So people have always laughed at me because I often mention that I used to do what I called RAGCRAI every year. I called it my Regular Annual Great Car Ride Across Iowa, because let’s face it, I’m not much of a biker. In fact, I’m not a biker at all! I fully admit I cannot, nor want to, ride a bike! Does it change my feelings about RAGBRAI? Not in the least! I am all about RAGBRAI* as long as nobody expects me to take part in the 2-wheel portion of it!
So you’re laughing, right? Why would I like RAGBRAI if I don’t even ride a bike? It’s simple. I love that people come to Iowa to party. Seriously! Sorry. Let me restate that: I love that people come to Iowa to test their physical endurance… lol. First of all, I’m thrilled that people in Iowa take part and that others actually come to our state to participate. Secondly, I’m glad that Iowa shows we do know how to have fun and that we can make a week out of it! I love that it even involves exercise! But mostly, I love that it involves a bunch of towns gearing up for a big event and putting on a good time. That makes me happy! I can see the good! And I hear lots… and I do mean LOTS…of stories!
You hear stories all the time about people stopping to help someone with a tire, giving them a water, offering their barn for a nap, or their bathroom in the middle of nowhere. I love that those stories come out of Iowa because that’s who we are. We want to be the good guys. I still remember when RAGBRAI came through Oakland a million years ago and the church did a food-stand. I got to help my mom make signs and we did Burmashave signs that lined the road saying things like 3.14 ahead for homemade pie. I was pretty damn proud of my signs and if I’m not mistaken, they sold out of food! 🙂
Of course, another favorite story was my trip to Muscatine. As many of you know, my best friend from my cattle showing days lived there and RAGBRAI was scheduled to hit the river one afternoon when I was there so we ended up taking her parents’ boat out and watching as the bikers came in to dip their tires and end the night with a fireworks display. It was so freaking cool to watch these people celebrate making it across Iowa – tears, laughs, personal victories, beers…
Sure, there are much crazier stories as we all well know, and good for them! Live it up, my friends! Just keep me out of the pictures! 🙂 But whether the story is one of accomplishing all the miles or the naked mud slide, there’s no way you can’t find a little good on the road!
So Happy RAGBRAI, everyone! Tip the stein or dip the tire for me!
*Footnote: For you out-of-staters, RAGBRAI stands for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Thousands of locals and out-of-staters bring their campers and buses and bikes to bike across Iowa for a 7-day bike ride/party. They ride by day and drink by night! I kid you not! And the route changes every year, but they start on the Missouri River and bike to the Mississippi River so sooner or later everyone gets included.
*Further disclosure: Just call me Schultz off Hogan’s Heroes: I know NOTHING!
*Final footnote: for you in-staters, don’t forget that means extra State Troopers on the road if you’re traveling. 🙂
Have a RAGBRAI story? Let’s hear it! Out-of-state and curious? What do you want to know?
We all know what this week is! It isn’t hard to find good when you’re staring in the face of the 4th of July weekend! It’s one of those weekends where you instantly think water, drinks, sun, grilling, and friends. Maybe not necessarily in that order!
As Independence Day approaches, I can’t help but appreciate the people who go the extra mile. Like these people that decided to take their mailbox décor up a notch! LOVE it!
Of course, I also love the banners on the decks and the red, white, and blue Adirondack chairs and the tinsel ropes! I love people who go above and beyond for a holiday! (I’m not one of them currently! Lol, but maybe again someday!)
But let’s talk what I’m even more excited about: the town festivities. Here’s the deal. City people always ask why you live in a small town. I think 4th of July is the epitome of why one lives in a small town. There’s a parade. There’s free food for breakfast and for supper. There’s fun activities going on, sponsored by tons of different people that love our town enough to volunteer their time! There’s somebody selling sweet corn on the side of the road. There’s grills and parties and family gatherings. There’s fireworks and lawn chairs and people sharing sun tan lotion and bug spray and pools and slip and slides and tubing on the river or at the quarry. I don’t know how you can’t be happy when all that is in your grasp.
