Finding Wonderland: Taking a Trip to Camp Euphoria, part one of two

I looked around at all the signs in Iowa City. Camp Euphoria in Lone Tree stuck out I was the editor there 3 years ago.

I went into John’s to get a piece of Havarti dill and saw the sign that said whiskey tasting tomorrow. I asked them what time. They said in an hour. I scrambled around trying to find a gorgeous young college chick to taste free Templeton Rye.

I was hearing the song “White Rabbit” all over town that baseline was in my bones–it might as well have been coming from the sky. I talked to the chick who does advertising/sales for Templeton Rye, asked here if she had heard the white rabbit lately.

She said no….I said it must be me and proceed to tell her about the White Rabbit store that was opening in early August.

It all started when I tried to get Wicked Liz and the Belly Swirls to play “White Rabbit.” I saw them play it at Stickman’s in Davenport when they were a new band.

Dave and I had recently been having the 5:00 p.m. sake days at the Thai Bistro mmm raspberry. I joked about having a sake festival bigger than Ragbrai in Muscatine. At 5:00 there is nobody else there but the Asian waiters.

Anyway the plan was to get Wicked Liz to play “White Rabbit” and have the band all met up at Dave’s for a nightcap. They wouldn’t play it and really didn’t want to have anything to do with us.

I had visions of the Hunter S. Thompson scene from Leaving Las Vegas sorry Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. A guy is on orange sunshine naked in the bathtub and he wants to throw a toaster in to the feed your head part of the song. The vision of the white rabbit never left. It followed me to Iowa City.

After the whiskey test at John’s it was time to head for the fest. A nice young girl asked me if I had a moment for the environment. Those environment people were everywhere. She told me about the dirty water in Iowa. She wanted a donation. All I could do is give her my email address.

I asked her about the fest she said it was $40 at the gate. Two thousand people on some farm somewhere. She said some people were volunteering to pay their way. I figured I would get to Lone Tree and ask questions.

So I set out to make a sign, looked in a dumpster found some blueprints for tunnels. I had always heard there were tunnels under Iowa City. The prints were from an Iowa State engineering study, interesting–tried to save them but they’re history.

I showed the environment girl the blueprints of tunnels. She said they probably weren’t any good because they were from Iowa State and they were probably a research project. I tried to make a psychedelic Lone Tree sign on the back side of one of the tunnel blueprints

When I hit the road from Muscatine it was raining and I had no socks. I walked around Iowa City all day trying to get someone to buy me a drink and tore my feet all up. I contracted cellulitis and a guy I met on the road convinced me to go see the doc as I was walking around in serious pain.

I went to the hospital and the doc looked at my foot. He gave me the hard-time pep talk. A female nurse put some stuff on my leg and checked me out for blood clots. Her hand gently touched my testicles. It was like being in a massage parlor. If only I could have willed her to go further. I didn’t have anything to tip her with.

Anyway I asked a girl in an alley as I was headed to the fest if Epsom salt would be any good for my infection. She said yes. But the environment girl said I would have to soak it for a long time and antibiotics would do just as well. Turned out she had a chemistry minor.

I went to advertise at the head shop. The guy there said he knew some of the people at the Yacht Club and maybe he could sell his wares there. I also talked to a kid downtown who was playing guitar and told him about the fest.

Since I couldn’t find a $1.09 for Epsom salt, I was on my way to the road that intersected with Highway 6 by the local treatment center called MECCA.

So I sat but the side of the road with my poor attempt at a sign. I started to think that there wasn’t enough traffic on this road to catch a ride. I asked some construction workers if they knew anyone who was going to Lone Tree. I checked out a couple other nearby businesses and it didn’t look like there was anybody home.

I talked to a couple guys, one speaking German, one working on a lawnmower. The guy who spoke German said, “Hey you were the guy out there with the sign I couldn’t read.”

The lawnmower guy said I needed to work on my sign. I colored it in with a magic marker it still wasn’t good enough. He said he would get me a big piece of cardboard to make a real sign.

The guy that spoke German left. The guy I later knew to be called Worm, it was his shop. I described the place I was going to and he said you’re going to Camp Euphoria. Your sign should say Camp Euphoria.

He said we could ride bicycles over to the VFW and see if anyone is going that way. He asked me if I drank beer and I said yes. He said I’ll buy you your first pitcher you can leave at any time. The combination on my bike lock is 911 because we ain’t having fun unless they call 911.

Somebody was plugging the jukebox with bad tunes, but they had Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, Santana and I think even Bob Marley. We talked briefly about Ken Kesey and he said he might like to go to the fest and hear Public Property, there was talk of the need for plenty of tobacco, a possible ride or a tandem bicycle. I got hammered and tried ineptly to bum a cigarette at the bar. Worm left and someone got me high. When he came back he was messing with a toolbox.

I had grand delusions that they would be expecting me, the former editor from Lone Tree. Finally, I said to Worm I got to go, they’re waiting for us. He let me borrow his Fuji. I hadn’t been on a bike since Ragbrai in high school. It was a hard ride. It was dark and the sky looked ominous. My leg was throbbing. I tried to keep a steady pace but had to keep stopping. I had my thumb out to every prospective car.

Finally I got to the intersection where you turn to go to Hills. A car stopped I told them I was planning to go to Lone Tree to find out about Camp Euphoria. They said don’t go all the way into Lone Tree, it’s only three miles up the road off to the right. They asked me if my bike was broke. I said no. They said they couldn’t give me a ride because they weren’t going that way.

Three miles, I started to relax. Then I saw the lights off in the distance. There was a gravel road I walked the rest of the way and rested my bike on a tree. I walked up to two guys who had staff shirts on and explained to them that I used to work for the Lone Tree Reporter and I was going to do a story about the fest this summer and the white rabbit. They escorted me to the admissions tent.

Again I tried to explain myself. I didn’t have an I.D. at this time, I had lost it in a bar. They took my social security card an
my food stamp card and said if you want to go to work in the morning taking out trash and parking cars you can stay. They said I didn’t have to do anything that night but I had to report at 10 o’clock in the morning.

I listened to the bands and walked around trying to get someone to buy me a drink. It just wasn’t happening finally I gave up. I went to crash over by some campsite near the cornfield. Those guys had some mushrooms that day and they were like who is that sleeping over there. They gave me a pull of something strong. It was cold and fixing to rain so I went in search of a blanket.

Someone gave me this cool blanket with red roses all over it and I crashed like a dead man on the porch. It was a pretty decent storm with lightning and thunder and the whole nine yards.

Look for Part II in the October issue.