Oh Yeah, The Reason We Actually Came

The following post is the 6th in a series recapping a recent road trip I took with my two sons. Part 1 can be accessed by clicking here. All posts in this series can be accessed from this site’s home page.

My experience with college campuses…campii?…whatever, is not extensive. Following high school, I attended Eastern Arizona College, a small community college in the town of Thatcher, Arizona. EAC is not large. It does not pretend to be large. If anything, it celebrates and thrives on its general lack of largeness. There is no college scene, per se, unless you count the library or the occasional trip to the local Sodalicious. Everything in Thatcher is shuttered by 9:30 p.m. except the local convenience store, and the lobby to the post office. In other words, Thatcher does not have the feel of a typical college town.

Not to say I didn’t have fun. EAC was great. But as far as a typical college life experience? It was pretty tame. Which in retrospect, for a teetotaling Mormon wishing to remain a teetotaling Mormon through the whole college experience, tame was probably the best option for me.

Following EAC, I moved to the big city and attended the main campus of Arizona State University. Now, in light of the previous paragraph, I know what some of you are thinking. Isn’t ASU like one of the top party schools in America. The answer is no. Not anymore. That designation now belongs to the U of A. But in the ’90s when I attended? Yes, that would be true. However, I got married before I ever attended one class in Tempe and I lived off campus, only venturing in for classes and the occasional football game. Again, not the normal campus experience. Plus, very little about the ASU campus is historic. Same with EAC.

Now I share all of this only to set the stage for our last morning in New Orleans. The entire stated reason we had embarked on this trip was to engage in an official campus tour of Tulane University. Braden was super excited. And to be honest, my emotions weren’t far behind. This was something I had never done. How could it not be cool?

And you know what? It was. Really cool! From the tree covered drive down St. Charles Avenue to the stately historic building that greeted us at the entrance to the campus, it was just…awesome!

Tulane 1

Now, we did learn something very valuable very quickly when it comes to future campus visits. In my mind, a campus visit was something that would qualify as a big deal. Big deals generally require some amount of dressing up. Apparently, campus visits are not all that big of a deal because even in our jeans and polo shirt combos, my sons and I were the most dressed up of anyone there, including the tour guides. But in retrospect, I should have expected this. They want these kids to come here. It’s July in New Orleans. Why on earth wouldn’t everyone dress down and enjoy the experience?

Tulane 2

Surprisingly to me, Tulane campus was not that big. Especially compared with what I had experienced at ASU. I could be mistaken, but I believe the entirety of Tulane might fit inside ASU Stadium. But that is what made it kind of cool. Okay, cool isn’t the right word because by 10 in the morning, it was freaking hot. When they would actually take us into buildings likes the library, the wellness complex or the business school, I could practically hear my sweat glands sighing with relief. They hadn’t been worked out this hard…maybe ever.

Tulane 3

But overall, it was great. As we walked along the sidewalks, I couldn’t help thinking that this felt like a college campus in a way that I had never experienced. And Braden was totally awestruck. I think for the first time he was actually realizing he could go to a place like this. Whether he will or not? Doesn’t matter. He knows it’s a possibility and that’s enough.

Following the tour, we slipped into the bookstore and got some mementos of our visit and we even found Kate a souvenir. Which, admittedly would not have looked very good on Logan.

Tulane 4Tulane 5

Then we headed back toward our point of entry. As we neared the main building, we were met by a nice lady who either lives nearby and uses the campus walkways for exercise…or is a ghost. Not sure which. But anyway, she met us by the “Bead Tree”. The Bead Tree is a campus tradition that totally makes sense if you’ve ever been to New Orleans. The legend goes that if, as a freshman, you throw a string of beads into the tree and they stay, you will have success and finish your undergrad degree within four years. The nice lady informed us that the tradition can be altered and if you throw a string of beads into the tree and they stay, you will have four years of good luck. There were some beads on the ground and she handed them to Braden. He tossed them up and…good news, things will apparently go his way through his 20th birthday. Then…the ghost lady walked away and we headed back out to our car so we could get on the road and begin our long trek home.

Tulane 6

It was hard to pass through the outskirts of New Orleans. Our time there had been truly memorable and it’s always hard to see a good time come to an end. It’s even harder when you know how much driving you have ahead of you without the promise of an adventure waiting for you at the end. Nevertheless, we cranked up Willie and moved along.

The string of events that occurred once we reached Baton Rouge had to be the most frustrating of our trip mainly because we were up against the clock and just couldn’t seem to get anywhere. First off, we pulled off the freeway to get gas and get a bathroom for Logan only to find that the promised gas station/freeway town was four miles away. Then, when we did find the “gas station”, it turned out to be two gas pumps in front of a grocery store that no one in their right mind would ever buy produce from. If you don’t understand, well…be glad you’ve never been in a grocery store like that. Anyway, I wasn’t going to get gas there, but Logan was desperate so we sent him in. He claimed it was possibly his most disgusting/frightening bathroom stop ever. He had to go into the back storage area and find a barely marked door in a dimly lit corner. I felt bad for him until I remembered the old AJ Bayless in Safford where my mom used to shop growing up. Upon reflection, his bathroom and that bathroom sounded exactly the same. Unrelated to anything, that AJ Bayless bathroom is where I learned the concept of a dirty limerick. Anyway, the other problem was that time was movin’ on. Logan finally emerged, shuddering. We rushed him into the car, queued up Willie and took a back road to Baton Rouge where a Chipotle was supposedly waiting for us.

Except we couldn’t find it. Braden’s GPS swore it was there, but we’d already had the Shipley Donut experience so our trust level in him wasn’t exactly brimming. Nevertheless, we finally did find it, ate, changed, got gas and somehow managed to put Baton Rouge into our rearview mirror just 1 1/2 hours after we’d arrived. It felt like twenty.

I could describe the convenience/cigar store we stopped at just inside the Texas border, but I’ll let these pictures do the talking.

Suffice it to say, I know as a general rule I try to get my boot, crucifix and John Wayne portrait shopping done at roadside gas stations so this store totally spoke to me.

It was coming up on dinner time when we hit Houston, but our Chipotle stop had been later in the day and was still with us, so we decided to skip dinner and just go with a box of…you guessed it, Shipley Donuts. Rest assured we found a different location not associated with downtown. They were good. But then again, they’re donuts. It’s pretty hard to mess up a donut.

