Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Killing Time in Wickliffe

I live in Ballard County Kentucky. However, I have very few dealings in the county. We go to church in McCracken County and do most of our shopping there. Two times a year I have to go to the courthouse In Wickliffe to pay taxes – our property taxes in November and car taxes in December. I headed there yesterday to pay our car taxes. When I reached the County Clerk’s office there was a note pinned to the door. It said that the office was closed so the staff could attend a ‘Courthouse Breakfast”. It did not list a time when the staff would return. It’s about a twenty minute drive to the courthouse, so I didn’t want to go back home and return later. So, I decided to hang around and kill time in Wickliffe.

If you’ve ever been to (or even through) Wickliffe, there isn’t a whole lot there. The population in the last Census was a little over 600. So, it’s not even the largest city in Ballard County (LaCenter holds that distinction with about 1,000). So, I first headed to the “Cross at the Confluence”. Wickliffe is pretty close to where the Ohio River empties into the Mississippi. Wickliffe itself is actually located on the Mississippi River. There is a ninety foot cross just a little bit south of Wickliffe. It’s on the site of the old Fort Jefferson which was set up by George Rogers Clark. Lewis and Clark are supposed to have camped there as well before starting their famous trip across the Louisiana Purchase. I drove to the site. The large cross is impressive and there is an excellent view of the Mississippi River. In the distance, you can see the "confluence”. There was a walking path there now and a Visitor’s Center. Unfortunately for me, it was closed.

So, I then headed down Highway 51 to the Verso Plant. I’d always known this plant as Westvaco, but it went through several name changes before it eventually ended up as Verso (similar to Union Carbide/Martin Marietta/Lockheed Martin/USEC/Centrus Energy). It opened in 1970 and provided hundreds of good jobs to people in the area. When the wind was right, you could smell the “pungent” odor the plant produced as the plant produced paper. Trucks hauling logs were a regular sight on the highways of Ballard County. However, the Verso plant was idled in late 2015 and ultimately shut down for good in 2016. I actually pulled into the pretty much empty parking lot just to look around. There were a very few cars close to the plant gates but that was it. The area took a large economic hit with it’s closing. There have been hopes of someone else buying the site to use it, but that has yet to come to fruition.

While driving around, I did note that that Wickliffe has THREE convenience stores. One of these is Pee Dee’s which is run by my friends Phil and Debbie Lawrence. You can get a great burger there if you are ever in the area. I decided to check out one of the others – the Indian Hills Trading Post. It’s located on Highway 60/51 as you head toward Cairo. I parked and went inside. Alas, it was pretty much your basic convenience mart. There was certainly nothing spectacular there. There is also a Dollar General Store in Wickliffe, so I went to check that out. It’s a pretty good one. They actually had a produce section plus an entire side wall (from front to back) of cold/frozen food. It looks bigger than the one I frequent in West Paducah.

This killed about an hour (yep, that’s all). I headed back to the courthouse and the office was now open! I quickly paid my taxes and got our new car tags (which hopefully I’ll remember to put on our cars before year’s end) and headed for home. I’ll admit I was a bit frustrated at first when the office was closed, but it certainly wasn’t the worst way to have spent an hour.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I Left My Heart in Ballard County (33 years Ago)...

In honor of the day, I am reposting this (updated a bit)

Friday September 15th is the 33rd anniversary of a day that set my life (happily) on a drastic change.

I was a fledgling programmer at what was called Martin Marietta then (now Centrus Energy) and living in an apartment in Forest Hills. I had gone over to my buddy Jeff Lawrence's trailer (known to this area as Dr. Jeff on WKYQ). He asked if I had plans for the next evening. I said no thinking we were going to have one of our regular marathon Trivial Pursuit matches. He says "Well, you've got a date". I was aghast. "I've set you up with someone I work with at Trader's Mart" (Trader's Mart is a long defunct want-ad kind of paper). He told me I had to go because I wouldn't be allowed to hang out at his place the next night so I reluctantly agreed.

The next day, I went with my friends Keith "Corky" Johnson and Jim Hill to Massac State Park. I sat on the bank of the Ohio River looking and thinking "What kind of idiot goes out with a girl he's never seen before?".

