Monday, April 6, 2020

Retro Reads: Unknowingly, I Tiny-Trailer Camp-Crash Woodstock

tiny trailer camping at Jomeokee Park
The Green Goddess at Ground Zero of the informal Jomeokee music festival

Retro Reads: On the longest trip I've taken with the Green Goddess, I traveled from Iowa to the Carolinas and back in October of 2019. I pulled into a nearly empty private campground, among the quiet pines, only to discover that there would be a music concert there that weekend. A fun and innocent time, something we can all enjoy reading about now.

Not literally Woodstock, of course, since I'm in North Carolina, not New York--and since it's not 1969. The party I've crashed is the Jomeokee 2019 Gathering, an informal music festival get-together that's been happening in one form or another and in one place or another for the last forty years. They've chosen Jomeokee Park Amphitheater and Campground for the last few years, about fifty families showing up in small and tiny trailers, quite a few tents, and a couple-or-three larger rigs.

Jomeokee is perfect for the tents and small rigs. One smaller double-axle trailer did manage to squeeze in and one medium-sized Mercedes-Benz RV, but they either were off the grid or just plugged in at 15 amps for 12v lights. The rest? A pop-up tent-van, a couple of Scamps, and a Coleman tent trailer. One single-axle trailer found a spot but couldn't use the slide-out because there were too many trees.

See what I mean? Jomeokee created spots among the trees for camping but allowed the trees their space; therefore, we're camping in the woods. The miserable alternative is that trees are bulldozed, a chevron-patterned campsite strip laid out, and then trees replanted where and if space allowed. So I'm cozied up with many neighbors after five overnighters while traveling--four in the camper and one in a motel while the camper was getting a new roof because it was bashed by a tree limb during a storm. I had expected a quiet Thursday-through-Saturday rest before hitting the road again, but instead--I've camp-crashed Woodstock!

tiny trailer camping at Jomeokee Park
Everyone shared dishes with a Mex/Tex focus

Although a few folks showed up Thursday, everyone else arrived on Friday, and it was really fun to watch all the folks arrive with their different rigs and vehicles, helping one another set up--the greetings and hugs and assistance with backing the trailers or figuring out tents and tent poles. By dark, everyone had arrived, and I was invited to a potluck taco dinner. It was an expression of the friendly, neighborly composition of the group, and also a kindness. "After all," said one of the organizers, "we've pretty much invaded the campground!" And I'm happy to share this space with these long-time friends who have come together to enjoy one another's company along with some good music. I even met a member of the band!

I've had quite a few folks ask questions about my Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers trailer, a Polar Bear model. Yes, the Green Goddess looks sharp with her new roof and, as one comment put it, "those shiny chrome wheels," (aluminum, actually, but you get the idea--green, silver, and bright white, a shining light at the top of the hill).

This Saturday I spent time cooking a full, late breakfast of home fries and scrambled eggs, followed by a late lunch of kitcherie, an Indian curry with dahl, grain, and vegetables. Then this evening I'll wander over for a snack at my camping neighbors' potluck.

Pilot Mountain and Interstate 52

Today I walked the overpass to Pinnacle, the local hamlet but never really saw any "downtown." Two gas stations, one on each side of the freeway, told me they had no gallons of water (picking up a gallon the "task" of my walk). Each told me, though, "There's a Dollar General just up the road," so I kept walking until I could see the road round and crest a hill before disappearing. Then I realized that their "just up the road" was predicated on the assumption that I was driving a car. I had no immediate need for water, so I turned around and headed back to camp to see what was happening.

tiny trailer camping at Jomeokee Park
Colorful tents and a Scamp in the background. (There were two side by side.)

Mostly, I wanted to check out the different camping arrangements, and there were all kinds. Since almost everyone knew one another, people packed in and shared tables and campfires. It had cooled today with the temperatures actually dropping as the day progressed, so the 60s temps created a more cozy environment.

tiny trailer camping at Jomeokee Park
A well set up Jimmy van, in great shape

tiny trailer camping at Jomeokee Park
Dianne with her Honda van with tent package, celebrating her recent retirement.

tiny trailer camping at Jomeokee Park
A classic tiny trailer with California plates. I couldn't locate the woman owner regarding the make and model, but one neighbor said it was made in 1969. 

