Saturday, July 25, 2009

Freedom Rally 25 continued...

Tuesday I went to town for breakfast at Mickey D's and for wi-fi. The local cellular provider was going to have wi-fi available on the portable cell site they set up in the park but (AFAIK) never got it working during the rally. In any case, that was the extent of my email and web surfing for the rest of the week.

Tuesday was another busy day with flag details and newspaper stuffing. There are 3 big flags next to the Freedom Rally stage. This year Rambo and I got to put them up. I learned a couple of things: 1. Big flags in the air are much bigger on the ground, and 2. Big flags and wind do not go well together. The nylon rope used for halyards didn't help - it reminded me of the lariat ropes my Dad carried in his vet truck - they had such a tendency to twist that it was really tough to straighten out the halyards and we had to work together to keep things under control. I guess we messed up on the order though...we switched the POW/MIA flag and the Iowa state flag. At least we got Old Glory on the right flagpole! Regardless, it's still a great sight to see those flags flying free on a beautiful Iowa morning!

Next we got a group together and placed the flags on the Avenue of Flags on the main road into the park. 50 state flags, a POW/MIA flag and flags from 5 service branches. The poles are two piece steel pipe that slip together. We had so much help we were almost in each others' ways - one had to be careful to avoid a steel enema!

The awnings at the main gate went up next. The canopy frame was mostly assembled, so we hung the lights (even checked to make sure they worked too!) and started stretching the roof tarp. Of course, it didn't fit correctly and we had to take it off and reseat all of the poles in the sockets, but then it was an easy up and quickly staked down.

About that time the newspapers showed up. One of the local papers puts together a special edition for the Freedom Rally. It usually contains articles by state officers and park staff as well as ads from local businesses and organizations - the stores often run specials during Rally Week and groups like the Lions and KCs have breakfasts, etc. Anyway...each attendee is supposed to get a paper when he/she registers. Somewhere back in the past someone got the idea to put a folded trash bag in each newspaper to encourage people to pick up around their campsites...or to use as emergency wet weather gear. In fact, most folks call them "Rally raincoats".

Well...the trashbags have to get into the papers somehow. I've done this the last couple of years and it usually ends up being a pretty fun time, with folks chatting and getting to know each other. Like most everything else at the rally it's all volunteer labor, so everyone's there 'cause they want to be there. We set up on a couple of rows of folding tables, some people unroll the bags and fold them, others open the bundles of papers and insert the bags, still others carry, tie, and stack the finished bundles. It looks daunting when you see the stacks of bundles before we start, but goes quickly. The conversations and joking keep things moving, and soda, water, and sandwiches for lunch are provided.

One of the guys helping on newspapers had a Cushman golf cart he was using to get around the park and it wouldn't start, so I gave him a hand with it. Turned out the motor generator bracket was loose, and the battery wasn't charging. Got the M-G tightened up, and a little juice into the battery, but still no go. Back to basics time...check for spark - yes! Check for fuel (electric pump) - yes! Check for compression - yes, plus an additional confirmation of spark using me as the load - YES! Finally, I pulled the air cleaner to see if the choke and throttle were working, and lo and behold, the choke was stuck closed. Open the choke, hit the switch and it fires to life! Put it all together and Bulldog took off to ride around the camp a bit and build up the battery. Later he told me he lost the M-G belt again - one of the bolts on the bracket was broken off and allowed the M-G to shift enough to throw the belt. He was able to extract the broken bolt and replace it and all was well with the world.

That was about the extent of the day as best as I can recall. Pretty much just went back to camp and chilled with the neighbors and some cold beers. Still pretty quiet in the camp, and beautiful sleeping weather.

More to come...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Freedom Rally 25 is in the books!

The 25th Annual ABATE of Iowa Freedom Rally is all over except for the clean up and tear down. My part of it isn't over yet as I still need to retrieve the camping gear a friend hauled home for me.

This was my 5th Freedom Rally, and the best so far. This was the 3rd year in a row that I went early and helped around the park. I worked as hard or harder than I would have worked at home and had fun doing it!

I got there Sunday afternoon, set up camp, visited with friends camped at Smith Lake north of Algona, stopped for supplies on the way back to camp, then relaxed and went to sleep.

Monday started with campstove bacon and eggs. The cast iron skillet worked much better this year than the aluminum skillet last year, but the stove still sucks. Not fine enough flame control. I think it would work better with about a third less holes in the burner. I'm thinking of getting a Coleman gas stove for next year.

I spent Monday running a string trimmer. Went thru 2 spools of string, and several tanks of fuel. Managed to finish frying the top of my head, even though it was covered. Guess I sunburned thru the do-rag. The big rip in the top didn't help.

While I was weed-whacking some of the guys running chainsaws cut some firewood for me and dropped it at my camp. I didn't actually get around to lighting a fire until Friday night but it was great to have some firewood available. Thanks Duffy, Rambo, and whoever else helped!

A District 2 member (Jimmy) and the friend he brought along to drive him home after the rally (Tree) showed up Monday afternoon. They had a little cold McDonalds left over, which I think was the extent of supper for Monday night.

Some friends from District 3 (Wayne and Cathy) showed up a little later with news of a bike breakdown (Cathy's trike). After some discussion Tree and I took Jimmy's pickup and trailer to retrieve Cathy's trike, and Wayne rode his bike to retrieve the motorcycle trailer he left at the farm where they left Cathy's trike. (You might need to draw a map to follow the story...)

More to come...