The night before, we had decided to be adventurous and return home through Austin rather than San Antonio. This meant getting off the I-10, which turned out to be one of the prettiest drives I’ve ever experienced. Rolling green hills and plenty of trees made for a nice change. It was a little disconcerting that the speed limit remained 75 mph despite houses now being less than 50 feet from the road, but hey, it’s Texas. And…I’m sure there’s some macho allegory that ultimately teaches us that Texas is superior to all in there somewhere.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see much of Austin because darkness was settling in as we hit town. The one thing I did take away from our Austin experience is that whoever their city planner was, I hope he hangs in effigy somewhere in the downtown complex. I mean, seriously, that was the most convoluted set of roads I’ve ever experienced in my life. And I’ve been to England…and Tucson.

As a final event for our trip, we decided to take in Ant Man and the Wasp since it was opening night. After another adventure on the streets of Austin that I’m fairly certain actually took us through several people’s backyards, we made it from our hotel to the theater. Great flick. The Ant Man movies are by far the funniest of the Marvel library and yes, I’ve seen the Guardian movies.

There isn’t much to report about our final day of travel. It consisted of waking up early, getting on the road and driving. And driving. Stopping for gas and a bathroom, and driving. It was enjoyable enough except, it gets hard to keep everyone’s attention after five days together and so Braden drifted into his own music and Logan slept a lot. But it was good. When we finally made it to El Paso, we knew we’d broken the back of the trip and it felt good to be almost home. We’d definitely missed the women in our lives.

However, one last thing that brought us all together was that over the course of several trips, we had now driven the entire length of the 1-10 freeway from California to Florida with the exception of the small stretch between Lordsburg and the turn off just before Willcox. We decided there was no time like the present so pulled a Thelma and Louise/Kramer and the car salesman, and watched the Lordsburg exit fly by as we embarked on one final adventure. Turns out it wasn’t that adventurous, but, we are now numbered among the very few (other than truckers) who can claim to have driven the entire 1-10. I feel very proud.

To wrap things up, I couldn’t have asked for a better time with my boys. I am so glad Braden talked me into it. We’re already planning another one for next year, although the fact that it is planned already takes some of the fun out of it. Nevertheless, the men of the Ryan Rapier family will always look back on the summer of 2018 and smile. And maybe even start humming an old Willie Nelson song that will forever be attached to those fabulous memories.

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Chillin’ In The Big Easy

The following is part 5 of a series recapping a cross-country road trip I recently took with my sons. To see part 1, click here. All other episodes in this epic saga can be found at this site’s home page. If cross-country road trip sagas are not for you, slip away quietly right now and no one will ever even know you were here.

There is something almost life-changing about waking up in the morning when your body feels like it’s ready and not to the hideous sound of a man-made alarm. I’ve had this epiphany on several different occasions throughout my life (my first day home after my LDS mission where 6:30 a.m. was the ironclad rule, or the first time as an adult I ever took the day after Christmas off) but as I awoke in my hotel bed in New Orleans on the morning of July 4th, 2018, it was brought home to me in a powerful way all over again. For the first time all week, there was no rush. And it felt amazing.

Amazing that is, until I rolled over and I was immediately confronted by the reality of what happens to a 45-year old body that sleeps in a foreign bed after having driven over 1,100 miles in 48 hours. It only took an instant for the euphoria of not having to be on the road again by 6 a.m. to be replaced by near hysteria as I wondered if I would ever walk upright again in this lifetime.

Thankfully, a nice hot shower and a few stretches fixed everything (well, everything except being 45) and I was ready to face the day. Much like me, I could tell my boys were equally thrilled with the prospect of having little on the schedule and being able to ease into our day. At no point did anyone protest the tortoise-like pace we’d adopted. There was no rush, there was no agenda. We were true natives of the Big Easy, happy to accept whatever came our way…

…As long as everybody got there butts in gear before the maid service came along. Good crap, we were going to waste the entire day if we didn’t get a move on.

Yep, my laid back approach to vacationing lasted all of…I don’t know, 45 minutes? Then I was back to being my old, “gotta make time, gotta make time” self. I’ll admit, I was kinda happy to see that guy. I’d started to miss him. My kids? Well, I think they’d have been fine if he’d stayed home completely. But, they rolled with it and by 9 a.m. we were back on the street, ready to go.

As far as plans go, this was again a new concept for me. We didn’t have many. The only things we knew for certain were that we wanted to go to a movie at 12:30 (we’d scouted out the theater the night before thus the specificity on the time) and watch the fireworks at 8:30 that night. That was pretty much it on the docket. So, for our morning adventure we decided to take in a little self-guided tour of the Garden District.

For those unacquainted with New Orleans, the Garden District isn’t really anything other than a fancy neighborhood of houses that are really big, really ornate and really old. Think antebellum, old south…zip a dee do dah style homes and you’re getting a pretty good picture. Also, several of these homes are owned by very famous people and yet, you can pretty much walk right up the front gate and be 20 feet or so from their front door. For instance, Archie Manning’s house (father of Peyton and Eli) has no gate on the driveway and his car was parked just a few feet off the main sidewalk. If I were a Patriot’s fan, I could have had Braden kick his bumper and then ran like heck and there wouldn’t have been much he could do about it. Except throw Braden in jail I suppose, but then that’s why I would have had Braden do it in the first place. Plausible deniability. Anyway, along with famous houses, the area also includes the well known Lafayette Cemetery.

So, after a ride on the historical street car (a ride we found extra exciting due to our love of the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog) we spent two hours wandering around the Garden District. We had a pseudo breakfast (large pastry) at a cafe in an old historic building called The Rink, strolled through the graves at a cemetery and visited some pretty cool houses. Highlights included:

  • The pastries. That little coffee shop that didn’t look like much from the outside had some pretty dang amazing pastries. The water we got to go with them? Eh. But it was free so how much room do we actually have to complain?
  • Lafayette Cemetery. Apparently it is a really bad idea to bury people underground in New Orleans because the ground is so wet. I didn’t know this was possible, but I am told that bodies and caskets can work their way back to the surface with ground that waterlogged. It’s not like Arizona where the ground is so hard that when we bury someone, we have to worry about whether issues might arise at resurrection time. Anyway, the above ground graves and mausoleums were pretty cool.
  • Sidewalks. Only in a town like New Orleans would famous people who have paid millions for their home put up with sidewalks like these. But here, stately trees that are hundreds of years old get preferential treatment and if that means a millionaire has to get out their all terrain hiking equipment to get to their front door. So be it.

Sidewalks

  • Jefferson Davis’ death home. I don’t know why, but historical places are so much more interesting to me when I can place a historical figure in them. And knowing that we were standing outside the place where the president of the Confederacy died was like…huh, pretty cool. It’s the same feeling I get in the French Quarter when I see the plaque stating that people had stood on the balcony above to shout support for Andrew Jackson as he rode by following the Battle of New Orleans.

