Crowded thoughts, safety shots, hydroplanes and fireworks. Regatta Part 2 of 3.

There used to be a regatta in Pittsburgh, PA, the region where Kurt and I grew up. We never went. Crowd avoidance is high on both our lists.

This is Madison, I thought to myself, historic, quaint, river town Madison. How big could the crowds be?


You know, I can eat a fair amount, but I’m getting a little tired of eating my words.

I think it’s safe to assume that nothing can be assumed in Madison, Indiana. Despite the sweltering heat, the riverbanks were packed and the road crowded with tens of thousands of racing fans jockeying for position at vendor stands and viewing spots on the concrete retaining walls. Locals who had staked out areas with tarps and chairs were now occupying them.

The upside of a hot summer crowd is that there are a lot of shirtless men. The downside of a hot summer crowd is that there are a lot of shirtless men. Torn between whether I liked the sight better than I disliked the smell, I finally decided I preferred the visual. I tried talking Kurt into joining them, but it was a no-go. “You first” he chided, and we both agreed that smell or no, we would leave that to the younger crowd.

The former conference organizer and manager in me surfaced a few times in the form of wanting the regatta to prepare a small informative brochure for first-timers, such as map/layout of the Regatta and parking area, VIP area, pit area, times food will be served, whether or not we were allowed back in the VIP area in the evenings (the daytime attendant we asked didn’t know) and what a cold pit pass was for. And my lungs wondered whether a VIP package should allow smoking in a tent full of high-powered fans all pointed inward.

But I had no doubt it was worth the extra money when it came to the bathrooms, as I mentioned yesterday, and to escaping the sun and the heat of bodies on the riverbank.

We started Saturday by watching a nice series of stunts by a biplane, then joined Kurt’s coworkers in the Lighthouse Restaurant to watch the first few Unlimited Heats.

The view was amazing. We were water-level with the boats, and the whole outside deck would rock with the waves as the hydroplanes sped by. We took odds on favorite boats.

I was upset to learn Miss Madison was in the same heat as the Degree boat. I wanted to root for it once, if it were in a heat that didn’t include Miss Madison. I would never bet against the hometown boat, but still had an affinity for that slick stick of deodorant.

It could be because he was my first encounter. It could be because he’s black and gold, the colors of Pittsburgh. I know boats are supposed to be “she” but isn’t it kind of weird to have a female boat named for men’s deodorant? So for me, the Degree boat was male.

But whatever affinity I had for the Degree boat, I would not take action against Miss Madison. The Degree boat struggled in that race, and even without it, Miss Madison won the heat easily. In fact I was doing pretty well betting (er, mock betting of course) with her. She was the points leader going into the final race. But we can talk about that in tomorrow’s 3rd and final regatta post. For now, it’s still Saturday.

After The Lighthouse, we went to the pit again and wandered around. I was taking photos of the pit crews and marveling at all the beautiful boats and at the blur of action around me that I really didn’t understand.

Kurt, my safety manager husband, kept nudging discreetly for me to take photos. “Get that barrel being lifted from the back of that truck” he’d say quietly, pointing only a head nod in the direction of the action.

I knew this drill. I took several shots and we continued. “There,” he’d gently bump my shoulder, looking in the direction of a fireman standing watch over a fueling operation. “See, they’re doing this right. Although really I think those containers need reevaluated if that’s diesel in there. Plastic drums for diesel…not such a good idea I think.” I smile at him as he continues to stare at the men, the equipment, the work being done. I admire men who take pride in their work and apply it to other situations around them, even if I don’t always fully understand it.

Later he and Jack Bird would talk shop. Jack knows his electricity and safety related to it the way Kurt knows his. It was Jack who got me thinking about music in the industry of those men working on the bridge in the Great Wait blog. During those days of watching and waiting for the bridge lift, he had talked to me from time to time about the harmonics and what he calls the “rhythmatic motion.” I read about mechanical resonance, and understand what Jack’s been explaining about the need for the stiffeners in place on the top of the bridge. If you’re not careful, these guys can really get you caught up in the things they’re passionate about.

As we headed home to take a nap before fireworks Kurt reminded me: “Email me those pics of the barrel lifting. I’ll use it as an example in next week’s safety talk.”

I grinned, knowing how happy he would be at some of the zoomed shots I got. It has become so habitual that when I was touring Viet Nam in May, instead of looking at the Ho Chi Minh monument in Hanoi, I was obsessed with getting good shots of a construction job nearby.

See that fella reaching out for the cable? He’s a few stories up, and not tied off to anything. I knew Kurt would love me for this shot.

I was almost giddy imagining Kurt’s excitement when I brought him back the photos. He was, as expected, overjoyed.

Here are a few fireworks for you, and I’ll try to add in a few for Weekend Windows, which are photoblogs without my long drivel.

I hope you’ll return tomorrow for the 3rd and final installment of the Madison Regatta, titled “Marla dreams of stealing a Hydroplane”.

Love, Marla

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