Yes, I said a hurricane. But more on that later. First we have to get to Carnarvon, which is where I'm scheduled to stay the night.
After leaving Geraldton and all the wife-carrying excitement behind, Raleigh and I head north, through some of the mind-numbingly boringest scenery you'd ever see. 40 km out of Geraldton is Northampton. Past there is a sign "NEXT SERVICE 180 KM". That would be in Billabong, which is nothing more than a roadhouse. We opted to keep going another 50 km to Overlander before we stopped. Why the difference? Because somewhere between the two is the halfway point between Geraldton and Carnarvon. And I'd rather have more distance. Behind me than in front of me when I stopped.
If my recount so far is boring, that's because the drive itself was boring and you can't polish a turd. But don't worry, things pick up in the last segment.
First, I pass a sign that says "26TH PARALLEL - WELCOME TO THE NORTHWEST". It should say "Welcome to the tax breaks" because people who live in remote areas get certain incentives to get them to live there. Not soon after, I had my first water crossing.
You see, Australia, as Crocodile Dundee taught all Americans, is a terribly dry country. So the roads are built over creek beds that are usually dry. I say usually because sometimes after heavy rain, they fill up. And flow over the road. Now, I'm in a four-wheel drive, but driving over water makes me nervous. Luckily, there was a road train (an 18-wheeler with another trailer hooked on to the back of it, so a 32-wheeler) coming in the other direction. So I just waited and watched him come through, then followed the path he took. Crossing successfully negotiated.
I say it was lucky that there was a road train coming at the exact moment I was there, because did I mention that for the last 140 km of the trip from Geraldton to Overlander, I didn't come across any other cars? I know it was a holiday, but still!
What else? How about cows on the side of the road? About 70 km outside of Carnarvon. The area is a big agricultural region, but no fences. Hence, about five or six cows just sitting right on the road side, happily munching away. Thankfully they were too busy eating to move. But that's the sort of stuff you'll find when traveling along Australian highways.
So we pull into town, and check in at our campsite, which is very nice. After a bit of rest, I go back into town for some food and to fill up the fuel tank since we'll be leaving early in the morning. After a conversation with the guy at the gas station, and telling him where I was going, he told me "Well you're probably not going anywhere because they've closed the highway"
Now, I knew there was a hurricane (or cyclone as they're called here) off of the coast. I had even looked at the forecast maps on my phone when I got to the campsite. But the storm was expected to stay off shore, and, barring some wind and rain, I thought we'd cross paths before I got to the coast. But on my way back to the campsite, just past the turnoff, there I saw it. The newly-installed electronic sign:
NW COASTAL HIGHWAY CLOSED
I got back to the campsite and went to the office.
"I think I'm going to need to stay an extra night."
Yes, I said a hurricane. But more on that later. First we have to get to Carnarvon, which is where I'm scheduled to stay the night.
So we're moving house but they will only pay to move one of our vehicles. That means I have to drive the other one, myself, with only the dog as comapny (my wife flew up early because of a training course). I hope you're not expecting a Steinbeckian opus here, and that my title hasn't misled you. It's just that with my baseball cards all packed away, I feel like I should post something to the blog rather than let it go stagnant for a couple of weeks. Enjoy.
First, some background. We're moving from our house in Bunbury to Derby, some 2500 kilometers away. That's if you take the overland route. I'm taking the coastal route, which will add some distance but is more popular. Suffice it to say we're looking at about 1500 miles or so. For a point of reference, it'd be like moving from San Diego to Billings, Montana. Only if you didn't leave the same state. Yes, Western Australia is that big.
Our first stop is for a rest break in Badgingarra, a little country town with a roadhouse and not much else. Maybe about 80 people or so? That's actually bigger than some of the places I'll stop. Raleigh (our King Charles Cavalier spaniel) met a new friend. He was the pudgy old dog who lives at the road house, and who came waddling over to say hello when we got out of the car to stretch our legs. It looks like he has gotten a lot of treats over the years from people stopping by. After some mutual sniffs, it's back in the car and on our way.
Lunch brings us to Geraldton, halfway up the coast and, at 36,000 people, easily the biggest town on our journey by a long ways. Too bad it's just a lunch pit stop, because it's Australia Day today (January 26). To celebrate, Geraldton is having a wife-carrying competition. No kidding. I heard about it on the radio. Now, the person you carry doesn't have to be your wife, but she does have to be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 45 kilos (about 100 pounds). And apparently, the best way to carry your wife, according to the event organiser, is "upside down, with her arms wrapped around your waist and her head at your knees."