Jefferson Davis

  • Famous people’s houses. As mentioned, we saw the family home of Peyton and Eli Manning. We also happened to stop by John Goodman’s house and Sandra Bullock’s house. As near as we could tell, they were not home. Or at least they were not out working in their garden when we happened by. And why should they be? It was July in New Orleans. Hot and unbelievably humid! I’m sure that’s why they didn’t come out and say hi. We also happened by Anne Rice’s old home, but I’m not a big enough fan to have bothered with a picture.

Manning Home

Home of Archie and Olivia Manning

Goodman Home

John Goodman’s Home

Bullock Home

Sandra Bullock’s Home (Not very visible from the street, by design)

Sandra Bullock’s home was one of the last we visited and so, having decided that we’d had enough of the majesty and beauty of the Garden District (not to mention sweltering heat with 893% humidity) we decided to commemorate the moment by going back downtown and taking in the movie Ocean’s 8, starring…Sandra Bullock. It seemed only fitting.

The movie was pretty good, but the one comment I’ll make about the whole experience was that I had never been to a theater before that had no concession stand. They just handed us menus on our way into the theater and that was it. I think I might have warmed to the concept better if the old couple in front of us hadn’t decided to enjoy a full seven course meal with after dinner wine, all served over the course of our feature presentation. Because of that alone, the “menu with a call button in a movie theater” idea gets a big thumbs down from me.

After the movie, there’s not a lot to report other than we wandered around the French Quarter and The Riverwalk for a couple of hours trying to decide what it was exactly we wanted to do. This is one moment when I wanted to desperately strangle both of my boys for nothing more than being teenagers.

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. Whatever.”

“Would you like to (Fill in the blank)?”

“Not really.”

“Then what would you like to do?”

“I don’t know.”

This stimulating conversation repeated on an endless loop while we aimlessly walked and it led to two different outcomes. One, we ended up having beignets for lunch and two, we found ourselves outside and no where near shelter when an afternoon monsoon appeared from nowhere and pounded us with a vengeance. Beignets? Awesome! Walking around soaking wet on the streets of New Orleans with heat and humidity at levels that would kill most small canine breeds? Not as awesome. We headed back to the hotel for a rest and a much needed change of clothes.

That night, we decided to get crazy and go to the hole in the wall diner next to our hotel (there really aren’t any diners in New Orleans that aren’t of the hole in the wall variety) and try proper Cajun cooking. At least Logan and I decided this. Braden had a hamburger.

Logan and I on the other hand had gumbo, a shrimp po’ boy, fried green tomatoes, and my personal favorite, alligator. Okay, it’s my personal favorite in that I get to tell people I ate alligator. But in actuality, I probably wouldn’t rush out and have it again. But the rest of it was exquisite. And Braden liked his hamburger as well, in case you were wondering.

Food 1

Food 2

Finally, the hour we had traveled half way across the country for arrived. It was time to go get our place along the river for the fireworks. Having never been here before, we decided to leave two hours early and wait. As it turned out, that was probably a tad excessive. But, we ended up with a great spot.

River spot

With nothing to do for two hours, we took turns going into the Riverwalk mall behind us to cool off and do something other than stand along a railing by the Mississippi River. What we discovered is that Cafe Dumond had a satellite cafe here. We decided it couldn’t hurt to top off our highly rich dinner with another round of beignets. This leads to a question we should have asked ourselves before making this decision. That question being: how many beignets are too many beignets to consume in a 24 hour period. So that you are aware, the answer is 9. I will elaborate no further other than to say that this answer may also hinge on whether or not you have eaten alligator in that same 24 hour period.

Finally, the sun set and we prepared for the fireworks to begin. It was kind of fun. In the half hour leading up to the fireworks we made friends with a couple who were originally from Jamaica but now lived in New York. They were really nice and friendly and it was neat for my boys to be in a setting where they could literally be chatting with people from all over the world.

And the fireworks themselves? Holy Cow!!! Pictures or videos can’t begin to do them justice. Let’s just say it was definitely worth all of the effort we had made to see them. However, I did want to get one final picture of our vantage point from a different perspective.

Nighttime 1

Once the fireworks ended, it didn’t take long for brutal exhaustion to come crashing down on us. There would be no partying late into the night for the Rapier boys. We were done. Slowly, along with several hundred of our new best friends, we trudged the streets back to our hotel with the promise of a soft bed providing the only incentive to keep going. And sadly, with our Tulane visit scheduled for the next morning, the luxury of easing into our day was not an option we could look forward to again.

The sixth and final chapter in the Rapier Guys Road Trip series will appear later this week.

I Just Need A Bathroom And A Donut

The following is the fourth installment in a series of posts detailing my recent road trip with my sons. For part 1 of this series, click here. All installments can be found on the homepage.

There’s an aspect of traveling that I utterly despise. It’s that horrific game of chicken one has to play of knowing when to pull off the freeway for gas or food while traveling through an unfamiliar city. If you pull off too soon, you can find yourself in a maze of twisted traffic filled with street options that promise to take you anywhere you could possibly want to go except back to the freeway. On the other hand, if you wait too long, you can find yourself with no options at all except maybe a truck stop with toilets that stopped flushing two visitors before you and food options that suggest expiration dates are for suckers. This seems to be what happens to me every time I try to get out of Las Vegas headed for St. George. Of course, it may just be that there is actually no good place to stop on the north side of Las Vegas and I really should just accept my fate and try that Steak and Lobster buffet being offered for $9.99.

Anyway, as the sun rose over San Antonio and day two of our father/son road trip got underway, Logan, Braden and I found ourselves tense with anticipation as our latest dalliance with this game of chance played out. As light began to streak through the mildly overcast sky, it was clear we hadn’t pulled over too soon. But the jury was definitely still out on whether we had waited too long. Making matters worse, this stretch of I10 between San Antonio to Houston (and we would discover, all the way to New Orleans) is much more like the I10 stretch between Tucson and Phoenix than we had experienced the day before. Dozens of semis surrounded us on the road making it difficult to spot signs advertising food and gas options at the upcoming exit.

Finally, with swaths of wide open spaces taking the place of city, we decided not to press our luck any further. As it turned out, we could have done better. But boy, could we have done a lot worse. Yes, we had to eat smashed croissant sandwiches from a Burger King smashed into the corner of a large “Travel Stop”. But the entire place was remarkably clean and I felt no need to seek out a tetanus shot upon our departure.

