Buffet Buffet
I had heard so much about Jimmy Buffet concerts... so positive and care free! So please forgive the negative tone of this story. With the most complete plans and the best of intentions we set out for what we had been calling “the most awesome night in history.” Let me back track... the plan began like this...

We were to attend the Jimmy Buffet concert and then camp out at my parents house after the gig. Our friend, Howie, organized the entire weekend for our group of 21 people. He gave everyone a list of food to bring, divided responsibilities, arranged for all of the tickets and transportation, and sent out directions. My parents had their place ready to go and had even built a bonfire pit for our return from the concert. Call it Murphy’s law, call it fate, but mother nature is an opportunist and we left a loophole open to her. I guess she felt that the water levels needed to be replenished.

It was a Wisconsin monsoon from 12 noon the day before until midnight the night of the concert. No breaks. In the beginning we all took it in stride, keeping our spirits up.

We set up the tents in the rain with the hope of it clearing before the concert. We grilled in the barn, out of rain’s way. We piled into cars and drove to the concert joking about our luck... hoping it would let up. No such luck. The concert was held at a place called Alpine Valley only 20 minutes from my parent’s home. It’s a valley... outdoors... lawn seating... big muddy field to park in. The rain stopped being funny when someone reminded us that the concert tickets were 32 bucks a pop. “Heh, heh, ooooohhhhh.”

We had trouble getting into the lot... fishtailing all the way (I drove because I don't drink and Jimmy Buffet calls for Margarita partaking.) Being the nervous person that I can sometimes be, I maintained a thick, negative cloud over my head “we’re going to get stuck... we’ll never get out of here... our car will become a permanent lawn ornament.” I followed the directions of the flashlight waving, faceless ponchos and slid into position. One muddy car in a lot of thousands.


We tailgated in a downpour so extreme umbrellas were useless. We sloshed a mile to the concert area. Up to my ankles in mud, a line from ‘Strange Brew’ played in my head... “I’m standing here with two soakers... this aint heaven... this sucks.” In the valley I opted to stand near the top of the ridge fearing I would be washed away. Jimmy Buffet, clad in a plastic orange rain poncho, sang on a teeny stage a million miles away from where we were. I was in no mood to find humor in this situation, those who did had gallons of margarita mix sloshing through their systems.

About an hour after listening to Jimmy sing shiny, happy beach songs I had reached my breaking point. Up to that moment I had been a pretty good sport. “We’re going!” I screamed, “NOW!” So we rounded up the people I had driven and forged our way back through the ankle deep mud to the car.

The lot looked like the apocalypse. Cars, up to their axles in mud, were scattered hopelessly throughout the lot like tombstones. And those were just the people who left early... there were still about 90% of the 70,000 concert goers still watching the incredible poncho man on stage.

In the distance you could hear a symphony of wheels spinning themselves deeper into the muck. Different pitches, different feverish frequencies... same result. On the way back to our car we passed two friends, Pat and Carol, who had left the concert 1/2 hour before we did. They were up to their bumper in mud, Carol was crying and Pat had worked the engine so hard it was making this sick, whining noise.

It took 14 of us, grunting and rocking the car to free it. The parking lot is no more than a field, and the nearest graveled road out of the lot was about 2 football fields away from where we were. Once Pat got free he laid on the gas and didn’t stop fishtailing his way out of there until he reached gravel. I can’t fully describe the feeling that came over me... it was like releasing an eagle into the wild for her maiden flight... watching his taillights sway and bob through bogs and over gullies. We were all cheering, “Go! Go! Run like the wind and never look back!”

Reality smacked me... it was my turn... would I be able to command the car? It was decided that I would be the only one in the car in case everyone else needed to push. I would get to the gravel road, pull off to the side, and wait for my party to catch up to me. I buckled myself in, “I’m ready!”

Pulling out of the spot was no problem. I kept the gas at an even pace an never looked back... Don was running behind me like Forest Gump, waving his arm... “GO! GO!” When I approached a gully I gunned it “WHAM!” like the ‘Streets of San Francisco’ my head flung forward then whipped back as the car bounced over this obstacle. Fishtail... fishtail... “WHAM!” over another gully. Passing by stranded cars while their drivers watched with head in hands made me feel like a pioneer. What a RUSH! I had made it. And after Don and the rest of our gang pushed out a few more cars we were on our way.

With no energy to camp out, we disbanded and all went home to seek shelter in our warm, dry beds. Howie was inconsolable.


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