Of Chocolate, Tents, And Steel – Part 2

We last left our heroes packing up their cars for the trip from Maryland to Pennsylvania…

We all knew we were in for a long day, but after resting up a bit (and after a few of us got a huge breakfast at Gina’s house, courtesy of her mom), there was a general sense of excitement that only kept growing as we cruised up Route 15 towards Hershey. Sarah spent most of this leg of the trip trying to figure out how to pronounce the name of the place we were planning to stop for lunch at on Sunday. Turns out it was the Distelfink, a local drive-in phenomenon somewhere near Gettysburg (the details are fuzzy at this point); however, none of us could really remember the name through the course of the weekend, so we spawned every name we could think of, from Finkleduster’s to Stinkywinkly’s. I digress again, however.
The trip to Hershey was actually much quicker than any of us had anticipated. We got a late start thanks to the breakfast mentioned earlier, though, so instead of pitching our tents and claiming a campsite, we drove on into the park. It didn’t take long for the smell of chocolate to take over our senses and turn us toward the entrance, after we commented about how freakin’ hot it was and put on sunblock.

We spent the next few hours in the park itself, and most of those waiting in line for the various rollercoasters. The newest ride, the Storm Runner, was shut down for the day, so we only got to hit up the Sooperdooperlooper and the Great Bear. It’s been a while, probably a couple of years, since I’ve gotten on any major rollercoasters, so these rides were great! I still have a tiny bit of trepidation when I first get on a big, twisty rollercoaster, though – a throwback to my pre-Kings Island 1999 days. But, I’m always glad I rode the thing once it’s finished, since the slight bit of fear quickly switches to exhilaration as I fly all over the place. Good times.
As the concert opening drew nearer and nearer, we took a break to stay off heat exhaustion and to eat some high-priced pizza and hot dogs. Then, it was time for the Chocolate Tour! Holy cow! It was pretty interesting getting that behind-the-scenes look into the factory operations. For instance, I didn’t realize that they employed six-foot-tall sentient Hershey kisses to do the quality control and watch the conveyor belts go by. Wow! That’s the kind of job I need.
In all seriousness, it was a very relaxing way to draw our trip to the park to a close. The free chocolate at the end was a bonus, too, even though they were samples of Hershey’s new S’mores bar, which is a hit-or-miss type of candy bar at best. We made up for it with excellent milkshakes at the dairy bar (ha!) just outside of the tour’s exit. After the shakes, all we had to do was walk around the park’s perimeter a while to arrive at the Stadium – and the concert.
Mine and Gina’s seats were pretty close to the stage and situated directly in front of one giant projection screen, so we had a good view for the show. We only caught the end of the opener, but what else is new? I was a little worried I was going to be too tired to enjoy the show, but by the time Dave and the boys took the stage, I was feeding off of the energy in the rest of the crowd and back in prime form. Our neighbors to the right and back of us were very polite, reserved, and fun people, so kudos to them. The guy to the left of me remained very stoic throughout the night – I’m pretty sure I didn’t see him unfold his arms or do so much as a head bob the whole night. To each his own, I guess.
The real winners were the two guys in front of us. One was already falling down drunk before the show even started, which is never a good sign, and the other was one of those ultra-happy drunks that seeks loud approval from everybody around him. At first I thought he was just an overly happy guy, but once he and his friend peed on the field right by their seats, not even bothering to go to the port-a-potties 50 feet away, I lost my quiet respect for him. At least I scored a free poster off of them when they left halfway through Dave’s set, apparently too stoned and wasted to remember their purchase. Score!
But enough about the neighbors; I ignored them for the most part. The show was what mattered, and it was excellent as usual. The members of the band just keep getting tighter and tighter in their playing, and the four or five new songs they’ve debuted this summer are evolving very nicely. I finally got to hear “Lie In Our Graves” live as a full-band song, after about 10 shows, and it was all I’d hoped for. All in all, it was a crazy good set, with a lot of noodling in between songs. You can always tell when Dave and the boys are in a good mood, and they must have been that night. Even if Dave did leave the stage midway through to go pee, leaving Carter to start up a totally improvised jam. That’s the ultimate test of a good band, right there!

Read the exciting conclusion tomorrow!