The hour approached and I headed out to meet her at Trader's Mart in my 1983 Trans-Am. All I knew is her name was Donna Woods and she'd be in a black Olds Cutlass.

I got there and the car was there. I watched the door open with apprehension. Out stepped the most beautiful brown haired brown-eyed girl I'd ever seen. I almost couldn't speak. I finally said "I'm Stuart, do you want to see my driver's license to prove it?". She actually laughed at my bad joke.

She wanted to go to McDonalds and eat so we did. She had a quarter pounder with cheese and I had a Big Mac. I saw some guys I knew and I think they were in shock when they saw me out with this beautiful girl.

She wanted to see Grandview USA at the Paducah Drive-In. I was glad to go there since I worked there for years each summer until I started working full-time at Martin Marietta. My boss Richard Phillips was at the ticket booth. I guess he was so shocked to see with such a pretty date that he let us in free. He also told me to go to the concession stand and get free drinks and popcorn. Donna told me later how impressed she was when I brought out drinks and a large brown bag full of buttered popcorn.

The whole date cost 5.00 (including gasoline). She even shared my frugality beliefs! I was enthralled...

The night went great and she even agreed to see me again.

The next morning as I was getting ready to go to church, my phone rang. The caller introduced himself as the "Ballard County Sheriff" and he needed to talk to me about an incident last night. The girl I had gone out with was from Ballard County. My main experiences with Ballard County were to go to the "Game Preserve" (as my Uncle James called it) to camp with my family and a visit to the "Green Palace" (which was really really Green) to watch Lone Oak play in a district basketball tournament. I remember all the kids there blew duck calls the whole game. Anyway, I thought "Oh man, she didn't make it home and now I am the last one to see her and the main suspect". It turned out that they had picked up a couple of guys I know as they came off the Wickliffe bridge and they wanted me to vouch for their identities.

For reasons I'll never understand, she kept going out with me. We've been married 30 years. She still laughs at my bad jokes. I worked at "Martin Marietta" for over 31 years before retiring. We drove that black Olds Cutlass til it wouldn't run any more. I've lived in Ballard County for 29 years now. I still order a Big Mac when I go to McDonalds. And I couldn't be happier....

Monday, June 12, 2017

We Tried Harder....

As I read my newsfeed last week, I noticed this.

AVIS Car Rental at Barkley Airport Closing June 30

PADUCAH, KY - One of three car rental companies at Barkley Regional Airport is closing.

The airport posted an announcement on their Facebook page Wednesday afternoon saying that AVIS Car Rental will close on June 30.

This made me a little sad. I’ve rented a lot of cars at that location. When I worked at USEC, we rented a lot of cars from AVIS for use on trips. I would guess as USEC ramped downward, it hurt their business. Plus, there were three rental car companies at Barkley Regional. There are a grand total of TWO incoming flights at Barkley – on Saturday there is ONE. There just couldn't have been enough people to support all three.

I have had an Avis Wizard number for years. The big advantage of this isn’t at Barkley though. When I get to other airports, it makes a huge different in picking up a car. Your car is ready to go. You see your last name and the location of the car on a board and you simply go to your car. You do not have to spend all the time at the rental counter. I love it. It's nice after a long flight to just simply pick up your car and not wait in a long line. Plus, having an AVIS Wizard number doesn't cost anything!

I will also admit that I have not rented a car for personal use from Avis in years. You might wonder why. I rent vehicles almost exclusively from Enterprise. Their base rates are a bit cheaper. The big difference is that the airport tacks on a 10% fee on the cost of the rental. This isn’t nearly as bad as some airports I’ve visited (it can add 30% to 50% to the cost of rental). My being thrifty (cheap) makes me go to Enterprise.

Honestly though, I’m not sure how we still have an airport in Paducah. But that’s a topic for another day..

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Iron Mom

If you know anything about me, you know I am a runner. I started about twenty years ago as a way to stay in shape and keep myself healthy. Heart disease runs in my family (from my mom’s side), so I want to stay in shape as best I can. I didn’t start running organized races until 2008 when I started running a few 5Ks. After my son Jonathan ran his first marathon in 2008, I began to consider trying to run longer races. I ran my first half marathon in 2009 and graduated to my first full marathon in 2011.

