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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Camp Dixie for Girls

Friday, July 17
La Crosse - Minneapolis - Kalispell - Whitefish

Good. I've got your attention. There really is a Camp Dixie for Girls, though. And, before you get to the end of this post, I'll show you how it relates to day one of the Glacier Park / Waterton tour. You're going to have to trust me on this, as it won't be evident right off.

Inauspicious is how one might describe the start of the tour. The flight from Minneapolis to Kalispell was about 40 minutes late, although I know these days this is pretty much considered on-time. And, since I was to arrive in the early afternoon, this wasn't such a big deal. The state of one of my checked bags - the one with all of my biking clothes and accessories - was somewhat of a big deal. To me, anyway. It arrived in a condition that does not do justice to the word "shredded." Seriously, it looked as if it were the focus of a tug-of-war between a badger and a mountain lion. Who both really wanted it. And who had had words before the contest. I went to the Delta Northwest counter (it seems as if when something goes wrong at the new Delta, it is actually the old Northwest's fault) and got a new and larger rolling duffel. Now about 1 1/2 hours later than I had expected, I was on my way to the Chalet Motel in Whitefish, Montana. The tour was on!

A brief conversation with the young lady at the motel desk revealed that she was an author and currently busy promoting her latest book. Putting in time at the motel just in case the writing thing didn't work out, I guess. I asked her, "What's the title?" "Money and Sex "(or "Sex and Money", I don't remember which way it went nor do I think it matters much), she replied. She had my attention and, sensing this, she told me it was a financial advice book aimed at women. The title was her publisher's idea, not hers, she added. OOOO-K.

After carefully unpacking tossing my suitcases into a corner of the room, I headed out for a walk into Whitefish. And here is where I make the Camp Dixie connection. I'm telling you this so you won't bail out. As if I really thought you would.

I went to high school in College Park, Georgia, where I was on the football team. If you didn't already know this, high school football is BIG in Georgia. Schools there play a 28 game regular season in order to determine which 4 of the 3,562 teams in the state will not take part in the playoffs. As a result, there are Friday night football games from September through July. Regrettably, this left the College Park coaches - Harris, Ross and Cunningham - nothing to do in August. But, being resourceful types, they came up with a plan: summer football camp. Brilliant! We would load up a school bus and head into north Georgia for a week of fun and games. Or maybe it was a week of grueling two-a-day practices, each one, after the first, enjoyed in wet and REALLY cold, smelly uniforms. Yes. It was that last one. One of the schools in our area went to Hard Labor Creek State Park (I am not making this up). The College Park Rams? We went to Camp Dixie for Girls. You can stop that snickering. Now!

Camp Dixie was a couple of miles outside of Clayton, Georgia and we were, of course, told that under no circumstances were we to go into town. What we heard was, "Feel free to take off and have a look at what Clayton has to offer." So, we did. There were about six of us, as I recall, who hitched a ride on a flatbed truck with a load of hay. As we drove slowly along the winding, narrow road, relaxing in the vehicle-induced breeze and enjoying the musky smell of the hay, we met a car coming from town. A car with the above-mentioned coaches. Who were returning to the camp, after checking out all of the reasons we were NOT to go into town, I suppose. As the vehicles passed, we waved, they waved, and we went our separate ways. Knowing we would possibly not live to see another afternoon in north Georgia, we decided we might as well enjoy it. We went into a few of the stores and visited a {gasp} pool hall. Yep. We were goners for sure.

As we walked back to camp, a car pulled up to our little band and the driver asked if we knew where the Greyhound station was. We had no clue, of course, but this didn't stop one of us from saying something like, "You bet. All you do is drive down this road until you get to the Shell station. It's about a mile on the other side of town. Take a right there and go another half mile or so. You can't miss it." The driver thanked us and drove off. I wonder to this day where he ended up.

Fast-forward to last Friday...

As I was walking from the hotel into Whitefish, I had my eye out for the high school, where Cycle America had set up operations for the start of the tour. I'd looked at an aerial map earlier in the week and thought I knew about where it was. But, I didn't see it, so I kept on going. My goal was to get to the local cycle shop and locating the school on this walk was only to get my bearings for when I needed to go there to assemble the bike, have dinner and attend the first of the pre-ride evening meetings. As I got closer to the center of town, I met two young ladies on the sidewalk. I stopped and asked about the high school. "Oh. It's just up ahead on this road," one of them said, pointing in the direction I was headed. "In fact, you see that pedestrian crossing sign up there? It's just past that and on the right side of the street." Now this did not jive with my idea of where the school should be, but I thanked them and continued on. As I got to the sign it was clear that no high school was going to be found there.

What goes around, comes around.

It is really hot in Whitefish - pushing 95 degrees. I am well-prepared for cool weather riding, but do not have a sweat band, something that will clearly come in handy. What I find at Glacier Cyclery is one of those do-rag affairs. It's not what I was hoping to find, but I get it anyway. And I came to really like it. I also got one of the shop's signature jerseys which I wore on the first and last days of the ride. Here is a picture of my Montana cycling outfit, a self-portrait taken in a reflecting window at the Hungry Horse Dam visitors' center:

BIll arrived just after midnight. His flights were on time and, from the pristine appearance of his luggage, I deduced that the badger and mountain lion had settled their differences and called it a night before he arrived. Tomorrow? We prepare for the ride around and through Glacier National Park.

By the way, do you think those girls in Whitefish will ever wonder where I ended up?

Disclaimers, Clarifications, and Other Legal Matters
My flight was late as claimed and my small sports duffel was in fact destroyed somewhere between La Crosse and Kalispell. I use packing cubes, so the contents stayed pretty much intact and as near as I can tell, I didn't lose anything. And I did go to the Delta baggage service desk in Kalispell first. Delta is making an effort to erase all vestiges of the Northwest name, but when I showed the Delta guy my bag, he really did send me to the Northwest ticket counter. Where they really did have an extra duffel to give me. There's a story there, I'm sure.

Perhaps I exaggerated just a little on the football season played by Georgia high schools. But I did do some research and found that there were in fact 160 schools in the 2008 playoffs.

There still is, I have learned in my research for this posting, a Camp Dixie for Girls. AND, a Camp Dixie for Boys as well. No, there were no girls at the camp when we used the facilities for our summer practices. You WERE going to ask, weren't you?

I want to say it was NOT me who came up with the faux directions to the possibly non-existent Clayton, Georgia Greyhound station. Not that I WOULDN'T have, but I usually don't get clever ideas like that until pondering the situation for a while. It was, in fact, a one M_______ A____. He knows who I'm talking about. I really think the coaches dropped the idea of a restriction on going into town to see who would actually go ahead and do it anyway - you know, screening for future leaders.

It is only recently that I learned we have lost coaches Jack Cunningham and Owen Harris. The news saddened me more than I might have thought it would, had I thought about it that way. I only saw them once or twice after I graduated. One thing I'll always remember is that first practice after our return from the outing in Clayton. They didn't say a word during the entire afternoon. Until we were dismissed to clean up for dinner. Or, when everyone else was dismissed. They lectured us for a few minutes, but it was easy to see they were working harder to keep from smiling at our hi-jinx than they were at being angry. We had to run around the field during the entire dinner hour. It was getting dark when coach Harris told us we could go shower and retire to our cabins...where we found our dinners wrapped in tin foil, sitting on our bunks. I'm guessing I never thanked him. Too soon old, too late smart, I guess.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First your bag is badgered and then you in Whitefish. Why do these things elicit smiles???