Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Long Way Way Back

George Harrison recorded this song in 1997 - a year before his death.
I could listen to it all day and sometimes do!

You may not know where you came from
May not know who you are
May not have even wondered
How you got this far

Any Road by George Harrison


  Two Fridays ago I got up at 4:00 like I do 360 or so times a year, took Daisy and Baxter for a walk like I do 360 or so times a year, left the house at 5:30 and drove to West Des Moines to teach at the St. Francis Chess Club like I do 40 Fridays a year. 39 of these Fridays I’d head to work after chess club but this particular Friday I did what I only do once a year which to head 200+ miles northwest to Okoboji, Iowa to direct the Okoboji Open chess tournament for my friends Jodene Kruse and Sam Smith and hang out with a bunch of great people for a weekend.

After filling up my Chevy Spark at the Kum & Go, I went to the Burger King for a
breakfast of Hash Brown bites and ground-free coffee.

  After a great walk with my beagles I packed up my Chevy Spark with a travel bag and tournament directing stuff and made my way 60 miles southwest to St. Francis. I was running late so I skipped my Friday morning cup of coffee at the Marshalltown Git’n’Go. I was feeling a little tired but the 35 or so chess players at St. Francis had so much energy it was impossible not to be enthusiastic for a weekend chess tournament as I left West Des Moines at 8:45. My first stop was to fill my Spark with $2.09 a gallon gasoline at the nearby Kum & Go and then I headed next door to the Burger King to get some coffee and check my email using their free wireless internet. This was the same Burger King I wrote about last year when their coffee was more grounds than coffee which gave me an entire blog post. The hash brown bites were as good as last year but the coffee was ground free this year and only worth a paragraph as I headed to Okoboji.

This place puts the 'X' in Xpresss!

  I’m always nervous before a long trip and wanted to make sure my car was ready. I got new tires last month and arranged to have my car’s oil changed at the LOFXpress in Ames, Iowa during my work lunch time the week of my trip. I had gone to the LOFXpress once before and was very impressed with how I got my oil changed in 15 minutes and I didn’t even have to get out of my car. I wasn’t so lucky on my second visit. Even though there was no one in front of me I had to get out of my car and go to the lobby where I waited and waited. Then the technician called me over and showed me an air filter that needed replacing, a cabin filter that needed replacing, and manual transmission fluid that needed replacing. I patiently explained that I wanted an oil change and really didn’t have time for all this replacing since I was on a lunch break. I was ushered back to the lobby where I waited and waited some more. Eventually my oil change was done and it was time to pay. The cashier explained all the replacing I had refused and asked me if I had any questions. I asked how long I been there and the cashier told me 50 minutes and I said we must have different ideas about what ‘Xpress’ meant. The cashier told me they were very thorough and then asked me if I wanted to join their loyalty program. I told him there wasn’t any point in me joining since I had no intention on being a loyal customer and that they should rename the business to UpsellXpress. My car ran fine the rest of the week and I wasn’t too concerned about the LOFXpress upsell warnings as I made my way to Okoboji.

Welcome to Cylinder! I took a picture at the corner of Main and Parallel streets.
Maybe someday I'll figure out what Parallel St. is parallel to.

  I listened to music on my amazing iPod's Rhapsody app and found myself playing 'Any Road' by George Harrison repeatedly. While almost any road will take me to Okoboji, Iowa, I take a longish route using Interstate 35 and state highways 18 and 71. It's 30 or so miles longer than the 'quickest' route but with a 70 mile an hour speed limit for half the drive and only three roads I make up the time with more speed and not getting lost or making a wrong turn. I made it to my halfway point of the Mason City McDonald’s a little before 11 which was excellent time. I had an Egg McMuffin and ate it while I stretched my legs and checked my email using the free wireless internet, thinking how McDonald’s offering breakfast items all day may be their best idea since the Egg McMuffin in the first place. I had hopes of getting to Cylinder before the post office closed at 12 but was undone by road construction in Britt Iowa which seems to have road construction every time I pass through on my way to Okoboji. This time there was 5 miles of one lane traffic in two separate wait lines while construction crews were sawing square holes in the Route 18 westbound lane – don’t ask me why.

  After an interminable wait during which I fell asleep and was woken up by the honking horns of the cars behind me and the screaming of the person holding the Slow/Stop sign in front of me I finally got past the traffic and made my now annual pilgrimage to the sleepy town of Cylinder (population 88) at 12:30, a half hour after the post office closed.

The skyline of downtown Cylinder changed drastically in 2016 with the new 5 bay fire department and the Rack Shack giving way to 'Haack's Nest'.

  Cylinder seems to have changed quite a bit in the last year. The Rack Shack restaurant I ate in last year turned into the Haack’s Nest sports bar and there is a brand new fire station building with 5 bays for fire trucks. I doubt Cylinder has 5 fire department vehicles although I couldn’t find any statistics on how many fire department vehicles are in Cylinder or even how many fires the Cylinder Fire Department responded to in the last year or decade or century. I thought about stopping in Haack’s Nest but decided to leave that until 2017 and soldiered my way on to Okoboji.

  I arrived at the Arrowwood resort in Okoboji at 1:30. I wanted to arrive early was so I could get a nap and be rested for the Okoboji Blitz tournament. I embarrassed myself in last year’s blitz with an 0-5 performance and a 12th place finish which could have been worse if there were more than 12 people since I finished dead last and at least 2 points behind everyone else. My poor play is on me but I didn’t help myself by being up for 18 hours before the 10:30 blitz tournament without a nap and having an 18,000 calorie meal of an egg bacon cheeseburger, a plate of Rueben bites, and two Mountain Dews at the Rack Shack for lunch. I wanted to play in the blitz this year but wanted to give myself the best chance at success so I made sure to arrive early, get a nap, and not be filled up with thousand of calories worth of eggs, cheese, and meat. Unfortunately even though I was told I could get an early check in my room wasn’t ready so I went into the tournament room to hang out.

  The big tournament room was all set with 25 tables. This year’s crowd wasn’t going to be very big so there was no rearranging needed on my part. I set up my computer and puttered around until Jodene and the players started arriving around 2:30. At 4 the Arrowwood called Kathy to let me know my room was ready! Kathy sent me an email but by that point it was too late to get a nap since players were arriving and there were entry fees to reconcile, questions to answer, and late arrivals to put into the computer. I had an odd number of players and was going to press Sam into service to be a house player but one player called to tell me he was stuck in traffic and needed a first round bye so I was back to even numbers. I paired the round and the 2016 Okoboji Open was underway...