In 2011, a new half marathon started in Paducah called the Iron Mom. If I remember right, it was set up as a way to honor moms (it is generally run around Mothers Day) but then developed as a way to honor women in general. It raises money for a different charity each year. Jonathan has run this almost every year it has been in existence. I took my first shot at it in 2014. I remember it was really, really humid that year and I cramped up once I finished. I didn’t even run it the next year. I finally worked on my hydration skills and in 2016 ran it again and did much better.

I decided I would again try in 2017. I started my training after I ran the Indy Marathon in November. I was doing well and then caught “the crud” that many people I knew seemed to have over the winter and spring. It was the hardest cold I ever had to shake. I saw my doctor twice to make sure it didn’t develop into something more serious. I finally got rid of it with about a month to go to the Iron Mom. I didn’t even register til after that because I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But, I finally did and decided I could shoot for a 2:20.

Josh (our younger son) and his girlfriend Shelby would also be here Mother’s Day weekend. He decided at the last minute that he’d run the Iron Mom as well. So on Friday, I went and picked up all of our packets at the Convention Center. I went to bed early to be well rested. Josh and Shelby got in from Wisconsin late that night and I didn’t even notice.

I got up the next morning at 4:45, ate breakfast, and drank water. I went ahead on my own because I always get nervous before any races I run and want to get there really early. I parked in the Carson Center parking lot and walked over to Jefferson Street where the race would start. I found Jonathan and gave him his bib. I talked with several people (including my cousin Rusty) as I waited. I even ran into Dr. McCombs who had dropped his daughter off but wasn’t running – he had to work. Josh finally arrived and we got in the crowd to begin the race.

There was a pacer for 2:20 so I got together with that group. The race started and we were off. I felt really good. The weather was perfect for running – low 50s with low humidity. I did notice that our pacer was going out way too fast. She was running at about a 9:45 pace per mile, it should be about 10:40 for 2:20. So, I decided to hold back. I could keep her in sight but run my pace. The first few miles of the race are “flat and fast”. After that, you go through several of Paducah residential areas. The problem with this is there are multiple hills for that stretch. Finally, you reach Park Avenue and once you cross that, things flatten out again when hit Stuart Nelson Park. Then, you hit the Greenway Trail. For some reason, I always slow down there in the past. I don’t know if it’s fact that it’s dirt or what. So, I made a distinct effort to keep my pace. Then, you get to Noble Park and once you get through that, you have three miles left that are pretty much flat. I was still able to keep my pace and even passed a few people as I went along. I got to the last part where you go behind the floodwall and then through it to the finish. Josh was of course already there and cheering me on.

It was one of the best races I had ever run. I kept my pace the whole way and finished at 2:18! I felt fine afterwards. I found out Jonathan had finished THIRD overall (his best ever). Josh ran a 1:50 without even training for the half (2nd in his age group). And, there was my granddaughter Lucy waiting at the end! I grabbed some food to refuel and then we stayed around to watch Jonathan accept his third place trophy. Then, we headed en masse for our house. Forthman Foods was grilling so Donna and I stopped by there and got some grilled sandwiches (steak and pork chops). We spent the whole day just hanging out at our house. It was a wonderful time! The boys gave Donna a new rocking chair for Mother’s Day and she immediately took Lucy out to rock her. Finally, we walked up to see Donna’s mom and dad.

I can’t rest on my laurels for too long though. Jonathan and I are again running the marathon in Indianapolis in November. After a few days off, I start training for that….

Sunday, March 5, 2017

It's For Your Own Good..- The Sequel

It’s hard to believe that’s it been five years since this happened. I am supposed to have a colonoscopy every five years (since I’m over fifty). So, I called my gastro doctor’s office (Dr. McCombs). I ended up having to cancel my original date of July and with various things going on, my scheduled date got pushed back to the last Friday in February.

