Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An August Slump

Like slap hitters whose legs begin to wilt and wobble in the August heat, I am certainly starting to show the effects of my long singing season.  My voice is still strong, but my energy has begun to wane.  The physical stress of the travel can be seen in my right eye, which has burst a blood vessel, and in my right thumb, injured in doing some Arby upkeep described below. 

The purple thumbnail is not covered with polish!
The hundred-degree heat in the Midwest for the last two weeks has sapped my imagination, the toll of rough roads has made Arby’s weariness an issue that requires increased attention, and the rigor of the schedule has now dumped me into a blogging slump.  Add to these woes the absence of WiFi throughout the first week of August, and the slack in my posting might be excused.   Still, as I drive each day I think about what I should write, and each evening I make detailed notes about travels and games.

But like an 0 for 19er who yearns for a dying-quail double sliced inches inside the line or a soft seeing-eye single through the hole or even a deflected drive off a diving shortstop’s glove, I needed some cheap hit, some unusual play to startle me back to my posting ways.  I had scorched some long blog drafts, but they had fallen foul or been fielded, yielding nothing to show, at least yet.
Even so,  I hadn’t expected a wind-blown error in Omaha to break me out of the blogging slump.   
After Arby had arduously trudged through the hills of western Iowa throughout mid-day, we docked in at a sunny spot atop a hill overlooking the lake at Walnut Creek County Park just south of Omaha.  Since the sun was bleating down on the bare site with a ferocity that caused high double digit temperatures to look attractive, I extended Arby’s electric awning, which had been one of our regular sources of possible comfort.  I told Bonnie that, because the wind was occasionally snapping at the canvas of the umbrella, I’d retract the awning before we left for the ballpark. 
A couple of hours later the wind gusts had dissipated, and Bonnie was snoozing so smoothly that I decided not to wake her for the game or disturb her with the sounds of the awning retracting.  As the sun shone across the horizon, I left at 5:58 for the Omaha Storm Chasers’ game less than five miles away. 
As usual, I had received instructions to check in at the ballpark at 6:30.  After parking in the distant free lot and photographing fans tailgating there, I circumvented the stadium to find the Will Call window where I expected to pick up my ticket.  

Under clear skies, fans tailgate on the parking lot a half hour before the game.
 The line was uncustomarily long.  At 6:19 I identified myself as the anthem singer, and a frenzy of action ensued.  The ticket agent called to a waiting staffer who whisked me through the gates and toward the field faster than Arby had climbed the grades earlier in the afternoon.  Because of a concert associated with a Faith Night Promotion, the start of the game had been moved up to 6:35 rather than 7:05.  I hadn’t been told.  I had 8 minutes until the anthem performance.
Whew!  I had less time to warm up than a middle-innings reliever.
When a brief rain shower sent fans scurrying to the concession concourse during the third inning, I interviewed several who clustered around me.   After a few outs, the rain eased and allowed them to return to their seats.

After the rain shower, fans start back to their seats.
Instead of resuming attention to the game, I looked toward the west where dark clouds with bolts and sheets of lightening looked more threatening than Albert Pujols stepping to the plate with bases loaded and none out in a tie game.  So I left the ballpark immediately and headed back to Bonnie and Arby.

Noting the denser storm in the distance, a few other fans precede me in leaving early.

Alas, the thunderstorm moved through the area faster than Toad could run back to Walnut Creek Park.  Alarmed by the winds’ sudden arrival, Bonnie phoned that the initial gusts had bent the awning arms before she could retract the cover.   While we talked as I started the car, the gale ripped the awning from its support, throwing its heavy roller over Arby’s roof.   Later in the evening, we learned that the winds had been clocked at 65 mph.

While this car pulled out ahead of me, Bonnie called with news that the awning had already been ripped.
 Within minutes I parked Toad next to Arby and saw that nothing could be done then about the awning which was reversed and snugged across the roof. Inside Arby, I found that Bonnie was frightened by the tempest and concerned that leaks might result from the crash that the roller bar had made when it had been torn loose from its front arm.  While the storm raged about us and rocked Arby as though we were in a row boat crossing the wake of jet ski, we considered abandoning RV life for the night and checking into a hotel, and we began to think about what to do to prepare for the next day’s scheduled journey westward toward Wyoming.  

Bonnie surveys the damage.
By midnight, the storm cells had passed into Iowa, and we slept, or at least tried to sleep.   Rising at dawn under clear skies, we quickly surmised that the awning was an entire loss: the support arms were twisted, the canvas torn, and the roller bar bent.  The entire set-up would need to be removed.  As I began to disengage the roller bar, the spring in the arm released, thwacking my thumb, which throbbed with pain as it began to swell.

Thankfully, moments later two RVers who had anchored at the park for several weeks offered to help with the removal and disposal of the awning.  Both brought tools, expertise, and energy that were indispensible.  Vern Bridgewater, who now spends winters in Alabama and summers in Walnut Creek Park, had been a metal worker and tool specialist before his retirement a few years ago.  While I unbolted the arm supports and drilled off the heads of rivets securing the sidebars to Arby, he used his reciprocating saw to cut through the final portion of the support whose complete release had been prevented by the hinges on a storage bay. 

Vern cuts the awning roller's cover.
Meanwhile, Mike Meehan, whose awning had also been damaged slightly by storm, began to cut the canvas from the roller bar.  Since he was sporting a Red Sox cap, I turned some of our conversation to baseball and the national anthem and learned that, although he spent most of his career in San Diego, he never shifted his allegiance from Boston to the Padres.  Whether wintering in Georgia or summering in Nebraska, he’s still a citizen of Red Sox Nation.

Mike hauls away the pieces.
For an hour the three of us toiled together, Vern sawing the pieces into six-foot lengths, me loading them into Mike’s van, and Mike hauling them away to the dumpster. I bid them farewell knowing that their assistance was the reason that I might keep the next engagement in Casper, Wyoming.
After a quick breakfast, Bonnie and I attached Toad to the tow bar and headed west across the recurring sameness of Nebraska’s prairie, a flat terrain across which Arby sighed in relief.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joe,

    I thought I only had a couple of minutes to view your blog and got hooked.Thanks for the interesting accounts of your experiences in the many ball parks you and Bonnie had visited. Grace would have enjoyed them too. However, she went to bed exhausted after a busy day that included being interviewed about her late brother, Larry Shinoda, who is being posthumously honored with other artists at the Japanese American National Museum starting Oct. 15.

    Warm cheers to you and Bonnie,