Sunday, June 13, 2010

13 JUN 10: Formula One

"Well - are you going to South Africa?" My next-door neighbor asked me this question as I walked to the car Saturday morning. I have no earthly idea why he thought I might go there. Maybe it's because I recently made a series of trips to South Georgia.

"No," I answered - not quite sure what to say next. "For one thing, my little car would need a ferry boat to get across the Atlantic."

My next-door neighbor is like me, with nothing but broadcast TV. But his interest in South Africa has jumped, because that country is hosting the FIFA World Cup. Sad to say, this blogger hasn't received enough donations to travel there to cover international soccer. I'm still in mourning that no Columbus radio station is broadcasting games in Spanish.

"I'm going to West Point Lake," I told my neighbor to explain my loading the car. "A lot closer, and a lot more affordable." And on top of that, you don't have to fill a suitcase with winter clothes in the middle of June.

I went to West Point Lake Saturday for a local congregation's second annual camp-out weekend. But I remembered what happened last summer, when I lost my way driving home [3 Aug 09]. So I studied online maps carefully Friday evening, to get ready for the trip. Yes, a guy read a map - but don't worry. I jotted down notes, instead of bothering to print a map out.

Google Maps gave me two options for driving to West Point Lake - going through West Point on U.S. 29, or going all the way up Interstate 185, then south on Interstate 85. Neither option looked like the most direct to me. The best choice appeared to go through LaGrange - as long as yard sales along city streets didn't slow me down.

I allowed two full hours to get from Columbus to West Point Lake - and things started well. I guessed "Upper Big Springs Road" on the Google map was the same thing as U.S. 27. One exit too soon doesn't hurt, when they're both going to the same place....

I made sure to watch for Georgia Highway 1, because that would lead to a key left turn at Highway 109. It took me several miles to realize U.S. 27 and Georgia 1 were the same thing all along -- perhaps because the scenery of new sites such as the LaGrange Islamic Center distracted me.

"Get on Highway 109 and you've won the game," I told myself in downtown LaGrange. From checking the map, I'd determined that key turn was north of downtown. So I kept going north on Highway 1. Past the fast food restaurants. Past the Wal-Mart store. Even past the strange curve where you have to slow to 15 miles per hour, as if some big politician wouldn't sell his land.

On I drove on Highway 1, past scenic views of West Point Lake. I drove over Yellow Jacket Creek and Fish Creek - "creeks" so wide that I wondered if I missed a big Friday night thunderstorm.

But eventually I decided something was wrong here. Highway 109 never showed up - even after I crossed the Heard County line and stopped seeing any sign of West Point Lake. There were no gas stations along the side of the four-lane highway to stop for directions. And it appeared roadside bait stands were against the law.

It's a 20-mile drive from LaGrange to Franklin. I was about four miles from Franklin when I determined it was time to turn around - at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Georgia Highway 100. I was only nine highways off course....

Back to LaGrange I hurried -- finally seeing a motel billboard which said "Left on 109." Somehow I'd driven right by it. And I'd done well not to follow my neighbor's advice, and wind up at the Soweto Township limits.

So where was the key turn onto Georgia 109? It was IN downtown LaGrange, not north of it. I was so focused on sticking to Highway 1 that I never noticed the next key road. And there were no signs pointing me toward West Point Lake - as if the LaGrange officials are a little jealous about that Kia plant.

The turn onto Georgia 109 took me past the LaGrange downtown square. But I lost a little more time waiting at a busy traffic light, on the weekend of the city Hydrangea Festival. A couple of people walked past me, actually holding hydrangeas. But I'm still not sure what the booth with fancy wheel covers had to do with flowers.

This simple journey was now one hour, 45 minutes old, and I risked being late for a worship service. But I found a sneaky turn-off for Georgia 109 west of LaGrange College, and hustled to the Holiday Campground entrance from there. Then came stupid moment number two - as I'd forgotten exactly where in the campground the church group was meeting.

I followed a basic rule of church song-leading in an attempt to find my group. I started at campsite number one, and worked my way up....

Trouble was, the church group was at the large Running Deer area at a corner of the campground. It took a second trip to the entrance booth and an attendant drawing on a map to point that out. I should take this moment to thank the Corps of Engineers crew for not noticing me breaking the 15-mile-per-hour speed limit.

By the time I reached the proper campsite, the trip had lasted two hours, 25 minutes. I missed the first part of the worship service - which was my loss, because the sermonette speaker talked about having a compass to guide you.

At least I arrived in time for a session of "Bible Questions," which took the place of the main sermon. I needed to focus on something besides my wild ride. And I seemed to silence any potential finger-pointers, when I correctly listed all nine "fruit of the spirit" from the book of Galatians.

