Friday, 6 March 2009

USA 1996 - Day 3, Dustcarts, Baseball & Snakes

Thankfully there was a later start planned for today so there was no great rush to get up in the morning and after a night on budweiser and gin this was most welcome. The motel was a middle of the range business class sort of place and it had a buffet breakfast table to make your eyes water. It had everything you could possibly want and the tables groaned under the weight of the food on offer. American obesity rates are the highest in the world with 64% of adults being overweight and looking at the breakfast bar it was easy to understand why. There were various breads of course, oatmeal, porridge, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, poached eggs or omelette, bacon, ham, sausage, hash browns, biscuits, toast, pancakes, waffles, bagels, French toast, cornbread, muffins, croissants, and doughnuts, fresh, stewed fruit and dried fruit of various types and to drink, coffee, tea, milk and a full range of juices. We kept Keith away from the eggs and I felt sure that with all this food this would surely satisfy Dave right through to evening meal.

At ten o’clock Mike picked us up from the lobby and drove us to a prearranged destination to see a vehicle demonstration. It was a lovely day, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the temperature was rising quickly. After a while we located the vehicle and the crew and they set about showing us exactly what the vehicle could do.

Now, you don’t have to be an expert to in refuse collection to understand that one of the main problems crews face is the amount of parked cars along English roads and streets that makes the job very difficult. Here there were none, domestic estate roads were as wide as the M25 and every house had a driveway the size of a small council car park so there was nothing to stop this monster clanking machine and its crew from going about its work. It was a typical American truck full of levers and chains and it was immediately apparent that this vehicle was completely unsuitable for refuse collection in England but as we had been brought all this way to see it we had to make appropriate encouraging noises. We asked how something this big would manage in a cul-de-sac but they had no idea what one of these is and a glance at the city map with roads laid out in a straight line grid system confirmed what we already knew. We wouldn’t be recommending Percy Powell to place an order for one of these! After a bit of head scratching our hosts thought they had identified what we were looking for and took us on a long journey across town to the only cul-de-sac in the entire city, and that was wide enough for three trucks to turn around in all together so it was really a waste of everybody’s time.

After the street demonstration Mike took us to the Heil factory where they make the things and we had a tedious tour of the workshops and a boring lecture about the technology that meant nothing to me whatsoever and all the while I could see through the windows that the sun was shining and I just wanted to be outside. This might sounds a bit ungrateful but I just wasn’t enjoying this part of the trip, I preferred the Grand Canyon excursion, but I suppose it was the real reason for the visit and I tried as best as I could to try and stay focussed and show some interest. Finally we got to go outside and Dave and Ben played with the trucks and the bin lifts and I wandered around waiting for it all to end.

Finally the visit was over and the Managing Director gave each of us a bag of corporate gifts which included a polo shirt and baseball cap, a swiss army knife and some unusually high quality pens. We left the factory and Mike drove us to a restaurant for lunch in downtown Scottsdale on North Drinkwater Boulevard. It was a very nice restaurant indeed and we had a buffet lunch at a table that was overlooking the Scottsdale Stadium Baseball Park. Despite the full breakfast Dave managed a hearty meal but the rest of us selected something lighter and I had a rather nice seafood medley with some Californian white wine.

After lunch Allan and Ben talked business with Mike and so wandered outside into the sunshine and tried to follow a ball game that was in progress on the field. Scottsdale Stadium is an eleven thousand seater baseball field that was built in 1992 and although it wasn’t full there were quite a lot of spectators watching the game. Baseball is basically primary school rounders but Americans don’t like to admit this and they have added all sorts of rules to make it completely incomprehesible to anyone who is unfamiliar with the game. Baseball makes the rules of cricket look simple. I have no idea who was playing I only knew, because Mike told me, that the stadium was the home of the Phoenix Firebirds of the Pacific Coast League. As a matter of interest the Firebirds moved out a year later and in 1998 this became the home field for the National League's Arizona Diamondbacks.

By mid afternoon business was concluded and I was totally confused by the ball game when Mike and the others collected us up and took us back to the motel for some free time. Although it was November it was really warm and so we made straight for the swimming pool and the hot tub and had an enjoyable hour or so swimming and relaxing. Although we found it warm, compared with November temperatures in England, this did surprise some of the American guests several of who remarked how foolhardy we were to go swimming when the temperature was barely 20ยบ. Later we were going out with Mike and the sales team again so this was a good opportunity to rest a while before the drinking started again.

We waited in the bar for Mike to pick us up and after a couple of beers he arrived and drove us south for a short distance out of the city to a cowboy steakhouse restaurant called the Rustler’s Rooste. According to legend the original site of the restaurant was on top of a butte in the foothills of South Mountain and it was a hideout for cattle rustlers and outlaws. The South Mountain recreational area is claimed to be the largest municipal park in the world and it has a commanding position overlooking the city. Mike parked the people carrier and we stood and admired the views over the city that was stretched in front and below us like a scene from that Robert DeNiro film Heat.

From the outside Rustler’s Rooste looked disappointingly functional and not especially exciting but inside things were really buzzing. Through the doors we walked over an indoor waterfall and then to get to the dining room there were two options, the stairs were the traditional method of getting down, but there was also a slide that curved around a central stage area and which was both quicker and more exhilarating. We took this option of course and one by one were deposited swiftly into the dining area that had two large plate glass windows that provided a magnificent view of the city lights.

Rustler’s Rooste served cowboy food and a sign on the door said ‘Better come hungry’; so it was a good job that we had Dave and his reliable appetite with us! There was a fabulous menu with an extensive choice of food including rattlesnake as a starter. None of us had ever had that before so we just had to have some but although it sounded dangerous and exotic I seem to remember that it tasted rather disappointingly like chicken. After that we had the full cowboy meal that consisted of crispy shrimp, barbecued chicken, cowboy beans, seafood kebabs, fries, barbecued pork ribs, corn on the cob, and a big juicy beef steak. It was all cooked perfectly and I suspect rather better than a simple cowpokes meal out on the open range and the cowboys wouldn’t have had the nine layer chocolate cake to finish either, I’m certain!

The best thing about the Rustler’s Rooste was the entertainment because there was live music playing all night as two bands took it in turn to play good old country music which had people line dancing and playing cowboy in between the courses. My favourite part of the evening was when a man brought a live snake into the room and then, in a carefully rehearsed way, dropped it and it slithered about the floor scattering diners in all directions. We were assured later that it was not a venomous variety and perfectly harmless of course but it did scare the shit out of an awful lot of people at the time. It turned out that Mike lived out of town on the open range and he knew an awful lot about rattle snakes and he amused us with serpent stories all the way back to the motel.

As it was the final night we made straight for the bar and Dave set about finishing off Allan’s trip expenses budget and we drank beer and gin until very late and very drunk and then back in Allan’s room Dave tuned in to every available adult channel just to spend the extra $10 a movie. I thought that was a bit mean and taking things a bit too far!

1 comment:

Astros said...

Nice post about baseball.