A Whirlwind Month Ends on a Mountain

Aug 10, 2017   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

The officially recognized word for expressing one’s own feeling of well-earned rest after a crazy spell of time is “Whew” and that’s how I feel. I haven’t traveled a great deal while writing, editing, and promoting the book, until now. Denver, Seattle, Sonoma (via Sacramento), and back to Denver, all in succession. Whew. There, I said it.

The “We Did It!” moment. Husband and wife, Eric and Erin Novotny (Click to enlarge)

The good news, as in the great news, was the way it all wrapped up. It was back to Denver for a Doyle family hullabaloo highlighted by one of the most beautiful and enjoyable weddings I’ve ever attended, as Barbara’s niece Erin exchanged vows and rings with Eric in a gorgeous setting. It was also a ceremony filled with original thoughts and sentiments, and not a lot of typical “wedding fluff” which I think everyone really enjoyed, especially the bride and groom. Every word and action of the ceremony was purposeful, thoughtful, and meaningful. And, there were not a lot of dry eyes in the house.

It was an outdoor ceremony, and after months of parched drought in the area, it rained a little during the wedding but just enough to add some character to it. We barely got wet. Barb’s brother Jim, who is Erin’s dad, was magnificent and very touched by having so many family members there with him and his wife Deb. Basically ALL the Doyle family members were there. Jim’s other daughter, Leah, was maid of honor and his son James was in attendance as well. We then had the added bonus of having Leah’s boyfriend Levi and James’ girlfriend Rachel join us, as well.

Barb’s sister Kitty, her son Todd, his wife Angie, and their adorable twin daughters flew up from Orlando. Her brother Tim, his wife Kelly, and his sons Colin and Sean all came in from Pittsburgh, and Sean’s boy Jordan came along as well, for comic relief. The kid is a hoot. So, in summary, all the Doyle siblings were there, as well as all six of their kids and three grandchildren. Amazing.

We stayed at Jim and Debbie’s place and never stopped having fun. The wedding day itself was a bit stressful, but we all pitched in and got everything ready. Tim and I were in charge of decorating the tables for the reception, and organizing the seating to mesh with the detailed seating chart that had been developed. For some reason, the venue wouldn’t let us start until 2:00 for a 5:00 wedding, but we managed to pull it off with minutes to spare. It was like the TV show “Chopped” where the chefs have a limited amount of time to prepare a complicated dinner. When “Time’s Up!” is yelled, everyone raises their hands. We got great help from some other relatives who came in for the day, and finished with minutes to spare.

Enjoying the reception with the bride and groom. Too much fun…

Everyone looked magnificent, especially the bride and groom, and the reception went off without a hitch. We ate well, we enjoyed a few glasses of wine, and we danced and laughed the night away. And to that end, the host for the reception, who also doubled as the minister for the wedding, had a great way of organizing the buffet line. In conjunction with a deejay, he played “Name That Tune” with the assembled 200+ guests. They’d play a snippet of a song and if you knew it you raised your hand. If you got it right, your table was set free to hit the buffet and you could pick another table to go with you. I sprang our group loose by getting “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf after just two or three notes. “Get your motor runnin’ – Head out on the highway – Lookin’ for adventure – And whatever comes our way…”

By the way, for the record the buffet line was about 10-steps better than your typical reception food. Incredible food, really, and I devoured it like a starving man.

Speaking of being a starving man, I had a follow-up appointment with my allergist yesterday, to see how everything is going with the new meds he had prescribed during this awful year for my allergies, and one of the ways I pointed out that I’m feeling better overall was the fact I’m eating more now. When your allergies are as bad as mine have been, you can’t really taste much and you lose your appetite. For the last few months I’ve been eating, but not really getting much enjoyment out of it. For the last few weeks, I’ve found myself actually craving certain dishes and flavors. That’s a good thing, if I can manage to not gain back some of the weight I’ve been able to shed. I needed to drop 15 pounds, and I’ve done that, so in that regard the allergies actually helped me. But that doesn’t mean it was fun.

