Friday, May 3, 2013

Pottstown Rumble 2013 - Misty May-Treanor Will Be Here

     It's official!  Three time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor will be in Pottstown for the annual volleyball rumble June 21-23. The Pottstown Rumble is one of the nations largest grass volleyball tournaments and is played on the Memorial Park fields. With May-Treanor attending it will give the event even more star power. Thousands from around the United States and some from other countries make Pottstown their home for the weekend.
     And I can say that I have been a part of it playing in the tournament with different partners over the years.  Volleyball was my sport and an outlet for me for over 25 years but time moves on and playing competitively has to come to an end.
     Early on I played in three different leagues per week and couldn't get enough. I wasn't playing two man beach style volleyball at the time. But twice a week I played against some very good athletes. Guys that could set and others that could drill the ball with a powerful spike.
     And that what I liked to do. Take the days frustration out on that white ball and smash the snot out of it when someone set you up with a perfect ball. Bang! And I'd get a big smile on my face. Other times I'd get roofed and the ball blocked back into my face. But that was part of the fun.
     On the third night I ran a co-ed team in the Norco league with wife Deb, other family members and friends. This was a good league but not nearly as intense but a fine way to enjoy the game with family.
     Then twenty-two years ago Ken Kaas a true volleyball lifer started the Volleyball Rumble with a bunch of friends. From the start the tournament was a big hit. I played a number of years with Ken on the six man teams, some years on the same squad other times across the net from him.
     I don't remember if I played in the very first Rumble, but got to play a number of times.  Some years I had a justified conflict as our daughter Kelli's birthday is on June 22nd. She is a married adult with kids these days and not as concerned that Deb and I don't spend the entire day with her. But back then I'd get the question, "You aren't going to play volleyball and miss my birthday are you dad?" Of course my answer was that the day was hers to do what she wanted and we would be with her. I'd sneak down early to watch a little bit but family came first.
     Other years I'd work for The Mercury and photograph the event.  I think this was harder knowing I had no family commitments and still I couldn't get on the court.  But on the years I signed up to play, I couldn't wait for the weekend to get here. Sometimes I wondered why I played. The weather would get hot into the 90s and as I got older the guys around me got younger and the court seemed to get bigger. That couldn't have been due to the fact that I was over forty. Nah! And come Monday morning I'd be scratched up from diving trying to dig balls before they'd touch the grass. My knees ached and right shoulder would be sore as I hobbled into work. But it never stopped me. I loved volleyball.
     Some years we'd get beaten badly by teams. Other years we'd go far in our tourney bracket and into the final rounds. When teamed up with my brother Gary one year, I was dragging with high temps and the sun beating down on me.  If we won our last game against our bracket opponent we'd make it into the medal round. Sweating, I told him let's just lose this and go home, but that didn't happen and we continued to play. You give it what you got and I couldn't quit no matter how I was feeling.
    The Rumble grew and grew. Kaas is like a carnival barker, but humble. He always has a new idea up his sleeve to push at the event. Early on he held a swim suit contest. One year he brought out a motorcycle stuntman to jump across the Manatawny Creek to keep drawing interest. On opening morning at the start he sends up booming fireworks to let people know what's going on. Last year they had Gary Fry owner of the Craft Ale House and also an avid volleyball player serving up the local Sly Fox Beers inside the beer tent.  And now one of the highlights for the never tiring showman will be to have an Olympic gold medalist as part of the festivities.
     But Kaas is the first one to say that he couldn't keep the tournament running without his family and close knit friends. They start setting up piles of nets and fencing during the middle of the week. Once the suns sets they don't just sit down in a chair with a cold drink. You'll see them bumping, setting and spiking getting together for pickup games on a nice evening.
     You can spot him wearing a red, white and blue rumble shirt,  running around the grounds with a walkie talkie in hand and biting down on the short stub of a stogie.
     I'm scheduled to shoot photos again this year and will look forward to seeing some of the old faces I know that keep playing the game and the younger ones that move around effortlessly from corner to corner heads better than I could have ever wanted to be.
     Let's count on some sunny skies and good weather. Keep it in the low 90s to have these guys and girls sweat a little to get that victory. Welcome to Pottstown Misty May-Treanor. You will be surprised to see how a small town can put on a big-time tournament.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Travel-The Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Mount Moran reflected in Jackson Lake
    Floating on the Snake River as part of a rafting trip with my wife Deb and looking up at the Grand Teton Mountains is spectacular. The two-hour float capped several days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming  and is a part of the country where I could spend months. The veteran guide navigated the swift moving current and we felt safe. He was in complete control rowing and offering bits of wisdom and watched for bald eagles for us as we floated. The eagles were gliding above the water searching for cutthroat trout to swoop down and snatch for a meal.
Strick's Pix and Deb on float trip
Bald Eagle along Snake River
     There was plenty of time to take snapshots and there wasn't any sections of white
water to contend with. As advertised it is a float trip. I'm not looking for a rip roaring ride just a calm, easy drift downstream. But it's not a river to take lightly and can be dangerous to novices with little river knowledge floating without a guide.
     I never tired of viewing the Teton range and would like to hike on more of the trails in the area. While in the Grand Teton National Park I shot photos of Mount Moran reflecting in Jackson Lake and snapped others at Jenny Lake.  I made a number of nice pictures but seeing the range up close is what keeps me going on these trips. The sky was constantly changing as clouds filled in over the craggy tops. A short time later the mountains are bathed in sunlight, set against an emerald sky.
     There were other things to do in town as we
Deb at Antler Arch
shot the required picture standing in the Jackson Hole town square beside one of the antler arches. We did some shopping and Deb found a moose charm for her bracelet. She looks for a charm from each trip we take as a memento of our travels. Then we sauntered over to the Million Dollar Saloon straddling a saddle seat bar stool for a couple beverages. It's all part of the experience.
Dinner at Bar J Chuckwagon
     That evening we had dinner at Bar J Chuckwagon. You are given a tin cup and can wet your whistle with lemonade, water and ice tea which come with your meal. With a seating capacity of 750,  the bell rings and hungry wranglers line up holding onto a tin plate as workers ladle out a variety of dinner choices along with a baked potato, baked beans and other trimmings. I had the beef bar-b-q and Deb had a rib eye steak. The ranch hands get all the diners through the line in less than 25 minutes.  The meal was very
tasty and brought a smile to Deb's face enjoying the experience.
View of The Grand Tetons
     After dinner the Bar J Wranglers entertain the crowd with western musical numbers mixing in comedy and foot stomping fun for the crowd.
It's definitely part of the trip itinerary each time I'd travel to Jackson Hole.
 And on that note there is talk with my brother Gary about a trip out to the Grand Tetons for some trout fishing in the fine streams and rivers in Wyoming and some hiking in the back country. So I'm on a mission to learn how to fly fish so I'm not such a tin horn when I get to the stream. I'll see if I can master the art form before heading West again.