The drive to Houston was pretty unremarkable. It was basically a continuation of what we had experienced the day before. The only real mishap was that Logan misread the itinerary and thought Houston was only about two hours away. Thus, as his bladder began to fill beyond capacity, he held off saying anything because surely we would hit Houston at any time, right? By the time we finally did, he was not looking so good.

Needing a stop myself, I recalled someone telling me about Shipley Donuts and how they should not be missed. In a moment I would come to regret many times over the next hour, I thought to myself, “Why not kill two birds with one stone and stop for a bathroom break and a donut?”

I asked Braden to find the closest Shipley Donuts and get us there. He decided to direct us to the closest Shipley Donuts in a place he really wanted to go. Downtown-smack in the middle of everything-Houston. This decision required us to find a parking spot in a maze of one way streets because the Shipley Donuts was not visible from the street. And there were no available parking spots (I should say, visible parking spots because we found out later there were plenty of parking spots right next to where we were trying to get to, we just couldn’t see them) near our desired location. So, we ended up parking on a side street about three full city blocks from Shipley Donuts. The pained look on Logan’s face was quickly transforming from discomfort to panic.

After walking for several blocks in my traveling clothes (basketball shorts, t-shirt, and orange slip-ons that don’t stay on my feet very well) we finally found the block where Shipley Donuts was located…

…except it wasn’t. There was no Shipley Donuts anywhere. Apple had led us to a high rise building with a weird little grocery store in it, but no donuts. And even worse, no bathroom.

Now things were getting desperate. We quickly started back the way we had come because I remembered an open air mall we had passed that would surely have a bathroom. Problem was, I got confused on exactly where we were and couldn’t find it. Logan was walking with a slight Quasimodo gait by this point and things were looking grim.

Eventually, we found the open air mall and…it was not so much a mall as an open air collection of restaurants and wine shops. Most of which were not open at this time of day. AAAAAHHHHHHHH! Finally, I found a tobacco shop that was open and asked about a bathroom in the complex. I was directed to the third floor. We got to the third floor, found the hallway where the bathrooms are located and were greeted by this sign:

BATHROOMS ARE CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME

Down the hallway, I could see the bathroom doors. At this point, I basically said screw it, and we all headed toward the off-limit bathroom anyway. Thankfully, they weren’t locked, we accomplished what we needed to accomplish and decided we wanted nothing more than to get out of Houston. And so we did, sadly without any donuts.

Houston

As we piled back into the van, I looked once more at my front two tires. I had known for several weeks that we would probably need to replace them soon. Unfortunately, when you plan a trip in less time than it takes some people to blow their nose, you don’t always address every issue you might need to before you leave. Bottom line, I felt like I couldn’t push my luck any more. As we drove out of Houston, I had Braden look up Discount Tires between us and New Orleans. There was one in Baton Rouge. And with that, we had decided upon our next destination.

By the way, as we got back on the freeway headed out of Downtown Houston, Willie Nelson made his second aural appearance of the day.

As we crossed into Louisiana, it started to rain. It wasn’t too bad, but it was constant. And with semis as far as the eye could see and constant road construction leading to very narrow traffic lanes, it led to some very white knuckle moments. Finally, we rolled into the outskirts of Baton Rouge and…severe traffic.

I have been in many traffic jams in my life, but this one provided something new. A bridge that you cross to get into Baton Rouge is unique. Unique in the fact that it looks like it was formed on the hump of camel. I’ve never in my life driven over a bridge that steep. What made it truly scary was that we happened upon this bridge in the midst of stop and go traffic in the rain. I seriously began to worry about my van stalling and rolling backwards, or the guy in front me stalling and rolling backwards. Basically, all stalling and rolling backwards scenarios played out in my mind in that short three minutes we were stuck on the Baton Rouge Bridge.

Nevertheless, we got through to the other side and eventually found ourselves on the other side of Baton Rouge at our Discount Tire. And interestingly enough, it was located in a suburb of Baton Rouge called, Gonzalez. I don’t know why I found that slightly humorous, but I did. I would expect a town name like that in Arizona, but it caught me off guard in Creole country. I guess I would have expected it to be Gonzaleaux. Anyway, we got the van checked in and headed out to lunch at a Jimmy Johns nearby.

While at Jimmy Johns, the rain intensified to Noah like proportions. Which meant that in order to get back to Discount Tire, we had to run through it and get soaked. Which we did. What I found funny was that Braden had taken to heart the instruction that one should not get close to any standing water in this part of the country and told me it was completely on me if he got attacked by a ‘gator during our dash back across a parking lot, small field and construction site.

Back on the road, it was only about an hour or so later that we finally reached our destination. NEW ORLEANS!!!

Without incident we drove by the Super Dome, found our hotel, checked in and then headed out to the Quarter. I showed the boys the small little hotel I had stayed in for a night just off of Bourbon Street called The Prince Conti. They were justifiably horrified.  We saw a street band performing on Bourbon Street. They got to see the incredible salesmanship/con job of a street shoe shiner (something I had already witnessed in Chicago but thought they would enjoy so I let it play out). We walked around Jackson Square. And of course, we stopped at Cafe Dumond and had beignets. Observing Braden’s face as we ate them, I had the sneaking suspicion that maybe this one moment was the real reason we had driven halfway across the country. Forget Tulane, forget the fireworks, it was really all about the beignets.

Bourbon Street

Jackson Square

Beignets

Finally, as a closer for the day, we walked next door to Cafe Dumond and climbed up the stairs to an overlook of the Mississippi River. I’m sorry, but for an Arizona kid who is told that the Gila is supposed to be a river, the Mississippi is just something beyond description. We sat down and just watched it go by for several minutes, not one of us expressing any desire to do anything else. It was pretty cool.

For the rest of the evening, we walked around a bit more, explored the Riverwalk, and then eventually decided we were tired and we should probably go to bed. But for me, we could have turned around and driven home right then and the entire trip would have been worth it after our trip to Cafe Dumond and the time we spent watching the river. It was peaceful, and it was a memory with my sons I will never forget. And it certainly is a better memory to end the day on than the bonding moment we shared later that night when a random guy on the street called me a skinhead white piece of…you know, because I wouldn’t buy his homemade rap CD. Gotta love NOLA!

Episode 5 of The Rapier Guys Road Trip will appear later this week.

Remember The Alamo

The following is the third installment in a recap of a recent road trip I took with my two sons. For part 1, Click Here. For part 2, Click Here. To not read any of them, click on the X in the upper right hand corner.

