Here's how it all played out for Jerrad and Arielle:

Bonnaroo 2009 - The Beginning of the End - Act 2, and, The End. Or "Tomorrow Never Dies"

When I last left you, it was Sunday night, and we were on our way south on I-75 in Georgia, after having a close call with a Georgia state trooper. “Close call” meaning “almost killing him”.

Around 11:30pm, in Macon, GA, the car did something funny. The RPMs suddenly dropped down to under 1k, lights flickered on the dash, and then it all kicked back in again. A few moments later, the same thing. I pulled off on the next exit, and when we came to a stop, the car stalled out. I was able to crank it back up far enough to get us into a gas station. We needed gas anyways, so we figured maybe filling up might help. After adding the gas, I drove the car up and down the road in front of the gas station, but there was no change in performance. I pulled into a Waffle House parking lot, and we started making calls to our respective parents.

Arielle’s father is a mechanic, and after explaining what was wrong, he suggested a few things to check… oil level, battery and spark plug connections, any disconnected hoses or belts, frayed wires, anything. From where I was, everything looked normal. We were 400 miles from home, and needed to get back home. Since a 400 mile tow was monetarily out of the question, her father suggested using their AAA membership. A valid solution, except for one small problem. Since I work for AAA, I knew it was going to become a roadblock for us….piggybacking.

You see, if you have a AAA Plus membership, you get 4 service calls or “entitlements” per membership year. Lockouts, jumpstarts, and tows are each entitlements. Plus members get up to 100 miles of free towing per service call. So, with 8 entitlements between both of our memberships, you’d figure that we’d be able to get home, right? Nope, not so simple. You see, AAA policy dictates that one entitlement is to be used per breakdown. So even if you have 4 entitlements, you cant use all 4 back to back to tow 400 miles. You have to wait one day to use the next tow. Even if you are over 400 miles away from home. We very well couldn’t stay on the road another few days, so I called the dispatch center supervisor directly in the Tampa Bay call center. I explained our situation, and she verified my fears… no, we would not be able to get back-to-back-to-back tows from Macon to FL. However, she said that we were in the AAA Nashville call center’s area, and they might be able to do something for us, but no guarantees. Once on the line with the Nashville supervisor Colleen, I explained the desperation of our situation…and defying policy, agreed to set us up two 100 mile tows over both of our memberships… something she could very well get in trouble for, touting karma as her excuse for helping us. She setup our first call which would drop us off at Tifton, GA…and gave me her direct line to setup the next service call once we got to Tifton.

Less than 30 minutes later, Jason with Ackerman Wrecker Service showed up. We crammed ourselves into the smallish cab of his flatbed. He was extremely nice and professional, even let me smoke in his truck when he wasn’t a smoker himself. Up to this point, Arielle was a bit hysterical and delirious, but his smooth southern drawl lulled her down… regaling us with tales of his antique car collection, crazy things that happened to him on the job, and sympathizing with our plight. He also championed capital punishment, which (in his words) he would “most definitely tape it on the pay-per-view if’n they’d show it.” We made it to Tifton in record time, about 2 am Monday morning. He cut us loose and wished us luck, now in a parking lot of a gas station in Tifton, GA…which Jason said was very rural but was “The Cleanest City in Georgia”. Not like Macon, he said. Macon had too many blacks. BTW, Jason was a little bit racist. Overall very nice and understanding… but the “too many blacks” comment kind of threw Arielle and I for a loop.

Once in Tifton, I placed the call to Colleen and she advised that since we were in such a rural area, it might take longer to find someone to do such a long tow at this time of night, as the drivers are usually reserved for accident cleanup by the local law enforcement. Also, that the tow would put us just inside the jurisdiction of the AAA Heathrow call center, and at that point she could not help us anymore or guarantee that trying for another tow would work. She urged us to try, though…bless her. About 30 minutes later, I got a call from Ms. Colleen (no relation to the AAA Colleen that had been helping us) from Old Time Towing and Recovery, and said she would with us in a few minutes.

When the flatbed arrived, it was considerably bigger than the last one we rode in…extended cab and everything. But out of driver’s side popped a tiny, elderly woman. Ms Colleen. She was 65 years old, and started to load the SUV onto the flatbed with the speed and accuracy only a few decades of repetition could explain. Once on our way, we absolutely fell in love with Ms Colleen. We totally felt like her grandchildren. She told us all about how she got started in her 26 year career in the towing business…through the fallout of her horribly failed marriage to an alcoholic and meddling of his conniving daughters. She told us the secret to making the best peach ice cream. She told us about her 4 children and 14 grandchildren, her personal faith in Jesus Christ, and all kinds love and loss that she’s experience over her life and weathered career. Her son married a “goddamned yankee” from New York, and said her grandchildren from that union were so warped by a lack of any real southern magic, that they never knew that corn came on a cob, or that you could fry chicken, or that French fries came from potatoes. “Can you even imagine? Children not knowing that corn came on a cob?” she said.

