October 15, 2004

Walking to Coventry

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

14 Aug 2004, Vermont

The Joker slung his gear on his back, ditched his rental car and walked into the campgrounds. He headed north and parked in a town called Newport, then hitched a ride halfway and hiked the rest of the way in. The Joker was a determined guy and my source of information and inspiration to get to the show. He called and told me to turn around and drive back towards Coventry... that I should get as close as possible and hike because they were accepting walk-ins... just no more cars on the concert grounds. I told Molly and she got very excited. We stopped at the first exit we saw, gassed up, bought a map, and made the decision to drive back to the venue.

With all the Vermont state troopers handling the Coventry mess, the highways were empty allowing me to drive as fast as 90 mph to get back the lost time. Lori from Kentucky called. We kept getting disconnected, but she told me that she and her friends pulled over on the side of the road and were hiking in from I-91. She had grabbed cash, vodka, and a tent... and headed to the show. She told me that hundreds of other people were doing the same. Molly was bubbling over with giddyness with every mile we got closer to Coventry. We got as far as three exits south of Coventry when we reached a roadblock. The state trooper asked me where I was headed. I told him Newport and he gave me directions... the same route I had picked out on the map. It was a round about way and took almost two hours to loop around east then north and eventually back west into Newport, which was five miles away from Coventry. I drove down Main Street and out of the corner of my eye I saw a young girl, maybe ten years old with a sign on pink poster board: Phish Parking, Free Rides. I rolled up to a semi-empty parking lot next to a Shattuck's, a local car dealership.

"How much does it cost to park?"

"$25 per person."

"Do I pay you?"

She pointed at a heavy set man off to the side loading up a mini van. "You pay my Dad."

I pulled into the gravel parking lot and walked over to the guy. I handed him a $50 bill. He had his wife and three kids working the lot, trying to flag down Phisheads on Main Street.

"Ok, here's the deal. You can park here as late as Tuesday morning. I'll get you a ride as far as we can take you and you have to hike in the rest of the way. You're on your own for a ride back, but there's gonna be a shuttle that you can take. Or hitch a ride back. Plenty of folks will be looking to give rides on Monday morning. Tell them to take you to East Main Street."

We loaded our gear into the back of a van and was ready to roll when I realized that I had left the tickets in the glove compartment! I sprinted out of the van and snagged our two tickets. Whew. That was close. Six of us had squeezed into the van and we got a ride about three miles from the venue. We were let out at a road block. We each took a deep breath and started our three mile hike down Airport Road.

As I began the hike all I could think was, "Never give up. Keep moving forward."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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