My friend Ryan had known for a while that he would be performing a song with Charlie Daniels during his concert at the fair. You know... "Devil Went Down To Georgia". Well Ryan wasn't gonna play for that song, but nonetheless, it's a cool gig. :)
It's about a 90 minute drive there, and I was planning to catch a ride with 3 other people who were leaving around 9am. Ryan was driving some other friends, leaving around 10am, but his car was full.
Well, somehow I slept through my alarm (maybe I never turned it on) and woke up around 9:40, immediately uttering the word "CRAP." I figured I'd either have to skip it or drive myself.
Fortunately as I was sitting at the computer I saw Ryan sign on... and it turned out they had room for me, so I took a quick shower and zipped on over there as fast as I could, although I ended up making them wait for me anyway. Good friends. :)
Well it turns out there was MORE than enough room because one of Ryan's friends wanted to drive too. If he hadn't we would've been squishing 3 people in the back seat of his Jimmy, which wouldn't be comfy for a 90-minute ride, so we thought 2 cars wasn't a bad idea. I could've driven too, but whatever. Ryan's friend "Rohde" said he needed the driving practice. So Rohde drove Cindi, and Ryan drove me and Jackie.
We got to the fair and at the gate somebody gave us two free tickets into the fair. Cool! We gave one to Ryan so he wouldn't have to pay the $8, being the guest performer and all, and also because he drove.
So we went to find the stage and get Ryan to his dressing room to drop off his stuff. But of course they wouldn't let us friends in with him, so we just walked around the fair a little to kill time. Ryan's family was there too and said they saw my 3 other friends I missed my ride with at 9am. :) (But we didn't end up finding them until after the concert. It's a huge fair, after all.)
About an hour before the concert, we got some food at some typical grill joint. Standing there drinking my lemonade, this weird drunken redneck 5 feet away says to me, "Hey guy, c'mover here." Riiiiight... So I took a step closer... I was well within hearing range. "Come on, closer." Uh, why, you gonna kill me or something? So I lean in cautiously... and then he goes on to tell me about how he just saw a guy offer a girl $500 to go home with him... "That's mo' than aw make in a week!" He also said a lot of other stuff but I couldn't make it out. I guess I wasn't drunk enough. Eventually my friends said "Let's go" and we left to go secure some seats at the concert.
With about 45 minutes to go before the concert starts, the good seats were already packed. We found some seats about 50-100 feet back from the stage and way off to the side. We were at the front of a section of seats that starts at the end of an aisle that comes up to us then turns out to the side... so instead of having seats in front of us we had a high-traffic area. I thought that might end up being a problem, but then people seemed to just decide to stand there because they couldn't find seats, and eventually people behind them were yelling at them to sit down so they could see, so it turned out good for us.
Then there were all these idiots who opened up these huge blue and yellow umbrellas that they got from the NYS Lottery booth or something. What the...!?!?! There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Ok, so maybe they're trying to shade the sun? Not a chance. One guy was holding the umbrella WAY UP HIGH so as to block the view of as many people as he could.... and since it was late afternoon the sun was coming in from the side and hitting his head and his partner's head anyway. Finally Jackie had enough and thinks out loud, very loudly, "LIKE YOU NEED THE UMBRELLA!!!" People around us heard her and of course they were all thinking the same thing but weren't SAYING it, so they kinda smiled at her and laughed. "DO YOU SEE ANY CLOUDS??" Eventually Jackie walked up to speak to the person holding one way up high that was blocking our view specifically, and asked if they would be taking it down when the concert starts, and they said "Oh yes, of course." Many people thanked Jackie.
So the concert starts, and some people are still standing around because they can't find a seat... and people behind us are yelling at them to sit on the ground or leave. Mind you, these guys are all the NASCAR-loving beer-guzzling Charlie Daniels fan types. We were afraid there would be a huge rumble right there. But eventually one of them gets a clue and sits down, and the rest follow.
Charlie came out and played a bunch of songs. I don't know any of his stuff other than Devil Went Down To Georgia, but it all sounded cool to me. I've lately figured out how to put my musical tastes into words: I can appreciate anything that sounds like it took talent to create. Charlie Daniels certainly has that.
Oh, then he plays this new song he wrote... a NASCAR song. Oh joy. Out come the rednecks. He's playing along and then one line of lyrics goes "Now Dale Earnhart, he didn't go alone. He just drove off into glory! And the angels took him home!" Wheeeeeeeeweeee! Yaaaa! Ok, I have nothing against the song itself. It's very well-written. It's the fans that gave me a yucky feeling.
