DAY 25 then HOME

Monday in US: a much-needed, relaxing day started with Morning Class at 8.45 am followed by breakfast – altogether spot on!
Couriers Bob Chandler and Russ Brown took us on a coach tour of Boston, with intervals on foot to keep us awake. Bloggy reckons the Scots new to this historic yet modern city were delighted to be in the sunshine and also found the 360 deg view from the viewing gallery of the Prudential building fascinating.
After lunch in an historic inn it was off to thee airport where, unusually, it took us two goes to find the correct terminal but we all actually got on to the plane home. Charges and denials failed to find who had put some non-conforming items into John Hodge’s carry-on bag but this kept up the good humour which has been a constant feature of our tour.
To all curlers in Scotland we say: all twenty of us are very proud to have been Team Scotland 2017 in the USA; we appreciate so very, very much everything that was done for us in the USA; and we’d encourage others to try go on a tour some time in their life.
To our nearest, dearest and loved ones: if any of us doesn’t keep a promise made when you you so readily accepted our decisions to go on this Tour don’t hesitate to ……oh dear this battery’s just about dead……..but we’re safely HOME!

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Day 24

Today we curled at Broomstones Curling Club, with president Brian McCafferty presiding.
Getting out of our coach in a wooded area to be met by the Lincoln minutemen and Bedford minutemen company in full historic costume. They stood with muskets aloft – then fired 3 volleys which was truly novel and unique. The minute men represent the soldiers sent to fight against the British in 1775. The parade on to the ice was led by fifes and drums in uniform.
As is so often the case Broomstones Club has members who have toured Scotland including Sam Williams in 2001 and Shelley Dropkin in 2016. They and any others not identified today send there best regards to those who hosted then on there tours of Scotland.
David Sillitoe joined Paul Badgero at the mic for the live streaming of our games here, something Broomstones has been doing since 2003. The member in charge is, like others who serve food bar etc etc, a volunteer.
Broomstones is home club of Bob Chandler our US courier for the second half of our tour. Mimi his wife made an excellent brownie for lunch. Both are real assets to there club and to Curling more widely.
Then on to The Country Club in Brookline Massachusetts. The facilities for many sports including golf, tennis, shooting, combined with a superb clubhouse are really impressive. Being there as guests reminds us of the strength of the relationship formed within curling. Anne Robertson, the ‘matriarch of US curling’, her husband Phil who led the proceedings at the final banquet for our tour and perhaps another half dozen curlers who had toured Scotland were present. Tributes were exchanged between the national teams, the Scots having accepted they were no more than 101 shots short of being able to take the Herries Maxwell Trophy home. But we do have enough memories of wonderfully happy times playing in 11 US States to earn us a few dinner invites. We are proud to be team Scotland.
An unexpected bonus was being invited to the bar at TCC right at the climax of the Super Bowl final, it went into overtime in which New England Patriots, Tom Brady threw the pass that won the Patriots the Vince Lombardy Trophy. The jubilation of the Patriots fans around us was enormous as this world stars home sits on the 3rd hole of this magnificant club.

Day 23

Last night we reached Cape Cod Curling Club at 09.00pm. It was dark but the evening was lit up for us by the 40-strong honour parade who met us with brooms aloft and big smiles. Cape Cod CC is in a semi-rural setting, with three sheets.
The members had prepared a pizza supper, which was perfect after a long coach journey. Russ Lemcke who had toured Scotland in 2012 gave the formal welcome before we were taken to the homes of our overnight hosts. Home hosting is a key feature of Tour, and the good folk of Cape Cod did us proud. Imagine having a hostess who did many years as a stunt flyer, still keeps a plane in her garage along side the family car and who has direct access to the runway of the local flying club! No doubt there will be more stories of similar surprises as we tourists share our memories.
Anne Dewees told us how the club had been conceived and built. The watch words for this were commitment and dedication: the result is a great venue, sustained by its members who voluntarily work hard on and off the ice. Cape Cod recently staged the NCC Men’s senior championship. Its season ends in spring but they open up in July for their five weekend Summerspiel, the oldest and largest in North America.
The lunch provided, prepared and served by volunteers was a triumph by any standard.
Amount the notables who played against us were Pete Mitchell, 1992 tourer and CEO of the 2006 world men’s curling championships in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Club member Cathy Offinger took us all on a wonderful tour of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute: see http://www.whoi.ed.
Alongside all of the above we were entertained by a 5 man group, singing in close harmony. Our choirmaster introduced us by promising we too might sing in 5 parts but not always harmoniously!
My Lord Judge MacIntyre convened a court for Cape Cod members and tourists. The last act was a broom stacker session in which the ladies probably came out with less spill than some tourists. They won’t be reminded of that often – not much.
How to sum up our Cape Cod experience? Being so open hearted, and enjoying fun as much as we do, you made this an exciting and memorable experience which we hope some of us will re-live by coming to your summer bonspiel.

