Road Trip

I don’t like road-trip movies AT ALL. They usually involve a bunch of guys that get drunk and do something stupid or crazy (preferably in Vegas). Or, they involve cannibals, drug dealers or human trafficking which is probably more interesting but might have a slight surreal touch to it. After my road trip this weekend, I have to take it all back. Ending up in a wedding chapel with Elvis or meeting ET would have been less unsettling than this real road trip.

Basic coordinates: Driving from Cincinnati, Ohio to Turtletown, Tennessee (No, I am not kidding and yes, this is the real name of the “town”, right next to Ducktown, Tennessee!)

Objective: Play at the Juneteenth festival in Turtletown

Main idea: Stuffing one band + family + instruments in one big van – and the fun will follow

The cast:

1. Dad
Designated driver and storyteller (even if nobody’s awake to listen). Slogan: We have to find the cheapest gas station.

2. Mom
Designated co-pilot. Slogan: If things get too crazy, I’ll be asleep (Have a wild guess how many hours she spent sleeping!)

3. The son / boyfriend
Gifted guitar player and indispensable because → Slogan: I won’t utter more than 2 words per hour.

4. Grandma
The voice of reason. Slogan: I’ll say things how they are!

5. The singer
Master of the GPS. Slogan: I don’t know where I am going but my phone does.

6. The singer’s wife
Taking care of the baby. Slogan: If there is one thing you didn’t know about diapers, I am happy to tell you about it.

7. The baby
Best passenger. Slogan: I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no, I won’t shed a tear just as long as you stand by me!

8. The piano player
The spiritual equilibrium. Slogan: Make love not war and if there is a problem, the Martians will come to help us.

9. The drummer
The joker. Slogan: When things go from bad to horrible and you REALLY are not in the mood for jokes, I’ll tell you one.

10. The drummer’s wife and rapper
Band leader. Slogan: I really try to keep up with my girls but they’re just faster than me.

11. + 12. The drummer’s daughters
The evil twins. Slogan: How can we blow up this van popsicle stand?

