POWDER RIDGE DAY 1: part 1
THURSDAY, JULY 30 1970
copyright 2002-2006 Rockfest1970@msn.com
I awoke fearing the worst. I had visions of the State Police and National Guard moving in with riot shields and billy clubs from behind a barrage of tear gas. I was sure everyone the pigs could capture had been hauled off to some concentration camp where they could nurse their busted heads. Those who managed to get away were either cowering in the woods or rallying for a counter-strike. Chicago last week.... Powder Ridge today? Would this be how the Revolution started?
When I finally did get an update that morning, I was surprised and relieved to discover that the Staties had not yet made a move. Maybe the ghost of the Chicago riot was in the backs of their minds.
Since my parents were again off on another vacation, my place became the base camp for the Powder Ridge Expedition. From there, I made last minute phone calls to Greg and Dave. Neither had changed their minds. It seemed we’d be taking Bill’s MG instead of Greg’s Devil Bus. Bill dropped down about 11am and we spread our gear out on the front law. His pup tent was the better choice over mine. It was larger and made of lighter fabric... if he just had the poles. Since my poles were too short we had no choice. As we packed we listened to the news on WHCN. They reported that tensions were high at Powder Ridge and confrontation was in the wind. But as of 11:30 the Staties had still not made a move. Sounded like those there needed some backup!
Before we left we stopped in at the First National supermarket to stock up on food. We both bought a bit extra should the be a siege and we had to share with people there. We also bought some new high-tech health food Bill had been telling us about. Who needed old-fashioned food when there was Tang and Spacefood Sticks! Astronauts consumed this stuff... right? We didn't actually buy the Tang. We were into ice tea mix. As for Space Food Sticks they were nothing more than vitamin enriched candy with a deceptive ad campaign. From the box:
"SPACEFOOD STICKS – A BALANCED NUTRITION SNACK
Spacefood Sticks are a nutritionally balanced food snack. They taste great [Ingredients: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil ---] and provide sound nutritional values [Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Water--] not “empty” calories. This modern food, developed by Pillsbury [Glycerin, Modified Food Starch, Salt] for long space flights will satisfy your need for a snack and be better for you [Vegetable Monoglycerides--] than many other snacks. [Citric Acid] You and you family will find Spacefood Sticks good eating [Artificial Flavoring and Coloring] anytime. If you don’t have time to eat a balanced meal at least eat a balanced snack.
Well at least the Vegetable Monoglycerides sounded healthy!
By 12:30 we were finally packed. Unsure about the gauntlet of police we’d have to run, we packed all our dope in our backpack frames. Knowing there’d be lots of cheap drugs there I stuffed my wallet with cash. Who knew what I could buy with $13! I also needed some extra cash to phone home to let the rest of the Circus know what was going on. Actually taking just $13, which seemed like a lot at the time, is forever in my Hall of Eternal Regrets. I should have brought $20!
We hit the road without eating lunch and compensated by stopping in at Friendlys in West Springfield. It took the 30-minute drive to Hartford for me to finish my pint of pineapple sherbet.
For a banned fest, it certainly was attracting lots of Freaks. We passed many a Freak-filled car, microbus, and truck on I-91 heading south! As we passed them by Bill honked and we waved a peace sign or raised a strike fist. No doubt Freaks were also pouring in to Powder Ridge from the other points of the compass. Maybe, just maybe, the petition going around town or the appeal to the State Supreme Court had born fruit. But it almost didn't matter. We drove on driven by revolutionary zeal.
We retraced our steps on RT-9 to Middletown then down RT-66. We stopped in front of a barbershop to get our bearings. There were met a Freak, a young guy wearing a tank top, a white bandana around his neck and a worn out canvas backpack. His name was Lee and he was from Auburn. Since he needed a ride, we offered him a lift even though Bill’s MG was a two-seater. Lee and his gear got stuffed into the small compartment behind the seats. If one had to sit down in the compartment, it would be crowded indeed. Typically, when the Circus rode with Bill the person or persons in back sat up on the trunk... and hung on to the roof latches... ducking back down whenever we saw a cop car.
We continued south on RT-66 for a few miles catching occasional glimpses of gas stations overflowing with cars that presumably had already been towed. The Forces of Darkness had certainly been busy. As we drove by I snapped some pics with my vintage Kodak Instamatic.
A few miles further down the highway were some reservoirs. There, at an intersection we knew led to Middlefield was a State Police roadblock. Since we were cut off at the pass, Bill pulled this outrageous U-turn right in front of the Staties. “You can lose your license for that” one bellowed... but he waved us on anyway. Whew!
We sped off towards Middletown and didn't look back. We were under the assumption that the police would tow any car owned by someone attending the fest. So we began to brainstorm. One plan was to park on some deserted road we were sure we’d find and camouflage the car in the woods. Ya right! When we drove down some side roads off RT-66 and found no promising places to hide the car we switched to Plan B. That was to head back to Middletown and park somewhere in the open... maybe in a church parking lot or some side street. Even though we had out-of-state plates, they couldn't really associate us with the Festival. Could they? Then we’d just hitchhike the 7-8 miles to Power Ridge.
We drove on some residential side streets off RT-66 near the town commons. High Street looked promising... and we’d be certain to find it again because it was across the street from a huge WWI memorial obelisk. However, what if there were Spies for the Power Structure lurking about? We finally decided to ask someone if we could park in front of her house. The young woman, a summer student at Wesleyan, said the magic word: "sure!".
Bless her heart!
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