Meanwhile there were state troopers (or "Statees", to Jackie) managing the crowd. They'd tell people to sit down who were standing up for too long. But they let people go right up front to snap a quick photo, which was cool. This one model American wandered on up to the front, one hand in his pocket, the other hand holding a beer, and stood there blocking people's views for 2 or 3 minutes before a fan tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to leave. A Statee finally notices and goes over to ask him to leave. The guy is obviously piss-drunk and can't understand why he's not being allowed to enjoy the concert. The Statee finally gets him off to the side. But soon enough, he found his way back front & center again. The Statee gets in his face again asking him to leave. This time as he walks in the direction of the Statee's pointed finger, he looks back at the Statee, looks forward, back at the Statee, then shakes his head in confusion and disgust. Sheesh. I'm glad I don't have a job managing crowds of drunken idiots. I'd just pull out my side-arm and pop them all.
Finally Ryan is brought out to play a song with Charlie. I don't know what song it was... like I said, I only know one Charlie Daniels song. :) But of course it sounded great. I got a few good photos. This is probably the best one, showing Ryan and Charlie jamming on their fiddles together.
During breaks in the song, Ryan would swing his bow around in a circle over his head... then Charlie turned it into a competition... he'd one-up him by doing the same, then swing it under his leg. It was amusing. :)
I would've liked to go up front to get a photo, but I figured by the time I got there the song would be over. I didn't see any clear way to get up there. Oh well.
After the concert we all met Ryan at the fence around the backstage area and he gave us guest passes so we could meet Charlie Daniels. Cool! We also met up with John, Lindsay and Sara there, as well as some of Ryan's family.
So we lined up to see the fiddle king in his dressing room and I'm thinking how guilty I feel... there are hundreds of people who'd want the opportunity to meet Mr. Daniels, and there I was, just barely a fan and only for the one song everyone knows, and not even prepared with anything for him to autograph for me. I had a map of the fair. Yippee. I thought maybe I could have him sign my RITSMA t-shirt. While we were in the line there was a Trooper checking that we all had passes, and told us we need to stick them on our shirt or they won't let us in... Hmm. Ok. When I got to the door, they were marking an X on everyone's pass with a black marker so we couldn't give the pass to someone else to reuse. The Trooper who marked me got part of my shirt too. Hmph.
So then we got in the building and just outside his dressing room his people were handing out 8x10 photos of Charlie that we could have him sign. How cool! So we got in, and each got our photo of him personally autographed, then we gathered on the couch with him for a group picture. Not with my camera though. They used Sara's, Lindsay's, and someone else's cameras.
Then it was about 6pm or so and we had 2 hours before the next concert. John, Lindsay and Sara decided to go home. The rest of us went to find something to eat at the fair. We found a stand selling gyros and spedies and stuff like that. I got some spedies. I decided against the gyros when I saw where the "meat" comes from. Ugh! They shave it off a huge rotating cylinder of the stuff that looks like a giant sponge.
So we ate, then headed back to the stage, but still had some time to kill, and it was kinda warm so we all hung out in Ryan's air conditioned dressing room for a while. Then it was nearly 8pm and Ryan was getting ready for the next concert, and we figured there was no way we'd get a good seat in the crowd, so we were thinking about just staying in his dressing room. Well, somehow we managed to get to go out to the stage and sit in some chairs that were in the wings! That was too cool. I felt so special. :) There were Troopers guarding each side of the stage. They made me kinda nervous. Several times during the concert they suddenly darted away in response to something.
Well I got a lot of cool photos from my great seat. :) Cool photos of the drummer, anyway. The rest really need to be shot from the front, not the side. I had to experiement a little to figure out how to get good photos in the weird stage lighting. All the colors were so saturated. A few photos came out blurry... they tended to be the ones that would've been the best shots if they were in focus. Grr.
Finally once again it was time for Ryan to go out and play a song with the band. I tried to get some photos from my seat side-stage, but couldn't get any good views of anyone. So I ran down the stairs and out the backstage fence and made my way to the front of the stage with the commoners and shot 3 quick photos from down there.
But they all sucked.
I was on an adrenalin rush down there or something. I didn't want to stay in one spot too long so I don't block anyone's view... so I didn't have time to wait for that perfect shot. The shots I ended up getting either had heads cut off or nasty backlighting by the stage lights or people looking away from me, or all three. Oh well. His mom probably got a few good ones. She actually got up out of her chair and walked to the front of the stage, ON the stage. I guess mom can get away with that, but I didn't want to try it. I thought I'd get some better angles from the front anyway. Ha!
