My Six-Month Hippie Road Trip (Part 04)

Get Caught Up First   Part 01: Burning Flipside     Part 02: Wakarusa     Part 03: Bonnaroo

After the madness of Bonnaroo and all the honky-tonkin’ in downtown Nashville, we were planning to continue east and camp out for a week or two in the Great Smoky Mountains. That way we could give everyone a little time to refresh and recharge. After all, we had been raging it for a month straight already, drinking every day and never getting more than 20 or 30 hours of sleep in a week. Additionally, the first signs of tension aboard our hippie crew (at this point totaling eight) had begun to show, and it was obvious that we all needed a little break.

Leaving Nashville, we continued east on I-40 but honestly did not make it too far. About 40 miles east of Nashville we came upon Edgar Evins State Park, and decided to camp there for a few days of rest.

Picture this in your head: it’s a quiet yet sunny Tuesday afternoon, not much is going on, and the only sounds you can here are distant bird cries and the quiet sighs of the forest. Out of the 60 or so campgrounds, only a half-dozen are occupied, almost exclusively by families with young kids. Suddenly out of nowhere this rainbow-colored Grateful Dead-blasting arms-waving hippie bus comes cruising through the campgrounds at 5 MPH. Needless to say, it caught everyone’s attention. Everyone we passed stopped what they were doing and stared. And then we passed the one occupied campground without kids, just two adults. The bigger of the two was on the phone with a friend and as we passed by, I heard him say:

“Holy shit Dan, the Furthur bus just drove past! I could be tripping in a matter of minutes!”

After we had the bus squeezed into our campground we were finally able to start relaxing. The girls began making dinner while the guys cracked beers and busted out the guitars. After eating dinner and getting a few drinks in us I was able to convince a couple of the gang to come with me back down the hills, to investigate the guy whom had mistaken us for the Furthur bus (and yes, I am spelling Furthur right — if you don’t know what I mean, read more at the official Furthur web site).

We did look a little out of place... to say the least.

Just like us, these guys had their own generator to power all their external electronics. They had everything, including a blender (for margaritas) and microwave!

We ended up becoming friends instantly. Actually, I still chat with one of the guys occasionally, whenever I am in the part of the States. He owns his own restaurant. Anyway, we spent the next two days and nights relaxing in the woods with out new friends, just jammin’ music and takin’ it easy. It was a very nice change of pace from all the raging we had been doing. We were able to unwind and get back to nature!

But after two days in the woods our buddy Preston and two of his friends arrived to join us. For those of you that have read the three prior parts to this crazy hippie adventure, Preston is the guy who got the brown recluse spider bite at Wakarusa and I had to drive to the hospital. He joined us again at Bonnaroo. Now he had come and found us a third time for a specific reason: he wanted the Future bus to come with him to DexFest, a techno music festival just east of Knoxville.

Left to right: the Chris (aka Doc), Powell (aka πR8), myself (aka Box), and Preston

We talked it over and the group was mixed. Four wanted to move on to the Great Smoky Mountains and camp out as planned. The other four wanted to go to DexFest. We even debated separating and meeting up after, in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But in the end Ahry put his foot down and said, ‘I paid for most of the bus and the title is in my name. I am not leaving my baby, the bus is going to DexFest. Come if you want.’ And that was that. The next morning the Future bus pulled out behind Preston’s Lexus and we headed for DexFest.

And just in time too, because the mosquitoes were winning the war

We continued east, stopping in Knoxville for lunch, liquor, and supplies, and before long we were approaching Dandridge, Tennessee, home of the second annual DexFest. Little did we know what we were in for.

You see, despite being the second-oldest city in the entire state of Tennessee, the population of Dandridge is still only around 2,000. Downtown is one block, containing a visitor center (closed), pharmacy, and a realtor. The nearest bar is 15 minutes away, back on I-40. Bill’s Pit Stop has bragging rights as the only bar within a 30-mile radius.

Dandridge, Tennessee
Dandridge, Tennessee
Dandridge, Tennessee
Dandridge, Tennessee

Dandridge, Tennessee

A few of us starting drinking and playing pool here, while others were at the gas station on the other side of I-40 prepping the Future for another festival. This one was going to be different though. DexFest had been held for the first time just the year before, in 2009, in honor of this son Dex’s 18th birthday. Dex’s dad apparently owns half the town of Dandridge and has the cops in his pocket, so he was able to pull the necessary strings to get this festival going out of no where.

DexFest Cosmic Convergence

The first year there had been only about 600 people over two days, but that year it was a three-day event (Thu-Sat night at 6am… essentially Sunday morn) and attendance ending up reaching 2,500… although I should mention that probably 800 or so of those were people sneaking in rather than paying the exorbitant $100 ticket price. That led to a crackdown the last two days of the festival, and no one on the Future bus had bought tickets to DexFest except for Ahry and I. As we were the only two with endless funds, we dropped the other derelicts off a half-mile down the road and proceeded to the front gate.

Road Trip: DexFest
The view from VIP

At first they would not even let our bus in, but after a couple hours and a face-to-face chat with Dex’s dad we were given an awesome spot right on the edge of the road. But Ahry and I had to pay $250 each for VIP tickets. Whatever, we were in. And VIP came with lots of perks, like backstage access and free food / beer for the VIPs and performers.

The festival itself was a disaster though. The music wasn’t bad, but everyone there was “family,” there were no “custies” like at normal festivals.

What resulted was an obscene amount of free drugs and all sorts of people getting wasted beyond all recognition. Unmentionable stuff was going on all around, things I didn’t even know people still did. Oh there was even one camp that had brought eight industrial six 6-foot tall nitrous tanks with them — 7am Saturday morning and all you could hear was balloons being filled and people laughing… The cops did come in and take their tanks away about an hour later though.

Road Trip: DexFest

To top it off, a freak storm came through on Friday morning with 60mph winds. It decimated people’s camps but the real disaster was in the vendor section. The wind had caused one end of the 10×10 covering the corn dog stand to raise up, knocking over the vat of boiling oil. It set the ground on fire, despite the rain, as well as burned a large portion of the vendor’s body. An ambulance had to make its way all the way to the middle of the festival, which was in itself also a scene.

But the music never stopped. 24 hours a day of ground-pulsing electronic music. It was a little intense, and not necessarily in the good way. The crowd loved it though. Even the bands that played at 6am, people were out there rocking just as hard as if it had been 6pm.

And, as usual, the Future bus was an honorary extra stage. We even had some of the performers come over and play at the bus, such as 2 Fresh and Miggs. And we also met and became friends with Agobi Project.

Road Trip: DexFest
Road Trip: DexFest
Road Trip: DexFest

After DexFest we cruised over to Asheville, North Carolina and checked out the local music scene (as well as their beer). Definitely a nice music scene there. Not like Austin, of course, but still fun. We ended up relaxing there for a few days, just drinking beer and listening to music. Unfortunately for some reason I cannot find any pictures from there right now…

Following Asheville it was time to head north for Washington D.C. for the fourth of July, followed by the All Good Music Festival a few days later. But I’ll cover all of that in the next post: Chapter Five: We’ve Made It To The East Coast, Now Back To The West Coast // Featuring: Washington, D.C. & All Good Music Festival.

Road Trip? More Like Road Trippin'

  Part 3: CMT Country Music Festival & BonnarooPart 5: Washington DC & All Good  

  And For More Exciting Posts From My 4-Year RTW Adventure
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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

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