I shall endeavor to begin this blog installment with a classic bit of Journalism 101, wherein the wide-eyed students learn their first lesson from the crusty old ink-stained professor. The very fact they are still wide-eyed is proof enough they have not been paying attention to the world of print media, since they are attempting to get their degree in a business segment that is disappearing, but that's not the lesson here. The lesson, as taught by that overweight former sportswriter who lost his job at the Big City Herald-Tribune Examiner (over something that certainly was blown out of proportion) is this: Start your story by answering these questions: "Who, what, where, when, and why?"
What? Writing a blog and people watching.
Where? McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, at an empty gate so as not to be surrounded by the hoards of depressed travelers who are heading back to the real world after a fantasy trip to Sin City. And the people watching doesn't get any better than this...
When? Right now. Two hours before my flight to Salt Lake.
Why? Well let's face it, that's the biggest question in the history of deep thinking. When asked "Why is there air?" Bill Cosby astutely responded "To blow up basketballs with!" And you thought it was deeper than that.
Yep, I'm here bright and early on a Monday morning, having gotten up at the crack of darkness to be leaving the parking garage at Mandalay Bay by 8:00, for my 10:50 flight. This is what we call "making your decisions based on reputations that may not really exist anymore." Throughout all my years of traveling to Vegas multiple times each year, McCarran has established a well-worn reputation for being a total stress-inducing mess, and I guess it still is, from time to time. Mostly, though, I swim right through this place and end up at an empty gate, writing a blog, while contemplating the question "Why?" with no good answer. So here I sit.
It is also at this point when I wish I had the ability to snap my fingers or wiggle my nose and just be home. Air travel being so fun, I know that's hard to believe. But, considering I am no more able to do that than most of you (and those of you who can, remember that I know that) I shall wait for my flight to Salt Lake, aboard which I will be seated in the Shakespeare seat (2-B, or not 2-B, that is the question.) And then, sometime around 4:00 this afternoon I'll land at GEG and try to remember two things. A) I drove Barb's car to the airport, not mine, because she wanted to make a Home Depot run for bags of mulch this weekend. And... B) I think I parked Barb's car is on Level 2. I'm pretty sure. Hard to say, though, because I parked it there four days ago...
Well, we had a race here in Vegas and the good guys didn't have exactly our best weekend ever. From the first qualifying run we were dropping cylinders, and we managed to keep doing that for the first three laps. Then, in Q4 we finally fixed that problem, but the added horsepower sent us right into tire smoke. To be honest (aren't I always?) we felt pretty fortunate to get in 15th. We did not feel fortunate, however, to know that we'd be taking a shot in the dark for a tune-up, and Courtney Force would be in the other lane.
Basically, that means we were a couple of runs behind all weekend, still looking for a good baseline when Sunday rolled around and wishing they'd let us make one more pass before we had to take on Courtney and her All-Star squad. Oddly, NHRA seems to frown upon giving one team five qualifying passes when everyone else gets four, so we had to take a shot at it. For 330 feet, it was a good race. From that point forward, it was not. And so goes drag racing.
GREAT weather the whole time. Krista Wilkerson has a theory I agree with, for no good reason other than it seems to come true. When you start the season with bad weather in Pomona, the meteorological patterns seem to follow you, and every time we get to the next town we arrive just as the bad weather does. If you have great weather in Pomona, the cycle works the other way and the bad weather hits each town right before or after us. Right now, we're 4-for-4 in terms of great weather, and when I woke up this morning and the sun did rise, the rain clouds were hanging low in Vegas. Magic!
From my seat at this gate, I can see the Great Pyramid, the Empire State Building, and and the Eiffel Tower, all with a background of mountains. Where else on the planet Earth do you get that view?
The Vegas race featured a cornucopia (or a plethora) of friends, blog readers, and great help. Sara and Jody Gunter, our part-timers from Texas, were there and were great help, as always. They'll be in Houston as well.
Gerald Meux, our friend from Hormel, was there with his girlfriend Kari and her father Randy. When Gerald is in the house, we eat well. Possibly too well.
Despite having flown back to Vegas all the way from England on Thursday, my actor buddy Buck and his son Gibson came out twice, on Friday and Sunday. The jet lag was bad enough for Buck, but little Gibson had been on the same flight (along with little brother Hudson and mother Mary) and he was a little sleepy. And by a little I mean a lot. Great to see Buck, though, and sleepy-eyed little Gibson.
Blog readers galore were in attendance, and many traveled great distances to enjoy the drag races in America's great vacation city. Australia, England, Finland, Bahamas, Canada, New Zealand, and (believe it or not) Puerto Rico were represented by the fine folks who took the time to stop by and say hello. Oh, and a bunch of Americans too. Great to see all of you!!!
Jim and Nancy Butler, our super-fans from Illinois, were in Vegas as well, and they once again reprised their standard Saturday practice of coming out to the race track without actually coming into the race track. Just like they watched Saturday qualifying from across the street in Pomona, this time they came out to LVMS and enjoyed the sounds of racing by eating lunch at the outdoor patio of a little cafe' that's just across the road from The Strip. They're coming to Houston, as well, and we're already formulating plans to find the best possible Tex-Mex on Thursday night. I've heard there's now a Chuy's on the east side of Houston. If true, this news changes everything...
My ankles and legs help up pretty well. We didn't have our golf cart with us, so there was a lot of walking to do every day, and by the time I'd get back to my hotel room each night I was concerned that I'd wake up the next morning in a world of hurt. Instead, I woke up every day feeling ready to go and mostly pain free. We're getting there...
It's still the prettiest car in the pits!
I did pretty well on the slots, only playing on Thursday night and Sunday night. I was basically even after Thursday (which is pretty much a win, on the slots) but hit a row of three 7s on a high pay-out machine on Sunday night and I will be depositing more in the bank than I withdrew last week. Cha-Ching!
An upper respiratory "crud" was infecting almost everyone (it seemed) at the race. Most of our crew was sick, and a ton of other crew people and PR folks were coughing, hacking, and feeling lousy. I'm stunned I got out of there untouched (Bob knocks on wood.)
And here's a big piece of news... This isn't official yet, and with budget cuts going on left and right I can't be sure if it will happen, but Jim Greenleaf from Summit Racing Equipment asked me if I'd accompany their entourage of drivers this November, on their annual trip to meet the troops over in Europe. The late Jon Knapp, who did PR for Summit, used to go on the trip to do the publicity and help keep things organized, so I know I'll be stepping into some legendary shoes by handling those things this fall, but I'm honored. Jim wasn't sure where the trip would be going this year, but I agreed to go along before he could change his mind. Could be Germany, or Italy, or other places where wounded U.S. troops are sent after being injured. I hope I can do Jon (and his widow Joanne) proud.
And here's another big piece of news, although on a totally unrelated front. I've spent my whole life in or around baseball, as you know, and during my childhood we were family friends with Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and a whole bunch of other legends. But, Saturday in Vegas marked the first time a Hall of Fame member called me, direct, on my cell phone. I actually missed the call because I was exiting off I-15 at the time, but as soon as the voice mail chimed I listened to that and heard "Hi Bob, this is Bert Blyleven...." Bert is one of our Advisory Board members at our family charity, and he was calling to chat about the start of the season and the World Baseball Classic, for an interview we'll put on the TPGF website. Now that's pretty cool..
Well, my plane has arrived so I guess I'll wrap this up. The people watching has been up to par, and the writing exercise chewed up most of the time I had to kill. Still, McCarran's reputation will persist because I know if I ever try to cut it close here I'll learn the lesson that this place can still be a zoo, when you least expect it.