Fourth of July, Washington, D.C.
Our hippie bus had rolled into town the night before and, tired and unable to find a hotel — ehh, whom I kidding, we didn’t try that hard — we parked the bus on a residential side street just down the street from a church. Amazingly enough, we actually were not hassled by any law enforcement overnight.
It would have been nice if we had pre-booked a hotel room or two though, so that we could all get our weekly shower in… I’m only halfway kidding there — as with any hippie group, some of us were cleaner than others. I was pretty much the only one concerned with getting a daily shower in…so yeah, there was definitely the occasional moments when the bus might have smelled a little ripe. But that’s why they build school buses with all those windows. Only instead of returning from football practice, we were living out of the damn thing!
The next morning the atmosphere was festive. How could it not be, it was Independence Day in our nation’s capital! Even so, I did not take part in much of the celebrating; I didn’t even catch any of the parade. I have never been a parade person (well, with one sole exception: Carnival) so I had no interest in fighting the crowds.
But the fireworks that night were spectacular! I had never been to D.C. before, so it definitely made for one helluva first impression. Unfortunately we didn’t stick around long enough to actually see much of the place.
On the morning — err afternoon — of July 5th we were headed back south, and despite everyone being a little hungover the mood aboard the Future bus was one of the best it had been all summer. Why? Because the headlining act at the upcoming music festival was Furthur featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir (from the Grateful Dead).
Our hippie bus, our nicknames, our adventures, our whole entire summer had been based off something that occurred in the 1960s and was in integral part in the origin of the Grateful Dead. There is a lot more details to this story, but I’ll sum it up in a cpl quick paragraphs:
This Is The Stuff Of Movies…A Modern Legend!
In 1962 Ken Kesey published his first book, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, which was an instant bestseller and soon both a Broadway play and a film. Kesey was immediately heralded as America’s next great up-and-coming author. And while his second book also did well, in the mid-1960s while writing his third book he discovered LSD. What happened next is quite literally the stuff of movies.
Ken Kesey and his friends became some of the first hippies, a wild and rag-tag group (known to cut up American flags and stitch them together to make odd clothes) that became known as the Merry Pranksters. They drove all over San Francisco in their crazy-painted Furthur bus, hosting “acid test” parties in large public venues before and even after LSD was made illegal. A constant nuisance to the police, it was Ken Kesey and his friends that single-handedly started the mid-1960s San Francisco acid scene. And what band played at every one of the acid tests, from the first to the last? That’s right, the Grateful Dead.
But, the story goes one step further. Back then, the best acid around was known even all the way over in Europe as Owsley acid. Why? Because Owsley was the “scientist” manufacturing it. But besides being a hippie and one of the Merry Pranksters known as “Bear” — I know, talk about an interesting combination, right? — Owsley was also a sound technician. And for $10,000 he was buying enough raw LSD to manufacture two million $1 hits.
So what did he do with all that money? He asked the Grateful Dead if he could become their sound technician. And when they agreed he pumped all of his illicit funds into buying the newest and best equipment for the Dead, paying for their transportation costs and hotels, and making sure that they had everything they needed to make the best music they could — music that was a completely different style than any before it.
And there you have it my friends, that is how “acid rock” came to be. It — as well as the Grateful Dead themselves — really do owe it all to LSD and that great wave of consciousness/self-enlightenment that the drug inspired.
Yes, there was a lot more history and significance to the Future bus than I initially explained. We all even had our own nicknames a la Merry Prankster style. But no, we did not go around dosing people like they did back in the 1960s — hell, we were pulled over every other state. We wouldn’t even let hippies with warrants or unpaid fines hop on the bus.
All Good Music Festival was our pinnacle moment. There was no wrecking our excitement.
By this point we had been on the road since about two months, and a couple minor quarrels had recently begun surfacing on board. Our time on the road in such close and confined quarters had finally started to get the best of us — too bad we were on the opposite side of the continent. But all tension was forgotten as soon as we started heading to West Virginia for All Good.
This music festival was being held at Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, West Virgina, population 647. We showed up over 24 hours before they even opened the gates and cruised around town, planning our entrance strategy. You see, parking the bus at each festival was always a bit of an adventure. Most event officials do not want a bus in general camping but rather the RV section. But look at our hippie bus, we like to make noise, and the RV sections are always full of families and elders. So time and time again we had to break free from the road and cut through some areas we were not supposed to in order to find the ideal camping spot.
All Good was no different in that sense. What was different about it was this time we actually had people in golf carts chasing after the bus, and when we speed away from them by cutting down one of the crew-only roads behind one of the stages, they radioed ahead and actually alerted the crews ahead of us. We were finally stopped but a dozen hippies poured our and our camp was halfway set-up within a couple minutes, while a couple officials were still busy arguing with the driver. By that point, there was no moving the bus. The Future had won again 😉
On Saturday night featured the performance of the entire weekend’s main headlining act: Furthur featuring Phil & Bob. They closed down every other stage for their three-hour set, it was incredible! By this point the Future crew was very skilled at getting into the front of the pit for any show we wanted too. So, after we all stuck our hands in for the “circle of fun” we made our way to the main stage.
We were close enough to the stage to feel their sweat. If only we could have gotten a message to Phil and Bob, asked them to come see our Future bus… How awesome that would have been…
After Furthur, Bassnectar performed on a side stage as most of the crowds headed for the restrooms. For me, the rest of the weekend was a blur of partying.
The final night at All Good, anyone that was still raging it after the stages closed at midnight was doing it at the Future bus. Security had a couple golf carts parked about a quarter mile away in the distance. I walked over and talked with them for a few minutes, thanking them for letting us do our thing and become the “official after-hours main stage” and pump our music at 110dB.
The event staff in turn actually thanked us! Because of what we were doing, everyone still awake was in one location: the Future bus. They did not have to worry about driving around and patrolling the whole festival, they were free to park the golf cart, crack a beer, and listen to the rotating DJs rock the turntables. Yes, it truly was an epic moment on our summer music festival tour. We didn’t stop rocking until 7 or 8am Monday morning.
By sunrise though, it was obvious there had been a wild party. The place was decimated! Thousands of glowsticks were everywhere, as was a shit-ton of trash. But we did our part to clean up and then rolled out. I believe we made it all the way to Columbus, Ohio that night before getting a couple of hotel rooms and taking hot showers.
In closing, it has come time to cut this hippie road trip short. We spent the next month and a half slowly cruising back west to California. That time is filled with lots of KOA campgrounds and random hostels, with the obligatory sights / cities along the way: Chicago, Denver, Grand Canyon, Salt Lake City, Bonneville Salt Flats, Reno, etc.
None of those are as noteworthy or worth rambling on about, especially when they have all been done by millions already. Some could argue that maybe I did not even need to spend five posts droning on and on about hippies and music festivals. And sure, that may be true, but I have wanted to write this stuff down since it happened — before I get older and the details start to fade. Thank you for at least taking the time to read and to comment, I appreciate it.
This old adventure was fun but you should see the wild new adventures I’m getting myself into and my travel videos. Learn how to have more rewarding travel adventures with my HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides and monthly offbeat newsletter: