Of Chocolate, Tents, And Steel – Part 3

We last left our heroes at Hersheypark Stadium as the Dave Matthews Band wrapped up its set on July 10…

As Dave and the boys finished with a high-energy send-up of “Ants Marching,” Gina and I collected our t-shirts, the free poster from the drunk guys, and our complimentary Hershey milkshake cups and made our way to the entrance to meet up with the rest of the group. At this point, I was basically exhausted, but in the best possible way. The reactions from the rest of the group made the whole weekend worth it for me (again), since a bunch of them were seeing DMB for the first time and were duly impressed. I can only hope that the newcomers got a little glimpse of what I get out of their music, and I know the vets like Ben, Gerritt, Stephen, and Otey also had a blast. [A character profile on Colleen, Gina’s friend, is also in order: this was her first time meeting many of our friends in person, and this was also her first DMB show. I believe one of her favorite songs is “Grey Street,” which they played. She goes to school in WV. Hi, Colleen!]

Unlike the shows at Nissan Pavilion, it didn’t take us three hours to get out of the Hershey parking lot. With the campground just two traffic lights down the road, we figured we were in for an easy setup and a relatively early night. Unfortunately, our decision to skip the campground check-in earlier in the day proved to be … well, unfortunate. The proximity of the campground to the park meant that more than a few people decided it would be a good idea to camp out after the show. Like half the audience, probably. But just like the intrepid travelers that we were, we searched around the grounds for the perfect spot … and then set up camp in the only one we could find with enough room. We had unpacked our tents and started setting them up when a distant rumbling filled our ears. It got progressively louder and louder until, like a herald of the night, a freight train bulleted past our meager campsite, not 20 feet from our tents. It was okay, though, because the headlights from the engine cast a nice glow on the dumpsters next door.
I’m not really exaggerating about our campsite, but I am having a little fun describing it. Truth be told, it wasn’t all that bad, though I probably didn’t get over four hours of sleep that night. I kept trying to find weird ways to work freight trains into my dreams, I suppose, but it just didn’t work. I woke up every time one came by, and so did the rest of the group – except for Stephen and Ben, who claimed they slept like tree trunks. Welcome to Pennsylvania, indeed, with their active freight rail lines running 24/6 for all your freight needs.
By the morning, we were all a bit more bleary-eyed than before, but the snacks and bagels we packed helped to give us an energy boost. We got an early start, since five of us had a huge trip back to Blacksburg. The last big highlight of the Pennsylvania leg of the journey was our stop at the legendary Distelfink drive-in. It had only been hinted at before by Gerritt, Tim, and Ben, who’d been there at various times. For the rest of us, we could only guess of its wonders (not to mention the spelling and pronunciation of its name). As it happens, the ‘fink has a wide selection of drive-in type foods, plus an assortment of delicious softserve flavors. They even had a sandwich originally called the French Poodle that was renamed the Freedom Poodle during the hubbub of the Iraqi war; however, the new paint had faded so all that remained was the mysterious “Fre Poodle.” The French Fries suffered a similar fate. I just had a chicken parmesan sandwich and a Dr. Pepper.
From the Distelfink, Stephen took over driving duties in my car, leaving me to man the camera for the Official Road Trip video. I also helped navigate back to Gina’s house, where we re-arranged the passengers back into the group going to Blacksburg. After saying goodbye to the northerners and Gina’s family, we Blacksburgers (hehe) began our trek back to southwest Virginia. Most of this leg of the trip was a blur, as the craziness of the weekend began to take its toll. When everyone was back in their homes and I was crashing down on my futon, I could only think that this was indeed a road trip to be reckoned with. Let’s try it again next year!

The End … or so the Germans would have us believe.