Monday, October 3, 2011

The Gathering of the Juggalos, Day 1

Wednesday, August 10th through Monday, August 15th, 2011
The 12th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos
Cave-in-Rock, IL

I wear a ring on my right hand that is engraved with the words "Live without hesitation." I decided a few years ago that I wanted to live while I was alive, and since then, I've tried to expand my horizons and experience stuff that I never would have considered before. So back in January, after I went to an ICP concert and got to mark that off my bucket list, I decided to push the envelope even farther. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, grab life by the horns and make my first visit to the one, the only, the Gathering of the Juggalos. It was going to be quite the step outside of my comfortable little box, but I felt that I was up to the challenge in more ways than one. Luckily, my friends Pamela and Nick had decided to go as well, so we'd all get to experience something new together!

In the months leading up to the Gathering, I accumulated any and every little thing that I could think of that we may need. I bought sunblock, bug spray, bandanas, flashlights, plastic silverware, mini fans, baby wipes, tons of non-refrigerated food, and loads of other stuff. My living room became the staging area for all my Gathering prep. I "test assembled" my huge tent in the spring just to make sure all the pieces were there, and even "test packed' my car to make sure all our stuff would fit. The only other trip I've taken that could measure up to the amount of prep I did was my trip to Japan. Except that this time, I wouldn't have the luxury of being near restaurants, stores or even running water!

The day before we left, I packed up all of my big items (the tent, cooler, chair, grill, my duffel bag of clothes, one tub of food and one tub of "stuff") then headed to Pamela and Nick's place to pack up their stuff. Nick helped me pack what we could, then we went to Pamela's work to show her our efforts. We actually ended up condensing one big tub and one big duffel bag of food all into the single tub, which saved a TON of space. With everything packed, the only thing left to do was sleep. Yeah right...I don't think any of us got much sleep that night!!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

On Wednesday morning, I got up around 5:30am, and after a shower and a final few moments of cramming stuff into the car, I left the house at 7:00am and made my way to Harris Teeter for some dry ice. We ended up with about 15 pounds worth, which didn't look like much, but was hopefully going to keep all of our stuff cold for a while. When I was done, I headed off toward Pamela and Nick, grabbing a quick breakfast at McDonalds along the way. Once I was there, we packed up the rest of their stuff, and once Pamela's mom arrived with her air bed, we were on our way. We were crammed into the car...and I mean seriously, seriously packed!


Pamela was in the front seat with two cases of water at her feet and a mound of stuff in her lap...


...while Nick was in the back seat with water at his feet and my cooler sitting in his lap! Poor guy! hahaha

As we hit the road, we got stopped by the longest light ever, then made a quick stop to top off the gas tank and for Pamela to pick up some smokes for the road. Once we were on our way, we cranked up the tunes, and made our first stop right as we got off the highway in Eddyville, KY. After we unwedged Pamela and Nick from the car, we topped off the tank one last time, then hunted for some Ziploc bags since that was the one thing we had neglected to pack. There weren't any at our gas station, so I ran across the street where I found a box of them. Once we were back on the road, it was a fairly straight shot up to Cave-in-Rock,IL. We only saw one cop, but I was extra, extra careful not to go even one mile over the speed limit for fear of getting stopped.

When we arrived at the Cave-in-Rock ferry, it was just leaving, but luckily we only had about three or four cars in front of us, so we knew we'd be on the next one out. All the people in front of and behind us were Juggalos...


...and we even spotted "615 LOC" tagged on a bench nearby...Lords of Chaos have struck again! hahaha


Pamela was mildly freaked out by the fact that we were about to go on a ferry, but some chain smoking helped calm her nerves! When the ferry was back, we all boarded, and it was a quick, pleasant float across to the other side. Once there, we drove out to where our directions took us, but didn't know which road was Lamb Road since we didn't see a sign. We followed a sign for Hog Rock, but after a few blocks, Nick said he didn't think we were going the right way. We turned around and went back to the main road to drive a little further, but ultimately decided that we'd gone the right way the first time. Eventually we found the correct way off into the wilderness.

Upon our arrival, we followed the car entrance, and bottomed out the car a few times as we went up the incredibly bumpy, incredibly dusty entrance road. I'm not sure how people with RVs get up that road!! I was just glad I'd fixed the shocks before the trip!

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At the top of the road, it opened up into a grassy field that was full of hundreds of cars full of Juggalos waiting to get into the campground! It was close to 1:00pm by this point, and we knew we'd be sitting for a long time at the rate the line was moving. We parked and walked around a little while, and moved the car forward any time there was an opening. Nick eventually decided to walk forward and find our buddy Moonshine since he'd texted that he was near the front of the line.

After some walking around, he came back and said that he'd found him, and that there were two shorter lines all the way at the front, if I would drive along the right side and pass everyone. It felt like cheating to do that, but once I was able to get all the way over to the right side, I slowly drove past everyone until I saw more cars in front of me. Once I got there, Moonshine flagged me to go even further to the right since there was another lane there. So I drove up again, and ended up four cars behind him. I'm not sure why people weren't utilizing all the lanes?? There were four lanes open, but the rightmost two lanes had almost no one in them while everyone else was cramming into the other two lanes. From the back of the line, you wouldn't know this since you couldn't see that far ahead, but the closer people definitely should have realized it. It's just like at Disney World, and how people will line up 20 deep at certain turnstiles while there is always the one turnstile with no line! I'm sure we easily bypassed 300 or more cars just by driving all the way up.