Near the end of the concert, the Troopers went darting away once again. Shortly after that, there was a lot of commotion at the fence behind us, and we turned around to look and saw some big guy helping a Trooper into the backstage area who was hunched over in pain. That can't be good. Later we found out that someone had sprayed something in his face. What idiots.
So the concert finishes and we all disperse. Now Ryan has a bin full of stuff in his car that he needs to give to his parents, who parked somewhere else. So we all walk back to where Ryan and Rohde parked. He drove his parents to where they parked, and Rohde drove me and Cindi, following them. Sounds easy enough, right?
We circled the fairgrounds about 4 times before finally figuring out how to approach a road in the right direction to get to the parking lot where Ryan's parents parked. When we finally get there, the gates are closed. Huh? Yeah, there were still hundreds of cars in there, but the gates were closed. The only way in was by shuttle bus. How stupid is that? The only way out is at one gate at the far end. Right behind the gate we were at, there were 3 Trooper cars... so Ryan's uncle asks one of them how to get in. Their best answer? "Jump the fence." I guess they didn't have a key to the gate.
So Ryan's uncle jumps the fence to fetch the car and drive it out of the parking lot. Ryan drives on down the road to find the exit where his uncle would be coming out.
Rohde goes to pull out behind him...
Rohde got a flat tire. Ryan saw that we weren't following, but kept going because he was already in traffic. So we get out and start going about changing Rohde's tire.
Fortunately the jack seemed like a very nice one. I stuck it under the frame behind the right front tire and went about jacking up the car. It was very easy. Meanwhile, Rohde and Cindi were having difficulties getting the cover off the spare in the bottom of his trunk. It had a large plastic screw cap with finger indentations holding down the plastic cover. We could turn it about 20° in either direction, but beyond that it just wouldn't budge.
So despite this apparent problem, I decided to go about removing the lug nuts from the flat. Yup. No problem. See, apparently the lug nuts were changed to a non-standard size at some point. The wrench wouldn't fit on them. It would seem to have a grip, but it wasn't down on the whole nut, just gripping by an 1/8th inch or so on the outside, so when you try to apply any force, it slips right off. And it didn't help that it was only an L-hinged wrench that is also used for operating the jack, so it gave very little leverage.
Well... I always thought jacking up the car was typically the hardest part of changing a tire. There we were with the car jacked up, but unable to remove the flat nor get the spare out of the trunk!
During all this (as I later found out), Ryan had a fiasco of his own, driving his family and Jackie around trying to find his uncle. I'm still not sure of all the details but he had a hard time with his mom. Eventually they got to his parents car, moved the stuff over, his family left, and he drove back with Jackie to look for Rohde. There he found us, flat and helpless.
Well it was obvious that we couldn't change the tire ourselves. Now here's the kicker... THREE of us had AAA membership cards. None of us had a phone. :)
But there were still shuttle busses coming into the parking lot and dropping people off, so Ryan squeezed through the chain-link fence (yes he's that skinny) and managed to find someone who would let us borrow their cell phone. We called AAA and they said they'd be there in a half hour.
In the meantime, we sat around the back of Ryan's Jimmy with the back open. Rohde was feeling very shameful for the whole situation. He knew the tire had a tear in it and that it was going to go soon, and he felt bad for insisting on driving, then getting all his friends into this mess. Ok, I guess that's a natural feeling, but his was too severe. He was actually wishing he had driving alone so we wouldn't all be stuck with him. And we're like, but then what would you? You'd be all alone with nobody to help you. I guess he was saying that's what he deserves though, like he felt a need to punish himself. So, aside from us all being stuck there on the road outside the fair parking lot, now we had to deal with someone who was potentially suicidal too. Fortunately we got him to break from his staring trance sitting on the shoulder facing away from the rest of us, and he joined in our conversation, so we all felt a little better about that.
We thought about breaking out the Star Wars Trivial Pursuit to kill some time waiting for the tow truck, but decided it was too windy. So Jackie suggested a little game. She said "I'm going camping and I'm bringing a sleeping bag. What are you bringing?" And we'd go around and everyone had to recite the entire list before them and add one more thing.
I added "a tire iron."
Ryan added "a gun to shoot myself."
Cindi added "a tent."