I began my preparation a week from this date. You have to stop eating anything with seeds in or on it (like a sesame seed bun). You are also are not supposed to eat corn or beans. That isn’t too bad of a challenge. The day before though, you have to have pretty much a liquid diet. The only remotely solid things you can have are popsicles and Jell-O. You cannot have anything red or purple which knocks out my two favorite flavors of cherry and grape. I ended up with banana popsicles and orange Jell-O. I did interestingly discover that a banana Popsicle only has forty calories in it. My lunch and supper consisted of the drained off broth from chicken noodle soup.
I was to being taking my prep (called “SuPrep”) at 6pm. This consisted of a 6 ounce bottle of liquid you mixed with enough water to produce sixteen ounces. You were supposed to consume this over an hour’s time and then follow it up with two sixteen ounce glasses of water. This varied from my previous experience where I drank a lot more “prep” over several hours. The taste still wasn’t pleasing; it reminded me of cherry cough syrup. Anyway, I finished the prep solution and as Bill Engvall says in his comedy bit about this – “It works…”. I spent the next three hours going back and forth to the bathroom every few minutes. I did manage to catch most of the Kentucky-Mississippi State women’s basketball game. Kentucky upset the number three Bulldogs in overtime. I was finally able to go to bed about 10pm.

I had been able to get my appointment for my colonoscopy for 7am. Unfortunately, this meant I had to get up at 4:00am to do the whole SuPrep process again. It was as effective as the night before. It was so effective that I wasn’t sure I could make it to my appointment at my Gastro center at Baptist Health. I did manage to make it with no “incidents”. I checked in and went back with Donna when they called my name. I had to put on a gown, get an IV inserted, and answer a whole laundry list of questions. The nurse then told me how the process would work. It turned out that they use a different anesthesia now. You wake up quickly and with none of loopiness that I had last time. Also, they now inflate your colon with carbon dioxide instead of air which allows your colon to absorb the gas. In other words, you don’t have to work to “expel the gas” like I had to last time. I was disappointed for Donna since now most if not all the entertainment value of my colonoscopy was gone. :-)

After a slight wait, they came to fetch me for my procedure. They left me in a hallway next to the room where they’d do the procedure for a few minutes and then brought me in. Dr. McCombs came in and talked to me a little bit and then the staff had me roll up on my left side. I remember glancing at the clock and seeing it was 8:46 and then I was gone. When I woke up in a recovery room, I could make out a clock in the hallway which looked like it said 1:45. I was aghast, I thought something must have been horribly amiss to have been back there for five hours. When I looked again, I realized the clock said 9:10AM. I also saw Donna coming up the hall. Dr McCombs came in a bit later and said everything was great. I had no polyps or any issues at all. I did have a bit of diverticulosis which is common for a man my age. He told me he’d see me in five years. We even talked about the Iron Mom Half Marathon which we both run in. The nurse brought me some Diet Coke to drink and I was out before 10am. We grabbed Red’s Donuts on the way home because I was starving. I rested a bit and felt fine; I even managed a two mile walk later that afternoon.

To all my friends over fifty, please don’t put off having this done. It really isn’t that bad, it’s even easier than it used to be. It’s a lot better than developing colon cancer that this test could have detected much earlier and prevented. The only bad thing I can say about the whole thing is I’ll be SIXTY (Yikes!) when I have my next one.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Let's All Go to the Movies...

One of the most fun things I can remember as a child was going to the movies. The old Arcade theatre was downtown on Broadway and showed all sorts of Disney movies. I seem to remember the price for under twelve was something like fifty cents. Next door to the Arcade was the Columbia. My memory of that place was it was where grown-ups went to the movies. It eventually turned into a dual screen theater. I remember my friend Don Scillion taking Philip Anderson and I to see this new hot movie called “Star Wars” in 1977 there – Don was the first one of us to get his driver’s license. I also remember the theaters were right around the corner from Readmore Books. Half of the fun of going to the movies when I got older was going to that bookstore before the movie.

In the summer of 1977, Bruce Douglas got me a job in the concession stand at the Paducah Drive in. I worked that job through the summer of 1983 (when I got my first programmer’s job at General Electric). I loved working there. I had the best boss I ever had there – Richard Phillips. He insisted I bring my homework to do during the slow fall periods when we often only had one of us in the concession stand. I can also remember some super busy nights when there would be seven or eight of us back there – the movie Smokey and the Bandit stands out as a movie that was super busy. The wide open space was great for throwing a Frisbee before work. We also had a couple of bottle rocket wars after work around the Fourth of July – until the police came in and told us to stop. I had my first date with my wife there. I remember coming home from work in the summer of 1985 and seeing the screen in flames and wanting to cry. My mom had even gone to the first movie there (“Song of the South”) when it first opened in 1949. I have plenty of other fond memories and stories of that place that I’ll save for another time.

