On The Road in Phoenix, Arizona
Bowling in the Valley of the Sun is especially nice when it is 110+ degrees outside – and so is coaching. It’s a welcomed break from what I like to call ‘the largest outdoor oven on the planet.’ “But, Ron, it’s a dry heat…” As I chuckle under my breath, the only politically correct response is, “Yea, but hot is hot.” All other responses would probably not be appreciated by most!
Temperature debates aside, bowling is extremely popular in the Phoenix area. Phoenix is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and bowling is growing right along in stride. I am very fortunate to be able to travel there a couple of times a year to conduct private lessons and clinics. The people have really made me feel comfortable, and I’ve started to tell all of them that it’s my home away from home. With all the golf courses out there, mmmmm… but I digress.
Some of the unique things I’ve noticed about bowling in the Desert Southwest include the popularity of bowling in the summertime. At first I thought it was odd, but then it made perfect sense. We escape to the indoors in the wintertime to avoid frostbite. They escape to the indoors in the summertime to avoid having skin like the Geico lizard. Summer leagues are big, and so are the recreational and open play bowling. But, winter leagues are just as popular as they are in the Midwest. The only difference is when we go to our cars after bowling we are scraping ice off our windshields. They have the unenviable task of cranking up the air conditioning and muttering phrases like, “Ouch, this leather seat sure is hot.”
Another interesting concept they have out there is automatic sliding doors when you enter the bowling center. Now, call me crazy, but I think we’ve missed the boat on this entirely. Hands-free door opening when you’re lugging in ball bags heavy enough to make you wonder why you ever took up this sport – now that makes sense! Let’s examine who really needs automatic doors, shall we? When Arizonians (is that even a word?) walk into a bowling center for league, at the most they are carrying their bowling balls and a pair of sunglasses. When we Buckeyes (I know that’s a word!) walk in for leagues, we’re carrying bowling balls, coats, gloves, scarves, and a snow shovel in case we need to dig our way back to our cars after Mother Nature and Jack Frost have a little rendezvous while we’re bowling. Now, I ask you. Who needs automatic sliding doors at their bowling centers???
On The Road in Alaska
There’s a new definition of cold. It’s called “Are you kidding me” degrees. Ironically enough, that’s the same response I got from people when I told them I was going to Alaska in February. You know, once the temperature dips far enough below zero, it just doesn’t matter anymore. Anchorage wasn’t too bad at -10 to -15 degrees. But, when we got to Fairbanks, it was -30. Just for clarification, that’s without the wind chill factored in. And those silly people up there told us that we missed the cold weather by a few days. Just before we got there, it was -55, or “Are you kidding me” degrees. When it’s that cold, they said you could throw a hot cup of coffee up in the air and nothing hits the ground. Apparently it vaporizes or turns into small ice crystals or who knows what. That’s just not right. Don’t we have enough land and living space in the lower 48 states for these people??? Why would you voluntarily live where it’s become a sport to watch liquids disappear right before your very eyes?
Can’t really say that I’m much smarter, to be honest. I let them talk me into going to Chena Hot Springs, about an hour’s dog sled ride outside of Fairbanks. There’s a resort located there where people go to get in the water and gaze at the famed Northern Lights. Aw, sounds lovely doesn’t it? Sounds like a vacation, doesn’t it? Let me summarize this real simply for you –
Water temperature: +108 degrees
Air temperature: -30 degrees
Ron’s body going into shock: Priceless
OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad. Once you got in, it actually felt great. Surrounding the water area was nothing but snow, so what else would we do – have a snowball fight in the hot springs! It was so cold that if you got your hair wet, it would freeze in 30 seconds. All in all, it was an interesting experience and one that many of my body parts won’t soon let me forget.
If you have a chance to go to Alaska in winter… don’t! Are you kidding me? No, seriously, it is something everybody should do once… and I mean once! It is a beautiful state and all the snow just adds to the majesty of the mountains and the backdrop of all the scenery. As long as you dress intelligently, it is bearable. Our host there asked for our clothing sizes months before we arrived. Curious, I had to ask why. He replied, “Whatever you bring, it won’t be enough.” Huh? He needed to reserve us some military winter weather gear. Of all the bowling that can be taught in the world, I had to agree to go 190 miles from the Arctic Circle. My Momma didn’t raise no fool – she raised an idiot!
The two things that were warm there were the people and the food. The people reminded me of folks in the South without the accent. They were so friendly and hospitable. And talk about seafood – it couldn’t have been any better. I had halibut that would melt in your mouth and salmon that was as fresh as if you had just caught it yourself. This is probably why the people live there, and I can’t blame them. Not sure if it completely makes up for the “Are you kidding me” degrees, but it’s close.
On The Road in Europe
Tell people you’re going on a three week tour of Europe, and they automatically assume it’s vacation time and all fun and games. When I tell them it’s all work and there’s very little time to enjoy it, surprisingly they don’t feel sorry for me. I’m willing to bet that no one reading this is in dire need of a tissue right now. Can’t catch a break…
Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have some fun. Traveling across Europe with legends like Sam Baca and Fred Borden can make for some laughs and good stories. The first one was during our first night in London, England. Sam and I were in separate rooms and had agreed that we would get up at 7:00am and meet for breakfast at 7:30am. I went to bed around 11:30, and after sleeping for what felt like only four hours or so, heard a knock on my door. Getting out of bed very groggy, I thought to myself, “Self, I must have slept horribly. I feel like crap.” After trying to answer the window, I finally found my way to the door and opened it to find Sam standing in the hallway holding an ironing board. The first thing I thought was this is not the fantasy dream I had of who was going to show up at my door to iron my clothes. He told me to get up because we were going to be late. I held up a finger and told him to wait a minute (now, which finger was that…) as I went back in the room to check something. I came back to the door to show Sam my watch which, as my body had correctly calculated, indicated that it was 3:22am! He said, “Oops.” Oops? Oops? Are you kidding me? He was showered, shaved, dressed, and ready to go at 3:22 and thought it was 7:30. Must be hell getting old. New rule for the rest of our tour – Sam is not allowed to know Ron’s room number.
The other Sam story in England involved combining two words to form a new one I would have never saw coming. He was presenting in front of 40 people in Northern England about Lane Masters and how our bowling balls are different than others. He was talking about our formulation of urethane and resin (or so Fred and I thought), but to our surprise we had a new formulation of urine we didn’t know about. Urethane + resin = urine. Okay… Fred and I looked at each other with the same “did he really just say that” look in our eyes. But, like a pro, Smooth Sam just kept going and never missed a beat. Maybe he needed a bathroom break.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m picking on Sam, but many of the stories starred Mr. Baca. I don’t feel guilty. Fred and Sam got their jabs on me. They would always comment to people about my lack of hair. But, I got even. Geritol and Viagra comments came out of me as frequently as they have to update their Medicare coverage. Fred would share stories about bowling back in the ‘60’s. 1860’s???
On a relatively serious note, if you had ever dreamed of going to the South of France, by all means do so. It is now one of my new favorite places on Earth. It is so unspoiled and rich with history. We stayed in a village that dated back to the 9th century. The B&B we stayed in was built in the 14th century. I asked Sam and Fred if they helped with any of the construction. Can’t help myself – it hasn’t been that long since we’ve been back. I still feel like we’re on tour together just ramming on each other.
Europe - By the Numbers
8 – number of countries visited (Holland, Belgium, England, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden)
14,000 - air miles traveled
2,100 - road miles traveled
12 - number of clinics
0 - number of days off
144 - combined age of Fred and Sam (It’s a disease – I can’t stop!)