt or two. I have to say I’m probably one of the world’s pickiest people when it comes to t-shirt designs. There are just so many that are funny but don’t really work as shirts. For example, this one is hilarious, but I don’t want to wear it. I am somewhat of a tomboy hippie, because I prefer coverage as opposed to backless apron tops and whatnot. I am modest, I prefer to be comfortable above all else, and I think some things are better left to the imagination. I like the simplicity of this Grateful Dead reminiscent dancing skeleton batik, with what could be confetti or maybe glow sticks or stage lights.  And, as many people forget, it’s all about the music, man –and dancing and having fun and being amongst others who find happiness in that. $26.50 by Cracks in the Wax

Next you’re gonna need some accessories. Hemp is always good. Trippy glass is always good. I love staring at hand blown glass, and this artist is one of the best I’ve seen. (And I’ve seen a lot.) This necklace reminds me of one my friend got for trading his extra ticket when Trey came to Asheville back in our college days. I love the colors in this, and the craftsmanship is excellent. $50 by Vonbeads

For the festivals at least, this is my favorite toy/activity — hula hooping the night away to some good tunes. I have a basic stripey one that is pretty and functional, but I’m seriously coveting these LED ones that are like glow sticks on steroids and more fun to operate. I can’t quite afford one yet, sadly, so I’ll have to stick to my plain Jane hoop for now. But this is definitely the Cadillac of hoops. $190 by Midnight Star Glass

Dream Journal

Last night, I dreamed I was doing this:

The weird thing was that I was actually good at it, which makes no sense at all. I am normally terrible at doing anything physical. I can barely walk without falling down. Yesterday when I was taking Birdy out for her afternoon walk, I tripped over some new pine straw that the landscapers had laid down earlier in the day, and fell on my ass. Pine straw. I know. Well, it can be slick, and I was wearing flip flops. Birdy tried to leave me there on the ground, glancing at me over her shoulder as she kept walking, like, “Oh, good God! Here we go again.” I think I embarrassed her. She is way more athletic than I am.

In part two of the dream, I was on a camping trip with a friend. We saw some of these, which are pretty common in the mountains here in North Carolina:

I used to dream about bears all the time, but more in the context of being lost in a forest and having them chase me. This time it felt exciting and fun to see one in the wild.

My most recurrent dreams involve being part of a resistance movement or a rebellion, being pursued by bad people, doing things that aren’t necessary legal for the benefit of the greater good, being on the run, traveling. Recently I dreamed I was in a guitar class taught by Dave Matthews, and he was also the leader of the resistance. I lived next door to a powerful political figure, and Dave convinced me to get him to come over and then blow the place up. I don’t remember how I was supposed to escape. Dave brought me some gel explosive, but he didn’t tell me how to use it. So I put it inside a cigarette, lit it, and tossed it at the guy (but missed). But instead of blowing up the townhouse we were in, it just created a small fireball that extinguished itself pretty quickly. No one got hurt. My cover was obviously blown. That’s all I remember. Feel free to analyze my delusional subconscious at your leisure. 🙂

Leaves of Three Attacked Me

hwkb17_017_18_19

While camping last weekend, I got some nasty poison ivy (or something). My friend Swamp’s reaction to that was, “I don’t even remember you touching anything!” I’m pretty sure I must have either picked up the oils from my pants or from Birdy’s fur, since she made every effort to go as deep into the woods as she could without getting lost. As usual, she had a blast soaking her belly in the cool creek water and making her legs go kerplunk in the deeper parts. That dog is never happier than when we go camping.

Anyway, I’ve only had poison ivy one other time, and I must not be terribly allergic, because while this batch has been pretty obnoxious and very itchy and has spread pretty bad, mine is nothing compared to some pictures I’ve seen online. A friend suggested a product called Tecnu, which removes the oils from your skin instead of just briefly addressing the itching issues. I highly recommend it. The one I’m using is like a thin lotion that you rub on and rinse off. After using it just once, my itching has all but disappeared.

Musical Monday: Phish Reunion Trip

Phish_Phun_Phish_-_101_Phish_Songs_Color_Poster

A few months ago I was talking about not being able to get tickets to the Asheville show on the Phish summer reunion tour. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because my friend Swamp ended up getting tickets to TWO other shows, which allowed us to take a sweet road trip, visit some old friends, and see the band outdoors, which is preferable to us. Even though I’m still kicking myself for not taking the day off just to hang out in Asheville that day, because they closed off the streets downtown and created this huge hippie convergence. It was like a city-wide Shakedown Street. How fun!

