Snafu and Fumtu, but not quite Fubar

Blog Entry Friday 9/19 for Saturday 9/14. Or something.

Saturday is always Check-In Day for Tour DaVita (TDV), which means that all 500-odd riders have to be transported from the airport (Portland, OR – PDX – this year) to the first campsite, and then get them situated into their tents, give them their goody bags, get them fitted for bicycles, helmets, and whatnot, and take care of whatever snafus arise. Oh, and if people arrive early enough and want to participate, there’s also a Village Service Project.

The Village Service Project (VSP) is one way the Tour gives back to the hosting communities. In past years, these projects have included painting and cleaning up senior centers and summer camps, putting together emergency hygiene kits (consisting of items like shampoo, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, dental floss, etc.), collecting children’s books, and other, similar tasks. This year’s VSP was to help a local “wholesale” food bank get some food sorted and boxed for delivery to other, “retail” food banks in the area. [The wholesale group works with about 100 retail groups who give out the food to whoever needs it.] About 30 of us participated, including Eve and Rick and some of the other people I’ve known at TDV for several years.

Our first task was to transfer elbow macaroni from 1300-pound containers to retail-size, 2-pound plastic bags. This involved four steps: Put one (huge) scoop of macaroni into a plastic bag; tie the bag closed with a wire tie; staple the label on the bag; and pack the bag into a box. Once a box was filled, it had to be taped closed, weighed, labeled, and stacked on a pallet. We had five of the big containers to bag, for a total of 6500 pounds of elbow macaroni. That’s a LOT of macaronies! We had four teams, so we made it into a friendly competition. Naturally,Team One (my team) finished first – never mind we also started first – so our next task was to either split up and help the other teams, or to start sorting fresh onions. Some of us went to each task, and we managed to sort a bunch (although an unweighed bunch) of onions, boxing the good ones and tossing the bad ones in a discard pile.

So that was the big event for the day. The snafus and fumtus were a little different…

Eve, Rick and I, along with about 8 or 9 others, were on the first ride from PDX to camp. Because it was an early departure, we didn’t qualify for a full, 44-passenger tour bus, but rather a Backroads 15-passenger van. Our bikes went on the racks on top, and the luggage went in a Penske rental truck, and we were off. We were told that the ride to camp would be a couple of hours, so we weren’t terribly worried when a lot of time went by without leaving the Interstate. But then we *did* exit I-5 … and got back on going north! It seems we missed our exit and had to backtrack. So we were later than expected at camp, but we were still first.

And the reason we were still first was because the *second* van, which had storage for the luggage in back of the passengers, had somehow not been securely closed. At some point on the freeway, the back doors apparently came open and (some of) the luggage fell out. The driver only found out about it when someone pulled up alongside the van and hollered the news to them. Then they found that police cars were blocking traffic behind them so no crashes would happen. Oops.

But eventually, everyone arrived safely at camp for the first day. The Village Service Project participants then got on one of the big tour buses for the ride to the food bank (since it had to go that way anyway for the next load from the airport), and we were told that we would have a different bus for the return to camp. Little did we know that, by “different bus,” they meant “school bus.” So when we got done with our project, we found this school bus waiting for us. Well, the seats were about 4 inches too close together for me, and too close together for most everyone else, too. And, well, you know what kinds of amenities a school bus has – none. *sigh*

To top it all off, the school bus developed some kind of engine problem where it would suddenly lose power. The best (really, the only) way to deal with it was to pull onto the breakdown lane, stop, shut off the engine, and restart it. This reset the whatever-it-was-that-popped and allowed us to continue – until it popped again. So in this manner we proceeded slowly back to camp, until the driver figured out that she could avoid the issue by staying under 40 mph. Which she did – on the freeway. Which was slow, but faster than before. We arrived back at camp later than we had expected, but since we had also *left* later than we had expected, I guess it all evened out.

Overall, though, the first day was a good success. All the riders got checked in and found their tents; they all got their goody bags; old friends reconnected, and every new arrival got the red-carpet treatment, as usual.

Saturday night we had a delicious dinner (the riders get fed phenomenally well!), our welcoming program, and then went to bed so we’d be ready to ride 70-some-odd miles on the morrow.

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