When Donna and I were dating, we used to go to the Twin Cinemas on Park Avenue (where Enterprise Car Rental is now). I had gone there occasionally before that. The theater regularly showed the Rocky Horror Picture Show every weekend and we would go to that and have a lot of fun throwing all the requisite items at specified points in the movie. They finally stopped showing that movie – probably because cleaning up the theater was so painful. Anyway, Donna and I saw a lot of movies there – a lot of terrible ones. I only say terrible in retrospect because I got to spend a lot of time with this beautiful girl and didn’t really notice how terrible a lot of the movies were.

Then, Cinemark opened their multiplex by the mall (in the area where Old Navy is now). That pretty much spelled the death-knell for the Arcade and Columbia and Twin Cinemas and they soon closed. I occasionally went to the Cinemark especially when Jonathan and Josh were old enough to go. We also made occasional trips to the Calvert City Drive In. I enjoyed the really good hamburgers they had there just about as much as the movies. I eventually reached the point where I rarely went to the theater. I had to get there early just to get seats I wanted. Plus it was easier a lot of times to just wait for the movie to be released to video (and going to the now defunct Blockbuster Video) or to now just watch it on Netflix.

However, when Josh moved to Madison Wisconsin, he talked me into going to several movies there. The experience there makes it more enjoyable to go there. First, they have the Coke soda machines were you can get whatever mixture soda you want. Also, you can get FREE refills. I even grab one as I exit. Also, several theaters have actual RECLINERS for all their seats. It’s a very comfortable way to watch a movie. The last time we talked about going to a movie, Josh mentioned a time and I said “We can’t go to that one, we don’t have time to get ready and get there in time for good seats”. Josh promptly got on his phone and got us RESERVED seats right where we wanted them. We didn’t have to be there until the previews were already going. I am to the point that I will go to the movies again but I’ll wait til I am in Madison.

Cinemark of Paducah, the ball’s in your court if you want me to start going there again :-)

Friday, January 20, 2017

WIldcat-palooza - The Finale

We of course were early to the game. I parked in the lot where I had reserved a spot on ParkWhiz and we walked to the stadium and then went to the riverfront of the St John’s River. We finally went in about thirty minutes before the game. We had club seats so we had very nice area to wait in if we wanted plus some nice places to buy food from. The temperature had warmed nicely to around sixty and we were in the sun, so it was nice. The stadium crowd was at least two thirds if not more UK fans.

Kentucky got the ball first and drove to midfield and then disaster struck. QB Steven Johnson was sacked and fumbled and Georgia Tech ran it back for a TD. Kentucky got the ball back and punted and Georgia Tech got a field goal. Kentucky got a field goal and then drove down to the Georgia Tech five yard line and had a fourth and one. They went for it and didn’t get it. A few minutes later Georgia Tech had a fourth and one on their own fifteen. Their coach decided to go for it in a huge risk. They got it and drove for a touchdown. UK did nothing after that and had a punt blocked before the half. The referees made a horrible call saying a Georgia Tech receiver went out of bounds with three seconds to go when the replay plainly showed he did not. This allowed Georgia Tech to kick a field goal to go up 20-3 at the half. I later found out Coach Mark Stoops was so upset that the tried to get into the referee’s locker room at half time.

Georgia Tech got another field goal in the 2nd half to go up 23-3. Kentucky finally got a touchdown but Georgia Tech got another field goal to make it 26-10. Kentucky finally got a touchdown and two point conversion to cut the lead to 23-15. An attempted onside kick failed and Georgia Tech scored another touchdown to ice the game. Josh and I used this opportunity to work our way to the lower part of the field. I had purchased a couple of passes to allow us to go out on the field after the game. We got our armbands and when the game ended, we headed out. It was really neat to be on the field, this was the first time I’d ever been on an NFL field. It was odd to be out there with all the Georgia Tech team and their fans celebrating. We had no problems though and it was really fun. We walked around the stadium afterwards and then drove back to our hotel. We went to Longhorn Steakhouse and then watched college football for the rest of the evening.