When I was little, at least once a week (generally Fridays) my family and I would spend the evening at my grandparents’ house. These visits were in the days before television remote controls, and so what would often happen is that we would come in, greet each other, and then settle in to watch whatever it was my grandparents had been watching on TV before we arrived. I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t we just turn it off, or…turn it off? In answer to that I would say…I don’t know. I was between three and six years old and held very little sway in the world of Rapier family dynamics. And why would I have argued for that anyway? So I could listen to adults blather on regarding topics I cared nothing about? I think not. But regardless, my Granny loved TV, and if we wanted to visit her and my Grandad, we were gonna watch TV. End of discussion. And so, over the course these visits, I saw many an episode of Dukes of Hazzard, Love Boat, Dallas, and One Day At A Time. I also saw a lot movies.

And it was because of one movie in particular I remember watching in my grandparents’ living room that I was so taken aback when my boys and I came around a street corner in downtown San Antonio and I laid eyes on the Alamo for the first time. It was so…small. As a child, I had sat mesmerized as I watched John Wayne fight for the survival of Texas in The Alamo. And it was in those moments that the church where these men had fought the Mexican army back in 18whatever had been forever immortalized in my young brain as being huge. How could it not be? The fate of Texas had rested on the outcome of what happened there. It was larger than life.

Now, seeing the actual building in person, I was faced with the reality that it was anything but. In contrast, the Ripley’s Believe it Not complex across the street was ten times the size. I don’t know what that says about American culture and its approach to history, but I’m sure there’s some kind of message there somewhere.

But anyway, small or not, it was still cool. This was the place where a handful of legendary American heroes had fought and died at the hands of a Mexican army led by General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón, or as he was more commonly know, Santa Anna.  I was in historical heaven.

Unfortunately, my two boys do not share my fascination with history. Also, they had not had the youthful experience of watching John Wayne swagger around in a coon skin cap to inspire them. I suppose that’s my bad. To them, the Alamo was a courtesy they were granting their father. Not that they were obnoxious about it, they just weren’t that interested. They didn’t understand the significance. To them it was the site of a battle in a war between Mexico and the United States over Texas. People had died. Very sad. Let’s move on.

So we did.

Alamo

However, before we left, we did stop in at the Alamo gift shop. I’m not sure if there is a store that is more stereotypical Texas than the Alamo gift shop. I’m not going to elaborate, I’m just going to leave that thought out there and let it be my final word on the subject.

Once we stepped away from the Alamo, I asked the boys what we were going to do next. Braden immediately pointed to a space needle looking building off in the distance.

“I want to go there.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, I just do.”

I can act like I was mystified, but the truth is, I knew why. Braden is drawn to any and all tall buildings that he can go to the top of. I don’t know why, but he is. Of all the places we could have gone in Las Vegas, he wanted to go to the top of the Stratosphere. The problem with this tower in San Antonio is that it was not really all that close to our current location and we had limited time. I personally wanted to explore the Riverwalk, but…this wasn’t necessarily my trip so we set off for the as of yet unnamed tower in the distance.

Did I mention it was humid? The other downside of walking to the tower was that the entire distance was outside. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for my nice bald head to develop a sheen that quickly evolved into a miniature planet of waterfalls. Good gosh it was hot. Except it wasn’t that hot, it just was so…wet. I hate humidity! Good thing New Orleans wouldn’t be anything like this. (Sarcasm intended.)

Finally, we arrived at the tower. By this time I was half praying it was a community shower tower, because in a place like this those had to be common right? Sadly, it was not. But we did discover it was the Tower of the Americas, built in 1968 for the World’s Fair, and yes, we could go to the top. For a price.

Great, I could pay for the opportunity to ride an elevator with a bunch of other people who were perspiring as violently as we were up to the top of a tall building and then look down at all the air conditioning units of every other building in town for miles in any direction. Fortunately, an older couple walked up to us in the ticket line and handed us there tickets/wrist bands. They had decided not to go, but didn’t want to go through the hassle of turning the wrist bands back in.

Sold! Best deal of the day. Well, except for the Alamo which was free. So…that was actually the best deal of the day, but this one was pretty good.

At the top of the tower, I learned a few things. 1. From over 700 feet in the air, Las Vegas and San Antonio looked remarkably similar. 2. In the 1800s, the Mexican government was constantly trying to pass laws that would keep United States citizens from immigrating to Mexico, (Ok, specifically Texas, but it was Mexico at the time.) As anyone can imagine, I found this fact incredibly ironic. 3. Oh look, the home of the San Antonio Spurs! I had no idea we were so close. Or that Kawhi Leonard was so far away. (Spurs joke there, ha ha.)

tower-top.jpg

Anyway, there’s only so much you can do at the top of a tall tower, so after about 15 minutes we headed back down. I truly have a much greater appreciation for the hardships Rapunzel experienced. That can’t have been an easy gig.

Tower Bottom

With the tower behind us, quite literally a this point, it was time to find something to eat and then probably head back to our hotel. As much as we may have wanted to explore more, the truth was, we had to be back on the road at 6:00 a.m. local time (4:00 a.m. internal clock time.) I needed to go to bed fairly soon.

Our food search, and my insistence, led us to the Riverwalk, and I gotta say, that place is pretty cool. Before long, we came upon a restaurant named Casa Rio. Once I verified that it was in no way affiliated with Cafe Rio we took a vote. We agreed it looked good, smelled good and appeared highly unlikely to force anything on us that would resemble Utah Mexican cuisine. It was unanimous. We put our name on the list and parked it.

My risk taker son, Braden (cough, splutter, choke) predictably had a bean burrito with rice and beans. Thankfully, Logan was feeling more adventurous and ordered the most amazing shrimp tacos. In fact, once we were served, I suddenly wished I had ordered what he had instead of my own dish, although the stuffed poblano chili was also very good.

Food

By dinner’s end, dark had fallen and we had missed the last shuttle to our hotel. So after I did the required souvenir shopping (magnet for Shannon and a license plate for our family room wall) we set off on the walk back to our hotel. Unfortunately, much like Phoenix, it doesn’t get cooler with nightfall. Also unfortunately, the humidity didn’t slacken under the cover of darkness either. By the time we arrived back at our hotel, it was safe to say that certain portions of the day’s wardrobe would require an immediate quarantine.

Following some quick showers, we grudgingly set our alarms, turned out the lights, and for the first time in years, I fell instantly asleep in a hotel bed. And I only had to pee in the middle of the night once. Is it sad that I remember that fact as one the great highlights of the day? On second thought, don’t answer that.