And truth be told, I’m hoping to see a few people this 4th of July. We moved home and everybody works a lot. We have become a society of workers and ball game watchers. Those sure aren’t bad qualities, but I love it when we all get a day off (hopefully) to talk to each other and catch up. Like I’ve always said, I’ll never pass up a holiday!
So get your wieners out! Put ‘em on the grill. Slather on the sun tan lotion. Fire up the sprinkler. Grab a beverage and a koozie and check out the schedule. If not in my town, find one nearby. And then blab about how much fun it was on Facebook! Put the all “in” in INdependence Day!
Got a schedule for your home town you’d like to share? Let’s see it! Got a good 4th of July party story? Let’s hear it! Thinking you might be here to celebrate with me Oakland? Let me know!
So I promised you a series, and that’s what you’re gonna get. You’re probably going to continue hearing some of my other rambles, too, but I’m “finding the good” wherever it catches me. (We’ll assume it won’t catch me in a swimming suit!) 🙂
The crazy part is that I didn’t have to look that far. In fact, I have so many thoughts, it was hard to narrow down to what to use next.
I decided on this.
I’ll be honest, I’ve driven by a million times. I’ve looked at it, admired it, and thought how thankful I was that somebody went to the work of keeping it up, but I’ve never actually set foot in it until now. I’m so glad I did. Not only is it gorgeous from the road, but even better from within. I daresay it was Robert Frost-ish.
It’s a hot day out. I sat down on the bench and it was like a cool spring breeze under the cover of the trees. I couldn’t even believe it. And I read the signs of who donated things like the tree donated in memory of Chrissy Galitz or the railing donated in honor of Abe Pierce or the gazebo in memory of AC and Mary Ellen Vieth. I don’t know if I can truly put into words the emotions that were sitting there with me of all the people that make up our little town.
It’s like a John Cougar Mellancamp Small Town moment right here in Oakland, Iowa. I’ve got the American flag rep, the bench tucked away in the trees, and people who put a ton of work into making sure the plants grow, the mulch stays pretty, and weeds stay out (they deserve a place in heaven for that!), and they do it because they care. I am tired of the assumption that the people who do this work are those with more time than the rest of us. Rarely is that the case. They just choose their priorities differently. They are not getting paid. They are not inmates. They are just wonderful people with a desire to see our town look nice. It’s their little piece of giving back.
You just can’t put a price on that...
If you know all the people involved, feel free to share that info with me. I don’t want to miss anyone. I hope they know how much it is appreciated. If you’d like to share your love for this place, add your commentary. Have suggestions for me? Bring ‘em.
PS – If you haven’t signed up to get my “Find the Good” blogging, you can still do so. Just click on Follow Bolton Carley’s blog up at the top on the right. Thanks to all of you who did that already. You have no idea how great it feels to get a follower.
As most of you know, I’m an Iowa girl and a hometown girl and an Oakland girl. I’ve never pleaded to be anything but. We moved home for lots of reasons, but it all comes down to the fact that this is where we belong.
With that being said, I am here and advocating for my home. One of my favorite things about Iowans is that they live the Tim McGraw Humble and Kind song to a tee. The unfortunate part about that is that people forget the amazing, wonderful assets around them and start to take them for granted.
We currently live in a world of negativity. I can be more negative than most, but I know it is my fatal flaw, and I do my best to correct it each and every day. But there are far more people out there looking at the bad and focusing on it, and I hate that for everyone. I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by a lot of people who believe in good, do good, fight for the good, and find the good. I want to be one of those people, too. So I am bringing you the good. On a platter even.
This is the start of my Find the Good series. If you like it, go ahead and sign up to follow my blog over there on the right hand side, and I’ll send you a weekly reminder of what’s good around here. Or if you have suggestions, feel free to email me. Got a lot of great ideas right now, but who doesn’t want more?
This picture is why I love a small town. In the wake of an untimely and horrible death of a well-known man, people lined up to pay their respects. The lines were out into the street. Main Street was full of cars and trucks. Over a thousand people came to pay their tributes. That, my friends, is why you live here. Nothing can replace the feeling of knowing you belong and are appreciated. A well-attended funeral is a sign of a well-lived life…
Do you watch The Voice or American Idol, or dare I say it, both? Do you set your DVR for Project Runway or The Amazing Race? Did you cry (or at least cheer) for Susan Lucci when she finally got her Daytime Emmy or for Peyton when he won his first Super Bowl?