We got up the next morning and went to worship services at the Lake Forest church of Christ. We througly enjoyed that. We had lunch and then headed to the Jacksonville Beach. The weather was beautiful – 81 degrees and sunny. It’s a very nice beach, very wide with lots of room to walk around. We tested the water, but it was pretty cold. We went to evening services at Lake Forest and then got dinner at Zaxbys.

The next morning, our flight was at 7:30. Josh didn’t want to leave as early as I did (with TSApre, he doesn’t have to). I took the shuttle to the airport. The line for security was huge stretching all the way back down the entrance hallway to the airport. It took me about 45 minutes to get through security. I still had plenty of time. Josh came almost an hour later than I did and waltzed right through security. Our flight went fine. Our luggage was coming onto the belt just as we got there and the Economy Parking Lot shuttle pulled up just as we came outside. We got breakfast on the road and got back home with little trouble.

Even though Kentucky lost, we still had a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to hopefully go to more bowl games in the future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

WIldcat-palooza - Part 3

Since we were flying out of Nashville (it was much cheaper than flying out of Memphis), I talked to my sister Melissa about coming up to see her family before our flight left. We headed out Friday morning and got to her house in the afternoon. We had a lot of fun as always hanging out with our nephew and nieces playing games and reading stories. We hated to leave when the time came to go. Amelia even asked if we could come back tomorrow, but we had to tell her we’d be in Florida and couldn’t. We got to the airport no problem.

Josh is fortunate to be signed up for TSA-Pre. This allows him to skip the longer lines and he doesn’t have to remove his shoes, jacket or take his laptop out of his case. Since he knew he could get through security faster, he dropped me at the airport and took the car to the Economy lot to park. When TSA checked my license and boarding pass, I for some reason was allowed to get in the TSA-Pre line. The people in front of me had to have been randomly chosen for this. They took their shoes and jackets off which actually caused the line to go SLOWER. I did finally get through in plenty of time and Josh was not far behind me. We grabbed something to eat at Wendy’s and just walked around til it was time to board.

I had gotten tickets on Southwest because it was the cheapest and it’s my preferred airline. Josh had never flown them before. I like the seating method where you line up and grab the first available seat you want. Josh said he preferred the method he’s used to where you already have chosen your seat. He also said the WiFi was not very good. I just read on the flight so it didn’t bother me much. It was only an hour and half flight so it went really quickly. We got to the airport and got our luggage. I called the hotel for the shuttle. We decided not to pick up a rental car until the next morning. This would have a day on the car rental since we would not need the car until the next morning to get to the TaxSlayer Bowl.

The shuttle got there pretty quickly. Our hotel (Fairfield Inn) was pretty close to the Jacksonville airport so we got there pretty quickly. Once there, we decided we needed a snack. It was after nine, so we ended up just walking to a convenience store down the street and grabbed a few things and took them back to the hotel. We ate and watched a little TV and went to bed. We got up the next morning and had the hotel breakfast. Josh took the airport shuttle and picked up the rental car. The temperature was only 38! Here we thought we’d left the cold behind. That low of a temperature was odd for Florida, but the weather report said it would warm up rapidly into the sixties. The game started at 11:00AM so we left a little before nine since it was about a 30 minute drive and we didn’t know how traffic would be.

I imagine you are wondering when I’ll actually talk about the bowl game. I’ll get to that in my next post.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wildcat-palooza - Part 2

Josh and I started out on Thursday to head out for part one of our trip. Shelby and Josh went to see Lucy. I met them there a bit later so I could of course see my granddaughter as well. I picked up Josh there. Since Jonathan and Cheyenne live just off of Highway 68, we took the route of going down the Purchase Parkway and through Western Tennessee as opposed to my usual route of I-55 South. The trip through Western Tennessee is a bit more complex, but we made it to our hotel in Southaven Mississippi with no trouble.

My brother Kevin met us there. He came bearing a wonderful gift of one of those handheld Mattel football games from the 70s that I used to have. I immediately had to play a game on it. Josh could not believe that this game (as elementary as it seems now) was so popular. We discussed where we would have dinner. I had read there was actually a Canes inside the new Ole Miss arena. Canes is a really good place to eat with fabulous chicken strips. We decided we’d eat when we got there.

