Thursday, July 24, 2003

Well, this was an interesting day. Mark and I headed up to the Skate Zone in Northeast Philadelphia for a Flyers/Phantoms Phestival. It was actually geared toward kids from various day camp programs, and they were expecting 450 to 500 kids to attend. However, I called and made sure that it was open to the public, too, and when I found it was, Mark and I went. (Mark is on vacation this week, since there's a possibility of a Verizon strike August 2; if there is, he will be working six-day weeks and not be allowed to take vacation during that time.)

So we headed up there early, since it was slated to run from 10 AM to 1 PM. Three Flyers prospects were slated to be on hand: Wade Skolney and Jeff Smith from the Phantoms, and Jeff Woywitka who is coming out of juniors this season, and we're not sure which team he'll land on yet.

There were various hockey-skills things for the kids to try, and of course the one that caught my eye was the LeGolie inflatable goaltender. :o) No one was in line yet, so I parked Hat Trick on the inflatable Flyers goalie's shoulder and took a picture. One of the proprietors of the device -- which shifts left and right in front of a net, as kids take shots on goal -- wanted me to send them a copy of the picture, so Hat Trick just might end up on the internet! Well, somewhere other than on my photo albums, anyway, lol! BTW, I'm laughing my head off... DO check out that LeGolie link! The Golie is telling his life's story on the "The Golie Corner" section of the site. Hmm... he's got more in common with Hat Trick than I originally thought. :o)

Anyway, between the time that I was introducing Hat Trick to LeGolie and the time the players arrived, Mark noticed a bunch of police vehicles heading up the street adjacent to the Skate Zone, one after another. He went to see what was going on. About two minutes later (and the cop cars were still passing all this time) he yelled, "DONNA! Come over here!" I didn't know what in heck was happening over there, but it sure must have been something with all those police cars passing. Now there were a bunch of police motorcycles into the bargain... and when I was about a quarter of a block from the curb (I was walking across a parking lot to get to the curb in question), a dark blue limo with two flags on the hood whizzed past.

Still more cop cars and motorbikes followed, along with press buses, a tow truck(!) and an ambulance. A police helicopter was suddenly, loudly flying overhead. What in the HECK was all this?! It turns out that what the heck it was, was a presidential motorcade. They zoomed by so fast, there was no way to get the camera ready in time. Drat.

We checked out the other displays, which by this time were mobbed with dozens of kids' groups, and chatted with the people manning the Phantoms booth. We're known by sight to the Phantoms ticket agents, because we're season ticket holders, and we've chatted with them in the past during games.

Anyway, while we were discussing who was returning to the team this year, and who's gone, we started noticing police motorcycles making their way back up that same street, one by one. This was a bit more than an hour after the motorcade had gone by, and we thought, "Could he be coming back the same way he went out?" I thought that would be a bad idea, security-wise; I would have expected the motorcade to use a different route for their return.

But no -- the road was closed, and I could see now WHY the police motorcycles were going through one by one. They were each taking a position, maybe every quarter of a block or so, and remaining in place. Or maybe it was wherever there was some kind of intersection with the street (in our case, the driveway where cars exit the parking lot), I'm not sure. In any case, once the motorcycles were set up, along came the cop cars again. Then a whole phalanx of police motorcycles came through. Taking the still pic of those was my mistake; I should have used the movie feature instead. Everything was moving so fast, the camera wasn't done recording the pic of the motorcycles when the TWO IDENTICAL dark blue limos with flags on their hoods went zooming past. I hadn't noticed that there were two of them, the first time around... I must have paid such attention to the first one that the presence of the other one never registered. Anyway, after the limosines came more police vehicles, three press buses, and the ambulance again, followed by the loud police helicopter passing overhead. (The tow truck appeared to have dropped out of the parade, lol.)

Mark expressed the same opinion that I had -- he thought it was a security risk to have the motorcade using the same street to arrive as it did to depart. But about a half-hour later, I realized one reason why they probably did so. A small private plane came in for a landing, and as it did so, I realized it was extremely low. We must have been MUCH closer to Northeast Philadelphia Airport than I'd first realized. I suppose the President came in by helicopter, since if my understanding is correct, Northeast Airport is too small to permit a plane like Air Force One to land.

In any event, we had now seen the Presidential motorcade TWICE, but there was no sign of the baby Flyers that we'd originally gone to see. They were delayed by the many road closures surrounding the motorcade, not to mention some construction on Woodhaven Road, and they wound up arriving at about 12:10. By then, a good number of the kids appeared to have left, but at least half the school buses that had been on hand earlier were still parked in the lot. Only Jeff Smith and Wade Skolney came; Jeff Woywitka wasn't there. I got to chat with them briefly as they were signing pucks for all the kids... can you say "carpal tunnel syndrome"? That's a lot of pucks!

I told them, "This is good practice for you guys when it comes time for you to buy a house. You wouldn't believe the number of documents you have to sign then".

Jeff said, "I don't know, I've signed an awful lot of things in my life". I had to admit, he DID have a point. :o)

I asked them if they had any idea when upcoming charity softball games are, but they don't know. Drat. I was hoping to have some advance notice so I could plan ahead to be there. I need to cheer my hockey boys on, doggone it! Even if they're playing something other than hockey!

The only disappointing thing is that none of the pics I tried to take of Jeff or Wade came out even half-decent. Kids ran in front of me, the guys turned around or moved half out of the frame at the last moment... you name it, it went wrong.

But at least I got some shots of Hat Trick, so the day wasn't a total loss in the photo department.

Tomorrow, Mark and I are taking a day trip to Lancaster. We missed out on the Strasburg Railroad the last time we were up there, so we're making up for it on the last day of Mark's vacation week. I hope the issue I was having with the power button on my camera rectifies itself; otherwise, there's gonna be a trip to Best Buy in our immediate future. The camera's still under warranty so there shouldn't be trouble getting it fixed or exchanged.

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