Weather and Relics

May 16, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Yesterday was one interesting day and evening. I found a relic I had no idea existed, in the oddest possible place, then a few hours later I thought I was either in an alien abduction or a tornado. It was neither, but it was exciting. We’ll start with the weather.

Barbara had to get up early this morning to catch a flight out to Denver. Her niece Erin is having a baby shower this weekend, and Barb is not only anxious to be there but will also be helping out on the organization. So, when she headed off to bed last night, while I was still about 85% wide awake, I hung out in the living room until my eyelids started getting heavy. I’ve been a certified insomniac all of my life, and I know the routines well. Don’t force the issue. Be 99% asleep before you ever put your head on the pillow. No distractions!

That usually works great, and I wish I’d have known those tricks when I was a little kid laying in bed for hours, hyper and awake, after being told it was bedtime for Bobby Joe, despite the fact little Bobby Joe’s brain was nowhere near ready for bedtime. I finally saw a sleep specialist in the early ’90s and that’s when I learned the rules. We natural insomniacs have rules. Not just guidelines. Rules, I tell ya!

Anyway, sometimes it’s easy to overshoot the mark. Last night was one of those nights. I actually dozed off on the recliner sofa in the living room with the TV on. No big deal. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. That’s why we have big comfortable couches and recliners in our house. I had nodded off but had the presence of mind to turn around and lay on the couch instead of trying to sleep sitting up. A couple of hours later, I was awakened by aliens.

It was a super-bright ultra-white flash of light. Your first instinct is lightning, of course, but there was no accompanying thunder. Just silence. Lightning was still the leading candidate though, because yesterday we got up into the high 70s. Warm weather can turn to hot weather, and a line of storms can separate the two. The flashes continued, randomly, for 10 or 15 more minutes, but still no sound. No thunder rolling in from the distance. And no alien anti-gravity beam lifting me up into the mothership. It was weird. I considered the possibility that I was actually dreaming all of it.

The flashes were so brilliant and instantaneous  I thought, for real, that they could be transformers blowing. High winds can cause that, and you see it on tornado news footage all the time. I remember lying there thinking, “Well, if this is series of transformers blowing I guess I can expect the power to go out any second now.” I actually got up and looked out the window and could see that there was a little breeze, but no real wind. And I don’t have any idea where any electrical grid transformers are around our neighborhood. Then, finally, the first sounds of thunder in the distance. It was a line of storms, about to roll through.

It was a few minutes after 3:00 a.m. and I figured that was a good enough reason to go join Barbara, Boofus, and Buster in our real bed. That’s when the rains came, and more lightning, and more rolling thunder. It was never too violent, and the rain was more soothing than alarming, but the whole thing was kind of surreal. When Barbara got up at 6:00 to get ready to go, I got up just to look outside to see if it all had really happened. No crop circles or charred spots in the yard where a UFO might have landed. Just water on the plants and puddles on the patio. All in all, it was just a nice shower, and it watered the plants and flowers Barb had just put in this past weekend. Perfect timing.

BAM! A month ago this was a foot of snow…

As you can see in this first photo, things are popping and blooming all over the place and it really is getting to be summer in Minnesota. The words “popping and blooming” may sound like it’s all fun and games, but if you have allergies like mine it can be a challenge. So yeah, I don’t fall asleep very well and I also can’t breathe a lot of what’s in the air, without serious consequences. It’s life.

But, I needed some exercise yesterday, the sun was out, it was a glorious day, and I didn’t want to drive to the gym to walk in circles on the 1/13th mile indoor track. I decided to shout lustily at the pollen, exclaiming “You won’t stop me, you yellow menace. Or you either, weeds and grass. I’m going for a quick 2-mile walk and you can’t stop me.” It was just my way of asserting myself and claiming my own rights. For the most part, it worked.

I walked a little more than two miles on our paved Woodbury trails, with much of it through some woods and around beautiful Powers Lake, just to our west. And it was the first walk of the season in which I really worked up a sweat. Like dripping down my forehead sweat. It was 78 degrees and it felt like 98 to me. But I won. I beat the allergies out of sheer will and determination. At least until I got home and sneezed and hacked for 20 minutes. I’ll be going to the Salt Room this afternoon for another 45-minute session in there. It does help.

And now to the part of this blog regarding relics…

When we bought this house, it was listed as having a three-car garage. That might have been true, too, if two of your cars were a SmartCar and a Mini Cooper. The third so-called bay was part of an extended notch in the garage, where you could (again, just hypothetically) store two cars nose-to-tail. We considered it a waste of space, and since we also had no storage out there we decided to put in some substantial built-in cabinets and shelves. We store a lot of our gardening and cleaning products out there. When Barbara decided to do some planting and mulching over the weekend, we carried a few bags down to the backyard. Under one of the bags was a sight for disbelieving eyes.

Indy winners. Skoal winners. That’s a sweep for the ages! (You might want to enlarge this one)

It was this photo. It was in a plastic cover, but it’s still seen its better days thanks to the fact it was buried on a shelf under two bags of mulch, some gardening tools, and a bag of potting soil. I had no idea it was there.

It’s a large format photo, at 20 x 24 inches, and it brings back a tsunami of incredible memories. It’s one of the final photos we took in the Winner’s Circle at Indy, as the 2005 Mac Tools US Nationals Funny Car champions. The fact it’s one of the final photos is why we all look so relaxed and happy, but not manic and crazy.