Part 4 of The Rapier Guys Road Trip will appear later this week.

On The Road Again

This is the second installment of a series recounting a recent road trip I took with my two sons. To read the first installment, click here

I knew exactly what I was hearing the second it pierced my subconscious. It wasn’t loud, but since I’d been dreading it from the moment I’d allowed my finger to press the SET button on my phone the night before, it didn’t take much for the soft sonar-like dinging of my alarm to cut through the haze of my horrified brain and bring me to full consciousness.

And yet I still didn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t. It would just be too painful.

I mean, who in their right mind would voluntarily open their eyes at 3 o’clock in the morning? Now admittedly, there might be the occasional (or with each passing year, more than occasional) late night/early morning trip to the bathroom, or the living nightmare that accompanies the soft whisper from your small child, “Daddy, I puked,” but this was different. I was making a conscious choice here to wake up on my own. It felt like I was violating nature at its very core.

Finally, as the gentle pulsing started to increase in volume and insistence, I cracked an eyelid and reached down to shut the phone off.

Crap! I was awake…and I was doing this.

I got up, slipped into a tee shirt and basketball shorts that I had designated as my official traveling clothes and slipped quietly through my dark house to wake up my boys. We’d packed and said goodbye to our other family members the night before so it didn’t take long before we were all firmly seated in our family mini-van and ready to go. Following a quick stop at a convenience store where I picked up a Diet Dr. Pepper and multiple packages of mini-donuts that would serve as our pre-breakfast snack, we were officially on our way by 3:25 in the morning. Unofficially, we kicked off our, “Don’t you dare tell your mother how crappy I’m feeding you” portion of the adventure as well.

As we left the lights of Safford behind, I encouraged both boys to try and get some sleep while it was still dark. We’ve all driven the road to Duncan before and I assured them it wasn’t going to get any more interesting this time around just because we’d decided to leave at a time even Downton Abbey housemaids would consider aggregious. In response, Braden plugged in his iPad and started a tradition that would play out every time we pulled back onto the road following a stop. He played Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again. Let me be clear. After Every Stop! EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!

We all sang along.

Unfortunately, that didn’t get us very far so we had to have something else. I had downloaded a couple of books on tape and I had my iPod for music, but to begin with, we opted to try a podcast suggested by a friend called This American Life. Each episode is an hour long and focuses on a topic specific to that episode. It was a life saver. All three of us were instantly mesmerized by the stories being told and it really did make the time fly.

A story about a progressive socialist fighting against the Democratic machine in an effort to get on the primary Congressional ballot in New York got us to Lordsburg. The story of a Somali refugee in Kenya trying to get to America after winning our country’s visa lottery carried us to Las Cruces. Somewhere just outside of Deming, NM, the sun broke over the hills just as we were about to learn the fate of Abdi, the Somali refugee. In the moment, it kinda felt symbolic. Anyway, for me, it was totally cool. We were almost to Texas and neither one of my boys had retreated to their headphones or earbuds to escape the prevaling activity of the car. We were legitimately enjoying a guys road trip together.

(As an aside, throughout most of my youth and early adult years, I had always believed Lordsburg to be, without doubt, the most depressing place in the entire United States. Having seen it again after more than a decade or two, I realize now that I was right.)

About 8 a.m. (we’d been on the road for about 3 1/2 hours, but we’d already lost one additional hour to that cursed Daylight Savings Time when we crossed into New Mexico) we hit the outskirts of El Paso and pulled off for gas and a proper breakfast at McDonalds, or to be quite frank, a different kind of gas. Just 20 minutes later (a Rapier family record for a gas tank fill-up and a meal, such as it is) we were back on the road. Braden started up On The Road Aga…no wait, we hit a traffic jam and so he turned it off. It just didn’t quite feel right to be singing On The Road Again while not actually moving. Instead, I made them listen to the classic Marty Robbins’ song El Paso. Losing about half an hour in stand still traffic with approximately 9 hours of driving still in front of us, it seemed only fitting that we listen to a song about a guy bleeding out in his lover’s arms due to a mess of his own making.

Finally, we made it through the traffic snag, got our Willie Nelson fix and continued down the road. Suddenly, off to our right we saw a vast number of buildings painted in colors you just don’t see…anywhere. And that’s when we realized we were right next to the Mexican border and what we were seeing was Juarez. It was humbling. That we could see such a stark difference in the way people lived just a couple hundred yards away from our freeway overpass was extremely sobering. And what had those of us in our little van done to earn such a clear advantage in life over those just down the way? We happened to get born on the right side of a meandering little river that looked significantly more like a stream. We talked about it. I hope my boys appreciate what they’ve been blessed with. I hope I do. Because in that moment, “blessed” hardly seemed an adequate description.

The night before left, Braden (our family’s personal map and weather guru) had printed up an itinerary that broke our trip up into digestible pieces. The first day’s trek consisted of eight legs. The first four were designed to make us really feel like we were making progress. Safford to Lordsburg, 90 miles. Lordsburg to Deming, 60 miles. (I should point out for Braden’s sake that I am rounding/estimating on the distances while his itinerary did not. It was very specific. I’m just too lazy to do the same research he did, for a blog entry.) Deming to Las Cruces, 60 miles. Las Cruces to El Paso, 40 miles. See how you could get caught up in how quickly the trip is going. I mean, there are only eight legs and we’ve knocked out four of them in three and a half hours. Then came leg 5…El Paso to Van Horn.

It’s not like Braden was going out of his way to throw our distance expectations into shock, it’s just that…well, West Texas is not proportionally populated in comparison to the rest of the world. Antarctica? Maybe. But anywhere else? Not even close. Nevertheless, we were men on a mission and we met the challenge head on. Two and a half hours after leaving El Paso, we finally happened upon civilization once again in the form of Van Horn, TX. And by the way, I believe Van Horn is the Texan translation for Lordsburg.

As we came upon the first exit to Van Horn we made several decisions. We each decided we were men. And as men, we decided we each had bladders of steel. And finally, we each decided that too much of Willie Nelson is not a good thing. I pressed on the gas and we kept on driving.

One hundred and twenty miles or so later, we descended on a poor unsuspecting convenience store bathroom in Ft. Stockton, TX like it was a fire hydrant accidentally placed in the middle of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Of course, after using the bathroom, I bought a Diet Dr. Pepper and we continued on our way, Mr. Nelson providing our theme music as we picked up speed.