My husband laughs at me, but I’m a sucker for an underdog winning, or for that matter, anyone deserving and humble winning. I know why I watch all those shows. I’m a cheerleader. (Okay, so none of us ever thought they’d see that day, did they?) No, I’m not going to look very good in one of those skirts or be able to control my pom-poms, but I like to see people win. I like to see people who are passionate about something get what they want if it’s for the right reasons. I want to see people be happy. I, myself, want to be happy. I know that a lot of us struggle to focus on the good stuff and remember to be happy (when the house is on fire, the kids need another ride to practice, or there’s a snake in your basement – just sayin’).
Last night, as I was watching The Voice finale, I realized I screwed up. Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of going to my hometown to watch the 2013 state qualifying boys’ basketball team (Riverside Bulldogs) take on the last b-ball team to qualify for state: the 1986 Oakland Yellow-Jackets (pre-consolidation of schools). It was a fundraiser and the vision of a 1986 player whose wife made it happen. I went for a few reasons. One: my brother-in-law was one of those 1986 players. Two: Sometimes, I like thinking about the old days (and whoever said you can’t go home again needs to listen a little closer to Jon Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles). Three: curiosity. I wanted to see how it all would play out.
So what did I get wrong? I didn’t go and say thank you for my happiness. Yes, I posted my pictures on Facebook and made sure to note some thanks with those posts, but I didn’t go say it in person. After all these years, I was still too shy to think they knew who I was or cared who I was and that my opinion might matter to them. And who knows? Maybe they wouldn’t have known who I was or even cared, but I should have said thank you because for the last week I have been blabbing on about how cool it was to watch a bunch of guys with families, jobs, and a million other things to do reunite to raise money for a charity and hang out together on a basketball court again because it’s what they were really good at 27 years ago and because they had each other’s backs.
I listened to Mac (that’s how we all referred to him whether we knew him or not) talk about calling up his former teammates to play and saying he “needed” to play one last time with them. He said they each answered the call of duty. – I want that. I want that for myself and for all of you. I want something or someone to be so important that you can’t say no and I want you to shine when you answer the call. (I realize that sounds sappy, and I’m okay with that. Better take this rare greeting card moment from me and go with it.)
Twenty-seven years ago I went to every basketball game to watch a group of guys I hardly knew win and defeat the odds against them. Last week, I watched them do it again by 1 little point. Heart and passion should always triumph. And should we get a little sappy about that? Yes. Should we go home and admit we miss that home? Hell yes. Should we cheer for those around us to find happiness? Yes. Should we want to be asked to come back and share in it with them? Hell yes. Should we hope for more events like this? Hell to the Yeah! (Did I laugh at my brother-in-law who probably couldn’t get off the couch Monday morning? Well, of course, I did, but I also love that he did what he did.)
Will I always be cheering on the sidelines for someone singing, dancing, baking, showing cattle, or playing a sport? Hell yes. Why? It makes me happy. And if you’re looking to be happy, too, I recommend it as a pretty good place to start.
What’s your favorite Easter candy? I have a co-worker friend who ranks holidays by the candy attached to them. Have you ever pondered that? I hadn’t before she mentioned it. For me, Easter would rank first on that scale. What about you? She says Valentine’s Day and Halloween rank high and Christmas is in the mix, too. I’m still going with Easter!
After doing a little polling of the close friends, it is clear to me we are a nation of Reese’s eggs, Jelly Belly jelly beans, and Peeps! I’m all for the Reese’s as I’m sure you know, but Si Robertson can keep his Jelly Bellies and you all can keep those magical Peeps that they now sell for every freaking holiday to yourselves! Ick.
Me, I’m more of a Reese’s peanut butter egg-sour gummy bunny-Hershey’s eggs girl. No, not the individually wrapped Hershey chocolate eggs, the good ones that are candy-coated. They only make them at Easter, and I love them! Actually, I’m addicted to all 3 of those. Oh, and I sure don’t mind those Dove Easter eggs either. Yum! Mmm… no wonder my husband never has a problem finding me happiness this time of year!
