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Post Phish in Charlotte, NC: Not all who wonder are lost

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Leaving lot after Phish in Charlotte, NC was bittersweet. Kevin Coughlin and I had met an amazing couple, Chuck and Jess, who had sent us away wiser and more whole. Having the benefit of interacting with couples that have stood the test of time give Coughlin and I perspective on what truly matters in life; love and enjoying good music together. Chuck and Jess gave us some herbs and we, in return bestowed upon a beautiful piece of gemmy kyanite. Kyanite is said to only hold good energy and is a protective stone for travelers.

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Checking my phone for the first time since before Phish played an amazing set at the PNC, Coughlin and I were dismayed to find out that my sister's AC was out and she would not be able to have us visit her in Wilmington, NC. Having no plans, Coughlin and I drove into the night hoping that everything would just fall into place. We were tired hungry and in much need of a campground. We discovered a possible place of refuge about an hour from the venue. It was an old gold mine turned campground. A strange feeling crept over us as we entered the dirt road to the designated campsites. There were no open spots to set up the tent and RVs intimidatingly surrounded the perimeter of the area. Coughlin, utterly exhausted laid down on a picnic bench as I took refuge from the mosquitos in the Saturn.

Moments after settling in, a spotlight shined on us from within an RV about 15 yards away from where we were parked. Coughlin quite alarmed, jumped back into the car and requested an immediate evacuation. The creepiness of this spot continued to linger pungently. Reassuring him that there was no reason to be afraid, I rolled over in my seat and continued to seek out some peaceful dreams.

Coughlin returned to his bench, not happy about staying in a place that seemed incredibly unwelcoming. Minutes passed before Coughlin and I heard a hideous screech. Coughlin and Pig Pen (our dog) bolted to the car. Experiences like this one on Phish tour are unavoidable, especially if you choose to go with the flow as we do. We roared out of that campground, as fast as we could, considering the dirt road did not lend us any option but to roll out of the area loudly, rocks bouncing up under the Saturn, pinging violently on the undercarriage.

An argument ensued over weather or not to use the GPS. Siri (the voice activated system on our iPhones) had been annoying Coughlin the entire trip and now, both of us scared and in the middle of nowhere surrounded by open fields, we both lost it. The GPS being my only connection to the outside world, Siri was my best friend. Coughlin on the other hand, head spun into frustrated fear, had had enough of Siri's receptive voice and my droning question, "Campgrounds near me?" After a mutual eruption between Coughlin and I, Siri finally decided to cooperate. "We followed the lines going south," and Siri brought us to a park about ten minutes away.

The parks tranquil beauty dissipated the stale energy our wound-too-tight emotional state. Pulling in, whispering, excited by the danger of not knowing weather being here was going to get us into trouble with the locals, we were awe struck by the sweeping fields of corn, manicured grasses, and rows of pink flowered trees. Pig Pen's nose stuck out the window, tantalized by new smells, knowing that he would soon be allowed to run free in these open pastures.

Coughlin and I pulled off and hid the Saturn behind some bushes. We set up camp under the open skies. Being from the east coast of Massachusetts, Coughlin and I rarely get to see such a phenomenal view of the stars. North Carolina is blessed with a lack of light pollution that gives way to natures' night lights.

The next morning, Coughlin and I were inspired by the park's pristine terrain and decided to capture it on film. We let Pig Pen run free as we took photos of a landscape littered with cornfields and flowers. The is no greater feeling of oneness with nature than being completely alone with your family expressing your creativity freely. Phish tour gives artistic minds the option to travel with a purpose. Without Phish, many craftsmen and artists would have no way to spread their talents and commodities.

We packed up and reorganized the car. When we first began setting up camp, I had been the one to put up and take down the tent. Now, after days of travel, Coughlin was able to breakdown the tent and pack in up in five minutes flat. Working together to keep our world in order had shown Coughlin and I our strength and also how much we relied on each other. Phish was playing at Merriweather in Maryland that night, but Kevin and I had other plans. The Outer Banks, the coastal peninsula of North Carolina was just hours away. The 48 mile coastline was calling us. After three days soaking up the rays, Coughlin and I would head north to meet up with Phish at the nTelos Pavilion in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Continue following photographer Kevin Patrick Coughlin and Amanda Elizabeth Aldridge's adventures here on Examiner.com.

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