Heading For The Gators…

Mar 17, 2016   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Can you tell I took this shot BEFORE I got on the plane?

Can you tell I took this shot BEFORE I got on the plane?

Welcome aboard Delta 1484, heading eastbound to Minneapolis-St. Paul. We are traveling together in seat 2-D, and in moments I’ll have to take a break when the standard hot turkey sandwich on wheat bread arrives. To avoid as many empty calories as possible, I usually open the sandwich and fold over the turkey so it’s all on one side, then chop off the other half of the bread. These tricks for airline food are offered free of charge, but I’m going to have to bill you $25 for that bag you brought with you. And please bring your seat-back to its original upright position.

Well that didn’t take long. Sandwich has arrived. Back in a few… Talk amongst yourselves!

Okay, that was delicious, if by delicious you mean “it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve eaten since the grade-school cafeteria.” All done now.

We should get in at MSP a little early because we had the benefit of a west-to-east takeoff out of GEG. The prevailing winds in Spokane are typically out of the west or south, so you usually have to take off to the west and the loop back to head east. Head East?

See ya in a few, Spokane!

See ya in a few, Spokane!

Remember them? Back in the 70s they had the hit song “Never Been Any Reason” and after they played the outdoor festival at my college, as a warm-up act, the student newspaper gave them one of the more direct and concise reviews ever. It was “As for the opening act, Head East, I suspect they probably should. That would be best for all involved.”

How many of you have been around long enough to remember those golden blog days of yesteryear, when I not only worked for the Worshams and the CSK team, but I also had my own luxury office in the hospitality trailer? Ah yes, I was a popular guy then. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact my office had, by far, the best AC in the pit. Maybe in the entire pro pit area. You could hang meat in there. But I know, deep in my heart, that all the frequent visitors I had in there were only present thanks to my magnetic personality. And maybe a little cool air. Just a little.

Anyway, back then I had an Apple iPod speaker set-up, and would not only crank my fave tunes all day, I’d often report on what was playing when I’d write a blog. Were there really blogs that long ago? And an internet? Hard to believe.

Today, I have my Bose headphones on, in lieu of a speaker boom-box here on the plane, and I have the volume turned up to 11 as I rock (and blog) my way across the upper tier of the lower 48. So…

Now playing: “Face To The Floor” by Chevelle. I thought it was a great song even before I saw the lyrics, and even before I heard one of the band members on Sirius-XM Radio telling the story about how that song is actually about the infamous Bernie Madoff, he of the notorious Ponzi scheme that cost a lot of people an enormous amount of money. That took it to a level I rarely reach with music. So there.

I’ll only be in Woodbury for one short night, and then I’m off to Tampa in the late morning tomorrow. From there, a not-too-long drive up to Ocala, where I have a hotel room waiting for me. Ocala is just far enough away from Gainesville to not have ridiculous hotel prices or those famous G’ville “minimum stay” requirements. I wouldn’t want to stay there for all four nights of a race, although we have stayed that far away from various tracks over the years, but since I’m only going to the track for Saturday it’s a good deal. I can stay at the Hilton for about half what I’d pay for the Best Western in Gainesville, and without the three-night minimum. Slam dunk.

Getting back to “Bats, Balls, and Burnouts” I have all sorts of good vibes going now. Chapter 10 went to my esteemed editor a few days ago, and yesterday I sat down first thing in the morning and, instead of taking it slow until the writing gears engaged, I dove right into the deep-end on Chapter 11. It’s now at 8 pages with probably another 8 to write, and it’s been huge fun to get into so far.

In the interest of short snippets, I shall introduce this one, which was written this morning. In our later college years, we had a routine of favorite nightspots to hit on specific nights, mostly because they offered SIU-Edwardsville students a special on a certain night of the week and we were suckers for saving what little money we had.

On Thursday nights, we always went to a bar on Main Street in Edwardsville called Spanky’s. There was nothing noteworthy about it, other than the fact that on Thursday night it was so overcrowded with SIUE students I’m honestly flabbergasted the Fire Marshall never did anything in a legal “throw some of us out” sense. We flippantly use the term “wall to wall” far too easily. On Thursday nights, it was truly wall to wall. Packed. It was ridiculous, but there was a reason. It was “Dollar Pitcher or Dime Draft Night.” It was a neat thing and it happened every Thursday night, without fail and no matter the weather.