In Ft. Stockton, I forced my boys to switch seats. Now my younger son, Logan was up front with me and Braden was relegated to the back. Logan had finally reached his limit on continuous podcasts and asked if we could listen to a book. I agreed. He chose an Agatha Christie novel. We started it up and I immediately realized this was going to be rough. The reader had a pretty strong English accent that didn’t mix well with the hum of our tires rolling along at 80 mph. At best I was catching every third word and if you’re trying to solve a murder mystery, being partially deaf is not ideal. Apparently Logan was having the same struggles because rather than try to decipher the silly natterings of Ms. Abigail Chatterly Smythe, or whatever the main woman’s name was, he fell asleep. A few more miles later, I gave up.

I switched over to the other book I had downloaded which, coincidentally, also had a male reader with a British accent (although much more understandable to an American ear). One of my favorite memories of the entire trip was seeing Logan wake up, tune back into the story, and then sit silently with a seriously confused look on his face as he tried to figure out how an American businessman ripping off four English blokes to the tune of $1 million played into the story he’d been listening to earlier about a murder of a wealthy English noblewoman. He gave it his best effort for about 10 minutes before he finally gave up and asked me what the heck he’d missed. It was awesome!

One more stop in Ozona, TX for lunch at a Subway, one more rendition of On The Road Again, several more uneventful hours of driving and suddenly we were in the outskirts of San Antonio. I’m not certain if my butt had ever been happier. Thanks to almost flawless navigation by my elder son, we pulled into our hotel near downtown and practically leapt from our van in anticipation of our trip’s first official adventure. What met us was an oppressive curtain of humidity that stopped us almost dead in our tracks. And that’s when it hit us. We, a bunch of “it’s a dry heat” Arizona boys had headed toward the Gulf of Mexico in the dead of summer. Maybe it was possible we hadn’t completely thought this adventure of ours all the way through.

Look for the next installment of The Rapier Guys Road Trip to be posted later this week.

The Very Definition of Crazy

For my Mormon friends, please understand that I am not comparing myself to Nephi. I get it. He and I do not belong in the same sentence. No, all I am suggesting is that in this one moment, I believe I can relate to this scriptural icon in a way I never have before. He claimed at one point, that he felt inspired to record certain things that he didn’t see much purpose in writing down. The following events I describe happened three weeks ago. On their own, there is nothing all that exciting about them. Over the course of my life, I’ve had a lot of things happen to me. I’ve created many memories in my life, many of which I have never chronicled in written form. But for reasons that I admittedly don’t understand, since the day we arrived home, I have felt an overwhelming need to record the experiences I shared with my sons on a recent road trip. There is nothing awe inspiring or momentous about our trip. In many ways, I can’t see how the entire experience will mean anything to anyone beyond the three of us. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe someday, what I share will mean a great deal to one or more of us who experienced it, and as I don’t keep a journal, it’s possible this electronic record will be all there is. Regardless, if you feel so inclined, you are welcome to read on and learn about what happened to the men of the Ryan and Shannon Rapier family during the week of July 2-6. If  you don’t feel so inclined…I get it. If it weren’t about me, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t either.

What is crazy?

The older I get, I realize how difficult it is to define that word. Crazy is all around us. We use it to describe behavior we don’t understand. We apply it to people who have fewer inhibitions than we possess ourselves. We bestow it upon anyone with a differing world view from our own. The truth is, I think everyone is crazy in their own way. What makes us crazy are the very things that makes us unique.

However, it seems that we rarely see craziness in ourselves. It generally doesn’t happen until we veer dramatically from whatever patterns we’ve established for ourselves that make us comfortable. You are most likely to hear someone say, “This is crazy!” when they take that plunge and step out of their comfort zone.

And on the morning of July 2nd, 2018, at three o’clock in the morning, I think I muttered to myself, “This is crazy” at least 50 times.

But before we get to that point in our story, let me go back two days to the morning of June 30th, because that is where this story truly begins.

Every summer, my wife forces my children by any means necessary to go through every item in their respective rooms and get rid of those things that are no longer used. Following this exercise, we host a yard sale. Yard sale day is one of my least favorite days of the year. Why? Because pretty much any day that isn’t standard, typical, or…well…ordinary, is one of my least favorite days of the year.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy family vacations or days where fun things are planned. They just have to be excruciatingly planned. And by planned, I pretty much mean planned by me. It’s one of my own personal brands of craziness. I don’t like what I can’t control. And when hordes of complete strangers are wandering around my driveway looking at items that used to be somewhat personal to me, I feel the very opposite of in control.

Anyway, during the course of this year’s annual community judgement of my former belongings, my son, Braden (16 years old and preparing to start his junior year of high school) came to me and informed me that Tulane University in New Orleans had sent him a personal invitation to come and visit their campus in the coming week.

Now please understand, he and I were both under no illusion. We knew the email wasn’t personal and that the same invitation had been sent out to at least 25,000 kids just like him, if not thousands more. But at the same time, they were one of the first American institutions of higher learning to personally reach out to him. He was excited. I understood. I had experienced the same feelings of exultation when similar correspondences had arrived for me. Admittedly, mine came in 1989 and required a trip to an actual mail box at the end of the driveway of my home out in the middle of the desert where more than once a rattle snake had been curled up waiting to greet me. I hate snakes. Hold on, I’m digressing. Where was I? Oh, yeah. He was excited, I understood.

Anyway, the one thing animating him more than any other was that if we were to up and go the following Monday, we could spend the 4th of July in New Orleans. And if we did that, we could view (as the invitation enticingly pointed out) the 4th of July fireworks in a way that only New Orleans could truly provide – from dueling barges in the middle of the Mississippi River.

So that the reader will understand, I should mention that Braden is always suggesting crazy scenarios like this. We could do this, we could do that, we could do this and that, all of which are things we would never do and he knows it. We both understood this as he stood there in my driveway describing this latest scenario of lunacy when he should have been setting out clothes in a way that future shoppers would find enticing. We both knew what he was suggesting was insane. And we both knew it was never going to happen.

Except for some reason, I never gave him an outright no.

Even today, I’m not sure why. I was thinking it. All through his initial sales pitch, I knew in my heart that we both understood he was just filling the air with words that ultimately would die and fall to the earth having failed to achieve a single purpose. But instead of saying no, which is what my brain…and my wife, would have undoubtedly expected me to do, I told him to figure out the logistics of the trip and we’d talk later.

Needless to say, he did.