Day 22

In the first hour on the coach we saw quite a bit of the New York skyline. At Plainfield New Jersey the Harvey and Dickson teams were dropped off to play. The Plainfield Curling club was organised in 1963 and funded primarily by Canadian ex-patriots. The three remaining teams carried on North for another 75 minutes to Ardsley, New York State. Ardsley is a three sheet club founded in 1932 and at one time was home to the St Andrews Curling club. Rob Astorino, County Executive for Westchester gave us a Proclamation “February 3, 2017 to be 2017 Royal Caledonian Curling Club Scots Tour Team recognition day in Westchester County”.
At lunch in the magnificenct Bronxville Field Club three lucky teams were honoured and appreciative guests of George Austin who toured Scotland in 2001 and was the US Courier when Scotland toured in 2007. He greatly values his Scottish connection and sends warmest regards to the many Scots he has met over the years. George’s distinguished personal guests at lunch included Kay Sugahara, a member of the US and World Curling Halls of Fame.
This blogger has so far stayed away from comment on a game, but it can be reported that today Gary Rutherford was complimented on having ‘slayed the dragon’ by beating the Ardsley team skipped by multiple champion Martin Sather with Ardsley Club President Joe Shaloub as third.
At 4.30pm we reluctantly left the Bronx to travel on to Cape Cod. Another 5 hour coach journey. Ugh!!!

Day 21

Sunshine. Sunshine!
On our foot tour of Philadelphia, with guide we saw and heard the story of many recent and old features of the city including the Liberty Bell and sites of significance dating back to the 18th century.
Then on to Bucks County Curling Club in the area between metropolitan Philadelphia and its suburbs. In 2010 its members acquired sole use of the building and provide curling for 11 months of the year. Bucks County now has 150 active and enthusiastic members. Quite a few go to bonspiels as far away as San Francisco. We found the ice, made and maintained by a team of members, good after the first few stones.
One of the features of the building is the hecklers bench. Bill Arnot, John Hodge, Jim Ramsay and Ian Young had a bye and were highly focal at the side of the rink. Could that catch on in Scotland?
The welcome we got at Bucks County was open-hearted and that feeling stayed with us all the time we were there. On our way into the dinner we lost our sense of direction and reputation when we walked past the bar to derision of the US curlers. Within seconds the bar was spotted and had another excellent meal and entertainment.
Our singing for Bucks County and friends including Herb Kupchik, was good and we think we merited the applause. Malcolm MacAskill has since said it was a “partial standing ovation” something he may care to describe in more detail…. or maybe not.
Day 21 was interesting and most enjoyable in many ways: the tour of Philadelphia, the enthusiasm at Bucks County, the company at dinner-and the sunshine. Well done everyone.

