Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bonnaroo Blog-a-roo: Getting There
a.k.a. The Road to 'Roo

The first thing that shocked me about Bonnaroo is from just how far away the fans come. I probably met more people from Philadelphia than the whole South combined. Canada, Australia, Brazil, England, you name it, they’ll be there.

This section will be for those driving into the festival. This is probably the most, but only, annoying part of the weekend. My first year I got there early and it still it took over 9 hours to get in. Luckily Green Day just released a new CD so the music went non-stop. Hopefully this won’t happen to you, but prepare for it.

The first thing to take note of is the appearance of your car as you approach Manchester. I’ve heard stories of cars being pulled over and searched as far away as Kentucky and Virginia for blaring hippie memorabilia. From what I’ve noticed this is definitely true as you get within a few miles. But these were the only cars pulled over. Your best bet is to go incognito. Don’t hang peace flags from your windows, write “Bonnaroo or Bust” on your trunk, cover your tail with hippie bumper stickers, or drive up with fun-smelling smoke bellowing out the car. That basically sends an instant signal to the cops saying “Drugs on Board!!!” Play it smooth, and things will go smoothly. Personally, I go a step further by loading all my camping gear in the trunk and putting on a collared work shirt, just so I don’t look like trouble. Most cops in the area don’t want to be dicks this weekend (unusual but true)… they want to get you into the festival and out of their hair as quickly as possible. Just don’t give them a reason to pull you over and you’ll be fine.

So as you pull up to Exit 111, you’ll start seeing the cars lining up on the northbound side of the highway. This can go back 10-15 miles. The year I waited 9 hours, I had come from the north. They made me drive up to exit 127, and the line was backed up past that point. I got rerouted through the back roads, but needless to say both lines were equally long.

The waiting can get very boring. So make sure you have some awesome tunes to listen to. What will happen is you’ll likely stay stopped for 15-20 minutes at a time, then move upwards of half a mile, just to stop again for another 20 mins. So you’ll have time to get out of the car and stretch. Or maybe throw around a Frisbee. I walked around and talked to some of my ‘new neighbors’. So you could say the traffic is part of the party.

Make sure you are gassed up before you go. This whole process can take a long time, and if you have your AC blasting, it can really eat up your gas.

So it’s been asked “what if you need to go to the bathroom?” Well, I can’t speak for the highway line, but if you’re on the backroads, there are many sections that are lined with bushes or behind haystacks and dirt mounds. So you should be safe. Ladies, you might want to practice your squatting, or figure out a good way to do it in the car.

This is one of the areas where fortune favors the prepared. If you do some research, you can try to find an alternate ‘locals’ route through the side streets. I’m not giving away my secret (lest it be secret no more) but lets just say it only took an hour to get to the gas station at the end of the exit 111 ramp that signifies the entrance to ‘Roo.

So you’ve been waiting for hours, and you finally get to the gates to get in. Don’t worry, there’s about another hour or two from this point. Keep calm, and resist any urges to crack a beer or light up. You’re gonna be amped up as soon as you pull in, and that’s an amazing high on its own.

The reason why is because they have a checkpoint before you enter the grounds. And they can be very thorough. The rumors of cars torn to shreds on the sides of the “tollbooths” are true. But you really need to attract attention for that to happen. Still, you never know when the security guard is going to be a dick and want to go over every square inch. Another good reason to look professional! I’ve had them check in my door pockets, glove box, center console, trunk, cooler, and spare tire compartment one year, and another they just peeked inside my windows, popped my trunk, and looked in my cooler and that was all. So if you plan on bringing in anything you shouldn’t (which you weren’t planning to do anyway, wink wink), make sure it is extremely well hidden.

Once you’re past the tollbooths its only a few minutes before they direct you to your camp site. They’ll try to pack you in like sardines, so try to pull as far away from the adjacent cars as possible. Once you make friends you may be able to work with each other to rearrange them for maximum space. So set your tent up, say hi to your neighbors, and meet me for the next chapter!

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