But you know what I was just thinking about? I keep seeing all these pictures of friends taking their kids to Easter egg hunts, and it made me think of the annual Easter egg hunt that the Rainbow girls put on in Oakland. Oaklandites, do you remember that???
Every year, the football field was covered in color! And every year, I hoped I would find the magical plastic prize-winning eggs instead of those nasty marshmallow-flavored things. Actually, I’m not entirely sure they were marshmallow. Were they banana? Does anybody remember? All I know was that they were white on the inside, they tasted horrendous, and they used them because back then they were the only candy eggs you could buy individually wrapped. Oh, and I’m not bitter much that I never found one of the plastic eggs for the good prizes. Ha ha.
But maybe I just like Easter egg hunts more than most. My grandma used to hide these wax candle ducks for me year-round, and I thought it was the most fun ever. She left them for me when she passed away. I’m still a big fan of scavenger hunts, Easter egg hunts, treasure hunts, anything that involves looking for a win! Not a kid that can’t talk me into joining in on something like this because I remember being the youngest and everyone having to humor me with it. Now, it’s my turn. I don’t take that job lightly. Plus, it’s just freaking fun! I promise you I am going to put on my own Easter egg hunt someday in football field fashion. But don’t be surprised if the prizes are a little more of the adult variety! See, I’m all for children having fun, but I’m even more for adults having fun!
And with that said, Happy Easter, everybody!
You know you’re from a small town when…
…there’s still a sign that says Miss America 1974 grew up here!
(Hancock, Rebecca Ann King)
… they call you by name at the Dairy Queen and Casey’s.
… the whole town shuts down for a funeral or state basketball.
… people can still tell you the names of every starter on the last state basketball team… which was 25 years ago. (Carley, McCowen, Thompson, Zuch, and Stogdill)
… they discuss all your high school games at the local Co-op…and you’re related to somebody who works at the Co-op. (Mark Martens)
And you know you’re from a small town when…
you make sure the AM radio station is coming in on your radio so you can “listen” to the “big” game.
And you know what? Riverside, my home town team made it to state this week which, quite frankly, is a huge ass deal in our world. So just like every other person who graduated from Oakland High School (or the consolidated Riverside High School), I will be listening to the big game. And you know the only people who won’t be listening to the big game at state? The people who are actually there, sitting in the stands, screaming their lungs out, cheering for the home town team. Because that’s how it works.
We’ve all heard the “You know you’re from a small town when…” jokes and we laugh because well, the obvious reason is, they’re true! But really, it’s because we know it’s something to be envied. Not everybody gets the luxury of growing up the way we did.
Small towns are just funny. The very things you hate about living in a small town are the very things you love about it: Everybody knows your business. Sure, it sucks when they gossip about your car wreck, but it’s really nice when they realize that’s not your car loading out furniture when they drive by your house. And there’s nothing better than when your kid makes the town proud by not only being a great kid, but being a basketball star, too.
And when people talk about all the scary stuff that happens in the world today, you don’t hear about a lot of small town shootings. Why? When you grow up in a hamlet that has less people in it than an Eric Church concert, there’s a sense of place. We all know where we came from. We can all say, “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y that’s our Alumni Battle-cry!” Yeah, that’s a cheer I learned over 30 years ago. I still know it. And I guarantee you that all of the people from my home town just laughed as they remembered it, too.
See, here’s the deal. This world is sometimes hard to understand, and it’s not an easy road, but no matter where you go, your small town goes with you. If I should ever win the lottery, become a successful writer, or get discovered by the RFD-TV station, I promise you I won’t tell them I live in Bellevue. I’ll tell them I’m from Oakland, Iowa. Because at the end of the day, you should never forget where you came from, and you damn well better give credit where credit is due. The best people I know came from a little town in the middle of nowhere because that’s where they learned work ethic, community pride, and the power of love thy neighbor.
So without being any more sappy, the bottom line is that once you’re a yellowjacket, you’re always a yellowjacket, or a bulldog, as the case may be. You can’t change it.
And honestly, you don’t want to…
P.S. – You know you’re from a small town when…you get this message passed onto you from your sister’s husband’s neighbor’s cousin who’s related to the writer.