Day 20

We had to be back at the Utica rink by 03.00am. This meant we had little time to spend at home with our overnight hosts before they drove us on new snow roads back to the coach. Back at the club our sincere thanks go to each Utica member who provided transport, coffee and donuts for us at that time of day.
We flew from Syracuse to Washington DC and then on by coach to Potomac, arriving at 08.45am. The 2007 Scottish men’s tour were here and Potomac is very proud of the connection.
Experience had taught us that the clubs we visited would have a fair number of players to be reckoned with. At Potomac one of these was Eric Clawson, father of two sons in the US nationals competition. Bill Byers met with Bruce Black whose son Dan attended Aberdeen Uni, and played in the team with Bill’s son Rory. This is one of the coincidences that make the Curling world a smaller, friendlier place.
Bob Pelletier, chair of the Potomac tour committee and Linda Murphy, Potomac President, gave the formal introduction and recognised the importance of its big family of volunteers.
After lunch the coach took us a tour of Washington DC with an excellent guide. The mix of walking and bus time kept us awake despite sleep deprivation. Early to bed was an essential for most of us…….
Alan Roe has helped a lot with getting recent blogs on to our site while the blogger’s notepad failed on several occasions.

Day 19

It is that time again: 06.45am. We’re already rolling out of Mayfield towards Utica, upper New York State, a journey of around six hours. Some snow on the road but progress ok.
D-S- and B-A- had a snowball fight after lunch: you can take the boys out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the boys.
At Utica curling club there are six sheets managed and prepared by a team of trained member volunteers. The quality and condition of the ice was good with good finish for light weights.
The greeting Utica gave us was very friendly. Organising chair Jim Rishel later said he and his members had “anxiously awaited” our tour: be assured Jim and all Utica members that you made us relax with our new curling friends. The Declaration by the local Authority Executive with innumerable “Whereas-es” that 31 January would hereafter and in all time coming be known in Utica as Scottish Men’s Curling Tour day was impressive.
Utica teams were made up of men who had often competed against each other but had seldom or never curled together as a team. We had seen this earlier in the tour too, and while it sometimes gives rise to vocal exchanges between head and hack, it gives local players a different experience and we got to play against a lot of high grade opponents.
Tourists and hosts enjoyed the excellent dinner, time to swap stories and generally “talk curling”. Our choir was in fine voice, so good in fact we sang an extra song.
Utica members who this blogger knows have curled in Scotland are Bill Rotton (1992), Bob Hurd, Arthur Cobb Snr, Tom Garber, Carl Thomas, the every busy Jacqueline R Schmidt and a’body’s friend Peggy Rotton.

DAY 18

The start time of our journey was brought forward to 06.45am because the roads were likely to be affected by snow. En-route eastward the amount of lying snow increased: 3 hours later it was 8-10 deep at the road side but traffic still moved carefully. Three sheets Mayfield curling club is in a suburban area beside 2 golf courses. Just inside the clubhouse door is a set of 10″ square tiles each engraved with the names of each player in the Scots and US teams who played in the Herries Maxwell competition in 2007. Mayfield has presented Burns Suppers to Scots tourists three times-1997,2007 and now 2017.
Bob Bellamy, chairman for our visit had written that it was his club’s intention to make our stay ‘exceptional and full of pleasant memories’. Bob: that promise was kept and we most certainly will take home and hold lots of great memories.
We had 3 teams on for the first session then two for the following one at 2.30pm.
Mayfield produced a very smart 12-page brochure covering several aspects of the tour and its history. Burns evening started in a high ceilinged Baronial style hall with the 16 piece, 87th Cleveland Pipe Band. The repertoire, skills with their instruments, their appearance – the whole performance – had a big impact on us Scots in particular. The haggis was piped in and then addressed very confidently by Mayfield man Ryan MacRaild. John Hodge gave the ‘Selkirk grace’, Albert Middler explained with humour the life, activities and character of every haggis before it finally becomes our ‘meat’ Malcolm MacAskill sang several songs to much appreciation from the audience. John Good introduced and recited “Tae a Moose”. Ian Young spoke for all us tourists in assuring our most generous hosts that we were greatly privileged to have been invited to join Mayfield CC in celebrating Burns Night with them.
This is neither the time nor the place to consider all the circumstances which led some tourists to take diversions before arriving back at our hotel. Suffice to say that Judge McIntyre held that certain parties had failed properly to protect the cohesion of our tour and that these parties would be fined. It could have been worse.