Darkness fell, and after dinner the concert began, featuring the Willy Douglas Band. After listening to a few songs, though, I just got tired--and nothing to do with the music, believe you me. The group had both male and female singers and played a variety of rock and roll. I had met the keyboard player, Russ, and his girlfriend, both of whom made a point of making me feel included . . . but I was just plain tired. My solution was simple, since I was traveling again tomorrow--go to sleep.

A wonderful night of rock and roll

Then a strange and wondrous thing happened. I slept for about two and a half hours and woke up to music--and not music up the hill but music outside my door. I peeked out and saw a small venue set up across the road, maybe thirty yards away, max. I remembered then being told earlier that after the stage concert at the amphitheater, a smaller concert was happening later right in the campground, and this explained why someone had earlier called my campsite "Ground Zero."

While I had been napping, Cooper Pearce and the Jam Cooperative had set up outside and were playing, happy campers had lit a campfire in my site's ring, and a happening was happening outside my door! I thought it only reasonable to get some good out of my nap, so I got out of bed at 12:30, dressed, and joined the party. The trio playing was highlighted by seventeen-year-old Cooper, who has great "chops" with the guitar and sings with a stand-out, original voice. I was lucky enough to hear a half hour of the group's music, soaking up the "this is happening outside my door!" experience.

After the set ended, I grabbed my camp chair and joined a group set up around my campfire (well, my fire ring--their campfire). It was easy talk about the night and the Jomeokee Gathering, as the group has come to call their get-together which has met at Jomeokee Park for the last four years. I was told that I was going to be put on "the list" and would be invited next year. I said if I came, I'd bring my wife.

Then I noticed a man with a half gallon of some pale amber liquid in a bottle, the bottle in one hand and a beer in the other. I asked him what was in the bottle.

"Fig brandy," he said.

"Did you make it?"


"Did you have to buy fresh figs to make it?"

"No, I've got a fig tree outside my house."

"Well, how long does it take to make fig brandy?"

"It only takes a week or two to make beer or wine," he said. "Of course, it tastes better if you let it age a bit."

He asked me if I wanted some, and I replied that it was a bit late for me. "Late! It's past 12:30. You mean it's a bit early!" I agreed that it was indeed a bit for me, whichever way you looked at it.

The talk moved around the fire, stories about living on a mountain, about cleaning up after other rock concerts, about how one young woman of twenty-six was actually seventeen. "I'll take that!" she said.

Then our gentleman of the two bottles said, "Hey, somebody drank all my moonshine!"

"I think that was you," I said.

"You're one perceptive dude," he said. "You can't get anything past this guy," he added to the gang around the fire.

We all chatted a bit longer. Then at about 2 A.M., the group broke up, heading for bed. My camp-crash of the Jomeokee Gathering was over. What a wonderful happenstance, though! As one woman said to me, "Music has brought us together, and it's been bringing up together since 1980." And the Gathering so warmly gathered me in and made me a part of their weekend. I thank them for that and thank Tom Pace, owner of Jomeokee Park, for developing this rustic park with so much personality and heart.

I leave Pilot Mountain with wonderful memories of my trailer being fixed for free by its builders, Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers, of a great four days of camping, and of the welcoming band of brothers and sisters who included me in their family. I am truly blessed.

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  1. Hey Tom,
    Great blog! Loved the rustic campground. Staying home in Daisy. Enjoying life as it is. Keep up the blog! It's important!

    1. Thanks for letting us know you're OK. Be safe and enjoy the nomadic life--even if you're not traveling that much now.

  2. That was pretty wonderful! And something you'll always remember. Great story.

    1. Kind of a camping definition of "serendipity."

  3. Loved the story, and love the unexpected surprises like that. Great memories to talk about for years.

    1. It was an unexpected but enjoyable event. Just kind of fell in my lap.