Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bonnaroo is over but the party never ends....

We finished loading up our truck and enjoyed what would be our last shower for the next four days. It was roughly 9pm as we headed south, anxious to arrive at the plot of land that would become our home over the long weekend. As thunder roared overhead and the sky opened up, we held our breath hoping the gates to Bonnaroo would be open and we could get set up that night. Sure they said not to show up until Thursday morning, “…or you will be turned away at the gate…” but I learned with my dad years ago, if you get there late enough in the night, they will let you in.

As we approached our exit off the interstate, we were mildly disheartened to see cop cars blocking the ramp and signs instructing us to go to the next ramp. We could see cars backed up in the northbound lane for a good 3-5 miles. They sat there with their lights off, not moving. We knew we didn’t want to get in that mess.

As we approached an open off ramp, we asked a cop if he could tell us how to get into the festival grounds while avoiding all that traffic. He told us to follow the little white signs through some back roads, and it would take us to the front entrance. At this point it was well after midnight but we were excited with anticipation of the events to come. We followed the back roads and after about 20 minutes of driving, we had circled the backside of Roo’ and made our way to the main entrance. The cop directing traffic flagged our vehicle to the front of the line and we were in! Good karma was definitely on our side.

I hopped on the Bonnaroo Facebook page and posted directions for others to get in without having to wait in that horrible line of traffic. It definitely helped other festival goers as I was dubbed “traffic angel” on the page later that night.

As we made our way past security check points (after hiding our illegal charcoal) we noticed the field was wet. Not only was it wet, mud pits were swallowing full size cars. Workers sported raingear and talked about the torrential downpours that had been happening on and off throughout the night.

Typically as you arrive at your camping spot, the flaggers pack you in tight and quick. Since a huge mud bog had appeared on the roadway to the spot we were heading, cars were getting stuck and had to pull into a different location. Scott and Kenneth dropped their trucks into 4-wheel drive and easily crept through the mud pit. Luckily we found a nice mud-free spot without neighbors on top of us.

We immediately went to work getting our 2 canopy’s (sitting/cooking area) set up off the back of our trucks. We unloaded the jam-packed vehicles and got our sleeping area set up. I noticed the sky was starting to get a little brighter. It was then I realized it was 6am and the sun was ready to make an appearance. We had literally been setting up all night. Not feeling as tired as we should, Scott and I climbed into Hotel Tacoma (his truck has a camper shell and he created a loft area complete with futon mattress to sleep on). We couldn’t believe the great luck we had of getting into the festival without any wait and having such an ideal spot. I hopped back on the Roo’ Facebook site and the people on the interstate were still sitting there, 6.5 hours after they had turned off their cars to wait. We listened to happy festival goers scream out Bonna-Roo as we drifted off to sleep, the sun rising above us.

Thursday morning came quick as we could hear people milling about. The sun was overhead and we already could tell it was going to be a warm day. We made a great breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and juice, and headed to CenterRoo, the hub for all of the Roo’ activities. A few bands were taking their place on stage as we walked the various vendor booths. We scored some decent loot from the vendors and were super happy with the Ben & Jerry’s tent! We soaked in the Bonnaroo atmosphere as music drifted through the air, the hot Tennessee sun beating down on us as hippies of all ages, shapes, and sizes lay in the grass enjoying the moment.

We made our way back to our camping spot and started cooking up a dinner of burgers, potatoes, and fresh grilled squash and zucchini. Scott even whipped up one of his amazing peach cobblers. We couldn’t have had a better dinner. After spending the day in the heat of the sun, we walked up to the water troughs that dispense the iciest sulfur filled water you could imagine. In my rain boots and bikini, I had Scott assist in pouring ice cold buckets of rotten egg smelling water over my head as I shampooed and conditioned. By the time my “shower” was over, my body temp had plummeted a good 15 degrees and I smelled like a rotten pomegranate. But, I felt amazing! While it may be weird for some couples to help one another bathe in the middle of a field with stinky water while wearing rain boots, I think Scott secretly enjoyed it.

Rhea and Greg ventured over to our camping spot after the sun had set. I think they were impressed with our setup, especially the window AC unit with 2 dryer vents coming off of it to pump cold air into both Scott and Kenneth’s truck beds. You didn’t expect us to sleep without AC did you? They stuck around for a few games of “slap the bag” and to discuss which artists we planned on seeing over the next few days. We all made it to bed that evening before the sun decided to come up again.