First stop: Washington, Pennsylvania, about 6 hours north of here. The drive up there is some of my favorite interstate scenery around. Whoever came up with that whole “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia” slogan was spot on! Beautiful mountains. Actually, I think they’re called hills there.

wild-hills

We stayed with some old friends, Cheryl and Shawn, in Washpa (as the natives call it). They are renovating a beautiful old farm house that sits on 100 acres or so. We got to spend a little time getting acquainted with their new baby, Paul. At almost 9 months, he’s growing like a weed and is very smiley and happy. I should say that I spent some time with him, since Swamp does not touch babies and is hard to catch even looking at one, unless it is apprehensively. However, Swamp and Paul do share the same birthday: Halloween. People born on Halloween were thought by the ancient Celts to possess supernatural powers, including the power to read dreams. I don’t know about the reading dreams part, but I do think Swamp is particularly gifted with intuition. So maybe Paul understands intuitively that Swamp is afraid of babies and doesn’t take it personally. Let’s hope so!

We arrived (late, naturally) in the middle of a severe thunderstorm with tornado warnings. Cheryl and Shawn had been trying frantically to call us to make sure we were safe, but I was too busy being nervous about tornadoes, and Swamp was too busy exclaiming about how beautiful the lightning was to hear the phone ring. We all sat up late drinking Straubs at the kitchen table with the lights out, watching lightning illuminate the fields through enormous windows. I presented a box full of Mellow Mushroom pretzels as a host gift — their one request from the great state of North Carolina — which turned out to be full of ants from Swamp’s car full of dirty camping gear. Shawn popped them in the oven anyway, which killed the ants, and then just brushed off their crispy dead bodies. Now that is my kind of fortitude! Upon inspecting the car later, we could not find a single ant anywhere.

We went with Cheryl and Shawn to the show in Burgettstown, PA. Shawn brought along the leftover pretzels, which everyone was pretty excited about, even though next-day Mellow Mushroom crust is so hard it’s almost impossible to chew. Still tasted good! On the way into the concert grounds, Shawn was bragging to passersby about them. We stopped to listen to sound check, did some people-watching, and made a few laps around Shakedown, where Swamp was trying to sell or trade his extra tickets. It turned out that there were a lot of extras floating around, so he ended up trading one for a cool autographed photograph of Trey playing guitar alone on a stage, and he sold the other one for less than face. We also ran into tons of other people we’ve known from various encounters and life situations. I had not seen most of them for about five years.

I’d like to give a shout-out to Warren, the group’s unofficial social ringleader, who said, “Hey, we met at the camp out party at Gibb’s, right? When Gruvbak performed?” I said, “I was at that party, but we met up in Maine at IT, I think!” Warren, slapping his forehead: “Oh, yeah! I remember! My kid brother’s first acid trip —  all that mud! — that insanely huge glowstick war! — and you and Gibb pissed off about getting bad shrooms! Man, so awesome to see you again!” The whole evening contained many similar encounters. It was like a big family reunion, and I don’t think I stopped smiling all night. Except maybe when my parents, who were dog-sitting, called me to say Birdy had gone to the vet due to not eating and throwing up, and she had hookworm. I was not smiling then.

btown

The amphitheater is now “owned” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but everyone up there still calls it by its old name: Star Lake. That was the second Phish show I had seen at that particular venue. It’s a cool place. Good show…pretty substantial glowstick war. Vacuum-solo from Fishman, which I probably could have done without. He’s such a terrible singer. But I do love his polka-dot dress. Hearing the boys live again after so long a hiatus was amazing and thrilling, and now that Trey’s off the blow, the performance had a whole new dimension of upbeat positive fun.

