Ugh. If that's really a word, that's the one that comes to mind right about now. Combining a stressful weekend in Reading, with a very unfortunate DNQ, followed by travel challenges getting home, including the fact Barbara and I missed each other by about seven hours as she was leaving for Europe when I was heading west for Spokane, and capping it all off with the fact I'm officially "under the weather" right now, and all I can say is Ugh. I think it looks better when it's capitalized, so therefore and henceforth I shall type it that way. Ugh.
I shall leave my illness in the undisclosed category, but rest assured it is much more of a nuisance than any sort of threat, and I'm not surprised to have been attacked by a bug of some sort after the marathon of racing and travel we've all been doing. I guess if there's one silver lining to all of this it's that we didn't have to put up with the cold and rain on Sunday and Monday. And we still have jobs. And our jobs are in racing. And no matter what, we're a playoff team and we have two more races at which we can propel ourselves back up the standings. But man, everybody is tired.
Let's see, where to begin? The last time I put fingers to keyboard in order to write a blog installment, I was in Woodbury after the St. Louis race. Seems like eons ago. I had a good week there, and had a marvelous/stupendous dinner at the Jacobsens the night before I left. Nichol had an urge to do a bit of a take-off on Thanksgiving, so she baked a chicken instead of a turkey, but added in dressing and mashed potatoes to go with it, and what a treat that was. I was getting a little tired of Subway and Arby's by then, so she really hit a home run! Thanks neighbors...
On Thursday, I flew from MSP to CVG (Cincinnati) and made a quick connection to a very small regional jet up to MDT, which might seem like an odd designation for Harrisburg until you realize the Harrisburg airport is actually closer to Middletown, Pa.
It was a quick one-hour drive over to Reading, where our team (and apparently others) were confronted and confounded by all sorts of issues with the front desk staff at the hotel in which we were ensconced, which shall remain nameless. Okay, it has the slightly misleading word "Best" in the title, and then a word that signifies direction and geography. We've stayed at a few of those hotels that were very nice, and this property was easily okay in terms of the rooms and lobby, but the staff was very confused and everyone's rooms were messed up in terms of arrival days, who was rooming with who, and in our case a couple of our rooms weren't even in the system. To say I was relieved when I got my keys and my room was both clean and of the right style would be putting it mildly.
Friday was a phenomenal day at the track, and I'd go so far as to say it was the biggest Friday crowd we've had all year, or maybe in many years. Maple Grove was truly and honestly PACKED. Part of that might've been related to the awful weather forecast for the rest of the weekend, and the beautiful weather on Friday, but for whatever reason the great fans in that part of the country came out in absolute droves.
We made a decent pass on Friday, but it ended up being 13th on the sheet so you know what that means. It's as if we hadn't run at all. Wilkerson? Never heard of him. We went into Saturday with no time on the board, and with one eye on the weather. As it turned out, the rain stayed away on Saturday but the temps came down and the conditions were stout. Unfortunately for us, those mineshaft conditions don't always dovetail with the way our car likes to run, and we never got a handle on it. As Tim said "As many years as we've been coming here, you'd think I'd remember how off-the-charts the power can be when it's cool here." When the car makes that much power, it's hard to get it to stick and we were smoking the tires.
On the last pass, with us still not in, it finally went to the other end under power, but as it got to about the 660 mark I could see the odd flames (yellow good, green bad) and you could see it put a hole out as well. It sorta limped across the finish line with a 4.27 and, at the time, that was good enough for 15th, but none of us thought it would hold. It didn't and we DNQd.
It was frustrating to not be a part of what was, in all reality, an absolute orgy of speed and elapsed times. But, there's no drama in Wilk World and we all just got back to work, putting it behind us as soon as we got back to the pit. There's no use stewing over it or getting upset, because what's done is done and we always try our hardest. If it was a lack of effort or dedication, you could be upset about it, but sometimes these cars just don't behave. For an example of that, just consider that it was the points leader at the time, Ron Capps, who also went into the last session outside the field, and it was Ron who bumped us out. That's how close he was to a DNQ...