Friday! Today the music begins!! After another great breakfast, we packed our bags and made the 10 minute trek to CenterRoo. We took a spot under “This Tent” and sat down to listen to Jay Electonica. Much to our disappointment, he forgot that he was there to sing and decided to speak about the government planning the attacks on September 11, and that the government also flooded the levies in New Orleans. We could not pack up our blankets and head to another tent fast enough. We were happy to arrive at “The Other Tent” and listen to the sweet sounds of Edward Shape & the Magnetic Zeros. They played to the crowd and we were all pleased with what we heard. Just as they finished, we made our way to “Which Stage” to catch some of Unphrey’s McGee before stopping to listen to Damian Marley & Nas on the way back to camp. There is just something about reggae that I really enjoy.

Following last night’s routine, we cooked another great dinner, took frigid showers and headed back into the stage area for more music. We stopped long enough to listen to a little bit Tenacious D. He sounded pretty good, but he looked rough as can be! Not sure if he was camping and bathing in sulfur water like we were, but he sure looked it! I’ll have to admit I didn’t mind leaving Tenacious D and heading to Tori Amos. I had never seen her live and she didn’t disappoint. She is a phenomenal performer, playing the piano like crazy with one hand while holding her microphone with her other. I’m not sure the boys were as excited to watch and listen to Tori as I was, but they let me have my moment and I loved every second. She played almost all songs I knew and I couldn’t get over how beautiful her red hair was! Even in the humidity!

It wouldn’t be a trip to Bonnaroo without listening to Les Claypool, which is exactly what we did next. His trippy music could be the soundtrack to the weekend. A random girl came up to Michelle and asked her if she could lie on her blanket. Michelle, not fond of the idea of a random fairly dirty looking girl laying on her blanket, decided we had enough Les and headed to hear Michael Franti & Spearhead. The sky was black against the lit Ferris wheel that spun around in a mix of bright erratically blinking lights.

The headliner for the night was Kings of Leon. While they are a GREAT radio band, their stage performance was less than stellar. The great thing was their music sounded great, just like on their cd. In between songs, there were often pauses in which one of the guys would just say, “Hey, thanks everyone.” Then they’d go into another song. I was very happy to listen to them, but if I had to pay just to see them again, I’d probably just rather sit on our back deck at home with my Ipod. They played all their hits and I didn’t mind singing along and swaying under the stars to Closer.

There was a mad dash after KOL performed to “Which Stage” to see The Flaming Lips. Scott and I decided to call it a night and break our pattern by being in bed by midnight. Walking back to camp late at night is a treat. One must use the light of the moon to avoid stepping on bodies, tripping on tent posts, and avoiding mud bogs. We were successful at all three.

Saturday! Another warm day greeted us as we popped out from under our cool love nest of a camper shell. I definitely had gotten used to the guys whipping up a delicious breakfast. That morning, we learned using the sulfur water to make orange juice was not a good idea. It turned out tasting like rotten egg juice with a twist of orange. After breakfast, we found a great shaded spot under a large tree to sit and listen to the hypnotic voice of Norah Jones. Song after song she crooned my favorites and I couldn’t have been happier under that shade tree. She performed in a way that had me clinging to each note.

For dinner the boys cooked up steak. We may have been the only group at Bonnaroo out of 80,000 people enjoying a steak dinner. After rinsing the heat off our bodies, we headed back into the festival area for our final night of music. We jumped from Weezer to Jeff Beck to John Prine. My biggest disappointment was missing Jeff Beck play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Thank God for YouTube!

As the sun was slipping below the horizon, we watched Stevie Wonder take his place at his piano and belt out songs like “Signed Sealed Delivered,” “Superstition,” and “Higher Ground.” I was surprised by how many Stevie songs I knew! He was lively and kept the small group of 80,000 on their feet. As the show came to an end, we settled down on our blanket to wait for Jay-Z to take his spot. We may have dozed off only to jump up with a start an hour later as Jay-Z brought the crowd roaring back to their feet.

He went through all his best songs from “Empire State of Mind,” “Forever Young,” “Big Pimpin,” “99 Problems,” and a ton of others. I’m not even a Jay-Z fan, but the man is an entertainer. Dare I say he was the best “entertainer” of the entire weekend? He talked to the audience and continually thanked them for welcoming him to the big party in the middle of the field. He genuinely seemed appreciative and continued to tell the stage crew to bring all the lights up so he could “see everyone out there.” As his set wrapped up, fireworks were set off from the hill next to the stage. It was the perfect way to end the night.