A potluck lunch followed the worship service. I apologized to several people, explained why I was late - then kept moving to the back of the serving line, letting others go ahead of me. "I know the order," I said recalling the pastor's instructions of years gone by. "First the seniors, then families with children, then married couples, then singles." In other words, the hungriest men must wait until last.

"I don't consider you single," one married man told me. But he wasn't quite sure what label belonged on me. So I tried to help.

"I've never been married. And I've never had any affairs with any political candidates in South Carolina. That's that OTHER blogger."

I admittedly failed to take the blog camera to record any of this. But I walked from the camp shelter to the edge of West Point Lake, and noted a brown strip of water. How sad to see the Gulf oil spill has traveled so far north....

So the sad news of Saturday is that I became lost for the second year in a row, on a church trip to West Point Lake. The good news is that the picnic potluck went well - and I drove home without a hitch, making sure I allowed five hours to get home before dark.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visitors from around the world read "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: In the wake of "Rec-Gate" and rumors of revenge, we received this interesting idea....

Hi Richard:

If Mr Redmond holds grudges he can always audit Richard Bishop's newest kingdom, The Business Improvement District. BID is soley funded with over $500,000 in tax payers monies. Also Uptown receives money from the city as well.

Our reader is correct to a large extent. The BID is considered a special tax district in the eyes of the city -- so downtown merchants can't really tell the auditor to mind his own BID-ness.

And the newly-approved fiscal 2011 budget shows Uptown Columbus Inc. receiving $81,000 in city money. So if John Redmond really wanted to get even with Richard Bishop for the firing of a son years ago, that would be the place to review. For one thing, how many pub crawls can you fund for $81,000?

We also have a reply to Friday's Instant Message -- but not from the place where we sent it:

Richard, I appreciate WLTZ's effort to satisfy the East Alabama viewers with their 7pm Alabama First News however it comes on at the same time as WSFA Montgomery News. And we all need to remember that it is WLTZ in Columbus that petitions to keep Cable TV viewers in East Alabama from being able to receive WSFA programming. The only WSFA programming that we are allowed to receive is the news! I'm wondering if WLTZ is producing an Alabama News program now so they can petition the FCC to take away our right to view WSFAs newscasts using the argument that they give us Alabama news. Inquiring minds want to know.

I think that suspicion is correct. We noted last year how WLTZ was demanding to be carried on Eufaula's cable system [15 Apr 09]. Bright House Cable agreed to show a few syndicated programs, while keeping the rest of WSFA's schedule. Who knows how many more Eufaula residents have rushed to Columbus, after seeing an ad on Oprah?

If WLTZ wanted to file that petition over cable coverage, it might note WSFA and WTVM are owned by the same company. They share resources from the "Raycom News Network" - including exclusive interviews with David Bronner of Retirement Systems of Alabama, whom they often neglect to mention is their ultimate boss.

We've run out of conspiracy theories for now, so let's check some weekend news headlines:

+ Saturday's high temperature in Columbus was 95 degrees F. Add some humidity to that, and it was steamier than a Spanish-language soap opera.

+ A survey crew for the downtown kayak course found unexploded ordnance in the bottom of the Chattahoochee River. This is certainly a tough decision for the planners. Leave the training round there, to add some Fort Benning flavor - or clean up everything, and leave "Help the Hooch" crews with nothing to do in the fall.

+ Columbus city crews announced 11th Street downtown between Broadway and Front Avenue will remain closed an extra week. It turns out a second old sewer line is weak. So people dancing at downtown nightclubs are urged not to jump too high until further notice.

+ WTVM visited the Open Door Community House, and found the food pantry has a lot of empty space. The good news is that one shelf is loaded with cans of carrots. The bad news apparently is that not enough parents are convincing their children to follow Bugs Bunny's example.

+ WRBL's Bob Jeswald won a celebrity spaghetti cook-off to benefit the American Red Cross. One of the judges was State Senate candidate Josh McKoon - which strikes me as downright bizarre. After all, one of his potential opponents left the race to apply for Superior Court Judge.

+ The Columbus Lions shut out Greenville 99-0. Talk about embarrassing! I mean, South Carolina's weird elections don't even end up this lopsided....

(This huge indoor football win fell far short of Georgia Tech's legendary 222-0 win over Cumberland. But I hope it gives the Kansas basketball team a new target for success next December.)

+ Instant Message to the U.S. national soccer coaches: How did you inspire the team to tie England 1-1 Saturday? Did you make the players mad, by showing that commercial where the British Petroleum chairman apologizes?

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