Rohde added "a rope to hang myself."
Jackie added "a road flare."
I added "a fiddle."
And Ryan messed up the list so we stopped.
While we were sitting there on the side of the road, 2 cars with their flashers on, no less than 4 cars stopped next to us. Did they stop to ask if we needed help? Hell no. "Hey, can I get into the parking lot here?" Sure, if you wanna jump the fence, and thanks for noticing that we need help, asshole.
Finally the tow truck arrives. It was a very nice-looking truck, too. Kept spiffy-clean like a fire engine, but with the new rounded-edge look of a Dodge pickup.
Anyway, so the guy grabs a lug wrench and he and Rohde walk over to the wheel with nuts from hell. The rest of us stayed around the back of Ryan's Jimmy so as not to get in the way, and kept talking amongst ourselves. A few minutes later, the tow truck guy walks by us, and Rohde follows and tells us "His doesn't fit either." How nice, eh?
So he grabs some different tools and goes back to try some other things... we hear him banging away.
Meanwhile many other cars stopped by trying to get in the gate to the parking lot. Somehow one of them manages to get it open and they drive their car through, then close it behind them. The next person gets it open, and leaves it open. But here's the thing... the side that's open is for the exit ramp. Well, not really a ramp, but there's a V-shaped ditch leading up to the gate because it's off a one-way road, so it creates a path to enter and a path to exit. Also, the tow truck was blocking most of the exit ramp. So, a number of cars would stop at the gate, pull up the entrance ramp, realize the gate is only open on the exit side, then try to negotiate a way to get their car up that side of the ramp. Some of the vehicles with higher clearance just drove through the ditch. Others gave up. But now that the gate is open for exiting, some people were looking to leave the parking lot through the gate. Well they found that the exit ramp was blocked by our tow truck. So what do they do? They managed to squeeze between the tow truck and the back of Ryan's car where we were all gathered, and they'd pull right out into traffic being unable to see past the tow truck. That was an accident waiting to happen, which fortunately never did. Another guy in a bigger truck decided he wouldn't fit, so he backed is way up the ramp and back into the parking lot to find another exit.
This was all very amusing.
After a good half hour of the tow truck guy banging away at Rohde's nuts, Rohde returns and says the spare is on. Woohoo!
But not all is solved. See, the spare is only a donut, the kind that you're only supposed to drive short distances and at low speeds. We had a 90-minute drive on the thruway to get back to Rochester. And it's midnight on Labor Day. Rohde doesn't know anybody in the Syracuse area. Neither do any of us. What to do? The tow truck guy said he's recommend leaving the car in the parking lot and coming to get it later, rather than trying to drive it all the way home.
So Cindi and I get our stuff out of Rohde's car and he drives it into the parking lot. Ryan follows him to go pick him up. But oh, suddenly there's a change of plans. Now Rohde is begging Ryan to follow him at under 50mph all the way home on the thruway (speed limit 65mph, average speed 72mph). He just doesn't wanna leave his car there. He wants to take the risk and drive it home. Maybe he didn't want to have to deal with getting a ride back to get it, or the possibility of it getting towed and fined.
At this point we didn't feel like trying to reason with him anymore and just decided to let him do what he wanted, so he followed us to the thruway, then we let him pass us and we followed him. We came a rest stop and decided we all needed something to eat. By then it was almost 2am and we were starving. So we stopped for some McD's while Rohde kept driving, and we figured if we drove normal speed after getting our food, we'd eventually catch up to him (or find him in a ditch, heaven forbid). We got to the next rest stop and Ryan decided he needed gas, so we stopped and he filled up. We still hadn't seen Rohde. Ryan asked me if I'd drive for a while because he was feeling too tired. I have nearly the same car he does, Jimmy SLT, one year newer than his and with a few extra features. So I drove the rest of the way home, and never saw Rohde. I was a little concerned. But anyway, I dropped off Cindi, then Jackie, then Ryan. I was parked at Ryan's place and there were no good spots, so I left his car running and let him take my spot after I left.
I ended up getting to bed a little after 3am, and had to get up at 6:30 for work. Somehow I managed to do so.
Later we discovered that Rohde had made it home ok. And in fact he was at the rest stop that we stopped at to get gas. He probably saw us stop for food at the last one, so he took the next one, but we didn't see him there because we went past the building and just got gas. Then we left in front of him so that's why we never saw him again. It's a good thing he didn't run into trouble between there and home.
So anyway, thus ended my Labor Day weekend.