In October 2011, my friend Bradleigh & I hopped in my station wagon and went to Virginia. We detoured to the Ohio side of Pennsylvania first, to spend an night with friends who were in college out there. Otherwise, normally, you'd just head straight down 81.
It's an eerie drive from outside of Pittsburgh to central Virginia - there are sections where the exits are 30 miles apart, those exits have no services, your cell phone has no reception, and you wonder if something happens out here how long it'll take to get help. If you take one of those exits, you can drive 15 miles in either direction and risk finding nothing.
For the last leg, you can wind down the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is closed in the winter, because it's twisty and steep, and you don't realize you're white-knuckling it until you're at the bottom.
We did eventually make it down to Roseland, VA, the location of a then medium-sized music festival called The Festy. We'd gone the year before, too, when it was comparatively tiny. Bunch of tents and pickups, in the middle of a coarsely brush-hogged field, tucked under the mountains, next to a little brewery. That year there were maybe 4 or 5 vendors. Things were quiet.
Well, this year it was medium-sized, and Bradleigh had volunteered in order to get in free. I'd reserved quiet camping, because sleeping is nice, but since she'd volunteered, they told us to pitch our tent in with the vendors - mostly food service, and a few other volunteers.
So we set up camp, and started cooking a sort of bastardized chicken curry to go with the sixer of Bell's Two-Hearted we'd picked up.
As the curry started to smell the way it should, another volunteer wandered over and commented that it smelled good. He didn't wander away. ENTER: Russell Gordon (not his real name, but what we dubbed him, because we hate the name Russell). Russell was from North Carolina, and didn't like the Avett Brothers. That was perhaps the first clue things were not going to go well.
Russell lurked, until we had no choice but to feed him. He was making me nervous, but I'm not going to withhold food from a hungry person. He chugged two of the Bell's, while making disparaging remarks about the taste. Oddly enough, he seemed to be okay with the curry. He made inquiry about our relationship statuses, no doubt hoping to have some sort of exotic lesbian festival experience, and when Bradleigh rather pointedly mentioned her husband, he quickly switched gears to berating her husband for letting her attend by herself.
By now I'd about had it, and we sternly packed up the cooler (although he was still lingering and looking mournfully at the beer) and put the fire out and were like "WE'RE GOING TO SLEEP NOW, RUSSELL, BYE". I don't think he left until after we were inside the tent.
Oh, but the party had not yet started. The vendors, a rowdy bunch working the festival circuit, were getting turnt. Someone opened up their truck doors and cranked the music up as high as it would go, there was a jug going around, and this went on until around 3 am, when I'm assuming either the jug or the truck battery got drained.
We weren't actually sleeping, even with ear-plugs, because there were people constantly getting too close to the tent. At one point, a wildly drunk shrimp & grits vendor (who had offered us a pull on the jug about 8 hours previously) tried to unzip the door. She kept saying "IS THIS MY HOME?", and then her shroomed-out man-friend steered her away. I don't know whose tent they ended up in.
At dawn, we crept out, pulled up stakes, picked the whole shebang up, bedding and mattresses still inside, and carried it down the road, still in our pajamas. We were directed to a quiet-camping spot, where we re-staked the tent.
As we went back to move the car, we saw Russell poking his head haggardly out of his tent. We avoided eye contact, and hoped he wasn't paying attention to where we were moving. We saw him a few more times over the weekend, but he had the good grace to look away.
As we rather shakily tried to unwind from this nightmare with coffee and breakfast, up rolled a mini-van, and out spilled a little girl who tried to put a spell on us with her fairy wand. It worked. This family we got parked next to, because of Russell, have turned out to be the best kind of friends, a friendship so good I'll have to write about it another time.
Russell, if you're reading this, I can't even grudge you the Bell's.