I couldn't make this stuff up.
More later, including a possible hurricane approaching?
Not even Allen & Ginter is immune from the uniform back phenomenon. You would think that a set based on artwork, not photography, wouldn't have shots of people's backs. You'd be wrong. Allen & Ginter, after all, is artwork based on photography. Here's some examples from the 2010 set:
Nick Markakis from my beloved Orioles gets the back treatment. This card isn't one of a batting stance, but rather, it looks like a follow through. However, his face is still obscured, and there's a good view of his back. Plus, with it being Allen & Ginter, there's a field of verdant green in the background, with just a touch of basepath.
This is Matt Wieters. At least, I have to take TriStar's word for it. Many, many uniform back cards show a batter at the plate, ready to load up on a belt-high fastball or hanging curve. (See Part 1 or Part 2 of this series for more examples). I guess that the batter isn't set up on the correct side of the plate for the photographer, but the shutterbug snaps the picture anyway.
I still don't understand why card companies insist on using the pictures for their cards, however. Is it a lack of options? Matt Wieters was a heralded draft pick. In fact, that's what this card is all about. Why use this picture?
I do like, however, that the uniform back evokes the Orioles without actually saying "Orioles". Of course, TriStar can't say the word "Orioles" because they don't have the license to do that. But the font and colors on Wieters's uniform are very reminicient of a certain Baltimore team.
Finally, what's up with the one dude in the stands? Is he a scout? Somebody's grandpa? Matt Wieters's grandpa, maybe?
I think I may have just found a way to get my wife to get on board with the whole card collecting thing. At first, I thought the A&G Monsters of the Mesozoic would have done the trick, but the take-up wasn't as great as I would have liked. But now, I think I know what's going to get me not just condoned, but actual sanctioned monthly purchases.
Seriously. If I exercise regularly, and eat more salad and less fries, I will be rewarded with being able to purchase cards without snide remarks or rolled eyes in my general direction. And before you think of it as bribery, or treating me like a six-year-old who won't eat his broccoli, please bear in mind that this all started as her idea of rewarding *herself* with regular exercise using visits to oldnavy.com - my Machavellian mind saw an opportunity. I just said "well what if I join you?" and waited for her to suggest the rest.
Guess what my lovely sister-in-law got me for a Christmas present? A gift certificate to Al's Card Shop, my LCS. Guess what the kids on the tee-ball team I coach got me as a thank you? A gift certificate to Al's Card Shop, my LCS. What a great sister-in-law! What great kids! What did I buy, you ask?
Well, here's some of the singles. Rest assured that I did not spend 90 bucks on these cards. I'm just saving the boxes for another time.
Such as this Franchise History card featuring Timmy from A Piece of History. I pulled the Jays and Red Sox in my box, two teams I don't care about at all. I don't care about the Giants, either, but I do care about Lincecum. So that's a keeper.
This was probably the best trip I've had for getting Lincecum cards at Al's. Here's two cards from 2009 O-Pee-Chee: the base card and a League Leaders card. I'm not really a big fan of the multiple player card, particularly because I feel duty bound to collect the cards if my players are on them, but there can also be other players I don't care to have clogging up my binders.
More Griffey cards, random inserts from his first stint with the Mariners and time with the Reds. I'm actually collecting the Hot Commodities set, so I needed two copies of this card. This is copy #2 and I feel much better.
And - SUCCESS! Another card for the Griffey White Sox project. This goes into the PC, when I bust another box of A Piece of History (and I will) if I get a Griffey it'll go into the set binder. Now I just have to chase all the parallels...
There is one more single I picked up, but that gets its own post. You'll see why very soon. Stay tuned...
So you're a young ballplayer. Say you're like Pat Neshek, and you used to collect baseball cards yourself when you were a kid. Now, all that hard work is about to pay off. You've been invited to the big league camp for spring training, and every indication is that you'll make the club if you don't stuff it up. You've even already had a cup of coffee at the end of last season, but this is your first experience at spring training with the big boys.
One of the things you find out about early on is Photo Day. Man, does that take forever. It seems like everyone wants to take your photo - the team, the league, the newspapers, Associated Press, ESPN, everybody. Even the baseball card companies, Topps and Upper Deck, get into the act. But that's cool because, like I said, you used to collect baseball cards yourself. And now there's a very real chance you'll get to be on one.