As the sun came up Sunday morning, we tore down camp. We heard the music we had come to hear. Despite the sweltering heat of the weekend, we escaped any sun burn and heat stroke. We relished our time in the icy sulfur water and sitting under shade trees. This wasn’t the best “music” set we had heard in our times at Bonnaroo, but it was definitely an enjoyable time.

A few fun thoughts on our time at Bonnaroo;

-We were greeted by a life-size cardboard cutout of Larry Bird every time we approached our camp site.

-If you wear a flowy dress, it’s not hard to slip a flask or two past security.

-If you’re a girl and your camping, don’t leave home without your Lady J. (google it)

-The burritos that sold for $10 each were worth it.

-Kenneth once washed his muddy feet off in the wash basin of one of the food vendors. We don’t think they noticed.

-Don’t be in a port-a-potty when a helicopter takes off.

-Don’t set your tent up behind a port-a-potty.

-Helicopters blow up enough wind when they take off that they will knock port-a-potties over.

-Rotten egg smell fades over time, but the memories of Bonnaroo do not.

Until next year…

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Viva Las Vegas!!

Many years ago, probably back in the day when my sister thought I’d never settle down and marry, she promised to take me to Vegas before I said “I Do,” for a girl’s getaway.

As the wedding date got closer, Rhea realized the wedding was really going to happen and the promise she made all those years ago needed to be fulfilled. She set a date, bought plane tickets, and booked a room at the Bellagio. Mom, Rhea and I started making plans of fun things to do in “Sin City.”

We excitedly packed our bags the night before. Sparkly shirts, high heels, and party dresses filled our suitcase. Funny how getting up at 4:30am to fly to Vegas is easier than getting up at 7am to go to work. With iced coffee in hand, we boarded our plane. Dad later admitted to mom that he wished he would have been invited. While I love traveling with my poppa and he’s usually invited to every event I attend, sometimes a girl just needs some “girl time.” This was one of those time!!

The flight over the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead was beautiful!!! It’s amazing how the rock can vary in areas from blood red, to pale yellow, to dirt brown. The water was blue as could be and after sitting in a stuffy plane for a few hours, I daydreamed about parachuting out of the plane into the sparkling waters below.

Seeing my luggage on the conveyor belt at the destination airport always brings happiness to me like nothing else. As we stepped out of the airport, we were greeted by the warm, dry climate of Vegas. It was welcomed after the muggy weather we’d had in So. Indiana. I love that there is a line of taxi’s just waiting to whisk passengers away to the nearby strip. I also like making conversation with the drivers. They always have interesting stories and good advice on things to see and do.

The strip had changed a lot in the 5 years it had been since my last visit. Buildings were taller, lights were brighter, and everything seemed a bit more crowded. Walking into the Bellagio was truly walking into an oasis in the middle of the desert. The ceiling of glass flowers in the lobby were as colorful as the real flowers in the botanical gardens located off of the lobby. The front desk clerk was more than helpful, welcoming us and directing us to the concierge for tickets to events and other helpful information.
Ceiling in the lobby of Bellagio
The view from our room was of the multitude of pools we could cool off in. We could also see the mountains in the distance. These mountains are so different then the mountains in the Teton, but they are defiantly beautiful in their own way. We quickly cleaned up, changed clothes, and headed out to explore. Before we headed out that night, my sweet girls surprised me with a few bachelorette goodies! Naturally I donned the veil and sash so everyone would know the life altering leap I was about to take.

We secured tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show “O,” located right in our hotel. I was surprised that on this random Thursday night, the show was sold out. To think about all the shows that are offered on the strip and all the people that come through Vegas, for this show to be sold out tonight and throughout the weekend, that’s a ton of people seeing shows. Maybe the recession really is disappearing into the horizon?

The shows stage is a grate-like platform that drops to create a pool effect on the stage, or rises to make the water completely disappear. The acrobats, synchronized swimmers, and all the other performers create quite an impressive show. It’s almost dream like as horses soar through the air and divers tumble thru the sky. We were happy we chose this show.

