For many die-hard music fans, summer means festival season. Living in the state of Colorado, we are privilege to some of the best in the country right out our back door.
In the fall of 2001, rumors started swirling about a four day music festival that was to take place the following June somewhere in the backwoods of Tennessee. The names that were being thrown out had the entire jamband world a buzz. Widespread Panic, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Phil Lesh & Friends, Moe., and the list kept going and going of the powerhouses. Needless to say, when the announcement of the first annual Bonnaroo Music Festival came out, we were all in.
The majority of our group left out of Kansas City in a Chevy Suburban, with an enclosed trailer in tow. The map said eight hours to Manchester, Tennessee. As we approached our destination, the excitement was quickly extinguished as we came to a bumper to bumper traffic, some twelve miles outside of the festival entrance.
Our driver at the time was my best friend (now brother-in-law), Austin. Austin has many attributes, but patience in traffic is not one of them. After not moving for a few hours, the frisbee and watermelon fun was starting to wear off. When most people look at a grass median dividing the highway, the thought of driving down it wouldn’t normally cross their mind. Austin Chamberlin saw this as untapped opportunity. When he told us his plan to simply drive down the middle of the median and pass everyone, the reaction was to “GO FOR IT!”
Austin proceeded to ease the Suburban over to the shoulder, and off into the grassy wide open. We began to pick up some speed and pass hundreds of cars. Although we were driving on grass, what lay beneath was lumpy, uneven ground, with ruts and drainage culverts. As we bounced down the way, the trailer we were pulling actually became airborne a few times.
Our plan was actually working! The bystanders (still not moving) had mixed reactions. Some cheered, some laughed, some gazed in awe. As the time came for us to merge back into traffic, there were far more four-letter words and middle fingers being lobbed at us than cheering. As friendly as the hippy crowd is, I soon realized the only way we were getting back in that line of cars was by cold hard cash. I pulled a crinkled up ten dollar bill out of my wallet, ran up to a semi-truck driver, and we were back in business.
Certainly a memory we won’t soon forget. Wherever your musical journeys take you this summer, enjoy the ride!