Then, out of the blue, she told us a horrible story about how an old friend of hers lost her daughter and 3 of 4 grandchildren. Apparently, her friend’s daughter was dating the local elementary school PE coach, from the school all 4 of her children attended. The relationship soured, and she tried to break up with him. So, he broke into the house at night, and slit the throats of her children while they slept…then beat, raped, and slit the throat of the mother. Only one small child lived through the ordeal…playing dead with a slashed throat and stumbling out of the house in the middle of the night for help once the monster had gone. “If she didn’t have the love of Jesus on her side, Lord knows what would’ve happened to her” – as Ms. Colleen put it. Just a weird, macabre story to stick in with all the talk of babies and cobbler recipes.

We loved Ms Colleen to death… but the ebb of the southern racist tide was also prevalent with her. “It’s not that I don’t like the blacks… I just can’t understand why they always want to kill each other, is all. I mean, my CPA is black and I love him to death! He is so damned funny.” She told us that there are certain “bad” neighborhoods that she wouldn’t go to anymore, after being shot at once in a “black night club’s” parking lot. “They were all out there, carrying on something awful.” There was a tinge of pity in her voice, like she was talking about some kind of caged animals. Such is the deep south…sigh. I’ve had much experience with this with my own family...it’s how they were raised, with no conflicting viewpoints. Inescapable. Despite this, Ms. Colleen was a wonderful, caring person. Her bigotry was cute in a quaint, antiquated kind of way. Never uttered the “N” word…just the tone which she spoke about “the blacks” was filled with a “they just don’t know any better” kind of tone.

Once Ms. Colleen dropped us off at the Shell station in White Springs, FL we were very tired, stinky, and considerably cranky. Now 5am, I attempted to place another service call with AAA. I placed the call no problem, but was soon called back by the dispatcher from Heathrow – they were onto us. They saw that we were piggybacking, and could not approve another 100 mile tow…without expressed approval from another call center’s supervisor. So, I called back to the Tampa Bay service center supervisor, explained what was going on, and she advised that she would call around and call me back. About 2 hours later, at 7:30 am, I received a call from MY boss from tech support… apparently there was an email going around concerning my situation, and what had already transpired. AAA was not too pleased that I had used my detailed knowledge of our dispatch systems to piggyback through the south on AAA’s dime, but, that considering the situation, the damage wasn’t as severe as without it. I apologized, and offered any reparations that might help… docking my pay etc. He explained that AAA would tow us again, provided it was to a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, and provided we got the repairs done there…the closest being Jim’s Auto Service in Lake City, FL…13 miles away. As Arielle was in hysterics over why we couldn’t be towed anymore (despite my explanation), I called her father to relay the news. He agreed to have it towed there for repairs. AAA put in the call, and we waited. At about 9am, our new driver showed up to take us too our “final” destination. His name escapes me now… but I remember that he was a “full-time firefighter, part-time tow truck driver”…and once we excited barked our story up to that point, he got a little nervous that our bad luck would spread to him. Like, genuinely nervous… looking back, it was kind of funny.

We pulled into Jim’s in Lake City at about 9am. They were obviously very busy, but the driver made sure that they would be able to at least look at our vehicle before he dropped it in their lot. Once satisfied, he left without saying goodbye… possibly still afraid of being tainted by our sweaty evil. Lol.

Here we stayed for the remainder of the day. Jim’s was right out of a movie… a relatively small, homegrown repair shop, with the stereotypical, barely intelligible good ol’ boys behind the front desk…whistling their words between gaps of missing teeth. The office manager - a tall, tan woman named Ria – became our liaison between the mechanics and us. She would periodically come up and ask us questions about the nature of the problem…. They seemed to be having trouble nailing down the cause. But, we had air conditioning, a bathroom, wi-fi, and vending machines to utilize… a veritable oasis in this desert of shit that we waded into.

Arielle Skyped and napped and paced around the shop, obviously (and understandably) very upset at our luck…terrified of the retribution of her parents, who, at the time, were placing the blame on the condition of their vehicle on her (more likely our) shoulders. We were still 200 miles away from home, and no foreseeable ride in the future. I sat and closed my eyes until I was needed… not really sleeping, just shielding my parched eyes from the air. The last sleep I had was over 30 hours prior. My last shower was Friday morning. I was still wearing the clothes I had worn to the festival grounds Sunday, complete with rings of salt around the neck and armpits. My feet were swollen hamburger…the epic blisters that had formed on my toes over the course of the weekend were now all broken, and I was skating on their scabs everywhere I walked. My adrenaline reserves were reaching critical levels. I was not a happy camper. Wait, that’s actually funny, because we were camping. Meh, no it’s not. I was fucking ANGRY. I’m sure Arielle felt it, because she offered to get me some food. I wasn’t hungry, but agreed…Arielle needed to think about something else for a while and needed to complete something, even as menial as a food run. Where I was angry, Arielle was terrified. Her eyes were always on the brink of tears, even though the smiles.