Most of the photos are a pain in the ass. Literally - you're sitting on a wooden stool while they take headshots of you. But the baseball card company shoots are different. Sure, there's the standard "stand here with a bat on your shoulder if you're a batter, or pretend you've just thrown a pitch and show us your follow through if you're a pitcher" shots. Those seem to be in every set of cards. But there's also some staged action shots, and even some clowning around. Plus, the photo shoot takes place outside.
The card companies also tell you that they've got some footage from last year - mostly spring training, with some other stuff thrown in as well. Not to worry, though - they'll pick the best shot, and use that for the card. They're pros, you think. They know what they're doing. Man, I can't wait for the card to come out. My own baseball card! My very own baseball card!
Then Upper Deck releases Series One of its 2008 set. You look at the checklist, and...YES! Your name is on it! You're going to be on a baseball card! Kids will want you to sign your name on little pieces of cardboard with your face on it. Your mom - you'll have to get a bunch to send to your mom. She's going to love it. You call up Upper Deck, explain the situation, and ask if they could send you some copies of your card. "Sure," they say, "no problem. We're happy to do it - and by the way, congratulations. We hope you have a great year in the bigs."
Finally, after a few days, a package arrives in Mesa from North Las Vegas, Nev. It's the cards! You haven't seen them yet, you just know you're on the checklist. You open up the parcel, pull out a card, and see this:
This is Rich Thompson's rookie card from the 2008 Upper Deck set. It was taken at the 2007 All-Star Futures Game, where he was a member of the World team (he's an Aussie, so he probably didn't grow up collecting baseball cards. Footy cards, maybe). It's a great picture...of his back! Are you telling me, Upper Deck, that this is the best you can do? What if he had bombed, and this had been his only baseball card? Isn't he at least entitled to a card with his face on it? Something to show the grandkids in 50 years? C'mon Upper Deck...no wonder you lost your license.
New rule - rookie cards must show a player's face on them. No uniform numbering. Sorry, Rich.
I liken Upper Deck to the ABA. Many of the things we take for granted - foil packs, quality card stock, glossy photographs - all popped up for the first time in '89 Upper Deck. Just as the ABA shook up the NBA and gave us the three-point line, the slam dunk contest and the swagger, Upper Deck fired a warning shot across Topps' bow. Eventually, the old guard vanquished the opponent. It just took Topps twice as long as it did the NBA to win its war. Of those '89 features, only the hologram didn't survive. Think of it as the baseball card equivalent to the red, white and blue basketball.
As much as I was mesmerised by Upper Deck in 1989 (and I guess I still am), the fact is I didn't get this set 21 years ago because, well, I was too damn cheap. I couldn't justify spending a whole dollar on a pack of cards, although I regularly spend three or four times that now. Funnily enough, I was able to luck into this box and get it for 25 bucks - cheaper than it probably cost in 1989. I'd love to say I planned it that way, but that would be a bald-faced lie.
Then there was the saga of the Griffey card. Most '89 sets are ridiculously priced because of it, still to this day. I finally have a Griffey rookie of my own (although it's still sealed in that box). I still need two more - one for my Mariners collection (most Mariners '89UD team sets are sold sans Griffey) and one for the Junior PC. If you have about ten of them, and would love to help out, just let me know!
Christmas is coming soon. I have a Christmas post all prepared and ready to go. See you then.
Wicked Ortega has some giveaways going on.
How do you win? No clue.
What is he giving away? At least a set of 2008 Masterpieces - anything else, he hasn't said.
What's the deadline for entering? I have no idea.
All I know is that he said his readers should pimp the contest on their blogs. And when the Don says to pimp something, you better pimp.
I'm a little bit ahead of you here in Australia, where we get New Year's Day first. And since it's a summer holiday, there's a fair bit of fireworks shot off because the weather's all nice and stuff.
But with the magic of post scheduling, I've tried to set it up so that this post hits at midnight Eastern Time in the US, when many of you are celebrating New Year's. One of three things is likely to happen.
1. I got the timing right, and it is in fact New Year's back on the East Coast. Yay for me!
2. I confused my AM with my PM and this post gets made when it's January 1 in Australia, but still December 31 in the US. I look a bit eager, but hey, at least it's 2011 at my house.
3. I completely stuffed things up and ended up either a day early or a day late. Either way, I end up looking like a complete moron who shouldn't be allowed access to a computer.
Regardless of which option happens, please accept my best wishes for the new year. I hope 2011 brings nothing but happiness for you and your loved ones. Thanks for your support in 2010 and I look forward to a great second year for RGB Cards.