DAY 17

We are on the bus and it’s ‘wheels up’- an odd combination of images partly contributed by our US courier Bob Chandler but we know what he means. Every time, before we set off, there is a roll call using a number allocated to us. A few voices are a but croaky early in the morning, but it’s always good to know all our tour friends are aboard.
A, 3.45 am start saw us set out for Fargo to fly first to Chicago then on to Detroit. Some light snow there: planes taking off were throwing up clouds of snow mist. Paul Badgero of USCA met us and led us to our coach. New driver Jason remembers David Rutherford from the last Scots Men’s Tour but was the soul of discretion as why that was the case so, David, you relax!
The enthusiastic welcome at Detroit Curling Club honour guard was just what we needed after our journey. This Club was founded in 1885. On a wall there is the original, large certificate from the Royal Club “conveying to the Detroit Curling Club the grateful acknowledgement and hearty thanks…..for kind attention and hospitality to the Scottish Team on their Tour through Canada and the United States…..in 1902-03”. Henry Ford, so much associated with Detroit is reported as having said that history is bunk. Our Team thinks that the 1902-03 certificate and our visit in 2017 prove that then and now curlers appreciate the importance of continuing good traditions. Ours is the tenth tour to visit Detroit CC, making it probably the most visited club in the USA. Continuing a long tradition, the club had held a Burns Breakfast in the morning before we arrived.Joe Livermore,twice past president of the club, and in whose honour the curling hall was named chatted to us. In the hall there is a life-sized model of a pink pig (a hog) bedside one wall, and on it there is horn with rubber bulb: anyone hogging a stone has to sound the horn and pay a fine to the club.
Jim Morris who chairs the Board made the formal welcome to us – and was immediately barracked by his fellow members in song and with good humour.Clarke Perry gave our thanks to the club and its players for the match and hospitality.
At the evening banquet, Paul Badgero himself a former Tourist to Scotland,
presided. The meal and company were both excellent. Grace was given by Dave Turner, born a Scot, and who still has a guid Scots tongue in his heid. As well as Paul other former Tourists were present including David Nelson, Bob Chandler, Dawn Branninger, Mary Anne Wessels and Mary Glowaki. Jim Ramsay, on behalf of the Scots thanked Detroit CC for the tremendous warmth and tremendous hospitality throughout the whole memorable day.

DAY 16

We had another stirring and enthusiastic welcome by US curlers at Fargo with a big honour guard, all wearing black and red curling jackets.
John Mielke, one of the calm, collected, key figures in curling in this area welcomed us. John is a past Director of the USCA and is recorded in US curling’s Hall of Fame.
In the foyer we were entertained by two indigenous Americans, descendants of the Sioux tribe: one a storyteller who spoke and sang in the Lakota language, and and elaborately costumed colleague who danced. The theme centred on the relationship between man and the buffalo. The buffalo was “Walmart to us”, providing food, clothing and shelter said the storyteller.
Each North Dakota rink was made up of curlers from around the State who had often played against each other but not together – something they much appreciated when playing against us. Some US players ha travelled over 400 miles by road from as far away as Crosby on the border with Canada to play one game for the Herries Maxwell Trophy.
We went into dinner in our blazers to applause from our hosts, among them Kevin Kakela, and Dave Jensen who coaches the US junior girls for USCA events.
Chris Sjue who chaired the dinner vividly remembers playing in Scotland in 2012. Bison steak was the big item on the menu, a new experience for us Scots and much enjoyed. The North Dakota players and their ladies were delightful company at table, and many cards and compliments were exchanged.
The mascot saga continues. Sandy, our original mascot, and recent companion Flopsy, were joined by The Dakota Kid who, our hosts thought would give Sandy a rest and bring some sparkle back onto Flopsy’s life! Bill Arnot was allowed one call back to UK to book quarantine and, later, a float for our livestock.
Many-talented Bob Labonte, who played in the 1972 Silver Broom entertained us all after dinner with curling stories, anecdotes, throw-away lines – and sang to his own accompaniment.

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Readers of this blog from Aberdeen Scotland and from Aberdeen South Dakota will be glad to know that curlers from both locales met on the ice earlier in the week and enjoyed each other’s company – of course.