Music Phish Fenway

You can hear in his playing and in his voice, and especially in his off-the-cuff stage banter that he’s in a good place now, and it definitely projects onto the crowd in a new way that was very pleasant. I also have to say I am quite impressed with the new songs that will be on the next studio album, Joy. I love almost all of them. It’s a little bit of a different approach for their sound, but I like where it’s going so far. Swamp would tell you, with a conflicted expression, “It’s so poppy.” But it’s good, and he thinks so, too.  At Star Lake, they played a lot of my favorites, but I was especially happy to hear Chalk Dust Torture, Bouncing Around the Room, Harry Hood, Free. There were also some screw-ups and hilarity ensued — from Phish.net:

About halfway through Grind, they were singing in the wrong key and some (Fishman) couldn’t hit the correct notes. They stopped, laughing, and huddled, trying to decide whether to re-start Grind again in the correct key or start something else. The crowd knew this because the band was too close to the mics and the crowd could hear the conversation. Trey realizes this and says,”Can you guys hear what we’re saying when we are talking?” Crowd goes nuts and Trey says, “It was supposed to be a secret but Page blew the wrong note.” They try to restart Grind, but it never happens and they huddle again, with Trey saying,”Hold on, don’t go away.” Crowd goes nuts again. After almost a minute, they step up to the mic with Trey saying,”If this doesn’t work, Fish will sing Bike for you.” They start Hello My Baby, but it is scrapped after 30 seconds because the band is laughing hysterically, and Trey proclaims, “And Fish will now sing Bike for you,” and runs to the drum kit to start HYHU. Fish gets vacuum, goes center stage and says,”Welcome to the train wreck portion of the show. I hope everyone is enjoying it as much as we are. Maybe I’ll remember some of the words to this song.” Before going into Bike (forgetting a number of the lyrics) w/ vacuum solo at the end, then Jon did an intro of the band (introducing himself last as Henrietta). Then Trey came back out, and they did Loving Cup.

Here’s  a pic of Swamp and me on the lawn waiting for the show to start:

us

burgets

The next morning, we got up super-early and stumbled out half-asleep to hit the road again. It was crappy not to be able to spend more time with our friends in Washington. But another show was waiting! We drove another 5 1/2 hours up to Noblesville, Indiana — home of the famous Deer Creek Amphitheater! Actually, I think it’s now called Verizon Wireless something-or-other, but just like with Star Lake, everyone still calls it by the much cooler former name. We were a little bit late getting in due to getting a little bit lost on the way. (If any of you know Swamp, you know he never gets lost or anything. Ahem.) To be fair, the Mapquest directions were sort of wrong. One of Swamp’s work friends, Bo, drove up from NC as well. We met up with him at a campground just a few miles from the venue. It was a cool place. I would recommend it if you ever go see a show at Deer Creek. It was pretty large, and on the way in, I was a little anxious about the number of nitrous tanks I saw…didn’t want to be trapped in that kind of crowd with no walls around me. But it turned out to be fine.

The show at Deer Creek was pretty amazing. Hanging out with Bo in the lot beforehand, we were trying to figure up how many shows we’d seen. Deer Creek was my 12th or 13th Phish show, depending on how you want to count up IT (3 days of Phish in Maine, 2003) — a number which is totally unimpressive to most hardcore Phans. I think it was Swamp’s 20th or 21st Phish show. And what an adventure. Towards the end of the first set, we started seeing all kinds of beautiful lightning in the sky –horizontal branches reflecting wide curtains of light off dense cloud backdrops. They appeared in a very precise order, forming a circle around the amphitheater. The crowd roared at every lightning flash, which came often.

Horizontal-Lightning

At around 10:00 pm, Page came onstage and said he had been asked to read a weather service report, which was basically a severe thunderstorm warning. He said everyone on the lawn was to go back to their cars, and everyone under the covered part of the pavilion should stay in their seats. I was getting a little bit worried at that point, because I have a terrible tornado phobia, and since we were in flat-as-a-pancake Indiana…but Swamp, as always, calmed me down.

rain

Our tickets were for actual seats, but we had been sitting on the lawn for the entire first set because, well, blending into the crowd is easier that way and necessary for some activities. Most people, like any good (and in this case, foolish) hippie rebels were staying put on the lawn. But when the rain started, we moved to the pavilion seats, which just happened to be on the very last row and not covered by the roof. The second set was delayed by over an hour, and we were overjoyed to find that the wind was blowing so fiercely it was shooting the rain right off the roof onto the lawn behind us, instead of down onto our uncovered heads.

Swamp and I had totally different takes on the set that followed. I was all jazzed up and energized by the storm and the shared crowd excitement, and I wanted to hear some really energized music to complement that vibe. But what we got was a mellowed-out, deep groove that Swamp found to be the absolute perfect response to the storm’s fury and the crowd’s frenzy: A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing > Drowned > Twist, Let Me Lie, Tweezer > 2001 > Suzy Greenberg > Possum > E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise.