Anyway, after a fun few hours at the reception, the wedding party dashed through a rain shower to get in the limos and off they went.

The next day, on Sunday, Jim and Deb hosted a huge picnic and cookout for everyone and that was equally as spectacular, in its own way. Brother Tim was in charge of the grill, with my assistance, and the brats and burgers were epic. Fun stuff for everyone, and a great way to relax and just have fun after the wedding.

On Monday, we had plans to go up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, while Erin and Eric got on an early flight and took off for their honeymoon in Costa Rica. I know they’re having a great time down there, and Costa Rica is a marvelous place so that helps. The rest of us piled into three cars for our escapade but the weather did not want to cooperate. In driving rain we made the quick trip up to Estes Park, where we stopped at a McDonald’s to figure out our next move. We left my rental car in the parking lot and headed for the park. A bunch of rain, mist, and fog wasn’t going to stop us.

At the entrance, we went into the Visitor’s Center and a Park Ranger tipped us off that it was raining all the way to the top of the park, even up at 12,000 feet, but if we ventured on to the “back side” of the park the sun was shining on that side of the mountain. With Tim at the controls, I relaxed in the back of the minivan and off we went. Sure enough, limited visibility and rain all the way up, which is not a bad thing in one regard. The road to the top clings to the side of the mountains, and can be a bit harrowing for nervous drivers or passengers. We couldn’t see much more than the road ahead, so it felt as if we were on the flatlands. Sadly, though, that also meant we didn’t get to enjoy the gorgeous scenery on the way up.

The sign was just waiting for us.

True to the Ranger’s word, when we passed the summit and went around the corner to the back side, the clouds soon broke and we could see the mountains around us. Our first stop was a Doyle “go-to” moment, as we had our photo taken in front of the Continental Divide sign. Of course we did. It’s a rule. You have to do it.

Oops. Gotta run. Almost late for a meeting. (Play your own theme music).

(An hour later…) Okay, now I’m back. I had a 12:15 appointment to meet up with our dear friends Mary Beth and Joe Gillis, over a Greek lunch, in order to complete a “business transaction” of the most important kind. Vikings tickets were involved. They were kind enough to give us their tickets to the final preseason game, because the final preseason game is one where almost no starters play. We don’t care about that we’ll just go to have a great time in their phenomenal stadium. They also had a conflict with the home opener in the regular season, so I bought those from them.

The Vikes open against the New Orleans Saints. Guess who now plays for the Saints…  Did you guess?  Did you know the answer? Well, it’s Adrian Peterson, quite possibly the greatest running back who ever wore the purple. The Vikings didn’t offer him a contract extension after his injury-marred 2016 season and he signed with New Orleans, which as I pointed out in my book is actually pronounced Newollens.

I personally am part of the majority who believes Peterson’s great days are well behind him, because he was pretty ineffective in the few games he played last year before getting hurt. He just didn’t have the explosiveness and decisiveness he used to have, but that doesn’t mean he won’t run for 200 yards against his old team. Those homecoming emotions have a way of helping a player do extraordinary things. I do think, however, that he’ll get a nice ovation from the crowd at US Bank Stadium. He was always popular here, and there will be more than a few No. 28 jerseys with “PETERSON” on the back in the crowd that day.

Three generations of Doyles. L-R: Sean, Tim, Jordan (Sean’s boy), and Colin. When I met Sean and Colin for the first time, Sean was the age Jordan is now.

Okay, back to Rocky Mountain National Park. After our stop at the Continental Divide sign we drove down to a scenic valley next to a small lake, and all got out to stretch our legs. We even “hiked” a bit if by that you mean a few of us walked an entire 300 yards up a steep trail. Hey, it’s still about 11,000 feet up there. I was proud I wasn’t out of breath.

It was great to be out there with family, who are all such good people, and we were all glad we took the Ranger’s advice by driving around to the backside of the park. Sunshine is a good thing.

