Another Bonnaroo is in the bag, I’ve made it home safe after driving the approximately 2,000 miles roundtrip, and I’m ready to start blogging about this year’s festival in as much detail as possible while the memories are still fresh. I’m hoping to publish one post a week for each day of Bonnaroo starting from the day we left home to the day we got back, similar to how I outlined my experiences at Bonnaroo last year. My goal is to provide tips, hints, and advice from my four years of experience attending Tennessee’s premier music festival, while also showing off some of the photos/footage I was able to capture during my time on the farm. In case you missed it, I’ve already posted about some of the preparation that I went through before shipping off a week and a half ago. Without further adieu, this is what happened during my road trip down to Manchester, TN.
As my fourth Bonnaroo, this year was supposed to run as smooth as butter. My girlfriend and I planned on reaching Tennessee around Tuesday afternoon, giving us enough time to relax in a nearby town, eat at our favorite local restaurant, and rest up for move-in day. Little did I know just how much rest we would need.
Just like last year, we stopped in New York to visit family before continuing on our way down the East Coast of the United States towards the land of country music and whiskey. The road was actually very kind to us on the trip down. We managed to sleep the night in Pennslyvania before making our way through Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia.
Unlike 2018, however, this time we came prepared. One of my main pre-Roo projects was to outfit my KIA Sedona with a mattress, curtains, and a propane stove, as well as my normal Bonnaroo luggage. The job was a bit shabbier than I had intended it to be, but at the end of the day, we found a way to cheaply and safely sleep in our vehicle.
In terms of lessons learned, I’d say I could have spent a bit more time trimming and sowing the curtains so that they were a bit easier to handle and we could have put a larger mattress in the back for added space and comfort. Since we stored most of our camping gear underneath the bed, the design of the back of the van did make it rather difficult to maneuver within the vehicle and access all of the items we had stored without stepping out. That being said, the restriction to have to get out of bed to grab a drink or snack was only ever an issue outside of the festival itself and could be easily fixed if we attempt a similar setup on a different road trip.
A windshield cover helped keep the van cool during the day and provide additional privacy. For the back window, we managed to cover it with a combination of spare pillows and a tarp. Finally, we took a small blanket and wrapped it around the headrests of the driver’s and passenger’s seats, obscuring the view from either of the front windows into the back of the vehicle. Cracking a few windows and hanging a rechargeable fan from the ceiling helped keep cool air circulating. Once everything was set up, we had what amounted to a cute capsule hotel in the back of our van.
Although I know a lot of people who tag team their way through the trip nonstop, I would always suggest that you get a good night’s rest whenever driving long distances. If you have enough drivers to make it safely without taking a break, go for it, but I always air on the side of comfort, safety, and relaxation when given the opportunity. There are enough rest areas and Walmart parking lots down Route 81 to stop and get a few Z’s in before getting back on the road.
Tom’s Travel Tips
- Pack Light: For the sake of my own anxiety, I always air on the side of packing light and getting whatever else I need either on the road or once I arrive at my destination. We made sure to pack plenty of beverages, snacks, and toiletry supplies, but left our cooler empty and waited to purchase the lion’s share of our other pantry items when we stopped at the Walmart in Manchester.
- Bring a Friend: Even if you prefer driving (like I do), it’s always good to bring a friend along for a long road trip. Not only will you appreciate the company, but it helps to have an extra person handy if you need someone to take over driving or if you need prefer to let someone else navigate.
- Be Flexible: No road trip (or any kind of trip for that matter) will go perfectly according to plan. You need to make sure that you have the flexibility to adjust your plans if something comes up, whether that be by packing for redundancy or preparing yourself mentally to tackle any obstacle that may cross your path. Once you embrace going with the flow, everything else will work out just fine.
- Share Your Location: Big Brother may be an unfortunate reality of our times, but it doesn’t come without its own set of perks. Google Maps allows you to share your GPS location with others, making it easy for a third party to watch over your progress and provide assistance remotely if need be. It even tracks the battery life on your phone.
- Drive Safe: If you’re planning on driving down South to visit Bonnaroo, please drive safe. Not only are the roads packed with tractor trailer trucks and other road trippers, but the local police are looking for any reason to pull over unsuspecting festival goers on their way to the farm. Don’t give them any reason to harass you. Staying safe is the easiest way to ensure a stress-free trip.
We fully intended our trip down to Tennessee to be as uneventful as possible, and I think we successfully accomplished that at least. It wasn’t until we arrived that things started to get hairy. Stay tuned next week when I cover how the move-in day went, how to prepare for the worst, and what to do when the worst somehow gets even more tedious and frustrating.