Getting There is None of the Fun
The emotions experienced in getting to Bonnaroo compare favorably with many other notable life transitions, like your first root canal, your first "full" physical exam after you turn 40, and the first time a woman rips your heart out and stomps it flat on the floor. It's not getting to the festival that's so tough; it's what happens after you get there that causes strokes, high blood pressure, and screaming fits of rage.
First of all, the organizers of this event decided that in order to improve traffic flow, they would have two entrances, one on either side of the campground. This sounds wonderful, except that on the opening morning, they only used one entrance!
I asked a traffic control person why they were sending us all the way to the other side of the campground, and got an answer I was to hear over and over again throughout the weekend;
'I don’t know, that's just what they told me to do."
Now, it's bad enough that they only have one entrance open, but for some reason, they decided to fill the campsites from back to front. So, by virtue of being early to Bonnaroo, I'm camping just about as far from the venue as possible.
But the fun doesn’t stop there, no sir. As you first enter the campground, they break the line of traffic up into about 15 lanes for inspection. You see, Bonnaroo has a lot of very strict rules about what they allow on site and what they don't. Those rules are spelled out in multiple places on their website, and include limits on how much alcohol each person may bring in with them. Obviously, in order to enforce these rules, they have to inspect every vehicle that comes in the gate.
Here’s where the insanity begins. How are you going to inspect a fully loaded and packed up truck, car or RV without causing a traffic snarl of epic proportions? Answer: You can't. So the folks at Bonnaroo have come up with a unique solution. They divide a single lane of traffic into about 15 and route them to 15 inspection stations. After you pass through the inspection, they recombine these 15 lanes of traffic back into one. Of course, there are no lane markings, so what happens is a free for all that makes a demolition derby look like a Sunday drive in the park. Here’s the capper. After creating this monstrous traffic snarl, the inspection consisted of a single question.
"Do you have any glass containers or weapons in your truck?"
"Does an 8 pound sledge and a crowbar count?"
"Then no, I don’t."
"Okay, off you go."
No, I’m not kidding.
After passing through this rigorous inspection process, and after weaving my way back into single file, I drove the length of the campground out to the back 40 where three teenage kids guided me to my spot in paradise, a 10 square foot plot of overgrown weeds and space to park my truck. I actually caught a break on this one. I'm at the end of a row, so if I have an emergency and have to leave, I can get out. The folks in the interior are not so lucky. They can't leave until the people around them leave which should make Monday a very interesting day.
Planning and Arrival Tips
- Come early, come late, it doesn’t seem to matter much as far as the wait goes.
- There are very specific rules on what you can and can’t bring with you and the type of shelters you can use. They are available well in advance of the event. Ignore them.
- You will have a very limited amount of space to set up your campsite, roughly 100 square feet plus your vehicle. Plan accordingly.
- Prices are high as you might expect. Make sure to bring everything you need.
- Bring extra ice.
- Plan on drinking roughly a gallon of fluids a day. This does not include alcohol
- Bring your own toilet paper.
- Showers are $10. A solar shower from WalMart is $6. You do the math.
- You will want to take a shower.
- Your neighbors will want you to take a shower.
- The three most vital things to bring besides lots of water are
- A hat
- A hat
- Traffic getting into the site is a nightmare so make sure you have plenty of gas to get in, and back out again.
- Cell phone service is available, but spotty. Encourage your family to send text messages instead. They get through easier.