That manic and crazy part happens first. You win the US Nationals (the most prestigious and historic race in NHRA Drag Racing) after having also won the $100,000 Skoal Showdown the day before, which in total means somewhere close to $250,000 in one split second, and you go nuts. As in primal nuts. As in bonkers. Then you do that again at the top end when you go celebrate with your driver, that coolio Worsham cat.

And then the winning drivers walk out on stage and we cheer some more. Then the PR guy takes his driver to meet the media, and you relive it over and over again with all the questions. And then it’s time for photos. At first, it’s still just absolutely crazy. Pose here, wear this hat, everyone turn to the right, now to the left, now with this sponsor and that hat, on the count of three raise your hands and yell. One, Two, Three!!! It goes on for a while, but it’s a blur after accomplishing something like the Indy sweep. In the actual moment, it’s hard to believe it’s real.

I do clearly remember that they had the Winner’s Circle and the big backdrop banner in the staging lanes, facing west. And the sun was setting right in our eyes. By the time this photo was taken, the sun was finally only blanketing the upper right corner of the banner. We could see again. We were squinting through a lot of the photos.

And for this one, it was just us. Just this group of brothers who had attained the nearly unattainable. The look on our faces reflects satisfaction, and pride, and a good hunk of exhaustion. But oh so worth it.

A champion’s shirt

And here’s the shirt I was wearing that day. I put it away and never wore it again. Somewhere, somehow, during the post-race celebrations, I got something on the “E” in KRAGEN, but the dry-cleaners couldn’t get it out. Whether it was oil from the car, or something in the pit area, or even a drip off a chicken wing when we joined the Don Prudhomme team at a local Brownsburg restaurant for a final celebration, I didn’t care. It was all part of the process and the memories, and one of the most magic days I’ve ever experienced.

I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was only a block or so from our hotel and we got the big party room in the back, for our two teams. Being Don “The Snake” Prudhomme in Indianapolis has its perks. They set that room up for us in the time it took us to get there. Larry Dixon had won in Top Fuel, so our two teams enjoyed each other’s company for another hour or two.

The thing I remember most was how emotional our guys were. We’d all kind of settled down by then, and the enormity of the moment was sinking in. It was a meal full of those “I love you man” moments. And, of course, as was always my responsibility after a win, I gave a quick speech, if by “quick” you mean four or five minutes. I may, or may not, have accidentally dropped an expletive “F Bomb” in there, but I recall immediately saying “Sorry about that, excuse my French” because there were wives and maybe some kids in attendance. It was heartfelt, though, and I know our guys really appreciated it.

My counterpart on Snake’s team was Ted Yerzyk. Teddy and I were, and still are, good friends and kindred spirits in a lot of ways. Heck, we worked alongside each other as PR and Marketing guys for nearly two decades. After my speech, the Prudhomme guys asked Ted to give one too, which I didn’t get the impression he’d ever done before. Peer pressure at its highest. He might have consumed a beer or three, and when he stood to talk he basically said something along the lines of “I just want to congratulate both teams, and especially my guys, for winning Indy. Way to go!”

At that point, Don “The Snake” himself brought the house down by saying “That’s it? That’s all you got? Their guy nails it, and you say congratulations? Geez.” Even Ted was laughing. Typical Snake sarcastic humor of the highest degree. He’s a funny dude.

Doesn’t get much better than an Indy Wally.

And of course I’ve still got the trophy. We always had to order these ourselves, and they were never cheap. OK, so they were legit expensive, but at least they only took MONTHS to arrive after you paid for them. Not kidding. Still, when that brown cardboard box showed up, and Wally was in there all cushioned by pages from the Chicago Tribune (the trophy company is based in Chicago), there was no greater thrill and memory generator than pulling this bad boy out and holding it in your hands again. To this day, it sits directly in front of my desk in my home office.

I have a lot more memorabilia of this sort, but I’ll admit to rarely having the energy or desire to go digging through the boxes to find more. Dozens more framed photos, laminated plaques, hats, jackets, and shirts. Tons of it. But moving across the country twice has a way of keeping those things in their place.

When we moved to Spokane in 2012 a lot of stuff went into boxes. When we got out there, in a smaller house, much of it stayed packed up and was put in a spare closet. When we moved back here, in 2016, the same thing happened again. A new house that was downsized even more. Our utility room and one closet in a spare bedroom are jammed full of artifacts and memorabilia. It’s great to know it’s in there, but if I dug through it all just to take a look I wouldn’t have any place to put it.

So yeah, the unearthed photo that was under all that mulch will go back in its clear plastic cover and back onto a shelf. In this house, I have to pick my display items carefully. I only have this lower level “man cave” to work with.

So that’s about it. We had a winter that wouldn’t end here in Minnesota, with those two unwelcome April blizzards. Then a sort-of Spring, where we’d get two nice days and then three more in the 40s with rain. And now it’s basically summer. Yes, today was a big day. Mark it down. May 16, 2019 is the date I turned the AC on and switched the diverters to send most of the cool air upstairs. Could this be just another head-fake? Sure, and it likely really is one. We could cool off again, but probably not back into the 40s. It’s actually hot here today.

I hope you enjoyed the nonsensical parts of this installment, as well as the rich memories of Indy in 2005. If you read this and “kind of dug it, dude” please click on the “Like” button at the top. I’m not allergic to “Likes”.

See you next week.

Bob Wilber, at your service and finding relics in the strangest places.

BREAKING WEATHER NEWS UPDATE: At 7:30 this evening I heard a “Weather Update” on TV. The forecast high for Saturday is 46. So there you go. I’ve done it again… Unbelievable.



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