Of Chocolate, Tents, And Steel – Part 1

As promised, here’s the first part of the story of the Great Hershey Trip of 2004. (Okay, it never really had a name like that, but I think that could easily be the name if we had to vote on one.) Apologies for it being practically a week after the fact, but one of the aftereffects of the trip was me having to catch up with my online class and work. So goes life!

In all my life, I’ve never had a concert/road trip experience that didn’t have at least one glitch. Car trouble, forgetting tickets, getting lost, subpar traveling buddies — you name it. In addition, having a group as big as ours (maxing out at ten people) could easily make everyone cranky and angry, thanks to close quarters, cabin fever, amnesia, lack of toothbrushes, or something like that.
This group, and this trip, disbarred all those notions. That’s why I still love taking trips like this: the good always outweighs the bad.
There were a few minor setbacks, sure. Late starts on two of the three days, for example, but they were nobody’s fault in particular. We probably also underestimated how tired we’d get by the time of the concert after walking around in the heat all day, too. But due to the greatness of the people along for the journey, everyone had a great time and tempers remained cool through the majority of the weekend.
As noted, the five of us traveling from Southwest VA departed from Stephen and Jen’s house in Vinton a little later than first planned, but only after christening Stephen’s (and Jen’s) new grill that a bunch of us bought for them for their wedding. Those were some tasty, 100% not-soy burgers, let me tell ya. The car ride north to Maryland was actually pretty fun, even for poor Tim, who unfortunately earned the honor of “middle-back-seat b****”. [It’s time for a character profile on Tim: this was his first official college road trip and concert rolled into one weekend. According to him, the show was “wickedly awesome” and he had lots of fun. Thumbs up to Tim!]

Though our energy level started a tailspin at around the turnoff for I-66, we rejuvenated ourselves with weird coffee drinks, ice cream, and donuts at a Dunkin’ Donuts gas station-type place. On the official road trip video, available in stores soon, you can get a glimpse of some of the antics in the car after the caffeine explosion. Actually, most of the official road trip video strongly resembles an independent film, with its artsy, intimate camera work and avant garde imagery. After we edit it, we might send it on to the good folks at Sundance. But I digress. Ask one of us to play you the video, and you’ll see what happens when James Brown’s “Sex Machine” comes on the stereo when we’re all jacked up on coffee. You’ll also get to hear Stephen and Tim talk about every gadget under the sun, Gina laughing at us and filling out both the role of navigator AND camerawoman, and a bonus music video from Otey, performing Will Smith’s “Summertime.” Classic stuff you won’t want to miss.
Otey was rapping to the Fresh Prince as we were attempting to find Gerritt’s swank new apartment in Rockville. We only missed the turn once. Otey had been there before, so he led us to the correct building, down the steps, and to Gerritt’s door. We were filming, a-la Publisher’s Clearinghouse, to get the full effect of the surprise on the second half of our group’s collective faces when we finally arrived. Turns out Otey knocked on the wrong apartment door, though, and when Mel opened the door next to the one we were all standing in front of, we quickly ran into Gerritt’s to avoid any embarrassment from his neighbor.
All that remained for the Friday night get-together, then, was a mission briefing. I donned my general’s hat and improvised a map and pointer for the troops, Patton style. We parted ways, splitting into two groups for the Friday night sleepovers, ready to rest up before setting out on the long and dangerous road to the Sweetest Place on Earth.

Read more tomorrow in the exciting continuation!