…Cont. from Pt. 1
Part 2: Introductions
The solution to my concert dilemma began to present itself when my mom and sister surprised me with lawn tickets to The Gorge for my birthday, along with enough sky miles to cover my flight to Seattle. This left me only to have to figure out ground transportation and lodging. My work situation was also conducive for me to be able to take the time off at the end of summer. Everything, for once, seemed to be working out!
For a few years I have been a member of a DMB Facebook group, on which I found a couple of people looking for someone to jump in and split the costs of camping and car rental. After a few bumps in the road regarding flight booking, and a hurricane scare that affected one of my soon to be fellow campers, we all met up in Seattle the Thursday afternoon before the show.
My flight arrived last, so by the time I disembarked and made my way through SeaTec Airport, my two soon to be travel companions had already met up with others from our Facebook group and were posted up at an empty counter by baggage claim, being barraged by other travelers who dimwittedly assumed that they were employees at an information kiosk. While many of the others in our Facebook group have met in real life before, this was my first time having corporeal contact with any of them.
To be completely honest, while I was in the planning stages of the trip, the idea of flying to an unknown airport, meeting up with strangers who, not only would I be spending a considerable amount of time with, but would also be trusting to uphold a financial obligation with as regards to our travel expenses, and then going to camp and three nights of shows all the while surrounded by 30,000 people that I had never met before, well, it honestly was an intimidating concept.
Putting on my adventure hat, I walked up and introduced myself. The preconceived idea of awkwardness vanished instantly, as I was greeted with handshakes and hugs all around. It felt less like the meeting of strangers, and more like a high school reunion, one where you haven’t seen people in years, but you had a general notion of what everyone has been up to along the way.
After a bit of talking, my camping group and I said our goodbyes to everyone and headed to pick up our rental. We opted for a minivan, given their function and comfort over form. Shortly, we were on the road.
Since all of us had flown in, our plan was to hit up a local store for supplies and then make the drive to the venue. We stopped at a Walmart in Renton, which turned out to be the same sketchy one that I had stayed in the parking lot of back when the Man on Earth tour last came through Seattle. Heading in, we quickly discovered that every other DMB fan that flew in must have had the same idea as us. The camping section was bare, save for a few sleeping bags and a handful of air mattresses. We grabbed our food and what other minimal items we could for the weekend, and decided to head out and search for supplies in another store. After a few phone calls and a stop at a Fred Meyer, we found a Target that had what we needed in stock. Van packed to the gills, we finally actually hit the road.
The ride out was fairly uneventful, which gave the three of us, all who had never previously met, plenty of time to become acquainted. By the time we rolled into the campground, there was no shred of informality left among us.
It was almost dark, so we set our camp up as quickly as possible, managing to do so before the sun completely set. For some reason nicknames proved easier than using our real names, something that I kind of attributed to the sense of escapism that surrounded the whole weekend. I very easily fell back into my tour moniker Michaels, a botched introduction earned our female camper the name Annie, and rounding off the group was the man who came to be known as Matty Ice.
Annie had set up a ‘meal plan’ with another camp for the weekend, in which she had paid a flat rate for 3 hots a day. Since we were all set up, we said a quick hello to our camping neighbors, then headed off to find Annie’s grub hub.
The campground was a sprawling collection of tents and RVs set in the middle of a non-cultivated farm field. We were in premier camping, which to my surprise wasn’t top tier camping. We weren’t even second to the top. Not that I was complaining, it turned out that we had real bathrooms and showers in our tier that were available for no extra charge. The people over in standard camping (or as we came to call it ‘Gen Pop’ or ‘District 9′) had only Honey Bucket port-a-pottys and pay per use showers. After a bit of wandering, we found Annie’s people.
Site B, as I called it, was more of a small city then it was a camp site. If he wasn’t Canadian, I would definitely believe that the guy who organized it was a FEMA employee. 30 or so people had met up outside the campground and all rode inside in convoy so as to ensure they all could camp next to each other. They had set up and connected 3 20’x20′ canopy tents that were at least 10’ tall at their peak. One tent was set up as a kitchen, with coolers full of food and drinks, gas grills, and the like. On the opposite end, the other tent was set up as a living room type of area. Actual couches and chairs were arranged in a circle around a gas fire pit. There was even a few tapestries hanging on the walls. Connecting the two areas was the third tent, which was set up as a dance floor. Outside, behind the triple living area tents the group had set up their sleeping tents, definitely keeping the sense of community flowing that was so prevalent inside. The scale of Site B’s operation made you forgot for a minute that we were actually in the middle of a field in the sticks of Washington state.
We hung out for a bit, and soon enough people broke out guitars and started a singalong while passing around a bottle of Fireball Whiskey. Matty Ice commented on his hatred of cinnamon and need for another beer, so the three of us decided to head back to our home base.
When we got back our neighbors had all finished setting up their camps and were spending their evening hanging out. The campers in the RV on our passenger side were in their own world on their passenger side, but as we sat down our other adjacent neighbors struck up conversation and offered us shots. Nicknames were again the soup of the day, so we met Goldie, Tommy Gun, Ming Chang (who I called Harambro, due to his love for the dearly departed Harambe), and Ian (Annie started that one, she said he looked like an Ian, and it stuck like gum to a shoe). Our new bros were drinking Jack Fire, and of course not wanting to be rude, Matty Ice set aside his hatred of cinnamon for a moment and did a shot with us. Or six. Or something. I lost count after three.
2 am curfew came quickly, and not wanting to be evicted on our first night, we all went to bed. The day’s travel finally caught up to me and kicked me in the head, causing me to fall far quicker than into the blissful oblivion of sleep than usual….