Roommate and I left Loueyville at 2am-ish on Thursday morning and started the five or so hour trip to Manchester. Stopped in Murfreesboro for some Steak and Shake around five and then in a rest stop for an hour snooze. And when we arrived in the Manchester area around 7am CST, there were already thousands of cars lined up at the exits. After an hour waiting at exit 112, we were diverted to exit 127. Around an hour later, we were parking at our campsite.
Lou’s Roo Camping Tip #1: Although there is conflicting information on the web, it seems as though it doesn’t make a hugo difference what time you arrive. Within a few hours of arriving I heard people complaining that they’d gotten there super-early and that latecomers were getting better sites—that the Roo folks appeared to be filling the campsites from back to front. Our walk from site to CenterRoo took around 20+ minutes; it was tolerable, but inconvenient, especially if, as Roommate said, you want to “get your drink on” in between acts.
Popped up the tent, and then took tent #2 and hiked to the open camping site. Open camping is much closer to CenterRoo, but it is first come, first served, and my midday on Thursday it looked like a refugee camp. The idea was that I would camp at Open Camping and Roommate would camp by the car, but it became pretty clear to me early on that I was not going to feel comfortable sleeping alone in such a crowded space. This served up some pretty hearty conflict between Roommate and I for the remainder of the festival, as I moved into his tent. I do feel bad about imposing upon him, but in my defense I stand by the fact that Open Camping is no place for a woman alone. I don’t mean to play the gender card, but he didn’t get it.
Lou’s Roo Camping Tip #2: If you don’t mind a postage stamp sized piece of real estate, Open Camping is a great alternative to staying with your car. Get there early. Be prepared to lug your gear close to a mile. The smart folks brought dollies or wagons to pull their gear. As soon as you get there, make sure you stake your claim on all of the space that you need. Anything not taken up by a tent is free space for another Roo-er. I recommend a tent and a separate shade canopy no matter where you camp. That way you have both a sleeping space and a hang-out space. Bring a good flashlight because at night the place is a maze of tent stakes and people.
The first night, we cooked out steaks and veggie skewers. Everyone who walked by our tent ogled our meal. Amazing what two pieces of meat and sticks of mushrooms, peppers, and onions will inspire in people; we were the envy of our ‘hood. The third night we drunkenly cooked up some hot dogs. That was the extent of our camp-cooking experience.
Lou’s Roo Camping Tip #3: As your site location is a bit of a crap-shoot, don’t plan on many meals at home-base. I brought the makings for iced coffee but the milk spoiled by day 2. Powdered milk would have been a better option. Breakfast eaters might be better served by home cooking but neither I nor Roommate are big on breakfast. We brought fruit for light snacks in the morning. Lots of beer and wine and alcohol. A 24-pack of water served us for the entire trip, but next time I’ll probably bring two. It wasn’t unusual for me to drink three bottles before even setting out for CenterRoo in the morning.
Lou’s Roo Camping Tip #4: Bonnaroo is a joy for low-maintenance people. It’s probably hell for high-maintenance people. I sweat buckets and buckets. Suffered a bit of heat exhaustion one day. I was dirty ALWAYS. I have blisters you could bounce quarters off of. I spent too much money. I felt overwhelmed by options much of the time. But as I said, I had a blast. That being said, I am relatively low-maintenance. I am also brushing up against the age when I will no longer be quite so low-maintenance. In the not-so-distant future, I may only consider Bonnaroo if I can (A) pay for VIP tickets or (B) rent a camper.
Lou’s Roo Camping Tip #5: Things I brought and forgot:
Things I brought: A box of antibacterial hand-wipes that served as our “shower” all four days. It’s amazing the difference that three or four of those will make to your dirty, dusty body. I felt dirty all the time, but at least I went to bed feeling relatively fresh. Gatorade, while yucky, does a better job of hydrating you in the morning than plain water. I froze three bottles before leaving and they helped keep the cooler cold and helped me feel better in the morning.
Things I forgot: A big jug for water—I could have filled it at water stations and actually washed off properly. A camp shower would have been ideal. A bathing suit for aforementioned camp shower. Grilling tools—simple whoopsie on my part. A shade tent—definitely a must for hanging out outside and even for providing additional shade for the tent which turned into a broiler by 8am.
We left Roo around 11am on Monday, long after the traffic had died down, but it still took us an hour to get on the highway. I don’t know the answer to that; I doubt that there is one.