Now what he could not have known was that Tulane was the very first university to send me an invitation to visit their campus and apply. And although he knows that I have this special affinity for New Orleans, he couldn’t possibly have known that in high school, I had dreams of driving across the country and visiting Tulane right after I graduated high school. I had talked about that possibility several times with my own mother. Who surprisingly, never told me no either. But it never happened. And I wouldn’t end up seeing the one city I wanted to visit more than any other until I was over 40 years old. It was one of those dreams I had clung to desperately for months in my youth, but eventually had let go of in the face of pragmatism and good sense.

But as my son made his case for us to go, those fanciful teenage dreams returned with a vengeance. And the truth was, as the day went along, I found myself wanting to go as badly as he did. Plus, this was my 16 year old son…let me repeat that…my teenage son, wanting to spend an entire week with me. Nobody else, just me. Well, one other person. His little brother. That’s right, his dad and his little brother. Mind boggling isn’t it? Which is why I had to take into consideration: how often does a father get that kind of opportunity? But, event then, the idea was stupid. And completely irresponsible. In short, it was crazy.

Which is how I still can’t quite piece together how I found myself that very night staring at a computer screen, my index finger hovering over the mouse, fighting an inner battle over whether I had completely taken leave of my faculties as I prepared to click and finalize our hotel reservations. I felt like a gunslinger in the old west, my trigger finger twitching expectantly knowing there was no return from that one slight little movement I was contemplating. Okay, I get it. I would have only been out about $200 as opposed to lying dead in the middle of dusty street. But seriously, thanks to my frugal upbringing, there are times when I think I would rather lie dead in the street than throw away two hundred bucks.

Nevertheless, I pulled the trigger and the plans were set. Within 30 hours we would be waking up in what basically amounted to the dead of night and setting off for San Antonio with plans to complete our journey to New Orleans the following day.

Right after I did it, I panicked. What was I thinking? I’d never in my life done anything like this without meticulously planning it out months in advance. I had gone completely insane. And when my beautiful 4 year old daughter begged me not to go, I almost kissed off the $200 without a second thought. But by this point, I was committed. I was nearing folk hero status in the eyes of my two boys and if I backed out? Well, in the paraphrased words of the immortal Muse from Hercules, I would have gone from “Hero to Zero, just like that.” The die was cast. There was no stopping our upcoming drive of…how many miles was that again, son?

WHAT?!?!?! Are you kidding??? Holy $*%#&@!!! What on earth have I agreed to?

Part 2 of The Rapier Guys Road Trip 2018 will appear later this week.

When Being a Dad ROCKS!

I remember like it was yesterday the very first three-pointer I ever made in a competitive basketball game.

It was my sophomore year. It also happened to be the first year that the three-point shot was introduced into the high school game. It was our team’s first game of the season and we were on the road in Clifton, AZ decked out in our bright red road jerseys. Mid first quarter, I found myself all alone at the three-point line, my defender five feet away in a defensive crouch waiting for me to make my move toward the basket. And why wouldn’t he? That’s what high school basketball had been all about up until that moment-keeping people from driving to the hoop. No one ever shot that far outside. There had never been a reason to.

Anyway, I looked around, realized no one else was all that open and so I decided to let it fly. It swished through the net with a pop you only hear on the basketball court, and just that quickly my life changed. I felt invigorated because I had just scored three points instead of two. I don’t know why that mattered, but boy in that moment, it was all that mattered. From that moment on, much to the chagrin of my high school coaches, I never wanted to shoot any other shot ever again. Two games into my junior season, my coach nicknamed me The Mad Bomber, which got shortened to Bomber as the season went along. And it was a name I wore with pride.

It’s crazy how those moments stick with you. I don’t know what role that shot played in some aspects of my later life decisions, but I do know that a belief of, “let’s let it fly and see what happens” is something I have internalized. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always go that route. My wife will tell you I am one of the most non-spontaneous people she knows. But I don’t mind taking on a challenge, or something new that I have never done before, if for no other reason than to see if I can do it. And I think the positive reinforcement I received from that shot at that point in my life is at least a small part of the reason why.

However, despite all the glowing memories I have associated with that moment, I have since soured somewhat on youth athletics over the years. I don’t like the aggrandizement of the individual that has seeped down from above into high school level sports. I don’t like the financial strain imposed upon parents if they want their child to be involved in certain sports (See: Club sports). And (bias alert) as a parent of some children who have no interest in sports, it is frustrating to me the level of support athletics receives in some of our schools in relation to academics.

Nevertheless, all my frustrations momentarily flew out the window this last Saturday morning.

My daughter, Kate, is a fourth-grader, and she LOVES basketball. Not kinda loves, I mean REALLY loves basketball. I suppose that’s how I ended up coaching her basketball team this year. Our town runs a league for 5th and 6th graders, but they will allow 4th graders to play if a parent coaches.

Let’s be very clear here. I do not aspire to be a basketball coach. I do not aspire to get up twice a week at 5:30 in the morning in order to be at practice with nine little girls who after six weeks are still struggling with the concept of a lay-up. I don’t aspire to any of it. But she’s cute and I love her so…whatcha gonna do.

For almost two months we’ve been practicing. As you can probably imagine, Kate is not the best player on a team with girls where she is the youngest player by far. But she works hard and I’m proud of her. However, as a dad, I’ve really wanted her to at least have a moment of success and get the chance to score.

Well, Saturday, that chance came. All the planets aligned and the ball fell into her hands on the right side of the basket and her defender was about…five feet away. She dribbled it twice toward the basket, as I recall, and then…let it fly. It went through the hoop and it gave our team the lead. For as long as I live, the memory of what happened next will hold a special place in my heart. She looked stunned, but she still managed to throw her fist into the air in triumph. And smile? I’ve never seen her smile bigger. She was so excited I had to remind her to run back down the court to get set on defense.

It was awesome!!!

It was worth every ridiculous pre-dawn practice. It was worth every lost Saturday morning for two months. It was worth everything. For the next two days, if anyone mentioned her shot, that same beaming smile would appear on her face just as broad as it had been when it happened. It was a good moment for her. Hopefully one that will give her the confidence to work harder and do more.

And I’m so glad I got to be there to see it. Because in that moment, it made me fall in love with youth sports all over again. I haven’t forgotten all the things I don’t care for, but suddenly they didn’t bother me quite so bad. For a fleeting second, all the emotions I experienced as a kid came flooding back and I was reminded again why it is we do this sort of thing. It was good.

So thank you, Kate. Thank you for letting me relive the memory of one of my life’s great moments. Thank you for letting me be a part of one of yours. More than anything, thank you for being a fabulous daughter. And God, thank You for letting me be her dad. It’s been a pleasure that even manages to surpass the joy of scoring a first basket. Which trust me, is pretty hard to top.