13. The guitar player
I am the lead guitarist! Slogan: Check out my disappearing act.

14. The guitar player’s wife
I am the lead guitarist’s wife. Slogan: I am the lead guitarist’s wife!

15. Poor me
How did I get caught up in the middle of this? Slogan: Get me out of here!

16. The van
I am made for 12 people. Slogan: This is the worst trip of my life.

The fun starts at exactly 12 PM (parenthesis: we were supposed to leave Cincinnati 2 hours ago) when dad, mom, grandma, son / boyfriend and me pull up into the drummer’s driveway. We look at the people inside the van, we count the people outside the van. We stare at the equipment. This is going to be a challenge. Luckily, the guitar player is driving his own car and allows us to put our soft bags (nothing hard that could scratch my guitar) into his car. Alright, we are all set, the van is packed. We are good to go. Problem: We still have to pick up 3 more people!
It is 2 PM now, we pull into the singer’s driveway. Apparently, his wife and baby are coming with us, too. The baby needs his own seat. At this point, we are just glad, he is a singer and not the second drummer + equipment. We double up, people are sitting on top of each other, lying on the floor and everybody has some part of an instrument bumping against at least one body part. It is 3 PM and we are finally rolling.
30 minutes later, our first pit stop. Somebody has to go to the bathroom. Dad / designated driver shouts:” 4 minutes everybody, in 4 minutes I am starting the car and whoever is not inside, will be left behind!” 30 minutes later, we have managed to pile back up into the van. Somehow, everybody has managed to find a more or less comfortable position, the road trip has officially begun. Mom says: “Let’s sing some monkey songs!” After five monkey songs, the piano player feels comfortable enough to disclose his secrets on the end of the world and the Martian revolution. The singer’s wife decides that there are more interesting subjects to talk about and decides it’s a good idea to share her views on breastfeeding with us. Surprisingly, EVERYBODY seems to have some interesting input on that. I am torn between listening (I am sure, once this is all over, it will make a good story) and trying to find my MP3 player somewhere between the guitar, grandma’s pillow and the cooler. I wish I had packed a bottle of hard liquor instead. The baby now has something to say, too. The evil twins feel that they aren’t getting enough attention in the back and start throwing Cheeze-Its crackers. I finally find the MP3 player. 7 hours later (including one 2-hour food stop – everybody getting out of the van, eating, everybody getting back into the van), we arrive in Ducktown, Tennessee. Grandma remembers the way but the singer disagrees (his GPS is telling us to go somewhere else). We decide to go with grandma (given that there is ABSOLUTELY NO SIGNAL AT ALL) and actually end up at her mountain house. Finally! Everybody is excited (mostly because we all had to go to the bathroom for the past five hours) – until we get to the front door. It is locked. Nobody is at the house (wasn’t THE AUNT supposed to be here???), we don’t have a key, we don’t have a signal to call THE AUNT. The son / boyfriend and I are sent to the welcome center to get the keys. We are the only young ones not lazy enough to protest. We find the welcome house but it isn’t a welcome house any more. A friendly neighbor tells us that it is her house now, that she doesn’t have a key and that we are welcome to stop by for a cup of coffee. In the meantime, the crew has reached THE AUNT (by the way, she deserves the capital letters since SHE is the one who organizes the festival and got us here in the first place), somebody will come. When? No idea. Who? No idea. Should we wait? NO! The guitar player has made up his mind and decides that desperate times (having to do your “business” surrounded by poison ivy qualifies as desperate) call for desperate measures. With a skilled ninja move he kicks in the door.  We start a little happy dance. Too early as it turns out. There is neither electricity nor running water inside the house and what’s even worse: It smells really bad. “Like a dead rat”, the drummer jokes – later we find out it was actually THE AUNT’S dead dog that we have to bury but that’s another story. That pushes the mothers (including grandmothers) over the edge. We are out of here. We are going back down, into “town” and staying at a motel. It is pitch-dark by now, mosquitoes are feasting on us so it’s about time we get back to civilization. Us, minus our spiritual piano player, who wants to stay in the house for a private all-night-session with the mountain spirits.

The next morning, after a great breakfast (everything tastes wonderful if all you had for dinner is a microwave-hot dog from the 24-hour gas station), everybody is in a great mood. We are going to rock this festival! Once we find it. The GPS still refuses to work in the mountains and after an hour of searching, another vehicle shows up, also looking for the Juneteenth festival. Great. At least, there really IS a festival. We haven’t heard from THE AUNT yet, so our mood is somewhere in between furious and hopeful. We FINALLY see a sign. The festival side is B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L! Next to a lake, surrounded by woods, a big stage, raggae music, tents and hippies – what else could you possibly ask for? Everything is wonderful until THE AUNT arrives. We all get a big hug, some story about a dead dog named “Chico”, and about the last 24 crazy hours that she has had (wait, ’till you hear our story!). We are speechless and for the first time everybody is thankful for the evil twins that decide to run off into the woods and give us a great excuse to take off. The bands start to play and everything sounds good until the sound engineer decides to take off in the middle of the first set. The second band is an average 15 years old and I really wish the singer wouldn’t be in the middle of his voice break. Finally, OUR band is playing. Mom wakes up again, the evil twins jump up and down and I am armed with 10 cameras waiting to take pictures. Great show, great audience, great pictures. Let’s get out of here as fast as we can now! Apparently, the guitar player had the same idea because he is nowhere to be found and we are left behind with our former load, plus the soft bags. We somehow manage to find another car that is driving to Cincinnati and is willing to take some of our equipment. With a lot more space now (everybody has almost one entire seat), as soon as we are back on the main road, the whole van is asleep.
By 8 am the next morning (don’t ask me how!), I am back in Cincinnati and off to bed. What a road trip!!!

Our motel in Ducktown, Tennessee

THE VAN

The festival site

Mom, dad and the guitar player – we finally made it to the festival

The band warming up

Camping at the festival

The band in action
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