Speeding in a Work Zone

     Last week troopers from Pa. State Police and Lower Pottsgrove Township officers worked together on a traffic detail for drivers to slow down on Route 422 in a work zone in Lower Pottsgrove Township.
     Motorists continue to ignore the 40 mph designation in the area, many driving through the zone above the normal highway 55 mph. I was sent on assignment to the highway construction area to record photos for the website and The Mercury to get the word for drivers to follow the designated speed reduction or be ticketed by police.
     It didn't take long for a string of cars to get pulled over. After four hours 39 citations were written. Officers will continue to monitor the area and keep it safe.
     I don't profess to always stay under the speed limit and at times will look down at the speedometer and see I'm moving along, but as I get older I'm not hurrying down the highway as much. In a construction zone I try to stay as close to the limited speed limit as I can.
     The other day I was driving in the construction zone and tried to keep my car at 40. I was more worried about cars flying up on my back watching in the rear view mirror as drivers again were ignoring the speed limit. Many buzzed by like I was standing still.
     The only way I can see to get people serious to follow the rule is to constantly run a traffic stop so that motorists get the idea that its time to lower speeds not only for the driver snaking through the barriers but also for workers on the ground and in slow moving construction vehicles.
     If that doesn't slow them down keep writing the tickets. They can probably solve the national debt with all the money drivers will pay for their lack of concern in these areas.