We saw a bunch of deer and a few elk on the way back, before we got to the summit and the clouds and rain returned for the trip back down to Estes Park. Once there, we transitioned back to the appropriate vehicles and Barbara and I headed for the Denver Airport, as did Sean, Jordan, and Colin in their rental car. You know where Denver International Airport is, right? Yeah, it’s almost in Kansas, so we didn’t want to take a chance on what’s typically a two-hour drive turning into a five-hour one if there were any wrecks on the roads.

We programmed the airport into Barb’s phone and lovely Siri gave us three options. We chose the quickest route, despite the fact it took us some funky ways on some very small roads as we left Estes Park. I was a little concerned Siri was nuts, or maybe inebriated or something, because it seemed like we were really going the wrong way. I should place more trust in Siri. Within 20 minutes, we were in Longmont and by 3:45 we were in the airport for our 6:05 flight. And, Siri allowed us to actually get in front of the boys, who left Estes Park before us and then followed the conventional directions. So we had that goin’ for us, which was nice.

Later that night, we arrived back home to see two wonderfully relaxed and well-adjusted boyz, and that’s all thanks to our new cat sitter Erica Moon. She “lives in” with them when we’re gone now, and it makes such a difference in the way they are when we get home. No more of the dismissive looks followed by 30-minutes of yelling at us for having left them. This time, they were happy to see us but there was no sign of the unhappiness we’re used to. Thank you, again, Erica! It’s great to have you living with them when we both need to be out of town.

And we’ll wrap this installment up with another fine story from “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” that ended up on the editing room floor.

In college, at SIUE, it was a baseball team tradition to make rookies do a couple of things on their first road trip, as a final step in their initiation. My first road trip with the team happened early in my sophomore year, when we went southeast to play University of Evansville and Kentucky Wesleyan. I knew what was coming and I was not looking forward to it. Stage 1 was singing your high school fight song for the entire team on the bus.

To make it all the more stressful, the veterans waited until the ride to Evansville was almost over, just to let all of us rookies stew on it and worry about it more. As we were rolling into the town of Evansville, it had gotten dark. We wondered if the veterans had forgotten it was our first road trip. They had not. They just wanted to keep us in suspense and they wanted it to be dark out. That way, when the driver turned all of the interior lights on as we drove through town, people in other cars or on the sidewalk could see us each singing. In… Our… Underwear! Yep.

I gave “When The Bills Go Marching In” my best effort, in my tight white briefs, and felt enormous relief when the vets applauded and let me pull my jeans back up. Some other rookies were not so fortunate. “Sing it AGAIN” was heard a few times.

Stage 2 of rookie initiation came after arrival at the motel. It was tradition for the seniors to throw each rookie into the pool, no matter the weather. I had selected the clothes I wore on the trip carefully, knowing everything would be drenched. After getting our keys, we sulked outside to accept our fate. Each rookie was supposed to be tossed in by two seniors, who would hold him by his feet and hands to do so. In my case, however, Bob Matzenbacher, a senior outfielder, just grabbed me and tossed me in by himself, before I could even resist.

Later, the seniors huddled to discuss this transgression, as if it had been my fault. A few of them felt I deserved to be tossed in again, the correct way and in another set of clothes. I approached our senior catcher, Pat Scholz, who actually intimidated me enough that I was somewhat scared of him. He and I went back on the bus for a meeting and I stated my case. “Scholzy, this isn’t fair,” I said. “Matzy ambushed me and tossed me in before I knew what he was doing. I wore this stuff for a reason, and it’s not fair to ruin two full sets of clothing for something I didn’t do.”

Scholz thought about it seriously, like a judge considering his verdict. He looked at me very studiously, nodded his head, and said, “You’re right Wilb. Not your fault.” He then went out and told the rest of the ever-so-disappointed seniors that it was Matzenbacher’s fault, not mine. I had completed my initiation and was free to go. I still thank Pat Scholz for that, to this day.

So that’s it for this week’s extravaganza. Hope you enjoyed it, and if you did please do me the one favor I ask every week. Hit the “Like” button at the top.

Thanks everyone, see again next Thursday!

Bob Wilber, at your service and finally dried off after that pool plunge in 1976.

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