Kind of funny, more creepy… When Arielle was determined to go on a food run, she asked the folks at Jim’s if there were any places for food in walking distance. Almost everyone, in unison, said “Subway, if you consider 3 miles ‘walking distance’”. One of the younger mechanics offered her a ride to Subway, in a seemingly nice gesture. Upon returning, however, Arielle described to me a scene reminiscent of Deliverance. He said she attempted to engage the young man in small talk, by apologizing for her smell, if he smelled her…to which he replied, leering “Naw, you smell just fine.” Then, “It’s good to have something fresh to look at for a change.” Yikes. Double yikes. The small town’s walls were obviously closing in on him. Luckily, he returned her unspoiled to deliver my sandwich, but it did little to ease Arielle’s newfound dread of sexual assault.

At 4:30pm, an hour before the shop closed, we got the bad news. They could not determine the problem…apparently whenever they test drove it with their diagnostic computer hooked up, it drove different every time, and kicked back a different error code every time…so there may be something wrong with the car’s computer. Only a Suzuki dealership might have the answers, as it was still under factory warranty. The closest Suzuki dealership was 40 miles away, and we had to call in yet another tow (not free this time - $5 a mile. Ouch….paid by Arielle’s dad), but we did not have to ride with. In the meantime, Arielle got in touch with her cousin Bradley who she had not seen or spoken to in over 2 years…he lived in Gainesville and was willing to give us a ride. Joy.

So, the shop closed, some of the people there hung out for a few minutes to pity us with small talk, but there we were… in front of a garage with almost all of our camping gear and bags, waiting for Bradley. He offered for us to stay the night, but I was not going to stay away from home any longer. I advised Arielle (in retrospect, probably not in the nicest way), that I would be damned if we weren’t going home tonight. She asked her cousin if he’d be willing to take us all the way, and he said he would for gas money. As we had no money left, Arielle’s father offered to pony it up once we got into town. At 7pm he arrived at the shop to collect our fragrant hides, and after a quick stop by Bradley’s apartment to let him scarf down the remainders of our Subway, we were on our way home. Finally. Bradley was very good about it all, and I am grateful to him forever, even if the first impression I left with him was a bit off-putting…there I was, a stranger and hulking, shitty, angry mess, asking for a ride 200 miles away. Bradley, you are an officer and a gentleman. Your generosity, wit, and positivity helped us more than you’ll ever know. I owe you much. You have but to ask.

I got home at 10:30pm. Gods be praised. The shower that I took was nothing short of orgasmic. The layers of filth and grime poured off of me in brown streaks down the drain. I was born anew. Shortly after, my wonderful and beautiful girlfriend Danielle came through the door, with much needed hugs, kisses, and more hugs. After a 40 hour perpetual state of nervousness, anger, frustration, and lack of sleep, my body commenced to shut down. I slept for over 12 hours. Huzzah.

I’ve had my road-trip-disaster fun for the next few years. But, still hasn’t turned me off from ever wanting to go to Bonnaroo again. I just don’t trust Suzukis now. And next time, we’ll be sure to pack a rape whistle.

Who’s down for Bonnaroo 2010? =)


Let’s have a (rough) breakdown –
6:30 pm Sunday – Left Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN
10:00 pm Sunday – Pulled over in downtown Atlanta, almost killed GA State Trooper
11:30 pm Sunday – First signs of fuckery in car in Macon, GA
12:30 am Monday – Picked up at Waffle House in Macon, GA, by Jason
2:00 am Monday – Dropped off in Tifton, GA at a Flash Foods gas station
2:45 am Monday – Picked up by Ms. Colleen in Tifton
4:30 am Monday – Dropped off at Shell Station in White Springs, FL
7:30 am Monday – Advised by my boss that we’d have to be towed to a AAA approved repair facility.
9:00 am Monday – Picked up in White Springs, FL
9:30 am Monday – Dropped at Jim’s in Lake City, FL
1:00 pm Monday – Arielle menaced with sexual assault by local yokel
4:30 pm Monday – Found out vehicle had to be towed to Suzuki dealership
5:00 pm Monday – Vehicle picked up to be taken to Suzuki of Newberry
5:30 pm Monday – Jim’s closes, we wait outside
7:00 pm Monday – Bradley saves us from Lake City
7:45 pm Monday – Arrive at Bradley’s in Gainesville, he eats our Subway
8:00 pm Monday – We leave Gainesville
10:30 pm Monday – I open the front door to my house in St. Petersburg, openly weep in the shower


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