Once we were near the front, Pamela decided to sneak off into the woods for a bathroom break, and later came back to declare that it had been the best pee of her life! hahaha Eventhough we were so much closer, the line was still agonizingly slow. Each time they opened the line, they took four cars from each line. Eventually, we made it to the single line that was heading into the campground, only to round the corner and find that we were still probably half a mile from the entrance! Ugh! A million years later, when we finally got to the front of the line, we saw that each car was being searched to make sure there were no fireworks, weapons or glass inside the car. I'd made sure in advance that all of our alcohol was in plastic, and that I had nothing that would be considered a weapon. The people in front of us weren't so lucky though, and had to pour all of their whiskey into plastic bottles before they were let inside!

Once we were cleared for entry, we tried to follow the map as best we could. Dennis had said that the best place to camp was the "Haunted Forest" but we quickly realized that there was no such place! We did spot Haunted Haven though, so we assumed that that was what he meant. We found our way quickly to where we needed to be, but missed a turn and ended up driving up the road on the left side of Second Stage. After turning around, I backtracked one turn and made a right into the Haunted Haven. We drove, and it seemed like most of the spots were already taken. We passed a little cottage on the left, then came upon a cross street that turned to the left, that had a large empty area on the corner. Perfect! So I parked the car on the far end of the empty spot, then quickly dragged my cooler out to the corner so we could stake out the entire area.


Once we were parked, we started to get settled into our home for the weekend. We emptied out a lot of the trunk, and unrolled the tent. After a little trial and error with the tent poles, we managed to get the tent completely assembled within about 15 minutes.

Tada! Our three room condo for the weekend.

We gave Nick the job of hammering in the tent stakes, while Pamela and I set up the chairs, and unloaded our personal luggage. We had somehow ended up with a very inconvenient hole right in the middle of our campsite, and after all of us had almost fallen into it, we decided that that was a great place to set up the grill.

Once we got all our stuff arranged, Pamela and Nick started the daunting task of trying to inflate their air mattress with just the little manual pump I'd brought. They huffed and puffed, trying to blow it up for what seemed like a million years, but they were getting absolutely nowhere. After a while of just hanging around, snacking and relaxing down to vacation speed, Moonshine showed up for a bit. Luckily, he had an electric air bed pump that would run off the cigarette lighter in his truck, so he mercifully offered to blow up their bed for them. While he and Nick were gone attending to the mattress, Pamela and I just chilled, and I started to drink on some of my margarita that I'd brought.

Once Nick was back, complete with a fully inflated air mattress and one of their cases of beer, we decided to grab our drinks and take a walk around.

Pamela's first encounter with a port-a-potty!

We first found our way back to Second Stage, then kept going straight up a huge hill. Once we came down the other side of the hill, it opened up into a field containing the Bomb House and the wrestling stage.

Pamela and Nick at the wrestling stage


Following the path further, Lake Hepatitis was on the right, and Spazmatic and the food stalls were on the left. We walked a little further, then decided to scan the merch booth, which was unexpectedly open. I was very tipsy by this point, but I did manage to coherently ask if they had any sterling silver Hatchetmen, which they didn't. All the stuff seemed very expensive, which was a bummer since ultimately I'd have bought way more had prices been lower.

After a quick rest on a nearby park bench, we each took our photo with the big "Welcome to Shangri La" banner that was nearby, then headed back to the camp.

Me with the banner

Pamela with the banner

Nick with the banner

We were all pretty hungry since we hadn't eaten much all day, so it was definitely time to grill some burgers! During the drunken walk back, we passed someone in a van who was spinning out on the big hill, and a bunch of people, myself included, all pushed from behind and helped the van up the hill. Hooray teamwork! Once back at the camp, I threw some charcoal into the grill and got it going, while Pamela staked four of the tiki torches into the ground around the campsite so we could have some light. I'd gotten the kind of charcoal where you just light the little bag and it fires up all the coals, and it worked really, really well. Very glad I didn't have to mess with the lighter fluid I'd brought.

Tending to the grill while Pamela lights the torches

After a while, we threw the burgers on the grill, and enjoyed them with Pringles and a host of condiments pilfered from various restaurants in the months preceding the trip haha. After we'd each downed two burgers (we had no way to heat them back up, so we had to eat them right then or they wouldn't be good the next day!), Moonshine dropped back by for another visit. While he was there, I asked if he'd mind blowing up my mattress for me, and he grabbed it and took off with it! I was going to carry it up to his camp and back, but he insisted that I stay there, and he'd bring it back. That was so nice of him!


Once he was back with my mattress, I made up my bed, and it looked just like a little bedroom :-) Since we all wanted to get a good night of sleep, we ended up turning in at just after 11:00pm. It was only once I laid down that I realized how steep of a slope we were on. It was pretty much impossible to lay flat without rolling downhill to my left side, but it wasn't quite as noticeable when laying on my stomach. Surprisingly, I fell asleep quickly and slept very well.

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