As we drove along, I couldn’t help but think of some of the trips I took as a teenager to Oxford and Starkville. My dad, my brother and I used to go with my Uncle Donnie and my cousins Tony and Neal to see UK play. We’d meet my Uncle Reggie in Jackson Tennessee with his dad – who we all called Mr. Smith. We always had a lot of fun. The first time I ever went to a UK game was in Starkville in 1975. Our whole family went. I remember my dad pointing out an old guy sitting down by the court and telling me to get his autograph. My dad told me it was Adolph Rupp. Sadly at the time, I didn’t even know who that was. My sister Jody and I got our programs autographed. I had lost mine over the years, but my sister gave me hers a few years ago.

We got to the Ole Miss campus. I had stalked out online where to park before we got there. There were a lot of people parking on the side of the road as we came in, but I held out for the parking lot I’d found and was rewarded with finding a spot there with little trouble. We walked a few blocks to the arena. We passed a sign for Manning Way which I ended up having to take a picture of for Jonathan – it had Ole Miss alum (and his favorite player) Eli Manning’s name on it. We got to the Ole Miss arena with no problem and went in.

They had moved into a new basketball arena since I’d been there last (almost ten years ago) called “The Pavilion”. It’s a very nice new arena with a good sized video board. All the seats are chairbacks which is nice. We found the Canes and while it was pricey, it was excellent. My brother ended up buying tamales from a university group since he felt sorry for them – Canes had a huge line while hardly any one was buying tamales. We settled into our seats and waited for the game to start. I would say about a third of the crowd was UK fans.

The game started out close. UK was scoring a lot but their defense wasn’t too great. Kentucky however had amassed sixty points by halftime and shot over sixty percent and led by twenty one points. Ole Miss got the lead down to fifteen at one point in the 2nd half, but KY ended up winning 99 to 76. Malik Monk had thirty four points and Bam Adebayo got twenty five. Isaiah Briscoe ended up with a triple double although I felt the tenth rebound was a bit tainted – Derek Willis intentionally bricked a free throw so Briscoe could get that tenth rebound. We thoroughly enjoyed the game. We had no trouble getting out of the parking lot and back on the road to head back to our hotel.

In my next post, I’ll continue the story of our trip and what we did in Nashville before we flew out to Jacksonville.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wildcat-palooza - Part 1

When Kentucky’s football season started with a huge blown loss to Southern Mississippi and then a blowout loss to Florida, I thought “Here we go again”. However, they actually won some games and won their sixth game over Austin Peay. This made them bowl eligible for this first time in six years. Their last game would against nationally ranked Louisville at Louisville. Given that plus with their Heisman trophy candidate Lamar Jackson, I thought Kentucky had no chance to win. All the bowl projections I saw seemed to agree with that and projected Kentucky to end up in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Jonathan and Josh and I planned to go the bowl game. There was an interesting alignment of the date of the bowl game with Kentucky’s basketball schedule. Kentucky would play Mississippi in Oxford the night before the Liberty Bowl game. Oxford is about an hour’s drive from Memphis. Tickets for that game would go on sale the day before the Louisville game. I went ahead and bought three tickets right when they went on sale. In an unbelievable turn of events, Kentucky upset Louisville. This ultimately caused them to be chosen for a different bowl game – the TaxSlayer (formerly known as the Gator Bowl) in Jacksonville Florida. I loved the idea of a Florida bowl, but I wasn’t sure what we’d do now.

So, the boys and I started discussing our options. The trip to Jacksonville would end up being a multi-day trip. Jonathan decided he didn’t want to do that since he didn’t want to be away that long from his new daughter Lucy (which I totally understand). Josh and I batted around ideas and came with the idea for him to come home and then we would drive to Southaven Mississippi and stay and go to the game in Oxford. We ran all sorts of options on flights and found the cheapest option was to fly out of Nashville (non-stop) to Jacksonville on Southwest. I bought bowl game tickets (club seats!) and got decently priced flights.

We still had that extra ticket to the Ole Miss game though. I came up with the idea to invite my brother Kevin. He lives in the Memphis area plus it’d been a while since we’d seen him so I invited him along. He was able to go with us, so the “Wildcat-palooza” was all set up and ready to go. In my next post, I’ll let you know how part one of the trip transpired.