The first thing I did, after writing up the news and sending it all out, was to call Delta. For far more money than it was worth, I changed my flight to Sunday, because getting home was really the one thing I was looking forward to the most. Under any other circumstances, I never would've paid that much for 24 hours of extra time in my own bed, but at the end of that stretch of travel it somehow seemed worth it.
Then, we got to work tearing down the whole circus. It would've been easy for the guys to just put the car away and go get some rest, but everyone wanted to get out of there and put Reading in the rearview, so we put our heads down and got to work. Just about the time it was getting to be dusk, we were rolling.
Colin was with us again for the weekend, and I needed to get him back to his car so he could make the five-hour trip back over to Slippery Rock. He did a great job with us, all weekend, and as we were tearing down the hospitality center Jon Gimmy said to me "He's a great kid, and that's great to see. No excuses, no slacking, and it's obvious that you show him how to do something once and he's got it." Yep, that's Colin Doyle. Colin from Slippery Rock!
I went to bed that night as soon as I got back to my room, knowing I had an 11:20 flight out of MDT the next morning, and it was going to be a long day. The trip was MDT-CVG-MSP-GEG. Ugh.
I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to make the drive back up to Harrisburg, so I was rolling at 8:00 and then, of course, never slowed down once the whole way, getting to the airport way early. As it turned out, that was a good thing.
I approached the Delta counter and went to one of the self-serve kiosks to get my boarding passes, and the first thing I saw was an alert that my MDT to CVG flight was delayed, which meant I now had exactly 11 minutes to make my connection, and that was with a big IF included. Meaning, if the plane really left at the new departure point, I'd still only have an impossible connection. While I was groaning to myself about that, the screen blinked a couple of times and kind of froze for a bit, and I heard the agent behind the counter mumble something about "now it won't let me change his itinerary at all..."
Turns out, the proactive and helpful agent was actually working in my profile on her screen, trying to rebook me on a different itinerary, at the same time I was trying to check in, so we kind of messed each other up. She looked at me and said "Are you Mr. Wilber?" When I said I was, she said "I've been waiting for you. It's a good thing you're here early, because while it was quiet I was trying to rebook you."
She got me on the 11:00 flight to ATL, and from there I'd fly to SLC, then on to GEG. Badda boom, badda bing. And she moved me up to the front cabin, too, so I didn't have to hope for a last-minute upgrade. Delta has tons of issues, just like most airlines, but this time it's only fair I give them props. Well done Ms. Ticket Counter lady. Well done.
The hop down to Atlanta wasn't bad, and the four-hour flight out to Salt Lake actually seemed to go by pretty quickly, and before I could even believe it we were coming over the majestic and spectacular Wasatch Range. The view of the greater Salt Lake City metro area, all spread out just on the western "wall" of the Wasatch is really incredible, so I had to try to capture it with my phone. We flew right over Provo as we came over the mountains and made the right turn to the north to line up for a direct approach into SLC. I knew it was Provo because I'm smart, and also because the first thing I saw down there was a big football stadium with the letters BYU painted on the seats. Duh!
The one-hour flight up to GEG, though, in another miniature regional jet, seemed to take forever. I guess, by then, I just couldn't wait to get home...
The boyz met me at the door, and for the next 45 minutes Buster did nothing but yell at me. Loudly. Angrily. Passionately. My Big Fella really doesn't like it when I leave him, and this time I was gone 10 days. Boofus, on the other hand, just made a habit of walking between my legs and rubbing on me.
Yesterday, as I was catching up on bills, answering emails, and just doing general work (while also feeling lousy) they each took turns standing on my desk, right next to my computer, staring at me. They've developed a real "camera shy" thing when I bring out the Nikon, because they equate it with that bright light that usually gets them right in the eyes, but they haven't figured out that my iPhone is a camera too, so I grabbed the phone and took a couple of close-ups of them.