It was packed, and by packed I mean wall-to-wall in the most literal sense. You could spot a buddy 15-feet away and it would take you both 15 minutes to wade through the crowd and meet halfway, but the benefit of Thursday nights at Spanky’s was the communal feel to it. We all seemed to know each other, with the baseball, basketball, wrestling, and soccer teams frequenting the place, along with other students, cheerleaders, and reporters from the school paper. It was an unofficial but quite steady weekly gathering of good friends.

The most interesting dynamic about Spanky’s was that it just happened. There was no live music, and only a couple of pool tables and a Foosball table in the back room for entertainment. We all just showed up and had fun. And when we won the Flag Football Championship and had our team photo taken after the game, in our Spanky’s jerseys, they proudly framed and displayed it. We thought that was off-the-hook cool.


I’m sure every college town had its version of Spanky’s, but in my lifetime it was a truly unique and wonderful place. Just plain fun. And one night, we had a celebrity in our midst there. Donny Most, who played Ralph Malph on “Happy Days.” I never did hear why he was there, but he was and he held court in one corner of the little place until closing time. Seemed every bit as much of a nice guy as his TV character.

Now playing: “Bat Country” by Avenged Sevenfold (or A-7X, as the cool kids refer to them). It’s one of the most high-energy manic rock songs I’ve ever heard. You literally feel like you’re on a roller coaster when listening to it, and that’s mostly due to the other-worldly drum work of The Rev, may you rest in peace James Owen Sullivan.

And here’s the next bit of almost-ready-to-announce Big News for the book. I am 99.99% sure I have the publisher I want. More details as soon as things are signed on the dotted line, but I’ve done my research on these people and they have a great reputation. I will have my own personal Publishing Advisor I can actually talk to on the phone or email directly, and they think they can go from manuscript submission to printed copies in about three months. The only reason I haven’t signed the deal is because of this trip.

I was speaking to the guy there yesterday, and the more he heard about my story and the book the more excited he was getting. When I mentioned the history of the blog, how many readers I have, and the incredible success of the Kickstarter campaign, I couldn’t help but directly feel how excited he was about it, because it got me all amped up, too.

When the book comes out, it will be available on Amazon and a slew of other online sales sites, and you’ll be able to buy it in printed paperback form or as a digital version for your Kindle or Nook. I’ll get a nice royalty for every one of those sold, and the money from Kickstarter is going to go a long way toward buying crates of these things to have in my own possession. I plan to do book signings wherever I can, once I have them in my hands. Can I wait?  I can’t wait.

Now playing: “Simple Design” by Breaking Benjamin. Great song, by a band and a front man (the dark and mysterious Ben Burnley) who consistently take the care to add those little extras and flourishes in a song to make it special.

I should always write a blog when I’m flying. This makes  the time fly! (See what I did there?)

More good news…  I’ve been excited to see everyone in Gainesville for months, but I just discovered this week that Kelly Topolinski is also going to be there. That’s epic goodness. Kelly is my soul sister who left the sport the same time I did to tackle her writing dreams, and she’s all-in just like I am. More “can’t wait” epic spectacularnous. How come spell-check doesn’t like spectacularness? I just made it up, but it’s a great word

I posted on Facebook that I’m expecting my former PR colleagues to take care of the cruddy weather they’re having down there before I arrive. I expect Elon Werner to gather the troops and make that happen. Terry Blount, Pat Caporali, Sadie Floyd, Nicole Erickson, and everyone else, get to work!

Now playing: “Forty Six and Two” by Tool. If you want to see a stunningly wonderful video, just search for “Kids playing Tool” on YouTube and then click on this song. The group of kids all attend an extremely advanced music academy, from what I understand, and they’re absolutely phenomenally wonderful. Barbara doesn’t even like Tool and she was mesmerized by their playing.

So…  We’re all somewhere over North Dakota right now. It’s pretty cloudy, so there’s not much to see. Guess I might as well wrap this up.

The next edition of Bob’s Blog will have a lot more photos in it, and it will also probably set a new standard for length since the move here. Even if the wet weather continues, I’ll have a great day seeing so many good friends and valued colleagues. And then on Monday it’s down to Fort Myers to see the Twins play the Pirates at Hammond Stadium, with my dear friend John Fink. Can I wait? Of course not. I can’t wait.

See you in a week! We’re beginning out descent and I don’t want to get “that look” from the flight attendant by still having my laptop out when I shouldn’t.

And remember one thing. We love “likes” on the blog, so if you read it and you like it, then “Like” it too! 🙂

Bob Wilber, at your service from 33,000 feet.



Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.