That night we were whisked into The Bank, one of the newer clubs on the strip, by men dressed in suits. I imagine it is an ideal job for younger guys; dress up in a suit, and pull as many attractive females into this club you possible can. The club is located in the Bellagio which was quite convenient for us. If you are looking for a way to gain a lot of attention from the male population, put a veil on your head. It amazed me that guys would come over and strike up a conversation (flirt) with a girl that is clearly about to get married. Naturally I was nice to them, but also made it quite clear that I was “happily” about to get married. I didn’t mind that they wanted to supply us with beverages.

My feet could only handle my heels until about 2am-ish. As we made our way back into our room, we were greeted with a box of chocolate truffles. A card from the Bellagio read, “Thank you for spending your special time with us!” Nothing like a few truffles as a late night/early morning snack.
Momma and I visiting the flamingos

The next day, we explored the strip, popping into the Flamingo to see the birds and walk through their gardens. After a quick stop for breakfast sandwiches and some of the best iced coffee ever, we boarded the local bus and headed to the outlet malls. The shopping was nothing short of phenomenal. The rest of the evening Rhea and I grabbed a couple lounge chairs by the pool and soaked in the Vegas sun.

That evening, I was greeted with another bag of wedding-related goodies. Pinning my veil into my hair, we headed to Plant Hollywood to watch Tony & Tina’s wedding. No, it wasn’t really a wedding, but a show that is very interactive with the crowd. The entire show is the wedding and reception that we were a guest at. We were able to meet the wedding party and the ex-boyfriend of the “bride” was at our table. The cast was quite humorous and the food was decent. We even got wedding cake as dessert! There were toasts and dancing and all the rest of the drama that usually happens at wedding receptions.

Tony & Tina's wedding

We walked the strip after the show, stopping to watch the pirate show at Treasure Island, the volcano at the Mirage, and the water show outside our hotel. That night as we entered our hotel room, we were greeted by a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. They were the largest, best tasting chocolate covered strawberries I have EVER eaten. They were from that hot future husband of mine. It was such a sweet and thoughtful gesture. Those strawberries were gone within minutes.

Saturday morning brought a trip to the spa. Nothing says relaxing like a trip to the spa. I was greeted with a plush white robe and slippers. I grabbed an apple and curled up on one of the plush couches. It’s the kind of plush that you basically disappear into a pile of pillows once you sit down. I sipped my bottled water and flipped through a magazine while I waited for my massage therapist to come find me.

The massage was excellent. It was a fusion massage which combined using heated stones and heated oils. I fought sleep and she rubbed away any stress that may have been hiding out in my body. I didn’t want to sleep and miss a minute of what she was doing!

After the massage I took a dip in the hot tub than immersed myself into the cool pool. It felt amazing and my body welcomed the hot and cold mixture. A friend that lives in Vegas, Stephanie, then met me by the pool for some poolside girl talk. It was so nice to catch up with her and hear about the exciting things going on in her life. It had been about a year since I last saw her, so we had a lot to talk about! Laying poolside always makes girl talk even better!

That evening, Stephanie joined us for dinner at Tao. It was kind of nice having her car there so she drove us down the strip to Tao. The food was AMAZING and the place was packed!!! As we walked in, we walked past these rows of large white tubs filled with water and rose petals. I wanted to hop in one and splash around, but didn’t feel it would be appropriate.

After dinner, we ventured to Pure located in Ceasars Palace for a little nightlife fun. There was a very long line that we didn’t feel like waiting in. Rhea convinced me that I could get the bouncer to let us in without waiting in the line of 200+ people. Maybe it was the devil horns we were wearing or the red feather boas draped around our neck, or maybe I’m a good sweet talker? Either way, he lifted the velvet rope and let us in. Thank goodness because I would have hated being shot down in front of a crowd.

The morning came too quickly and before I knew it, we were back on a plane flying home. I boarded my plane, wearing my white tank that says “Bride” in sparkly little diamonds, with fun memories in my brain and sleepiness in my eyes. It was an absolutely fun-packed weekend. We couldn’t have squeezed in 1 more event or activity if we had tried.

A few moments that will live forever in our minds;

-$14 Gellato & very yummy hotdogs

-Very friendly/congratulatory people

-Multiple conversations with fellow Brides-To-Be

-Guys with thick accents talking about his previous Vegas conquests (ick)

-Forgotten purses

-Mentioning your about to get married will get you into any club you want

-The “situation”

-Nick and his texts

-Chocolate truffles, chocolate strawberries, and more chocolate truffles!

-Shopping shopping and more shopping!!

Thank you Rhea for a fabulous time in Vegas!!! It was a great