The music brought us all back down to a chill place. Swamp says it’s still his favorite set of the two shows. I haven’t listened to it much since we got back, mainly because I’ve been too obsessed with the first set of that show that contained several of my favorites: Backwards Down the Number Line, AC/DC Bag, Limb By Limb, The Moma Dance, Water In The Sky, Split Open and Melt, Lawn Boy, The Wedge, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, The Connection, Ocelot, Fluffhead. But also because I’d like to wait for another good hard thunderstorm to put it on and relive it.

rain2

When the show ended, it was still pouring rain. I mean, pouring. We had to hoof it back to the car, which was probably a mile away. We were all drenched to the bone. I had a poncho, but I didn’t even put it on, because it was raining so hard I couldn’t see anything anyway. Not to mention the venue’s band curfew is 11:00 pm, and the second set started at 11:00, so when we came out, all the lights were off, and it was a mad scene of people trying to hold onto their friends and not lose each other  — I don’t know if I couldn’t have found the way back to the car by myself, personally. All this in utter darkness made darker by driving rain slamming against your eyelids. I mean, soaked doesn’t even begin to describe it. But it felt SO GOOD! What an adventure! It was like a complimentary shower from nature for tons of dirty hippies, and falling asleep in the tent that night I almost felt like I’d just had a bath.

dont-drive-3

Bo had not planned on staying overnight at the campground, as he had family living in the vicinity. Unfortunately, none of the roads in the campground were paved, and all that torrential rain turned the whole place into a big mudpit. Bo’s car (along with countless others) got stuck, and no one had any luck getting him out. He had to camp and wait for a local guy with a tractor to pull him out the next morning. We had parked our car and tent on relatively high ground, so we didn’t get stuck, and we slept nice and dry. Despite people setting off firecrackers beside our tent and sleeping next to an actual stage with an actual band playing all night (I guess hired by the campground for entertainment?), I actually slept really well.

The next morning we drove right out, blaring early-morning Michael Franti, on the very same road that had been like quicksand the night before. I brushed my teeth in a gas station bathroom while wearing my pajamas, while getting strange looks from people, and wondering why people were so bothered by it. Then it was back on the road, 10  hours back to NC, with a hiking stop in West Virginia on the way.

And that is what I did on my summer vacation. It was awesome.

Travel Wednesday: Sesqui Park

The trip to Isle of Palms last weekend was a great success. I love the beach, and I could write about it all day every day on my blog. And I will probably have many more opportunities to do so, because it’s the one place I visit most often on vacation. We had a wonderful time seeing the Acoustic Syndicate show, hanging out on the beach, playing music, and having board game tourneys. In an effort to make our trip last as long as possible, I decided to get up at dawn and watch the sunrise on the beach. We started the five-hour drive immediately afterwards, so we could stop at Sesqui Park in Columbia to hike for a couple hours.

The official name is Sesquicentennial State Park. Like most of the terrain in South Carolina, it is pretty flat, and there are a ton of pine trees. But there’s a really nice 2 mile loop that circles through the woods and marsh around a 3o-acre manmade lake. A very relaxing way to break up a five-hour drive, stretch your legs, and work up an appetite. There are a few other trails too, including a mountain bike trail. There is a camping area, a 2-acre fenced dog park, picnic shelters, paddle boats, canoes…this would be a nice place to spend a weekend.

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World Travel Wednesday: St. John, USVI

I’m still working on finding all my photos from some of my great trips, so today I’m going to tell you about another place that I came thisclose to working at for the summer a few years ago, until I decided to go to South America instead. I’m still going to go here sometime, though.

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St. John is the smallest and least inhabited of the three US Virgin Islands. (The others are St. Thomas and St. Croix.) It doesn’t have an airport or a cruise ship terminal. You have to take a ferry over from St. Thomas. Two-thirds of the island is protected National Park land, along with about 5,000 acres of coral reef.

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No matter what your budget is, or your taste in accomodations, there’s something for everyone on this island. Primitive tent camping on the beach from $30 a night. Ultra-luxe resorts with $8,000 a night cottages. An eco-resort with facilities on two different sides of the island.

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That’s where I want to go. I was accepted to do a work-exchange program at Maho one summer, and as I mentioned my travel plans changed. I’m a huge fan of places where there are more trees than people and more protected environment than unprotected. Maho has four different types of lodging, so you can vacation fairly primitively in a fabric-walled tent cabin or in a studio apartment type setting if you are not into roughing it. As for me, camping with framed walls (and an actual mattress) sounds just about right.

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