I sent them off to Barb, and just a few minutes ago she texted me from her hotel room in Amsterdam saying "You have to put those close-ups in the blog. I think you can clearly see their different personalities in those pics." You can, and she's right, so I will. Boofie has his typical surprised face, which is pretty much how he looks all the time. I think Boofie sees the world as a fascinating series of weird incidents, but he doesn't really tie them all together. It's like he's constantly surprised and intrigued by what's going on around him.
Buster, on the other paw, just looks mad at me. I think, at the time, he was still a little ticked off I had been gone so long. Today, he's a lot more lovey-dovey.
So now we have two entire weekends off. That's hard to believe. Barb goes from Amsterdam to Paris on Thursday, then she takes a couple of trains to get to some small city in France, to tour one of the Itron plants over there, before flying back on Saturday. Since she has to fly to MSP anyway, she's going to spend a couple of days there, decompressing from the trip and seeing friends (also getting her hair done, nails manicured, etc.) She's due home here on Tuesday, one week from today. Then, we'll have nine days together just being normal people, until I have to leave for Vegas. But, the truth is the season is almost over. Just two more races, and then we'll have to adjust to seeing other so much! LOL
Other Reading ramblings...
One female fan came up to our pit carrying a t-shirt. I figured she wanted to get it autographed but then I looked at it and it was clear that she'd had a photo of her and Tim printed on the front. That was pretty cool, so I went up in the lounge and rousted the boss, telling him he needed to see this. It was actually her gift to him, and we all thought it was pretty cool. So, big thanks to Lisa Prokop, from Emmaus, Pa.
Friday at The Grove. Absolutely packed!
As tough as my return travel could've been, I still have to go with Harrisburg as the airport of choice. It's so easy to get in and out of, and it's a much easier drive than Philly.
Speaking of Philly, while we were in our question & answer mode with our guests in the hospitality area on Saturday, I hit them with a little bit of trivia while I was on the p.a. system and acting as host (stand-up comedian). I asked "How many of you are Phillies fans?" and hands shot up all around the room.
I then said "Here's a little trivia you can look up in if you like. August 27, 1951. Phillies versus the Reds, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. It was a double-header that day, and in the second game the Phillies back-up catcher was playing. He had three at-bats, took three swings, and hit three home runs, for three RBI, accounting for all the scoring by himself, in a 3-0 victory." They had all inched closer by then, paying serious attention to the story I was telling about their favorite team.
I let that bit of the story sink in for a bit, pausing for effect, and then said "And that catcher was my father." They actually burst into applause and all came forward to shake my hand, which kind of surprised and embarrassed me. I kept saying "You don't have to shake my hand, it was my dad who did that..." but they'd have none of that. Fun deal, and it was cool to make that extra bit of connection with our LRS guests.
To say that I went on to have a series of fascinating conversations with most of them, one-on-one, would be vastly understating the reality of it. Cool deal. With that in mind, I Googled "August 27, 1951 box scores" the other day, and for the first time ever got to see it as an actual historic baseball record. I shared it with my siblings and my brother Del Jr. was quick to point out that all three home runs were listed as "deep" in the official box score. All of this does beg the question "What was Reds' pitcher Ken Raffensberger thinking, by even throwing Big Del a strike in that third at-bat?" My guess is he figured "Well heck, he'll never hit a third one..."
If you want to take a look, just go here:
Speaking of cool... It's on its way you know. From everything I've seen and heard, it was downright cold the next two days in Reading, and here in Spokane it's getting down to the low 40s at night now. Won't be long until we're out there scraping the white stuff away... Yesterday, one of my errands was to go around and winterize all the vents in the house, opening them all downstairs and closing most of the ones up here on the main level. If you don't do that, you'd need a winter coat to watch TV in the theater room...
That's about it for today. Time to relax, recharge, and recover. Onward!